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Title: Marianela
Author: Pérez Galdós, Benito
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Marianela" ***

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Transcriber's Notes: Format Conventions

  Italic text is denoted by _underscores_
  Bold text is denoted by =equal signs=
  Superscripts are denoted by '^{XX}'. For example: 1^{st}



  Author of "Gloria," etc.

  From the Spanish by CLARA BELL



  Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1883
  By William S. Gottsberger
  In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington


  Press of
  William S. Gottsberger
  New York


Those who have read "Gloria" will, it is hoped, hail with pleasure
another work by the same writer, Perez Galdós--different it is true,
but in its way not less delightful.

The strongly-marked humor and darkly-painted tragedy of "Gloria" are
not to be found in "Marianela;" the characters are distinct and crisply
sketched, but with a tender hand, the catastrophe is pitiable, rather
shocking; the whole tone is idyllic.

I have not hesitated to translate literally the Spanish words of
endearment; for though they are foreign to the calmer spirit of our
northern tongue they are too characteristic to be lost, and they are
strangely pathetic as the only outlet found for the imprisoned spirit
of the hapless little heroine.



  CHAP.                                     PAGE.

  I.--Gone Astray.                              1

  II.--Guided Right.                           10

  III.--A Dialogue which explains much.        24

  IV.--Stony Hearts.                           35

  V.--Labor, and a Landscape with Figures.     52

  VI.--Absurdities.                            62

  VII.--More Absurdities.                      73

  VIII.--And yet more.                         84

  IX.--The Brothers Golfin.                    98

  X.--Nobody's Children.                      117

  XI.--The Patriarch of Aldeacorba.           124

  XII.--Doctor Celipin.                       136

  XIII.--Between two Baskets.                 144

  XIV.--How the Virgin Mary appeared to Nela. 151

  XV.--The Three Children.                    164

  XVI.--The Vow.                              172

  XVII.--A Fugitive.                          179

  XVIII.--Nela decides that she must go.      192

  XIX.--Nela is Tamed.                        201

  XX.--A New World.                           220

  XXI.--Eyes that Kill.                       234

  XXII.--Farewell.                            260




The sun had set. After the brief interval of twilight the night fell
calm and dark, and in its gloomy bosom the last sounds of a sleepy
world died gently away. The traveller went forward on his way,
hastening his step as night came on; the path he followed was narrow
and worn by the constant tread of men and beasts, and led gently up a
hill on whose verdant slopes grew picturesque clumps of wild cherry
trees, beeches and oaks.--The reader perceives that we are in the north
of Spain.

Our traveller was a man of middle age, strongly built, tall and
broad-shouldered; his movements were brisk and resolute, his step
firm, his manner somewhat rugged, his eye bold and bright; his pace
was nimble, considering that he was decidedly stout, and he was--the
reader may at once be told, though somewhat prematurely--as good a
soul as you may meet with anywhere. He was dressed, as a man in easy
circumstances should be dressed for a journey in spring weather, with
one of those round shady hats, which, from their ugly shape, have been
nicknamed mushrooms (_hongo_), a pair of field-glasses hanging to a
strap, and a knotted stick which, when he did not use it to support his
steps, served to push aside the brambles when they flung their thorny
branches across so as to catch his dress.

He presently stopped, and gazing round the dim horizon, he seemed vexed
and puzzled. He evidently was not sure of his way and was looking
round for some passing native of the district who might give him such
topographical information as might enable him to reach his destination.

"I cannot be mistaken," he said to himself. "They told me to cross the
river by the stepping-stones--and I did so--then to walk on, straight
on. And there, to my right, I do in fact, see that detestable town
which I should call _Villafangosa_ by reason of the enormous amount of
mud that chokes the streets.--Well then, I can but go 'on, straight
on'--I rather like the phrase, and if I bore arms, I would adopt it
for my motto--in order to find myself at last at the famous mines of

But before he had gone much farther, he added: "I have lost my way,
beyond a doubt I have lost my way.--This, Teodoro Golfin, is the
result of your 'on, straight on.' Bah! these blockheads do not know
the meaning of words; either they meant to laugh at you or else
they did not know the way to the mines of Socartes. A huge mining
establishment must be evident to the senses, with its buildings and
chimneys, its noise of hammers and snorting of furnaces, neighing of
horses and clattering of machinery--and I neither see, nor hear, nor
smell anything. I might be in a desert! How absolutely solitary! If I
believed in witches, I could fancy that Fate intended me this night to
have the honor of making acquaintance with some. Deuce take it! why is
there no one to be seen in these parts? And it will be half an hour
yet before the moon rises. Ah! treacherous Luna, it is you who are to
blame for my misadventure.--If only I could see what sort of place I
am in.--However, what could I expect?" and he shrugged his shoulders
with the air of a vigorous man who scorns danger. "What, Golfin, after
having wandered all round the world are you going to give in now? The
peasants were right after all: 'on, straight on.' The universal law of
locomotion cannot fail me here."

And he bravely set out to test the law, and went on about a kilometre
farther, following the paths which seemed to start from under his feet,
crossing each other and breaking off at a short distance, in a thousand
angles which puzzled and tired him. Stout as his resolution was, at
last he grew weary of his vain efforts. The paths, which had at first
all led upwards, began to slope downwards as they crossed each other,
and at last he came to so steep a slope that he could only hope to get
to the bottom by rolling down it.

"A pretty state of things!" he exclaimed, trying to console himself for
this provoking situation by his sense of the ridiculous. "Where have
you got to now my friend? This is a perfect abyss. Is anything to be
seen at the bottom. No, nothing, absolutely nothing--the hill-side has
disappeared, the earth has been dug away. There is nothing to be seen
but stones and barren soil tinged red with iron. I have reached the
mines, no doubt of that--and yet there is not a living soul to be seen,
no smoky chimneys; no noise, not a train in the distance, not even a
dog barking. What am I to do? Out there the path seems to slope up
again.--Shall I follow that? Shall I leave the beaten track? Shall I go
back again? Oh! this is absurd! Either I am not myself or I will reach
Socartes to-night, and be welcomed by my worthy brother! 'On, straight

He took a step, and his foot sank in the soft and crumbling soil.
"What next, ye ruling stars? Am I to be swallowed up alive? If only
that lazy moon would favor us with a little light we might see each
other's faces--and, upon my soul, I can hardly expect to find Paradise
at the bottom of this hole. It seems to be the crater of some extinct
volcano.... Nothing could be easier than a slide down this beautiful
precipice. What have we here?... A stone; capital--a good seat while I
smoke a cigar and wait for the moon to rise."

The philosophical Golfin seated himself as calmly as if it were a
bench by a promenade, and was preparing for his smoke, when he heard a
voice--yes, beyond a doubt, a human voice, at some little distance--a
plaintive air, or to speak more accurately, a melancholy chant of a
single phrase, of which the last cadence was prolonged into a "dying
fall," and which at last sank into the silence of the night, so softly
that the ear could not detect when it ceased.

"Come," said the listener, well pleased, "there are some human beings
about. That was a girl's voice; yes, certainly a girl's, and a lovely
voice too. I like the popular airs of this country-side. Now it has
stopped.... Hark! it will soon begin again.... Yes, I hear it once
more. What a beautiful voice, and what a pathetic air! You might
believe that it rose from the bowels of the earth, and that Señor
Golfin, the most matter-of-fact and least superstitious man in this
world, was going to make acquaintance with sylphs, nymphs, gnomes,
dryads, and all the rabble rout that obey the mysterious spirit of the
place.--But, if I am not mistaken, the voice is going farther away--the
fair singer is departing.... Hi, girl, child, stop--wait a minute!..."

The voice which had for a few minutes so charmed the lost wanderer with
its enchanting strains was dying away in the dark void, and at the
shouts of Golfin it was suddenly silent. Beyond a doubt the mysterious
gnome, who was solacing its underground loneliness by singing its
plaintive loves, had taken fright at this rough interruption by a human
being, and fled to the deepest caverns of the earth, where precious
gems lay hidden, jealous of their own splendor.

"This is a pleasant state of things--" muttered Golfin, thinking that
after all he could do no better than light his cigar.--"There seems no
reason why it should not go on for a hundred years. I can smoke and
wait. It was a clever idea of mine that I could walk up alone to the
mines of Socartes. My luggage will have got there before me--a signal
proof of the advantages of 'on, straight on.'"

A light breeze at this instant sprang up, and Golfin fancied he
heard the sound of footsteps at the bottom of the unknown--or
imaginary--abyss before him; he listened sharply, and in a minute felt
quite certain that some one was walking below. He stood up and shouted:

"Girl, man, or whoever you are, can I get to the mines of Socartes by
this road?"

He had not done speaking when he heard a dog barking wildly, and then a
manly voice saying: "Choto, Choto! come here!"

"Hi there!" cried the traveller. "My good friend--man, boy, demon, or
whatever you are, call back your dog, for I am a man of peace."

"Choto, Choto!..."

Golfin could make out the form of a large, black dog coming towards
him, but after sniffing round him it retired at its master's call;
and at that moment the traveller could distinguish a figure, a man,
standing as immovable as a stone image, at about ten paces below him,
on a slanting pathway which seemed to cut across the steep incline.
This path, and the human form standing there, became quite clear now to
Golfin, who, looking up to the sky, exclaimed:

"Thank God! here is the mad moon at last; now we can see where we are.
I had not the faintest notion that a path existed so close to me, why,
it is quite a road. Tell me, my friend, do you know whether the mines
of Socartes are hereabout?"

"Yes, Señor, these are the mines of Socartes; but we are at some
distance from the works."

The voice which spoke thus was youthful and pleasant, with the
attractive inflection that indicates a polite readiness to be of
service. The doctor was well pleased at detecting this, and still
better pleased at observing the soft light, which was spreading through
the darkness and bringing resurrection to earth and sky, as though
calling them forth from nothingness.

"_Fiat lux!_" he said, going forward down the slope. "I feel as if I
had just emerged into existence from primeval chaos.... Indeed, my good
friend, I am truly grateful to you for the information you have given
me, and for the farther information you no doubt will give me. I left
Villamojada as the sun was setting.--They told me to go on, straight

"Are you going to the works?" asked the strange youth, without stirring
from the spot or looking up towards the doctor, who was now quite near

"Yes, Señor; but I have certainly lost my way."

"Well, this is not the entrance to the mines. The entrance is by the
steps at Rabagones, from which the road runs and the tram-way that
they are making. If you had gone that way you would have reached the
works in ten minutes. From here it is a long way, and a very bad road.
We are at the outer circle of the mining galleries, and shall have to
go through passages and tunnels, down ladders, through cuttings, up
slopes, and then down the inclined plane; in short, cross the mines
from this side to the other, where the workshops are and the furnaces,
the machines and the smelting-house."

"Well, I seem to have been uncommonly stupid," said Golfin, laughing.

"I will guide you with much pleasure, for I know every inch of the

Golfin, whose feet sank in the loose earth, slipping here and tottering
there, had at last reached the solid ground of the path, and his first
idea was to look closely at the good-natured lad who addressed him.
For a minute or two he was speechless with surprise.

"You!" he said, in a low voice.

"I am blind, it is true, Señor," said the boy. "But I can run without
seeing from one end to the other of the mines of Socartes. This stick I
carry prevents my stumbling, and Choto is always with me, when I have
not got Nela with me, who is my guide. So, follow me, Señor, and allow
me to guide you."



"And were you born blind?" asked Golfin, with eager interest, arising
not only from compassion.

"Yes, Señor, born blind," replied the lad, with perfect simplicity.
"I only know the world by fancy, feeling and hearing. I have learned
to understand that the most wonderful portion of the universe is that
which is unknown to me. I know that the eyes of other people are not
like mine, since they are able to distinguish things by them--but the
power seems to me so extraordinary, that I cannot even imagine the
possibility of its existence."

"Who knows ..." Golfin began. "But what strange scene is this, my
friend? What a wonderful place we are in!"

The traveller, who had been walking by the side of his companion,
stood still in astonishment at the weird view which lay before him.
They were in a deep basin resembling the crater of a volcano; the
ground at the bottom was broken and rough, and the sloping sides still
more so. Round the margin and in the middle of the vast caldron,
which looked even larger than it was in the deceptive chiaroscuro of
the moonlit night, stood colossal figures, deformed caricatures of
humanity, monsters lying prone with their feet in the air, with arms
spread in despair, stunted growths, distorted faces such as we see in
the whimsical wreathing of floating clouds--but all still, silent, and
turned to stone. In color they were mummy-like, a reddish bistre; their
action suggested the delirium of fever arrested by sudden death. It was
as though giant forms had petrified in the midst of some demoniacal
orgy, and their gestures and the burlesque grimaces of the monstrous
heads had been stricken into fixity, like the motionless attitudes of
sculpture. The silence which prevailed in this volcanic-looking hollow
was itself terrifying. One might fancy that the cries and shrieks of a
thousand voices had been petrified too, and had been held there locked
in stone for ages.

"Where are we, my young friend?" asked Golfin. "This place is like a

"This part of the mine is called La Terrible," replied the blind boy,
not appreciating his companion's frame of mind. "It was worked till
about two years ago when the ore was exhausted, and now the mining
is carried on in other parts which are more profitable. The strange
objects that surprise you so much are the blocks of stone which we call
_cretácea_, and which consist of hardened ferruginous clay, after the
ore has been extracted. I have been told that the effect is sublime,
particularly in the moonlight; but I do not understand such things."

"A wonderful effect,--yes--" said the stranger, who still stood gazing
at the scene, "but which to me is more terrible than pleasing, for it
reminds me of the horrors of neuralgia.--Shall I tell you what it is
like? It is as if I were standing inside a monstrous brain suffering
from a fearful headache. Those figures are like the images which
present themselves to the tortured brain, and become confounded with
the hideous fancies and visions created by a fevered mind."

"Choto, Choto, here!" called the blind lad. "Take care now, Señor, how
you walk; we are going into a gallery." And, in fact, Golfin saw that
his guide, feeling with his stick, was making his way towards a narrow
entrance distinguished by three stout posts.

The dog went in first, snuffing at the black cavern; the blind boy
followed him with the calm indifference of a man who dwells in
perpetual darkness. Golfin followed, not without some instinctive
trepidation and repugnance at an underground expedition.

"It is really wonderful," he said, "that you should go in and out of
such a place without stumbling."

"I have lived all my life in these places, and know them as well as my
own home. Here it is very cold; wrap yourself up if have you a cloak
with you. We shall soon be out at the other end." He walked on, feeling
his way with his hand along the wall, which was formed of upright
beams, and saying:

"Mind you do not stumble over the ruts in the path; they bring the
mineral along here from the diggings above. Are you cold?"

"Tell me," said the doctor, gaily. "Are you quite certain that the
earth has not swallowed us up? This passage is the gullet of some
monstrous insectivorous brute into whose stomach we miserable worms
have inadvertently crept.--Do you often take a walk in this delectable

"Yes, often, and at all hours, and I think the place delightful. Now we
are in the most arid part--the ground here is pure sand--now we are on
the stones again. Here there is a constant drip of sulphurous water,
and down there we have a block of rock in which there are petrified
shells. There are layers of slate over there. Do you hear that toad
croaking? we are near the opening now; the rascal sits there every
night; I know him quite well. He has a hoarse, slow voice."

"Who--the toad?"

"Yes, Señor; we are near the end now."

"So I see; it looks like an eye staring at us--that is the mouth of the

No sooner were they out in the air again, than the first thing that
struck the doctor's ear was the same melancholy song as he had heard
before. The blind boy heard it too; he turned round to his companion
and said, smiling with pride and pleasure:

"Do you hear her?"

"I heard that voice before and it charmed me wonderfully. Who is the

Instead of answering, the blind boy stopped and shouted with all
the force of his lungs: "Nela! Nela!" and the name was repeated by
a hundred echoes, some quite close, others faint and distant. Then,
putting his hands to his mouth for a speaking-trumpet, he called out:

"Do not come to me, I am going that way. Wait for me at the forge--at
the forge!"

He turned to the doctor again and explained:

"Nela is a girl who goes about with me; she is my guide--my
_Lazarillo_. When it was dusk we were coming home together from the
great meadow--it was rather cool, so, as my father forbids my walking
out at night without a cloak, I waited in Romolinos' cabin, and Nela
ran home to fetch it for me. After staying some little time in the hut,
I remembered that I had a friend coming to see me at home and I had not
patience to wait for Nela, so I set out with Choto. I was just going
down La Terrible when I met you. We shall soon be at the forge now and
there we must part, for my father is not pleased when I go home late,
and Nela will show you the way to the works."

"Many thanks, my little friend."

The tunnel had brought them out at a spot even more wonderful than that
they had left. It was an enormous gulf or chasm in the earth, looking
like the result of an earthquake; but it had not been rent by the
fierce throbs of planetary fires, but slowly wrought by the laborious
pick of the miner. It looked like the interior of a huge shipwrecked
vessel, stranded on the shore, and broken across the waist by the
breakers, so as to bend it at an obtuse angle. You could fancy you saw
its ribs laid bare, and their ends standing up in an irregular file on
one side. Within the hollow hull lay huge stones, like the relics of a
cargo tossed about by the waves, and the deceptive light of the moon
lent so much aid to the fancy that Golfin could have believed that he
saw among the relics of a ship's fittings, corpses half devoured by
fishes, mummies, skeletons--all dead, silent, half-destroyed and still,
as if they had long been lying in the infinite sepulchre of the ocean.
And the illusion was perfect when he presently heard a sound of waters,
and a regular splash like the dash of ripples in the hollow of a rock,
or through the skeleton timbers of a wrecked vessel.

"There is water hereabouts," he said to his guide.

"The noise you hear,"--replied the other, stopping,--"and which sounds
like--what shall I say--like the gurgle you make when you gargle your

"Exactly--and where is that gurgle? Is it some rivulet that runs near

"No, Señor; over there to the left there is a slope, and beyond it a
wide mouth opens in the ground, a cavern, an abyss without any known
bottom. La Trascava they call it. Some say that it runs down to the sea
at Ficóbriga, and others think that a river flows at the bottom of it
which goes round and round, like a wheel, and never comes out anywhere.
I fancy it must be like a whirlpool. Some again say that down there is
a constant gust of air coming out of the interior of the earth--as we
blow when we whistle--and that this blast meets a current of water;
then they quarrel, and struggle, and fight, and produce that noise that
we hear up here."

"And has no one ever been down into this cavern?"

"It can only be got into in one way."


"By jumping into it. Those who have gone in have never come out again;
and it is a great pity, for they might have told us what goes on in
there. The other end of the cavern is a long way off from this, for
two years ago, when some miners were working they came upon a rift in
the rock where they heard the very same sound of water as you hear now.
This rift must, no doubt, communicate with the inside galleries, out
of which the blast blows and into which the water rushes. By daylight
you can see it plainly, for you need only go a few steps to the left
to reach the spot and there is a comfortable seat there. Some people
are frightened to go there, but Nela and I sit there to listen to
the voice down inside the cavern--for really, Señor, we can fancy we
hear it talking. Nela declares and swears that she hears words, and
can distinguish them quite plainly. I must confess I never heard any
words; but it goes on murmuring like a soliloquy or a meditation, and
sometimes it is sad and sometimes gay--sometimes angry, and sometimes
good-humored and jolly."

"And yet I can make nothing of it but a gurgle," said the doctor

"It sounds so from this spot.--But we must not stop now, it is getting
late. You must be prepared to go through another gallery."


"Yes--and this one branches off into two in the middle. Beyond that
there is a labyrinth of turns and zigzags, because the miners have to
make galleries which, when they are worked out, are deserted and left
to their fate. Go on Choto."

Choto slipped into a little opening that looked scarcely bigger than
a rabbit-hole, followed by the doctor and his guide, who felt his way
along the dark, narrow, crooked passage with his stick. There could be
no better evidence of the delicacy and subtlety of the sense of touch,
extending beyond the skin of a human hand through a piece of senseless
wood. They went forwards, at first in a curve, and then round corner
after corner, and all the way between walls of damp, and half-rotten

"Do you know what this reminds me of?" said the doctor, perceiving that
his guide took pleasure in similes and comparisons. "Of nothing so
much as the thoughts of perverse man. We represent the consciousness
of evil, when he looks into his conscience and sees himself in all his

Golfin fancied that he had used a metaphor rather above his companion's
comprehension; but the blind boy proved that he was mistaken, for he
said at once:

"For those to whom that inner world looks dark and gloomy, these
galleries must be dismal indeed; but I, who live in perpetual darkness,
find here something which has an affinity with my own nature. I can
walk here as you would in the broadest road. If it were not for the
want of air in some parts and the excessive damp in others, I should
prefer these subterranean passages to any place I know."

"That is an idea of brooding fancy."

"I feel as if there were in my brain a narrow passage--a
rabbit-hole--like this that we are walking in, and there my ideas run
riot grandly."

"Ah! what a pity that you should never have seen the azure vault of
the sky at mid-day!" the doctor exclaimed involuntarily. "Tell me,
does this dark hole--in which your ideas run riot so grandly--lead out

"Oh yes! we shall be outside quite soon now. The vault of the sky you
said--I fancy it must be a perfect, equal curve, which looks as if we
could touch it with our hands, but we cannot really."

As he spoke they got out of the tunnel; Golfin drawing a deep breath of
relief, like a man who has cast off a burthen, exclaimed as he looked
up at the heavens:

"Thank God that I see you once more stars of the firmament. Never have
you seemed to me more beautiful than at this moment."

"As I was going along," said the blind boy, holding out his hand
which held a stone, "I picked up this piece of crystal--now do you
mean to say that these crystals, which to my touch are so sharply cut,
so smooth and so neatly packed side by side, are not a very beautiful
thing? They seem so to me at any rate." And as he spoke he broke off
some of the crystals.

"My dear fellow," said the doctor with great feeling and compassion,
"it is sad indeed that you should not be able to know that this stone
is hardly worth looking at, while over our heads there hang the myriads
of marvellous lamps that sparkle in the heavens." The boy threw back
his head and said in a voice of deep regret:

"Is it true that you are there, you little stars?"

"God is infinitely great and merciful," said Golfin, laying his hand on
his young companion's shoulder. "Who knows--who can say--much stranger
things have happened--are happening every day." As he spoke, he looked
close into his face, trying to see the lad's eyes by the dim light;
fixed and sightless, he turned them in the direction in which he heard
the speaker's voice.

"There is no hope," Golfin muttered.

They had come out on an open space. The moon, rising higher and
higher, illuminated undulating meadows and high slopes, which looked
like the ramparts of some immense fortification.--To the left, on a
level plateau, the doctor saw a group of white houses crowning the

"There, to the left," said the boy, "is my home--up at the top. Do
you know that those three houses are what remain of the village of
Aldeacorba de Suso. All the rest has been pulled down at different
times in order to dig mines; all the soil underneath is iron ore, and
our fore-fathers lived over millions of wealth without knowing it."

He was still speaking when a girl came running to meet them, a tiny
scrap of a child, swift of foot and slightly built.

"Nela, Nela!" cried the blind boy. "Have you brought me a cloak?"

"Here it is," said the girl, putting it over his shoulders.

"Is this the songstress? Do you know you have a lovely voice?"

"Oh!" exclaimed the boy, in a tone of innocent admiration, "she sings
beautifully! Now, Mariquilla, you must show this gentleman the way to
the works, and I must go home. I can hear my father's voice already;
he is coming to look for me, and he will be sure to scold me.... I am
here, I am coming!"

"Make haste in, my boy!" said Golfin, shaking hands with him. "The air
is fresh, and you might take cold. Many thanks for your company. I hope
we may be good friends, for I shall be here some little time. I am the
brother of Cárlos Golfin, the engineer of the mines."

"Oh! indeed.... Don Cárlos is a great friend of my father's. He has
been expecting you these two days."

"I arrived this evening at the station at Villamojada, and they told
me that Socartes was not far, and that I could come up on foot. So, as
I like to see the country and get exercise, and as they told me it was
'on, straight on,' I set out, and sent my luggage in a cart. You saw
how I had lost my way--but there is no evil out of which good does not
come.... I have made your acquaintance, and we shall be friends, very
good friends perhaps. Go in, good-bye; get home quickly, for the autumn
evenings are not good for you. The little Señora here will be so good
as to guide me."

"It is not more than a quarter of an hour's walk to the works, quite a
short way. But take care not to stumble over the rails, and look out
as you cross the inclined plane. There often are trucks on the road,
and in this damp weather the ground is like soap.--Good-bye, Caballero,
and my very good friend.--Good-night." He went up the slope by a
narrow flight of steps cut in the soil and squared by beams of wood;
Golfin went straight on, guided by Nela. Does what they said deserve a
separate chapter? In case it should, I will give it one.



"Wait a moment my child, do not go so fast," said Golfin, himself
standing still. "I want to light a cigar."

The night was so still, that no precautions were needed in striking the
light to guard it from the wind, and when the doctor had lighted his
cigar he held the wax match in front of Nela, saying kindly:

"Show me your face, little one."

He looked in the child's face with astonishment; her black eyes
shone with a red spot, like a spark, for the instant while the
match lasted. She looked a child, for she was but a tiny creature,
extremely thin and undeveloped; but she seemed like a little woman,
for her eyes had not a childlike expression, and her face had the
mature look of a nature which has gone through experience and acquired
judgment--or will have acquired it soon. In spite of this anomaly,
she was well-proportioned and her small head sat gracefully on her
lean little body. You might have said she was a woman seen through a
diminishing-glass; or, again, that she was a child with the eyes and
expression of a grown-up person. In your uncertainty, it was hard to
say whether she was astonishingly forward or lamentably backward.

"How old are you?" asked Golfin, shaking his fingers free of the match
which was beginning to burn them.

"They say I am sixteen," said Nela, gazing in her turn at the doctor.

"Sixteen!" exclaimed Golfin. "Much less than that, child! You are
twelve at most to judge by appearances."

"Holy Virgin! They say I am quite a phenomenon," said the girl in a
tone of weariness of the subject.

"A phenomenon!" repeated Golfin laying his hand on her hair. "Well,
perhaps so. Now, come along--show me the way."

Nela set out resolutely, keeping but a little way in front of the
traveller but rather on one side of him, to show her just appreciation
of such illustrious company. Her nimble little feet, which were bare,
were evidently familiar with the ground they trod, with the stones, the
puddles and the thistles. She wore a plain frock of scanty breadth,
and the rudimentary simplicity of her garb, as well as the loose flow
of her thick, short hair, which fell in natural waves, had a stamp of
savage independence rather than of abject poverty. Her speech, on the
other hand, struck Golfin by its modest propriety, indicating a formed
and thoughtful mind. Her voice had a gentle inflection of kindliness,
which could not be the result of education, and her glance was restless
and shy, whenever she was not looking at the sky or the earth.

"Tell me," said Golfin. "Do you live in the mines? Are you the child of
any of the workmen employed here?"

"They say I have neither father nor mother."

"Poor little girl! and you work in the mines?"

"No, Señor. I am of no use at all," she replied without raising her

"Well, you are modest, at any rate."

The doctor bent down to look closely at her face; it was small
and freckled all over with little mole-like spots. Her forehead
was narrow, her nose sharp but not ill-shaped, her eyes black and
brilliant, but their light shone but sadly. Her hair, naturally of
a golden brown, was dull for want of care, and from exposure to the
sun, wind and dust. Her lips were so thin as to be hardly visible, and
always wore a smile, but it was like the faint smile of the dead who
have died dreaming of Heaven. Nela's mouth was, strictly speaking,
ugly, still it deserved a word of praise from the point of view
expressed in the line from Polo de Medina: "A mouth is sweet that asks
for nothing."[1] In fact, neither in word, look, or smile, did the poor
child betray any of the degrading habits of the beggar. Golfin stroked
the sad little face, holding it under the chin and almost encircling it
with his big fingers.

"Poor little body!" he said. "Providence has not been over-generous to
you. Who do you live with?"

"With Señor Centeno, the overseer of the beasts belonging to the mines?"

"You do not seem to have been born in luxury.--Who were your parents?"

"They say my mother sold peppers in the market at Villamojada. She was
not married. She had me one All-Saints' day, and then she went to be
wet-nurse at Madrid."

"A highly estimable woman!" muttered Golfin ironically.

"And no one knows who your father was?"

"Yes, Señor," said Nela with some pride. "My father was the first who
ever lighted the lamps of Villamojada."


"I ought to tell you," said the little girl with the gravity
befitting the dignity of history, "that when the town council first
had lamps hung up in the streets, my father was entrusted with the
care of lighting and cleaning them. I was nursed by a sister of my
mother's--not that she was married either, as they tell me. My father
had quarrelled with her--they all lived together as I have heard--and
when he went out to light the lamps he used to put me in his basket,
with his lamp-chimneys and cottons and oil. One day when he went up to
light the lamp on the bridge, he put the basket on the parapet, and I
rolled out and fell into the river."

"And you were not drowned!"

"No, Señor; for I fell on the stones. Holy Mother of God! I was a dear
little thing before that, they tell me."

"Yes, I am sure you were," said the stranger with an impulse of
loving-kindness. "And so you are still.--But tell me what next. Have
you lived long in the mines?"

"Thirteen years, they say. My mother took me back after my tumble.
My father fell ill, and as my mother would not do anything for him,
because he was wicked to her, he was taken to the hospital where they
say he died. Meanwhile my mother came to work in the mines. They say
the overseer discharged her one day because she drank so much."

"And your mother went.... Go on, I take a real interest in the good
woman; she went...."

"She went to a very big hole over there," said the child, standing
still and speaking with intense pathos, "and she threw herself in."

"The devil she did! That was coming to a bad end. I suppose she did not
come out again?"

"No, Señor," said Nela with perfect simplicity. "She is there still."

"And since that catastrophe, poor child," said Golfin kindly, "you
have stayed at work here. Mining work is very hard labor and you have
taken the hue of the soil; you are thin and ill-nourished. This life is
enough to ruin the strongest constitution."

"No, Señor; I do not labor. They say I am not good for anything and
never shall be."

"God forbid, silly child! why you are a treasure."

"No indeed," insisted the girl, "I cannot work at all. If I take up
ever so small a load, I fall down, and if I am set to any hard work I
faint away before long."

"You are as God made you--and if you fell into the hands of any one who
knew how to treat you, you would work very well."

"No, Señor, no indeed," she repeated as energetically as though it were
in her own praise that she spoke, "I am no good to any one--only in the

"Then you are a mere vagabond?"

"No, Señor, for I attend on Pablo."

"And who is Pablo?"

"That young blind gentleman, whom you met in La Terrible. I have been
his guide for the last year and a half. I take him everywhere; we go
for long walks in the fields."

"He seems a good fellow, this Pablo."

Nela again stood still and looked up at the doctor, and her face glowed
with enthusiasm as she exclaimed:

"Holy Virgin! He is the best and dearest creature in the whole world!
Poor fellow!--and he is cleverer without eyes than all those who can

"Yes, I liked your master. Does he belong to the place?"

"Yes, Señor; he is the only son of Don Francisco Penáguilas, a very
kind and very rich gentleman who lives in the houses at Aldeacorba."

"Tell me, why are you called Nela? What does it mean?"

The child shrugged her shoulders, and after a pause, she said:

"My mother's name was María Canela, and so she was called Nela; they
say it is a dog's name. My name is María."


"María Nela they call me, or sometimes Canela's girl, and some say
Marianela, and some merely Nela."

"And your master, is he fond of you?"

"Yes, Señor; he is very good to me. He says he sees with my eyes, for I
take him everywhere, and tell him what everything is like."

"Everything that he cannot see?" The stranger seemed much interested in
this conversation.

"Yes--I tell him everything. He asks me what a star is like, and I
tell him all about it in such a way that it is the same to him as
if he could see it. I explain it all--what the planets are like,
and the clouds, and the sky, and the water, and the lightning, the
weather-cocks, the butterflies, the mists, the snails, and the shapes
and faces of men and animals. I tell him what is ugly and what is
pretty, and so he gets to understand everything."

"I see; your work is no trifle. What is ugly and what is pretty! There
is nothing.... You decide upon that question? Tell me, can you read?"

"No, Señor.--I tell you I am good for nothing."

She said this in a tone of perfect conviction, and the gesture that
emphasized her protestation seemed to add: "You must be a great
blockhead to fancy that I am good for anything."

"Would you not be glad if your friend, by the grace of God, should
recover his sight?"

The girl did not answer at once, but after a pause she said:

"It is impossible."

"No, not impossible, only difficult and doubtful."

"The engineer who manages the mines did give my master's father some
hope of it."

"Don Cárlos Golfin?"

"Yes, Señor. Don Cárlos has a brother who is an eye-doctor, and they
say he gives sight to the blind, and makes those who squint look

"What a clever man!"

"Yes; and when the eye-doctor wrote to Don Cárlos that he was coming to
see him, his brother wrote to him to bring his instruments with him to
try if he could make Pablo see."

"And has this good man been here yet?"

"No, sir; for he is always travelling about in England and America, and
it seems it will be some time yet before he comes. Pablo laughs at it
all, and says no man can give him what the Holy Virgin has denied him
from his birth."

"Well--perhaps he is right. But are we not nearly there? For I see some
chimneys which pour forth smoke darker than the bottomless pit, and a
light too, which looks like a forge."

"Yes--here we are. Those are the roasting furnaces, which burn day and
night. There, in front, are the machines for washing the ore; they only
work by day. To the right-hand is the chemical workshop, and down
there, last of all, the counting-house and offices."

The place seemed to lie in fact as Marianela indicated. In the absence
of any wind a mist hung over the spot, shrouding the buildings in
heavy, gaseous fog, and giving them a confused and fantastic outline
against the moonlit sky.

"This is a pleasanter place to see for once than to live in," said
Golfin, hastening onwards. "The cloud of vapor wraps round everything,
and the lights have dim circles round them, like the moon on a sultry
night. Which is the office?"

