by Juan Valera
List of Characters
DON LUIS DE VARGAS, an aspirant to the priesthood.
DON PEDRO, his father.
THE DEAN, his uncle.
DOÑA CASILDA, his aunt.
CURRITO, his cousin.
PEPITA JIMÉNEZ, a beautiful young heiress, widow of
DON GUMERSINDO, her uncle.
ANTOÑONA, her nurse and housekeeper.
The husband of Antoñona.
THE COUNT OF GENAZAHAR, former suitor to Pepita.
A Captain of cavalry.
Author's Preface to the First
To the MESSRS. APPLETON: Gentlemen:-IT was my intention to write a
preface for the purpose of authorizing the edition you are about to
publish in English of "Pepita Jiménez"; but, on thinking the matter
over, I was deterred by the recollection of an anecdote that I heard in
my young days.
A certain gallant, wishing to be presented at the house of a rich
man who was about to give a magnificent ball, availed himself for that
purpose of the services of a friend, who boasted of his familiarity
with the great man, and of the favor he enjoyed with him. They
proceeded to the great man's house, and the gallant got his
introduction; but the great man said to him who had introduced the
other: "And you, who is to introduce you, for I am not acquainted with
you?" As I entertain a profound respect and affection for this country,
and have not, besides, the assurance that such an occasion would
require, it would not do for me to say what the introducer of my story
is said to have answered: "I need no one to introduce or to recommend
me, for I am just now going away."
I infer from my story, as its evident moral, that I ought to
refrain from addressing the public of the United States, to which I am
entirely unknown as an author, notwithstanding the fact of my having
maintained pleasant and friendly relations with its Government as the
representative of my own.
The most judicious and prudent course I can adopt, then, is to
limit myself to returning you earnest thanks for asking from me an
authorization of which you did not stand in need, either by law or by
treaty, for wishing to make known to your countrymen the least insipid
of the products of my unfruitful genius, and for your generous purpose
of conceding to me author's rights.
This, however, does not preclude the fact that, in thus expressing
my thanks to you publicly, I incur a responsibility which I did not
assume on any other occasion, either in Germany, Italy, or any other
country where my works have been translated; for then, if they failed
to please the public, although the fact might pain me, I could still
shrug my shoulders, and throw the blame of failure on the translator,
or the publisher; but in this case I make myself your accomplice, and
share or rather receive, all the disgrace of failure, if failure there
"Pepita Jiménez" has enjoyed a wide celebrity, not only in Spain,
but in every other Spanish-speaking country. I am very far from
thinking that we Spaniards of the present day are either more easily
satisfied, less cultured than, or possessed of an inferior literary
taste to, the inhabitants of any other region of the globe; but this
does not suffice to dispel my misgivings that my novel may be received
with indifference or with censure by a public somewhat prejudiced
against Spain by fanciful and injurious preconceptions.
My novel, both in essence and form, is distinctively national and
classic. Its merits-supposing it to have such-consist in the language
and the style, and not in the incidents, which are of the most
commonplace, or in the plot, which, if it can be said to have any, is
of the simplest.
The characters are not wanting, as I think, in individuality, or in
such truth to human nature as makes them seem like living beings; but,
the action being so slight, this is brought out and made manifest by
means of a subtle analysis, and by the language chosen to express the
emotions, both of which may in the translation be lost. There is,
besides, in my novel a certain irony, good-humored and frank, and a
certain humor, resembling rather the humor of the English than the
esprit of the French, which qualities, although happily they do not
depend upon puns, or a play upon words, but are in the subject itself,
require, in order that they may appear in the translation, that this
should be made with extreme care.
In conclusion, the chief cause of the extraordinary favor with
which "Pepita Jiménez" was received in Spain is something that may fail
to be noticed here by careless readers.
I am an advocate of art for art's sake. I think it is very bad
taste, always impertinent, and often pedantic, to attempt to prove
theses by writing stories. For such a purpose dissertations or books
purely and severely didactic should be written. The object of a novel
should be to charm, through a faithful representation of human actions
and human passions, and to create by this fidelity to nature a
beautiful work. The object of art is the creation of the beautiful, and
whoever applies it to any other end, of however great utility this end
may be, debases it. But it may chance, through a conjunction of
favorable circumstances, by a happy inspiration-because in a given
moment everything is disposed as by enchantment, or by supernatural
influences-that an author's soul may become like a clear and magic
mirror wherein are reflected all the ideas and all the sentiments that
animate the eclectic spirit of his country, and in which these ideas
and these sentiments lose their discordance, and group and combine
themselves in pleasing agreement and harmony.
Herein is the explanation of the interest of "Pepita Jiménez." It
was written when Spain was agitated to its centre, and everything was
thrown out of its regular course by a radical revolution that at the
same time shook to their foundations the throne and religious unity. It
was written when everything in fusion, like molten metal, might readily
amalgamate, and be molded into new forms. It was written when the
strife raged fiercest between ancient and modern ideals; and, finally,
it was written in all the plenitude of my powers, when my soul was
sanest and most joyful in the possession of an enviable optimism and an
all-embracing love and sympathy for humanity that, to my misfortune,
can never again find place within my breast.
If I had endeavored by dialectics and by reasoning to conciliate
opinions and beliefs, the disapprobation would have been general; but,
as the conciliating and syncretic spirit manifested itself naturally in
a diverting story, even one accepted and approved it, each one drawing
from my book the conclusions that best suited himself. Thus it was
that, from the most orthodox Jesuit father down to the most rabid
revolutionist, and from the ultra-Catholic who cherishes the dream of
restoring the Inquisition, to the rationalist who is the irreconcilable
enemy of every religion, all were pleased with "Pepita Jiménez."
It would be curious, and not inopportune, to explain here how it
came about that I succeeded in pleasing every one without intending it,
without knowing it, and, as it were, by chance.
There was in Spain, some years ago, a conservative minister who had
sent a godson of his to study philosophy in Germany. By rare good
fortune this godson, who was called Julian Sanz del Rio, was a man of
clear and profound intelligence, of unwearied application, and endowed
with all the qualities necessary to make of him a sort of apostle. He
studied, he formulated his system, he obtained the chair of metaphysics
in the University of Madrid, and he founded a school, from which has
since issued a brilliant pleiad of philosophers and statesmen, and of
men illustrious for their learning, their eloquence, and their virtues.
Chief among them are Nicolas Salmeron, Francisco Giner, Gumersindo
Azcarate, Frederico de Castro, and Urbano Gonzalez Serrano.
The clerical party soon began to stir up strife against the master,
the scholars, and the doctrines taught by them. They accused them of
I, who had ridiculed, at times, the confused terms, the pomp of
words, and the method which the new philosophers made use of, regarded
these philosophers, nevertheless, with admiration, and took up their
defense-an almost solitary champion-in periodicals and reviews.
I had already maintained, before this, that our great dogmatic
theologians, and especially the celebrated Domingode Soto, were more
liberal than the liberal rationalists of the present day, affirming, as
they do, the sovereignty of the people by divine right; for if, as St.
Paul declares, all authority proceeds from God, it does so through the
medium of the people whom God inspires to found it; and because the
only authority that proceeds directly from God is that of the Church.
I then set myself to demonstrate that, if Sanz del Rio and his
followers were pantheists, our mystical theologians of the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries were pantheists also; and that, if the former
had for predecessors Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, and Krause, St. Theresa,
St. John de la Cruz, and the inspired and ecstatic Father Miguel de la
Fuente followed, as their model, Tauler and others of the Germans. In
saying this, however, it was not my intention to deny the claims of any
of these mystical writers as founders of their school in Spain, but
only to recognize, in this unbroken transmission of doctrine, the
progressive continuity of European civilization.
For the purpose of carrying forward my undertaking, I read and
studied with ardor every Spanish book on devotion, asceticism, and
mysticism that fell into my hands, growing every day more charmed with
the richness of our literature in such works; with the treasures of
poetry contained in them; with the boldness and independence of their
authors; with the profound and delicate observation, in which they
excel the Scottish school, that they display in examining the faculties
of the soul; and with their power of entering into themselves, of
penetrating to the very centre of the mind, in order there to behold
God, and to unite themselves with God, not therefore losing their own
personality, or their capacity for an active life, but issuing from the
ecstasies and ravishments of love more apt than before for every work
that can benefit the human species, as the steel is more finely
tempered, polished, and bright after it has burned in the fires of the
Of all this, on its most poetic and easily understood side, I
wished to give a specimen to the Spanish public of to-day, who had
forgotten it; but, as I was a man of my epoch, a layman, not very
exemplary as regards penitential practises, and had the reputation of a
freethinker, I did not venture to undertake doing this in my own name,
and I created a theological student who should do it in his. I then
fancied that I could paint with more vividness the ideas and the
feelings of this student by contrasting them with an earthly love; and
this was the origin of "Pepita Jiménez." Thus, when it was farthest
from my thoughts, did I become a novelist. My novel had, therefore, the
freshness and the spontaneity of the unpremeditated.
The novels I wrote afterward, with premeditation, are inferior to
"Pepita Jiménez" pleased the public, also, as I have said, by its
The rationalists supposed that I had rejected the old ideals, as my
hero casts off the clerical garb. And the believers, with greater
unanimity and truth, compared me with the false prophet who went forth
to curse the people of Israel, and without intending it exalted and
blessed them. What is certain is that, if it be allowable to draw any
conclusion from a story, the inference that may be deduced from mine
is, that faith in an all-seeing and personal God, and in the love of
this God, who is present in the depths of the soul, even when we refuse
to follow the higher vocation to which He would persuade and solicit
us-even were we carried away by the violence of mundane passions to
commit, like Don Luis, almost all the capital sins in a single
day-elevates the soul, purifies the other emotions, sustains human
dignity, and lends poetry, nobility, and holiness to the commonest
state, condition, and manner of life.
Such is, in my opinion, the novel you are now about to present to
the American public; for I repeat that I have not the right to make the
Perhaps, independent of its transcendentalism, my novel may serve
to interest and amuse your public for a couple of hours, and may obtain
some favor with it; for it is a public that reads a great deal, that is
indulgent, and that differs from the English public-which is eminently
exclusive in its tastes-by its generous and cosmopolitan spirit.
I have always regarded as a delusion of national vanity the belief
that there is, or the hope that there ever will be, anything that, with
legitimate and candid independence, may be called American literature.
Greece diffused herself through the world in flourishing colonies, and,
after the conquests of Alexander, founded powerful states in Egypt, in
Syria, and even in Bactriana, among peoples who, unlike the American
Indians, possessed a high civilization of their own. But,
notwithstanding this dispersion, and this political severance from the
mother-country, the literature of Syracuse, of Antioch, and of
Alexandria was as much Greek literature as was the literature of
Athens. In my opinion, then, and for the same reason, the literature of
New York and Boston will continue to be as much English literature as
the literature of London and Edinburgh; the literature of Mexico and
Buenos Ayres will continue to be as much Spanish literature as the
literature of Madrid; the literature of Rio Janeiro will be as much
Portuguese literature as the literature of Lisbon. Political union may
be severed, but, between peoples of the same tongue and the same race,
the ties of spiritual fraternity are indissoluble, so long as their
common civilization lasts. There are immortal kings or emperors who
reign and rule in America by true divine right, and against whom no
Washington or Bolivar shall prevail-no Franklin succeed in plucking
from them their sceptre. These tyrants are called Miguel de Cervantes,
William Shakespeare, and Luiz de Camöens.
All this does not prevent the new nation from bringing to the
common fund, and pro indiviso, of the culture of their race, rich
elements, fine traits of character, and perhaps even higher qualities.
Thus it is that I observe, in this American literature, of English
origin and language, a certain largeness of views, a certain
cosmopolitanism and affectionate comprehension of what is foreign,
broad as the continent itself which the Americans inhabit, and which
forms a contrast to the narrow exclusivism of the insular English. It
is because of these qualities that I venture to hope now for a
favorable reception of my little book; and it is in these qualities
that I found my hope that the fruits of Spanish genius in general will,
in future, be better known and more highly esteemed here than in Great
Already, to some extent, Irving, Prescott, Ticknor, Longfellow,
Howells, and others have contributed, with judgment and discretion,
translating, criticizing and eulogizing our authors, to the realization
of this hope.
Forgive my wearying you with this letter, and believe me to be
sincerely yours,JUAN VALERA. NEW YORK, April 18, 1886.
Discovery of the Manuscript
"NESCIT LABI VIRTUS" THE REVEREND Dean of the Cathedral of --,
deceased a few years since, left among his papers a bundle of
manuscript, tied together, which, passing from hand to hand, finally
fell into mine, without, by some strange chance, having lost a single
one of the documents contained in it. Inscribed on this manuscript were
the Latin words I use above as a motto, but without the addition of the
woman's name I now prefix to it as its title; and this inscription has
probably contributed to the preservation of the papers, since, thinking
them, no doubt, to be sermons, or other theological matter, no one
before me had made any attempt to untie the string of the package, or
to read a single page of it.
The manuscript is in three parts. The first is entitled "Letters
from my Nephew"; the second, "Paralipomena"; and the third,
"Epilogue-Letters from my Brother."
All three are in the same handwriting, which, it may be inferred,
is that of the reverend Dean; and as taken together they form something
like a novel, I at first thought that perhaps the reverend Dean wished
to exercise his genius in composing one in his leisure hours; but,
looking at the matter more closely, and observing the natural
simplicity of the style, I am inclined to think now that it is no novel
at all, but that the letters are copies of genuine epistles which the
reverend Dean tore up, burned, or returned to their owners, and that
the narrative part only, designated by the pedantic title of
"Paralipomena," is the work of the reverend Dean, added for the purpose
of completing the story with incidents not related in the letters.
However this may be, I confess that I did not find the reading of
these papers tiresome; I found them, indeed, rather interesting than
otherwise; and as nowadays everything is published, I have decided to
publish them too, without further investigation, changing only the
proper names, so that if those who bear them be still living they may
not find themselves figuring in a book without desiring or consenting
The letters contained in the first part seem to have been written
by a very young man, with some theoretical but no practical knowledge
of the world, whose life was passed in the house of the reverend Dean,
his uncle, and in the seminary, and who was imbued with an exalted
religious fervor and an earnest desire to be a priest.
We shall call this young man Don Luis de Vargas.
The aforesaid manuscript, faithfully transferred to print, is as
Part I.-Letters from My Nephew
March 22d.FOUR days ago I arrived in safety at this my native
village, where I found my father, and the reverend vicar, as well as
our friends and relations, all in good health. The happiness of seeing
them and conversing with them has so completely occupied my time and
thoughts that I have not been able to write to you until now.
You will pardon me for this.
Having left this place a mere child, and coming back a man, the
impression produced upon me by all those objects that I had treasured
up in my memory is a singular one. Everything appears to me more
diminutive, much more diminutive, but also more pleasing to the eye,
than my recollection of it. My father's house, which in my imagination
was immense, is, indeed, the large house of a rich husbandman, but
still much smaller than the seminary. What I now understand and
appreciate better than formerly is the country around here. The
orchards, above all, are delightful. What charming paths there are
through them! On one side, and sometimes on both, crystal waters flow
with a pleasant murmur. The banks of these streams are covered with
odorous herbs and flowers of a thousand different hues. In a few
minutes one may gather a large bunch of violets. The paths are shaded
by majestic trees, chiefly walnut and fig trees; and the hedges are
formed of blackberry bushes, roses, pomegranates, and honeysuckle.
The multitude of birds that enliven grove and field is marvelous.
I am enchanted with the orchards, and I spend a couple of hours
walking in them every afternoon.
My father wishes to take me to see his olive plantations, his
vineyards, his farmhouses; but of all this we have as yet seen nothing.
I have not been outside of the village and the charming orchards that
It is true, indeed, that the numerous visits I receive do not leave
me a moment to myself.
Five different women have come to see me, all of whom were my
nurses, and have embraced and kissed me.
Every one gives me the diminutive "Luisito," or "Don Pedro's boy,"
although I have passed my twenty-second birthday; and every one
inquires of my father for "the boy," when I am not present.
I imagine I shall make but little use of the books I have brought
with me to read, as I am not left alone for a single instant.
The dignity of squire, which I supposed to be a matter for jest,
is, on the contrary, a serious matter. My father is the squire of the
There is hardly any one here who can understand what they call my
caprice of entering the priesthood, and these good people tell me, with
rustic candor, that I ought to throw aside the clerical garb; that to
be a priest is very well for a poor young man; but that I, who am to be
a rich man's heir, should marry, and console the old age of my father
by giving him half a dozen handsome and robust grandchildren.
In order to flatter my father and myself, both men and women
declare that I am a splendid fellow, that I am of an angelic
disposition, that I have a very roguish pair of eyes, and other stupid
things of a like kind, that annoy, disgust, and humiliate me, although
I am not very modest, and am too well acquainted with the meanness and
folly of the world to be shocked or frightened at anything.
The only defect they find in me is that I am too thin through
overstudy. In order to have me grow fat they propose not to allow me
either to study or even to look at a book while I remain here; and,
besides this, to make me eat of as many choice dishes of meats and
confectionery as they know how to concoct in the village.
It is quite clear-I am to be stall-fed. There is not a single
family of our acquaintance that has not sent me some token of regard.
Now it is a sponge-cake, now a meat-salad, now a pyramid of sweetmeats,
now a jug of syrup. And these presents, which they send to the house,
are not the only attentions they show me. I have also been invited to
dinner by three or four of the principal persons of the village.
To-morrow I am to dine at the house of the famous Pepita Jiménez,
of whom you have doubtless heard. No one here is ignorant of the fact
that my father is paying her his addresses.
My father, notwithstanding his fifty-five years, is so well
preserved that the finest young men of the village might feel envious
of him. He possesses, besides, the powerful attraction, irresistible to
some women, of his past conquests, of his celebrity, of his-of course
exaggerated-reputation as a modern rival to that national rake, Don
I have not yet made the acquaintance of Pepita Jiménez. Every one
says she is very beautiful. I suspect she will turn out to be a village
beauty, and somewhat rustic. From what I have heard of her I can not
quite decide whether, ethically speaking, she is good or bad; but I am
quite certain that she is possessed of great natural intelligence.
Pepita is about twenty years old, and a widow; her married life lasted
only three years. She was the daughter of Doña Francisca Galvez, the
widow, as you know, of a retired captain, "Who left her at his
death,As sole inheritance, his honorable sword,"as the poet says. Until
her sixteenth year Pepita lived with her mother in very straitened
circumstances-bordering, indeed, upon absolute want.
She had an uncle called Don Gumersindo, the possessor of a small
entailed estate, one of those petty estates that, in olden times, owed
their foundation to a foolish vanity. Any ordinary person, with the
income derived from this estate, would have lived in continual
difficulties, burdened by debts, and altogether cut off from the
display and ceremony proper to his rank. But Don Gumersindo was an
extraordinary person-the very genius of economy. It could not be said
of him that he created wealth himself, but he was endowed with a
wonderful faculty of absorption with respect to the wealth of others;
and in regard to dispensing, it would be difficult to find any one on
the face of the globe with whose maintenance, preservation, and
comfort, Mother Nature and human industry ever had less reason to
trouble themselves. No one knows how he lived; but the fact is that he
reached the age of eighty, saving his entire income, and adding to his
capital by lending money on unquestionable security. No one here speaks
of him as a usurer; on the contrary, he is considered to have been of a
charitable disposition, because, being moderate in all things, he was
so even in usury, and would ask only ten per cent a year, while
throughout the district they ask twenty and even thirty per cent, and
still think it little.