"Here, we are almost there."

After passing in front of the furnaces, where the heat made them hurry
on, the doctor perceived a house which was no less dingy and smoky than
the others, and at the same instant he heard a piano being played with
a vigor bordering on frenzy.

"We have music here. I recognize my sister-in-law's touch and

"It is Señorita Sofía who is playing," said María.

The lights of a busy household shone in the windows, and the balcony on
the ground-floor was wide open. A small spark was visible, the spark of
a cigar. Before the doctor could reach the spot, the spark flew off,
describing a parabola of fire, and breaking into a thousand twinkling
specks--the smoker had shaken the end off.

"There is that everlasting smoker!" cried the doctor, in a tone of
affectionate delight. "Cárlos, Cárlos!"

"Teodoro!" exclaimed a voice from the balcony. The piano ceased like a
singing-bird scared by a noise. Steps sounded through the house. The
doctor gave his guide a silver coin, and ran up to the door.



Retracing her steps and jumping over the obstacles in her path, Nela
made her way to a house on the left of the machine-sheds, and close to
the stables where the sixty mules belonging to the establishment stood
in grave meditation. The residence of the overseer, though of modern
construction, was neither elegant nor even commodious. The roof was
low, and it was too small by far to give adequate shelter to the parent
couple of the Centenos--to their four children--to their cat--and to
Nela into the bargain; but it figured, nevertheless, on the parchment
plans of the settlement under the ostentatious name of "overseer's

Inside, the house seemed to afford a practical illustration of the
saying which we have already heard so emphatically stated by Marianela;
namely, that she, Marianela, was of no good to anyone, only in the way.
Somehow, in there, room was found for everything--for the father and
mother, for their sons and their sons' tools, for a heap of rubbish,
of the use of which no irrefragable proof has been found, for the cat,
for the dish off which the cat was fed, for Tanasio's guitar, for the
materials of which Tanasio made his _garrotes_--a kind of lidless
hamper--for half a dozen old mule-halters, for the blackbird's cage,
for two useless old boilers, for an altar--at which Dame Centeno
worshipped the Divinity with offerings of artificial flowers and some
patriarchal tapers, a perennial settlement for flies--in short, for
everything and everybody excepting little María Canela. Constantly some
one was heard to say: "You cannot take a step without falling over that
confounded child, Nela!" or else:

"Get into your corner, do.--What a plague the creature is; she does
nothing, and lets no one else do anything."

The house consisted of three rooms and a loft. The first of these
served not only as dining-room and drawing-room, but also as the
bedroom of the two elders; in the second slept the two young ladies,
already grown-up women, and named _La Mariuca_ and _La Pepina_.
Tanasio, the eldest of all, stored himself in the garret, and Celipin,
the youngest of the family and nearly twelve years old, had a bed
in the kitchen--the innermost room, the dingiest, dampest and least
habitable of the three rooms which composed the mansion of the Centenos.

Nela, during the many years of her residence there, had inhabited
various nooks and corners, going from one to another, according to
the exigencies of the moment, to make way for the thousand objects
which served only to curtail the last scanty accommodation left for
human beings. On some occasion--the precise facts are unknown to
history--Tanasio, whose feet were as crippled as his brain, and who
devoted himself to the manufacture of large hampers made of hazel
rods, had placed in the kitchen a pile of at least half a dozen of
these bulky trophies of his art. Marianela looked on, casting her eyes
sadly around, and finding no corner left into which to creep; but the
predicament itself inspired her with a happy idea, which she at once
acted upon. She simply got into one of the baskets, and there passed
the night in sound and blissful sleep. In fact, it was comfortable
enough, and when it was cold she pulled another basket on the top. From
that time, so long as there were _garrotes_ (a local name for these
coarse, open baskets) to be found, she never was at a loss for a crib,
and the others would say of the child: "She sleeps like a jewel."

During meals, in the midst of a noisy discussion on the morning's work,
a voice would suddenly say in rough tones: "Here!" and Nela would have
a plate given her by one of the family, big or small, and would seat
herself against the big chest to eat what she had got, in silence.
But towards the end of the meal sometimes the master's harsh bleating
voice would be lifted up saying, with a perfunctory air of benevolence:
"Mother, you have given poor Nela nothing." And then _Señana_, a
compound name abbreviated from Señora Ana, would move her head about as
if trying to see some minute and remote object between the bodies of
her own children, saying as she did so: "What, are you there? I thought
you had stayed at Aldeacorba."

At night, after supper, the family repeated the Paternoster over
their beads and then, staggering like bacchantes, and rubbing their
eyes with their fists, Mariuca and Pepina went to their beds, which
were snug and comfortable and covered with patchwork quilts. In a few
minutes a duet of contralto snoring was heard which lasted without
intermission till morning dawned. Tanasio went up to the higher regions
and Celipin curled himself round on a heap of rags, not far from the
basket into which Nela disappeared from sight.

The family thus being disposed of, the parents sat up for a while in
the living-room, and while Centeno, seating himself with a stretch
close to the little table and taking up a newspaper, made a series of
grimaces to convey his bold intention of reading it, his wife took a
stocking full of money out of the family chest, and after counting it
and adding or taking out a few pieces, carefully restored it to its
place. Then she took out sundry paper packets containing gold pieces
and transferred some from one parcel to another. Meanwhile such remarks
as these were made. "Mariuca's petticoat cost thirty-two _reales_.
I gave Tanasio the six _reales_ he had to pay. We only want eleven
_duros_[2] to make up the five hundred."

Or, on the other hand:

"The deputies agreed."--"Yesterday a conference was held, etc...."

Señana's fingers did her sums, while her husband's forefinger passed
doubtfully and waveringly along the lines, to guide his eye and mind
through the labyrinth of letters. And these sentences gradually died
away into monosyllables; one yawned, then the other, and at last all
sunk into silence, after extinguishing the lamp by which the overseer
of the mules had been cultivating his mind.

One night, when all was quiet, a creaking of baskets became audible
in the kitchen. It was not perfectly dark there, for the shutters of
the little window were never shut, and Celipin Centeno, who was not
yet asleep, saw the topmost baskets, which were packed one inside the
other, rising slowly like a gaping oyster-shell, and out of the opening
peeped the nose and black eyes of Nela.

"Celipin," she said, "Celipinillo, are you asleep?" and she put a hand

"No, I am awake; Nela, you look like a mussel in its shell. What do you

"Here, take this, it is a _peseta_[3] that a gentleman gave me this
evening--the brother of Don Cárlos. How much have you got now? This is
something like a present; now I have given you something better than

"Give it here and thank you very much, Nela," said the boy, sitting up
to reach the money. "You have given me nearly thirty-two _reales_ now,
a copper at a time.[4] I have it all safe here, inside my shirt, in the
little bag you gave me. You are a real good girl."

"I do not want money for anything; but take good care of it, for
if Señana were to find it, she would think you would get into some
mischief with it and thrash you with the big stick."

"No, no, it is not to get into mischief," said the boy vehemently, and
clenching the money to his breast with one hand, while he supported
himself on the other. "It is to make myself a rich man, Nela, a clever
man like some I know. On Sunday, if they will let me go to Villamojada,
I must buy a spelling-book to learn to read, although they will not
teach me here. Who cares! I will learn by myself. Do you know, Nela,
they say that Don Cárlos is the son of a man who swept the streets in
Madrid, and he, all by himself, learnt everything he knows."

"And so you think you can do the same, noodle."

"I believe you! If father will not take me away from these confounded
mines, I will find some other way; ah! you shall see what sort of a
man I am. I was never meant for that Nela. You just wait till I have
collected a good sum, and then you will see--you will see how I will
find a place in the town there, or take the train to Madrid, or a
steamboat to carry me over to the islands out there, or get a place as
a servant to some one who will let me study."

"Dear Mother of Heaven!" exclaimed Nela, opening her oyster-shell still
wider and putting out her whole head. "How quiet you have kept all
these sly plans."

"Do you take me for a fool? I tell you what Nela, I am in a mad rage.
I cannot live like this; I shall die in the mines. Drat it all! Why,
I spend my nights in crying, and my hands are all knocked to pieces
and--but do not be frightened, Nela, at what I am going to say, and do
not think me wicked--I would not say it to any other living soul...."


"I do not love father and mother--not as I ought."

"Oh! if you say such things I will never give you another _real_.
Celipin, for God's sake, think of what you are saying."

"I cannot help it. Why, just look how we go on here. We are not
human beings, we are brutes. Sometimes I almost think we are less
than the mules, and I ask myself if I am in any way better than a
donkey--fetching a basket of the ore and pitching it into a truck;
shoving the truck up to the furnaces; stirring the mineral with a stick
to wash it!--Oh dear, oh dear!" ... and the hapless boy began to sob
bitterly. "Drat--drat it all! but if you spend years upon years in work
like this, you are bound to go to the bad at last, your very brains
turn to iron-stone.--No, I was never meant for this. I tell my father
to let me go away and learn something, and he answers that we are poor,
and that I am too full of fancies.--We are nothing, nothing but brutes
grinding out a living day by day.--Why do you say nothing?"

But Nela did not answer--perhaps she was comparing the boy's hard lot
with her own, and finding her own much the worse of the two.

"What do you want me to say?" she replied at last. "I can never be any
good to any one--I am nobody. I can say nothing to you.... But do not
think such wicked things--about your father I mean."

"You only say so to comfort me; but you know quite well it is true, and
I do believe you are crying."

"I ... no."

"Yes, you are, I am sure."

"Every one has something to cry for," said María in a broken voice.
"But it is very late, Celipin; we must go to sleep."

"No indeed, not if I know it!"

"Yes, child; go to sleep and do not think of such miserable things.

The shell closed and all was silent.

We hear a great deal said about the hard and narrow materialism of
cities, a dry rot which, amid all the splendor and pleasures of
civilization, eats into the moral cohesion of society; but there is
a worse and deeper disease; the parochial materialism of country
villages--which ossifies millions of living beings, crushes every
noble ambition in their souls and shuts them into the petty round of a
mechanical existence, reducing them to the meanest animal instincts.
There are many more blatant evils in the social order as, for instance,
speculation, usury, the worship of mammon among men of high culture;
but above all these, broods a monster which secretly and silently
ruins more than all else, and that is the greed of the peasant. The
covetous peasant acknowledges no moral law, has no religion, no clear
notions of right and wrong; they are all inextricably mixed up in his
mind with a strange compound of superstition and calculating avarice.
Behind an air of hypocritical simplicity, there lies a sinister
arithmetic which, for keenness and intelligibility, far transcends the
methods of the best mathematicians. A peasant who has taken a fancy to
hoard copper coin, and dreams of changing it presently into silver and
then the silver into gold, is the most ignoble creature in creation; he
is capable of every form and device of malice known to man, combined
with an absence of feeling that is appalling. His soul shrinks and
shrivels till it is nothing more than a minim measure. Ignorance,
coarseness, and squalor complete the abominable compound and deprive it
of all the means of veiling the desolation within. He can only count on
his fingers, but he is capable of reducing to figures all moral sense,
conscience and the soul itself.

Señana and Centeno, who, after many struggles, had contrived to earn
their "morsel of bread" in the mines of Socartes, were able to make,
with the added toil of their four children, a daily wage which they
would have regarded as a princely fortune in the days when they
wandered from fair to fair selling pots and pipkins. It should be
mentioned with regard to the intellectual powers of Centeno, that
his head, in the opinion of many persons, rivalled the steam-hammer
in the workshops for sheer hardness; with no disparagement to that
of dame Ana, his wife, who seemed to be a woman of much prudence and
discrimination, and who governed her household as carefully as the
wisest prince could govern his dominions. She bagged the wages, earned
by her husband and children, with the best grace in the world, and they
amounted to a neat little sum; and each time the money was brought
home, she felt as if the very sacrament itself were being carried in,
so intense was her delight at the mere sight of coin.

Señana afforded her children very little comfort in return for the
fortune she was accumulating by the labor of their hands; however, as
they never complained of the utter and debasing misery in which they
lived, as they betrayed no wish for emancipation, nor for a breath of
any nobler life worthier of intelligent beings, Señana let the days
slip on. Many indeed had slipped away before her children slept in
beds, and many, many more before their brawny limbs were covered with
decent garments. She gave them regular and wholesome meals, following
in this respect the rules most in vogue; but eating in her house was a
melancholy ceremony nevertheless, a mere doling out of fodder, as it
were, to human animals.

So far as mental nourishment was concerned, Señana firmly believed
that her husband's erudition, acquired by much miscellaneous reading,
was amply sufficient to credit the whole family with learning, and for
that reason she forbore to cram the minds of her progeny even with the
amount of instruction which is given in schools. The elder ones helped
her, and the youngest lived free of pedagogues, buried alive for twelve
hours out of every twenty-four in brutalizing toil in the mines, so
that the whole family swam at large and at leisure in the vast and
stagnant ocean of dulness.

The two girls, Mariuca and Pepina, were not destitute of charms, though
youth and robust growth were the chief. One of them read fluently, but
not the other, and, so far as knowledge of the world was concerned, it
is easy to suppose that some rudimentary information, at least, was
not lacking to girls who lived with a perfect chorus of nymphs of all
ages and every grade of respectability--or the contrary--perpetually
employed in mechanical work which left their tongues free to wag.
Mariuca and Pepina were buxom and well grown, and as erect and strong
as Amazons. They wore short petticoats, displaying half the calf of the
leg which, as well as their broad feet, was bare, and their rough heads
might have supported an architrave as stoutly as those of Caryatides.
The russet dust of the iron ore which colored them from head to foot,
like all in the mines, gave them the appearance of massive figures in

Tanasio was a lethargic being; his want of character and ambition
verged on idiocy. Confined to the house from his earliest years,
incapable of taking any exercise, of feeling either annoyance or
pleasure, or of fulfilling any task, the boy, who was born to be a
machine, had sunk into something not superior to the roughest tool.
The day which found such a creature able to originate an idea, would
infallibly see the total subversion of the order of nature; for,
hitherto, no stone has been known to think.

The relation of this family to their mother was that of abject
submission on their part, and unlimited despotism on hers. The only
child who ever dared to show symptoms of rebellion was the little
one. Señana, with her narrow capacities, could not at all understand
this diabolical ambition to be something better than a stone. Was
there--did he suppose--any happier or more exemplary life than that of
a stone? She would not admit that it might be changed, even for that
of a rolling stone. Señana loved her children--but there are so many
ways of loving. She placed them above every other consideration--so
long as they submitted to work perpetually in the mines, to pour all
their earnings into one bowl, to obey her blindly, to cherish no wild
aspirations nor wish to appear in fine clothes, not to marry too
young, nor to learn any mischievous trash and cram their heads with
school-work, since "poor folks"--she would say--"must always remain
poor and behave as such, and not be wanting to jabber in the style of
the rich city folks, who were eaten up with vices and rotten with sin."

I have described the manners and customs which prevailed in the
Centeno's house in order that the reader may understand the life to
which Nela was doomed, a helpless, forsaken creature, alone, useless,
incapable of earning a day's wages; alike without a past and without a
future, with no right to anything on earth beyond a bare subsistence.
Señana gave her this, and firmly believed that her generosity was
nothing short of heroic. Many a time would she say, as she filled
Nela's little platter: "What a reward I am laying up for myself
hereafter in Heaven!" And she believed it as if it were Gospel. No true
light could penetrate her thick skull as to the saintly exercise of
charity; she could never have understood that a kind word, a caress, a
loving and gentle action, which may make a wretch forget his misery,
are infinitely more precious--aye, and more heroic--than the broken
meat left from a bad meal. It was but a chance that she did not give
them to the cat, who, at least, was far more kindly spoken to. Nela
never heard herself addressed as _michita_, little pet, precious
darling--nor by any other of the sweet and endearing names that were
lavished on the cat.

Nothing ever suggested to Nela that she was born of human beings,
like the other inhabitants of the house. She was never punished; but
she felt that this immunity arose from their contemptuous pity for
her feeble frame, and certainly not from any special esteem or care
for her person. No one had ever taught her that she had a soul ready
to bring forth good fruit if she cultivated it with care, nor that
she bore within herself, like other mortals, that spark of the divine
fire which is called human intelligence, and that this spark might be
fanned to beneficent light and flame. No one had ever told her that
her grotesque smallness included in itself the germ of every noble and
delicate sentiment, and that those tiny buds might open out to lovely
flowers, with no more cultivation than a herb that we glance at now and
again. No one had told her that she had a right, by the very sternness
of Nature in creating her, to certain tender cares which the strong can
dispense with--the healthy and those who have parents and a home; since
under the laws of Christian jurisprudence the helpless, the poor, the
orphan, and the destitute, are all alike worthy of protection.

On the other hand, everything combined to impress upon her, her
absolute resemblance to a rolling stone, which has not even a shape of
its own, but takes that which the waters give it or the kick of the man
that spurns it. Everything told her that her place in the house was
something below the cat, whose sleek back received the only caresses
ever bestowed on anyone, and the blackbird that hopped about its cage.
And of them, at any rate, no one said in heartless compassion: "Poor
creature! it is a pity she did not die!"



The smoke of the furnaces, which all night through were wide awake and
panting out their hot, hoarse breath, caught a silvery gleam as its
wreaths rolled into the distance; the faint smile of dawn fell upon the
remotest peaks of the mountains, and, by degrees, the hills that guard
Socartes came out of the darkness, the huge slopes of rust-colored
earth and the blackened buildings. The bell of the works rang out
shrilly its call "to work, to work," and hundreds of sleepy souls came
out of the houses, huts, hovels, holes even. Doors creaked on their
hinges; the mules came reluctantly out of the stables, making their way
to their watering-place, and the whole establishment, which had just
now looked like a city of the dead lighted up by the infernal glare of
the furnaces, came to life and began to stir its thousand arms.

The steam soon was seething in the boilers of the great steam-engine,
which supplied the motive power both for the workshops and the
washing-mills. The water, which performed the principal part in the
operations, began to flow through the raised conduits from which it
fell on the cylinders. Files of men and women just risen from their
beds, made their way down to the scene of labor, and at length the
cylindrical sieves began to revolve with hideous groaning; the water
rushed from one to the other, pulverizing the dark earth which tumbled
on in muddy eddies and cataracts, from trough to trough, till it
settled at last in a fine chocolate-brown powder. The sound was as of
a thousand hungry jaws chewing grit and sand; the play of light on
water and soil made it as dazzling as a kaleidoscope, and the clatter
was like some enormous hollow drum, filled with pebbles and potsherds.
It was impossible to look on without turning giddy at the incessant
whirl of a vast skein, as it were, of threads of water, some clear and
transparent, others stained red by the ferruginous clay; nor could any
human brain that was not accustomed to the spectacle, picture to itself
this mad struggle of toothed wheels which never ceased biting at each
other, of cogs, that met, and caught, and rolled away again, of screws
which, as they turned, shrieked in pitiless clamor for oil.

The washing was all done in the open air. The connecting belts came
humming down from the machinery sheds; other belts began to revolve,
and at the same time a rhythmical stamping was heard, a slow and awful
tramp like a giant's step, or a fearful throbbing inside mother earth.
This was the great hammer which had begun to beat; its stupendous blows
moulded the iron like a paste, and those huge wheels, and beams, which
look as if made to last forever, began to twist and writhe like the
limbs of men in torment, while the hammer, with its monotonous impact,
created new forms as strong as the rocks which are the work of ages.
For the results of labor have a strange resemblance to the results of

Men so black, that they look like hewn and animated coal, gathered
round the fiery objects that were taken from the forges, and seizing
them with those prolonged hands known as tongs, set to work to hammer
them. It is a strange kind of sculpture, this, which has fire for
its inspiring genius and a steam-hammer for its chisel. Wheels and
axle-trees for thousands of trucks, and the damaged portions of the
washing-machinery, were repaired here, and picks, spades and barrows
were made. At the back of the workshops saws hissed through blocks of
timber, and the iron, which had been formed for labor by fire of wood,
now cut through the sturdy fibre of trees hewn by the axe from their
native spot.

Meanwhile, the mules had been harnessed to long trains of trucks which
carried off the waste earth to add it to the slopes already made, or
fetched the mineral to be washed. They looked like immense reptiles,
crawling up and down to meet each other, and always passing close
but without any jar or collision. They crept into the mouths of the
tunnels, and their resemblance was really perfect to the wriggling
creatures that shelter in such damp clefts and caves; and when the
recalcitrant mules kicked and shied in the bowels of the earth, it was
easy to fancy the Saurians were fighting and screaming at each other.
In the deepest recesses of all, hundreds of men were tearing up the
earth with picks, inch by inch, to win the hidden treasure; these were
the sculptors of the strange and enormous figures which stood in awful
gravity and silence to confront the man who should venture to invade
their mysterious domain. The miners hewed down here, bored holes there,
dug farther on in one place, scraped down the wall in another, broke
up the limestone, chipped out the pretty flakes of mica and shale,
pounded down the calcareous clay, picked out the hematite and pyrites,
crushed the fine, white marble--rolling and stirring it incessantly
till it should yield zinc silicate--for zinc may be called the silver
of Europe, which, being a metal of which you cannot make saucepans,
is destined to become the fount of wealth and civilization. Is it not
on zinc that Belgium has hoisted her standard of moral and political
greatness? Aye, tin even has its epic!

The sky was clear and bright; the sun rose unclouded on the scene,
and the wide settlement of Socartes flashed from dark neutrality into
redness. The sculptured rocks, the heaps of ore, the hillocks of waste
soil that rose on every side like Babylonian mounds, were red; the
ground, the trucks and carts, the machinery, the water and the laborers
that gave life to Socartes. The brick-colored tone was universal, with
faint shades of difference in the earth and the houses, the metal and
the people's garments. The women at work at the washing looked like a
crowd of nymphs, come down in the world, and cast in red ironstone.
A rivulet of crimson fluid ran through the bottom conduit to join a
crimson river--you might fancy it the sweat of these toiling men and
machines, of muscles and of iron.

Nela stepped out of the house. Even she, though she did not work in
the mines, was faintly tinged with the universal ruddle, for the
finely-powdered metal spared no one. In her hand she held a hunch of
bread which Señana had given her for breakfast, and as she ate it she
walked on quickly, lost in thought and not lingering to amuse herself.
She had soon passed the workshops and, going up the inclined plane and
the steps before mentioned, she reached the houses of Aldeacorba. The
first of these was a handsome and stately mansion, large, well-built,
and cheerful looking, but lately restored and painted; with stone
boundary walls, decorated eaves and a broad escutcheon surrounded
by granite foliage. And the escutcheon itself would be less missed
than the climbing vine, whose long and leafy branches looked like
whiskers--growing, as whiskers do, on each side of a face, of which
the two windows served as eyes, while the escutcheon was the nose and
the long balcony the mouth, always widely grinning. And to complete
this whimsical air of personality, a beam stuck out from the balcony
intended to attach a rope to support an awning, and with this addition
the face was seen as smoking a cigar. The roof was in the shape of a
cap and in it there was a window that might represent the tassel. The
chimneys could only be the ears. It was one of those faces in which a
physiognomist reads plainly, peace of mind, ease of circumstance and a
quiet conscience.

In front of it was a little court-yard enclosed by a wall of adobe,
and on one side was a pretty orchard. As Nela went in she met the cows
coming out to pasture, and after exchanging a few words with their
driver--a formidable youth, about four feet high and ten years old--she
went straight up to a stout gentleman, whiskered, grey-haired and
florid, with a kind face and pleasant smile, and a half-military and
half-rustic air; he was in his shirt sleeves and braces, and his hairy
arms were bared to the elbow. Before the little girl addressed him, he
looked up at the house and called out: "Here is Nela, my boy!"

A lad at once made his appearance, remarkably tall, grave and erect,
his head held somewhat stiffly and his eyes fixed and vacant like
lenses. His face was like marble, carved with exquisite sharpness, and
his skin was as fine and soft as a girl's; there was not a feature or a
line which was not of that supremely beautiful type of manliness which
was the outcome of a thousand years of Hellenic thought. Those eyes
even, so purely sculpturesque in their lack of sight, were large, grand
and brilliant. Their fixity lost its strangeness when you remembered
that behind them all was night. In the absence of the faculty which is
the cause and origin of facial expression, this blind Antinous had the
cold serenity of marble, endowed with form by the genius of sculpture
and with life by a vital spark. A breath, a ray of warmth, a mere
sensation would suffice to animate the beautiful stone which, while it
possessed every charm of form, was devoid of that consciousness of its
own beauty, which is born of the faculty of seeing it.

He looked about twenty, and his strong and graceful frame was in
every respect worthy of the incomparable head that crowned it. Never
was a more lamentable injustice done by Nature, than to this perfect
example of humanity as to beauty, blest, on one hand, with every
gift, and bereft, on the other, of the sense by which man has most in
common with his fellow-man and gains familiarity with all the marvels
of creation at large. The injustice was such, that these splendid
gifts were useless--it was as though after creating all things the
Creator had left them in darkness, so that he could not himself take
pleasure in his works. And to make the privation more conspicuous, the
young man had mental lights of the highest order and a very superior
intelligence. To have this and to lack the faculty of conceiving the
idea of visibility, of form as distinct from mere matter, and at the
same time to be as beautiful as an angel; to have all the faculties of
a man and be as blind as a vegetable! It was strange and hard. We,
alas! know not the secret of these terrible injustices; if we did,
then indeed the gates would be open to us which hide the primordial
secrets of moral and physical duty; we should understand the fathomless
mysteries of inherited woe, of evil and of death, and might take
measure of the dark shadow which always haunts life and all that is
good in it.

Don Francisco Penáguilas, the young man's father, was more than good,
he was admirable; judicious, kind, genial, honorable and magnanimous,
and well educated too. No one disliked him; he was the most respected
of all the rich land-owners in the country side, and more than one
delicate question had been settled by the mediation--always equitable
and intelligent--of the _Señor de Aldeacorba de Suso_. The house in
which we now find him had been the home of his infancy. In his youth
he had been to America, and on returning to Spain without having made
his fortune, he had joined the National Guard. He then returned to his
native town where, having inherited a good fortune, he devoted himself
to husbandry and to breeding cattle, and at the period of our story he
had just come into another and even larger sum.

His wife, who was an Andalusian, had died very young, leaving him
the one son who, from his birth, was found to be deprived of the most
precious of the five senses. This was the one drop which embittered
the tender father's cup. What was the use of reminding him that he
was wealthy, that fortune favored all his undertakings and smiled on
his house? For whose sake did he care about it all? For one who could
see neither the thriving beasts, the flowery meadows, the overflowing
granaries, nor the orchard with its abundant crop. Don Francisco would
gladly have given his own eyes to his son, and have remained blind for
the rest of his days, if such an act of generosity were possible in
this work-a-day world; but, as it was not, Don Francisco could only
carry his devotion into practice by giving the hapless youth every
pleasure which could alleviate the gloom of the darkness in which
he lived. For him he was indefatigable in the cares and the endless
trifling details of forethought and affection of which mothers have the
secret--and fathers sometimes, when the mother is no more. He never
contradicted his son in anything which might console or entertain
him within the limits of propriety and morality. He amused him with
narratives and reading, watched him with studious anxiety, considering
his health, his legitimate amusements, his instruction and his
Christian education; for, said Señor de Penáguilas, whose principles
were strictly orthodox: "I would not have my son doubly blind."

Now, as he came out of the house, he said affectionately:

"Do not go too far to-day, and do not run--good-bye."

He watched them from the gate till they had turned the corner of the
garden wall, and then he went indoors, for he had many things to do; to
write to his brother Manuel, to buy a cow, to prune a tree, and to see
whether the guinea-hen had laid.



Pablo and Marianela went out into the country, preceded by Choto, who
ran on and danced round them, leaping with delight, and sharing his
caresses with great impartiality between his master and his master's

"Nela," said Pablo,--"it is a lovely day; the air is soft and fresh,
and the sun warm without being scorching. Where shall we go?"

"Let us go straight on through the meadows," replied Nela, poking her
hand into one of the pockets of the lad's coat. "What have you brought
me to-day?"

"Search and you will find," said Pablo laughing.

"Ah! Holy Virgin! chocolate! how I love chocolate!--nuts--and something
done up in paper. What is it? Oh, Blessed Virgin! a sweetie! Do not I
like sweeties! How rich I am! We do not have such good things to eat at
home, Pablo. There is no luxury in our food; there is no luxury in our
clothes either, to be sure. In fact, no luxury of any sort."

"Where shall we go to-day?" repeated the blind lad.

"Wherever you like, child of my heart," replied Nela, eating the
sugar-plum and tearing up the paper it had been wrapped in. "I hear and
obey, king of the world."

The child's black eyes sparkled with happiness; her sprightly little
birdlike face smiled and wrinkled with satisfaction, and was not still
for an instant, as though fitful flashes came and went there like
dimpling light on wavelets in a pool. This helpless little creature,
whose spirit seemed imprisoned and confined in the feeble body,
expanded and rose elastic when she was alone with her master and
friend. With him she at once became original, bright and intelligent;
she had feeling, grace, refinement and fancy. When she left him, the
dark doors of a prison seemed to close on her once more.

"But I tell you we will go wherever you like," remarked the blind
youth. "I like to do what you like. If you wish we will go to the clump
of trees beyond Saldeoro--but just as you like."

"Yes, yes, delightful!" exclaimed Nela, clapping her hands. "And as
there is no hurry, we can sit down whenever we are tired."

"There is a nice place near the spring--do you remember, Nela? And
there are some large tree-trunks, which seem to have been left there on
purpose for us to sit upon, and we hear so many, many birds singing,
that it is quite glorious."

"And we can go past the mill-stream that, you say, talks and mumbles
the words out like a tipsy man. Oh! what a lovely day and how happy I

"Is the sun very bright, Nela? Though if you say 'yes,' I shall be none
the wiser, since _bright_ has no meaning for me."

"It is very bright indeed, _Señorito mio_. But what does it matter
that you cannot see it? The sun is not at all pretty; you cannot look
in its face."

"Why not?"

"Because it hurts."

"Hurts what?"

"Hurts the eyes. How do you feel when you are happy?"

"When I am out with you, just we two together in the fields?"


"Oh! I feel inside me a sort of freshness, a springing up of something
sweet and soothing...."

"That is just it; now you know how the sun shines bright."

"What with freshness?"

"No, no--silly boy."

"What then?"

"Oh, like that."

"Like that? But what is that?"

"Like that," Nela insisted again.

"I see, it is a thing that cannot be explained in words. Do you know I
used to have a notion of day and of night. It was daytime when people
talked, it was night when people were silent and the cocks crowed. Now
I estimate it differently; it is day when you and I are together, and
it is night when we are apart."

"Ah, Holy Mother!" exclaimed the girl, shaking back the elf-locks that
hung over her forehead.--"To me, who can see, it is exactly the same."

"I mean to ask my father to let you come and live in our house, so that
I may always have you with me."

"Good, good!" cried Marianela clapping her hands once more. And as she
spoke, she skipped on a little way in front and picking up her skirts
with a great deal of grace began to dance.

"What are you about?" asked the blind boy.

"Child of my heart, I am dancing, I felt so happy that I thought I must

However, they now had to get over a little fence, and she slipped her
hand into his. After surmounting this obstacle, they went along a lane
hedged in on each side by luxuriant ivy and brambles. Nela held the
branches back that they might not scratch her companion's face, and at
last, after going down-hill for a considerable time, they went up a
slope shaded by chestnut and walnut trees. When they had reached the
top Pablo said:

"If you do not mind we will sit down here. I hear some people going

"They are the people returning from the market at Homedes. To-day is
Wednesday. The high-road runs just below and we can rest here before
going on."

"It is the best thing we can do. Choto, come here."

The trio seated themselves.

"The place is full of flowers," said Nela. "What beauties!"

"Pick me some. Though I cannot see them, I like to hold them in my
hand. I fancy I can hear them."

"Here are some lovely ones."

"As I hold them in my hand I fancy that they make me feel and
understand--I cannot tell you how--that they are pretty and gay. There
is something inside me, that they seem to belong to, and that answers
to them. Do you know, Nela, I fancy that I can really see, inside, as
it were."

"Oh! yes, I quite understand--we have everything inside us there. The
sun, the flowers, the moon and wide blue sky, with all the stars--we
have them all there; I mean that besides all the beautiful things
outside us, and around us, we carry others with us in our minds. Here
you have a flower--and another, and another--six, all quite different.
Now, what do you think flowers are?"

"Flowers," said the blind youth, puzzled and lifting them to his face.
"Flowers are I fancy as if the earth smiled; but, in truth, I know very
little about plants and flowers."

"Merciful Mother! what terrible ignorance!" cried Nela, stroking her
friend's hands. "Flowers are the stars of the earth."

"What an extravagant fancy! And what are the stars then?"

"The stars are the eyes of those who have gone to Heaven and look down
on us."

"Well, but then the flowers...."

"Are the eyes of those who are dead and have not gone straight to
Heaven," said the girl, with all the decision and conviction of a
Doctor of Theology. "The dead are buried in the ground; but as they
cannot lie still there without just peeping out at the world, they put
forth something which takes the form of a flower. When, in a field
there are many, many flowers, it is because--once upon a time, long
ago, a great many people were buried there."

"No, no," said Pablo very seriously. "Do not believe such nonsense. Our
holy religion teaches us that the spirit quits the flesh and that our
mortal life comes to an end. What is buried, Nela, is a mere shell of
useless clay which can neither think, nor feel, nor even see."

"The books say so--but Señana says that books are full of lies."

"But faith and reason say so too, dear Nela. Your imagination makes you
believe a number of foolish things, but by degrees I will show you your
errors, and you will have true and right ideas about everything in this
world and the other."