In the practise of this species of industry and economy, and with
thoughts dwelling constantly on increasing instead of diminishing his
capital, indulging neither in the luxury of matrimony and of having a
family, nor even of smoking, Don Gumersindo arrived at the age I have
mentioned, the possessor of a fortune considerable anywhere, and here
regarded as enormous, thanks to the poverty of these villages, and to
the habit of exaggeration natural to the Andalusians.
Don Gumersindo, always extremely neat and clean in his person, was
an old man who did not inspire repugnance.
The articles of his modest wardrobe were somewhat worn, but
carefully brushed and without a stain; although from time immemorial he
had always been seen with the same cloak, the same jacket, and the same
trousers and waistcoat. People sometimes asked each other in vain if
any one had ever seen him wear a new garment.
With all these defects, which here and elsewhere many regard as
virtues, though virtues in excess, Don Gumersindo possessed excellent
qualities; he was affable, obliging, compassionate; and did his utmost
to please and to be of service to everybody, no matter what trouble,
anxiety, or fatigue it might cost him, provided only it did not cost
him money. Of a cheerful disposition, and fond of fun and joking, he
was to be found at every feast and merry-making around that was not got
up at his expense, which he enlivened by the amenity of his manners,
and by his discreet although not very Attic conversation. He had never
had any tender inclination for any one woman in particular, but,
innocently and without malice, he loved them all; and was the most
given to complimenting the girls, and making them laugh, of any old man
for ten leagues around.
I have already said that he was the uncle of Pepita. When he was
nearing his eightieth year she was about to complete her sixteenth. He
was rich; she, poor and friendless.
Her mother was a vulgar woman of limited intelligence and coarse
instincts. She worshiped her daughter, yet lamented continually and
with bitterness the sacrifices she made for her, the privations she
suffered, and the disconsolate old age and melancholy end that awaited
her in the midst of her poverty. She had, besides, a son, older than
Pepita, who had a well-deserved reputation in the village as a gambler
and a quarrelsome fellow, and for whom, after many difficulties, she
had succeeded in obtaining an insignificant employment in Havana; thus
finding herself rid of him, and with the sea between them. After he had
been a few years in Havana, however, he lost his situation on account
of his bad conduct, and thereupon began to shower letters upon his
mother, containing demands for money. The latter, who had scarcely
enough for herself and for Pepita, grew desperate at this, broke out
into abuse, cursed herself and her destiny with a perseverance but
little resembling the theological virtue, and ended by fixing all her
hopes upon settling her daughter well, as the only way of getting out
of her difficulties.
In this distressing situation Don Gumersindo began to frequent the
house of Pepita and her mother, and to pay attentions to the former
with more ardor and persistence than he had shown in his attentions to
other girls. Nevertheless, to suppose that a man who had passed his
eightieth year without wishing to marry, should think of committing
such a folly, with one foot already in the grave, was so wild and
improbable a notion that Pepita's mother, still less Pepita herself,
never for a moment suspected the audacious intentions of Don
Thus it was that both were struck one day with amazement when,
after a good many compliments, between jest and earnest, Don
Gumersindo, with the greatest seriousness and without the least
hesitation, proposed the following categorical question:
"Pepita, will you marry me?"
Although the question came at the end of a great deal of joking,
and might itself be taken for a joke, Pepita, who, inexperienced though
she was in worldly matters, yet knew by a certain instinct of
divination that is in all women, and especially in young girls, no
matter how innocent they may be, that this was said in earnest, grew as
red as a cherry and said nothing. Her mother answered in her stead:
"Child, don't be ill-bred; answer your uncle as you should: 'With
much pleasure, uncle-whenever you wish.'"
This "with much pleasure, uncle-whenever you wish," came then, it
is said, and many times afterward, almost mechanically from the
trembling lips of Pepita, in obedience to the admonitions, the sermons,
the complaints, and even the imperious mandate of her mother.
I see, however, that I am enlarging too much on this matter of
Pepita Jiménez and her history; but she interests me, as I suppose she
should interest you too, since, if what they affirm here be true, she
is to be your sister-in-law and my stepmother.
I shall endeavor, notwithstanding, to avoid dwelling on details,
and to relate briefly what perhaps you already know, though you have
been away from here so long.
Pepita Jiménez was married to Don Gumersindo. The tongue of slander
was let loose against her, both in the days preceding the wedding and
for some months afterward.
In fact, from the point of view of morals, this marriage was a
matter that will admit of discussion; but, so far as the girl herself
is concerned, if we remember her mother's prayers, her complaints, and
even her commands-if we take into consideration the fact that Pepita
thought by this means to procure for her mother a comfortable old age,
and to save her brother from dishonor and infamy, constituting herself
his guardian angel and his earthly providence, we must confess that our
condemnation will admit of some abatement. Besides, who shall penetrate
into the recesses of the heart, into the hidden secrets of the immature
mind of a young girl, brought up, probably, in the most absolute
seclusion and ignorance of the world, in order to know what idea she
might have formed to herself of marriage? Perhaps she thought that to
marry this old man meant to devote her life to his service, to be his
nurse, to soothe his old age, to save him from a solitude and
abandonment embittered by his infirmities, and in which only mercenary
hands should minister to him; in a word, to cheer and illumine his
declining years with the glowing beams of her beauty and her youth,
like an angel who has taken human form. If something of this, or all of
this, was what the girl thought, and if she failed to perceive the full
significance of her act, then its morality is placed beyond question.
However this may be, leaving aside psychological investigations
that I have no authority for making, since I am not acquainted with
Pepita Jiménez, it is quite certain that she lived in edifying harmony
with the old man during three years, that she nursed him and waited
upon him with admirable devotion, and that in his last painful and
fatal sickness she ministered to him and watched over him with tender
and unwearying affection, until he expired in her arms, leaving her
heiress to a large fortune.
Although more than two years have passed since she lost her mother,
and more than a year and a half since she was left a widow, Pepita
still wears the deepest mourning. Her sedateness, her retired manner of
living, and her melancholy, are such that one might suppose she
lamented the death of her husband as much as though he had been a
handsome young man. Perhaps there are some who imagine or suspect that
Pepita's pride, and the certain knowledge she now has of the not very
poetical means by which she has become rich, trouble her awakened and
more than scrupulous conscience; and that, humiliated in her own eyes
and in those of the world, she seeks, in austerity and retirement,
consolation for the vexations of her mind, and balm for her wounded
People here, as everywhere, have a great love of money. Perhaps I
am wrong in saying, as everywhere; in populous cities, in the great
centres of civilization, there are other distinctions which are prized
as much as, or even more than money, because they smooth the way to
fortune, and give credit and consideration in the eyes of the world;
but in smaller places, where neither literary nor scientific fame, nor,
as a rule, distinction of manners, nor elegance, nor discretion and
amenity in intercourse, are apt to be either valued or understood,
there is no other way by which to adjust the social hierarchy than the
possession of more or less money, or of something worth money. Pepita,
then, in the possession of money, and beauty besides, and making a good
use, as every one says, of her riches, is to-day respected and esteemed
in an extraordinary degree. From this and the surrounding villages the
most eligible suitors, the wealthiest young men, have crowded to pay
their court to her. But, so far as as can be seen, she rejects them
all, though with the utmost sweetness, for she wishes to make no one
her enemy; and it is commonly supposed that her soul is filled with the
most ardent devotion, and that it is her fixed intention to dedicate
her life to practises of charity and religious piety.
My father, according to the general opinion, has not succeeded
better than her other suitors; but Pepita, to fulfil the adage that
"courtesy and candor are consistent with each other," takes the
greatest pains to give him proofs of a frank, affectionate, and
disinterested friendship. She is unremitting in her attentions to him,
and when he tries to speak to her of love she brings him to a stop with
a sermon delivered with the most winning sweetness, recalling to his
memory his past faults, and endeavoring to undeceive him in regard to
the world and its vain pomps.
I confess that I begin to have some curiosity to know this woman,
so much do I hear her spoken of! nor do I think my curiosity is without
foundation, or that there is anything in it either vain or sinful. I
myself feel the truth of what Pepita says; I myself desire that my
father, in his advanced years, should enter upon a better life; should
forget, and not seek to renew, the agitations and passions of his
youth; and should attain to the enjoyment of a tranquil, happy, and
honorable old age. I differ from Pepita's way of thinking in one thing
only: I believe my father would succeed in this rather by marrying a
good and worthy woman who loved him, than by remaining without a wife.
For this very reason I desire to become acquainted with Pepita, in
order to know if she be this woman; for I am to a certain extent
troubled-and perhaps there is in this feeling something of family
pride, which, if it be wrong, I desire to cast out-by the disdain,
however honeyed and gracious, of the young widow.
If my situation were other than it is, I should prefer my father to
remain unmarried. Then, being the only child, I should inherit all his
wealth, and, as one might say, nothing less than the position of squire
of the village. But you already know how firm is the resolution I have
taken. Humble and unworthy though I be, I feel myself called to the
priesthood, and the possessions of this world have but little power
over my mind. If there is anything in me of the ardor of youth, and the
vehemence of the passions proper to that age, it shall all be employed
in nourishing an active and fecund charity. Even the many books you
have given me to read, and my knowledge of the history of the ancient
civilizations of the peoples of Asia, contribute to unite within me
scientific curiosity with the desire of propagating the faith, and
invite and animate me to go forth as a missionary to the far East. As
soon as I leave this village, where you, my dear uncle, have sent me to
pass some time with my father, and am raised to the dignity of the
priesthood, and, ignorant and sinner as I am, feel myself invested by
free and supernatural gift, through the sovereign goodness of the Most
High, with the power to absolve from sin, and with the mission to teach
the peoples-as soon as I receive the perpetual and miraculous grace of
handling with impure hands the very God made man, it is my purpose to
leave Spain, and go forth to distant lands to preach the Gospel.
I am not actuated in this by vanity. I do not desire to believe
myself superior to other men. The power of my faith, the constancy of
which I feel myself capable, everything after the favor and grace of
God, I owe to the judicious education, to the holy teaching, and to the
good example I have received from you, my dear uncle.
There is something I hardly dare confess to myself, but which,
against my will, presents itself with frequency to my mind; and, since
it presents itself to my mind, it is my desire, it is my duty to
confess it to you: it would be wrong for me to hide from you even my
most secret and involuntary thoughts. You have taught me to analyse the
feelings of the soul; to search for their origin, if it be good or
evil; to make, in short, a scrupulous examination of conscience.
I have often reflected on two different methods of education: that
of those who endeavor to keep the mind in innocence, confounding
innocence with ignorance, and believing evil that is unknown to be
avoided more easily than evil that is known; and that of those, on the
other hand, who courageously, and as soon as the pupil has arrived at
the age of reason, show him, with due regard for modesty, evil in all
its hideous ugliness and repulsive nakedness, to the end that he may
abhor and avoid it.
According to my way of thinking, it is necessary to know evil in
order the better to comprehend the infinite Divine goodness, the ideal
and unattainable end of every virtuously born desire. I am grateful to
you that you have made me to know, with the honey and the butter of
your teaching, as the Scripture says, both good and evil, to the end
that I should aspire to the one and condemn the other, knowingly and
with discreet ardor. I rejoice that I am no longer in a state of mere
innocence, and that I shall go forward in the progress toward virtue,
and, in so far as is permitted to humanity, toward perfection, with a
knowledge of all the tribulations, all the asperities that there are in
the pilgrimage we are called upon to make through this valley of tears;
as I am not ignorant, on the other hand, of how smooth, how easy, how
pleasant, how flowery the road is in appearance that leads to perdition
and eternal death.
Another thing for which I feel bound to be grateful to you is the
indulgence, the toleration-not condescending nor lax, but, on the
contrary, serious and thoughtful-with which you have been able to
inspire me for the errors and the sins of my fellow men.
I say all this to you because I wish to speak to you on a subject
of so delicate a nature that I hardly find words in which to express
myself concerning it. In short, I often ask myself whether the
resolution I have adopted had not its origin, in part at least, in the
character of my relations with my father. In the bottom of my heart
have I been able to pardon him his conduct toward my poor mother, the
victim of his errors?
I consider this matter carefully, and I can not find an atom of
hatred in my breast. On the contrary, gratitude fills it entirely. My
father has brought me up affectionately. He has tried to honor in me
the memory of my mother, and one would have said that in my bringing
up, in the care he took of me, in the indulgence with which he treated
me, in his devotion to me as a child, he sought to appease her angry
shade-if the shade, if the spirit of her who was on earth an angel of
goodness and gentleness, could be capable of anger.
I repeat, then, that I am full of gratitude toward my father; he
has acknowledged me, and, besides, he sent me at the age of ten years
to you, to whom I owe all that I am.
If there is in my heart any germ of virtue, if there is in my mind
any element of knowledge, if there is in my will any honorable and good
purpose, to you it is I owe it.
My father's affection for me is extraordinary; the estimation in
which he holds me is far superior to my merits. Perhaps vanity may have
something to do with this. In paternal love there is something selfish;
it is, as it were, a prolongation of selfishness. If I were possessed
of any merit, my father would regard it all as a creation of his own,
as if I were an emanation of his personality, as much in spirit as in
body. Be this as it will, however, I believe that my father loves me,
and that there is in his affection something self-sustaining, and
superior to all this pardonable selfishness of which I have spoken.
I experience a great consolation, a profound tranquillity of
conscience-and for this I return most fervent thanks to God-when I
discern the fact that the power of blood, the tie of nature, that
mysterious bond that unites us, leads me, without any consideration of
duty, to love my father and to reverence him. It would be horrible not
to love him thus-to be compelled to force myself to love in order to
obey a Divine command. Nevertheless-and here comes back my doubt-does
my purpose of becoming a priest or a friar, of not accepting, or of
accepting only a very small part of, the immense fortune that will be
mine by inheritance, and which I might enjoy even during my father's
lifetime; does this proceed solely from my contempt of the things of
this world, from a true vocation for a religious life, or does it not
also proceed from pride, from hidden rancor, from resentment, from
something in me that refuses to forgive what my mother herself, with
sublime generosity, forgave? This doubt assails and torments me at
times, but almost always I resolve it in my favor, and come to the
conclusion that I have no feeling of pride toward my father. I think I
would accept from him all he has, if I were to need it, and I rejoice
to be as grateful to him for little as for much.
Farewell, uncle. In future I will write to you often, and as much
at length as you desire, if not quite so much so as to-day, lest I
should appear prolix.
March 28th.I BEGIN to be tired of my stay in this place, and every
day the desire grows stronger within me to return to you and to receive
my ordination. But my father wishes to accompany me. He wishes to be
present at that solemn ceremony, and desires that I should remain here
with him at least two months longer. He is so amiable, so affectionate
with me, that it would be impossible for me not to gratify him in all
his wishes. I shall remain here, therefore, for the time he desires. In
order to give him pleasure I do violence to my feelings, and make an
effort to seem interested in the amusements of the village, the country
sports and even shooting, in all of which I am his companion. I try to
appear gayer and more animated than I am by nature. As in the village,
half in jest, half by way of eulogy, I am called "The Saint," I
endeavor, through modesty, to avoid the appearance of sanctity, or to
soften and humanize its manifestations with the virtue of moderation,
displaying a serene and decent cheerfulness which was never yet opposed
to holiness nor to the saints. I confess, nevertheless, that the
merry-making and the sports of these people, with their coarse jokes
and boisterous mirth, weary me. I do not want to fall into the sin of
scandal, nor to speak ill of any one, though it be only to you and in
confidence; but I often think that it would be a more difficult
enterprise, as well as a more rational and meritorious one, to preach
the Gospel to these people, and try to elevate their moral nature, than
to go to India, Persia, or China, leaving so many of my country-people
behind, who are, if not perverted, at least to some extent gone astray.
Many, indeed, are of the opinion that modern ideas, that materialism
and infidelity, are to blame for this. But if that be the case, if they
it be that produce such evil effects, then it must be in some strange,
diabolical, and miraculous manner, and not by natural means; since the
fact is, that here the people read no books, either good or bad, so
that I do not well see how they can be perverted by any evil doctrines
the books in fashion may contain.
Can these evil doctrines be in the air, like a miasma or an
epidemic? Perhaps-and I am sorry this thought, which I mention to you
only, should occur to me-perhaps the clergy themselves are in fault?
Are they, in Spain, equal to their mission? Do they go among the
people, teaching and preaching to them? Are they all capable of this?
Have those who consecrate themselves to a religious life and to the
salvation of souls a true vocation for their calling? Or is it only a
means of living, like any other, with this difference-that in our day
only the poorest, only those who are without expectations and without
means, devote themselves to it, for the very reason that this calling
offers a less brilliant prospect than any other? Be that as it may, the
very scarcity of virtuous and learned priests arouses all the more
within me the desire to be a priest. I would not willingly let
self-love deceive me. I recognize all my defects; but I feel within me
a true vocation, and many of those defects it may still be possible,
with the divine help, to correct.
The dinner at the house of Pepita Jiménez, which I mentioned to
you, took place three days ago. As she leads so retired a life, I had
not met her before; she seemed to me, in truth, as beautiful as she is
said to be, and I noticed that her amiability with my father was such
as to give him reason to hope, at least judging superficially, that she
will yield to his wishes in the end, and accept his hand.
As there is a possibility of her becoming my stepmother, I have
observed her with attention; she seems to me to be a remarkable woman,
whose moral qualities I am not able to determine with exactitude. There
is about her an air of calmness and serenity that may come either from
coldness of heart and spirit, with great self-control and power of
calculating effects, accompanied by little or no sensibility; or that
may, on the other hand, proceed from the tranquillity of her conscience
and the purity of her aspirations, united to the purpose of fulfilling
in this life the duties imposed upon her by society, while her hopes
are fixed, meantime, upon loftier things, as their proper goal. What is
certain is that, either because with this woman everything is the
result of calculation, without any effort to elevate her mind to a
higher sphere, or, it may be, because she blends in perfect harmony the
prose of daily life with the poetry of her illusions, there is nothing
discernible in her out of tone with her surroundings, although she
possesses a natural distinction of manner that elevates her above and
separates her from them all. She does not affect the dress of a
provincial, nor does she, on the other hand, follow blindly the
fashions of the city; she unites both these styles in her mode of dress
in such a manner as to appear like a lady, but still a lady
country-born and country-bred. She disguises to a great extent, as I
think, the care she takes of her person. There is nothing about her to
betray the use of cosmetics or the arts of the toilet. But the
whiteness of her hands, the color and polish of her nails, and the
grace and neatness of her attire denote a greater regard for such
matters than might be looked for in one who lives in a village, and who
is said, besides, to despise the vanities of this world and to think
only of heavenly things.
Her house is exquisitely clean, and everything in it reveals the
most perfect order. The furniture is neither artistic nor elegant, nor
is it, on the other hand, either pretentious or in bad taste. To give a
poetic air to her surroundings, she keeps in the rooms and passages, as
well as in the garden, a multitude of plants and flowers. There is not,
indeed, among them any rare plant or exotic, but her plants and
flowers, of the commonest species here, are tended with extraordinary
Canaries in gilded cages enliven the whole house with their songs.
Its mistress, it is obvious, has need of living creatures on which to
bestow some of her affection; and besides several maid-servants, that
one would suppose she had selected with care, since it can not be by
mere chance that they are all pretty, she has, after the fashion of old
maids, various animals to keep her company-a parrot, a little dog,
whose coat is of the whitest, and two or three cats, so tame and
sociable that they jump up on one in the most friendly manner.
'At one end of the principal saloon is a species of oratory, whose
chief ornament is an Infant Jesus, carved in wood, with red and white
cheeks and blue eyes, and altogether quite handsome. The dress is of
white satin, with a blue cloak full of little golden stars; and the
image is completely covered with jewels and trinkets. The little altar
on which the figure is placed is adorned with flowers, and around it
are set pots of broom and bay; and on the altar itself, which is
furnished with steps, a great many wax tapers are kept burning. When I
behold all this I know not what to think, but for the most part I am
inclined to believe that the widow loves herself above all things, and
that it is for her recreation, and for the purpose of furnishing her
with occasions for the effusion of this love, that she keeps the cats,
the canaries, the flowers, and even the Infant Jesus itself, which in
her secret soul, perhaps does not occupy a place very much higher than
the canaries and the cats.
It can not be denied that Pepita Jiménez is possessed of
discretion. No silly jest, no impertinent question in regard to my
vocation, and, above all, in regard to my approaching ordination, has
crossed her lips. She conversed with me on matters relating to the
village, about agriculture, the last crop of grapes and olives, and the
means of improving the methods of making wine, expressing herself
always with modesty and naturalness and without manifesting any desire
of appearing to know more than others.
My father was at his best; he seemed to have grown younger, and his
pressing attentions to the lady of his thoughts were received, if not
with love, at least with gratitude.
There were present at dinner, the doctor, the notary, and the
reverend vicar, who is a great friend of the house and the spiritual
father of Pepita.
The reverend vicar must have a very high opinion of her, for on
several occasions he spoke to me apart of her charity, of the many alms
she bestows, of her compassion and goodness to every one. In a word, he
declared her to be a saint.
In view of what the vicar has told me, and relying on his judgment,
I can do no less than wish that my father may marry Pepita. As my
father is not fitted for a life of penance, in this way only could he
hope to change his mode of life, that up to the present has been so
dissipated, and settle down to a well-ordered and quiet, if not
exemplary, old age.
When we reached our house, after leaving that of Pepita Jiménez, my
father spoke to me seriously of his projects. He told me that in his
time he had been very wild, that he had led a very bad life, and that
he saw no way of reforming, notwithstanding his years, unless Pepita
were to fall in love with and marry him.
Taking for granted, of course, that she would do so, my father then
spoke about money matters. He told me that he was very rich, and would
leave me amply provided for in his will, even though he should have
other children. I answered him that for my plans and purposes in life I
needed very little money, and that my greatest satisfaction would
always consist in knowing him to be happy with wife and children, his
former evil ways forgotten.
My father then spoke to me of his tender hopes with a candor and
eagerness that might make one suppose me to be the father and the old
man, and he a youth of my age, or younger. In order to enhance the
merit of his mistress and the difficulties of his conquest, he
recounted to me the accomplishments and the excellences of the fifteen
or twenty suitors who had already presented themselves to Pepita, and
who had all been rejected. As for himself, as he explained to me, the
same lot, to a certain extent, had been his also; but he flattered
himself that this want of success was not final, since Pepita showed
him so many kindnesses, and an affection so great that, if it were not
love, it might easily, with time and the persistent homage he dedicated
to her, be converted into love.
There was, besides, in my father's opinion, something fantastic and
fallacious in the cause of Pepita's coldness, that must in the end wear
away. Pepita did not wish to retire to a convent, nor did she incline
to a penitential life. Notwithstanding her seclusion and her piety, it
was easy to see that she took delight in pleasing. Her daintiness and
dress and the care she bestowed upon her person indeed exhibited little
of the conventual. The cause of her coldness, then, my father declared
to be, without a doubt, her pride-a pride to a certain extent well
founded. She is naturally elegant and distinguished in appearance; both
by her force of character and by her intelligence she is superior to
those who surround her, no matter how she may seek, through modesty, to
disguise it. How, then, should she bestow her hand upon any of the
rustics who up to the present time have been her suitors? She imagines
that her soul is filled with a mystic love of God, and that God only
can satisfy it, because thus far no mortal has crossed her path
intelligent enough and agreeable enough to make her forget even her
image of the Infant Jesus. "Although it may seem conceited on my part,"
added my father, "I flatter myself that I am the happy man."
Such, dear uncle, are the occupations and the projects of my father
here, and such the matters, so foreign to my nature, and to my aims and
thoughts, of which he speaks to me with frequency, and on which he
requires me to give an opinion.
It would almost seem as if your too indulgent opinion of my
judgment had extended itself to the people here, for they all tell me
their troubles, and ask my advice as to the course they should adopt.
Even the reverend vicar, exposing himself to the risk of betraying what
might be called secrets of confession, has already come to consult me
in regard to several cases of conscience that have presented themselves
to him in the confessional.
One of these cases-related, like all the others, with much mystery,
and without revealing the name of the person concerned-has greatly
The reverend vicar tells me that a certain penitent of his is
troubled by scruples of conscience, because, while she feels herself
irresistibly attracted toward a solitary and contemplative life, she
yet fears at times that this devout fervor is not accompanied by a true
humility, but that it is in part excited by, and has its source in, the
demon of pride himself.
To love God in all things, to seek Him in the inmost recesses of
the soul wherein He dwells, to purify ourselves from all earthly
passions and affections, in order to unite ourselves to Him-these are,
in truth, pious aspirations and virtuous inclinations; but the doubt
arises in determining whether the source of these aspirations and
inclinations be not an exaggerated self-love. "Have they their origin,"
the penitent, it seems, asks herself, "in the thought that I, although
unworthy and a sinner, presume my soul to be of more value than the
souls of my fellow-mortals-that the interior beauty of my mind and of
my will would be dimmed by harboring affection for the human beings by
whom I am surrounded, and whom I deem unworthy of me? Do I love God
above all things, infinitely, or only more than the little things that
I know, and that I scorn and despise, that can not satisfy my heart?"
If my piety is founded upon this feeling, then there are in it two
great defects: the first, that it is not based upon a pure love of God,
full of humility and charity, but on pride; and the second, that this
piety, because it is thus without foundation, is unstable and
inefficacious. For who can be certain that the soul will not forget the
love of its Creator, when it does not love Him infinitely, but only
because there is no other being whom it deems worthy of endowing with
It is concerning this case of conscience, refined and subtle enough
thus to exercise the mind of a simple rustic, that the reverend vicar
has come to consult me. I would have excused myself from saying
anything in the matter, alleging, as a reason for doing so, my youth
and inexperience; but the reverend vicar has shown himself so
persistent in the matter that I could do no less than discuss the
question with him. I said-and it would rejoice me greatly should you
concur in my opinion-that what this troubled penitent requires is to
regard those who surround her with greater benevolence; to try to throw
the cloak of charity over their faults, instead of analysing and
dissecting them with the scalpel of criticism, bringing into relief and
dwelling upon their good qualities, to the end that she may esteem and
love them; to endeavor, in fact, to behold in every human being an
object worthy of her love, a true fellow-creature, her equal, a soul
wherein there is a treasure of good qualities and virtues-a being made,
in short, in the image and likeness of God. Entertaining this exalted
view of our surroundings, loving and esteeming others for what they
are, and as more than they are, striving not to hold ourselves superior
to them in anything, but, on the contrary, searching courageously in
the depths of our own consciousness for the purpose of discovering all
our faults and sins, and thus acquiring a devout humility and contempt
of self-standing upon such a principle as this, the heart will feel
itself full of human affection, and, instead of despising, will value
highly the worth of things and of persons. Then, if afterward, Divine
love should, with irresistible power, erect itself upon and tower above
this foundation, there can be no fear but that such a love has its
origin, not in an exaggerated self-esteem, in pride, or in an unjust
contempt for our neighbor, but in a pure and holy contemplation of
Infinite Beauty and Goodness.
If, as I suspect, it be Pepita Jiménez who has consulted the
reverend vicar in regard to these doubts and tribulations, I think my
father can not yet flatter himself with being very dear to her; but if
the vicar should resolve on giving her my advice, and she accepts it
and acts upon it, then she will either become a sort of Maria de
Agreda, a self-conscious recluse, or, what is more probable, she will
cast away mysticism and coldness altogether, and will consent to
accept, without further caviling, the hand and heart of my father, who
is in no respect her inferior.
April 4th. MY life in this place begins, from its monotony, to be
wearisome; and not because it is, physically, less active here than it
was elsewhere; on the contrary, I walk and ride a great deal, and make
excursions into the country, and, to please my father, visit the
club-house and go to parties; in short, my life and my surroundings are
quite uncongenial to me. For my intellectual life is a blank; I read
nothing, and there is hardly a moment left me in which to reflect and
meditate with tranquillity; and, as reflection and meditation were what
constituted the chief charm of my existence, my life without them seems
to me monotonous. Thanks to the patience which you have recommended to
me for every occasion, I am able to endure it.
Another thing that prevents my spirit from being completely at rest
is the longing, that becomes every day more ardent within me, to
embrace that life to which I have for years been so earnestly inclined.
It seems to me that, in those moments when I feel myself so near to the
realization of the constant dream of my life, it is something like a
profanation to allow my mind to be distracted by other objects. So much
does this idea torment me, and to so many doubts does it give rise
within me, that my admiration for the beauty of things created; of the
heavens, so full of stars in these serene nights of spring, and in this
favored region of Andalusia; of these smiling fields, now covered with
verdure; of these cool and pleasant gardens, abounding in shady and
delightful walks. in gently flowing streams and rivulets, in
sequestered nooks, in birds that enliven them with song, and in flowers
and odorous herbs-this admiration and enthusiasm, I repeat, which
formerly seemed to me in perfect harmony with the religious feeling
that filled my soul, animating and exalting it, instead of weakening
it, seems to me now almost a sinful distraction, and an unpardonable
forgetfulness of the eternal for the temporal, of the uncreated and the
spiritual for the material and created.
Although I have made but little progress in virtue, although my
mind is never free from the phantasms of the imagination; although the
interior man is never exempt in me from the influence of external
impressions, and from the need of employing in meditation the fatiguing
argumentative method; although I can not, by an effort of love,
withdraw myself to the very centre of pure intelligence, to the
loftiest sphere of thought, in order to behold there goodness and truth
divested of images and forms; though this is all true, yet I confess to
you that the method of mental prayer, unrestricted by set forms, makes
me afraid. Even rational meditation inspires me with distrust. I do not
want to employ a process of reasoning in order to know God, nor to
adduce arguments for loving, in order to love Him. I desire, by a
single effort of the will, to elevate myself to and be absorbed in the
Divine contemplation. Oh that I had the wings of a dove, to fly to the
bosom of Him whom my soul loveth! But what and where are my merits?
Where the mortifications, the extended prayers, and the fasting? What
have I done, oh my God, that Thou shouldst favor me?
I know that the ungodly of the present day accuse-though without
any foundation whatever-our holy religion of inciting souls to abhor
the things of this world, to despise or to contemn Nature, perhaps to
fear it also, as if there were in it something diabolical, placing all
their affections on what these ungodly call the monstrous egotism of
Divine love, for they say that the soul loves herself in loving God; I
know, too, that this is not the case; that the Divine love is charity,
and that to love God is to love all things, for all things are in God,
in a supreme and ineffable manner. I know that I commit no sin in
loving material things for the love of God, which is to love them for
themselves, righteously; for what are material things but the
manifestation, the creation, of the love of God? Yet I often feel some
undefinable fear, some unwonted scruple, some vague and scarcely
perceptible remorse tormenting me even at the moment when I am
experiencing an effusion of tenderness, a sort of ecstasy of
enthusiasm, on penetrating into a leafy grove; on hearing the song of
the nightingale, or the twittering of the swallows, or the tender
cooing of the dove; on looking at the flowers; on beholding the stars.
I imagine, at times, that there is in all this something of sensual
pleasure, a something that makes me forget, for the moment at least,
more lofty aspirations. I do not desire that in me the spirit should
sin against the flesh; but neither do I desire, on the other hand, that
the beauty of the material world-that its delights, even those most
delicate, subtle, and ethereal ones that are perceived rather by the
spirit than by the senses, such as the soft sigh of the zephyr, laden
with rural scents, the song of the birds, the peaceful and majestic
silence of the night in these gardens and orchards-that these delights
should distract me from the contemplation of higher beauty. or weaken,
even for a moment, my love toward Him who has created this harmonious
fabric of the world.
I know that all these material things are like the letters of a
book, the signs and characters in which the soul, eager for knowledge,
may find a hidden meaning, and decipher and discover the beauty of God,
which is shadowed forth in them, though but dimly, and of which they
are the pictures, or rather emblems, because they do not represent, but
only symbolize that beauty. On this distinction I dwell at times to
fortify my spirit and mortify the flesh. For, I consider, if I love the
beauty of earthly things for itself, it is idolatry; I ought to love
this beauty as a sign and symbol of a beauty occult and divine and
infinitely superior to it.
A few days ago I completed my twenty-second year. Heretofore my
religious fervor has been such that I have felt no other love than the
immaculate love of God Himself and of His holy religion, which I desire
to diffuse and see triumphant in all the regions of the earth.
But I must needs confess that something of a profane sentiment has
mingled itself with this purity of affection. You are aware of this; I
have told it to you many times, and you, regarding me with your
accustomed indulgence, have answered me that man is not an angel, and
that even to aspire to so great a degree of perfection is pride; that I
should endeavor to moderate these sentiments rather than seek to
eradicate them entirely. Love of knowledge, a desire for the reputation
which is founded on the possession of knowledge, even a not unfavorable
opinion of one's own merits-these, even when kept within just bounds,
though guarded and moderated by Christian humility, and directed toward
a good end, have in them, doubtless, something of selfishness, but they
may serve as a stimulus and a support to the noblest and most constant
resolutions. The scruples that trouble my conscience now, therefore,
have not their source in pride, in an overweening self-confidence, in a
desire for worldly fame, or in a too great love of knowledge. Nothing
of this nature it is that troubles me; nothing bearing any relation to
self-conceit, but, in a certain sense, something entirely opposed to
it. I feel a lassitude, a debility and abandonment of the will so great
that it almost makes me afraid: I am too ready to weep for tenderness
when I see a little flower, or when I contemplate the ray, mysterious,
slender, and swift, of a remote star.
Tell me what you think of these things; and if there be not
something morbid in this disposition of my mind.
April 8th. THE AMUSEMENTS of the country, in which, very much
against my will, I am compelled to take part, still go on.
My father has taken me to see almost all his plantations, and he
and his friends are astonished to find me not altogether ignorant in
matters pertaining to the country. It would seem as if, in their eyes,
the study of theology, to which I have dedicated myself, were
incompatible with a familiarity with Nature. How much have they not
wondered at my knowledge, on seeing me discriminate, among the vines
that have only just begun to sprout, the common from the choice
varieties! How much have they not wondered, too, at my being able to
distinguish, among the young plants in the fields, the shoots of the
barley from those of the bean; at my being familiar with many fruit and
shade trees; at my knowing the names of many plants, even, that grow
spontaneously in the woods, as well as something of their properties
Pepita Jiménez, who has heard through my father of the delight I
take in the gardens here, has invited me to visit one that she owns at
a short distance from the village, and eat the early strawberries that
grow there. This caprice of Pepita's to show so many little attentions
to my father, while at the same time she declines his addresses, seems
to me at times to partake somewhat of coquetry, and to be worthy of
reprobation. But whenever I see her, and find her so natural, so frank,
and so simple, this bad opinion is dispelled, and I can not believe her
to have any other end in view than to maintain the friendly relations
that exist between her and our family.
Be this as it may, yesterday afternoon we went to Pepita's garden.
It is charmingly situated, and as delightful and picturesque a place as
one can imagine. The river, that by means of innumerable drains waters
almost all these gardens, falls into a deep ravine, bordered on both
sides by white and black poplars, willows, flowering oleanders, and
other leafy trees. The waterfall, clear and transparent, precipitates
itself into this ravine, sending up a cloud of spray, and then follows
its tortuous course by a channel formed for it by Nature herself,
enameling its banks with a thousand plants and flowers, and just now
covering them with a multitude of violets. The declivity at the end of
the garden is full of walnut, hazel, fig, and other fruit trees; and in
the level portion are beds planted with strawberries and vegetables,
tomatoes, potatoes, beans, and peppers. There is also a little
flower-garden, with a great abundance of flowers, of the kinds most
commonly cultivated here. Roses especially abound, and of these there
are innumerable varieties. The gardener's house is prettier and cleaner
than the houses of its class that one is accustomed to see in this part
of the country; and near it there is another, smaller building,
dedicated to the use of the mistress of the place, where Pepita regaled
us with a sumptuous collation. The pretext for this collation was the
strawberries, to eat which was the chief purpose of our visit. The
quantity of strawberries, considering the earliness of the season, was
astonishing. They were served with the milk of goats, which belonged
likewise to Pepita.
There were present at this banquet the doctor, the notary, my aunt
Casilda, my father, and myself, and of course the indispensable vicar,
spiritual father, and, more than spiritual father, admirer and
perpetual eulogist of Pepita.
By a sort of Sybaritic refinement, it was not by the gardener, nor
his wife, nor the son of the gardener, nor by any other rustic, that we
were served at this banquet, but by two lovely girls, confidential
servants, in a manner, of Pepita's, dressed like peasants, but with the
greatest neatness and even elegance. They wore gowns of gay-colored
cotton, short and confined at the waist, and around their shoulders
silk handkerchiefs. Their lustrous and abundant black hair, without
covering, was braided and arranged in a knot behind; and in front they
wore curls confined to the head by large hairpins, here called
Caracols. Above the knot, or chignon, they each displayed a bunch of
Pepita's attire, except that it was black and of rich material, was
equally unpretending. Her merino gown, made in the same style as those
of her maids, without being short, was yet not long enough to catch the
dust of the ground. A modest handkerchief of black silk covered also,
according to the usage of the country, her shoulders and bosom; and on
her head she wore no other ornament, either flower or jewel, than that
of her own blond tresses.
The only particular, with respect to Pepita, in which I observed a
certain fastidiousness, and in which she departed from the customs of
the country people, was in wearing gloves. It is evident that she takes
great care of her hands, and is, perhaps, to a certain extent, vain of
their beauty and whiteness, as well as of her rose-colored and polished
nails; but if this be so, it is to be pardoned to the weakness of the
flesh; and indeed, if I remember aright, I think that St. Theresa, in
her youth, had this same species of vanity, which did not prevent her,
however, from becoming a great saint.
In truth, I can understand, even though I do not excuse, this
little piece of vanity. It is so distinguished, so aristocratic, to
possess a beautiful hand! I even think, at times, that there is
something symbolic in it. The hand is the instrument by which we
execute our works, the sign of our nobility, the means by which the
intellect gives form and shape to its artistic conceptions, by which it
gives reality to the mandates of its will, by which it exercises the
dominion that God conceded to man over all other creatures. The rough,
strong, sinewy, horny hand-it may be, of a laborer, a workman-testifies
nobly to this dominion, but on its rudest and least intellectual side.
The hands of Pepita, on the contrary, transparent almost, like
alabaster, but rosy-hued, and in which one can almost see the pure and
subtle blood circulate that gives to the veins their faint bluish
tinge-these hands, I say, with their tapering fingers and unrivaled
purity of outline, seem the symbol of the magic power, the mysterious
dominion, that the human spirit holds and exercises, without the
intervention of material force, over all those visible things that are
the creation of God by a direct act of His will, and which man, as the
instrument of God, improves and completes. It would be impossible to
suppose that any one with hands like Pepita's should have an impure
thought, a gross desire, an unworthy purpose at variance with the
purity of her hands that would be called upon to put them into effect.