"Aye, aye! I know, lessons at three for a penny!--And you wanted to
make me believe that the sun stands still and the earth spins round and
round it! How can you know, you who cannot see. Merciful Heaven! May I
die on the spot, if the earth is not as steady as a rock and the sun
running on. _Señorito mio_, I do not set up for learning, but I have
spent many hours of the day and night in looking at the sky, and I know
how the machine works.--The earth is below and full of islands, some
large and some small. The sun comes up on this side and goes down out
there. It is God Almighty's palace."

"Foolish child!"

"But why not? Ah! you have never seen a fine day and clear sky; why,
child, you could fancy blessing was dropping down from it. I do not
think there could be wicked people--nobody could be wicked--if they
would only turn up their faces and see the great eye that looks down
upon us."

"Your religion is full of superstition, my little Nela. I will teach
you something better."

"Nobody has taught me anything," said María very simply. "But I myself,
whoever may object, have found out in my own head a great many ideas
that comfort me, and so when a good idea occurs to me, I say: 'Of
course, it must be so; it cannot be otherwise.' At night, when I am
alone at home, I wonder what will become of us when we die, and I think
how much the Holy Virgin loves us."

"Yes, she is our loving Mother."

"And I look up at the sky and I feel her close over my head, just as
when you go up to any one, you feel the warmth of their breath. She
looks at us night and day through all the lovely things there are in
the world--do not laugh at me."

"Those lovely things...?"

"Are her eyes, of course. Oh! you would understand it if you had eyes
yourself. You have not seen a white cloud, a tree, a flower, running
water, a little child, a little lamb, the sparkling dew, the moon
sailing across the sky, and the stars, which are the eyes of the good
men who are dead...."

"They would not want to go up there if they lie under the ground
throwing out flowers."

"Only hear this all-knowing fellow! Why they stay down there only till
they are purified of sin, and then they mount and fly up there. Yes,
I believe it, simpleton. Why, what can the stars be if they are not
the souls of those who are saved? Do not you know that stars sometimes
come down? I, I myself, have seen them fall; down, down, leaving a ray
of light behind them. Yes, Señor, the stars come down when they have
something to tell us here below."

"Oh, Nela!" Pablo exclaimed eagerly. "Your wild imaginings, absurd as
they are, charm and captivate me, for they betray the innocence of your
soul and the strength of your fancy. All your errors even are part of
an earnest disposition to know the truth, and of great gifts, which
would be very superior talents if they were cultivated by reason and
education. You must acquire one precious accomplishment of which I am
deprived--you must positively learn to read."

"To read!--And who is to teach me?"

"My father will; I will ask him to teach you. You know he never refuses
me anything. What a pity it is you should live in such a wretched way;
your mind is a mine of treasures. You are goodness and sweetness
itself and have a lovely imagination. God has given you a large share
of all the gifts that are in his store and part of himself; I know
it well--I cannot see what is outside, but I can see within, and I
know all the wonders of your spirit that you have shown me since you
have been my guide.--It is a year and a half now, and it seems like
yesterday, that we first began our walks together--and yet, no; I
have known you a thousand years. How is it that there is such a close
relationship between your feelings and mine? Just now, for instance,
you have talked all sorts of extravagant nonsense, and I, who know the
truth about the world and religion, I was stirred to enthusiasm as I
listened to you. I feel as if it were a voice speaking in my own heart."

"Holy Mother!" exclaimed the girl, folding her hands. "And can he see
something else that I feel?"

"What is that?"

"That I was put into the world expressly to be your _lazarillo_, and
that my eyes would be of no use at all, if it were not to guide you and
to tell you how beautiful the world is."

The blind boy turned his head suddenly and eagerly, and putting out his
hands to touch the child by his side, he said anxiously:

"Tell me, Nela--what are you like?"

But Nela did not answer; the question was a stab to her heart.



By this time they were rested, and they went on till they reached the
beginning of the grove beyond Saldeoro. Here they turned off into a
clump of ancient walnut trees, of which the trunks and roots made
a sort of step-ladder in the soil, with mossy hollows and backs so
perfect for seats, that the hand of man could have made no better. From
the top of the slope trickled a thread of water, tumbling from stone
to stone, till it fell exhausted into a little basin constructed to be
a reservoir to feed the conduit by which the neighboring houses were
supplied. Before them the land sloped gently away, affording a lovely
panorama of green hills with scattered groves and villas, and meadow
plains where hundreds of cattle grazed and wandered peacefully. Quite
in the background, between two lofty heights which were the farthest
limit of the land, lay a wide segment of purely blue sea. It was such a
landscape as makes a man feel to the utmost his relations to infinity
and eternity.

Pablo had seated himself on the trunk of a tree, resting his left arm
on the edge of the basin; with his right hand he pulled at the boughs
which hung low enough to touch his forehead, on which now and again the
sunbeams played, as the boughs stirred.

"What are you doing, Nela?" asked he, after a pause, not hearing the
steps, the voice, nor even the breathing of his companion. "What are
you about, and where are you?"

"Here I am," said Nela, laying her hand on his shoulder. "I was looking
at the sea."

"Ah! it must be a long way off."

"It is visible between the hills of Ficóbriga."

"Very large--immensely large--so wide that you might look all day, and
not have done looking--is it not?"

"There is only a piece to be seen from here--like the bit you cut off
with your teeth when you put a slice of bread in your mouth."

"Yes, yes--I understand. Every one says there is nothing in the world
so beautiful as the sea, because it is so grandly simple.--Listen,
Nela, to what I am going to say--but what are you doing?" Nela had
grasped a bough of the tree with both hands, and was swinging by it
lightly and gracefully.

"Here I am, _Señorito mio_. I was wondering why God should not give us
human creatures wings to fly like birds. How delightful it would be
just to give a flap and a whisk, and up we should go, and in one flight
we should be at the top of that peak between Ficóbriga and the sea."

"But though God has not given us wings he has given us thought
instead, which flies faster than any bird, since it can fly up to God
himself.--Tell me, child, of what good would wings be to me, if God had
denied me the gift of thought?"

"But I should like to have both. And if I had wings I would pick you
up in my little beak to take you out of this world, and carry you up
ever so much higher than the clouds." The blind lad put out his hand to
stroke Nela's hair.

"Sit down by me; are you not tired?"

"Just a little," she said, sitting down and laying her head with
childlike confidence on her master's shoulder.

"You are breathing fast, Nelilla, you are very tired; it is with trying
to fly.--Well, what I want to say to you is this: Talking of the sea
put me in mind of a thing my father read to me last night. You know
that ever since I was old enough, my father has been in the habit of
reading to me every evening different books of science, or history,
or art, or mere amusement. I might say that these readings make up
all I know of life. The Lord, to compensate me for being blind, has
given me a very good memory, and it has turned these readings to good
account; for though there has been no regular method in them, I have
contrived to put some order into the ideas that have penetrated to my
understanding. How I have enjoyed listening and learning about the
admirable laws and order of the universe, the harmonious circling of
the stars, the motion of atoms, and above all, those grand principles
which govern our souls and minds. I have enjoyed history too, which is
a true account of all the things men have done in former times; for
though, my child, they have always done the same wicked and foolish
things, they have nevertheless gone on improving, some of them doing
their utmost--but without ever succeeding--to attain that perfection
which belongs to God alone. And finally, my father has read me some
deeper and more mysterious things that cannot be understood at once,
but when they are thought over and considered they occupy and charm
the mind. He does not enjoy that sort of reading very much, as he does
not altogether follow it, and it has tired me sometimes, while at
other times it has delighted me. And there is no doubt that when you
have an author who explains himself clearly, such subjects are very
interesting. They deal with cause and effect, the rationale of all we
think, and how we think, and teach us about the essential nature of

Nela did not seem to understand a single word of what her friend was
saying, but she listened attentively with her mouth wide open; to
inhale, if possible, the essences and causes of which her master was
discoursing, opening her beak like a bird watching the movements of a
fly he wants to catch.

"Well, then," he went on, "last night he was reading me some pages
about Beauty. The author, in discussing Beauty, said that it was the
outcome and radiance of goodness and truth, with many other ingenious
comparisons so well thought out and expressed, that it was a pleasure
to listen."

"And was that book," said Nela, anxious to prove herself equal to the
occasion, "like one father Centeno has.... _The thousand and I don't
know how many nights_?"

"No, no, goose-cap; it is a book on Beauty in the abstract, you will
not understand--on ideal Beauty--and yet you must understand that
there is a sort of Beauty which cannot be seen, nor touched, nor
perceived by any of our senses."

"For example, like the Virgin Mary," interrupted Nela, "whom we cannot
see nor touch, because her pictures are not herself, but only her

"You are quite right; it is just like that. Thinking over this, my
father shut the book, and talked of one thing and another. We spoke
then of beauty of form, and my father said: 'This unfortunately you can
never understand.' But I said I could. I said that there could only be
one type, and that would apply to all."

Nela, caring little enough for such subtleties, had taken the flowers
out of her companion's hands, and was arranging their colors to her

"I have a clear idea about this," the blind lad went on, vehemently,
"an idea that I have been quite in love with for some months. Yes, I
am sure, quite sure of it; I want no eyes to see that, and I said to
my father, I have an ideal of enchanting beauty, a type which includes
every possible perfection, and that type is Nela. My father began to
laugh, and said 'yes.'"

Nela turned as scarlet as a poppy, and could not answer a word. During
a short spasm of terror and pain, she felt as if the blind boy were
looking at her.

"Yes, you are the most perfect beauty imaginable," Pablo went on,
eagerly. "How could it be possible that your goodness, and innocence,
and freshness and grace--your imagination, your sweet and lovely soul,
which have all combined to enliven and comfort my dark and melancholy
life--how, I say, could it be possible that they should not be embodied
in a person as lovely? Nela, Nela," and his voice trembled with
anxiety.--"Tell me--are you not beautiful--very pretty?"

Nela was silent; she instinctively put her hands up, and stuck into her
hair some of the half-faded flowers she had gathered in the meadows.

"You will not say? You are modest. Indeed, if you were not, you would
not be the sweet little soul that you are; the logic of Beauty would be
at fault, and that cannot be. You do not answer?"

"I ..." murmured Nela timidly, not ceasing her occupation, "I do not
know--they say that I was very pretty as a baby--but now...."

"You are still?"

María, in her utter confusion, could only say:

"Now--well, you know that people talk nonsense--and make stupid
mistakes--sometimes those who have eyes see least."

"Yes indeed, well said! Come here and kiss me."

Nela did not instantly obey, for having succeeded in fixing a sort of
garland of flowers in her hair, she now felt an eager wish to see the
effect of the adornment in the clear mirror of the reservoir. For the
first time in her life she felt an impulse of vanity, and leaning on
her hands, she bent over the basin.

"What are you doing?" asked the blind lad.

"I am looking at myself in the water, which is just like a
looking-glass," she replied, confessing her vanity with perfect

"You need not do that. You are as lovely as the angels round the throne
of God." He had fired himself with enthusiastic imaginings.

"The water is ruffled now," said the girl, "and I cannot see myself
plainly. It is trembling as much as I am. There, now it is quieter, now
it is still again.--I can see myself now, very well."

"And see how pretty you are! Come here, my child?" added the blind
youth, holding out his arms.

"I ... pretty!" she said, in anxious confusion. "Well, what I see in
the pool is not so ugly as they say. The fact is, there are a great
many people who do not know how to see."

"Aye, a great many."

"If only I were dressed as other girls are!" exclaimed Nela, with a
touch of pride.

"You shall be."

"And the book said I was beautiful?" asked Nela, appealing to every
source of conviction.

"I say so, and I always speak the truth!" cried the boy, carried away
by his eager imagination.

"Maybe it is so," said Nela, moving away from her not too flattering
contemplation. "Maybe that men are very stupid, and do not see things
as they really are."

"Human nature is liable to a thousand errors."

"I do believe it," said Mariquilla, greatly comforted by her friend's
words. "What can they see to laugh at in me?"

"Oh! how miserable is the lot of man!" cried the blind boy, driven to
wild absurdity by his raving fancy. "The gift of sight may lead him
into many errors--may betray him into a misapprehension of abstract
truth--and abstract truth proves that you are beautiful, without any
stain or blemish of ugliness. If any one tells me the contrary, I will
give him the lie. Away with their theories of form. Oh, fool! into
what sins your eyes may mislead you! Nela, come here, I want to have
you by my side and kiss your beloved head."

She threw herself into his arms.

"Sweet, lovely darling!" he exclaimed, clasping her passionately to his
breast. "With all my soul I love you!"

Nela did not speak. Her heart was full of innocent and tender devotion,
overflowing with pure delight. The youth, trembling and throbbing, held
her more closely than ever, saying:

"I love you more than my life. Angel of God, love me too or I shall

María freed herself from his embrace, and he remained lost in
bewilderment. She, the tiny woman, felt an overwhelming and
irresistible impulse to look at her face once more in the water. She
gently stole up to the edge, and there against the green background
she saw the insignificant little face, with its black eyes, its dull
coloring, its sharp nose--not altogether ugly that nose--the short,
unkempt hair, and the birdlike, eager expression. She leaned farther
over the stone brim to see her body; it was pitiably made and mean. The
flowers in her hair fell into the water, making circles in it, and the
image wavered. She, poor child, felt as if her heart were being torn
up by the roots, and she staggered backwards, murmuring:

"Mother of God! how hideous I am!"

"What are you saying, Nela? I thought you spoke."

"I did not say anything--son of my soul.--I was only thinking.--Yes, it
is high time we should turn homewards. It will soon be dinner-time."

"Well, come along, you shall dine with me, and bye-and-by we will go
out again. Give me your hand; I will not have you leave me."

When they reached home, Don Francisco was in the forecourt with two
other gentlemen; Marianela recognized the engineer of the mines and the
stranger who had lost his way in La Terrible the night before.

"Here are the _Señor ingeniero_," said she, "and his brother--the
gentleman of last evening."

All three men gazed with evident interest at the blind youth as he

"We have been expecting you some time, my son," said the father, taking
his hand and introducing him to the doctor.

"Let us go indoors," said the engineer.

"Blessings on all men of science with good hearts!" exclaimed Don
Francisco, turning to the doctor. "Walk in, gentlemen; happy is the
hour when you enter my house."

"Now, let us study the case," murmured Golfin.

When Pablo and the two visitors had gone in, Don Francisco turned to
Mariquilla, who was standing transfixed and doubtful in the middle of
the court-yard, and said kindly:

"You see, Nela, you may as well go home. My son will not be able to go
out this afternoon." And then, seeing that still she did not move, he

"You may run round to the kitchen. Dorotea will give you something



The following day Pablo and his guide set out at the same hour; but,
as the sky was overcast and a disagreeable breeze was blowing which
threatened to become a south-westerly gale, they decided on making
their walk a short one. Crossing the village green of Aldeacorba, they
went along the great slope above the mines to the west, intending to
go down into the excavations.

"Nela, I must tell you something that will make you leap with joy,"
said the blind lad when they were at some distance from the house. "My
heart is bursting with happiness.--I feel as if the whole Universe, all
the sciences, history, philosophy, natural history--all that I have
ever learnt had got inside me, and was dancing in procession. You saw
those two gentlemen who were waiting for me yesterday...."

"Don Cárlos and his brother...."

"He is a famous doctor who has been all over America, making wonderful
cures.--He is come to see his brother, and as Don Cárlos is a great
friend of my father's, he asked his brother to examine me. How kind
and gentle he is! First he sat talking to me; he asked me a number
of questions, and told me all sorts of pleasant and amusing stories.
Then he told me to sit quite still; I felt his fingers on my eyelids,
and after a long time he said something I did not understand--medical
terms, and my father never read me anything about medicine. Then he
led me close to the window, and while he examined my eyes with some
instrument the room was as quiet.--Then he said to my father: "It is
worth trying." They said more, but in a low voice that I might not
hear, and I think they talked partly by signs. When the visitors were
gone, my father said to me: 'Son of my soul, I cannot conceal from you
the joy that is in me. This man, this angel from Heaven, has given
me a hope--a very faint hope--but we cling most to a hope when it is
smallest. I try to give it up by telling myself it is impossible--no,
almost impossible--but it sticks to me like a burr.'--This was what my
father said, and I could hear in his voice that he was crying. What are
you doing, Nela? Are you dancing?"

"No.--Here I am, close to you!"

"But you used to dance when I told you anything that made me happy.
Where shall we go to-day?"

"It is a dull day--we will go as far as Trascava, that is a sheltered
spot, and then go down into La Terrible."

"Very well, just as you like.--Oh, Nela! If only it could be true; if
God would have pity on me, and grant me the joy of seeing you. Even
if I could only see for one day, and were blind again the next, how I
would thank Him."

Nela said nothing. After feeling at first intensely happy, she now
walked on thoughtfully, with her eyes fixed on the ground.

"Many wonderful things happen in the world," Pablo went on. "And God's
mercy works in strange ways--strikes as suddenly as his wrath. It comes
upon us unexpectedly, after long punishment and torment, just as his
anger falls on us in the midst of happiness which has seemed secure and
eternal--do you not think so?"

"Yes--what you hope will be accomplished."

"How do you know?"

"My heart tells me so."

"Your heart tells you! And why should not such warnings come true?"
cried Pablo, fervently. "Yes--such chosen souls as yours can, in some
cases, foresee the issue. I have noticed it in myself, for, as I am
not diverted from self-inspection by seeing things outside me, I have
perceived sometimes that I had a whispered presentiment that was quite
inexplicable. Then when some event or other has come to pass, I have
said to myself with astonishment: 'I knew all this beforehand.'"

"The same thing happens to me," replied Nela. "Yesterday you told me
you loved me dearly, and when I got home I said to myself: 'It is very
strange, but I knew something of this.'"

"It is wonderful, dear little one, how perfectly our souls are one.
United by our own wish and will, nothing is wanting but a bond of
union. That bond shall be tied if I really gain the precious sense
that I have never enjoyed. The idea of seeing would never have taken
possession of my mind if I did not cherish above all things the idea
that through it I should love you better. The acquisition of that power
can be nothing to me but the faculty of admiring in a new kind of way
what I already admire so truly by the way of love.--But I fancy you are
sad to-day."

"Yes, I am; and to tell you the truth, I do not know why. I am very
happy and very sad, both at once. The day is so gloomy--it would be
better if it never were day at all, always night."

"Nay, nay, things are good as they are. Day and night! If God ever
grant me to know the difference, how happy I shall be! Why are you

"We have come to a dangerous bit. We must turn aside a little way to
get to the path."

"Ah! La Trascava! This slippery grass slopes down till it is lost in
the chasm. Whatever falls down there does not come up again. Let us go
away, Nela; I do not like this place."

"Silly boy, it is a long way from this to the mouth of the chasm. And
it is very pretty here to-day."

Nela stood still and detained her companion by the arm, looking down
at the mouth of the gulf which opened in the earth, in shape like a
funnel. The sloping sides of this narrow, deep basin were covered by
extremely fine turf; at the very bottom a large oblong rock lay on the
grass among brambles, fennel shrubs and rushes, and an immense variety
of gay-colored flowers. The stone looked like a large tongue. You felt,
rather than saw, that by the side of it there was an opening, an abyss,
hidden by plants, such as Don Quixote had to cut away when he slid into
the cavern of Montesinos.

Nela seemed never tired of looking.

"Why do you say that the horrible Trascava looks pretty?" asked Pablo.

"Because it is so full of flowers. Last week they were all dead and
over, but now they have bloomed afresh, and it really is lovely to
look at. And there are such numbers of birds there, and of butterflies
too, sucking honey from the flowers. Choto, Choto, come here--do not
frighten the poor little birds."

The dog, who had run down the slope, came galloping back at Nela's
call, and the fluttering republic of birds returned to take possession
of their common property.

"I have a perfect horror of the place," said Pablo, pulling the girl's
arm. "Now, shall we go as far as the mines? I know the way there, and
feel on my own ground; we will go round behind el Barco.--Choto, go on
in front, do not get under my feet."

They went down a path cut into steps and soon reached the basin formed
by digging out the earth and ore. Leaving the zone of vegetation,
they suddenly crossed the boundary line of a geological zone, so to
speak, an enormous trench, whose sides, wrought by the pick and shovel,
displayed an interesting section of stratification, where the different
layers showed the greatest variety of colors and earths. This was the
place where Teodoro Golfin had fancied himself in the hull of a wrecked
vessel, worn away by the waves--and its popular name _el Barco_ (the
ship), had been suggested by that very resemblance. By day, however,
the spectator was chiefly struck by the sections of the strata with
their sulphurous and carboniferous veins, black sedimentary deposits,
lignites, in which jet frequently occurred, streaks of ferruginous
earth that looked as if they had been mixed with blood, and large,
even layers of slate, split in a thousand places by human devices,
bristling with splinters and riven into fissures and clefts, looking
like wounds seen through a strong magnifier; while a thread of water,
stained with oxide of iron, that flowed down the middle, might be taken
for blood.

"Where is our seat?" asked the young man. "Let us go there; we shall be
sheltered from the wind."

Out of the bottom of the great cutting they went up by a rough
foot-path, that had been made between broken stones and earth overgrown
with rank fennel, and at the top they sat down under the shelter of
an enormous crag, rent across the middle. The two halves of the rock,
standing opposite each other, with their jagged faces, looked for all
the world like two yawning jaws trying to meet and close.

"How pleasant it is here!" Pablo said. "Sometimes there is a
disagreeable draught through this chasm, but I do not feel it to-day.
What we hear is the trickling water down inside the bowels of La

"It is very quiet to-day," observed Nela. "Would you like to lie down?"

"That is a good idea! Last night I could not sleep, for thinking of
all my father had said to me, of the doctor, of my eyes.--All night I
felt as if a hand went into my eyes and opened a closed and moss-grown
door." As he spoke he stretched himself at full length and laid his
head on Nela's knees.

"A door," he went on, "which was quite in my inmost feeling, opened,
as I tell you, showing a way into a room where the idea that haunts me
was shut up. Oh! Nela of my heart, best beloved, idolized darling, if
only God would grant me the sense I lack. Then I should think myself
the happiest of men--for I am almost that already, merely from having
you to be the friend and companion of my life. Very little is needed
to make us two one--nothing but to see you and rejoice in your beauty,
with that joy in seeing which I cannot even comprehend, since I have
only a vague conception of it. I have a questioning spirit only because
I have no power to see for myself. I fancy it will be like a new way
of loving you. I think of nothing but your beauty, still, there is
something in it which I cannot realize as my own."

"Hark!" said Nela suddenly, with evident interest in something quite
distinct from what her friend was saying. "Do not you hear?"


"Down in there--La Trascava--it is talking."

"Superstitious child! water cannot talk, my Nela. What language could a
driblet of water speak? There are but two things which speak, my sweet:
the tongue and the conscience."

"And La Trascava," said Nela, turning paler. "It is a whisper only:
'Yes, yes, yes,' it says. And sometimes I can hear my mother's voice,
saying quite plainly. 'My little girl, it is very pleasant down here.'"

"It is all your fancy. Well, fancy talks too; I forgot that. My
imagination sometimes chatters so fast, that I have to tell it to be
silent. Its voice is loud, persistent, intolerable; that of conscience
is deep, calm, convincing; there is no answering or refuting it."

"Now it sounds as if it were crying," said Nela, still listening to the
bubbling water. "It is dying away little by little."

Suddenly a light gust came up from the chasm.

"There, it sighed deeply--did not you hear? Now I hear the voice again;
it is speaking low, and it says to me in a whisper, a tiny whisper in
my ear...."

"Well, what does it say?"

"Nothing," said María shortly, after a pause. "You say it is all
nonsense--you may be right."

"I will get all these absurd ideas out of your head," said the blind
youth taking her hand. "We are going to live together all our lives.
Oh! Heavenly Father! If I am never to enjoy the blessing of which
Thou didst deprive me at my birth, why hast Thou allowed me to hope?
Hapless wretch that I am, if I am not born anew under the hands of
Doctor Golfin. A new birth indeed--a new life! Oh! my darling, I swear
to you by the image of God that exists in my soul, glorious, real and
immutable, that you and I will never part by my will. I shall have
eyes, Nela, eyes to delight in your presence, and then I will marry
you. You will be my beloved wife--life of my life, and the joy and
pride of my soul.--And do you say nothing to this even?"

Nela bent her head down over the lad's handsome face; she wished to
speak, but could not for emotion.

"And if God will not after all vouchsafe me this mercy," added Pablo,
"still you will not leave me, still you will be my wife--unless it
horrifies you to think of marrying a blind man. Indeed, my dearest, I
ought not to inflict such a burden on you. You will meet some good
man who will love you, and who will make you happy. Your wonderful
kindness, your noble feelings, your sweet face, must win many hearts
and inspire the purest love in all who have to do with you--your future
cannot fail to be bright and happy. I swear to you that I shall love
you as long as I live; seeing or blind, I devote myself to you before
God in the fullest, most perfect, and most unbounded love.--Will you
not speak to me, Nela?"

"Yes--I love you dearly--very, very dearly ..." said Nela, putting her
face close to his. "But do not be anxious to see me. Perhaps I am not
so nice as you fancy."

As she spoke, Nela felt in her pocket and brought out a piece of
silvered glass, a dull and useless fragment of a cheap mirror, which
had been broken a week since in the Centeno household. In this she
looked at herself. The image was all awry, and in consequence of the
small size of the looking-glass she was obliged to study it a bit at
a time, first one eye and then her forehead, till, holding it farther
off, she could command a view of half her face at once. But alas! the
result of her investigations was sad enough--as she looked in the
glass, the tears started from her eyes.

"Nela, I felt a drop on my forehead--it is raining."

"Yes, my child, it seems to be raining," said Nela with a gulping sob.

"No--you are crying.--Something in my heart tells me so. You are
goodness itself; your soul and mine are united by some divine and
mysterious bond; they can never be parted--is it not true? they are two
halves of one whole.--Are they not?"

"Quite true."

"Your tears give me a plainer answer than words could. You love me do
you not, and will always love me, just the same whether I recover my
sight or remain blind?"

"The same, just the same!" cried Nela vehemently.

"And will always stay with me?"


"Then listen," cried the blind lad in passionate rapture. "If I had to
choose between remaining blind and losing you, I would choose...."

"You would choose to remain blind! Oh! merciful Mother of Heaven! how
happy--how happy I am!"

"I would choose not to see your sweet face with these eyes, for I can
see it in my soul as clearly as truth. You live here, in my heart, and
to me you are more lovely and enchanting than anything on earth."

"Oh! yes, yes," cried Nela half-crazed. "I must be beautiful--I must be

"Listen," said Pablo, "I have a presentiment, a sure anticipation. It
is as though the voice of God within me promised me that I should have
my sight, that I shall see you, that we shall be happy. Do you not feel
it yourself?"

"I--yes, I feel sure you will see...."

"I shall see your face--what happiness!" cried the blind boy in the
high-pitched ecstatic tone, which was peculiar to him in moments of
excitement.--"But I see it already, I see it now in my heart as plainly
as the truth in my soul."

"Yes, yes, oh! yes," Nela repeated wildly, with wide-open eyes and
quivering lips. "It is true, I am, I must be, beautiful!"

"Bless you, sweet one!"

"And you," she said gravely, kissing his forehead. "Now, are you not

"Yes, I am beginning to be sleepy. I did not sleep all night. And I am
so comfortable here."

"Then sleep, my child...."

And she began to sing a lullaby. In a few minutes he was asleep; but
Nela sat listening to the voice of La Trascava, which said: "Daughter
come ... daughter come."



Teodoro Golfin did not waste his time at Socartes. The first day
after his arrival he spent several hours in his brother's laboratory,
and during the following days he went from one part of the mines to
another, examining and admiring all he saw--here the awful might of
natural forces, and there the power and enterprise of human skill. At
night, when all was still in the busy village, and nothing was awake
but the snorting furnaces, the worthy doctor, who was an enthusiastic
musician, listened with delight to his sister-in-law's piano; Señora
Sofía, was Don Cárlos' wife, but their children were all dead.

The two brothers were devotedly attached to each other. Born in the
humblest rank of life, they had struggled hard in early youth to rise
above ignorance and poverty, often on the point of giving way to the
difficulties that beset them; but the impetus of manly determination
was so strong in them, that at length, gasping for breath, they
reached the longed-for land, rising superior to the beating waves
in which vulgar souls splash and struggle in a perpetual state of

Teodoro, who was the eldest, was a medical man before Cárlos was
qualified as an engineer, and he helped him to the utmost so long as
the younger brother needed it, and when he saw him fairly started, he
took the step to which his enterprising spirit had long aspired, and
set out for South America. There he practised with other celebrated
physicians, gaining fame and wealth. After a short visit at home, in
Spain, he returned to the New World, and even after a second voyage
home he went back again; but during each of these expeditions he
made a short tour in Europe to avail himself of the advances made in
ophthalmic science which he particularly cultivated.

He was a man of unpolished manners, dark and with an expression at
once intelligent and sensual; his lips were thick, his skin opaque
and hairy, his eyes bright and keen; his frame was robust and his
constitution sound, though somewhat injured by the South American
climate. His large, round face, his prominent brow, his short,
rebellious hair, the flash of his eyes and his thick, square hands, had
led to his being spoken of as "the black lion." In truth, he was like
a lion, and like the king of beasts, he never lost an opportunity of
asserting the estimation in which he held himself. However, this vanity
of a really distinguished man was the most pardonable of vanities,
for it consisted chiefly in his persistently displaying his two great
titles of fame and honor, namely: his devotion to surgery and the
lowness of his origin. He spoke incorrectly, from his utter inability
to elaborate phrases with ease and elegance. His rapid and broken
sentences followed the course of his ideas, which were as swift as the
electric spark.

"We," Teodoro would say, "although we have sprung from the grass by
the way-side, which is the lowest origin conceivable, have grown into
stalwart trees. Long live labor and human enterprise! I cannot but
think that we Golfins, though Heaven knows where we came from, must
have some English blood in our veins. Even our name seems to me to be
of purely Saxon origin. I give it this etymology, _Gold-find_, or, as
you may say, Gold-finders. Well, and my brother finds it in the bowels
of the earth, while I find it in that marvellous miniature universe:
the human eye."

At the period of our story he had just arrived via New York and
Liverpool, and, as he declared, he now meant to remain at home; but no
one believed it, for he had said so many times before and had not kept
his word.

His brother Cárlos was a gentler being, placid, studious, a slave to
his duties, and devoted to mineralogy and metallurgy to the point of
caring far more for these two branches of learning than for his wife's
society. But the couple lived, nevertheless, in perfect harmony; or,
as Teodoro said, in an isomorphous state, crystallizing on the same
system. As for himself, when matrimony was spoken of, he would say:

"To me, marriage would be an epigenesis, a pseudo-morphous
crystallization, that is to say, a mode of crystallization which would
not harmonize with my nature."

Sofía was a very good woman, who had been very handsome, but whose
beauty was daily losing character and expression from her unfortunate
tendency to stoutness. She had been told that an atmosphere charged
with coal smoke had a tendency to reduce fat, and for this reason she
had come to live at the mines, without ever leaving them the whole
year through. The horrible air, charged with dust, calamine and smoke,
annoyed her much however. She had no child alive, and her principal
occupation consisted in playing the piano and in organizing societies
of benevolent ladies for giving the poor help in their homes, and for
maintaining hospitals and schools.

At Madrid, for many years her energy had been prodigious, a real model
for all who feel prompted to acts of charity. With the help of two or
three ladies of rank, equally devoted to their humble and suffering
neighbors, she had organized more than twenty dramatic performances,
and as many fancy balls, six bull-fights and two cock-fights, all for
the benefit of the poor.

Among her other manias, which were apt to be but transient, however,
was one which perhaps is less commendable than that for helping the
needy, and which consisted in surrounding herself with dogs and cats,
devoting herself to these animals with an affection really worthy to be
called love. Lately, since she had lived at Socartes, she had kept a
toy-terrier which had been brought to her as a commission from England
by Ulises Buli, the head of the machinery department. This was a
delicate and slender creature, as tricky and amusing as a child. It was
called Líli, and had cost a small fortune in London--as dogs go.

On fine days the trio walked out together; when it was wet they played
and sang, for Sofía had a modest pipe which, at Socartes, passed
for singing. The deputy engineer had a deep bass voice, and Teodoro
likewise was _basso profondo_. Cárlos could sing but a little higher,
so that the whole effect was somewhat like a priestly choir, in which
Sofía's treble came out as if she were a priestess being carried off
to be immolated. All the pieces they sang were--or at any rate sounded
like--priests offering a sacrifice, and a priestess being sacrificed.

On the days when they walked far they took with them a sort of picnic
afternoon meal. One evening--it was at the end of September, and six
days after the doctor's arrival at the mines--the party were returning
homewards in the following order: Líli, Sofía, Teodoro, Cárlos. The
path was too narrow to allow of their walking two and two. Líli wore a
little sky-blue coat or gaberdine with his mistress's initials worked
upon it; Sofía carried her parasol like a gun over her shoulder, and
Teodoro had his stick in precisely the same position with his hat
hanging on the end of it; it was one of his favorite whims to walk out
bare-headed. They were passing above La Trascava when Líli, leaving the
path, with his elastic little legs like springs, began to run on the
turf that covered the slope to the chasm. First he ran, but then he
slipped on the grass. Sofía gave a cry of terror. Her first impulse,
prompted by an almost maternal feeling, was to run after the little
beast that was in no real danger; but her husband stopped her, saying:
"The devil may have Líli if he wants him--but he will come back. It is
impossible to go down, the turf here is so slippery."

"Líli, Líli," cried Sofía, hoping that her touching appeal would arrest
the creature on the road to perdition, and bring him back to the path
of virtue and duty. But the tenderest adjurations had no effect on the
rebellious soul of Líli, who went lower and lower. From time to time he
looked up at his mistress with his bright, black eyes, which seemed to
say: "For mercy's sake do not be so foolish."

At the large, moss-grown, white rock, which lay like a lid at the
very mouth of the chasm, Líli stopped. All stood with their eyes
fixed on the spot, and they at once perceived something moving there.
They supposed it to be some beast of prey hiding behind the rock; but
Sofía gave another shriek of astonishment rather than of terror, and

"It is Nela.--Nela what are you doing there?"

On hearing her name called, the girl appeared greatly disturbed, and
colored deeply.

"What are you doing there, mad child?" repeated the lady. "Take up Líli
and bring him back to me. Heaven have mercy on us! but what next will
that creature be doing? Just look at the place she has put herself in!
It is all your fault that Líli went down there--what an example to set
the poor little animal. It is all your fault that he behaved in this
naughty, wilful way."

"That child is a perfect limb of mischief," said Don Cárlos to his
brother. "Only look at the place she has got to."

While, on the top of the slope, they were thus discussing her, Nela,
down at the bottom, was trying to catch Líli, who, more wilful and
daring than he had ever been before in the whole course of his
monotonous existence, constantly eluded her grasp. His mistress shouted
to him in vain to "be good and behave himself," while he, ignoring
the most elementary principles of duty, went on leaping and frisking,
looking up at her, from time to time, with consummate impudence, as
though to say: "My good lady, just go on with your walk and leave me in

At last, however, the sportive little beast got entangled among the
briars which grew in the hollow, and there his little great-coat got
him into dire trouble; the poor dog, finding it impossible to escape
from the brushwood, began to bark lamentably for help.

"He will be lost, he will be killed!" wailed the Señora. "Nela, Nela,
if you will only save him, I will give you a fine, big dog. Save
him--go carefully--hold fast."

Nela went boldly to the rescue; setting her foot on the brambles and
stout-stemmed creepers that grew over the rift, and holding on by one
hand to the rock, she put out the other to take hold of Líli's tail,
by which she pulled him out of the tangle in which he had been caught.
Then, patting and coaxing him, she mounted in triumph to the top of the

"It is your fault, all your fault," said Sofía crossly, and boxing
the dog's ears very gently. "What on earth made you go down into that
hole--you know he goes after you wherever he finds you--hussy that you

And then she kissed her recovered treasure and gave him one or two mild
slaps, and after having assured herself that his precious skin was
whole, she pulled his little coat straight, which had got dragged over
his head, and gave him to Nela, saying:

"Take him, and carry him in your arms, for he must be tired, and
such a long scamper may do him harm. But take care of him--go on in
front.--Take great care of him--you see I am close behind to keep an
eye on you."

The family party set out again, with Nela leading the way. Líli looked
at his mistress over Nela's shoulder, and seemed to say: "My good
mistress, what a simpleton you are!"

Teodoro Golfin had said not a word during the whole of Líli's agitating
escapade, but when they had started on their way once more and were
crossing the fields, where the three could walk abreast without
inconvenience, the doctor said to his brother's wife:

"I cannot but think, dear Sofía, that you are unreasonably devoted to
the little dog. To be sure a dog that cost two hundred _duros_, is
indeed a dog among dogs. Still, I cannot but ask myself how it is that
you have spent time and money in making a great-coat for his highness
the terrier, while it has never occurred to you to buy a pair of shoes
for Nela."

"Shoes for Nela!" exclaimed Sofía laughing. "What for, I should like
to know. She would have worn them through in two days. You may laugh
at me as much as you please--well, I admit that my affection for Líli
amounts to an extravagance; still, you cannot accuse me of want of
charity.--Nor indeed, I must say, should I ever allow you to take
such a liberty," and as she spoke she drew herself up with a solemn
look of offended dignity. "As to knowing how to exercise charity
with due prudence and judgment, I believe I may hold my own with
any one, be it whom it may--for charity does not consist merely in
giving without rhyme or reason, not knowing whether your alms are well
or ill-bestowed. Do you suppose you can teach me anything? My dear
Teodoro, I am quite as experienced in such matters as you are in the
treatment of eyes."

"I know, I know, my dear.--You have done wonders. You need not tell me
for the fiftieth time of all the dramatic entertainments, balls and
bull-fights, you have got up for the benefit of the poor, nor of the
lotteries, which have brought in large sums; though, after providing
food for any number of idle vagabonds, there has been but a small
fraction left for the sick and suffering! All these facts only go to
prove to my mind the singular state of a society, which cannot be
charitable without dancing, bull-fights or lottery tickets.--No, we
need not discuss all that; I know and admire those heroic achievements;
they have their good side, and that not a small one. But you and your
gay friends very rarely put yourself in connection with any poor soul,
to learn from his own lips the cause and history of his misery, or to
discern what kind of wretchedness it is that oppresses him--for there
are, actually, some troubles so extraordinary that the gift of a few
coppers can do nothing to alleviate them, no, nor even a morsel of

"Here we have our philosopher well astride on his hobby," said Sofía
spitefully. "Pray how do you know what I have ever done, or what I
ought to do?"

"Nay, do not be vexed," said Golfin; "for all my discourse tends to a
single point, and that is that Nela should have shoes."

"Very well, then to-morrow morning I will buy her a pair."

"No--for I will buy them myself this evening. Do not poach on my
preserves, Señora."

"Here--Nela," cried the lady, seeing that she had gone some distance
ahead. "Do not go so fast; keep in sight that I may see what you are

"Poor little creature!" said her husband. "Who could guess she was
sixteen years old!"

"She is dreadfully stunted, miserable little thing!" exclaimed
Sofía. "I cannot help asking, why God should permit such creatures to
live? And again I ask myself, what in the world can be done for her?
Nothing--nothing, but to feed and clothe her after a fashion--but you
see, she tears everything she puts on. She cannot labor because she
faints away--she has not strength enough to do any kind of work. She
skips from stone to stone, or climbs the trees, playing and chattering
the whole day long and singing like the birds; what clothes she has are
soon reduced to rags...."

"And yet," said Cárlos, "I have noticed that she is very intelligent.
There is a great deal of acuteness and cleverness under that simple
exterior and wild rusticity. No, no, Nela is no fool by a long way.
If any one had taken the trouble to teach her anything, she would
have learnt it better, perhaps, than most children. Would you believe
it? Nela has a great imagination; but lacking, as she does, the most
rudimentary knowledge, it has of course, made her sentimental and

"In point of fact she is in the condition of all primitive races," said
Teodoro. "She is at the pastoral stage of civilization."

"Only yesterday," Cárlos went on, "I was passing by La Trascava and I
saw her sitting exactly where we found her again just now. I called her
and made her come to me, and I asked her what she was doing there; and
with the most perfect simplicity she told me she was talking with her
mother.--You know, perhaps, that Nela's mother threw herself into that

"That is to say that she killed herself," said Sofía. "She was a
woman of bad character and worse feeling, from all I have heard of
her. Cárlos was not living here then, but they say she drank like a
stoker. And I ask you: Do these vile creatures, who end a life of sin
by committing the greatest crime of all--Suicide--deserve any pity from
the human race? There are things too horrible to contemplate--wretches
that ought never to have been born. Teodoro may argue as much as he
likes, but I cannot help asking you...."

"Ask nothing, my dear sister," said Teodoro warmly. "For I could only
reply that the suicide deserves our deepest and fullest pity. So far as
abuse goes, heap it on her by all means, and as much as you please; but
at the same time it might be as well to enquire what were the causes
that brought her to such a fearful extremity of desperation--and I may
add that if society had not wholly abandoned her and left her no way
out but the yawning door of that hideous abyss which seemed to invite

"Abandoned by society! Well, some must be ..." said Sofía flippantly.
"Society cannot take care of every one. Look at the statistics of
population--only look, and you will see how many poor there are to
provide for. Besides, supposing society does overlook some--what is
religion for?"

"I am speaking of those poor wretches who add to all their other
miseries, ignorance, which is the greatest of all. An ignorant soul,
debased and superstitious, has none but the vaguest and absurdest
ideas of God. The sense of something Great and Unknown, instead of
withholding him, impels him to crime. It is rarely indeed that the
thought of religion is of any good to those who vegetate in stolid
ignorance. No intelligent friend ever goes near them, neither master
nor priest; the only superior they ever come into contact with, is the
judge who tries them.

"It is strange to see how inexorably you condemn what, after all, is
your own work!" he went on, twisting the stick on which his hat was
still mounted. "You stand looking straight before you, seeing at the
very threshold of your own comfortable homes a crowd of neglected
creatures, deprived of everything that childhood needs, from parents
to playthings--you see them, I say, without its ever occurring to you
to raise them an inch in the world, by telling them that they too are
human beings, and giving them some of the ideas they so deplorably
lack, without ever dreaming of ennobling them by lifting them out of
their brutalizing, mechanical toil, to some intelligent work; you see
them dwelling in filthy hovels, ill-fed, sinking lower day by day in
their savage squalor, and it never occurs to you to spare for them a
little of the comfort and luxury that surround you! You save all your
energies to declaim against murder, robbery and suicide, without ever
reflecting that you are, in fact, keeping open school for these three

"You seem to forget that there are houses of refuge, hospitals,
asylums ..." said Sofía tartly. "Read statistics, Teodoro, and you will
see the number of miserable creatures.... Read statistics."

"I do not read statistics, my dear sister, and your statistics count
for nothing with me. Asylums are good--not that they can ever solve the
great problem of orphanage. A hapless orphan, dropped in the streets
or in the fields, bereft of all personal affection, and cared for only
by a town council--rarely, indeed, is the vacuum filled which yawns
in his soul for the love of a parent--not to speak of the vacuum where
self-respect, honor, and responsibility ought to be, and so rarely are
found. And on that point I have an idea of my own--but, perhaps, it
will appear to you absurd...."

"Tell us, at any rate."

"The problem of orphanhood, and the miseries of infancy, will never
be completely and finally solved, any more than the rest of our great
social problems; still, it will be lightened when custom, supported by
law--yes, by law, you see I am in earnest--when custom and law insist
that every orphan, whatever its birth--do not laugh--has a right to
claim adoption by some married couple in easy circumstances, and who
have no children. By this plan, there will be no childless parents, and
no fatherless children."

"Yes, by this plan," retorted Sofía, "we should be parents to Nela!"

"And why not?" said Teodoro. "At the same time you would not waste
two hundred _duros_ in buying a dog, nor the livelong blessed day in
talking nonsense to his highness, Master Líli."

"And why are rich bachelors to be exempt under this delightful law? Why
should not they also be burthened, each with his orphan?"

"I have no objection ..." said the doctor; he was looking at the
ground. "But what is this? Blood?"

They all looked down, and at regular intervals they saw small spots of

"Mercy!" cried Sofía, covering her eyes. "It is Nela--see, it is where
she has trodden; these are her footmarks."

"Oh yes! I see. It was when she went into the brambles to fetch your
precious dog. Nela, come here."

Nela, whose right foot was bleeding a good deal, came hobbling back

"Give me my poor Líli," said the lady, taking the dog out of the ragged
child's arms. "Do not hurt him; does it hurt you much? Poor little
thing.--Oh! how it is bleeding.--I cannot bear to look at it." And
Sofía turned her back to spare her sensitive nerves, hugging Líli more

"Let us see what has happened," said Teodoro, lifting Nela up and
seating her on a high stone that was at hand. Then, putting on his
spectacles, he said: "It is quite a trifle, only a few scratches; there
is a thorn in here I rather think.--That hurts you? Yes, just so, here
is the villain.--Wait a minute. Now, Sofía if you cannot look on at a
surgical operation, you had better walk on."

While his sister went slowly forward to save her nervous system this
terrible shock, Golfin took a small case out of his pocket and a pair
of tweezers out of the case, and in less than a winking the thorn was

"That is a brave little woman," he said to Nela, who had not even
winced. "Now we will tie this foot up." And he bound it round with his
handkerchief. Marianela jumped down to walk and Cárlos offered her his

"No, no--come here," said Teodoro. He took the little girl under the
arms, and with a rapid and dexterous twist perched her on his right

"If you do not feel safe hold on to my hair," he said. "It will not
come off. Now, you must carry the stick with the hat."

"What a ridiculous sight!" said Sofía, in fits of laughter as they came
up with her. "Teodoro, with Nela on his shoulder, and then the stick
and Gessler's hat on the top...."



"There you see a man ready for anything and everything, my dear Sofía,"
said Teodoro. "It is the result of our education, is it not, Cárlos?
of having had no coddling in our childhood, and having been accustomed
from our tenderest infancy to the idea that no one could be our
inferior? Men who have made themselves, as we have done, who, without
any mortal help nor any safeguard but strong will and high ambition,
have been able to triumph in the struggle for existence--the devil's
in it, but they are the only people who really know how to help the
helpless! I will not tell you half the things I have been able to do
in my life--treating my neighbor as myself--for fear of falling into
an ugly trick of singing my own praises; for fear too of making you
envious, in spite of your raffles and benevolent lotteries--enough of

"Nay, tell us, or tell us some other time."

"No, no, such things should be kept secret for modesty's sake. I am
bound to confess that I cannot boast of any considerable store of that
lovely grace; I am not lacking in vanity, and one of the things I am
vainest of, is of having been a beggar, of having asked charity from
door to door, of having walked barefoot with my brother Cárlos, and
slept in corners under door-ways, without a roof, without shelter,
without a home of any kind. Some wonderful spirit of energy and
determination burned within me--whence it came I know not; but I felt
that before us lay two paths, one to prison and one to glory. I took my
poor little brother on my shoulders--just as I am carrying Nela--and
I said: 'Our Father which art in Heaven--save us!' And he saved us. I
learnt to read, and then I taught my brother; I served many masters,
who gave me food and let me go to school. I saved my pittance. I bought
a money-box, and scraped enough together to buy some books. How I
began medicine, I do not know; but somehow I did, while my brother was
earning a living as an errand boy in a shop."

"What are you talking about?" exclaimed Sofía much annoyed, for this
was a theme she particularly disliked. "I cannot help asking; what
is the use of recalling all these childish details? Besides, you
exaggerate them greatly."

"I exaggerate nothing," said Teodoro with triumphant jollity. "Just
listen, Señora, and say nothing. I speak of what I know with the
authority of experience. Hear me all ye poor, all ye helpless ones,
and ye forsaken little ones! I took to medicine, God knows how; I
learnt, God knows how. A worthy man--blessings on his memory! gave
me good counsel and helped me with money; I loved the science, but
how could I study without ceasing to work for my living? This was
a terrible dilemma. Do you remember, Cárlos, when we both went
to ask for employment in the barber's shop, in the old _calle de
Cofreros_?[5] Never in our lives had either of us had a razor in
his hand, but we had to earn our bread by shaving. At first we only
looked on--do you remember Cárlos--and then we wielded the noble
instruments ourselves.--Bleeding was the making of us. Then I began
to study anatomy; a noble, a glorious science! but my school-work
became a serious matter, and I had to give up working for the worthy
barber.--He cried, positively cried, the day I left him; he gave me
two _duros_, and his wife made me a present of a pair of her husband's
old trousers.--Then I went as a valet. God was always merciful in
giving me good masters. My love of study interested these dear, kind
people, and they allowed me as much spare time as possible. I sat up
to study; nay, I studied in my sleep. I was like a monomaniac, for
while I did the washing, I repeated the names of the different parts of
the human frame. I remember, that as I brushed my master's clothes, I
studied muscular anatomy--as I folded a sleeve I would say to myself:
'_deltoid_, _biceps_, _supinator_, _flexor_, _cubitalis_;' and over his
trousers I would repeat, '_glutaeus_, _psoas_, _gemellus_, _tibialis_.'
In that house they used to give me broken food, which I carried to
my brother, who was living with a worthy man who bought and sold old
clothes. Do you remember, Cárlos?"

"I remember well," said Cárlos with feeling. "And I am grateful to the
good soul who gave me a roof over my head in return for some trifling
service in keeping his accounts. And it was there that I was so lucky
as to come across the retired Colonel, who taught me the elements of

"Well! you have not a rag that you blush to display to all the world!"
snorted Sofía.

"My brother asked me for bread," Teodoro went coolly on, "and my answer
was: 'Bread? work at mathematics.' One day my master gave me tickets of
admission to the Theatre de la Cruz; I took my brother, and we enjoyed
it enormously, but Cárlos caught a cold and inflammation of the lungs.
That was a dreadful, a terrible business; it was a blow at the very
root of our existence, a shot in our backbone. But who is cast down?
On we had to go.--He must be cured. A physician who had taken a great
fancy to me, undertook to doctor him."

"It was nothing less than a miracle that he saved my life in that
squalid hole--a perfect museum of old clothes, old iron, and old

"God was on our side--I see it plainly. Oh! I knew very well in whom
I trusted," Teodoro went on, with the fervid rapid eloquence, which
was as characteristic of the man, as his black elf-locks and leonine
countenance. "But, for my brother to have medicine, I had to do without
clothes. The Pharmacopeia did not admit of tailors' bills--nay,
prescription after prescription--first my cloak went, then my overcoat,
then my shoes were turned into pills. However, my master stood by me.
I got some clothes once more, and my brother was outside the house
again. The doctor said: 'He will get quite well in the country.'--'The
country,' said I, and I thought it over; then he may go to the School
of Mines. My brother was a good mathematician, I taught him some
chemistry, he soon took a fancy to rocks and stones, and before he
went into the school he had begun going out into the fields to pick
up pebbles. Well, I meanwhile went on my way, beaten by winds and
waves; every day I knew something more of medicine. A famous operator
took me as his assistant; then I was no longer a mere menial--I was a
servant to science. My master fell ill, I nursed him like a Brother of
Charity--but he died, leaving me a legacy. God bless me! but it was a
fortune! It consisted of a walking-stick, a machine for making cigars,
a hunting-horn, and four thousand _reales_ in money. My brother bought
books and I bought some clothes, and as soon as I was decently dressed,
I began to get patients. It really seemed as if folks fell ill on
purpose to give me employment. On--straight on! Years and years went
by; at last, after many miseries I saw, far off, the way to a refuge.
Still, my brother and I sailed on without any too severe toil, and we
were never melancholy; God smiled upon our souls. Well, indeed, for us!
God held out his hand to us, as it were. I began to study the eye and
soon could operate for cataract, but I wanted something more than this.
I was earning money, no doubt, but my brother cost me all I earned. At
last, however, Cárlos passed out of the schools. Three cheers for the
brave--none but the brave win the day. I saw him settled at Riotinto
with a good salary, and then off I went to America. I was a sort of
Columbus, the Columbus of labor; a sort of Cortés; I discovered a New
World for myself, and having discovered it, I conquered it."

"You are your own trumpeter," said Sofía laughing.

"If there are still heroes to be found you are one of them," said
Cárlos with eager admiration for his brother.

"Well, set to work now, noble Demi-god," said Sofía, "crown your
achievement by working a miracle, and restore to sight a man blind from
his birth.--Look, there is Don Francisco coming out to meet us."

And, in fact, mounting the ridge which shuts in the mines to the west,
they had come to Aldeacorba, and past the house of Penáguilas, who,
pulling on his coat in the utmost haste now came hurrying towards them.
Darkness was falling fast.



"The cows are just being milked," he began, without wishing them
good-evening. "I thought you would all like some milk. I hope to see
you well, Señora Sofía--and you Don Teodoro. The sight of you is good
for sore eyes. But what is the matter with María Canela--a little lame
paw? How long have you been so spoiled, little one?"

The whole party turned into the court-yard. They could hear the deep
lowing of the cows, which had just been driven to their stables, and
the homely sound, with the fresh country smell of the hay, which the
laborers were carrying from the lofts, soothed the senses and the mind.
The doctor seated Nela on a stone bench, while she, speechless with
surprise and respect, dared not budge an inch, but could only wonder at
this delightful state of things.

"And where is Pablo?" the engineer enquired.

"He is just gone down into the garden," said Señor de Penáguilas, as he
offered Sofía a rustic seat. "You might run off and join him Nela."

"No, no, I do not wish her to go yet," said Teodoro detaining her.
"Besides, she is going to have some milk with us."

"Do you wish to see my son this evening?" asked Penáguilas.

"No, yesterday's examination was quite satisfactory," replied Golfin.
"The operation can be performed."

"And successfully?"

"Ah!--as to that I cannot say. How great a pleasure it would be to give
sight to a young fellow who so richly deserves it, I need not tell you!
Your son has a most superior intelligence, a brilliant imagination, and
a most delightful nature. His total ignorance of the outer, visible
world, only throws his beautiful qualities into relief; they stand out
in conspicuous simplicity, with the naked charm and dignity of a work
of Nature, untouched and unspoiled by the hand of man. He is full of
idealism, it affects all his thoughts--a grand and beautiful idealism.
It reminds me of a colossal mass of unwrought marble--a block as it
lies in the quarry. He knows nothing of reality, he lives a charmed
life, a life of pure illusion. If we could but give him sight! Still,
I say to myself--supposing that by giving him sight we should make him
a man instead of an angel.--It is a question that raises doubts in my
mind. However, we are bound to try to make a man of him; it is the
duty of science; we will drag him out of the world of fancy into that
of reality, and then, with his powerful mind, he would rapidly gain
accurate information and sound judgment. He would soon acquire the
invaluable power of estimating the true relative value of things."

Three cups of milk were now brought in, white, warm, fragrant, and
frothy to the very rim. Penáguilas handed a cup first to Sofía, and the
two gentlemen took the others; but Teodoro Golfin offered his to Nela,
who was overwhelmed with bashfulness and refused to touch it.

"Come, little woman," said Sofía, "do not be so rude; take what is
given you."

"Another cup of milk for Don Teodoro," said Don Francisco to the
servant. And then they heard the milk as it flowed into the pails from
the full udders of the cows.

"He will appreciate the true relative value of things," said Don
Francisco, repeating the doctor's last words, which had made a deep
impression on his mind. "That is an admirable observation, Don Teodoro.
And with regard to the subject under discussion, I must explain to you
the doubts I have felt for some days past. But I may as well sit down."
And Don Francisco seated himself on a stool he had in his hand. The
others had already been accommodated with chairs brought out of the
house, and Nela was still perched on the stone bench. The milk she had
drunk as she was bidden had left a thin white moustache on her upper

"I must tell you Don Teodoro that for some days I have been very uneasy
at the excited state in which my son has been; I attribute it to the
hope that has been held out to him--but still, there is something
else--something more than that. You know that I am in the habit of
reading to him out of various books. I believe that this reading has
done much to fire his imagination and instruct his mind, and that many
ideas have been developed in his brain, which are, as it were, above
the comprehension of a blind man. I do not know whether I am making
myself clear."


"There is no end to his discussions and arguments; I am astounded
by the depth and acuteness of his remarks, though I feel that his
knowledge is mixed up with a thousand misconceptions, from want of
method and from his ignorance of the visible world."

"It could not be otherwise."

"But the strangest thing is that, carried away by his
imagination--which is like a young Hercules fettered with chains within
a dungeon, and struggling to burst its bonds and break down walls...."

"Good, very good, well said."

"His imagination, I was saying, cannot rest in the darkness of his
sense, and strives to reach our world of daylight, making up for his
want of sight by the boldness of its assumptions. Pablo has a wonderful
spirit of enquiry, but it is like a noble bird whose wings are clipped.
For some few days he has been almost delirious; he does not sleep and
his passion for information has been almost madness. At all hours of
the day he asks for some new book, and at every pause he makes the
keenest observations, but with such a mixture of simple innocence,
that he makes me laugh. He asserts and maintains the absurdest things,
and if I contradict him--I am really afraid of his going out of his
mind--of his brain softening. If you could only see how melancholy and
how disputatious he sometimes is. He takes up an idea and, come what
may, it is impossible to get it out of his head. Now, for some days, he
has had a fixed idea, which is as touching as it is preposterous. He
will have it that Nela is pretty."

They all laughed, and Nela turned scarlet.

"That Nela is pretty!" exclaimed Teodoro kindly. "Well, and so she is."

"Oh! sweetly pretty, particularly with that moustache!" said Sofía.

"She has a dear little face of her own," repeated Teodoro, putting his
hand under her chin; "Sofía, lend me your handkerchief. Come, we will
get rid of the moustache."

Teodoro returned the handkerchief to Sofía after wiping Nela's face.
Don Francisco told the girl to go and join the blind boy, and she
hobbled away.

"And if I contradict him," he then went on, "my son tells me that,
perhaps the gift of sight has weakened my perception of the true aspect
of things--a quaint paradox!"

"Do not contradict him at all, and for the present discontinue
your readings. For a few days we must adopt a regimen of absolute
tranquillity. The brain must be treated with the utmost consideration
before attempting any operation of this kind."

"If it is indeed God's will that my son should receive his sight,"
said Penáguilas devoutly, "I shall regard you as the greatest and most
beneficent of men. The darkness of his eyes is the darkness of my life;
that black shadow has saddened all my days, and clouds all the wealth
and ease of which I am master. For I am rich--but of what use are
riches? How can I care for the things he cannot see. Only a month ago I
fell heir to a fine fortune--you know, Don Cárlos, my cousin Faustino
died at Matamoros. He had no children, so my brother Manuel and I
are his heirs. It is throwing pearls before swine--not as regards my
brother, who has a daughter, a sweet girl, old enough to marry--but so
far as I am concerned, a wretched man who can never see his son enjoy
the best pleasures of a respectable and easy position."

A long silence followed, interrupted only by the gentle lowing of the
cows in the adjoining stable.

"And then," added the worthy father in melancholy tones, "he knows
nothing of the pleasures of work, the greatest pleasure of all.
Ignorant, as he is, of the beauties of Nature, what can he know of
the delights of the country or the charms of agriculture? I cannot
imagine how God can bear to deprive a human creature of the pleasure
of admiring a fat beast, a tree loaded with pears, or a green pasture;
of seeing the fruits of the earth in their abundance; of sending out
the laborers to their day's toil, and reading the signs of the weather
in the sky. For him life is simply a fevered dream--it is lonely too;
solitary, for he can never have the comfort of a family round him. When
I die what family will the poor blind boy have? He will not want to
marry, nor will he find a woman of good family who would engage herself
to him, in spite of his wealth; nor, indeed, could I advise him to
marry. So that when Don Teodoro gave me a hope, I felt as if heaven was
opened to me; I had visions of a young and happy and sensible marriage;
cherubs--my grandchildren--fluttered round me; I saw my tombstone
graced and fragrant with the blossoms of a future generation, and the
loving care which even after death should follow me to the grave.--You
cannot enter into all this; you cannot know how my brother, who is as
good as gold, God bless him!--as soon as he heard of my hopes, began
to plot and plan and dream.--Here, this is what he says"--and he took
out a parcel of letters which he turned over for a few minutes without
finding the one he wanted.--"Well, to make a long story short, he
was beside himself with delight and he said to me: 'I will marry my
Florentina to your Pablo, and so we shall get compound interest on
the half million of _pesos_ left by cousin Faustino.'--I can see him,
poor old Manuel, rubbing his hands and strutting about as his way is
when he has hit on a good idea. I am expecting him and his daughter
to arrive at any hour; they are coming to stay with me for the 4th of
October, and to see what comes of this attempt to bless my son with the
light of day."

By this time it was growing dark and the party of four became aware of
a most appetizing vapor issuing from the house, and announcing a savory
farm-supper. The village patriarch, who seemed the very incarnation of
the spirit of the place--a tranquil melancholy--spoke again presently:
"My brother's happiness and my own depends on my having a son, whom I
may propose as a husband for his daughter, who is as sweet and fair as
the Holy Virgin, as we see her represented when the angel of the Lord
comes to say: 'The Lord is with thee.' My blind boy is not the man--but
my Pablo, with his eyesight, would realize my fondest dreams and bring
the blessing of God into my house."

They were all silent, deeply impressed by the worthy father's simple
and pathetic utterances, and he himself raised his rough, brown hand,
hardened by labor, to wipe away a tear.

"What have you to say to all this?" Cárlos asked his brother.

"I can say no more than that I have conscientiously examined the
case, and can find no sufficient reason for saying it is hopeless,
as the other distinguished operators have said whom our good friend
has consulted. I cannot pledge myself to succeed, nor can I think it
impossible. The examination I made yesterday revealed no defect or
injury in the retina, and no disease in the optic nerve. If the retina
is perfect, all that is needed is the removal of some impediment in
front of it. The crystalline lens often becomes opaque--sometimes hard
and stony--and this is what does the mischief. If all the other parts
of the organ are healthy and work--but, in the commonwealth of the eye,
many individual portions are only too ready to become atrophied by

"So that, in short, it amounts simply to congenital cataract," said
Penáguilas eagerly.

"Oh no, Señor; if it were no more than that, it would be a happy thing
for us! All that would be needed would be to get rid of the part that
does its duty so badly. It ought to let the light in and instead of
that, it is congested, degenerate, stony, and as opaque as a wall.
No--there is something more than that, Don Francisco. The iris is
defective, the pupil must be taken in hand.--Still, I can laugh all
these details to scorn if, when I enter into possession, as it were, of
this dormant organ, I only find the choroid and the retina uninjured.
If, on the other hand, when I have removed the opaque lens and let the
light in, I find complete amaurosis--if it were only partial, that
would be something--but if it is total.... When the nerve of sight is
dead we can do nothing. The deep mysteries of life are closed against
us. There is nothing for it but patience. This case is to me a most
interesting one; there are symptoms which lead me to believe that the
internal function is unimpaired. The retina, as Sovereign lord, seems
quite disposed to receive the light I shall introduce to it, and that
high functionary, the vitreous humor, will probably find it no novelty.
If from long want of exercise it has sunk into a state of incipient
glaucoma--a kind of melancholy--we will treat it for that. All will
then be well in that darkened chamber. But there is another thing to
be considered. A fissured iris, and an ordinary cataract usually admit
some gleam of light, and our patient sees not a glimmer. This made
me hesitate. In fact, the sclerotic too is very much thickened; the
impediments to the admission of light are many and serious.... However,
we shall see, Don Francisco. Have you courage for anything?"

"Courage! What should I have courage for?" asked Don Francisco.

"Sir, you will want all your courage if...."

"Well, if...?"

"If, after undergoing a painful operation, your son is still as blind
as before. I said to you, plainly: The case is not desperate; shall I

"And I answered, and I answer once more; Yes--operate; and God's will
be done. Onwards!"

"Aye, onwards! You have taken my motto."

Don Francisco rose and wrung the surgeon's hands, that were so like a
lion's paws.

"In this climate the operation may be favorably performed early in
October," Golfin went on. "To-morrow we will decide on the regimen to
which we must subject our patient. Meanwhile we will be going, for it
is fresh up on this hill."

Penáguilas pressed shelter and supper on his friends, but they would
not accept. They set out homewards with Nela, whom Teodoro insisted
on taking with him, and Don Francisco kept them company as far as the

Soothed by the silence and beauty of the night, they fell into
conversation on lighter themes--on the yield and profits of the
mines, and other local matters. The Golfins having reached home, Don
Francisco turned back alone and heavy-hearted, walking slowly, with
his eyes fixed on the ground. He was thinking of the terrible days of
doubt and hope, of expectation and anxiety which were coming on him.
Presently he was met by Choto, and the pair lazily climbed the wooden
stair. The moon gave them light, and the old man's shadow went up in
front of him, broken by the steps into a zigzag monster that leaped
from plank to plank. The dog trotted by its side and Don Francisco, in
the absence of any other mortal to whom he could confide the thoughts
that wearied his brain, presently said:

"Oh Choto! will it succeed?"



That worthy, Señor Centeno, having refreshed his mind with the dull
columns of his newspaper, and 'Señana,' his wife, after enjoying the
more intoxicating delights of counting and feeling the coin in the
stocking, had taken themselves to bed. Children first and parents
after, they had all marched off to their respective couches. First
there was the mumbled Litany, sounding like some muttered gibberish;
then yawns, while the sluggard fingers made the sign of the cross--and
then the stony-hearted family slept.

When the house was as still as the grave itself, a soft rustling began
to be audible in the kitchen, like the stirring of bats coming out of
their hiding nooks to see life. The hampers opened and Celipin heard
these words:

"Celipin--look here; I have got something nice for you to-night."

Celipin could see nothing, but he put out his hand and took from
Nela's two _duros_. Having assured himself of their genuineness by
touch--since he could hardly have done so by sight--he remained
speechless with astonishment.

"Don Teodoro gave them to me," added the girl, "to buy myself a pair of
shoes. But I do not want shoes; so I give them to you, and so you will
get on faster."

"Hurrah! You are as good as the Holy Virgin, Nela--I want very little
more now, and when I have got another half-dozen or so of _reales_--you
shall see what Celipin is made of."

"Aye, and listen to me, child; the man who gave me that money ran about
the streets barefoot begging when he was a boy, and now...."

"You do not mean it! Don Teodoro? And now he has such lots of money.
They say six mules could not carry it all."

"Yes, and he slept in the streets, and was an errand boy, and had no
breeches--in short, was poorer than a rat. And his brother, Don Cárlos,
lived in an old-clothes shop."

"Lord save us! What wonderful things we live to hear of! Well, I will
go and find an old-clothes shop where I can live."

"Well, and after that he became a barber to earn a living and be able
to study."

"Ah...! Look here then; I have a great mind to go straight into a
barber's shop; I shall soon have to shave myself, and I am brisk and
quick enough, thank God!--Only wait till I get to Madrid--shaving on
one hand and studying on the other, at the end of two months I will
know everything. Look here, it has just struck me that I am made to
be a doctor.--Yes, a doctor, what with feeling pulses and looking at
tongues, that is the way to fill your pockets."

"Don Teodoro," Nela went on, "had much less than you, for you will
soon have five _duros_, and with five _duros_, you can get almost
everything. Don Teodoro and Don Cárlos were like the birds that fly
about without house or home, all alone in the world. Well, by managing
well, they got learned. Don Teodoro studied dead bodies, and Don
Cárlos studied stones, and so they learnt to be gentlemen, and men of
importance. And that is why Don Teodoro is such a friend to the poor.
Celipin, you should have seen him this evening when he jumped me upon
his shoulder--and then he gave me his cup of milk and looked at me as
if I were a lady."