It is unnecessary to say that my father appeared as much charmed
with Pepita, and she as attentive and affectionate toward him, as
always; though her affection seemed, perhaps, of a character more
filial than he could have wished. The fact is, that my father,
notwithstanding the reputation he has of being in general but little
respectful or reverent toward women, treats this one woman with such
respect and consideration that not even Amadis, in the most devoted
period of his wooing, showed greater toward Oriana. Not a single word
that might shock the ear, no indelicate or inopportune compliment, no
coarse jest, of the kind the Andalusians permit themselves so
frequently to employ, does he ever indulge in. Hardly does he dare say
to Pepita, "What beautiful eyes you have!" and, indeed, should he say
so, he would only speak the truth, for Pepita's eyes are large, green
as those of Circe, expressive, and well-shaped. And what enhances their
beauty is that she seems unaware of all this, for there is not to be
detected in her the slightest wish to please or attract any one by the
sweetness of her glances.
One would say she thought eyes were only made to see with, and for
no other purpose-the contrary of what I suppose to be the opinion,
according to what I have heard, of the greater number of young and
pretty women, who use their eyes as a weapon of offense, or as a sort
of electric battery, by means of which to subdue hearts and captivate
them. Not like those, indeed, are Pepita's eyes, wherein dwell a peace
and a serenity as of heaven. And yet it can not be said that there is
anything of coldness in their glance. Her eyes are full of charity and
sweetness. They rest with tenderness on a ray of light, on a flower, on
the commonest object in Nature; but with greater tenderness still, with
signs of a softer feeling, more human and benign, do they rest on her
fellow man, without his daring to imagine in that tranquil and serene
glance, however young or handsome or conceited he may happen to be,
anything more than charity and love toward a fellow man, or, at most, a
I sometimes wonder if all this can be studied, and if Pepita be, in
truth, an accomplished actress; but the acting would be so perfect, and
so purposeless the play, that it seems to me, after all, impossible
that this should be the case. Nature herself it is, then, who serves as
teacher and as type for that glance and for those eyes. First, Pepita
loved her mother; then circumstances led her to love Don Gumersindo
through duty, as the companion of her existence; and then, doubtless,
all passion that any earthly object could inspire was extinguished in
her breast, and she loved God, and loved material objects for the love
of God; and so arrived at last at a peaceful and even enviable
condition of spirit, in which, if there be anything to censure, it is
perhaps a certain vanity of which she is herself unconscious. It is
very convenient to love in this mild fashion, without allowing
ourselves to be disturbed by our feelings, to have no passion to
combat, to make of our love and affection for others an addition to,
and, as it were, the complement of self-love.
I ask myself at times if, when I censure this state of mind in
Pepita, it be not myself I censure. How do I know what passes in the
soul of this woman that I should censure her? Perhaps, in thinking I
behold her soul, it is my own soul that I behold. I never had, nor have
I now, any passion to conquer. All my virtuous inclinations, all my
instincts, good or bad, tend, thanks to your wise teachings, without
obstacle or impediment, to the furtherance of the one purpose. In the
fulfilment of this purpose, I should satisfy not only my noble and
disinterested desires, but my selfish ones also-my love for
distinction, my desire for knowledge, my curiosity to see distant
lands, my longing for name and fame. All these are centred in the
completing of the career upon which I have entered. I fancy at times
that, in this respect, I am more worthy of censure than Pepita,
supposing her even to deserve censure at all.
As regards this career, I have already begun it. I have cast out
from my soul the vanities of the world; I have received the tonsure; I
have consecrated myself to the service of the altar. I have a future
full of ambition before me, and I dwell with pleasure on the thought
that this future is within my reach. I please myself in thinking that
the conditions I possess for it are real and efficacious, though I call
humility to my aid, at times, to save me from an overweening
To what, on the other hand, does this woman aspire, and what are
her hopes? I censure her for the care she takes of her hands, for
regarding her beauty, perhaps, with complacency; I almost censure her
for her neatness, for the attention she bestows on her dress; for a
certain indefinable coquetry there is in the very modesty and
simplicity of her attire. But must virtue be slovenly? Must holiness be
unclean? Can not a pure and clean soul rejoice in the cleanliness and
purity of the body also? Is there not something reprehensible in the
displeasure with which I regard the neatness and purity of Pepita? Is
this displeasure, perchance, because she is to be my stepmother? But
perhaps she does not wish to be my stepmother. Perhaps she does not
love my father! It is true, indeed, that women are incomprehensible. It
may be that in her secret heart she already feels inclined to return my
father's affection, and marry him, though, in accordance with the
saying that "what is worth much costs much," she chooses first to
torment him with her affected coldness, to reduce him to unquestioning
submission, to put his constancy to the proof, and then means to end by
quietly saying Yes. We shall see.
What there is no question about is, that our garden party was
decorously merry. We talked of flowers, of fruit, of grafts, of
planting, and of innumerable other things relating to husbandry, Pepita
displaying her knowledge of agriculture in rivalry with my father, with
myself, and with the reverend vicar, who listens with open mouth to
every word she utters, and declares that in the seventy odd years of
his life, and during his many wanderings, in the course of which he has
traversed almost the whole of Andalusia, he has never known a woman
more discreet or more judicious in all she thinks and says.
On returning home from any of these excursions, I renew my
entreaties to my father to allow me to go back to you, in order that
the wished-for moment may at last arrive in which I shall see myself
elevated to the priesthood. But my father is so pleased to have me with
him, he is so happy here in the village, taking care of his
plantations, exercising the judicial and executive authority of squire,
paying homage to Pepita, and consulting her in everything as his
Egeria, that he always finds, and will find perhaps for months to come,
some plausible pretext to keep me here. Now he has to clarify the wine
of I know not how many casks; now he has to bottle more wine still; now
it is necessary to hoe around the vines; now to plow the olive groves
and dig around the roots of the olives; in short, he keeps me here
against my wishes-though I should not say "against my wishes," for it
gives me great pleasure to be with my father, who is so good to me.
The evil is that, with this way of life, I fear I shall grow too
material. I am conscious in my devotions of a certain aridity of
spirit. My religious fervor diminishes; common life begins to
penetrate, to infiltrate my nature. When I pray, I suffer distractions;
in my solitary meditations, when the soul should raise itself up to
God, I can no longer concentrate my thought as formerly. My sensibility
of heart, on the other hand, which refuses to occupy itself with any
worthy object, or employ and consume itself on its legitimate ends,
wells forth, and, as it were, overflows at times for objects and under
circumstances which are almost puerile, which seem to me ridiculous,
and of which I am ashamed. If I awaken in the silence of the night, and
hear by chance some lovelorn rustic singing, to the sound of his badly
played guitar, a verse of a song, neither very original nor very
poetical, nor very delicate, I am wont to be affected as if I were
listening to some celestial melody.
A feeling of pity, childish, even absurd, comes over me at times.
The other day the children of my father's overseer stole a nestful of
young sparrows, and on seeing the little birds, not yet fledged, torn
thus violently from their tender mother, I felt a sudden pang of
anguish, and I confess I could not restrain my tears. A few days before
this a peasant had brought in from the fields a calf that had broken
its leg. He was about to carry it to the slaughter-house, and came to
ask my father what part he wished for his table, My father answered,
"The head and the feet, and a few pounds of the flesh." I was touched
by compassion on seeing the calf, and but that shame prevented me,
would have bought it from the man, in the hope of curing and keeping it
alive. In short, my dear uncle, nothing less than the confidence I have
in you would make me recount to you these signs of an extravagant and
restless emotion, so that you may judge by them how necessary it is
that I should return to my former way of life, to my studies, to my
lofty speculations, and be at last elevated to the priesthood, in order
to provide with its fit and proper aliment the fire that consumes my
April 14th. I CONTINUE to lead the same life as usual, and am
detained here still by my father's entreaties.
The greatest pleasure I enjoy, after that of being with him, is my
intercourse and conversation with the reverend vicar, with whom I am in
the habit of taking long walks. It seems incredible that a man of his
age-for he must be near eighty-should be so strong and active, and so
good a walker. I grow tired sooner than he; and there is no rough road,
no wild place, no rugged hilltop in the neighborhood where we have not
The reverend vicar is reconciling me in a great degree with the
Spanish clergy, whom I have stigmatized at times, in speaking to you,
as but little enlightened. How much more to be admired, I often say to
myself, is this man, so full of candor and benevolence, so simple and
affectionate, than one who may have read many books, but in whose soul
the flame of charity, fed by the purest and sincerest faith, burns less
brightly than it does in his! Do not suppose from this that the
understanding of the reverend vicar is a limited one; his is a spirit
uncultured, indeed, but clear and sagacious. At times I fancy that the
good opinion I entertain of him may be due to the attention with which
he listens to me; but if this be not the case, it seems to me that he
reasons on every subject with remarkable perspicacity, and that he
knows how to unite an ardent love of our holy religion with an
appreciation of all the good things that modern civilization has
brought us. I am charmed, above all, by the simplicity, the sobriety,
of sentiment, the naturalness, in short, with which the reverend vicar
performs the most disagreeable works of charity. There is no misfortune
he does not seek to alleviate, no suffering he does not strive to
console, no error he does not endeavor to repair, no necessity which he
does not hasten solicitously to relieve.
In all this, it must be confessed, he has a powerful auxiliary in
Pepita, whose piety and compassionate disposition he is always
This species of homage which the vicar pays to Pepita is founded
upon, and goes side by side with, the practise of a thousand good
works-the giving of alms, prayer, public worship, and the care of the
poor. Pepita not only gives alms for the poor, but also gives money for
special prayers, sermons, and other observances of the Church. If the
altars of the parish are gay at times with beautiful flowers, these
flowers are due to the bounty of Pepita, who has sent them from her
garden. If Our Lady of Sorrows, instead of her old worn cloak, wears
to-day a resplendent and magnificent mantle of black velvet embroidered
with silver, Pepita it is who has paid for it.
These and other similar acts of beneficence the vicar is always
extolling and magnifying. Thus it is, when I am not speaking of my own
aims, of my vocation, of my studies, to hear about which gives the
reverend vicar great delight, and keeps him hanging upon my words,
that, after a thousand turns, he always ends by speaking of Pepita
Jiménez. And of whom, indeed, should the reverend vicar speak to me?
His intercourse with the doctor, with the apothecary, with the rich
husbandmen of the place, hardly gives ground for three words of
conversation. As the reverend vicar possesses the very rare quality, in
one bred in the country, of not being fond of scandal, or of meddling
in other people's affairs, he has no one to speak of but Pepita, whom
he visits frequently, and with whom, as may be gathered from what he
says, he is in the habit of holding the most familiar colloquies.
I know not what books Pepita Jiménez has read, nor what education
she may have received, but from what the reverend vicar says it may be
deduced that she possesses a restless soul and an inquiring spirit, to
which a multiplicity of questions and problems present themselves that
she longs to elucidate and resolve, bringing them for that purpose
before the reverend vicar, whom she thus puts into a state of agreeable
This man, educated in country fashion, a priest whose breviary is,
as one may say, his library, possesses an understanding open to the
light of truth, but is wanting in original power, and thus the problems
and questions Pepita presents to him open before him new horizons and
new paths, nebulous and vague indeed, and which he did not even imagine
to exist, which he is not able to follow with exactitude, but whose
vagueness, novelty, and mystery enchant him.
The vicar is not ignorant of the danger of all this, and that he
and Pepita expose themselves to falling, without knowing it, into some
heresy; but he tranquillizes his conscience with the thought that,
although very far from being a great theologian, he has his Catechism
at his fingers' ends, he has confidence in God that He will illuminate
his spirit, and he hopes not to be led into error, and takes it for
granted that Pepita will follow his counsels, and never deviate from
the right path.
Thus do both form to themselves a thousand poetical conceptions,
full of charm although vague, of all the mysteries of our religion and
the articles of our faith. Great is the devotion they profess to the
most Holy Virgin, and I am astonished to see how they are able to blend
the popular idea or conception of the Virgin with some of the sublimest
From what the vicar relates I can perceive that Pepita Jiménez's
soul, in the midst of its apparent calmness and serenity, is transfixed
by the sharp arrow of suffering; there is in it a love of purity in
contradiction with her past life. Pepita loved Don Gumersindo as her
companion, as her benefactor, as the man to whom she owed everything;
but she is tortured, she is humiliated, by the recollection that Don
Gumersindo was her husband.
In her devotion to the Virgin there may be detected a feeling of
painful humiliation, of suffering, of sadness, produced by the
recollection of her ignoble and childless marriage.
Even in her adoration of the Infant Jesus, in the beautiful carved
image she has in her house, there is something of maternal love that
lacks an object on which to expend its tenderness, of maternal love
that seeks this object in a being not born of sin and impurity.
The vicar says that Pepita worships the Infant Jesus as her God,
but that she also loves him with the maternal tenderness she would feel
for a son, if she had one, and whom she had no cause to regard with any
other feeling than affection. The vicar sees that Pepita, in her
prayers to the Holy Virgin, and in her care of her beautiful image of
the Child Jesus, has in her thoughts the ideal Mother and the ideal
Son, both alike immaculate.
I confess that I know not what to think of all these singularities.
I know so little of women! What the vicar tells me of Pepita surprises
me; and yet, though on the whole I believe her to be good rather than
the contrary, she inspires me at times with a certain fear on my
father's account. Notwithstanding his fifty-five years, I believe that
he is in love; and Pepita, although virtuous through conviction, may,
without premeditating or intending it, be an instrument of the spirit
of evil, may practise a species of coquetry, involuntary and
instinctive, more irresistible, efficacious, and fatal than that which
proceeds from premeditation, calculation, and reasoning.
Who knows, I say to myself at times, notwithstanding her prayers,
her secluded and devout life, her alms and her gifts to the churches-on
all which is based the affection that the vicar entertains for her-if
there be not also an earthly spell, if there be not something of
diabolical magic in the arts she practises, and with which she deludes
and beguiles this simple vicar, so that he thinks and speaks only of
her on all occasions?
The very influence that Pepita exercises over a man so incredulous
as my father, a man whose nature is so vigorous and so little
sentimental, has in it, in truth, something extraordinary.
Nor do the good works of Pepita suffice to explain the respect and
affection with which she inspires these country people in general. On
the rare occasions on which she leaves the house the little children
run to meet her and kiss her hand; the young girls smile, and salute
her with affection; and the men take off their hats as she passes, and
incline themselves before her with the most spontaneous reverence and
the most natural good feeling.
Pepita Jiménez, whom many of the villagers have known since she was
born, and who, to the knowledge of every one here, lived in poverty
with her mother until her marriage to the decrepit and avaricious Don
Gumersindo, has caused all this to be forgotten, and is now looked upon
as a wondrous being, a visitant, pure and radiant, from some distant
land, from some higher sphere, and is regarded by her fellow
townspeople with affectionate esteem, and something like loving
I see that I am inadvertently falling into the same fault that I
censure in the reverend vicar, and that I speak to you of nothing but
Pepita. But this is natural. Here no one speaks of anything else. One
would suppose the whole place to be full of the spirit, of the thought,
of the image of this singular woman, in regard to whom I have not been
able to determine if she be an angel or an accomplished coquette, full
of instinctive astuteness, although the words may seem to involve a
contradiction. For I am fully convinced in my own mind that this woman
does not play the coquette, nor seek to gain the good-will of others,
in order to gratify her vanity.
Pepita's soul is full of candor and sincerity. One has only to see
her to be convinced of this. Her dignified and graceful bearing, her
slender figure, the smoothness and clearness of her forehead, the soft
and pure light of her eyes, all blend into a fitting harmony, in which
there is not a single discordant note.
How deeply I regret having come to this place, and having remained
here so long! I had passed my life in your house, and in the seminary;
I had seen and known no one but my companions and my teachers; I knew
nothing of the world but through speculation and through theory; and
suddenly I find myself thrown into the midst of this world, though it
be only that of a village, and distracted from my studies, meditations,
and prayers by a thousand profane objects.
April 20th. YOUR last letters, dearest uncle, have been a welcome
consolation to my soul. Benevolent, as always, you admonish and
enlighten me with prudent and useful reflections.
It is true my impetuosity is worthy of reprobation. I wish to
attain my aims without making use of the means requisite to their
attainment; I wish to reach the journey's end without first treading,
step by step, the rough and thorny path.
I complain of an aridity of spirit in prayer, of inability to fix
my thoughts, of a proneness to dissipate my tenderness on childish
objects; I desire to elevate myself to and be absorbed in God, to
attain at once to the contemplation of essential being; and yet I
disdain mental prayer and rational and discursive meditation. How,
without attaining to its purity, how, without beholding its light, can
I hope to enjoy the delights of divine love?
I am by nature arrogant, and I shall therefore endeavor to
humiliate myself in my own eyes, in order that God may not suffer the
spirit of evil, in punishment of my pride and presumption, to cover me
I do not believe that it would be easy for me to fall into a lapse
from virtue so shameful and unexpected as the one you fear. I do not
confide in myself; I confide in the mercy of God and in His grace; and
I trust they will not fail me.
Nevertheless, you are altogether right in advising me to abstain
from forming ties of friendship with Pepita Jiménez; I am far enough
from being bound to her by any tie.
I am not ignorant that, when those holy men and saints, who should
serve us as models and examples, were bound in close intimacy and
affection with women, it was in their old age, or when they were
already proved and disciplined by penitence; or when there existed a
noticeable disproportion in years between them and the pious women they
elected to be their friends, as is related of St. Jerome and St.
Paulina, and of St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa. And even thus,
even with a purely spiritual affection, I know it is possible to sin
through excess; for God only should occupy the soul as Lord and Spouse,
and any other being who dwells in it should do so but as the friend,
the servant, the creation of the Spouse, and as one in whom the Spouse
Do not think, however, that I vaunt myself on being invincible,
that I despise danger, and defy and seek it. He who loves danger shall
perish therein. And if the prophet-king, though so agreeable in the
sight of God, and so favored of Him, and Solomon, notwithstanding his
supernatural and God-given wisdom, were troubled and fell into sin
because God turned His face away from them, what have not I to fear,
miserable sinner that I am, so young, so inexperienced in the wiles of
the devil, and so wavering and unpractised in the combats of virtue?
Filled with a salutary fear of God, and imbued with a fitting
distrust of my own weakness, I shall not be forgetful of your counsels
and your prudent admonitions; and I shall pray meantime with fervor,
and meditate on holy things, in order to abhor the things of the world,
in so far as they deserve abhorrence; but of this I may assure you,
that, however deeply I penetrate into the depths of my conscience,
however carefully I search its inmost recesses, I have thus far
discovered nothing to make me share your fears.
If my former letters are full of encomiums on the virtue of Pepita,
it is the fault of my father and of the reverend vicar, and not mine;
for at first, far from being friendly to this woman, I was unjustly
prejudiced against her.
As for the beauty and physical grace of Pepita, be assured that I
have contemplated them with entire purity of thought, and, though it
cost me something to say it, and may cost you a little to hear it, I
confess that, if any cloud has arisen to dim the clear and serene image
of Pepita in the mirror of my soul, it has been owing to your harsh
suspicions, which for an instant have almost made me suspect myself.
But no; what thought have I ever entertained with regard to Pepita,
what have I seen or praised in her that should lead any one to suppose
me to have any other feeling for her than friendship, and the
admiration, pure and innocent, that a work of art may inspire, the more
especially if it be the work of the Supreme Artist, and nothing less
than the temple wherein He dwells?
Besides, dear uncle, I shall have to live in the world, to hold
intercourse with my fellow beings, to see them, and I can not, for that
reason, pluck out my eyes. You have told me many times that you wish me
to devote myself to a life of action, preaching the Divine law, and
making it known in the world, rather than to a contemplative life in
the midst of solitude and isolation. Well, then, this being so, how
would you have me act in order to avoid seeing Pepita Jiménez? Unless I
made myself ridiculous by closing my own eyes in her presence, how
could I fail to notice the beauty of hers; the clearness, the roseate
hue, and the purity of her complexion; the evenness and pearly
whiteness of her teeth, which she discloses with frequency when she
smiles; the fresh carmine of her lips, the serenity and smoothness of
her brow, and a thousand other attractions with which Heaven has
endowed her? It is true that for one who bears within his soul the germ
of evil thoughts, the leaven of vice, any one of the impressions that
Pepita produces might be the shock of the steel against the flint,
kindling the spark that would set fire to and consume all around it;
but, prepared for this danger, watching against it, and guarded with
the shield of Christian prudence, I do not think I have anything to
fear. Besides, if it be rash to seek danger, it is cowardly not to be
able to face it, and to shun it when it presents itself.