"All strong, active men, are the same," said Celipin sharply. "You will
see how brave and fine I shall look when I wear a long cloak and a high
hat; and I will wear those stockings on my hands--gloves they call
them, and never take them off excepting to feel a pulse--I will have a
stick with a gilt knob and will wear such clothes! nothing shall ever
touch my skin but fine linen. Lord love you child! but you will laugh
to see me!"

"Do not be fancying that you can rise to such things at once--you who
are as bare as an egg," said the girl. "You must go step by step,
learning one thing to-day and another to-morrow. I advise you, before
you learn to cure sick folks, to learn to write; and so you ought, if
it is only to leave a letter for your mother, asking her to forgive
you, and telling her that you are gone away from home to improve
yourself, to make your way like Don Teodoro, and become a clever

"Do not talk nonsense child. Who does not know that writing comes
first? Only let me get a pen in my hand, and you will see me flourish
away at the letters, and what beautiful fine strokes I will make
up and down, like Don Francisco Penáguilas' name at the end of a
letter.--Write? do not talk to me--in four days you will see what
letters I will write.--Aye, you shall hear them read and see what
grand ideas I can hatch out, and set them down too, in such fine words
as will make you all look foolish. Bless you child! but you have no
notion how clever I can be. I feel it inside my head here, buzzing
and humming, _burumbum, burumbum,_ like the water in the boiler of
a steam-engine. It will not let me sleep, and I feel as if all the
sciences in the world came rushing in and flapped blindly about like
bats, wanting me to study them.--All the sciences--I must learn them
all; I must not leave out one.--Well, you will see."

"But there must be a great many. Pablo Penáguilas knows them all, and
he told me that there are a great, great many, and that a man's whole
lifetime is not enough to learn even one."

"Never do you believe him.--Well, you will see what I can do."

"And the best of all is what Don Cárlos learns; why, only think, he
picks up a stone and makes brass of it; indeed, they do say he makes
silver, and even gold. Learn that science, Celipillo."

"Do not you be mistaken, Nela; there is nothing like knowing how to
take a wrist and look at a tongue, and tell in a minute in what corner
of a body the mischief lies. They say that Don Teodoro can take a man's
eye out and put him in a new one, that he can see with as well as if he
had been born with it. Just think what it is to see a man dying, and to
make him hale and sound again only by making him swallow half-a-dozen
flies, let us say, stewed down on a Monday with hazel twigs gathered
by a maid named Juana--I say that is something worth doing.--Yes, you
shall see, you shall see what I will do. Doctor Celipin de Socartes. I
tell you my fame will reach as far as Havana."

"Good, good!" cried Nela, delighted. "But remember, you must be a good
boy, because the reason your parents have taught you nothing, is only
because they were not clever enough, and so, as you are clever, you
must pray for them to the Holy Virgin, and not forget to send them
some of all the money you are going to get."

"I will be sure to send them some. You see, it is not because I owe
them any grudge that I am going to run away; and before long, very
soon, you will see a porter come up from the station so loaded with
big parcels that he can hardly stand, and what will they be? Why,
petticoats for mother and the girls, and a tall hat for father--and
you--I will send you a pair of ear-rings."

"You are in a hurry with your presents," said Nela, smothering a laugh.
"Ear-rings for me!"

"Stop; I have just got another idea. Shall I tell you? It is that you
should come with me; two of us together we should help each other to
earn money and to learn. For you are clever too, I am too sharp not to
see that; and you can learn to be a lady as I can to be a gentleman. Oh
Lord! how I should laugh to see you playing the piano like Doña Sofía."

"What a simpleton you are! Why I am no good for anything. If I went
with you, I should only be a clog and burden to you."

"But they say now that Don Pablo is going to be made to see, and when
he can see, you will have nothing to do in Socartes. What do you think
of my plan? Why do not you answer?"

There was a long pause, during which Nela made no answer. Celipin asked
her again but got no answer.

"Go to sleep, Celipin," she said from the bottom of the baskets. "I am
dreadfully sleepy."

"If my brain will let me sleep, God save us!"

And a minute later he was dreaming of himself in the semblance of
Don Teodoro Golfin, fixing new eyes in old sockets, splitting open
fragments of rock, and snatching sick men from the jaws of death by
means of doses of flies, stewed on a Monday, with hazel twigs picked
by a maiden. He saw himself dressed with gorgeous garments, his hands
encased in perfumed gloves, and riding in a coach drawn by swans
instead of horses, invited by Kings and courted by Queens, attending
ladies of distinction, lauded by nobles, and carried in triumph by all
the peoples of the earth.



Nela had shut herself into her baskets to be alone; we will follow her,
however, and look in upon her thoughts. But first we must give a little
more of her history.

Having entirely lacked all instruction in her infancy, having equally
lacked all those soft endearments, which unfailingly open the mind
to recognize certain truths, Marianela's powerful imagination had
conceived a strange set of ideas, a wild and fanciful theogony, and
a highly whimsical scheme of cause and effect. Teodoro Golfin's
comparison of Nela's mind with the early stage of a primitive race was
a particularly happy one. In her, as in them, the fascination of the
marvellous was the predominant sense; she believed in supernatural
agencies, apart from the one and supreme God, and saw in all natural
objects an abstract personality, by no means cut off from all
communication with men. In spite of all this, however, Nela had some
knowledge of the Gospel. It had never been taught her, to be sure, but
she had heard such things talked of. She saw that people went to a
function they called the Mass, and she understood the idea of a sublime
sacrifice; but beyond this her notions could not go. The contagion of
a common feeling had accustomed her mind to reverence the image of
the Crucified God; she knew it should be kissed, and she even could
repeat some prayers that she had learnt mechanically; she knew whatever
she wanted she could ask of God--but this was all. The absolute
neglect in which her whole nature had been left until the time of her
acquaintance with Pablo Penáguilas was the cause of this confusion,
and her friendship with this strange being, who, shut up in darkness,
nevertheless with his mind's eye boldly investigated all the problems
of life, had come to her too late. Nela's system of philosophy, of her
own fabrication, had already petrified--a strange compound of paganism
and sentimentality. At the same time it must be said that Marianela,
though her spirit ranged so far outside the common atmosphere, was well
endowed with good sense, and could form a sound judgment on the things
of daily life, as has been seen in the advice she gave to Celipin.
This, no doubt, was due to the native soundness of her mind.

The strongest instinct of her nature was her love, nay her secret
passion, for physical beauty wherever she saw it. Nothing could be
more natural than this impulse in a human soul growing up in total
solitude, so far as society and teaching were concerned, and in
constant intercourse, in close intimacy we may say, with Nature and all
its sublime or gracious beauty--light, color, eloquent inarticulate
voices, and infinite variety of form. And Marianela's admiration had
assumed the guise of worship; in obedience to a law, which also governs
the primitive race, she had personified all the beauty she saw around
her and worshipped it in a single incarnation, ideal but human. This
divinity of her imagination she called the Virgin Mary, a conception
she had derived from the domain of religious thought, of which she knew
so little. And the Virgin Mary would not have become her cherished
ideal, if she had not joined to her moral perfections all the physical
gifts of beauty and grace; if her aspect had not been noble and
attractive, at once human and divine; if it had not seemed to Nela the
epitome in which were concentrated all the glory of light, the sober
peace of darkness, the music of running waters, the grace and sweetness
of flowers, the freshness of the dew, the low complaining of the wind,
the spotless purity of the mountain snow, the loving glances of the
stars, and the solemn majesty of the clouds, as they ride across the
vault of heaven.

The person of God himself she conceived of as terrible and austere,
inspiring respect rather than love. All that was gracious was bestowed
by the Virgin, and she was the giver of all that human creatures could
ask for. God frowned, while She smiled; God chastised, but She forgave;
this last notion was by no means a strange one. It is accepted with
almost absolute faith among the laboring classes of the rural parts of
Spain. Nor is it at all uncommon, when we find a strong imagination
joined to extreme ignorance, to meet with the fusion which existed
in Nela's mind of all the beauties of Nature with the beautiful
personification which combines all the æsthetic charms of the Christian
ideal. If the darkness in which Nela dwelt had only been more complete,
if she had but been rather more destitute of religious notions, she
would have been an utter pagan and have worshipped the moon, the woods,
the rivers, fire and the sun. This was Nela as her life in Socartes
had made her, and such she remained till she was fifteen. After that,
her comradeship with Pablo and her frequent talk with the lad, whose
ideas were so broad and so sound, had somewhat modified her tone of
thought. But she still allowed supreme sovereignty to physical beauty;
she still superstitiously adored the Virgin as the embodiment of all
the loveliness of Nature, and, in a way, of all moral law; crowning her
system with the most extraordinary ideas as to death and the life to

       *       *       *       *       *

Curling herself up in her basket, Marianela's reflections took this

"Holy Mother of God! Why--why did you not make me beautiful? Why did
you not look down on me as soon as I was born? For the more I look
at myself, the uglier I seem to grow. Oh! why am I in this world at
all? Of what good can I be? Who can care for me? One single soul, Lady
Mother, only one, and he only because he cannot see me. What is to
become of me when he sees me and casts me off? for it is impossible
that he should ever love me when he sees my miserable little body, my
freckled face, my ugly mouth, my sharp nose, my dirty brown skin--all
my hideous little self--of no good to any one but to kick perhaps. What
is that? Only Nela--nothing at all. She is of no use to any one but the
blind boy. If his eyes are opened, if he turns and looks at me, I shall
drop down dead.

"He is the only being to whom 'Nela' is anything more important than
the cats and the birds. He loves me. Loves me as lovers love their
sweet-hearts, as God intends human beings to love each other.--Oh Lady
Mother! now that you are going to work a miracle and let him see, make
me beautiful or strike me dead, for I shall not be wanted any more in
this world. I am good for nothing and ever shall be, excepting to one
person. Am I sorry then that he should be able to see?--No, no, not
that, no. I want him to see; I would give my own eyes for him to see
with his; I would give my life. I hope Don Teodoro can work the miracle
as they say. Blessings on all wise men! What I do not want is that my
master should ever see me. Before I will let him see me, oh Mother! I
will bury myself alive, I will throw myself into the river.--Yes, the
earth shall cover my ugliness. I ought never to have been born."

She writhed in her narrow basket, and then she went on:

"All my heart and thought are for him. That poor, blind man, who has
taken it into his head to be fond of me--he is the first being in
the world to me next to the Virgin Mary. Oh! If only I were tall and
handsome; if I had the figure, and the face, and the color--above
all, the color--of other girls! If I could only make a lady of myself
and dress myself up.--And then my greatest joy would be to think that
his eyes liked to look at me. If I were like other girls, even like
Mariuca--how soon I would find a way of getting taught and being made
a lady of. Oh Mother Mary, Queen of the world! The only creature that
loves me, I am going to lose: he will leave me. Why did you ever let
him love me, and let me love him? It ought not--never--to have been."

The tears poured down her cheeks; she folded her arms and turned over,
and even when half asleep she still was speaking to herself:

"Oh, how much I love you, child of my soul! Love me too, love me very
much. It is Nela who is no good to any one.--Love me very much. Let me
give you a kiss--here on your head.--But do not open your eyes, do not
look at me. Shut them--so."



The thoughts which fade and fly as sleep overcomes us, very commonly
lurk in some hole or corner ready to take us by storm again as soon
as we wake. Thus it was that Mariquilla, who, having fallen asleep
with her head full of strange fancies of the Virgin, of the blind lad,
and of her own ugliness which, she longed so wildly to see changed
into wonderful loveliness, woke with the same ideas in her brain when
Señana's call roused her in her basket. As soon as her eyes were open,
Nela put up her usual prayer to the Virgin Mother--a sort of Litany,
compounded of the ordinary Litany to the Virgin and of certain clauses
of her own devising, and forming altogether an address which would look
strange enough if it were written down. Among other things, Nela's
prayer said:

"Thou didst appear to me in my dreams last night, oh Lady! and promise
to comfort me to-day. Now I am awake, and still I feel as if I saw thy
face just before me, and far lovelier than all the grand and lovely
things in the world." And as she spoke she turned and gazed round her.
Noticing in herself the utter vagueness with which she did so, she
thought to herself: "Something has come over me."

"What is the matter, Nela?" asked Señana, seeing the girl stand with
her eyes wide open and fixed on a spot in space. "Do you see a vision,

But Nela did not answer, her mind was absorbed in self contemplation.

"What ails me?" she asked herself. "It cannot be anything evil, or
wicked, for I do not feel the black ugly figure of a devil inside me,
but something heavenly: a beautiful face, a smile and a look which--if
I am in my right mind--are those of the Virgin Mary herself. Oh Lady
Mother! Can it be true that thou wilt give me comfort to-day? And
how?--By giving me what I prayed for last night?"

"Now then, brat!" screamed Señana in her harsh tones, like a cracked
bell. "Go and wash your ugly little snout."

Nela went at once. Her spirit had felt a shock as of a sudden gleam
of great hope. She looked at herself in the quivering surface of the
water, and her heart shrank within her.

"No difference," she muttered. "As ugly as ever; the same child's face
with a woman's years and a woman's heart!"

But after washing herself she went through the same experience as
before--a sort of agony of anticipation, and, in spite of her narrow
vocabulary, Nela could classify these feelings as presentiments.

"Pablo and I," said she to herself, "have often talked of how we feel
when something sad or something pleasant is going to happen. Pablo told
me that just before an earthquake people have strange sensations; there
is something in the air, and the beasts feel it too. Is there going to
be an earthquake, I wonder?" And she knelt down and felt the ground
with her hand.

"I cannot tell. But something is going to happen, and I cannot doubt
that it will be something good.--The Virgin told me last night that
to-day she would comfort me. What has come over me? The Heavenly Queen
seems to be close to me. I cannot see her, but I feel her--before
me--behind me...."

She went close by the machines for washing the ore towards the inclined
plane, looking about her with eager eyes. There was nothing to be seen
but the arms and wheels of iron, toiling with fiendish shrieks amid the
hideous confusion of whirling cylinders, lashing the water to powder,
as it seemed, and breathing out dust and smoke. Presently, when she
had gone some little distance, she stopped; putting her hand to her
forehead, and fixing her eyes on the ground in all the bewilderment of
doubt: "The question is," said she to herself, "am I happy or am I sad?"

She looked up at the sky, half wondering to see it appear the same as
on other days--and it was a lovely day--and then she walked on faster,
to reach Aldeacorba as soon as possible. Instead of going through
the gallery in the mines and up the wooden steps, she kept above the
hollow way, along by the gutter that bordered the inclined tram-way,
intending to get out into the fields, and walk straight on by the level
road to the village. This way was much the prettiest, and she almost
always chose it, for that reason. It went by lanes full of sweet and
gay flowers, where crowds of bees and butterflies fluttered and sipped;
there were thickets of bramble loaded with the black fruit beloved
of children; clumps of cherry-trees overgrown with honeysuckles, and
enormous ilex, tall, spreading, densely shady, and proud, it would
seem, of their wide, black shadows.

Here Nela went more slowly, uneasy in herself, puzzled at her own
sensations, and at the anxious excitement that stirred in her. Her
rapid fancy presently hit upon a formula to express the state of her
feelings, and remembering having heard it said of such and such a one,
"the devil is in him," she said to herself: "The angels are in me,
the Virgin Mary is with me this day. What I feel are the wings of her
angels fluttering inside me. Thou art near me, Lady Mother, I see you
and yet I do not see you--as we see with our eyes shut."

She shut her eyes, and then she opened them again. She had just passed
a grove of trees and turned an angle of the road to go to a place where
she knew of a bramble copse, the greenest, prettiest, and most fruitful
in all the neighborhood. There were luxuriant ferns too, honeysuckle,
wild vine, and other climbing plants, all clinging and tangled together
in mutual dependence.

Nela heard a rustle in the brushwood close to her, and turning round
she saw--Merciful Heaven! There, in a frame of greenery, stood the
Immaculate Virgin herself--the face, the eyes, which in their gaze
seemed to have all the calm beauty of the sky. Nela stood silent,
petrified; with a feeling at once of devotion and terror. She could
not stir, nor cry out, nor hardly breathe, nor take her eyes off this
beatific vision.

It stood among the verdure, the face and figure to the waist perfectly
displayed. This was--yes, certainly--the very presence of the Maiden
of Nazareth, whose moral loveliness every painter has endeavored to
express by means of physical beauty, from St. Luke downwards through
eighteen centuries. Have not men indeed seen that sacred form with
the eyes of sense--with the eyes of Albert Dürer--of Rafael--of Van
Eyck--of Bartolomé Murillo? It was under the Rafaelesque aspect that
she now appeared to Nela, the most realistic of all, if realism can
mean the nearest approach of perfect human beauty to an artistic
representation of divine goodness. The oval of her face was less
narrow than the Seville painter's type, and had more of the tender
roundness of the Italian form. Her eyes, which were finely shaped, were
gentleness itself, with a softness and sweetness as far removed from
indifference, as from the lightning glow of the eyes of Andalucia; the
brows that overarched them were delicately curved, and as fine as if
they had been traced with a paint-brush. Her forehead was unshadowed
by any cloud of weariness or sadness, and her lips, which were rather
full, parted in a smile that revealed the pearliest teeth that ever bit
into the apples of Paradise. And so, without in the least intending
it, I have compared her to our Mother Eve--wide as the distance is
between her who yielded to the Serpent and her who set her heel on
his head; but the beauty of a lovely girl is enough to betray us into
such unlucky blunders. To put a finishing touch to this imperfect
description of the divine vision which had so utterly dismayed poor
Marianela, it must be said that her complexion was of that faded rose
color, or warm clear brown which gives an enchanting glow to the faces
of those glorious pictures which successive generations, of believers
and heretics alike, have worshipped in ecstasy.

After the first shock of surprise was over, the first thing that Nela
observed, and which confused her judgment greatly, was that the fair
Virgin wore a blue ribbon round her throat, a detail she had never
before seen in any picture or dream of the Virgin Mary; then she
perceived that her shoulders and bosom were covered by a dress in every
respect similar to that worn by other ladies; but the thing which
puzzled and disturbed her most was that the fair creature was picking
blackberries--and eating them.

She was beginning to draw accurate inferences from this remarkable
behavior, when she heard a loud man's voice calling:

"Florentina, Florentina!"

"I am here, Papa--here, eating blackberries."

"Naughty child--how can you like to eat blackberries? What next whim
will you take? Have I not told you that they are only fit for the poor
children that run about the country, and not for a young lady who has
been properly brought up.--Do you hear? And lived in good society."

Nela saw the speaker come towards them. He was a man of advanced middle
age and medium height, rotund, and with a ruddy countenance that seemed
to radiate satisfaction as the sun radiates light. His legs were thin,
his nose was large, and his person decorated with a variety of splendid
objects, among which a thick watch-chain was conspicuous, while he wore
a broad-brimmed hat of fine black felt.

"Come, come, child," said Don Manuel Penáguilas, for he it was,
"respectable people do not eat blackberries nor skip and jump about
like that. There, you have torn your dress--I do not care about the
dress, for I can buy you another as I bought you that--I only speak
because the people here who see you might think you had no dress but
the one you have on."

Nela, who by this time understood the case, looked at the young lady's
dress. It was good and handsome, but her face betrayed unmistakably
the transition--and a rapid one--from the position of a rich peasant's
daughter to that of a fine lady. Every detail of her attire, from her
shoes to her comb, stamped her as the daughter of the people in holiday
clothes. But the girl's natural grace and beauty were so transcendent,
that no deficiency, as measured by any conventional standard of
elegance, could dim them. It was not to be denied, however, that her
whole individuality cried out for a short peasant's skirt, hair dressed
in plaits with a bunch of poppies to adorn it with affected simplicity,
a sleeveless bodice, a coral necklace--in short, the costume which
good taste and the nature of things would have suggested, without any
admixture of the devices of the fine lady.

As the young girl came out from among the brambles, Don Manuel
perceived Nela, at the moment when she had just recovered from her
delusion, and he called out as he turned to her:

"Hallo! and who are you? Why, look Florentina, it is Nela, the little
body that waits upon your cousin. You remember--I spoke of her to you?
And how are you now-a-days?"

"Very well, Señor Don Manuel. And you.--How are you, Señor?" asked
Mariquilla without taking her eyes off Florentina.

"Perfectly well--as you see. This is my daughter.--Well, what do you
think of her?"

Florentina had just set out on a butterfly chase.

"My dear child, where are you going? What do you want now?" said the
father, visibly annoyed. "Now do you think it looks well that you
should be running after an insect like some poor child? You must not be
so wild, my child. Young ladies brought up in good society do not do
such things--never do such things...."

It was a trick with Don Manuel to repeat the last clause of his
sentences to give them emphasis.

"Ah! do not be cross, Papa," said the girl, returning from her
fruitless chase to shelter herself under the protecting brim of the
paternal hat. "You know how much I love the country and that I am half
crazy when I see trees and flowers and meadows. And in that dismal town
of Campó I never see anything of the kind...."

"Oh! but you must not say anything against Santa Irene de Campó; it is
a famous town where you find every comfort and convenience, and a great
deal of very distinguished society. It stands in the foremost ranks
of civilization--yes, of civilization. You can admire the beauties
of Nature while you walk properly by my side. I admire them too, but
without cutting capers or turning somersaults. You can tell when a
young person has moved in good society only by her way of walking and
looking at the scene around her. This way of calling out at every
minute: Ah! Oh! Look there, Papa!--How pretty!--and pointing to a fern,
perhaps, or an oak-tree, or a rock--a thorn-bush even, a brook--is not
at all in good taste--people will think you have lived in a desert. So
come and walk by me.--Nela will show us the way home, for, to tell you
the truth, I do not know where we are."

"If we turn to the left, past that old house," said Nela readily, "we
shall be there directly.--But here comes Don Francisco."

And, in fact, Don Francisco came on towards them, calling out: "The
chocolate is getting cold."

"What would you have my good fellow.--This child was so anxious
to scamper across the country that she would not wait, so we went
springing from bush to bush like goats--just like goats from bush to

"Well come in now, come home. Nela do you come too, and have some
chocolate," said Penáguilas, laying a hand on the child's head. "Well,
and what do you think of my niece? Is not she pretty?--Florentina, when
you have had your chocolate, Nela will take you and Pablo for a walk,
and you will see all the beauties of the neighborhood--the mines, the
wood, the river...."

Florentina sent a kind glance to the hapless little creature who, as
she ran by her side, seemed to have been formed by Nature expressly as
a foil and contrast to one of the loveliest and most perfect of her

When they reached the house the table was ready laid with the chocolate
pots full of the thick and nutritious beverage, and a small hillock of
slices of bread. There too were the _mantequilla_ (a sort of cake),
duly decked with fern leaves, and no lack of other household dainties.
The bright glasses of crystal water reflected and magnified all these
gastronomical objects.

"Here we have something to support life," said Don Francisco, seating

"And you will have some chocolate too, Nela," said Pablo. He had
hardly spoken when Florentina had offered her the chocolate pot, and
everything that was on the table was pressed on her acceptance. She
refused at first, but the Señorita insisted with so much kindness
and gentle grace, that she had at last no choice. Don Manuel cast
side glances at his daughter, not feeling perfectly satisfied with
her advance in the arts and manners of the best society, since one of
the most important points, in his estimation, consisted in a delicate
appreciation of the shades of civility due to different people
according to their rank and position, "showing to each neither more nor
less than was appropriate by the rules of social distinction; since, by
this means, each would keep his place, while true dignity would hold
its own and observe that happy medium of courtesy, which was not too
haughty or reserved to the rich, nor too humble and condescending to
the poor--not too humble to the poor."

When they had done breakfast, Don Francisco said:

"Now, you children, go out for a walk. Pablo, this is the last day that
Don Teodoro will allow you to walk out. You three go and have a run,
while my brother and I go over the farm.--Fly away birds!"

There was no need to speak twice; the beauty of the day was invitation
enough, and the three young people set out for the fields.



The town-bred damsel thoroughly enjoyed the open and smiling meadows
without the trammels of her father's social dogmas, and as soon as they
were at some little distance from the house she took to running and
leaping, swinging now and then from the branches of the trees as she
passed them. She pinched the blackberries with the tips of her fingers,
and when she thought them ripe she would pick three, one for each mouth.

"This is for you, cousin," she said, putting it to his lips, "and this
is for you, Nela, and this little one is for me."

Then as the birds flew across she could not resist the temptation to
wave her arms as if she too could fly. "Where are the little rascals
off to I wonder?" she said. She must need gather a branch from every
oak-tree and split open the acorns to see what was in them, then she
bit into one, and finding it bitter, tossed it away. No botanist, mad
on Latin names and classification, could have been so eager to collect
all the flowers that grew under her feet, as if to bid her welcome to
their native soil, and she gathered enough in half an hour to adorn
every button-hole in her cousin's cloak, to make a garland for Nela's
hair, and then one for her own.

"My cousin would like to see the mines," said Pablo. "Do not you think
we might go down?"

"Yes, let us go down--this way, Señorita."

"Oh! but I do not like to go through tunnels, they frighten me
dreadfully. I really cannot go through a tunnel ..." said Florentina,
following them. "Cousin, do you and Nela walk about here often? Oh! but
this is beautiful--I could live here all my life. Blessings on the man
who is going to give you the power of enjoying this lovely world!"

"God grant it! And it will all look much more lovely to me who have
never seen it, than to you who are tired of it all. But do not suppose,
Florentina, that I do not understand what beauty is; I can feel it in
my own fashion, and my fancy almost, almost makes up for my want of

"That is strange.--But say what you will," replied Florentina, "we will
have some good fun when you can see."

"Maybe," said the blind boy, "that I may not find much to say that day."

Nela meanwhile was absolutely speechless.

When they had reached the crater of La Terrible, Florentina was greatly
struck by the grand spectacle of the limestone rocks, left on the
ground after the ore had been extracted. She compared them to huge
masses of sugar loaves piled one on another; then, after looking a
second time, she said they were like gigantic dogs and cats turned to
stone at the critical moment of a furious fight.

"Let us sit down on this slope," she said, "and we shall see the trains
go by with the mineral, and besides we can see these stones which are
very curious. That large rock in the middle has a wide mouth--do you
see, Nela?--and out of the mouth sticks a toothpick; it is a tree
that has grown all alone there. It looks as if it were laughing at
us, for it has eyes too; and there, farther on, is one with a hump,
another smoking a pipe, and two pulling each other's hair; there is
one yawning, another asleep and drunk, and another head downwards
supporting a cathedral on his feet; then there is one playing the
guitar, with a dog's head and coffee-pot on it like a cap."

"What you are saying," observed the blind man, "proves to me how
differently things are seen by different eyes, and that the precious
gift of sight sometimes travesties them strangely, changing their
natural form into something whimsical and unreal; for, after all, what
you see before you are neither cats nor men, toothpicks, cathedrals,
nor coffee-pots, but merely limestone rocks and masses of calcareous
stone stained with oxide of iron. And it is your eye that burlesques so
simple a fact."

"You are right, cousin; and for that very reason I say it is our
imagination that sees, and not our eyes. Nevertheless our sight is
useful--to inform us, for instance, of certain things which poor people
have not got and which we who are rich can give them." And as she spoke
she touched Nela's dress.

"Why does not this dear little Nela wear better clothes?" she went on.
"I have a number of frocks and I will give her one--and a new one too,
into the bargain." Marianela, covered with blushes and confusion, did
not raise her eyes.

"That is a thing I can never understand: why some have so much and
others so little. I get quite angry with Papa when I hear him abusing
those who wish that everything should be divided so that all should
have an equal share. What do they call those people, Pablo?"

"Socialists--communists ..." said the lad smiling.

"Well, those are the people for me. I vote for a redistribution, so
that the rich should give the poor all they have too much of. Why
should this orphan go barefoot when I wear shoes? Even wicked people
ought not to be destitute, much less good ones. Now, I know that Nela
is very good, you told me so last evening, and your father said so too.
And she has no parents, no one to care for her. How is it that there
are so many, many, miserable creatures in the world? My bread burns my
mouth when I remember how many there are who have none at all. Poor
little Nela! such a good child, and so forlorn! It seems impossible
that to this day you should have lived without being loved, without
any one to give you a kiss nor to cuddle and pet you as we pet little
children--my heart aches to think of it."

Marianela was as completely petrified with astonishment as at the first
sight of the apparition. Then she had seen the Virgin Mary, now she
heard her very words.

"Listen, little one," the Holy Maiden went on, "and you, Pablo, listen
too. I must help and comfort Nela--not as we help the beggars by the
road, but as we try to help a brother whom we find unexpectedly. Did
you not tell me that she has been your companion, your _lazarillo_,
your guide through the darkness? That you saw with her eyes and trod
in her steps? Nela is mine as much as yours then, and I shall take
charge of her. I will dress her and give her everything she can want
to live decently, and teach her a hundred things to make her useful in
the house. Papa told me that perhaps I might always have to live here;
and, if so, Nela will live with me; with me she will learn to read,
to say her prayers, to sew and to cook; she will learn so many things
that she will know as much as I do. What do you think of my plan? She
will soon be nothing short of a young lady. My father will not prevent
me I know. Indeed, last evening he said to me: 'Florentinilla perhaps,
perhaps, before long I shall not rule you any longer; you may have to
obey another master....' Well, be that as it may, Nela shall be my
friend. Will you love me? dearly? You have lived so neglected--as the
wild flowers grow in the fields--that you do not even know how to say
thank you--but never mind I will teach you; oh! I have to teach you so
many things."

Marianela, who had been making stupendous efforts not to cry as she
listened to these splendid promises, could at last hold in no longer
and, after screwing up her face for a minute, burst into tears. The
blind boy sat silent, lost in thought.

"Florentina," he said presently, "you speak and think differently from
most other people. Your goodness is as infinite and as enthusiastic as
that which has filled the world with martyrs and peopled heaven with

"What an extravagant way of putting it!" said the girl laughing, and
she rose to gather a flower that had attracted her attention at some
little distance.

"Is she gone?" asked Pablo.

"Yes," said Nela, gulping down her tears.

"Do you know?" said Pablo, "I fancy my cousin must be rather pretty.
When she arrived last evening I felt the greatest antipathy towards
her; I cannot tell you what a dislike I took to her. But to-day I fancy
I can see her, and that she must be rather pretty."

Nela began to cry again.

"She is like an angel!" she said with a flood of tears. "She looks as
if she had just come straight from Heaven. Body and soul she is exactly
like the Holy Virgin Mary."

"Oh! do not exaggerate," said Pablo uneasily. "She cannot be so lovely
as you say. Do not imagine that because I have no eyes I cannot feel
who is beautiful and who is not."

"No, no, you cannot feel it, you do not understand.--Oh! you are
mistaken, quite mistaken."

"No, no. She cannot be so beautiful," the blind lad insisted, turning
very pale as he spoke. "Nela, darling of my heart, do you know what my
father told me? That if I recover my sight I am to marry Florentina."

Nela could not answer; her tears continued to flow in silence, pouring
down her burning cheeks and dropping on her hands. But not even the
bitterest tears could give expression or relief to her intense grief.
It was immeasurable, infinite, that was all she knew.

"I know why you are crying so much," the blind youth said holding
her hands very tightly in his own. "But my father will not insist on
making me marry against my will. For me there is no wife in the world
but you. When my eyes can see, they will care for no beauty but your
heavenly face; all others will be but shades, too remote and dim to
attract my gaze. Oh God! what is a human face like? How does the soul
stand revealed in flesh? If light cannot avail to give another aspect
to thought and fancy, of what use is it at all? That which we conceive
of and that which is--are they not one and the same thing? Are not the
idea and the form the same to each other as fire and heat? Can they be
separated? And can you cease to be the fairest in the world to me, the
sweetest and best beloved, when I am lord of the vast domain of the

Florentina now rejoined them, and they talked as they went home; but
nothing more was said of sufficient interest to be set down here.



Nothing of importance occurred on the two following days, but then
there came one on which the deed was done, the wonderful, crowning,
fateful deed. Teodoro Golfin, in whose hands the surgeon's knife was
as the chisel of a Genius, had attempted to amend one of Nature's most
delicate works. Unflinching and calm he took possession, as it were, in
virtue of his science and experience, of the marvellous speck in which
the glorious scheme of the Universe is epitomized and concentrated. The
task before him was nothing less than to stand face to face with the
mystery of Life; to investigate and discover the causes which hindered
a living eye from taking cognizance of things visible. For this a firm
soul was needed and a tender hand. The delicate tissue of the cornea
must be divided, the crystalline lens removed, carefully avoiding the
hyaloid membrane and the vitreous humor; the dimensions of the pupil
must be increased by an incision, and the condition of the inner
chamber of the eye ascertained by induction or by examination.

Few words were spoken after this daring expedition into a microcosm--an
enterprise not less bold than the attempt to measure the distance
between the stars, or to gauge the infinite realms of space. Those
who were present sat in silent suspense, as they might await the
resurrection of a dead man or the creation of a new world. Golfin said
nothing definite either:

"Iris contractile," he muttered. "Retina sensitive.... Nerves living
and sound...." And yet the function, the fact, the act of seeing--where
was that?

"Time will show," said Don Teodoro, as he carefully adjusted the
bandages. "Patience."

And his leonine face expressed neither disappointment nor triumph,
neither hope nor doubt. Science had done all she could; it was almost
like an act of creation, like many others she has enabled us to
perform in this nineteenth century. Nature, thus boldly defied and
resenting such an intrusion on her secrets, held her peace.

The patient was strictly forbidden to see any one but his father,
who waited on him; no one else was admitted. Nela went several times
to enquire for the invalid; but she never crossed the threshold, she
waited outside till Don Manuel should come out, or his daughter, or
some member of the household. The young lady, after giving her the
fullest information and painting in lively colors the anxiety they all
felt, would go out to walk with her. One day Florentina insisted that
Nela should show her where she lived, and they went down to Centeno's
hovel; the squalid interior horrified and disgusted Florentina; above
all, the baskets which served as the orphan's bed.

"Well, Nela will very soon come to live with me," said Florentina,
getting out of the stuffy hole as fast as she could, "and then she will
have a bedroom just like mine, and will dress and feed as I do."

Dame Centeno and her two girls stood open-mouthed with astonishment at
this speech. They began to think that the hapless and neglected orphan
must have found her father in some Prince or King, as the orphans do in
the tales.

When they had left the house behind them Florentina said to her
companion: "Pray to God day and night that He may grant my dear cousin
the blessing which we all enjoy and which He has denied to him. What an
anxious state we live in! If he gains his sight a thousand delightful
things will follow and many difficulties will be removed. I have made a
solemn vow to the Virgin; I have promised that if she grants my cousin
his sight I will take under my care the very poorest creature I can
find, and give her all that can make her entirely forget her poverty,
making her my own equal in every respect, as happy and as comfortable
as I am. And it is not enough merely to give her clothes, or set her
down to a table with plenty of soup and meat. No, there is another
charity which is worth more than all the broken food and frippery in
the world--kindness, respect, consideration, and a name. I will give
her these too, and teach her to respect herself. I have found the
person I want, María--it is you. I have promised the Holy Virgin from
the bottom of my soul that if she will bestow the gift of sight on my
cousin, you shall be my sister. You shall be the same as myself, in my
house, exactly like my sister." As she spoke Nela's Virgin clasped the
girl in her arms and kissed her on the forehead.

It is impossible to give any idea of the poor little vagabond's
feelings in this crowning hour of her life. An instinctive dread kept
her away from the house at Aldeacorba, a dread that was dimly mixed up
with the personality of her young benefactress, like the figures we see
in a nightmare; while, at the same time, she felt tender admiration and
reverence for her. Now and again, in her innocent bewilderment, she
fancied it must be the Virgin Mary in her actual presence; in no other
way could she conceive of the kind-heartedness which smiled upon her,
like the realms of Paradise, from the open soul of Florentina, with
its purity, tenderness, gentleness, and gracious consolations. Nela's
honest instinct made her feel and understand at once that she could not
hate her self-constituted sister. Hate her! How could she? She felt
she must love her with all the strength of her soul. Her aversion and
repulsion sank to the bottom like a sediment after fermentation, and
there decomposed and vanished, their elements recombining to intensify
the admiration and respect she felt for her benefactress. Still, though
the feeling had disappeared, the cause remained--the sentiment which,
as it could no longer flourish singly in her soul, with that masterful
exclusiveness which is characteristic of such passions, revenged
itself by producing that utter dejection which is the very demon of

At Centeno's they remarked that Nela did not eat, that she seemed
wearier than usual, that for long intervals she sat as silent and
motionless as a statue, and that she sang no longer, day or night. Her
incapacity for exertion had become absolute helplessness, and Tanasio,
having sent her to buy him some tobacco, she sat down in the road and
remained there for the rest of the day.

One morning, just a week after the operation had been performed, she
went up to the engineer's house, and Sofía said to her: "A gift for
good news Nela! Have you heard? They have taken off the bandages
to-day, and they say he can see, that he will see quite well. Ulysses,
the foreman of the works, has just been to tell us. Teodoro has not
been here, but my husband has gone to Aldeacorba--we shall know the
truth very soon."

Nela, as she heard it, felt more dead than alive, and crossing her
hands she exclaimed: "Blessed be the Holy Virgin who has worked this
wonder!--She, she alone has done it."

"You are glad little one?--No wonder, for now Señorita Florentina
will keep her promise," said Sofía in a bantering tone. "Allow me to
congratulate you, Señorita Doña Nela.--Why it is like a lottery! What
a big prize, Nelilla! And yet you may not be grateful--no, you will
not. I never yet knew any poor who were grateful. They are all proud,
and the more you give them the more they ask.--Well, it is a settled
thing that Pablo is to marry his cousin, and it is a very good match;
they are a handsome pair and she seems no fool--and she has a sweet
pretty face; what a pity to spoil such a face and figure by dressing so
villanously! No, no, if I want to dress well I will not apply to the
dressmaker at Santa Irene de Campó."

As she spoke Don Cárlos came in; he was radiant with satisfaction and

"A complete success!" he shouted as he reached the door. "Next to God
stands my brother Teodoro!"

"It is quite certain?"

"As sure as daylight--I never believed it could be.--And what a
triumph, Sofía! What a triumph! It is my greatest pride and happiness
to be my brother's brother. He is the king of men.--Yes, as I say:
First God, and then Teodoro!"



The wonderful good news flew through Socartes. Nothing else was talked
of in the smelting-houses, in the workshops, in the washing-mills, on
the tram-way, in the deepest diggings, and on the top of the hill,
in the bowels of the earth or the open light of heaven. Various
interesting commentaries were added: that in Aldeacorba it was thought
for a moment that Don Francisco was out of his wits with joy; that Don
Manuel meant to celebrate the happy event by giving a grand banquet to
all the hands employed in the mines; and, finally, that Don Teodoro
was a great man, whom all blind men, present or to come, might indeed
esteem, "as the apple of their eye."

Nela could not venture to go to the house at Aldeacorba. A mysterious
force seemed to hold her back. She wandered all day round and about the
mines, gazing from afar at the Penáguilas' house, which in her eyes,
looked transformed. Her spirit was full of a strange compound of the
sincerest joy and an overwhelming shamefacedness, of noble devotion and
with it the unendurable aching, so to speak, of an intensely sensitive

She found some surcease from the turmoil of her brain in that motherly
solitude which had contributed so largely to the formation of her
character, and in dreaming over the beauty of Nature, which always
lifted her soul to closer communion with the Divinity. The clouds in
the sky and the flowers of the field affected her mind as others are
affected by the pomp of altars, the eloquence of preachers and the
study of the meditations of the mystics. In the solitude of the open
country she thought and said a thousand things that she never dreamed
were aspirations and prayers. She looked towards Aldeacorba, and said
to herself:

"I will never go there again.--All is over and done.--Of what use can I
be now?"

With all her ignorance she understood that the struggle in her soul
arose from her incapacity to hate any one; on the contrary, she
was constrained to love her friend and her enemy alike, and just
as thistles turned into flowers under the miraculous touch of some
Christian martyr, Nela perceived that her jealousy and aversion were
graciously blossoming into admiration and gratitude. That which could
undergo no change was the feeling we have described as self-conscious
shame, and which urged her to keep herself quite apart from any events
which might henceforth occur in Aldeacorba. It was a special aspect of
the sentiment which in civilized and educated persons is called _amour
propre_, which includes in itself the capacity for self-depreciation.
The connection, however, between her feeling and that which has so
large a share in the actions of cultivated persons, consisted in the
fact that both were founded on a punctilious sense of dignity. If
Marianela could have expressed herself in their language she would have

"My dignity will not allow me to submit to the horrible degradation
you would put upon me. It is God's will that I should endure this
humiliation--so be it; but I cannot stand by and see myself deposed and
discrowned. May his blessings fall on the head of her who, by a law of
nature, must fill the place I once occupied--but I have not the courage
to put her there with my own hands."

But not being able to utter her pain in these words, she could only
say: "I will never go to Aldeacorba again--I will never let him see me.
I will run away with Celipin, or I will go to my mother. I am of no use
now to any one."

Still, even while she said this, it struck her as very sad that she
should have to give up the divine protection of that Heavenly Maiden
who had appeared to her in the darkest hour of her life, and cast her
sheltering mantle over her! To think that after seeing the vision
realized which had so often appeared to her in dreams of thrilling
beatitude, she must renounce it--to have heard herself called by a
gentle voice, that offered her a sister's love, a happy home, position,
a name, and a luxurious existence--and then be unable to obey the
invitation with joy, alacrity and thankfulness--to reject the hand
which would snatch her from a life of degradation and misery, and
make a lady of the wretched vagabond, raising her from the rank of a
domestic animal to that of a loved and respected woman!...

"Woe, woe!" she cried, clutching her bosom as if her fingers were
talons: "I cannot, never, never.... Nothing in the world shall ever
take me to Aldeacorba! Virgin, mother of my soul, take me, take me....
Mother, will you not come and fetch me!"

As night came on, she went home; on her way she met Celipin with a
stick in his hand and his cap hung on the end of it.

"Look here, Nelilla," said the boy: "Is not this how Don Teodoro
carries his hat? Just now I was passing the pool at Hinojales and
I looked at my reflection in the water. My! was not I surprised--I
thought I looked just like Don Teodoro Golfin. Some day this week we
will set out to become learned and useful persons. I have got as much
money now as I want, and you will see, no one will dare to laugh at
Señor de Celipin."

For three days Nela kept out of the way, wandering about the
neighborhood of the mines, following the course of the river along its
rugged banks, or hiding herself in the quiet recesses of the wood of
Saldeoro. The nights she spent in her basket, but she could not sleep.
One night she timidly called her companion:

"Celipin--when?" and Celipin replied with all the solemnity befitting a
regular expedition:


The two adventurers rose at day-break, and both went their way; Celipin
to his work, and Nela to carry a message from Señana to the engineer's
housekeeper. On her return she found Señorita Florentina, who was
waiting for her at Centeno's house. María was surprised and alarmed at
seeing her, though her instinct told her of the end and object of this

"Nela, my little sister," said the girl with engaging gentleness: "Why
are you behaving so strangely? Why have you not been near us all these
days? Come, Pablo wishes to see you. Do you not know that now he can
say: 'I want to see this thing or the other?' Do you not know that my
cousin is no longer blind?"

"Yes--I know it," said Nela, taking the hand Florentina held out to her
and covering it with kisses.

"Come along then; come at once. He is always asking for 'Señora Nela.'
And to-day you must be there when Don Teodoro takes the bandage off--it
is the fourth time. Oh! the first day--when he first tried it! What a
day that was! When we knew for certain that my cousin was born again,
as I may say, to the light of day--we almost died of joy.--And the
first face he saw was mine.--Come along, quickly." But María drew her
hand out of her Virgin's clasp.

"Have you forgotten my promise, my vow?" Florentina went on, "or did
you think I was talking at random? But indeed, nothing I can do seems
enough to show our Mother of Mercies my gratitude for the grace she
has shown us. I should like that, on this day, not a creature that
the whole world contains should be sad. I should like to divide my
happiness, and fling it abroad on all sides, as the sower casts the
seed; I should like to go into every wretched dwelling and say: 'All
your troubles are ended. I have a remedy for them all.'--But it is
impossible; no one can do that but God. Still, as my powers are not
equal to my will, let me at any rate do what I can--and these are not
mere words, Nela. Come with me, away from this hovel; bid farewell to
everything that has made part of your misery and your loneliness. For
you may have an affection, even for your wretchedness, my child."

Marianela did not, however, say good-bye to anything; and as none
of the family were indoors at that hour, she did not wait for them.
Florentina went out, leading by the hand the poor little girl whom her
noble impulses and christian feeling had adopted to be her equal; and
Nela allowed herself to be led, from sheer incapacity to offer any
resistance. She felt as though some superhuman power had taken her in
hand and was carrying her along, fatally and inevitably, as the angels
bear a soul away to Heaven.

They took the path by Hinojales, where the vagabond child had seen
Florentina for the first time. As they turned into the lane the young
lady said to her companion.

"Why have you not been to the house? My uncle says that you have so
much natural modesty and delicacy that it is a pity you should not have
been educated. Was it delicacy that kept you from coming to ask for
what, by God's mercy, you had so happily gained? Without doubt my uncle
is right.... You should have seen the poor dear man that day--he said
he should not be sorry to die!--Do you see? My eyes are still red with
crying so much. And last night my uncle and my father and I never went
to sleep; we were making plans for all the family and building castles
in the air all night--Why do you say nothing? Why are you so silent?
Are you not as glad as I am?"

Nela looked up in the girl's bright face and made a faint effort to
resist the gentle hand that held hers.

"Come along--what is the matter? You look at me so strangely Nela."

She did indeed; the hapless child's eyes wandering vaguely from one
object to another, ended by fixing themselves on the Virgin of her
fancy, with a strange glitter of apprehension.

"Why does your hand tremble so?" Florentina went on. "Are you ill?
You are as pale as death and your teeth are chattering. If you are
ill I will cure you, I myself can cure you. From this day you will
have some one to care for you, and pet you, and make much of you.
And I shall not be alone you know, for Pablo is very fond of you--he
told me so. We both love you dearly and he and I shall be like one
person.--He wants to see you. Just fancy how full of curiosity a man
must be who has never seen anything at all; but you cannot think
how--from being so clever as he is, and having an imagination which
seems to have given him a number of ideas which blind people scarcely
ever have--from the first moment he knew what was pretty and what was
ugly. A bit of scarlet sealing-wax pleased him at once and a piece
of coal he thought hideous. He admired the beauty of the sky and was
disgusted at the sight of a frog. Everything that is beautiful excites
him to an enthusiasm that is almost delirium; everything ugly fills him
with horror, and makes him tremble as we do when we are frightened.
My appearance must have pleased him, for he exclaimed as soon as he
saw me: "Oh! cousin, how pretty you are! Thank God for having bestowed
sight on me so that I can see you!"

Nela had gently withdrawn her hand from Florentina's grasp and fell on
the ground as if suddenly stricken to death. The young girl bent over
her, saying in coaxing tones: "Oh! what is it ails you? Why do you
look at me so?" Marianela fixed her eyes on the Holy Virgin's face with
a miserable stare; still their expression was not one of aversion, but
rather a gaze of agonized entreaty, like the last look of a dying man
imploring mercy from the image of the Saviour, and believing it to be
God himself.

"Señora," murmured the child, "I do not hate you--no indeed I do not
hate you. On the contrary, I love you dearly--I adore you." And taking
up the hem of Florentina's dress she pressed it to her dry lips and
kissed it fervently.

"But whoever supposed you would hate me?" said the young girl greatly
bewildered. "I know that you love me. But you frighten me--get up."

"I do love you, dearly, dearly; I adore you," repeated Nela, kissing
the feet of her benefactress. "And yet I cannot--I cannot...."

"What cannot you do--for God's sake! get up." Florentina put out
her arms to help her up; but Nela rose without any assistance, and
springing away to a safe distance, she repeated, bursting into a flood
of tears:

"I cannot Señorita, I cannot."

"What?--in Heaven's name! what has come over you?"

"I cannot go there." And she pointed to Aldeacorba, where the roof of
Don Francisco's house was visible among the trees.

"And why?"

"The Blessed Virgin knows," replied the child with prompt decision.
"May the Holy Virgin bless you!" She made a cross with her fingers and
kissed it; she was registering a vow.

Florentina took a step towards her and María, understanding the loving
impulse, flew to meet her; she laid her head against her friend's
bosom, and murmured as she sobbed: "Kiss me--for God's sake! give me
one kiss!"

Florentina kissed her tenderly, and then freeing herself with a start,
or rather a wild and sudden leap, the child--or woman--fled to a brake
close at hand; the brushwood seemed to open and swallow her up.

"Nela, Nela--little sister!" cried Florentina in much distress.

"Farewell, child of my eyes!" said Nela, turning round to look at her
once more; and she vanished in the copse.

Florentina listened to the rustle of the branches, as the hunter
listens to the rush of the prey that has escaped him. Then all was
silent; not a sound was to be heard but the vague monotone that fills
the atmosphere at noon in the open country--a sound which seems to
be the whisper of our own thoughts as they go forth towards all that
surrounds us. Florentina stood amazed, powerless, speechless, deeply
distressed--as if she had just seen some fond illusion snatched from
her gaze. She did not know what to think of it all, and even her
unbounded kind-heartedness, which often crippled her judgment, could
supply no explanation.

She had been standing in the same spot for some little time, her head
drooping, her cheeks tingling, and her blue eyes full of tears, when
Teodoro Golfin happened to come upon her, making his way at an easy
pace from Aldeacorba homewards. The doctor was greatly astonished to
find the young lady alone and with an expression of vexation and regret
which, far from diminishing her beauty, added to it and made it more

"What ails the girl?" he exclaimed with some anxiety. "Why, Florentina,
what is the matter?"

"A dreadful thing, Señor Golfin," said Florentina, wiping her eyes. "I
was thinking--considering how many terrible things there are in the

"And what are these terrible things, Señorita? Where have you been?
Can anything have happened to you?"

"Provoking things--and of all things there is one which is more
provoking than all the rest."

"What is that?"

"Ingratitude, Señor." And pointing to the copse of bramble and fern,
she added: "It was in that direction."

She went up to the highest spot at hand to see farther into the
distance. "Quite out of sight!" she said with a sigh.

"Quite," said the surgeon laughing. "Don Manuel told me that you were
devoting yourself to collecting butterflies. They are ungrateful
creatures indeed not to wish to be caught by you."

"It is not that--I will tell you all about it if you are going to

"I was not going, as I have just come away, fair damsel; but if you
will tell me all about it--be it what it may--I will go back again. I
am all ears for your story."



Nela wandered about alone all day, and at night she prowled round
the house at Aldeacorba, creeping as near to it as she dared without
running the risk of being discovered; whenever she heard footsteps
she stole away like a thief. Then she went down into the crater of La
Terrible, whose grewsome aspect somehow suited her gloomy mood; she
lingered there some time looking up at the stone giants that stood
round it, and then she climbed up one of them to see the lights of
Aldeacorba. There they were, sparkling above the slopes of the mine
against the dark background of earth and sky. After gazing at them for
a while as if her hungry eyes had never seen lights before, she quitted
La Terrible and went towards La Trascava. But before she reached it she
heard footsteps, and turning round, she saw Master Celipin coming along
the path at a brisk determined pace. He had a small bundle hanging
from a stick over his shoulder, and his step, as well as his air and
attitude, announced a full determination never to stop till he should
have paced the whole circumference of the globe.

"Celipe!--Where are you going?" cried Nela, detaining him.

"Nela ... you out here! We thought you were with Señorita Florentina,
eating ham, and turkey, and partridges all day long, and drinking
lemonade and syrups. What are you doing here?"

"And you--where are you off to?"

"You ask me that, now? Why do you ask me since you know quite well,"
answered the boy, jerking the stick and bundle. "You know very well
that I am going to learn all I can and make money. Did I not tell you
it would be to-night?--And here I am, as glad as can be--a little
sorry, too, when I think that father and mother will cry. You see,
Nela, the Blessed Virgin favored us to-night, for father and mother
began to snore sooner than usual; and I had my bundle ready, and I
climbed up to the window and got out of it.--Now are you coming or not?"

"Yes, I am coming," said Nela with sudden decision, taking the arm of
the adventurous Celipin.

"We will take the train, and we will go in the train as far as we can,"
said Celipin with liberal enthusiasm. "And then we must beg till we get
to Madrid, where the King of Spain lives; and when once we have got
there, you can go as a servant in the house of some Marquis or Count,
and I will go into another, and at the same time I can study, and you
can have a heap of fine things. And I can teach you a little of all I
learn--only a little, not too much; for you women have no need to be as
learned as we doctors must be."

Before Celipin had ended his speech, they had set out on their road,
trotting on as fast as though they already saw in the distance the
turrets of the city "where the King of Spain lives."

"Let us get out of the regular path," said Celipin, his practical
talents rising to the occasion: "If they see us they will lay hands
upon us and give us a good thrashing."

But Nela drew her hand away from her fellow-adventurer's, and sitting
down on a stone, she said: "I am not going."

"Nela! what a little fool you are! You have not a brave heart like
mine; a heart as big as the rocks in La Terrible!" said Celipin, with a
braggart air. "What the devil are you afraid of? Why will you not come?"

"I--oh!--why should I?"

"Do not you know that Don Golfin said that the work here is turning us
all to stones? I do not want to be a stone--not I."

"I--why should I go?" repeated Nela with disconsolate bitterness. "You
have time enough--for me, it is too late."

And Nela's head sunk on her breast and she sat for some time insensible
to the persuasive eloquence of the Hippocrates of the future. The idea
that she was about to cross the boundary of the spot of earth where
she had lived so long, and where her mother slept the sleep of the
dead, made her feel as if she were being torn up by the roots. The
beauty of the place in all its variety seemed to claim her by a sort
of relationship; the rare and fleeting joys, nay, the very misery she
had known there; the memory of her friend and of the happy hours when
they had walked in the woods or sat by the spring at Saldeoro; all
the feelings of admiration or of sympathy, of love or of gratitude,
which had grown and blossomed in her soul among these scenes--these
flowers--these clouds--these rustling trees--these frowning
rocks--inseparable as it were from the loveliness or the grandeur,
the progress and the immutability of all these works of nature, were
so many roots from her heart, and dragging them up from the soil was
bitter anguish.

"No--I am not going," she repeated.

And Celipin argued and talked as if, having by some miracle reached the
goal of his career, he belonged to all the academies present and to

"You are going home then?" he asked, seeing that his oratory was as
unavailing as that of the academies themselves commonly is.


"You are going to Aldeacorba?"

"No; not there either."

"Then you will go to where Señora Florentina lives."

"No, no--not there."

"The devil's in it--but where are you going then?"

Nela did not answer; she sat looking at the ground with an expression
of dismay, as if she saw there the fragments of the most beautiful and
precious thing on earth--fallen and lying broken at her feet.

"Well then, Nela," said Celipin, exhausted with his long harangue, "I
must leave you and be off, for they might follow me, and find me. Would
you like me to give you a _peseta_ as a parting gift to-night?"

"No, Celipin, I want nothing.--Go, you will be a rich man yet. Take
care of yourself and do not forget Socartes and your father and mother."

The traveller had a sensation highly improper in a man of so much
importance and dignity--a strong disposition to cry; but swallowing
down this inopportune emotion, he said:

"How should I ever forget Socartes? You need not have said that--I
shall never forget my father and mother, nor you, for you helped me to
do this.--Good-bye, Nelilla--hark! I hear footsteps!"

Celipin shouldered his staff with a resolution that symbolized his
courage to defy all the dangers of the wide world; but his valorous
display was wasted, for a dog only came running up to them.

"It is Choto," said Nela, trembling all over.

"A bad sign!" muttered Celipin, setting forward; and he disappeared in
the darkness.

A stone was lost to geology, and the world would be the richer by a
great man!

Nela shivered as the dog leaped upon her and caressed her. The
affectionate creature, after jumping round and round her, whining and
barking with so much expression that it was almost like speaking,
set off running as fast as he could towards Aldeacorba. You might
have thought he was in chase of some wild game. Choto--unlike some
orators--seemed to speak when he barked.

       *       *       *       *       *

Just at this time Teodoro Golfin was coming away from the Penáguilas'.
He was met by Choto, who, with voluble haste, told him--I know not
what. It was a fervent, fitful address, delivered between his gasps
for breath and gushes of eager anxiety. Golfin, though he understood
several languages, was not strong in the canine tongue, and paid no
particular heed. Choto leaped up and round him, jerking out barks
from his moist jaws, some short and sharp as insults, others soft and
coaxing, and then again threats. Teodoro meanwhile stood still, his
attention was struck by the dog's manner; and Choto, seeing that he had
made himself understood to a certain extent, began to run in a contrary
direction to Golfin's homeward road. The doctor followed him. "Very
well," he muttered, "that way then."

Choto retraced his steps, as if to make sure that Golfin was following
him, and then he trotted on again. At some little distance from the
house Golfin heard a voice saying:

"Well, Choto, what is it you want?"

He suspected at once that it was Nela. He paused and listened, hidden
in the shadow of a beech-tree, and soon perceived a little figure
standing out from the stone wall and walking very slowly. The shadows
of the brambles prevented his seeing her very distinctly. He set out
to follow her at some little distance, quitting the path and walking
on the turf, so as to make no noise. Beyond a doubt it was Nela. He
recognized her perfectly when they got upon open ground, where there
were no dark shadows cast by trees or shrubs.

The girl now went faster and faster; at last she began to run, and
Golfin ran too. After this unequal race had gone on for some distance,
Nela sat down on a stone. At her feet was the sloping basin of La
Trascava, black and hideous in the gloom. Golfin waited a moment; then
he very softly went nearer to the girl. Choto was seated in front of
her, squatted on his hind quarters, with his fore paw stretched out,
and gazing at her with the gravity of a sphinx. Nela stared into the
depths below, and suddenly starting to her feet she began to go quickly
down the slope--slipping rather than running. With one bound Teodoro
stood by the abyss, roaring in stentorian tones: "Nela! Nela!"

He looked down, but could see nothing in the dark chasm; he could hear
Choto whining as he ran round and round the ridge, lower and lower in
spirals, as if he were being sucked in by some eddy in the dreadful
gulf. Teodoro thought of going down himself and cautiously took a step
or two; then he called again, and a voice from below answered: "Señor."

"Come up this minute."

No answer.

"Come up, I say."

Presently he could just see the child's face in the lowest visible
depths of the horrible chasm. Choto, after snuffing at the opening,
came up again, round and round the basin as before; Nela too was
climbing up, but very slowly. Indeed, she stopped, and repeated feebly:

"I tell you come up. What are you doing here?"

Nela came a little further.

"Come--quickly. I have something to tell you."

"To tell me?"

"Yes--something I must tell you at once."

Nela crawled up; but Teodoro did not feel sure that he had triumphed
till he had seized her hand and held it tightly to lead her away with



They walked on a short distance without speaking. Teodoro Golfin,
for all his learning, wisdom, and eloquence, felt as ignorant and
as helpless as Nela, and less disposed for speech than usual. She
followed him unresistingly, and he accommodated his steps to those of
the child-woman, like a man taking a boy to school. At a turn in the
road where three enormous white stones stood up, weather-worn till
they looked like bleached skeletons, the doctor sat down, and placing
Nela in front of him, as if she were on her trial for some grave
delinquency, he held her by both hands and said solemnly:

"What were you going to do there?"


"Down there. You know very well what I mean. Answer me plainly, as you
would answer your confessor or your father."

"I have no father," replied Nela with a faintly mutinous accent.

"That is true--but suppose me to be your father, and answer me. What
were you going to do?"

"My mother is down there," she answered dully.

"Your mother is dead. Do you not know that dead people are gone to
another world, or altogether away?"

"She is there," said Nela positively, and looking back towards the spot
she had left.

"And you thought you would go to her. Is that it? That is to say, you
meant to kill yourself."

"Yes, Señor, that is it."

"And do you not know that your mother committed a great sin in killing
herself, and you would do the same if you followed her example? Were
you never taught that?"

"I do not think anyone ever told me anything of the kind. And if I want
to kill myself, who is to prevent me?"

"But you yourself--without being told--cannot you feel that God cannot
be pleased with us for getting rid of our lives? Poor child--left to
your own instincts without any teaching, or religion, or loving and
disinterested guidance!--What ideas can you have of God, of a future
life, of death? What makes you fancy your mother is there? Do you call
a few lifeless bones your mother! Can you believe that she is still
alive, thinking of you and loving you down in that pit? Did no one
ever tell you that when once our souls have left our bodies they never
return to them again? Do you not know that a tomb, a grave, whatever it
may be, never contains anything but dust and foul corruption? What do
you think God is like? Like some grand and solemn man who sits above
us with his arms folded, and who allows us to play with our lives,
while, in His place, we see some sprite, hobgoblin or fetich of our
fancy?--Your master, Nela, who is so wise and good, did he never talk
to you about such things?"

"Oh! yes he did.--But it is of no use to tell me them now...."

"Of no use now--when you want to kill yourself? Tell me, silly child,
did you think that by throwing yourself into that hole you would be any
better off?"

"Yes, Señor."

"In what way?"

"I should feel none of the things I feel now, but something else, much
better--and I should be with my mother."

"I see you are more silly than wicked," said Golfin laughing. "Now, be
quite honest with me. Do you owe me any grudge?"

"No indeed. I owe no one any grudge--least of all you, Señor, who have
been so kind to me, and have made my master see."

"Very good--but that is not all; I not only want you to like me, but
you must trust me and tell me all your little secrets. Strange little
secrets are hidden in your mind, little woman, and you must tell them
all to me--every one. You will see, I shall not be hard upon you; I
shall make a very kind father confessor."

Nela smiled a forlorn smile; then bending her head, she fell on her

"No, silly child, that is not the way; sit down by me--come here," said
Golfin, gently drawing her to a seat by his side. "I fancy you were
going crazy for want of some one to whom you could tell everything;
is it not so? And you are to conceal nothing. You are indeed alone in
the world, poor child.--Come, Nela, let us see; tell me first of all
why--now be very attentive--why you took it into your head that you
wanted to kill yourself?"

Nela did not answer.

"I saw you happy enough, and content with life to all appearance, only
a few days since. Why have you suddenly gone mad in a single night?"

"I want to go to my mother--" replied Nela, after hesitating a moment.
"I do not want to live any longer. Of what good am I in the world? Is
it not much better that I should die? And if God will not make me die,
I will kill myself, my own way."

"This notion that you are of no use is at the bottom of all your
miseries, poor little creature! Curses on him--or on them, for they are
many--who ever put it into your head. They are all equally responsible
for the neglect, the isolation, and the ignorance in which you lived.
You are of no use! God knows what you might have been if you had fallen
into other hands! A refined nature is yours, perhaps an exquisitely
superior one.--But good Heavens! If you put a harp into clumsy hands
what can they do with it but break it.--Because your fragile frame is
not strong enough to break stones and carry earth like those brutes in
human form Mariuca and Pepina, who shall say that you are of no use?
Were we all born to toil like mere animals? Are you to be forbidden to
have any intelligence, any feeling, any of the gifts of nature which
no one has ever cultivated in you? Nonsense! You are of some use; you
might be of great good if you only fell into hands that could mould you
and train you."

Nela, whose intuition gathered the purport of this speech, though the
words were beyond her, was deeply impressed. She kept her eyes fixed on
Teodoro Golfin's rugged, shrewd, and expressive countenance. Her heart
was full of astonishment and gratitude.

"Still there is a mystery about you," the dusky, leonine doctor went
on: "The most perfect opportunity was offered you to escape from your
miserable lot, and you refused it. Florentina, who is an angel if ever
there was one, was ready to adopt you as a friend and a sister; I never
knew an instance of greater kindness and generosity.--And what have you
done? Fled from her like a wild thing.--This is sheer ingratitude--or
some other feeling which I cannot at all comprehend."

"No, no, no," cried Nela, much distressed, "I am not ungrateful. I
adore Señorita Florentina; she seems to me not to be made of flesh and
blood like the rest of us; I do not deserve even to look upon her...."

"Well, my child, you may mean what you say; but from your behavior we
can only conclude that you are ungrateful--most ungrateful...."

"No, no," sobbed Nela. "I am not, indeed I am not ungrateful. I was
afraid--I knew--that you would all think me ungrateful, and that was
the only thing that troubled me when I was going to kill myself.--But I
am so stupid; I did not know how to ask pardon of the Señorita before I
ran away, nor how to explain it all."

"I will make your peace with Florentina; and even if you wish never to
see her again, I will undertake to tell her and convince her that you
were not ungrateful. Now, open your heart to me and tell me everything;
what makes you so miserable and desperate? However wretched a human
being may be--however great his misery and loneliness, he does not take
his own life unless he has some overpowering reason for hating it."

"No, Señor--so it seems to me."

"Then you hate your life?"

Nela was silent for a minute. Then, crossing her arms, she exclaimed

"No--no. I do not hate it; on the contrary, I want to find it!"

"A pretty way you were going to work to look for it!"

"I thought that when you were dead you would have everything you could
not get here. If not, why is death always, always calling us to come?
I have dreams, and when I dream I see all who are dead happy and at

"You believe in dreams?"

"Yes, Señor.--I look at the trees and the rocks that I have seen here
ever since I was born, and in their face...."

"Come, come--the trees and rocks have faces?"

"Yes--everything that is lovely can see and speak.--And they say to me:
'Come to us--die, and you will live quite happy.'"

"What a lamentable fancy!" Golfin muttered to himself. "A perfectly
pagan spirit!"

And he added aloud:

"But if you want to live, why did you not accept Florentina's offer? I
come back to the same question."

"Because--because--what the Señorita offered me was worse than death!"
cried Nela vehemently.

"How unjustly you think of her kind charity. There are, of course,
beings so wretched that they prefer a low and vagabond existence to
the dignity of a superior position. You are accustomed to a free life
in direct contact with nature, and you prefer this debased freedom to
the sweet affections of home life. Have you been so happy then in this
mode of life?"

"I was beginning to be happy...."

"And when did you cease to be happy?" After a long pause, Nela replied:

"When you came here."

"I--what harm have I done you?"

"None, none--nothing but the greatest good."

"I have given your master his sight," said Golfin, looking at Nela's
face with the narrow attention of a physiologist. "Do you not thank me
for that?"

"Much, Señor, very much," and she gazed up at him with eyes full of

Golfin watched her closely, so as not to miss the slightest change
of expression which might guide him to a comprehension of the girl's
feelings, as he went on:

"Your master told me that he loved you dearly, when he was blind; and
now that he can see, he constantly asks for Nela. He knows very well
that for him the whole outer world was filled by one person--Nela; and
the sight which has been mercifully bestowed on him is of no value to
him, unless he can use it to see Nela."

"To see Nela--but he never shall see Nela--Nela will never let him see
her!" she exclaimed excitedly.

"Why not?"

"Because she is so ugly.--He may have cared for María Canela when his
eyes were shut; but now that they are open and he can see the Señorita,
he can never, never care for a poor little dwarf."

"Who knows but...."

"It is impossible," she said positively.

"It is your fancy--you cannot tell whether your master will be pleased
with you or not till you try. I will take you to the house."

"I will not go--I cannot go!" she cried, starting to her feet and
standing in front of Teodoro, who was utterly astounded at the
determination of her gesture and the flash of her black eyes, which
both revealed her resolute nature.