Have no fear; I see in Pepita only a beautiful creation of God, and
in God I love her as a sister. If I feel any predilection for her, it
is because of the praises I hear spoken of her by my father, by the
reverend vicar, and by almost every one here.
For my father's sake it would please me were Pepita to relinquish
her inclination for a life of seclusion, and her purpose to lead it,
and to marry him. But were it not for this-were I to see that my father
had only a caprice and not a genuine passion for her-then I should be
glad that Pepita would remain resolute in her chaste widowhood; and
when I should be far away from here-in India, or Japan, or some other
yet more dangerous mission-I might find a consolation in writing to her
of my wanderings and labors. Then, when I returned here in my old age
it would be a great pleasure for me to be on friendly terms with her,
who would also then be aged, and to hold spiritual colloquies with her,
and chats of the same sort as those the father vicar now holds with
her. At present, however, as I am but a young man, I see but little of
Pepita; I hardly speak to her. I prefer to be thought bashful, shy,
ill-bred, and rude, rather than give any one the least occasion for
thinking that I feel toward her as I ought not to, or even for
suspicion or for gossip.
As for Pepita herself, not even in the most remote degree do I
share the apprehension which vaguely you express. What projects could
she form in respect to a man who, in two or three months more, is to be
a priest! She, who has treated so many others with disdain-why should
she be attracted by me? I know myself well, and I know that,
fortunately, I am not capable of inspiring a passion. They say I am not
ill-looking, but I am awkward, dull, shy, wanting in amiability; I bear
the stamp of what I am-a humble student. What am I, compared with the
gallant if somewhat rustic youths who have paid court to Pepita-agile
horsemen, discreet and agreeable in conversation, Nimrods in the chase,
skilled in all bodily exercises, singers of renown in all the fairs of
Andalusia, and graceful and accomplished in the dance? If Pepita has
scorned all these, how should she now think of me, and conceive the
diabolical desire, and the more than diabolical project, of troubling
the peace of my soul, of making me abandon my vocation, perhaps of
plunging me into perdition? No, it is not possible. Pepita I believe to
be good, and myself-and I say it in all sincerity-insignificant;
insignificant, be it understood, so far as inspiring her with love is
concerned, but not too insignificant to be her friend, to merit her
esteem, to be the object one day, in a certain sense, of her
preference, when I shall have succeeded in making myself worthy of this
preference by a holy and laborious life.
I ask you to forgive me if I have vindicated myself too warmly from
certain half-expressed suspicions in your letter-suspicions that sound
like accusations, or like prophetic warnings.
I do not complain of these suspicions: you have given me judicious
advice, the greater part of which I accept and intend to follow; if you
have gone a little beyond what is just in your suspicions, it is owing,
without doubt, to the interest you take in me, and for which I am
grateful to you with all my heart.
May 4th. IT is strange that in so many days I should not have had
time to write to you, but such is the fact. My father does not let me
rest a moment, and I am besieged by visitors.
In large cities it is easy to avoid seeing visitors, to isolate
one's self, to create for one's self a solitude, a Thebaid in the midst
of the tumult; in an Andalusian village, and, above all, when one has
the honor of being the son of the squire, it is necessary to live in
public. Not only now to my study, but even to my bedroom, do the
reverend vicar, the notary, my cousin Currito, the son of Doña Casilda,
and a hundred others, penetrate without any one daring to oppose them,
waken me if I am asleep, and carry me off with them wherever they wish.
The clubhouse here is not a place of amusement for the evening
only, but for all the hours of the day. From eleven o'clock in the
morning it is full of people, who chat, glance over a paper to learn
the news, and play at ombre, which, I have come to the conclusion, is
the Spaniard's favorite game of cards; there are persons here who spend
ten or twelve hours a day at it. In short, there is as much enjoyment
here as one could well desire. In order that this enjoyment may be
uninterrupted there are a great many amusements. Besides ombre, there
are many other games at cards. Draughts, chess, and dominoes are not
neglected. And, finally, there is a decided passion for cock-fighting.
All this, together with making calls, going to the fields to
inspect the work, settling accounts every night with the overseer,
visiting the wine-vaults and cask-stores, superintending the
clarifying, rebottling, and perfecting of the wines, treating with
gipsies and horsedealers for the purchase, sale, or barter of horses,
mules, and donkeys, or with dealers from Xeres who come to buy our wine
in order to convert it into sherry, are here the daily occupation of
the gentry, squirearchy, or whatever else they may choose to call
themselves. On extraordinary occasions there are other tasks and
amusements that give a greater appearance of animation to everything:
as in harvest-time, at the vintage, and the gathering in of the olives;
or when there is a fair or a bull-fight, either here or in a
neighboring village; or when there is a pilgrimage to the sanctuary of
some miraculous image of the Holy Virgin, where, if it be true that
many go through curiosity, or to amuse themselves, and give to their
sweethearts a fairing of a Cupid or a rosary, many more go through
devotion, or in fulfilment of a vow or promise. One of these
sanctuaries is situated at the top of a very high mountain, yet there
is no lack of delicate women who, to reach it, will climb, with bare
feet wounded by the stones and brambles, the steep and rugged path that
leads to it.
There is a certain charm in the life here. For one who has no
desire for fame, no ambition, I can understand that it might be a very
easy and agreeable life. Even solitude may be obtained by an effort. As
I am here only for a short time, I can neither make this effort, nor
ought I to do so; but if I were settled here, I should find no
difficulty in secluding myself-and that, too, without offending any
one-for several hours, or for the whole day, if it were necessary, in
order to devote myself to my studies and meditations.
Your last letter has troubled me a little. I see that you persist
in your suspicions, and I know not what answer to make in order to
justify myself but the answer I have already made you.
You say that the victory, in a certain kind of warfare, consists in
flight; that to fly is to conquer. Why should I seek to deny what the
Apostle and so many holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church have said?
But you well know that, in this case, flight does not depend upon me.
My father is resolved that I shall not go; he keeps me here against my
will, and I must obey him. The victory must be gained by other means,
then, than by flight.
To set your mind at rest, I repeat that matters have not gone so
far as you think; that you see them in a much more advanced stage than
they really are.
There is not the slightest sign that Pepita Jiménez loves me. And
even did she love me, it would be in a different way from that in which
these women loved whom you cite as a salutary warning to me. A lady of
our times, virtuous and well brought up, is neither so susceptible nor
so wanting in decorum as those matrons of whose adventures ancient
history is full.
The passage you cite from St. John Chrysostom is indeed worthy of
consideration; but it is not altogether applicable to the
circumstances. The great lady who in On, Thebes, or Diospolis Magna,
fell in love with the favorite son of Jacob, was in all probability
extremely handsome. By such a supposition only can one comprehend the
words of the saint, that it was a greater miracle that Joseph should
have passed through this ordeal unscathed, than that the three young
men whom Nebuchadnezzar caused to be placed in the fiery furnace were
not reduced to ashes!
As far as beauty is concerned, I confess frankly that I can not
think that the wife of the Egyptian prince, chamberlain of the palace
of the Pharaohs, or whatever else may have been his title, was in any
degree superior to Pepita Jiménez. But neither am I endowed with as
many gifts and excellences as was Joseph, nor is Pepita a woman without
religion and without decorum. And even were the circumstances such as
he relates, were all those horrors true, I can only account for the
exaggerated language of St. John Chrysostom by the fact that he lived
in the corrupt capital, half Gentile still, of the Lower Empire, in the
midst of that Court whose vices he so harshly censures, and where the
Empress Eudoxia herself gave an example of scandal and corruption.
But in our day, when the morality taught in the Gospel has
penetrated more deeply into the strata of society, it seems to me an
exaggeration to think the chaste scorn of the son of Jacob any more
miraculous than the material incombustibility of the three young men of
There is one point on which you touch in your letter that
encourages and pleases me greatly. You condemn, as is right, the
exaggerated sentimentality, and the tendency to be easily moved and to
weep from childish motives, from which I told you that I suffered at
times; but since this disposition of soul, so necessary to combat,
exists in me, you rejoice that it does not affect my prayers and
meditations and contaminate them. You recognize and praise in me the
virile energy that should animate the passions and the mind that seek
to elevate themselves to God.
The intelligence that strives to comprehend Him must be a vigorous
one; the will that submits itself entirely to Him must first have
triumphed, fighting bravely against every appetite, and defeating and
putting to flight every temptation over self. The very passion which,
purified and ardent, has power, even in weak and miserable mortals, to
exalt itself, by an ecstasy of love, to God Himself, attaining by a
supernatural illumination to the knowledge of Him, is the offspring of
a steadfast and upright character, as well as of the Divine grace. This
languor, this debility of the will, this morbid tenderness have nothing
in them in common with charity, with piety, or with Divine love. The
former are the attributes of a nature less than feminine; the latter
are passions, if passions they can be called, of angels rather than of
men. God will be my surety, and with His help I will fight for my own
salvation. But should I sink into perdition, not in disguise nor by
capitulation shall the enemies of the soul and the sins of the flesh
enter into the fortress of my conscience, but with banners flying,
laying waste everything before them by fire and sword, and after a
In the past few days I have had occasion to practise patience in an
extreme degree, and to mortify my self-love in the most cruel manner.
My father, wishing to return Pepita's compliment of the garden-party,
invited her to visit his villa at the Pozo de la Solana. The excursion
took place on the 22d of April. I shall not soon forget the date.
The Pozo de la Solana is about two leagues distant from the
village, and the only road to it is a bridle-path. We all had to go on
horseback. As I never learned to ride, I had on former occasions
accompanied my father mounted on a pacing mule, gentle, and, according
to the expression of Dientes the muleteer, as good as gold, and of
easier motion than a carriage. On the journey to the Pozo de la Solana
I went in the same manner.
My father, the notary, the apothecary, and my cousin Currito were
mounted on good horses. My aunt, Doña Casilda, who weighs more than two
hundred and fifty pounds, rode on a large and powerful donkey, seated
in a commodious side-saddle. The reverend vicar rode a gentle and easy
mule like mine.
As for Pepita Jiménez, who, I supposed, would go also mounted on a
donkey, in the same sort of easy saddle as my aunt-for I was ignorant
that she knew how to ride-she surprised me by making her appearance on
a black and white horse full of fire and spirit. She wore a
riding-habit, and managed her horse with admirable grace and skill.
I was pleased to see Pepita look so charming on horseback, but I
soon began to foresee and to be mortified by the sorry part I would
play, jogging on in the rear beside my corpulent aunt Casilda and the
vicar, all three as quiet and tranquil as if we were seated in a
carriage, while the gay cavalcade in front would caracole, gallop,
trot, and make a thousand other displays of their horsemanship.
I fancied on the instant that there was something of compassion in
Pepita's glance as she noted the pitiable appearance I no doubt
presented, seated on my mule. My cousin Currito looked at me with a
mocking smile, and immediately began to make fun of me and to tease me.
Confess that I deserve credit for my resignation and courage. I
submitted to everything with a good grace, and Currito's jests soon
ceased when he saw that I was invulnerable to them. But what did I not
suffer in secret! The others, now trotting, now galloping, rode in
advance of us, both in going and returning. The vicar and I, with Doña
Casilda between us, rode on, tranquil as the mules we were seated upon,
without hastening or retarding our pace.
I had not even the consolation of chatting with the vicar, in whose
conversation I find so much pleasure, nor of wrapping myself up in my
own thoughts and giving the rein to my fancy, nor of silently admiring
the beauty of the scenery around us. Doña Casilda is gifted with an
abominable loquacity, and we were obliged to listen to her. She told us
all there is to be told of the gossip of the village; she recounted to
us all her accomplishments; she told us how to make sausages,
brain-puddings, pastry, and innumerable other dishes and delicacies.
There is no one, according to herself, who can rival her in matters
pertaining to the kitchen, or to the dressing of hogs, but Antoñona,
Pepita's nurse, and now her housekeeper and general manager. I am
already acquainted with this Antoñona, for she goes back and forth
between her mistress's house and ours with messages, and is in truth
extremely handy-as loquacious as Aunt Casilda, but a great deal more
The scenery on the road to the Pozo de la Solana is charming, but
my mind was so disturbed during our journey that I could not enjoy it.
When we arrived at the villa and dismounted, I was relieved of a great
load, as if it had been I who carried the mule, and not the mule who
We then proceeded on foot through the estate, which is magnificent,
of varied character and extensive. There are vines, old and newly
planted, all on the same property, producing more than five hundred
bushels of grapes; olive trees that yield to the same amount; and,
finally, a grove of the most majestic oaks that are to be found in all
Andalusia. The water of the Pozo de la Solana forms a clear and deep
brook, at which all the birds of the neighborhood come to drink, and on
whose borders they are caught by hundreds, by means of reeds smeared
with bird-lime, or of nets, in the centre of which are fastened a cord
and a decoy. All this carried my thoughts back to the sports of my
childhood, and to the many times that I too had gone to catch birds in
the same manner.
Following the course of the brook, and especially in the ravines,
are many poplars and other tall trees, which, together with the bushes
and the shrubs, form a dark and labyrinthine wood. A thousand fragrant
wild flowers grow there spontaneously, and it would, in truth, be
difficult to imagine anything more secluded and sylvan, more solitary,
peaceful, and silent than this spot. Even in the fervor of noonday,
when the sun pours down his light in torrents from a heaven without a
cloud, the mind experiences the same mysterious terror as visits it at
times in the silent hours of the night. One can understand here the
manner of life of the patriarchs of old, and of the primitive shepherds
and heroes; and the visions and apparitions that appeared to them of
nymphs, of gods, and of angels, in the midst of the noonday brightness.
As we walked through this thicket, there arrived a moment in which,
I know not how, Pepita and I found ourselves alone together. The others
had remained behind.
I felt a sudden thrill pass through me. For the first time, and in
a place so solitary, I found myself alone with this woman; while my
thoughts were still dwelling on the noontide apparitions, now sinister,
now gracious, but always supernatural, vouchsafed to the men of remote
Pepita had left the long skirt of her riding-habit in the house,
and now wore a short dress that did not interfere with the graceful
ease of her movements. She had on her head a little Andalusian hat,
which became her extremely. She carried in her hand her riding-whip,
which I fancied to myself to be a magic wand by means of which this
enchantress might cast her spells over me.
I am not afraid to transcribe here these eulogies of her beauty. In
this sylvan scene she appeared to me more beautiful than ever. The
precaution recommended in similar cases by ascetics, to think of her
beauty defaced by sickness and old age, to picture her to myself dead,
the prey of corruption and of the worm, presented itself, against my
will, to my imagination; and I say against my will, for I do not concur
in the necessity for such a precaution. No thought of the material, no
suggestion of the evil spirit, troubled my reason or infected my will
or my senses.
What did occur to me was an argument-at least to my mind-in
disproof of the efficacy of this precaution. Beauty, the creation of a
Sovereign and Divine Power, may indeed be frail and ephemeral, may
vanish in an instant; but the idea of beauty is eternal, and, once
perceived by the mind, it lives there an immortal life. The beauty of
this woman, such as it manifests itself to-day, will disappear in a few
short years; the graceful form, those charming contours, the noble head
that raises itself so proudly above her shoulders: all will be food for
loathsome worms; but-though the material must of necessity be
transformed-its idea, the creative thought-abstract beauty, in a
word-what shall destroy this? Does it not exist in the Divine Mind?
Once perceived and known by me, must it not continue to live in my
soul, triumphing over age and even over death?
I was meditating thus, striving to tranquilize my spirit and
dissipate the doubts which you have succeeded in infusing into my mind,
when Pepita and I encountered each other. I was pleased and at the same
time troubled to find myself alone with her-hoping and yet fearing that
the others would join us.
The silvery voice of Pepita broke the silence, and drew me from my
"How silent you are, Don Luis, and how sad! I am pained to think
that it is perhaps through my fault, or partly so at least, that your
father has caused you to spend a disagreeable day in these solitudes,
taking you away from a solitude more congenial, where there would be
nothing to distract your attention from your prayers and pious books."
I know not what answer I made to this. It must have been something
nonsensical, for my mind was troubled. I did not wish to flatter Pepita
by paying her profane compliments, nor, on the other hand, did I wish
to answer her rudely.
"You must forgive me if I am wrong, but I fancy that, in addition
to the annoyance of seeing yourself deprived to-day of your favorite
occupation, there is something else that powerfully contributes to your
"And what is this something else?" I said; "since you have
discovered it, or fancy you have done so."
"This something else," responded Pepita, "is a feeling not
altogether becoming in one who is going to be a priest so soon, but
very natural in a young man of twenty-two."
On hearing this I felt the blood mount to my face, and my face
burn. I imagined a thousand absurdities; I thought myself beset by evil
spirits; I fancied myself tempted by Pepita, who was doubtless about to
let me understand that she knew I loved her. Then my timidity gave
place to haughtiness, and I looked her steadily in the face. There must
have been something laughable in my look, but either Pepita did not
observe it, or, if she did, she concealed the fact with amiable
discretion; for she exclaimed, in the most natural manner:
"Do not be offended because I find you are not without fault. This
that I have observed seems to me a slight one. You are hurt by the
jests of Currito, and by being compelled to play-speaking profanely-a
not very dignified part, mounted, like the reverend vicar with his
eighty years, on a placid mule, and not, as a youth of your age and
condition should be, on a spirited horse. The fault is the reverend
dean's, to whom it did not occur that you should learn to ride. To know
how to manage a horse is not opposed to the career you intend to
follow, and I think, now that you are here, that your father might in a
few days give you the necessary instruction to enable you to do so. If
you should go to Persia or to China, where there are no railroads yet,
you will make but a sorry figure in those countries as a bad horseman.
It is possible even that, by this oversight, the missionary himself may
come to lose prestige in the eyes of those barbarians, which will make
it all the more difficult for him to reap the fruits of his labors."
This and other arguments Pepita adduced in order to persuade me to
learn to ride on horseback; and I was so convinced of the necessity of
a missionary's being a good horseman that I promised her to learn at
once, taking my father as a teacher.
"On the very next expedition we make," I said, "I shall ride the
most spirited horse my father has, instead of the mule I am riding
"I shall be very glad if you do," responded Pepita, with a smile of
At this moment we were joined by the rest of the party, at which I
was secretly rejoiced, though for no other reason than the fear of not
being able to sustain the conversation, and of saying a great many
foolish things, on account of the little experience I have had in
conversing with women.
After our walk my father's servants spread before us on the fresh
grass, in the most charming spot beside the brook, a rural and abundant
The conversation was very animated, and Pepita acquitted herself
with much discretion and intelligence. My cousin Currito returned to
his jests about my manner of riding and the meekness of my mule. He
called me a theologian, and said that, seated on muleback, I looked as
if I were dispensing blessings. This time, however, being now firmly
resolved to learn to ride, I answered his jests with sarcastic
indifference. I was silent, nevertheless, with respect to the promise I
had just made Pepita. The latter, doubtless thinking as I did-although
we had come to no understanding in the matter-that silence for the
present was necessary to ensure the complete success of the surprise
that I would create afterward by my knowledge of horsemanship, said
nothing of our conversation. Thus it happened, naturally and in the
simplest manner, that a secret existed between us; and it produced in
my mind a singular effect.