"Be calm, be easy--come here," he said persuasively. "It is true that
you are not very pretty--but a sensible man does not think so much as
you fancy of mere outside beauty. You are too self-conscious, little

But Nela, paying no sort of heed to the doctor's moralities, and as
resolute in her attitude as she was in her opinion, gravely went on as
if pronouncing sentence:

"There ought to be nothing ugly in the world.--Nothing that is ugly
ought to be allowed to live."

"But, my child, if all we ugly people were to be obliged to take
ourselves out of the world, it would be left almost depopulated.
Poor, unhappy, little simpleton! But this notion of yours is not a
new one. Other persons had it before you, centuries ago; persons with
an imagination like yours--living, as you have lived, in the midst of
Nature, and lacking the light which your ignorance and loneliness have
deprived you of, and which they had not, because it had not then dawned
on the world.--But you must be cured of this delusion; you must reflect
that you have your portion of gifts more precious than beauty--gifts of
the mind, which neither fade with time, nor change with the caprices of
taste. Seek for them in your soul and you will find them. They will not
perish as beauty would which, seek it as you may in your looking-glass,
you will never find. But seek out these really good and precious
gifts; cultivate them, and when you see them thriving and blooming,
all this misery you are suffering will vanish--take my word for it.
And meanwhile you will soon rise superior to the wretched situation in
which you now are, and acquire a beauty which may not perhaps charm
the eye, but which will be a source of pride and happiness to yourself."

This wise advice was either not heard or not heeded by Nela; she sat
down again by Golfin and gazed fixedly in his face. Her small eyes,
more eloquent just then than the finest could have been, seemed to say:

"And what is the upshot of all these fine speeches, learned Sir?"

"Now you see," Golfin went on, warming to his subject, and giving it,
in spite of himself, the character of a psychological lecture--"there
is one important question, and that is...."

But Nela had guessed it, and covered her face with her hands.

"There is nothing strange in it--on the contrary, it is the most
natural thing that could happen to you. You have a sensitive
temperament and an excitable imagination. You and your master had led
a life together of free and poetic communion with nature, and of most
perfect and innocent intimacy. He is as wise and clever as a man can
be, and as handsome as a statue. His beauty, when blind even, seemed
formed to delight the eyes of those who could see. His kindness of
heart too, and generous spirit are enough to charm and win the love of
any woman. It is not strange that they should have captivated you--a
child so womanly--or a woman looking so like a child.--Do you love him
so much? More than anything else in the world?"

"Yes, yes--Señor," the girl sobbed out.

"And you cannot bear the idea of his ceasing to love you?"


"And he used to say loving words to you and make you promises?..."

"Yes, oh yes, Señor. He told me I should be his companion as long as he
lived--and--and I believed him."

"And why should you not?"

"He said he could not live without me, and that even if he ever could
see he would still love me. I was quite happy; I was ugly, and little,
and ill-made, but I did not care, for he could not see me; and in his
darkness he thought I was pretty.--And then...."

"Then," said Golfin gently, for he was filled with pity. "I see the
fault is all mine."

"Fault, no; for you did a good deed. You are very, very good. It
is good to have given him his sight. I know, I tell myself, that
it is good; but after that I must go away, quite away--for he will
see Señorita Florentina and will compare me with her--and Señorita
Florentina is as pretty as the angels, and I--it is like comparing a
piece of broken glass with the sun! Of what good can I be? I dreamed
that I ought never to have been born! Oh why was I ever born? God made
a mistake; he gave me an ugly face, and a miserable little body, and
such a large heart! But of what use to me is a large heart?--It is a
torment and nothing else. Woe is me! If I did not keep it under, it
would hate and detest a great many people. And yet I do not want to
hate people--I do not know how to hate them, and I would rather bury my
miserable heart than live to learn to hate; bury it, so that it should
not torment me any more."

"You are tormented by jealousy, and by your sense of humiliation. Poor
little one, you are indeed alone! Neither the knowledge you lack, nor
the home you have never had, nor the work you cannot do would avail to
save you from this. But tell me, what do you feel about the protection
and kindness that Florentina offers you?"

"Terror! Shame!" exclaimed Nela, opening her eyes wide in horror. "To
live with them--to see them constantly! For they will marry--my heart
tells me they will marry; I dreamed it, I know it."

"But Florentina is very kind; she will love you dearly."

"Yes, and I love her--but not at Aldeacorba!" cried the girl in wild
accents. "She came to rob me of what was mine--for he was mine--yes,
Señor, he was indeed. Florentina is like the Blessed Virgin--I will
pray to her, yes, Señor, and worship her; but I do not want her to take
away what is my own--and she will take it away--she has taken it away
already! And where am I to go to; what am I, what good am I in the
world at all? I have lost everything and I want to go to my mother."

She walked away; but Golfin seized her as a wild beast clutches its
prey, and held her tightly by the wrist. As he did so he felt her quick
and fluttering pulse.

"Come here," he said. "From this moment, whether you like it or no,
you are my slave. You are mine, and you are to do nothing but what I
tell you. Poor little soul, full of eager feeling, of fervent fancy,
frankness and superstition--you have a nature framed for all that is
good; but it has been ruined by the wild life you have led, by neglect
and want of training, and even the most elementary teaching! What
a hideous state of society we live in, which forgets its duties so
utterly, and leaves a precious creature like this perish!--Come here;
I am not going to let you quit my side. I have hunted you down and
caught you--caught you in a trap in the midst of the woods, in some
sylvan wilderness, and now I shall try to teach you and train you. We
will see if this rough diamond cannot be cut and polished. Ah! you do
not even know how ignorant you are; and I shall open a new world to
your mind, show you a thousand wonderful things that you have never
understood, though you have a vague and dim idea of some of them. Tell
me, cannot you feel in your soul a germ--how shall I explain myself?
a bud, of that rarest and most beautiful grace: Humility? The mother
of all the virtues; which, strange to say, makes us actually happy
when we see ourselves subordinate to others? Have you never felt the
impulse of self-denial, which makes us rejoice in sacrificing ourselves
for others, in making ourselves small that some one else may become
great?--But you will learn this, child; you will learn to lay your
ugliness at the feet of beauty, to look on with calm satisfaction and
joy at the triumphs of others, to fetter that great wild heart of yours
and bring it into subjection, so that you shall never feel envy nor
rage, but will love your neighbor as yourself, and rise superior to all
who may have injured or hurt you. You shall be made all that Nature
meant you to be when she endowed you at your birth. Hapless child! Born
in a Christian country, and not even a Christian! Your soul dwells in
a sort of poetic worship of nature.--You cannot understand me, little
one, but so it is. You are in the state of those primitive peoples
of whom the memory even hardly survives--governed by your instincts
and passions, while beauty is your dearest idol. Eighteen centuries
have been devoted in vain to spiritualizing humanity, so far as you
are concerned. And as to the selfish world which has left you to such
a fate!--What name does it deserve? You have lived in these mines, a
solitary soul, not taught a single letter, not even sent to an infant
school, though you would have learnt little enough there; not even
given the most imperfect teaching in that religion of which your nation
boasts. Why, you have never been inside a church except to stare at
some ceremony which to you had no meaning; you cannot even mutter a
prayer that you understand; you know nothing of the world, or of God,
or your own soul....

"But you shall know all this; you shall be a different creature. You
shall no longer be hapless little Nela, but a good, and honest, and
useful woman."

It would be rash to assert that Nela had understood all this speech,
which Golfin declaimed with such vehemence and fervor that he entirely
forgot the person to whom he was speaking. But the little outcast
felt a curious fascination, and the spirit of her friend's utterances
sank gently into her soul, and soothed it, and compelled her to
blind assent. His power over the untaught girl was that fateful and
irresistible control which a superior mind exercises over an inferior
one. Sad but unresisting, her head drooped against the surgeon's

"Come along," Golfin said resolutely.

Nela trembled from head to foot; a cold sweat stood on her face, and
Golfin felt that her hands were icy-cold, and her pulses beating
violently; but he failed to attribute this physical condition to her
mental anguish; he held her hand more firmly and repeated: "Come--it is
cold here."

His power over her was so great that she rose as he did, and they went
a little way together. But then Nela stopped, and fell on her knees.

"Oh, Señor!" she cried in an agony: "Do not take me away with you."

She was very pale, and looked wrecked by physical and mental misery.
Golfin tried to pull her up; but her helpless frame did not stir by
any strength of her own. It was clear she must be carried like a
senseless corpse.

"One day," said Golfin, "not very long since, almost in this very
place, I took you on my shoulders to carry you. Now I must do the same
it seems."

He lifted her in his arms; her hot breath seemed to burn his face. She
was drooping, fading, dying like a plant torn up from the soil, and
with its roots laid bare.

As they got nearer to Aldeacorba, Golfin felt some life returning to
the dead weight in his arms. Nela raised her head, and threw up her
hands in despair, but she said nothing.

They went in; all was silent. A maid servant came to meet them, and by
Teodoro's desire she conducted him noiselessly to Florentina's room.

Florentina was alone. By the light of a fast-dying lamp she was
kneeling on the floor, her elbows resting on the seat of a chair, and
praying with absorbed devotion. She was startled at seeing a man at her
door at so late an hour, but her alarm at once gave way to surprise,
when she saw the burden Golfin bore in his strong arms.

Her astonishment was too great for speech when the doctor, carefully
depositing his load on a sofa, said:

"I have caught her you see.--What do you say to that? Am I a good
butterfly hunter?"



We must now go back a few days.

When Teodoro Golfin first removed the bandage for a few moments from
Pablo Penáguilas' eyes, the boy uttered a cry of terror. Every impulse
made him shrink from all he saw; he put out his hands as though by
pushing away one object he could get away farther from the rest.
Luminous space was to him like a vast void into which he felt as if he
must fall; and the instinct of self-preservation made him close his
eyes to feel himself safe. However, his father, the surgeon, and the
rest of them, persuaded him to try once more, for all were equally
anxious; he looked again, but his terror was no less. The images
of all he saw, rushed into his brain with such sudden violence and
confusion--with a sort of storm and assault, as it were--that he felt
as if they were falling upon him bodily. The distant mountains seemed
to lie within reach, and the persons and objects that were near him
seemed, literally, to strike his eyes.

Golfin noted these phenomena with the most eager interest; this was
the second case of cure of congenital blindness which he had had the
opportunity of studying. The others hardly dared to be glad; they
were so bewildered and alarmed by the agitating effects produced on
the patient by the first exercise of the function of sight. To Pablo
himself it was a series of delightful experiments. His nerves and his
imagination were so seriously excited the surgeon thought it prudent to
compel him to rest.

"Now," he said, smiling, "you have seen enough for to-day. You cannot
step out of darkness into light, into the wide domain of the sun, as
you would walk into a theatre. This is a new birth, with pain as well
as joy in it."

Presently the young fellow was so eager to try his newly-found power
once more, that Golfin consented to open a crack, as it were, upon the
outer world.

"My whole mind," said Pablo, trying to explain his first impressions,
"seems bathed in beauty--a beauty I had never dreamed of before. What
were the things which rushed in upon me and filled me with terror? It
was the sense of size, of space, which I had never before conceived
of but in a very imperfect manner, and which dawned upon me clear and
terrible; as if I were being dragged up to the highest mountains and
down to the deepest abyss. It is all grand and beautiful, but it makes
me tremble. But I want to feel it all once more. All the glory and
loveliness that I gazed at has made me feel bewildered and humbled; it
was like some serene and majestic presence bending down to meet me.
The whole universe seemed to be rushing towards me and I was startled
and terror stricken--the sky looked like a vast space, watching,
listening--I cannot put it into words.--It was vacancy, but strangely
full of expression. All that landscape of sky and mountains looked at
me, came down upon me--but it was all so cold, and grand, and stern.
Let me see something delicate, something gentle and lovable--Nela!
Where is Nela?"

Golfin once more relieved him of the bandage, and giving him a pair of
suitable spectacles, he left him free to look about him.

"Oh! is that Nela! Merciful Heaven!" exclaimed Pablo enchanted.

"This is your cousin Florentina."

"Ah!" said the lad, coloring with confusion.

"That is my cousin. I had no idea any person could be so
beautiful.--Oh! thank God for giving me the faculty which enables me to
see anything so lovely. Cousin Florentina, you are like the most lovely
music--like the most perfect embodiment of some delicious harmony.--And
Nela, where is she?"

"You will have time enough to see her," said Don Francisco delighted.
"Try now to be calm."

"Florentina, Florentina!" repeated Pablo excitedly. "What is it in your
face that makes me feel as if the spirit of God himself was shining
through it? You stand in the midst of a glory which must, to be sure,
be the sun. Beams, rays seem to shine from your face.--Ah! at last I
know what the angels are like--and your dress, your hands, your hair,
seem to fill me with some new and strange sensation. What is it?"

"He is beginning to see color," muttered Golfin to himself. "He perhaps
perceives every object surrounded by the colors of the spectrum. But he
cannot estimate degrees of distance."

"I seem to have you inside my eyes," Pablo went on. "You seem to have
become part of my thoughts, and the sight of you comes upon me like a
memory; but a memory of what? I never saw any thing or any body before.
Can I have lived before I came into this world? I know not--but I knew
your eyes. And you, father--where are you? I have seen you--yes I have
pictured you too--you are just what I have loved. And now my uncle? You
are very much alike.--And where, where is that dear good Golfin?--bless

"Here, minding my patient," said the surgeon coming forward. "Here I am
as ugly as sin.--As you have never seen a lion or a Newfoundland dog,
you can have no idea of my style of beauty. They say I am exactly like
those two noble beasts."

"All good kind souls!..." said Pablo.

"But my cousin is the prettiest--oh! infinitely the prettiest. But
Nela, for pity's sake, where is Nela?"

They told him that his _lazarillo_ never came to the house, and that
they had been too busy to go to look for her, and he was extremely
distressed at this intelligence. They succeeded in soothing him, and as
they feared he might become feverish, they persuaded him to go to bed
and try to sleep.

The next day he was in a state of great prostration, but his vigorous
nature triumphed over everything. He begged to have a glass of water
and when he saw it, he exclaimed: "I feel as I were drinking at the
mere sight of water."

His expressions were equally vivid and picturesque about everything he
saw which struck his fancy strongly. After correcting the defective
sphericity of the eye by means of glasses, which he tried one after
another, Golfin began to direct his attention to the differences and
combinations of colors, and the young man's sound mind and taste never
failed in distinguishing the ugly from the beautiful. Indeed, he felt
these two attributes as two absolute and distinct ideas, without
connecting them in any way with any notion of utility or, on the other
hand, of goodness. A butterfly which flew by accident into his room
enchanted him, but an ink-bottle he thought simply horrible, though
his father explained to him that it could not be otherwise, since its
use was to hold ink to write with. When he was shown two prints, one
of the Crucifixion, and one of Galatea riding in a shell and escorted
by Tritons and Nymphs, he preferred the second--which was a great
scandal to Florentina, who promised herself that she would teach him
to hold sacred things far above everything profane. He watched their
faces with the keenest attention, and the wonderful coincidence of
facial expression with language astonished him excessively. When he
saw the maids and other women about the place, he was greatly annoyed
if they were ugly or commonplace; indeed, his cousin's beauty made
him indifferent to any other woman. In spite of this he wanted to see
them all; his curiosity was like a raging thirst which nothing could
satisfy. Every day he was disappointed at never seeing Nela; but he was
so fond of Florentina that he could not bear her to leave him for a

On the third day Golfin said to him: "You have now made acquaintance
with a great many things--the marvels of this visible world. Now--you
must see yourself."

He brought a mirror, and Pablo looked in it.

"That is I!" he exclaimed with simple admiration. "It is difficult to
believe it. How have I come inside that hard still sheet of water?
What a wonderful thing glass is! It seems as if it could not be true
that men made that stony atmosphere.--My word! but I am not an ugly
fellow!--What do you say cousin? And you, when you look in this, do you
see yourself as pretty as you are? No, impossible. Look up into the sky
and you will find your image there. You may believe you see an angel
when you only look at yourself!"

That evening, when he was alone with her and she was giving him some
little help he needed as an invalid, Pablo said to her:

"Cousin, my father read me, I remember, a passage in history about
Christopher Columbus who discovered a New World, which no European had
ever seen before. That navigator opened the eyes of the Old World, so
that they saw another and more beautiful one. I cannot help thinking
of him as a man like Teodoro Golfin, and of Europe as a blind man to
whom America and its wonders were like a revelation of light. Well,
and I have seen a New World.--You are my America, you are that first
and lovely island where Columbus set foot on land. He never saw the
continent, with its vast forests and immense rivers, and I too perhaps
have not yet seen what is loveliest of all...." He broke off and sat
sunk in thought; then presently he asked:

"Where is Nela?"

"I cannot think what has come over the poor child," said Florentina. "I
suppose she does not wish to see you."

"She is bashful and very shy," replied Pablo: "She is afraid of
troubling us in the house. Florentina, I must tell you--in confidence,
that I love her dearly; you will love her too. I have a most eager
wish to see my good little comrade and friend."

"I will go and look for her to-morrow morning myself."

"Yes, do--but do not be gone long. When I do not see you I feel very
lonely; I have become accustomed to see you, and these three days have
been centuries of happiness.--Do not rob me of a minute. Last night my
father told me that after having seen you I ought never to want to see
another woman."

"What nonsense!" exclaimed the girl blushing. "There are plenty much
prettier than I am...."

"No, no; they all say no." Pablo vehemently declared, turning his
blindfold eyes towards his cousin, as if he could see her even through
his bandages. "They used to tell me so before, and I could not believe
it; but now that I have seen the world and know what beauty is, I
believe it--yes indeed I do. You are perfectly lovely; there is no
one--there can be no one more lovely.--Give me your hand." And he
grasped it eagerly in both of his.

"I laugh now," he went on, "to think of my absurd blind man's vanity,
of my foolish attempts to realize the true aspect of things without
seeing them. I believe that as long as I live I shall never forget the
surprise that the reality was to me. Reality! Oh, the man who knows it
not is blind indeed, a perfect idiot!--Florentina I was an idiot."

"No, cousin, you were always very clever and so you are still. But do
not let your fancy work too vividly now. It will soon be time to go to
bed. Don Teodoro particularly said that I was not to let you talk so
late, because it keeps you from sleeping; if you do not keep quiet I
shall go away."

"Is it night already?"

"Yes, quite night."

"But day or night I love to talk to you," Pablo persisted, tossing over
on his bed, on which he was lying dressed and very restless. "I will be
silent on one condition, and that is that you do not go away from my
side, and that, from time to time, you pat the bed with your hand that
I may know that you are there."

"Very well, so I will, and this is the first sign of life," said
Florentina, laughing and patting the mattress.

"When I hear you laugh, I feel as if a breath of sweet fresh air blew
round me, and all my senses help in some way to remind me of you. Your
image lives in my memory so vividly, that even with my eyes bandaged I
can see you still the same."

"Will you have done chattering or must I fetch Don Teodoro?" said the
girl gaily.

"No, no--stay quiet. I cannot be silent--if I were to be silent all my
thoughts--all I can see in my brain--would only torment me twice as
much. And you want me to go to sleep! Sleep! But I have you in here,
Florentina, making a turmoil in my brain, and driving me crazy. I am so
full of joy and rapture that I have no words to express them. All last
night I fancied I was talking to you and to Nela.--Poor little Nela! I
am most curious to see her.--Desperately curious."

"Well, I will find her to-morrow. Now, have done with your talking; if
you do not cease I shall go."

"No, stop. I will only talk to myself. I will say all the things I say
to you at night when I fancy we are alone together--I will remember
what you say to me."


"Well, the things I can fancy I hear said in your voice--Now, do you be
silent, Señorita. I am alone now with my own imaginings."

The next day when Florentina came up to her cousin's room, she said:

"I brought Maraquilla up here and she ran away. Ungrateful little

"And you did not look for her?"

"Where was I to look? She ran away from me. This evening I will go out
again and hunt her till I find her."

"No, no; do not go out," said Pablo eagerly. "She will come back, she
will come of her own accord."

"She seems out of her mind."

"Does she know that I can see now?"

"I myself told her. But really I am sure she has lost her wits. She
says that I am the Holy Virgin and kisses my dress."

"That shows that you have produced the same impression on her as on
every one else. Nela is so sweet. Poor little girl! We must take care
of her, Florentina, and be kind to her--do not you think so?"

"She is ungrateful I am afraid," said Florentina sadly.

"No, never think so. Nela could not be ungrateful. She is a good
child--I am very fond of her. She must be found and brought here to

"I will go."

"No--not you," said Pablo positively, taking his cousin's hand. "Your
duty, most undutiful cousin, is to take care of me. If Golfin does not
come soon to take off my bandage and put on my glasses, I shall do it
myself. I have not seen you since yesterday, and I cannot bear it--I
cannot bear it. Is Don Teodoro come?"

"He is down stairs with your father and mine. He will come up quite
soon. Have patience; you are as bad as a school-boy."

Pablo writhed with irritation.

"Light, light!" he cried. "It is a crime to keep me in the dark so
long. I cannot live like this--I shall die. I want what is the bread
of life to me; I want the use of my eyes. I have not seen you to-day,
cousin, and I am wild to see you. I am hungry, thirsty to see you.
Oh! thank God for real knowledge! Thank God for having created you,
sweetest of women, a combination of every beauty.--And yet, if after
having created beauty, God had not given us hearts to feel it, how
imperfect his work would have been! Light! light!..."

Teodoro came up and opened the gates of the outer world to him, filling
his soul with joy, and he passed a quiet day talking of a variety of
subjects. Not till the evening did his thoughts revert to that point
in his past life, which seemed to be diminishing and fading in the
distance, like vessels which on a clear day are lost on the horizon. It
was in the tone of a man who recalls some long past circumstance, that
Pablo asked: "Has not Nela made her appearance?"

Florentina replied that she had not, and they talked of other things.

In the course of the night, at a very late hour, Pablo heard the noise
of voices in the house. He fancied he heard those of Teodoro Golfin, of
Florentina, and of his father. But after that he slept quietly, though
haunted in his dreams by the images of all he had seen and the phantoms
of all he imagined. His dreams, which began tranquilly and smilingly,
afterwards became agitated and painful, for in some deep recess of
his soul, as though it were a vast cavern suddenly lighted up, rose
a medley array of the beautiful and the hideous forms of the outside
world--of passions awakened and memories buried--convulsing his whole
soul. The following day, as Golfin had promised, he left his room to
move about the house.



The room which had been assigned to Florentina at Aldeacorba was the
pleasantest in the house. No one had used it since the death of Pablo's
mother; but Don Francisco, deeming his niece worthy to be lodged
there, had the room neatly arranged and added some little elegancies
which had been quite unknown to it in his wife's lifetime. The balcony
looked southwards and over the garden, so that the room was always
flooded with light and perfume, and cheered by the happy song of birds.
Florentina herself, during her few days' stay, had given it the stamp,
so to speak, of her own individuality; all sorts of small properties
and trifles betrayed the nature of the woman who lived in it, as you
may know a bird by its nest. If there are some persons who would make a
hell of a palace, so there are others who have only to enter a hovel to
make it a Paradise.

It was that very stormy day--I say that day, for I cannot name the
date; I only know that it was a day. It had rained all the morning;
then the sky had cleared, and at last, high above the misty whiteness
of the lower atmosphere, a rainbow threw its glorious arch. One end
rested on the oaks of Ficóbriga, close to the sea, and the other on
the woods of Saldeoro. Supreme in its simplicity the rainbow can be
compared to nothing else, any more than an absolutely ideal and typical
form can be. A rainbow is the epitome, the alpha and omega, of visible

Florentina was in her room, not threading beads, nor embroidering
satin with gold thread, but cutting out garments from patterns made
of newspaper. She was squatting on the floor, in the attitudes of a
fidgetty child at play; now sitting on her heels, now on all fours, and
plying the scissors without a moment's respite. By her side was a heap
of pieces of woollen stuff, calico, cotton print, and other materials
that she had been, that very morning, to buy at Villamojada, in spite
of wind and weather; and snipping here, and cutting there, she was fast
evolving sleeves, skirts, and bodies. They were not perhaps models of
dressmaking, nor was the exactitude of the patterns to be entirely
relied on, for they also were of her own devising; however, she would
have been the first to acknowledge their shortcomings, and she hoped
that good-will might conduce to a happy result. Her worthy father had
said to her, as he saw her sitting to work:

"Bless me, child! one would think there were no dressmakers in the
world. You cannot imagine how it annoys me to see a young lady of good
position crawling about on the floor with shears in her hands.--It
is not at all the right thing. I cannot bear that you should work to
clothe yourself even, and am I to submit to see you working for others?
What are dressmakers for--heh? What are dressmakers for?"

"A dressmaker would do it much better than I shall," replied Florentina
laughing. "But then you see it would not be my doing, Papa; and to do
it myself is the very thing I most want."

He left her to her own devices; but not alone, for in the middle of the
alcove, between the bed and the wardrobe, stood an old-fashioned sofa
and on the sofa lay two blankets, and at one end, on a pile of pillows,
lay a weary little head. The face was haggard and colorless--asleep.
Sunk rather, in an uneasy lethargy, broken now and again by violent
starting and terrors. However, a calmer state had supervened by
mid-day, when Florentina's father came into the room again, followed by
Golfin. The surgeon went up to the sofa and leaned over Nela, watching
her face.

"She seems to be sleeping more quietly now," he said: "We must have no

"What do you think of my daughter?" said Don Manuel, laughing. "Do you
see all the trouble she is taking. Now be quite impartial, Don Teodoro:
Is there any reason why she should vex me? Honestly, when there is
no necessity for taking so much trouble, why should she do so? What
pleasure can it be to me to see my daughter wasting all I give her
for pin-money; wasting it on others; and besides this mania for low
occupations--for low occupations...."

"Let her please herself," replied Golfin, looking down admiringly at
the girl. "Every young lady has her own way of wasting her pin-money."

"And I am not to object if her charity brings her to destitution, to
bankruptcy!" exclaimed Don Manuel, marching up and down the room in
pompous indignation, with his hands in his pockets. "Besides, is there
no better method of charity than this? She wished to show her gratitude
to God for my nephew's recovery--well and good--very proper, a very
Christian feeling. But we shall see, we shall see."

He stopped in front of Nela and looked at her kindly.

"Now, would it not have been better," he said, "if, instead of
bringing this poor girl into the house, my daughter had organized
one of those grand charitable affairs, which are the fashion even at
court, and which give all the best people in society an opportunity
of displaying their good feeling? Why did you not think of holding a
lottery? We could easily have sold any number of tickets among our
friends, and have collected a handsome sum of money to give away to
charitable asylums. Why, you might have got up an association among
the gentry of Villamojada and the neighborhood, or have invited all
our acquaintance at Santa Irene de Campó to join you, and have held
meetings and collected a great deal of money.--Nay, why not have got
up a bull-fight? I would have undertaken to provide the beasts and the
men.--Or amateur theatricals?--Last night Doña Sofía and I were talking
of that very thing. Learn from her, my dear, learn from her. The poor
owe more to her than I can tell you. There are all the families who
live by the employment they get in working the lotteries--there are all
the professionals and subordinates who make money by the theatrical
performances! Oh! my dear, the paupers in the workhouse are not the
only poor! Sofía told me that they made a little fortune out of the
masked balls they gave this winter. A good deal of it was spent, of
course, in gas, in renting the theatre, in service, and so forth--still
there was a morsel of bread left for the poor after all.--But, if you
do not believe me, read the statistics, child--read the statistics."

Florentina laughed, and found no better answer than to repeat the
surgeon's apology for her:

"Every young lady has her own way of wasting her pin-money."

"But Don Teodoro," remonstrated Don Manuel, in great disgust: "You must
admit that no one else does it as my daughter does."

"I quite admit it," said Golfin with meaning, and looking at the girl:
"No one is like Florentina."

"And yet--with all her faults," said the father, drawing her to him:
"With all her faults, I love her better than my life. This little hussy
is worth her weight in gold.--Come, tell me, which do you like best,
Aldeacorba de Suso, or Santa Irene de Campó?"

"I do not dislike Aldeacorba."

"Ah! little puss. I see which way the wind blows. Do you know that at
this very moment my brother is talking seriously to his son? Family
affairs! Well, and something very good is to come of it all--look, Don
Teodoro, at my daughter's face; it is as red as roses in May. Now, I
am off to hear what my brother has to say--what my brother has to say."
And the worthy man departed.

Golfin went back to Nela.

"Did she sleep last night?" he asked.

"Very little. I heard her sobbing and crying all night. But to-night
she shall have a good bed, for which I have sent to Villamojada, and I
will put her in the little room next to mine."

"Poor little Nela!" said the doctor. "You cannot imagine what an
interest I feel in this hapless creature. Some people would laugh at
it, but we, at any rate, are not made of stone. What little we have
done to improve the condition of this poor child, ought to be done
for a large proportion of the human race. There are many thousands of
beings in the world in the same plight as Nela. Who knows them? where
are they? They are lost in the desert of society--for society has its
deserts--in the dark places of life, in the solitudes of field labor,
in mines, in factories. We pass them without even seeing them--we
give them alms, perhaps, but without knowing them.--How are we to be
cognizant of so base a class of humanity! At first Nela attracted
me because I thought that hers was an exceptional nature; but, as
I have thought more, I have felt that hers is after all only one of
the commonest cases. It is an instance of the condition to which a
highly-organized moral nature must be reduced, a nature apt for good,
apt for learning, apt for virtue, but which can never develop its
powers in the neglect and isolation to which it is condemned. They live
blind in spirit, just as Pablo Penáguilas lived blind in body, though
he possessed the latent faculty of sight."

Florentina was listening with eager sympathy and intelligence to the
surgeon's speech.

"Look at her," he went on: "There she lies; she has a beautiful fancy,
acute feelings, and can love with devotion and tenderness. She is
gifted with a remarkable aptitude for every grace of mind, while, at
the same time, she is full of the grossest superstitions; her religious
ideas are vague, monstrous, and heterodox, and her moral sense needs
guidance as much as her natural intelligence. She has had no education
but what she has been able to give herself; like a tree that gets no
nourishment but that of its own withered and fallen leaves, she owes
absolutely nothing to any one else. In all her life she has never been
taught a single lesson, never heard a word of loving counsel, nor a
precept of pious dogma; she is guided entirely by ill-understood
examples which she adapts to her own instincts and desires. Her
criticisms are all her own, and as she is full of imagination and
feeling, and the strongest native impulse of her soul is to worship
something, she has worshipped Nature, after the fashion of primitive
races. All her ideals are naturalistic--and if you do not quite
understand what I mean, dear Florentina, I must explain myself more
exactly another time.

"She has a really artistic passion for form and beauty. Her whole
nature and her affections all centre round this idea. The gifts
and graces of the mind are to her an unknown realm of beauty, a
hardly-discovered land, of which she knows only so much as some
traveller might of a new country on whose shores he had been
shipwrecked. The great news of the gospel--the greatest achievement
of the spirit of humanity--has hardly even sounded in her ears; she
has the same faint suspicion of it that Asiatic nations may have
of European culture--and if you do not quite understand me, dear
Florentina, I must explain myself more exactly another time.

"But she is very capable of making rapid progress in a short time, and
of rising to a higher level, nay to our own. Show her a little light
and she will fly across the centuries--she has wandered from the
track, and cannot see far, but give her light and she will find her
way again. No one yet has ever put the torch in her hand, for Pablo
Penáguilas, in his own ignorance of all external truth, contributed
largely but unconsciously to increase her errors. Such a fantastic
and extravagant idealist was not the best master for a nature like
hers. We must set truth before the poor child, who is like a being
raised from the dead of a remote past; we will teach her to know the
graces of the mind; we will bring her down to our own century; we will
give her soul a strength which as yet it has not, and put a noble
Christian conscience in the place of her savage naturalism and wild
superstitions. We have an admirable field to work in, a virgin soil
on which to sow the seed of centuries of growth. We may make time fly
fast over her head, showing her the truth it has revealed, and so
create a new being--for indeed, dear Florentina, it is the same thing
as creating a new being--and if you do not quite understand me, I must
explain myself more exactly another time."

Florentina, though she made no pretensions to learning, thought that
she did understand what Golfin had meant by his quaint and original
harangue. She herself was about to add some remarks on the subject; but
at that moment Nela woke. Her eyes timidly wandered round the room, and
then rested alternately on the two faces that looked down at her.

"You are not frightened?" said Florentina gently.

"Frightened--no Señora; you are very kind--and the Señor too."

"Are you not glad to be here? what are you afraid of?"

Golfin took her hand. "Speak frankly and truly," he said: "Which of us
do you like best--Florentina or me?"

Nela made no reply, and the others smiled; but the child remained
moodily grave.

"Now, listen to me, you silly little thing," the surgeon went on: "You
have to make up your mind to live with one of us. Florentina will stay
here; I shall go away. Decide for one or the other--which do you like

Marianela looked from one to the other without finding any definite
answer; finally her eyes rested on those of Golfin.

"I believe I am the man of her choice.--But that is not fair to
Florentina, Nela; she will be vexed."

The poor child smiled and, putting out a feeble hand to Florentina, she

"I do not want to vex her."

But even while she spoke she turned ashy pale; she strained her neck,
her eyes seemed starting out of her head--she was listening to a sound
that was full of terrors to her. She had heard footsteps.

"He is coming!" exclaimed Golfin, sympathizing in his patient's alarm.

"Yes, here he comes!" cried Florentina, and she flew to the door.

It was he. Pablo had opened the door and walked softly into the
room--straight in, from the habit he had acquired during years of
blindness. He came in smiling, and his eyes, freed from the bandage,
which he had himself removed, looked straight before him. They were as
yet unaccustomed to the muscular action which makes them turn, and were
hardly aware of objects lying out of the direct line of vision. It was
literally true of him--as it is of many who never were blind in their
lives--that he only saw what was directly under his eyes.

"Cousin!" said he going towards her: "Why have you not been to see me
to-day? I have had to come to look for you. Your father told me you
were doing some work for the poor--so I suppose I must forgive you."

Florentina did not know what to say; she was annoyed. Pablo had not
observed either Golfin or Nela, and Florentina, intending to keep him
from approaching the sofa, went towards the window; then, picking up
some pieces of stuff, she sat down as if she were going to sew. The
full light of the sun fell upon her, shedding a vivid glow on all
her left side and giving the most charming relief to her pretty head
with its russet brown hair. Her beauty seemed radiant; like the very
personification and incarnation of light. Her hair was somewhat in
disorder, and her thin morning dress followed the graceful lines of her
slender figure, while her simple and dignified pose was worthy of the
noblest ideals of art.

"Cousin," she said with a slight frown on her pretty brow, "Don Teodoro
has not yet given you leave to-day to take your bandage off. That is
not right."

"He will give me leave presently," said the young man laughing. "And
it cannot hurt me; I am really quite well. And if it did do me harm, I
should not care.--No, I should not care if I became blind again, after
having seen you."

"And what good would that be to you?" said Florentina reprovingly.

"I was alone in my room, my father is gone out--after speaking to me
about you. You know what he said."

"No, I know nothing about it," said the girl, with her eyes fixed on
her work.

"But I know.--My father is very kind and reasonable, and we are very
fond of each other.... Well, when my father had left me, I took off
the bandage and looked out at the fields; I saw the rainbow and I
felt quite overcome with admiration, and with religious feeling too,
Florentina--I do not know why that grand spectacle, which I had never
seen before, should have given me so intense a feeling of the harmony
of creation. I do not know why, looking at the perfect blending of
its colors, I could not help thinking of you. I do not know why, as
I saw the rainbow, I said to myself: 'I have felt this all before.'
I felt again exactly as I felt when I first saw you, Florentina, my
darling. My heart seemed ready to burst my bosom, and I could not help
crying. I cried a great deal and my tears blinded me again for a few
minutes--I called you and you did not answer--when I could see again,
the rainbow had vanished. I went to look for you, I thought you were
in the garden--I went down stairs, up stairs, and here I am. And now,
here, I find you so lovely that I feel as if I had never seen you
rightly till to-day--never till to-day, because now I have had time
to learn to compare you with others. I have seen several women, and
they are all horrible by your side. I find it hard to believe that
you have lived through the years of my blindness.--Nay, nay. What I
believe is that you came into being at the moment when light dawned
upon my comprehension; that my own mind created you at the moment when
I first was lord of the visible world. They had often told me that
there was not a living creature to compare with you, and I would not
believe it--but I believe it now, as surely as I believe in the light
of heaven!"

And as he spoke he fell on one knee.

Florentina, startled and abashed, looked up from her sewing.

"Cousin--for pity's sake!" she murmured.

"Cousin for pity's sake!" exclaimed Pablo, with frank enthusiasm.
"Why, why, are you so lovely? My father is most reasonable; I can say
nothing against his arguments or his kindness.--Florentina, do you
know I thought I could never love you; I thought I could love some
one--not you. But what can I do? Thank God my love and my reason are
one! My father, to whom I confessed my mistake; told me that I had
loved a hideous monster. But now I can say that I worship an angel. The
ignorant blind man can see, and at last pay due homage to real beauty.
And yet I cannot help trembling--do you not see me tremble?--Seeing you
I have but one desire, and that is, to take you in my arms and clasp
you to my heart, enfolding you, holding you tightly--very tightly."

And Pablo, who was now kneeling on both knees, clasped his arms across
his breast.

"Oh! I do not know what I feel!" he went on, stammering, and turning
pale with agitation. "Every day I discover some new world, Florentina.
First I discovered the world of light, to-day I have discovered
another. Is it possible that you, so lovely--so divine--are to be mine,
the wife of my heart?"

He seemed about to fall to the ground in a fainting-fit, and Florentina
leaned forward to support him. Pablo took her hand, then lifting her
wide loose sleeve, he kissed her wrist and arm with eager passion,
counting the kisses.

"One--two--three--four--ah! I am dying!"

"Be quiet, stop," cried Florentina, standing up, and making her cousin
rise too. "Doctor Golfin will you scold him."

"Your bandage on, at once!" cried Teodoro: "Go to your room and keep

The young man, in the utmost confusion turned to that side of the room
and brought his eyes to bear on the surgeon, standing by the sofa that
was covered with blankets.

"Are you here, Don Teodoro?" he said going up to him.

"Yes, I am here," said Golfin very gravely. "You ought to go back to
your room and put the bandage on again. I will go with you."

"I am perfectly well--but, of course, I will obey--only, first let me
see what is here."

He was looking at the blankets and, between them, at a ghastly head,
anything but fair to look upon. In fact Nela's nose seemed to have
become sharper, her eyes smaller, her mouth less well-formed, her face
more freckled, her hair thinner, and her forehead lower. Her eyes were
closed, she breathed with difficulty, her livid lips were parted, and
the hapless child seemed to be at her last gasp, with the look of death
on her face already.

"Ah!" exclaimed Pablo: "My father told me that Florentina had given
shelter to some poor creature. How good of her! You--poor child, you
may be thankful, for you have fallen into the hands of an angel!--Are
you ill? In my house you shall want for nothing; my cousin is the very
image of God on earth.--This poor child is very ill; is she not doctor?"

"Yes ..." said Golfin, "she must be left alone and hear no more

"Then I am gone."

Pablo put out his hand and laid it on the head which seemed to his
unaccustomed eyes the most terrible symbol of all human misery and
wretchedness. Nela raised her eyes and fixed them on her master. Pablo
felt as if they gazed at him from the depths of a tomb, so profound was
their expression of sorrow and despair; then Nela freed one hand from
beneath the coverings--a feeble, burning, rough little hand--and took
that of the young man. At her touch Pablo shuddered from head to foot,
and uttered a cry that came from his very soul.

There was a terrible pause--one of those lulls which precede the
catastrophes of life as they do the convulsions of nature, as though to
add to their solemnity.

Then, in a quavering voice that thrilled the by-standers with its
tragical sadness, Nela spoke:

"Yes, _Señorito mio_," she said, "I am Nela."

Slowly, and as if she were lifting some too heavy weight, she raised
her master's hand to her dry lips and kissed it--kissed it again--and
then, with a third attempt, her lips remained motionless on the lad's

They were all silent--looking at her. The first to break the silence
was Pablo.

"Is this you ..." he said, "you...." And the thoughts that crowded on
his mind checked his utterance of any. He would have liked to discover
some new language in which to utter them, just as he had already
discovered the two new worlds--of light, and of the love of external
beauty. He could do nothing but look at her--look at Nela and remember
that darkened world in which he had lived, his passions and the dreams
and errors of his blindness all wandering and lost in its obscurity.
Florentina, wiping away her tears, leaned over Nela to look into her
face, and Golfin, watching her and knowing too well what he saw,
exclaimed in a voice like a knell:

"It has killed her. The sight of you has killed her!"--then turning to
Pablo he said sternly: "Go, at once, to your room."

"Dying! dying so, without any cause!" cried Florentina in despair, and
laying her hand lightly on Nela's brow.

"María!" she said, "Marianela!"

She called her by her name again and again, leaning over her and
looking at her, as we might look over the margin of a well at some one
who has fallen into it and who is drowning in the depth and blackness
of its waters.

"She does not answer!" said Pablo, horror-stricken.

Golfin, watching her ebbing vitality, perceived that her pulse still
throbbed under his touch. Pablo bent over her, and putting his lips
close to her ear, he called her once more:

"Nela, Nela my friend--my dear!"

She turned a little, opened her eyes, and moved her hands. She looked
as if her spirit had returned from some far away flight. Seeing Pablo's
gaze fixed upon her with anxious curiosity, she turned aside abashed
and alarmed, and tried to hide her face as if she were a guilty thing.

"What is the matter with her?" asked Florentina vehemently. "Don
Teodoro, save her if you are a man.--If you do not save her you are a

The young girl's charitable instincts were spurring her to positive

"Nela!" repeated the lad in the deepest distress, and not yet recovered
from the shock which the sight of his little comrade had given him:
"You seem to be afraid of me--what have I done to you?"

The dying girl put out her hand to clasp Florentina's, and pressed it
to her breast, and then she did the same with Pablo's; afterwards she
once more pressed them both with all the strength she could command.
Her sunken eyes looked from one to the other, but her gaze was vague
and remote; it seemed to come from some inner depth of darkness and
despair, as though she were indeed the drowning wretch in the well,
sinking lower every instant. Suddenly her breathing became difficult;
she sighed, and clutched the two hands she held with convulsive energy.

Teodoro had turned the house upside down; had sent for medicines and
powerful stimulants, and was doing all in his power to arrest the swift
extinction of this young life.

"It is hard," he said, "to stop a drop of water that is trickling,
falling away--down, down, and within an inch or two of the great
Sea.--But I will try."

He sent away every one but Florentina, whom he kept in the room. But
the stimulants and irritants with which he endeavored to bring back
ebbing life to the frail body, only served to restore some little
muscular action, and in spite of this she was sinking every minute.

"It is cruelty!" cried Golfin desperately, as he snatched away the
mustard and the irritants. "We are tormentors and torturers. It is like
setting dogs on a dying man that the pain may keep him alive to suffer.
Away with it all!"

"And is there nothing to be done?"

"Nothing--but what God will do."

"But what is the matter with her?"

"Death!" he shouted with a delirious rage of grief, ill-befitting a
medical man.

"But what illness is it that has brought her to death?"

"Death!" he repeated.

"You do not understand me; I want to know of what...?"

"Of death.--How can I tell you whether it is shame, or jealousy, or
wounded pride, or grief, or disappointed love, that has killed her? A
strange catalogue of symptoms! No, no--we know nothing--nothing but
useless details."

"What! Doctors!"

"I tell you we know nothing--a little on the surface that is all."

"And this, what is this?"

"A sudden attack of inflammation--meningitis perhaps."

"And what is that?"

"A name.... Death!"

"But is it possible that any one should die--like this--without any
known cause, without any sort of disease? Oh! Don Teodoro, what is the
matter with her?"

"How should I know?"

"But you are a doctor?"

"Of eyes--not of passions."

"Passions!" exclaimed Florentina, looking down at the senseless girl.
"You--poor child--what passions are you dying of?"

"Ask your future husband."

Florentina stood lost in utter amazement.

"Poor thing!" she cried with a choked sob. "Can mere grief kill in this

"When I picked her up at _la Trascava_ she was in a high fever."

"But that is not enough; no, not enough to kill her!"

"You say it is not enough. God and Nature say that it is."

"It is as if she had been stabbed."

"Remember what those eyes--now closing forever--saw a short while
since. Remember that a blind man loved her and that he is blind no
longer; that he has seen her--seen her! The shock was a death-blow...."

"Oh what a terrible mysterious...."

"No, it is no mystery," cried the surgeon, almost wildly. "It is the
awful collapse of an illusion; the rude blow of reality; the miserable
destroyer which has come between two noble souls. And I--I brought that
reality home to them!"

"Oh it is a wretched mystery!" repeated Florentina, not understanding
the current of his thoughts.

"A mystery? No," repeated Teodoro with increasing agitation: "It is
bare reality; the sudden swallowing up of a whole world of illusions.
Reality to him meant a new life--to her, anguish, suffocation,
humiliation, sorrow, contempt, an empty life, jealousy,--Death!"

"And all for...."

"And all for one pair of eyes opened to see light--and reality.
Reality! I cannot get the word out of my brain. It seems to be written
there in letters of fire."

"All for one pair of eyes.--And grief can kill so quickly--without
giving us time to try a remedy?"

"I do not know," said Golfin, bewildered, confounded, helpless, in view
of the mystic characters of the Book of Life and Death, which science
may pore over but may not decipher its dark riddle.

"You do not know!" cried Florentina desperately. "Then why are you a

"I do not know, I do not know!" he reiterated, striking his dishevelled
head with his heavy hands.--"Yes, one thing I know, and that is that we
know nothing but the skin-deep phenomena of life. I--I am a mender of
eyes and nothing more."

He fixed his gaze with absorbed attention on the little figure which
was hovering on the border-land between a living woman and a corpse.
"Soul!" he exclaimed in a tone of bitter questioning: "What is passing
in you now?"

Florentina burst into tears.

"The soul!" she murmured, and her head drooped on her breast: "It is

"No ..." said Teodoro, taking Nela's hand. "There is still some life
left--but so little, that it would seem as if the soul were indeed far
away and had left only the breath behind."

"Lord have mercy!" exclaimed the young girl and began to pray.

"Alas! hapless spirit!" murmured the surgeon. "You were but ill-lodged

They both bent over her, watching her closely.

"Her lips are moving," cried Florentina. "She is speaking."

Yes, her lips parted; she said something--a word, two, three.

"What is she saying?" each asked the other; but neither of them could
understand her.

She spoke perhaps in the tongue that is known to those who live the
life eternal.

This was the end; her lips moved no more; they remained half-open
showing a row of little white teeth. Teodoro bent over her and, kissing
Nela's forehead, he said in a steady voice:

"Woman, you did well to quit this world." But Florentina's voice was
choked with tears and sobs as she said: "I wanted to make her happy,
and she would not be."



Strange and wonderful to tell! Nela, who had never in her life had a
room, nor clothes, nor shoes, nor food, nor sympathy, nor relations,
nor any earthly thing of her own, not even a name--was buried in
a style which caused no small amount of envy among the living in
Socartes. This posthumous splendor was the bitterest irony ever known
in these metalliferous regions. Señorita Florentina, acting on her
generous impulses, consoled herself for the disappointment of not
having been able to help Nela alive, by the satisfaction of doing honor
to her hapless remains after death. Some hard-hearted materialists
criticised her severely; but, for our part, we regarded it as an
additional proof of her refined kind-heartedness.

When Nela was carried to the grave, the curious who came to gaze at
her, thought her almost pretty--wonderful to say! At least so they
said. It was the first time a compliment had ever been paid her. The
funeral was magnificent, and the priests of Villamojada opened their
mouths wide in astonishment when they found themselves receiving money
to pray for the soul of La Canela's daughter. It was bewildering,
amazing, to think that a being whose social importance had been about
equal to that of a worm or a fly, should prove the occasion of so much
burning of tapers, of so much hanging of drapery, and of making so many
choristers and sacristans hoarse. Nay, it was so astounding as to be
positively amusing; nothing else was talked of for at least six weeks.

The surprise, and indeed--to be frank--the indignation of this worthy
little world, culminated one day when two waggons, loaded with enormous
blocks of fine white stone, were descried approaching by the high-road.
In Señana's mind, particularly, a hideous subversion of ideas took
place, a cataclysm resulting in mental chaos, when she brought herself
to believe that those fine white stones were to build Nela's tomb. If
an ox had taken to flying or her husband to making speeches, it could
not have roused her from her stupefaction.

The parish registers of Villamojada were searched, for of course it
was indispensable that she should have a name now she was dead, though
she had done without one during her life; as is proved by this very
history, where she has borne various names. And this indispensable
requisite having been found, and duly placed on the records of the
dead, the magnificent tomb, which stood up proudly among the rustic
crosses of the graveyard at Aldeacorba, had this epitaph engraved on it:

         R. I. P.



  October the 12th, 186 ...

And a wreath of flowers prettily carved in the marble, crowned the
inscription. Many months later, when Florentina and Pablo Penáguilas
had been some time married and no one--to tell the truth, for truth is
the first consideration--no one in Aldeacorba de Suso remembered Nela
any longer, some travellers of the tourist genus, in crossing that part
of the country, happened to observe the grand marble sepulchre erected
in the cemetery by the piety and affection of an exemplary friend,
and were struck with admiration. Without more ado they proceeded to
write down in their note-book these remarks, which were subsequently
published under the title of "Sketches from Cantábria," in an English

"The most remarkable object to be seen at Aldeacorba is a magnificent
monument, erected in the cemetery over the grave of a young lady of
rank, famous in that part of the country for her beauty. Doña Mariquita
Manuela Tellez belonged to one of the noblest and wealthiest families
in Cantábria, that of Tellez Giron y de Trastamara. Witty, romantic,
and capricious, she took a fancy to wander about the roads, playing
the guitar and singing Calderon's odes, and she would dress herself up
in rags to enable her to mix with the herd of beggars, pick-pockets,
troubadours, bull-fighters, friars, _hidalgos_, gypsies, and muleteers,
which at the great _kermesas_, constitute that motley scene of Spanish
low life which still exists and always must exist, independent and
picturesque, in spite of the railways and newspapers which have begun
to force their way into the Spanish Peninsula.

"The _abad_[6] of Villamojada wept as he told us of the whims, the
virtues, and the beauty of this wealthy gentlewoman, who, whenever
she appeared at the balls, banquets, or _cañas_ of Madrid, was
distinguished for her aristocratic deportment. The number of
_romanceros_, sonnets and madrigals composed in honor of this noble
damsel by all the Spanish poets, is beyond all calculation."[7]

On reading this I saw at once that the worthy reporters had dreamed
dreams. I determined to tell the truth, and the truth, as I have told
it, has resulted in this book.

       *       *       *       *       *

We must now bid farewell forever to this tomb. We will fix our eyes on
another object, seek out another figure--searching diligently, for he
whom we want is but a small personage, a minute insect, as it were, no
larger on the face of the earth than the Phylloxera on the vine. But we
have found him--there he is, tiny, squalid, a mere atomy. But he lives
and breathes, and will grow great in time. Listen to his story, for it
is an interesting one I promise you.

Well, Sir....

But no; it does not belong to this book. If you like the history of
Marianela, in good time you shall hear that of Celipin.



[1] "Es tan linda su boca que no pide."

[2] A Spanish silver coin, equal in value to the U. S. dollar.

[3] A silver coin containing two reales.

[4] The copper piece is a _cuarto_. A _real_ contains 34 _maravedis_
and is worth about the same as the U. S. dime. The smallest Spanish
coin is the _maravedi_. Four _maravedis_ make a _cuarto_.

[5] Trunkmaker's street.

[6] In some provinces the rector of a parish.

[7] The point of this passage in the original is the misuse of Spanish
words and the introduction of others which are not Spanish. Thus
_Hidalgo_ means a nobleman; and _Kermesas_, Fr., _Kermesse_, Dutch,
_Kermis_, is a name for a fair peculiar to Holland and Belgium.



=THE EMPEROR.= A Romance, by Georg Ebers, translated by Clara Bell.
Authorized edition, in two vols.

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=AN EGYPTIAN PRINCESS.= By Georg Ebers, translated by Eleanor Grove.
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=UARDA.= A Romance of Ancient Egypt, by Georg Ebers, translated by
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=HOMO SUM.= A Novel, by Georg Ebers, translated by Clara Bell.
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  From the Spanish by CLARA BELL.

"Señor Perez Galdós is one of the new lights of Spanish literature.
He comes very near to being a great novelist; and he certainly is a
novelist of exceptional power. What he can do, and also what he cannot
do, is shown to English readers in his 'Gloria,' translated by Clara
Bell. This story is a presentation of existing social, religious and
political conditions in Spain; and as a photograph it is a brilliant
success."--_Phila. Times, April 30, 1882._

"The Spain which Señor Galdós paints is still the Spain of Sancho
Panza, and the spirit of Cervantes is visible in his description of the
sacred images in the Chapel."--_The Press, Phila., April 11, 1882._

"The literary style of the book is worthy of study. The character
drawings are good, the descriptive passages excellent, and there is an
exuberance of diction and a richness of simile and comparison that is
essentially Spanish."--_Boston Post, March 20, 1882._


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  Ernst Eckstein

  From the German by CLARA BELL

  =Containing nearly 600 Historical Notes and References.=

"We owe to Eckstein the brilliant romance of 'Quintus Claudius,' which
Clara Bell has done well to translate for us, for it is worthy of place
beside the Emperor of Ebers and the Aspasia of Hamerling. It is a
story of Rome in the reign of Domitian, and the most noted characters
of the time figure in its pages, which are a series of picturesque
descriptions of Roman life and manners in the imperial city, and in
those luxurious retreats at Baiae and elsewhere to which the wealthy
Romans used to retreat from the heats of summer. It is full of stirring
scenes in the streets, in the palaces, in the temples, and in the
amphitheatre, and the actors therein represent every phase of Roman
character, from the treacherous and cowardly Domitian and the vile
Domitia down to the secret gatherings of the new sect and their exit
from life in the blood-soaked sands of the arena, where they were torn
in pieces by the beasts of the desert. The life and the manners of all
classes at this period were never painted with a bolder pencil than by
Eckstein in this masterly romance, which displays as much scholarship
as invention._--Mail and Express, N. Y., Dec. 1, 1882._

"_A new Romance of Ancient Times!_ The success of Ernst Eckstein's
new novel, 'Quintus Claudius,' which recently appeared in Vienna, may
fairly be called phenomenal, critics and the public unite in praising
the work."--_Grazer Morgenpost._

"'Quintus Claudius' is a finished work of art, capable of bearing any
analysis, a literary production teeming with instruction and interest,
full of plastic forms, and rich in the most dramatic changes of
mood."--_Pester Lloyd._


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  From the German by MARY J. SAFFORD


"'Aspasia' is a poem, which seems to have been accidentally clad in
the garb of prose. Every portion of it is permeated and transfigured
by the loftiest ideas of humanity. Yet what we particularly admire
in this brilliant work is the great skill with which the Greek local
coloring is reproduced. Hamerling, in this, his latest creation, proves
himself to be a delineator of mankind par excellence. The description
of characters is as truthful as it is interesting. 'Aspasia' is a
historical picture; for the incidents and persons within the limits
of the story are in the main historical, only the minor accessories
being imaginary. The whole action revolves about the central figure
of 'Aspasia,' who stands forth with majestic grandeur. No reader will
be able to escape the lofty, poetic charm of the book."--_Europa_,

"It is one of the great excellencies of this romance, this lofty song
of the genius of the Greeks, that it is composed with perfect artistic
symmetry in the treatment of the different parts, and from the first
word to the last is thoroughly harmonious in tone and coloring.
Therefore, in 'Aspasia,' we are given a book, which could only proceed
from the union of an artistic nature and a thoughtful mind--a book
that does not depict fiery passions in dramatic conflict, but with
dignified composure, leads the conflict therein described to the final
catastrophe."--_Allgemeine Zeitung._ (Augsburg).


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  From the German by MARY J. Safford.

"Antinous, a Romance of Ancient Rome, from the German of George Taylor,
by Mary J. Safford, is one of those faithful reproductions of ancient
manners, customs and scenery which German authors are so fond of
writing, and in which they are so wonderfully successful. The story
deals with the old age of the Emperor Hadrian and with his favorite
Antinous. The recital is full of power, and is extraordinary in its
vividly realistic drawing of character. Though a minutely close study
of historical detail, it is spirited in the telling and of absorbing
interest in the plot and descriptions. The era and the personages
stand out with stereoscopic clearness. Nothing could be finer than
the portrait of the melancholy Hadrian and its beautifully-contrasted
fellow picture, the sorrowful Antinous. The book is one that appeals to
every cultivated taste, and overflows with interest of the most refined
description."--_Saturday Evening Gazette, Boston, July 1, 1882._


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"We have before us an excellent specimen of the better class of French
novels. It is 'Eliane,' by Madame Augustus Craven. It illustrates in a
very charming way the various results of the French system of making
courtships and marriages. The book is a very charming one, which we
have read with pleasure."--_The Mail, Toronto, Aug. 11, 1882._

"It is not only pure, but is, we believe, a trustworthy description of
the dignified French life of which it is a picture. 'Eliane' is one of
the very best novels we have read for one or two seasons past."--_The
American Lit. Churchman, Baltimore, August 1, 1882._

"'Eliane' is interesting, not only because it is such a record of the
best kind of French life and manners as could only have been written
by a person thoroughly at home in the subject, but also because of the
delicate drawing of character which it contains. The book is quiet in
tone, and may fail to please readers who care for nothing but incident;
but there are, it may be hoped, still many readers to whom its grace
and fine style will recommend it."--_London Sat. Review, June 3, 1882._


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  The Eleventh Commandment




  From the Italian by Clara Bell

"It is an attractive little novel, spirited in plot, and marked by
a charming grace in the telling. It is at once bright, witty and
delicate, is simple in design, but has a marked dramatic interest. The
characters are brilliantly sketched, the dialogue is spirited, and
there is an unconventionality in the work as a whole that makes it
thoroughly delightful reading."--_Boston Saturday Evening Gazette, May
28, 1882._

"There is more to the work than appears on the surface, many passages
being fruitful subjects for psychological meditation. The characters
are all well drawn, especially those of the serious-minded prior, the
obese and tractable uncle, and the grandiloquent sub-prefect. The
author is an unusually good painter of human nature, and the ease and
naturalness of his style is refreshing. No fault is to be found with
the translation."--_Boston Evening Transcript, May 20, 1882._


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  A Whimsical Wooing


  ANTON GIULIO BARRILI Author of "The Eleventh Commandment."


"Some months ago we had occasion to praise a pleasant novel of modern
Italian life by the author of the above story. The present is not
less deserving of praise. It is just the very thing to play as an
afterpiece. Cast into purely dramatic form indeed, without any change
at all--it would form a sparkling little comedietta for a private
theatrical party. The little volume is most charming; it is very brief,
but every line sparkles; and we find it all too short."--_Toronto Mail._

"'A Whimsical Wooing' is the richly-expressive title under which 'Clara
Bell' introduces a cleverly-narrated episode by Anton Guilio Barrili
to American readers. It is a sketch of Italian life, at once rich and
strong, but nevertheless discreet in sentiment and graceful in diction.
It is the old story of the fallacy of trusting to a proxy in love
matters."--_Boston Post._


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  From the German by S. BARING-GOULD.

"'Ernestine' is a work of positive genius. An English critic has
likened the conception of the heroine in her childhood to George
Eliot's Maggie Tulliver, and truly there is a certain resemblance; but
there is in the piece a much stronger suggestion of George Eliot's
calm mastery of the secret springs of human action, and George Eliot's
gift of laying bare the life of a human soul, than of likeness between
particulars, characters or situations here and those with which we are
familiar in George Eliot's work."--_New York Evening Post, Feb. 17,

"Ernestine in her childhood somewhat reminds us of Maggie Tulliver
in the Mill on the Floss, and in her maidenhood of Mr. Tennyson's
Princess. For many a year as child and woman she grieved that she had
not been born a man. In fact, she was a downright and fearless champion
of woman's rights. But in the end she yields, and as we take leave of
her, we hear her saying to her husband, 'I thank God that I am a woman
and that I am yours.' Very pretty, though perhaps too sad, are the
opening scenes in which we first make her acquaintance."

"There are many humorous touches throughout the work which afford a
pleasant relief to the more pathetic portions."

"In fact, in many places as we read the story, we saw that it would
easily adapt itself to the purposes of the dramatist."--_London Saturday


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  From the German by CLARA BELL.

"_The Hour Will Come: A Tale of an Alpine Cloister_, by Wilhelmine von
Hillern, is a charming story, perhaps somewhat old-fashioned in regard
to plot, but gracefully and thoughtfully written, and full of interest
in its admirable painting of character. It has a fine local color, and
its descriptions are strikingly vivid and picturesque. It belongs to
the best class of modern German fiction, and will be read with pleasure
and satisfaction by every person of taste. The translation, by Clara
Bell, may be warmly praised for its spirit and its easy flow."--_Boston
Saturday Evening Gazette, Oct. 9, 1880._

"_The Hour Will Come_" is the title of a translation by Miss Clara Bell
from the German original of Wilhelmine von Hillern, author of that
beautiful romance "Geier-Wally." "The Hour Will Come" is hardly less
interesting, its plot being one of the strongest and most pathetic
that could well be imagined. The time is the Middle Ages, and Miss Von
Hillern has achieved a remarkable success in reproducing the rudeness,
the picturesqueness and the sombre coloring of those days. Those who
take up "The Hour Will Come" will not care to lay it down again until
they have read it through.--_Baltimore Gazette, Wednesday, October 13,


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  From the German by MARY J. SAFFORD

"Mary J. Safford translates acceptably a very charming short story
from the German of Wilhelmine von Hillern. If it was not told by the
sacristan of Breisach, it deserves to have been. It has the full flavor
of old German and English love tales, such as have been crystallized
in the old ballads. The Emperor, the gifted boy, his struggles with
the stupidity of his townsmen, his apparently hopeless love above him;
these form the old delightful scene, set in a Düreresque border. There
are touches here and there which refer to the present. The sixteenth
century tale has a political moral that will appeal to Germans who
believe that Alsatia, once German in heart as well as in tongue, ought
to be held by force to the Fatherland till she forgets her beloved
France."--_N. Y. Times, Dec. 4th, 1881._


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It is not difficult to explain why "Ranthorpe" was not a success in the
ordinary sense of a popular novel; but the explanation will probably
give the reason why it has been since recalled to the attention of the
reading world. It was of too didactic a quality to suit the tastes of
novel-readers in search of mere sensation. It is full of moralizings,
and, although the topics are secular enough, it is rather preachy.
But there is a good deal of wisdom in it that is not without its use.
The hero of the book runs a literary career, goes first into poetry
and fails, then into the drama, and his tragedy is d----d. The main
interest of the volume is in the copious side discussions on the causes
of failure in literary adventure, and we have a vivid and readable
illustration of ideas which the author subsequently developed in his
review articles on "The Principles of Success in Literature." From this
point of view the book is instructive, while the plot keeps up the
reader's interest in the usual way.--_The Popular Science Monthly._


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  Learning Spanish



"Spanish is not under any circumstances a difficult language to
learn. It has in its construction and pronunciation an encouraging
directness very unlike the grammatical involutions of German and the
delicate sound-shadings of French. Working in accordance with the
rules of almost any 'system,' a diligent student can in a very little
while acquire a fair mastery of the language; though it is true that
some of the 'systems' are much more difficult than others. One of the
simplest and best of them all is 'A Practical Method for Learning
Spanish,' by Señor A. Ramos Diaz de Villegas, just now published by
William S. Gottsberger, New York. The 'method' of Señor de Villegas
comprehends a collection of anecdotes arranged in short lines with an
English translation, similarly arranged, on the corresponding opposite
page; familiar phrases, with idiomatic renderings in English in
parallel columns; a vocabulary of words in common use, and a complete
list of the Spanish irregular verbs. It will be observed that this
method hardly can be called original; that it is more or less that of
Morales, of Velazquez, of Prendergast, and that some of its features
are found in Ollendorff and in Ahn; but in simplicity of arrangement
and directness of purpose it is superior to all of these--Prendergast
possibly excepted. It certainly is what it is called--a practical
method for learning Spanish. With a relatively small outlay of mental
exertion it produces exceptionally good results."--_Philadelphia Times,
June 24, 1882._

One Vol., 12mo.--Price 75 Cents.

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       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes

Spelling and hyphenation have been retained as in the original
publication, except as follows:

Obvious punctuation errors and typos repaired:

Page 1, "a sleepy world died gently away" replaced by "a sleepy world
died gently away."

Page 4, "What am I to do? out there" replaced by "What am I to do? Out

Page 5, "What have we here?...." replaced by "What have we here? ..."

Page 6, "wait a minute!...." replaced by "wait a minute! ..."

Page 7, "Choto, Choto!...." replaced by "Choto, Choto!..."

Page 16, "the infinite sepulchre of the ocean" replaced by "the
infinite sepulchre of the ocean."

Page 17, "your throat?...." replaced by "your throat?..."

Page 43, '!--Oh dear, oh dear!"...' replaced by '!--Oh dear, oh
dear!" ...'

Page 44, "I....no." replaced by "I ... no."

Page 57, "and as she eat" replaced by "and as she ate"

Page 70, "Those lovely things....?" replaced by "Those lovely things...?"

Page 95, "very, very dearly.." replaced by "very, very dearly...."

Page 115, removed new paragraph between "But what is this?" and "Blood?"

Page 135, "Well, if....?" replaced by "Well, if...?"

Page 138, "Ah....! Look here the" replaced by "Ah...! Look here the"

Page 141, '"Good, good!" cried Nela, delighted, "But' replaced by
'"Good, good!" cried Nela, delighted. "But'

Page 182, "respected woman!...." replaced by "respected woman!..."

Page 183, "Centenc's house" replaced by "Centeno's house"

Page 213, "make you promises?...." replaced by "make you promises?..."

Page 224, "All good kind souls!...." replaced by "All good kind souls!..."

Page 246, "'And it cannot hurt me" replaced by '"And it cannot hurt me'

Page 253, "you are a charlatan!...." replaced by "you are a charlatan!..."

Page 258, '"It is fled!'' replaced by '"It is fled!"'

Page 262, "October the 12th, 186..." replaced by "October the 12th,

Advertisement: QUINTUS CLAUDIUS "--Grazer Morgenpost," replaced by
"--Grazer Morgenpost."

Advertisement ERNESTINE 'purposes of the dramatist' replaced by
'purposes of the dramatist"'

Advertisement: A TALE OF AN ALPINE CLOISTER "The Hour Will Come;"
replaced by "The Hour Will Come:"

"they have read it through" replaced by "they have read it through."

Advertisement: AN ART LEGEND OF ANCIENT TIMES "25 cents," replaced by
"25 cents."


Advertisement: RANTHORPE "Bet there is" replaced by "But there is"

"40 cents," replaced by "40 cents."

Words written in two different ways:

birdlike/bird-like; "bird-like" was regularized to "birdlike".

tramway/tram-way; "tramway" was regularized to "tram-way".

_La terrible_/La terrible; "_La terrible_" was regularized to "La
Terrible" -no italics-.

Carlos/Cárlos; "Carlos" was regularized to "Cárlos".

Maria/María; "Maria" was regularized to "María".

Socarte/Socartes; "Socarte" was regularized to "Socartes".



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+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.