Nothing else worth telling occurred during the day.
In the afternoon we returned to the village in the same manner in
which we had left it. Yet, seated on my easygoing mule and at the side
of my aunt Casilda, I did not experience the same fatigue or sadness as
During the whole journey I listened without weariness to my aunt's
stories, amusing myself at times in conjuring up idle fancies. Nothing
of what passes in my soul shall be concealed from you. I confess, then,
that the figure of Pepita was, as it were, the centre, or rather the
nucleus and focus, of these idle fancies.
The noonday vision in which she had appeared to me, in the shadiest
and most sequestered part of the grove, brought to my memory all the
visions, holy and unholy, of wondrous beings, of a condition superior
to ours, that I had read of in sacred authors and in the profane
classics. Pepita appeared to the eyes and on the stage of my fancy in
the leafy seclusion of the grove, not as she rode before us on
horseback, but in an ideal and ethereal fashion-as Venus to AEneas, as
Minerva to Callimachus, as the sylph who afterward became the mother of
Libusa to the Bohemian Kroco, as Diana to the son of Aristaus, as the
angels in the valley of Mamre to the Patriarch, as the hippocentaur to
St. Anthony in the solitude of the wilderness.
That the vision of Pepita should assume in my mind something of a
supernatural character seems to me no more to be wondered at than any
of these. For an instant, seeing the consistency of the illusion, I
thought myself tempted by evil spirits; but I reflected that in the few
moments during which I had been alone with Pepita near the brook of the
Solana, nothing had occurred that was not natural and commonplace; that
it was afterward as I rode along quietly on my mule, that some demon,
hovering invisible around me, had suggested these extravagant fancies.
That night I told my father of my desire to learn to ride. I did
not wish to conceal from him that it was Pepita who had suggested this
desire. My father was greatly rejoiced; he embraced me, he kissed me,
he said that now not you only would be my teacher, but that he also
would have the pleasure of teaching me something. He ended by assuring
me that in two or three weeks he would make me the best horseman of all
Andalusia; able to go to Gibraltar for contraband goods, and come back
laden with tobacco and cotton, after eluding the vigilance of the
Custom-house officers; fit, in a word to astonish the riders who show
off their horsemanship in the fairs of Seville and Mairena, and worthy
to press the flanks of Babieca, Bucephalus, or even of the horses of
the sun themselves, if they should by chance descend to earth, and I
could catch them by the bridle.
I don't know what you will think of this notion of my learning to
ride, but I take it for granted you will see nothing wrong in it.
If you could but see how happy my father is, and how he delights in
teaching me! Since the day after the excursion I told you of, I take
two lessons daily. There are days on which the lesson is continuous,
for we are on horseback from morning till night. During the first week
the lessons took place in the courtyard of the house, which is unpaved,
and which served us as a riding-school.
We now ride out into the country, but manage so that no one shall
see us. My father does not want me to show myself on horseback in
public until I am able to astonish every one by my fine appearance in
the saddle, as he says. If the vanity natural to a father does not
deceive him, this, it seems, will be very soon, for I have a wonderful
aptitude for riding.
"It is easy to see that you are my son!" my father exclaims with
joy, as he watches my progress.
My father is so good that I hope you will pardon him the profane
language and irreverent jests in which he indulges at times. I grieve
for this at the bottom of my soul, but I endure it with patience. These
constant and long-continued lessons have reduced me to a pitiable
condition with blisters. My father enjoins me to write to you that they
are caused by mortification of the flesh.
As he declares that within a few weeks I shall be an accomplished
horseman, and he does not desire to be superannuated as a master, he
proposes to teach me other accomplishments of a somewhat irregular
character, and sufficiently unsuited to a future priest. At times he
proposes to train me in bull-fighting, in order that he may take me
afterward to Seville, where, with lance in hand, on the plains of
Tablada, I shall make the braggarts and the bullies stare. Then he
recalls his own youthful days, when he belonged to the bodyguard, and
declares that he will look up his foils, gloves, and masks, and teach
me to fence. And, finally, as my father flatters himself that he can
wield the Sevillian dagger better than any one else, he has offered to
teach me even this accomplishment also.
You can already imagine the answer I make to all this nonsense. My
father replies that, in the good old times, not only the priests, but
even the bishops themselves, rode about the country on horseback,
putting infidels to the sword. I rejoin that this might happen in the
Dark Ages, but that in our day the ministers of the Most High should
know of no other weapons than those of persuasion.
"And what if persuasion be not enough?" says my father. "Do you
think it would be amiss to reenforce argument with a few good blows of
The complete missionary, according to my father's opinion, should
know how, on occasion, to take recourse to these heroic measures, and
as my father has read a great many tales and romances, he quotes
various examples in support of his opinion.
He cites, in the first place, St. James, who on his white horse,
without ceasing to be an apostle, put more Moors to the sword than he
preached to or convinced. He cites a certain Señor de la Vera, who,
being sent on an embassy to Boabdil by Ferdinand and Isabella, became
entangled in a theological discussion with the Moors in the Court of
the Lions, and, having exhausted his arguments, drew his sword and fell
upon them with fury in order to complete their conversion. And he
finally cites the Biscayan nobleman, Ignatius Loyola, who, in a
controversy he had with a Moor regarding the purity of the Holy Virgin,
growing weary at last of the impious and horrible blasphemies with
which the aforesaid Moor contradicted him, fell upon him, sword in
hand, and, if he had not taken to his heels, would have forced
conviction upon his soul in a terrible fashion. In regard to the
incident relating to St. Ignatius, I answer my father that this was
before the saint became a priest; and in regard to the other examples,
I answer that historians are not agreed.
In short, I defend myself as best I can against my father's jests,
and I content myself with being a good horseman, without learning other
accomplishments unsuited to the clergy, although my father assures me
that not a few of the Spanish clergy understand and practise them with
frequency in Spain, even in our own day, with a view to contributing to
the triumph of the faith, and to the preservation or the restoration of
the unity of the Church.
I am grieved to the soul by this levity of my father's, and that he
should speak with irreverence and jestingly about the most serious
things; but a respectful son is not called upon to go further than I do
in repressing his somewhat Voltairean freedom of speech. I say
Voltairean, because I am not able to describe it by any other word. At
heart my father is a good Catholic, and this thought consoles me.
Yesterday was the Feast of the Cross, and the village presented a
very animated appearance. In each street were six or seven May-crosses
covered with flowers, but none of them was so beautiful as that placed
by Pepita at the door of her house. It was adorned by a perfect cascade
In the evening we went to an entertainment at the house of Pepita.
The cross which had stood at the door was now placed in a large saloon
on the ground floor, in which there is a piano, and Pepita presented us
with a simple and poetic spectacle-one that I had seen when a child,
but had since forgotten.
From the upper part of the cross hung down seven bands or broad
ribbons, two white, two green, and three red, the symbolic colors of
the theological virtues. Small children, five or six years old,
representing the seven sacraments, and holding the seven ribbons that
hung from the cross, performed with great skill a species of
contra-dance. The sacrament of baptism was represented by a child
wearing the white robe of a catechumen; ordination, by another child as
a priest; confirmation, by a little bishop; extreme unction, by a
pilgrim with staff and scrip, the latter filled with shells; marriage,
by a bride and bridegroom; and penance, by a Nazarene with cross and
crown of thorns.
The dance was a series of reverences, steps, evolutions, and
genuflexions, rather than a dance, performed to the sound of very
tolerable music, something like a march, which the organist played, not
without skill, on the piano.
The little dancers, children of the servants or retainers of
Pepita, after playing their parts, went away to bed loaded with gifts
The entertainment, in the course of which we were served with
refreshments, continued till twelve; the refreshments were syrup served
in little cups, and afterward chocolate with sponge-cake, and meringues
and sugared water.
Since the return of spring Pepita's seclusion and retirement are
being gradually abandoned, at which my father is greatly rejoiced. In
future Pepita will receive every night, and my father desires that I
shall be one of the guests.
Pepita has left off mourning, and now appears, more lovely and
attractive than ever, in the lighter fabrics appropriate to the season,
which is almost summer. She still dresses, however, with extreme
I cherish the hope that my father will not now detain me here
beyond the end of this month at farthest. In June we shall both join
you in the city, and you shall then see how, for from Pepita, to whom I
am indifferent, and who will remember me neither kindly nor unkindly, I
shall have the pleasure of embracing you, and attaining at last to the
happiness of being ordained.
May 7th. PEPITA, as I mentioned to you before, receives every
evening, from nine to twelve.
Four or five married ladies of the village, and as many more
unmarried ones, including Aunt Casilda, are frequent visitors; as well
as six or seven young men, who play at forfeits with the girls. Three
or four engagements are the natural result.
The sedate portion of the company are the same as usual. These are,
as one may say, the high functionaries of the village-my father, who is
the squire, the apothecary, the doctor, and the vicar.
Pepita plays ombre with my father and the vicar and a fourth
I am at a loss to know in which division to place myself. If I join
the young people, my gravity proves a hindrance to their games and
flirtations; if I stay with the elders, I must play the part of a
looker-on in things I have no knowledge of. The only games of cards I
know are simple and old-fashioned, and do not seem to be in vogue here,
in polite society.
The best course for me to pursue would be to absent myself from the
house altogether, but my father will not hear of this. By doing so,
according to him, I should make myself ridiculous.
My father shows many signs of wonder when he sees my ignorance in
certain things. That I should not know how to play even ombre fills him
"Your uncle has brought you up quite out of the world," he says to
me, "cramming you with theology, and leaving you in the dark about
everything else you ought to know. For the very reason that you are to
be a priest, and can neither dance nor make love in society it is
necessary that you should know how to play ombre. Otherwise how are you
going to spend your time, unhappy boy?"
To these and other arguments of a like kind I have been obliged to
yield, and my father is teaching me at home to play ombre, so that, as
soon as I have learned it, I may play it at Pepita's. He wanted also,
as I already told you, to teach me to fence, and afterward to smoke and
shoot and throw the bar; but I have consented to nothing of all this.
"What a difference," my father exclaims, "between your youth and
And then he adds, laughing:
"In substance it is the same thing. I, too, had canonical hours in
my regimental quarters: a cigar was the censer; a pack of cards, the
hymn-book; and there were never wanting other devotions and exercises
of a more or less spiritual character."
Although you had warned me of my father's levity of disposition, on
account of which I have lived with you for twelve years of my life-from
the age of ten to that of twenty-two-yet his sayings, altogether too
free at times, perturb and mortify me. But what is to be done? Although
I can not reprove him for making use of them, I do not, on the other
hand, applaud or laugh at them. The strangest part of it is, that my
father is altogether another person when he is in the house of Pepita.
Never, even by chance, does he utter a single phrase, a single jest of
the kind he is so prodigal of at other times. At Pepita's my father is
propriety itself. He seems, too, to become every day more attached to
her, and to cherish greater hopes of success.
My father continues greatly pleased with me as his pupil in
horsemanship. He declares that in four or five days I shall have
mastered the art, and that I shall then mount Lucero, a black horse
bred from an Arab horse and a mare of the race of Guadalcazar, full of
fire and spirit, and trained to all manner of curvetings.
"Whoever succeeds in getting on the back of Lucero," my father says
to me, "may venture to compete in horsemanship with the centaurs
themselves; and that you shall do very soon."
Although I spend the whole day out of doors on horseback, in the
clubhouse, or at Pepita's, I yet steal a few hours from slumber,
sometimes voluntarily, sometimes because I can not sleep, to meditate
on my situation and to examine my conscience. The image of Pepita is
always present to my mind. "Can this be love?" I ask myself.
The moral obligation I am under, the vow I have made to consecrate
myself to the service of the altar, although not confirmed, is
nevertheless in my eyes full and binding. If anything opposed to the
fulfilment of this vow has entered into my soul, it must be combated.
I note, too-and you must not accuse me of arrogance because I
mention this to you-that the empire of my will, which you have taught
me to exercise, is complete over my senses. While Moses on the top of
Mount Sinai conversed with God, the rebellious people on the plain
below adored the golden calf. Notwithstanding my youth, my spirit has
no fears of falling into a like rebelliousness. I might commune with
God in full security, if the enemy did not come to attack me in the
sanctuary itself. But the image of Pepita presents itself to my soul.
It is a spirit that makes war against my spirit. It is the idea of her
beauty, in all its spiritual purity, that stands before the sanctuary
of the soul, where God resides, and prevents me from reaching Him.
I do not shut my eyes to the truth, however; I can see clearly; I
can reason; I do not deceive myself.
Above and beyond this spiritual inclination that draws me to
Pepita, is the love of the Infinite and of the Eternal. Although I
represent Pepita to myself as an idea, as a poem, it is still the idea,
the poetry of something finite, limited, concrete; while the love of
God and the conception of God embrace everything. But notwithstanding
all my efforts, I am unable to give form in my mind to this supreme
conception-this object of the highest love-in order that it may combat
the image, the memory of the frail and ephemeral reality that
continually besets me.
Fervently do I implore Heaven to awaken within me the power of the
imagination, that it may create a likeness, a symbol of this
conception, that shall be all-embracing, and absorb and efface the
image of Pepita. This highest conception, on which I desire to centre
my love, is vague, shadowy, indescribable, like the blackness of
darkness; while Pepita's image presents itself to me in clearly defined
outlines, bright, palpable, luminous with the subdued light that may be
borne by the eyes of the spirit, not bright with the intense light that
for the eyes of the spirit is as darkness.
Every other consideration, every other object, is of no avail to
destroy her image. It rises up between the crucifix and me; between the
most sacred image of the Virgin and me; I see it on the page of the
religious book I am reading.
Yet I do not believe that my soul is invaded by what in the world
is called love. And even if this were so, I would do battle against
this love, and conquer in the end.
The daily sight of Pepita, the hearing her praises sounded
continually, even by the reverend vicar, preoccupy me; they turn my
spirit toward profane things, and withdraw it from its proper
meditations. But no-I do not yet love Pepita; I will go away from here
and forget her.
While I remain here I will battle valiantly. I will wrestle with
the Lord in order to prevail with Him by love and submission. My cries
shall reach Him like burning arrows, and shall break down the buckler
wherewith He defends and hides Himself from the eyes of my soul. I will
fight like Israel in the silence of the night and the Lord shall wound
me in the thigh, and shall humble me in the conflict, in order that,
being vanquished, I may become the victor.
May 12th. BEFORE I had any intention of doing so, my dear uncle, my
father persuaded me to ride Lucero. Yesterday, at six in the morning, I
mounted the beautiful wild beast, as my father calls Lucero, and we set
out for the country. My father rode a spirited chestnut.
I rode so well, I kept so firm a seat, and looked to such advantage
on the superb animal, that my father could not resist the temptation of
showing off his pupil; and about eleven in the morning, after resting
at a farm he owns half a league distant from here, he insisted on our
returning to the village and entering by the most frequented street,
which we did, our horses' hoofs clattering loudly on the paving stones.
It is needless to say that we rode by Pepita's house, who for some time
past is to be seen occasionally at her window, and who was then seated
at the grating of a lower window, behind the green shutter.
Hardly had Pepita heard the noise we made than, lifting up her eyes
and seeing us, she rose, laid down the sewing she had in her hands, and
set herself to observe us. Lucero, who has the habit, as I learned
afterward, of prancing and curveting when he passes the house of
Pepita, began to show off, and to rear and plunge. I tried to quiet
him, but as there was something unfamiliar to him in the ways of his
present rider, as well as in the rider himself, whom perhaps he
regarded with contempt, he grew more and more unmanageable, and began
to neigh and prance, and even to kick. But I remained firm and serene,
showing him that I was his master, chastising him with the spur,
touching his breast with the whip, and holding him in by the bridle.
Lucero, who had almost stood up on his hind legs, now humbled himself
so far as to bend his knees gently and make a reverence.
The crowd of idlers who had gathered around us broke into
boisterous applause. My father called out to them:
"A good lesson that for our braggarts and blusterers!"
And, observing afterward that Currito-who has no other occupation
than to amuse himself-was among the crowd, he addressed him in these
"Look at that, you rascal! Look at the theologian now, and see if
you don't stare with wonder, instead of laughing at him!"
And, in fact, there Currito stood open-mouthed, stockstill with
amazement, and unable to utter a word.
My triumph was great and assured, although unsuited to my
character. The unfitness of the triumph covered me with confusion.
Shame brought the blood to my cheeks. I must have turned as red as
scarlet, or redder, when I saw that Pepita was applauding and saluting
me graciously, while she smiled and clapped her beautiful hands.
In short, I have been adjudged a man of nerve and a horseman of the
My father could not be prouder or happier than he is. He declares
that he is completing my education; that in me you have sent him a book
full of wisdom, but uncorrected and unbound, and that he is now making
a fair copy, and putting it between covers.
On two occasions I played ombre with Pepita. Learning ombre, if
that be a part of the binding and the correcting, is also done with.
The night after my equestrian feat Pepita received me with
enthusiasm, and-what she had never done before, nor perhaps desired to
do-gave me her hand.
Do not suppose that I did not call to mind what so many moralists
and ascetics recommend in like cases, but in my inmost thoughts I
believed they exaggerated the danger. Those words of the Holy Spirit,
that it is as dangerous to touch a woman as a scorpion, seem to me to
have been said in another sense. In pious books, no doubt, many phrases
and sentences of the Scriptures are, with the best intentions,
interpreted harshly. How are we to understand otherwise the saying that
the beauty of woman, this perfect work of God, is always the cause of
perdition? Or how are we to understand, in a universal and invariable
sense, that woman is more bitter than death? How are we to understand
that he who touches a woman, on whatever occasion or with whatsoever
thought, shall not escape without stain?
However, I made answer rapidly within my own mind to these and
other similar counsels; I took the hand that Pepita kindly extended to
me, and pressed it in mine. Its softness made me comprehend all the
better the delicacy and beauty of the hand that until now I had known
only by sight.
According to the usages of the world, the hand, once given, should
always be given on entering a room and on taking leave. I hope that in
this ceremony, in this evidence of friendship, in this manifestation of
kindness, given and accepted in purity of heart, and without any
mixture of levity, you will see nothing either evil or dangerous.
As my father is often obliged of an evening to see the overseer and
others of the country people, and is seldom free until half-past ten or
eleven, I take his place with Pepita at the card-table. The reverend
vicar and the notary are generally the other partners, and we play for
very small stakes, so that not more than a piastre or two changes
As the game thus possesses but little serious interest, we
interrupt it constantly with pleasant conversation, and even with
discussions on matters foreign to the game itself, in all which Pepita
displays such clearness of understanding, such liveliness of
imagination, and such extraordinary grace of expression as to astonish
I find no sufficient motive to change my opinion with respect to
what I have already said in answer to your suspicions that Pepita
perhaps feels a certain liking for me. She manifests towards me the
affection she would naturally entertain for the son of her suitor, Don
Pedro de Vargas, and the timidity and shyness that would be inspired by
a man in my position, who, though not yet a priest, is soon to become
Nevertheless, as I always speak to you in my letters as if I were
kneeling before you in the confessional, I desire, as is my duty, to
communicate to you a passing impression I have received on two or three
occasions. This impression may be but a hallucination or a delusion,
but I have none the less felt it.
I have already told you in my former letters that the eyes of
Pepita, green as those of Circe, are frank and tranquil in their gaze;
she does not seem to be conscious of their power, or to know that they
serve for any other purpose than to see with. When she looks at one,
the soft light of her glance is so clear, so candid, and so untroubled
that, instead of giving rise to any evil thoughts, it seems to give
birth to pure thoughts, and leaves innocent and chaste souls in
untroubled repose, while it destroys every incitement to evil in souls
that are not chaste. There is no trace of ardent passion, no fire to be
discovered in Pepita's eyes. Their light is like the mild ray of the
Well, then, notwithstanding all this, I fancied I detected, on two
or three occasions, a sudden brightness, a gleam as of lightning, a
swift, devouring flame in her eyes as they rested on me. Can this be
the result of a ridiculous vanity, inspired by the arch fiend himself?
I think so. I believe it is, and I wish to believe it.
The swiftness, the fugitive nature of the impression make me
conjecture that it had no external reality, that it was only an
The serenity of heaven, the coldness of indifference, tempered,
indeed, with sweetness and charity-this is what I always discern in
Nevertheless, this illusion, this vision of a strange and ardent
glance, torments me.
My father affirms that in affairs of the heart it is the woman, not
the man, who takes the first step; but that she takes it without
thereby incurring any responsibility, and with the power to disavow or
retract it whenever she desires to do so. According to my father, it is
the woman who first declares her passion through the medium of furtive
glances, which she afterward disavows to her own conscience if
necessary, and of which he to whom they are directed divines, rather
than reads, the significance. In this manner, by a species of electric
shock, by means of a subtle and inexplicable intuition, he who is loved
perceives that he is loved; and when at last he makes up his mind to
declare himself, he can do so confidently, and in the full security
that his passion is returned.
Perhaps it is these theories of my father, to which I have listened
because I could not help it, that have heated my fancy and made me
imagine what has no existence in reality.
Yet, after all, I say to myself at times, Is the thought so absurd,
so incredible, that this illusion should have an existence in reality?
And if it had, if I were pleasing in Pepita's eyes otherwise than as a
friend, if the woman to whom my father is paying his addresses should
fall in love with me, would not my position then be terrible?
But let us cast away these fears, the creation, no doubt, of
vanity. Let us not make a Phadra of Pepita, or a Hippolytus of me.
What in reality begins to surprise me is my father's carelessness
and complete consciousness of security. Pardon my pride, ask Heaven to
pardon it; for at times this consciousness of security piques and
offends me. What! I say to myself, is there something so absurd in the
thought that it should not even occur to my father that,
notwithstanding my supposed sanctity, or perhaps because of my supposed
sanctity, I should, without wishing it, inspire Pepita with love?
There is an ingenious method of reasoning by which I explain to
myself, without wounding my vanity, my father's carelessness in this
important particular. My father, although he has no reason for doing
so, regards himself already in the light of Pepita's husband, and
shares that fatal blindness with which Asmodeus, or some other yet more
malicious demon, afflicts husbands. Profane and ecclesiastical history
is full of instances of this blindness, which God permits, no doubt,
for providential purposes. The most remarkable example of it, perhaps,
is that of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who had for his wife a woman so
vile as Faustina, and though so wise a man and so great a philosopher,
remained in ignorance to the end of his days of what was known to every
one else in the Roman Empire; so that in the meditations, or memoirs,
that he composed, he gives infinite thanks to the immortal gods for
having bestowed upon him so faithful and so good a wife, thus provoking
the smiles of his contemporaries and of future generations. Every day
since that time we see examples of great men, and men of exalted rank,
who make those who enjoy the favor of their wives their private
secretaries, and bestow honors on them. Thus do I explain to myself my
father's indifference, and his failure to suspect that, even against my
will, I might become his rival.
Would it be a want of respect on my part, should I fall into the
sin of presumption or insolence, if I were to warn my father of the
danger which he himself does not see? But he gives me no opportunity to
say anything to him. Besides, what could I say to him? That once or
twice I fancy Pepita has looked at me in a way different from that in
which she usually does? May not this be an illusion of mine? No; I have
not the least proof that Pepita desires to play the coquette with me.
What, then, could I tell my father? Shall I say to him that it is I
who am in love with Pepita, that I covet the treasure he already
regards as his own? This is not the truth; and, above all, how could I
tell this to my father, even if, to my misfortune and through my fault,
it were the truth?
The best course I can adopt is to say nothing; to combat the
temptation in silence, if it should indeed assail me, and to endeavor
as soon as possible to leave this place and return to you.
May 19th. I RETURN thanks to Heaven and to you for the letter and
the counsels you have lately sent me. To-day I need them more than
The mystical and learned St. Theresa is right in dwelling upon the
suffering of timid souls that allow themselves to be disturbed by
temptation; but a thousand times worse than that suffering is the
awakening from error of those who, like me, have permitted themselves
to indulge in arrogance and self-confidence.
Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit; but when fire is set
to the walls of the temple, though they do not burn, yet they are
The first evil thought is the head of the serpent; if we do not
crush it with firm and courageous foot, then will the venomous reptile
climb up and hide himself in our bosom.
The nectar of earthly joys, however innocent they be, is sweet
indeed to the taste; but afterward it is converted into gall, and into
the venom of the serpent.
It is true-I can no longer deny it to you-I ought not to have
allowed my eyes to rest with so much complacency on this dangerous
I do not deem myself lost; but I feel my soul troubled
Even as the thirsty hart desires and seeks the waterbrooks, so does
my soul still seek God. To God does it turn that He may give it rest;
it longs to drink at the torrent of His delights, whose gushing waters
rejoice Paradise, and whose clear waves can wash us whiter than snow;
but deep calleth unto deep, and my feet have stuck fast in the mire
that is hidden in their abysses.
Yet have I still breath and voice to cry out with the psalmist:
"Arise, my joy! If thou art on my side, who shall prevail against me?"
I say unto my sinful soul, full of the chimerical imaginings and
sinful desires engendered by unlawful thoughts: "Oh, miserable daughter
of Babylon! happy shall he be who shall give thee thy reward! Happy
shall he be that dasheth thy little ones against the stones!"
Works of penance, fasting, prayer, and penance, are the weapons
wherewith I shall arm myself to the combat, and, with the Divine help,
It was not a dream; it was not madness; it was the truth: she lets
her eyes rest upon me at times with the ardent glance of which I have
told you. There is in her glance an inexplicable magnetic attraction.
It draws me on, it seduces me, and I can not withdraw my gaze from her.
On such occasions my eyes must burn, like hers, with a fatal flame, as
did those of Ammon when he turned them upon Tamar, as did those of the
prince of Shechem when they were fixed upon Dinah.
When our glances thus meet, I forget even God. Her image rises up
within my soul, the conqueror of everything. Her beauty outshines all
other beauty; the joys of heaven seem to me less desirable than her
affection. An eternity of suffering would be little in exchange for a
moment of the infinite bliss with which one of those glances which pass
like lightning inundates my soul.
When I return home, when I am alone in my room, in the silence of
the night, I realize all the horror of my position, and I form good
resolutions, only to break them again.
I resolve to feign sickness, to make use of any pretext so as not
to go to Pepita's on the following night, and yet I go.
My father, confiding to the last degree, says to me when the hour
arrives, without any suspicion of what is passing in my soul:
"Go to Pepita's; I will go later, when I have finished with the
No excuse occurs to me; I can find no pretext for not going, and
instead of answering, "I can not go," I take my hat and depart.
On entering the room I shake hands with Pepita, and as our hands
touch she casts a spell over me; my whole being is changed; a devouring
fire penetrates my heart, and I think only of her. Moved by an
irresistible impulse, I gaze at her with insane ardor, and at every
instant I think I discover in her new perfections. Now it is the
dimples in her cheeks when she smiles, now the roseate whiteness of her
skin, now the straight outline of her nose, now the smallness of her
ear, now the softness of contour and the admirable modeling of her
I enter her house against my will, as though summoned there by a
conjurer, and no sooner am I there than I fall under the spell of her
enchantment. I see clearly that I am in the power of an enchantress
whose fascination is irresistible.
Not only is she pleasing to my sight, but her words sound in my
ears like the music of the spheres, revealing to my soul the harmony of
the universe; and I even fancy that a subtle fragrance emanates from
her, sweeter than the perfume of the mint that grows by the brookside,
or the woodlike odor of the thyme that is found among the hills.
I know not how, in this state of exaltation, I am able to play
ombre, or to converse rationally, or even to speak, so completely am I
absorbed in her.
When our eyes meet, our souls rush forth in them and seem to join
and interpenetrate each other. In that meeting a thousand feelings are
communicated that in no other way could be made known; poems are
recited that could be uttered in no human tongue, and songs are sung
that no human voice could sing, and no guitar accompany.
Since the day I met Pepita by the Pozo de la Solana I have not seen
her alone. Not a word has passed between us, yet we have told each
When I withdraw myself from this fascination, when I am again alone
at night in my chamber, I set myself to examine coolly the situation in
which I am placed; I see the abyss that is about to engulf me yawning
before me; I feel my feet slip from under me, and that I am sinking
You counsel me to reflect upon death-not on the death of this
woman, but on my own. You counsel me to reflect on the instability, on
the insecurity of our existence, and on what there is beyond it. But
these considerations, these reflections neither terrify nor daunt me.
Why should I, who desire to die, fear death? Love and death are
brothers. A sentiment of self-abnegation springs to life within me, and
tells me that my whole being should be consecrated to and annihilated
in the beloved object. I long to merge myself in one of her glances; to
diffuse and exhale my whole being in the ray of light shot forth from
her eyes; to die while gazing on her, even though I should be eternally
What is still to some extent efficacious with me against this love
is not fear, but love itself. Superior to this deep-rooted love with
which I now have the evidence that Pepita inspires me, Divine love
exalts itself in my spirit in mighty uprising. Then everything is
changed within me, and I feel that I may yet obtain the victory. The
object of my higher love presents itself to my mental vision, as the
sun that kindles and illuminates all things, and fills all space with
light; and the object of my inferior love appears but as an atom of
dust floating in the sunbeam. All her beauty, all her splendor, all her
attractions are nothing but the reflection of this uncreated sun, the
brilliant, transitory, fleeting spark that is cast off from that
infinite and inexhaustible fire.
My soul, burning with love, would fain take to itself wings and
rise to that flame, in order that all that is impure within it might be
My life, for some days past, is a constant struggle. I know not how
it is that the malady from which I suffer does not betray itself in my
countenance. I scarcely eat, I scarcely sleep; and if by chance sleep
closes my eyelids, I awake in terror, as from a dream in which rebel
angels are arrayed against good angels, and in which I am one of the
combatants. In this conflict of light against darkness I do battle for
the right, but I sometimes imagine that I have gone over to the enemy,
that I am a vile deserter; and I hear a voice from Patmos saying, "And
men loved darkness rather than light"; and then I am filled with
terror, and I look upon myself as lost.
No resource is left me but flight. If, before the end of the month,
my father does not go with me, or consent to my going alone, I shall
steal away like a thief, without a word to any one.
May 23d. I AM a vile worm, not a man; I am the opprobrium and
disgrace of humanity. I am a hypocrite.
I have been encompassed by the pangs of death, and the waters of
iniquity have passed over me.
I am ashamed to write to you, and yet I write. I desire to confess
everything to you.
I can not turn away from evil. Far from abstaining from going to
Pepita's, I go there each night earlier than the last. It would seem as
if devils took me by the feet and carried me there against my will!
Happily, I never find Pepita alone; I do not desire to find her
alone. I almost always find the excellent vicar there before me, who
attributes our friendship to similarity of feeling in religious
matters, and bases it on piety, like the pure and innocent friendship
he himself entertains for her.
The progress of my malady is rapid. Like the stone that is loosened
from the mountain-top and gathers force as it falls, so is it with my
When Pepita and I shake hands, it is not now as at first. Each one
of us, by an effort of the will, transmits to the other, through the
handclasp, every throb of the heart. It is as if, by some diabolical
art, we had effected a transfusion and a blending together of the most
subtle elements of our blood. She must feel my life circulate through
her veins, as I feel hers in mine.
When I am near her, I love her; when I am away from her, I hate
her. When I am in her presence she inspires me with love; she draws me
to her; she subjugates me with gentleness; she lays upon me a very easy
But the recollection of her undoes me. When I dream of her, I dream
that she is severing my head from my body, as Judith slew the captain
of the Assyrians; or that she is driving a nail into my temple, as Jael
did to Sisera. But when I am near her, she appears to me the Spouse of
the Song of Songs, and a voice within me calls to her and I bless her,
and I regard her as a sealed fountain, as an enclosed garden, as the
flower of the valley, as the lily of the fields, my dove and my sister.
I desire to free myself from her, and I can not. I abhor, yet I
almost worship her. Her spirit enters into me and takes possession of
me as soon as I behold her; it subjugates me, it abases me.
I leave her house each night, saying, "This is the last night I
shall return here"; and I return there on the following night!
When she speaks, and I am near, my soul hangs, as it were, upon her
words. When she smiles, I imagine that a ray of spiritual light enters
into my heart and rejoices it.
It has happened, when playing ombre, that our knees have touched by
chance, and then I have felt a thrill run through me impossible to
Get me away from this place. Write to my father and ask him to let
me return to you. If it be necessary, tell him everything. Help me! Be
May 30th. GOD has given me strength to resist, and I have resisted.
It is now many days since I have been in the house of Pepita, many
days since I have seen her.
It is scarcely necessary that I should feign sickness, for I am in
reality sick. I have lost my color, and dark circles begin to show
themselves under my eyes; and my father asks me, full of affectionate
anxiety, what the cause of my suffering is, and manifests the deepest
The kingdom of Heaven is said to yield to violence, and I am
resolved to conquer it. With violence I call at its gates that they may
open to me.
With wormwood am I fed by the Lord, in order to prove me; and in
vain do I supplicate Him to let this cup of bitterness pass away from
me. But, as I have passed and still pass many nights in vigil,
delivered up to prayer, a loving inspiration from the Supreme Consoler
has come to sweeten the bitterness of my cup.
I have beheld with the eyes of the soul the new country; and the
new song of the heavenly Jerusalem has resounded within the depths of
If in the end I should conquer, glorious will be the victory; but I
shall owe it to the Queen of Angels, under whose protection I place
myself. She is my refuge and my defense; the tower of the house of
David, on whose walls hang innumerable shields and the armor of many
valiant champions; the cedar of Lebanon, which puts the serpent to
The woman who inspires me with an earthly love, on the contrary, I
endeavor to despise and abase in my thoughts, remembering the words of
the sage, and applying them to her.
"Thou art the snare of the hunter," I say of her; "they heart is a
net of deceit, and thy hands are bands that imprison; he who fears God
will flee from thee, and the sinner shall be taken captive by thee."
In my meditations on love I find a thousand reasons for loving God,
and against loving her.
I feel, in the depths of my heart, an indescribable enthusiasm that
convinces me that for the love of God I would sacrifice all
things-fame, honor, power, dominion. I feel myself capable of imitating
Christ, and if the Tempter should carry me off to the mountain-top, and
should there offer me all the kingdoms of the earth if I consented to
bow the knee before him, yet would I not bend it. But were he to offer
me this woman if I should do so, I feel that I should waver, that I
could not reject his offer. Is this woman, then, worth more in my eyes
than all the kingdoms of the earth? More than fame, honor, power, and
Is the virtue of love, I ask myself at times, always the same, even
when applied to divers objects? Or are there two species and qualities
of love? To love God seems to me to be the giving up of self and
selfish interest. Loving Him, I desire to love, and I can love, all
things through Him, and I am not troubled or jealous because of His
love toward all things. I am not jealous of the saints, or of the
martyrs, or of the blessed, or even of the seraphim. The greater I
picture to myself to be the love of God for His creatures, and the
graces and gifts He bestows upon them, the less am I troubled by
jealousy; the more I love Him, the nearer to me do I feel Him to be,
and the more loving and gracious does He seem toward me. My
brotherhood, my more than brotherhood, with all creatures, stands forth
then in a most pleasing light. It seems to me that I am one with all
things, and that all things are bound together in the bonds of love
through God and in God.
Very different is it when my thoughts dwell upon Pepita, and on the
love with which she inspires me. This love is a love full of hatred,
that separates me from everything but myself. I love her for myself,
altogether for myself, and myself altogether for her. Even devotion to
her, even sacrifices made for her sake, partake of the nature of
selfishness. To die for her would be to die of despair at not being
able to possess her in any other manner-from the fear of not enjoying
her love completely, except by dying and commingling with her in an
By these reflections I endeavor to render the love of Pepita
hateful to me. I invest my love in my imagination with something
diabolical and fatal; but, as if I possessed a double soul, a double
understanding, a double will, and a double imagination, in
contradiction to this thought, other feelings rise up within me in its
train, and I then deny what I have just affirmed, and insanely endeavor
to reconcile the two loves. Would it not be possible, I ask myself, to
fly from Pepita, and yet continue to love her, without ceasing
therefore to consecrate myself with fervor to the love of God? For, as
the love of God does not exclude love of country, love of humanity,
love of learning, love of beauty in Nature and in Art, neither should
it exclude another love, if it be spiritual and immaculate. I will make
of her, I say to myself, a symbol, an allegory, an image of all that is
good, of all that is beautiful. She shall be to me, as Beatrice was to
Dante, the image and the symbol of country, of knowledge, and of
This intention suggests to me a horrible fancy, a monstrous
thought. In order to make of Pepita this symbol, this vaporous and
ethereal image, this sign and epitome of all that I can love under God,
in God, and subordinate to God, I picture her to myself dead, as
Beatrice was dead when Dante made her the subject of his song.
If I picture her to myself among the living, then I am unable to
convert her into a pure idea; and if I convert her into a pure idea, I
kill her in my thoughts.
Then I weep; I am filled with horror at my crime, and I draw near
to her in spirit, and with the warmth of my heart I bring her back to
life again; and I behold her, not errant, diaphanous, floating in
shadowy outline among roseate clouds and celestial flowers, as the
stern Ghibelline beheld his beloved in the upper sphere of Purgatory;
but coherent, solid, clearly defined in the pure and serene air, like
the masterpieces of Greek art, like Galatea already animated by the
love of Pygmalion, and descending from her pedestal of marble, full of
fire, exhaling love, rich in youth and beauty.
Then I exclaim in the depths of my perturbed heart: "My virtue
faints! My God, do not Thou forsake me! Hasten to my help; show Thy
countenance, and I shall be saved!"
Thus do I recover strength to resist temptation. Thus again does
the hope spring to life within me, that I shall regain my former
tranquillity when I shall have left this place.
The Devil longs with ardor to swallow up the pure waters of Jordan,
by which are symbolized the persons who are consecrated to God. Hell
conspires against them, and lets loose all her monsters upon them. St.
Bonaventure says: "We should not wonder that these persons have sinned,
but rather that they have not sinned."
Notwithstanding, I shall be able to resist and not sin. The Lord
will protect me.
June 6th. PEPITA'S nurse-now her housekeeper-is, as my father says,
a good bag of wrinkles; she is talkative, gay, and skilful, as few are.
She married the son of Master Cencias, and has inherited from the
father what the son did not inherit-a wonderful facility for the
mechanical arts, with this difference: that while Master Cencias could
set the screw of a wine-press, or repair the wheels of a wagon, or make
a plow, this daughter-in-law of his knows how to make sweetmeats,
conserves of honey, and other dainties. The father-in-law practised the
useful arts; the daughter-in-law those that have for their object
pleasure, thought only innocent, or at least lawful pleasure.
Antoñona-for such is her name-is permitted, or assumes, the
greatest familiarity with all the gentry here. She goes in and out of
every house as if it were her own. She uses the familiar "thou" to all
young people of Pepita's age, or four or five years older; she calls
them "child," and treats them as if she had nursed them at her breast.
She behaves toward me in this way; she comes to visit me, enters my
room unannounced, has asked me several times already why I no longer go
to see her mistress, and has told me that I am wrong in not going.
My father, who has no suspicion of the truth, accuses me of
eccentricity; he calls me an owl, and he, too, is determined that I
shall resume my visits to Pepita. Last night I could no longer resist
his repeated importunities, and I went to her house very early, as my
father was about to settle his accounts with the overseer.
Would to God I had not gone!
Pepita was alone. When our glances met, when we saluted each other,
we both turned red. We shook hands with timidity and in silence.
I did not press her hand, nor did she press mine, but for a moment
we held them clasped together.
In Pepita's glance, as she looked at me, there was nothing of love;
there was only friendship, sympathy, and a profound sadness.
She had divined the whole of my inward struggle; she was persuaded
that Divine love had triumphed in my soul-that my resolution not to
love her was firm and invincible.
She did not venture to complain of me; she had no reason to
complain of me; she knew that right was on my side. A sigh, scarcely
perceptible, that escaped from her dewy, parted lips, revealed to me
the depth of her sorrow.
Her hand still lay in mine; we were both silent. How was I to tell
her that she was not destined for me, nor I for her; that we must part
But though my lips refused to tell her this in words, I told it to
her with my eyes; my severe glance confirmed her fears; it convinced
her of the irrevocableness of my decision.
All at once her gaze was troubled; her lovely countenance, pale
with a translucent pallor, was full of a touching expression of
melancholy. She looked like Our Lady of Sorrows. Two tears rose slowly
to her eyes, and began to steal down her cheeks.
I know not what passed within me, nor how to describe it, even if I
I bent toward her to kiss away her tears and our lips met.
Rapture unspeakable, a faintness full of peril, invaded us both.
She would have fallen, but that I supported her in my arms.
Heaven willed that we should at this moment hear the step and cough
of the reverend vicar, who was approaching, and we instantly drew
Recovering myself, and summoning all the strength of my will, I
brought to an end this terrible scene, that had been enacted in
silence, with these words, which I pronounced in low and tense accents:
"The first and the last!"
I made allusion to our profane kiss; but, as if my words had been
an invocation, there rose before me the vision of the Apocalypse in all
its terrible majesty. I beheld Him who is indeed the First and the
Last, and with the two-edged sword that proceeded from His mouth He
pierced my soul, full of evil, of wickedness, and of sin.
All that evening I passed in a species of frenzy, an inward
delirium, that I know not how I was able to conceal.
I withdrew from Pepita's house very early.
The anguish of my soul was yet more poignant in solitude.
When I recalled that kiss and those words of farewell, I compared
myself with the traitor Judas, who made use of a kiss to betray; and
with the sanguinary and treacherous assassin Joab, who plunged the
sharp steel into the bowels of Amasa while in the act of kissing him.
I had committed a double treason; I had been guilty of a double
perfidy. I had sinned against God and against her.
I am an execrable wretch.
June 11th. EVERYTHING may still be remedied.
Pepita will in time forget her love and the weakness of which we
Since that night I have not returned to her house. Antoñono has not
made her appearance in ours.
By dint of entreaties I have obtained a formal promise from my
father that we shall leave here on the 25th, the day after St. John's
day, which is here celebrated with splendid feasts, and on the eve of
which there is a great vigil.
Absent from Pepita, I began to recover my serenity and to think
that this first beginning of love was a trial of my virtue.
All these nights I have prayed, I have watched, I have performed
many acts of penance.
The persistence of my prayers, the deep contrition of my soul, have
found favor with the Lord, who has manifested to me His great mercy.
The Lord, in the words of the prophet, has sent fire to the
stronghold of my spirit; He has illuminated my understanding, He has
kindled my resolution, and He has given me guidance.
The working of the Divine love which animates the Supreme Will has
had power, at times, without my deserving it, to lead me to that
condition of prayerful contemplation in which the soul enjoys repose. I
have cast out from the lower faculties of my soul every image-even her
image; and I am persuaded, if pride does not deceive me, that, in
perfect peace of mind and heart I have known and enjoyed the Supreme
Good that dwells within the depths of the soul.
Compared with this good all else is worthless-compared with this
beauty all else is deformity-compared with these heights all else is
vile. Who would not forget and scorn every other love for the love of
Yes; the profane image of this woman shall depart finally and
forever from my soul. I shall make of my prayers and of my penance a
sharp scourge, and with it I will expel her therefrom, as Christ
expelled the money-lenders from the Temple.
June 18th. THIS is the last letter I shall write to you. On the
25th I shall leave this place without fail.
I shall soon have the happiness of embracing you. Near you I shall
be stronger. You will infuse courage into me, and lend me the energy in
which I am wanting.
A tempest of conflicting emotions is now raging in my soul. The
disorder of my ideas may be known by the disorder of what I write.
Twice I returned to the house of Pepita. I was cold and stern. I
was as I ought to have been, but how much did it not cost me!
My father told me yesterday that Pepita was indisposed, and would
The thought at once assailed me that the cause of her indisposition
might be her ill-requited love.
Why did I return her glances of fire? Why did I basely deceive her?
Why did I make her believe I loved her? Why did my vile lips seek hers
with ardor, and communicate the ardor of an unholy love to hers?
But no; my sin shall not be followed, as its unavoidable
consequence, by another sin!
What has been, has been, and can not be undone; but a repetition of
it may be avoided-shall be avoided in future.
On the 25th, I repeat, I shall depart from here without fail.
The impudent Antoñona has just come to see me. I hid this letter
from her, as if it were a crime to write to you.
Antoñona remained here only for a moment.
I arose, and remained standing while I spoke to her, that the visit
might be a short one.
During this short visit she gave utterance to a thousand mad
speeches, which disturbed me greatly. Finally, as she was going away,
she exclaimed, in her half-gipsy jargon.
"You deceiver! You villain! My curse upon you! You have made the
child sick, and now you are killing her by your desertion. May witches
fly away with you, body and bones!" Having said this, the fiendish
woman gave me, in a coarse vulgar fashion, six or seven ferocious
pinches below the shoulders, as if she would like to tear the skin from
my back in strips, and then went away, looking daggers at me.
I do not complain. I deserve this brutal jest, granting it to be a
jest. I deserve that fiends should tear my flesh with red-hot pincers.
Grant, my God, that Pepita may forget me! Let her, if it be
necessary, love another, and be happy with him!
Can I ask more than this of Thee, oh, my God?
My father knows nothing, suspects nothing. It is better thus.
Farewell for a few days, till we see and embrace each other again.
How changed will you find me! How full of bitterness my heart! How
soiled my purity! How bruised and wounded my soul!
HERE end the letters of Don Luis de Vargas. We should therefore be
left in ignorance of the subsequent fortunes of these lovers, if one
familiar with all the circumstances had not communicated the following
No one in the village found anything strange in the fact of
Pepita's being indisposed, or thought, still less, of attributing her
indisposition to a cause of which only we, Pepita herself, Don Luis,
the reverend dean, and the discreet Antoñona, are thus far cognizant.
They might rather have wondered at the life of gaiety that Pepita
had been leading for some time past, at the daily gatherings at her
house, and the excursions into the country in which she had joined.
That Pepita should return to her habitual seclusion was quite natural.
Her secret and deeply rooted love for Don Luis was hidden from the
searching glances of Doña Casilda, of Currito, and of all the other
personages of the village of whom mention is made in the letters of Don
Luis. Still less could the public know of it. It never entered into the
head of any one, no one imagined for a moment, that the theologian, the
"saint," as they called Don Luis, could become the rival of his father,
or could have succeeded where the redoubtable and powerful Don Pedro de
Vargas had failed-in winning the heart of the graceful, coy, and
reserved young widow.
Notwithstanding the familiarity of the ladies of the village with
their servants, Pepita had allowed none of hers to suspect anything.
Only the lynx-eyed Antoñona, whom nothing could escape, and more
especially nothing that concerned her young mistress, had penetrated
Antoñona did not conceal her discovery from Pepita, nor could
Pepita deny the truth to the woman who had nursed her, who idolized
her, and who, if she delighted in finding out and gossiping about all
that took place in the village, being, as she was, a model
scandal-monger, was yet, in all that related to her mistress, reticent
and loyal as but few are.
In this manner Antoñona made herself the confidante of Pepita; and
Pepita found great consolation in unburdening her heart to one who,
though she might be coarse in the frankness with which she expressed
her sentiments, was not so either in the sentiments or the ideas that
In this may be found the explanation of Antoñona's visits to Don
Luis, as well as of her words, and even of the ferocious and
disrespectful pinches, given in so ill-chosen a spot, with which she
bruised his flesh and wounded his dignity on the occasion of her last
visit to him.
Not only had Pepita not desired Antoñona to carry messages to Don
Luis, but she did not even know that she had gone to see him. Antoñona
had taken the initiative, and had interfered in the matter simply
because she herself had wanted to do so.
As has already been said, she had with wonderful perspicacity
discovered the state of affairs between her mistress and Don Luis.
While Pepita herself was still scarcely conscious of the fact that
she loved Don Luis, Antoñona already knew it. Scarcely had Pepita begun
to cast on him those furtive glances, ardent and involuntary, which had
wrought such havoc-glances which had been intercepted by none of those
present when they were given-when Antoñona, who was not present, had
already spoken of them to Pepita. And no sooner had those glances been
returned, than Antoñona knew that also.
There was but little left, then, for the mistress to confide to a
servant of so much penetration, and so skilled in divining what passed
in the inmost recesses of her breast.
Five days after the date of Don Luis's last letter our narrative
IT was eleven o'clock in the morning. Pepita was in an apartment on
an upper floor, contiguous to her bedroom and dressing-room, where no
one ever entered without being summoned, save Antoñona.
The furniture of this apartment was simple, but comfortable and in
good taste. The curtains and the covering of the easy-chairs, the
sofas, and the armchairs, were of a flowered cotton fabric. On a
mahogany table were writing materials and papers, and in a bookcase,
also of mahogany, were many books of devotion and history. The walls
were adorned with pictures-engravings of religious subjects, but with
this peculiarity in their selection-unheard-of, extraordinary, almost
incredible in an Andalusian village-that, instead of being bad French
lithographs, they were engravings in the best style of Spanish art, as
the Spasimo di Sicilia of Raffael; the St. Ildefonso and the Virgin,
the Conception, the St. Bernard, and the two Lunettes of Murillo.
On an antique oak table, supported by fluted columns, was a small
writing-desk, or escritoire, inlaid with mother-of-pearl, ivory, and
brass, and containing a great many little drawers, in which Pepita kept
bills and other papers. On this table were also two porcelain vases
filled with flowers; and, finally, hanging against the walls were
several flower-pots of Seville Carthusian ware, containing ivy,
geraniums, and other plants and three gilded cages, in which were
canaries and larks.
This apartment was the retreat of Pepita, where no one entered
during the daytime except the doctor and the reverend vicar; and in the
evening only the overseer, to settle accounts. This apartment was
called the study, and served the purpose of one.
Pepita was seated, half reclining on a sofa, before which stood a
small table with some books upon it.
She had just risen, and was attired in a light summer wrapper. Her
blond hair, not yet arranged, looked even more beautiful in its
disorder. Her countenance, somewhat pale, and showing dark circles
under the eyes, still preserved its fresh and youthful aspect, and
looked more beautiful than ever under the influence of the trouble
which robbed it of color.
Pepita showed signs of impatience; she was expecting some one.
At last the person she was awaiting, who proved to be the reverend
vicar, arrived, and entered without announcement.
After the usual salutations the vicar settled himself comfortably
in an easy-chair, and the conversation thus began:
"I am very glad, my child, that you sent for me; but, even without
your doing so, I was just coming to see you. How pale you are! What is
it that ails you? Have you anything of importance to tell me?"
Pepita began her answer to this series of affectionate inquiries
with a deep sigh; she then said:
"Do you not divine my malady? Have you not discovered the cause of
The vicar made a gesture of denial, and looked at Pepita with
something like terror in his gaze; for he knew nothing of all that had
taken place, and was struck by the vehemence with which she spoke.
"I ought not to have sent for you, father. I should have gone to
the church myself instead, to speak with you in the confessional, and
there confess my sins. But, unhappily, far from repenting of them, my
heart has hardened itself in wickedness. I have neither the courage nor
the desire to speak to the confessor, but only to the friend."
"What are you saying about sins and hardness of heart? Have you
taken leave of your senses? What sins can you have committed, you who
are so good?"
"No, father, I am wicked. I have been deceiving you; I have been
deceiving myself; I have tried to deceive God."
"Come, come, calm yourself; speak with moderation and common sense,
and don't talk foolishly."
"And how shall I avoid talking foolishly when the spirit of evil
"Holy Virgin! Don't talk nonsense, child; the demons most to be
feared who take possession of the soul are three, and none of them, I
am certain, can have dared to enter into yours. One is Leviathan, or
the spirit of Pride; the other is Mammon, or the spirit of Avarice; and
the other is Asmodeus, or the spirit of Unholy Love."
"Well, I am the victim of all three; all three hold dominion over
"This is dreadful! Calm yourself, I repeat. The real trouble with
you is that you are delirious."
"Would to God it were so! The contrary, unhappily for me, is the
case. I am avaricious, because I possess riches, and do not perform the
works of charity I ought to perform; I am proud, because I scorn the
addresses of my many suitors, not through virtue, not through modesty,
but because I thought them unworthy of my love. God has punished me;
God has permitted the third enemy you have named to take possession of
"How is this, child? What diabolical notion has entered into your
mind! Have you by chance fallen in love? And, if you have, what harm is
there in that? Are you not free? Get married, then, and stop talking
nonsense. I am certain it is my friend Don Pedro de Vargas who has
wrought the miracle. That same Don Pedro is the very Devil! I confess I
am surprised. I did not think matters had gone quite so far as that
"But it is not Don Pedro de Vargas that I am in love with."
"And with whom, then?"
Pepita rose from her seat, went to the door, opened it, looked to
see if any one was listening outside, drew near to the reverend vicar,
and with signs of the deepest distress, in a trembling voice and with
tears in her eyes, said, almost in the ear of the good old man:
"I am hopelessly in love with his son."
"With whose son?" cried the reverend vicar, who could not yet bring
himself to believe what he had heard.
"With whose son should it be? I am hopelessly, desperately in love
with Don Luis."
Consternation and dolorous surprise were depicted on the
countenance of the kind and simple priest. There was a moment's pause;
the vicar then said:
"But this is love without hope; a love not to be thought of. Don
Luis will never love you."
A joyful light sparkled through the tears that clouded Pepita's
beautiful eyes: her rosy, dewy lips, contracted by sorrow, parted in a
smile, disclosing to view her pearly teeth.
"He loves me," said Pepita, with a faint and ill-concealed accent
of satisfaction and triumph, which rose exultant over her sorrow and
her scruples of conscience.
The consternation and astonishment of the reverend vicar here
reached their highest pitch. If the saint of his most fervent devotions
had been suddenly cast down from the altar before him, and had fallen,
broken into a thousand fragments, at his feet, the reverend vicar could
not have felt greater consternation. He still looked at Pepita with
in-credulity, as if doubting whether what she had said were true, or
only a delusion of feminine vanity, so firmly did he believe in the
holiness and mysticism of Don Luis.
"He loves me," Pepita repeated, in answer to his incredulous
"Women are worse than the very Devil!" said the vicar. "You would
set a snare for old Nick himself."
"Did I not tell you already that I was very wicked?"
"Come, come! calm yourself. The mercy of God is infinite. Tell me
all that has happened."
"What should have happened? That he is dear to me; that I love him;
that I adore him; that he loves me, too, although he strives to conquer
his love, and in the end may succeed in doing so; and that you, without
knowing it, are very much to blame for it all!"
"Well, this is too much! What do you mean by saying I am very much
"With the extreme goodness which is characteristic of you, you have
done nothing but praise Don Luis to me; and I am sure that you have
pronounced still greater eulogies on me to him, although very much less
deserved. What is the natural consequence? Am I of bronze? Have I not
the passions of youth?"
"You are more than right; I am a dolt. I have contributed, in great
part, to this work of Lucifer."
The reverend vicar was so truly good, and so full of humility,
that, while pronouncing the preceding words, he showed as much
confusion and remorse as if he were the culprit and Pepita the judge.
Pepita, conscious of her injustice and want of generosity in thus
making the reverend vicar the accomplice, and scarcely less than the
chief author of her fault, spoke to him thus:
"Don't torment yourself, father; for God's sake, don't torment
yourself! You see now how perverse I am. I commit the greatest sins,
and I want to throw the responsibility of them on the best and the most
virtuous of men. It is not the praises you have recited to me of Don
Luis that have been my ruin, but my own eyes, and my want of
circumspection. Even though you had never spoken to me of the good
qualities of Don Luis, I should still have discovered them all by
hearing him speak; for after all, I am not so ignorant, nor so great a
fool. And in any case, I myself have seen the grace of his person, the
natural and untaught elegance of his manners, his eyes full of fire and
intelligence-his whole self, in a word, which seems to me altogether
amiable and desirable. Your eulogies of him have indeed pleased my
vanity, but they did not awaken my inclinations. Your praises charmed
me because they coincided with my own opinion, and were like the
flattering echo-deadened, indeed, and faint-of my thoughts. The most
eloquent encomium you have pronounced in my hearing on Don Luis was far
from being equal to the encomiums that I, at each moment, at each
instant, silently pronounced upon him in my own soul."
"Don't excite yourself, child," interrupted the reverend vicar.
Pepita continued, with still greater exaltation:
"But what a difference between your encomiums and my thoughts! For
you, Don Luis was the exemplary model of the priest, the missionary,
the apostle; now preaching the Gospel in distant lands, now endeavoring
in Spain to elevate Christianity, so degraded in our day through the
impiety of some, and the want of virtue, of charity, and of knowledge
of others. I, on the contrary, pictured him to myself, handsome,
loving, forgetting God for me, consecrating his life to me, giving me
his soul, becoming my stay, my support, my sweet companion. I longed to
commit a sacrilegious theft: I dreamed of stealing him from God and
from His temple, like a thief, the enemy of Heaven, who robs the sacred
monstrance of its most precious jewel. To commit such a theft I have
put off the mourning garments of the widow and orphan, and have decked
myself with profane adornments; I have abandoned my seclusion; I have
sought company and gathered it around me; I have tried to make myself
look beautiful; I have cared for every part of this miserable body,
that must one day be lowered into the grave and be converted into dust,
with an unholy devotion; and finally, I have looked at Don Luis with
provoking glances, and on shaking hands with him I have sought to
transmit from my veins to his the inextinguishable fire that is
"Alas! my child, what grief it gives me to hear this! Who could
have imagined it?" said the vicar.
"But there is still more," resumed Pepita. "I succeeded in making
Don Luis love me. He declared it to me with his eyes. Yes, his love is
as profound, as ardent as mine. His virtues, his aspirations toward
heavenly things, his manly energy have all urged him to conquer this
insensate passion. I sought to prevent this. Once, at the end of many
days during which he had stayed away, he came to see me, and found me
alone. When he gave me his hand, I wept; I could not speak; but hell
inspired me with an accursed, mute eloquence that told him of my grief
that he had scorned me, that he did not return my love, that he
preferred another love-a love without a stain-to mine. Then he was
unable to resist the temptation. and he approached his lips to my face
to kiss away my tears. Our lips met. If God had not willed your
approach at that moment, what would have become of me?"
"How shameful! My child, how shameful!" said the reverend vicar.
Pepita covered her face with both hands and began to sob like a
Magdalen. Her hands were in truth beautiful, more beautiful even than
Don Luis had described them to be in his letters: their whiteness,
their pure transparency, the tapering form of the fingers, the roseate
hue, the polish and the brilliancy of the pearl-like nails, all were
such as might turn the head of any man.
The virtuous vicar, notwithstanding his eighty years, could
understand the fall, or rather, the slip, of Don Luis.
"Child!" he exclaimed, "don't cry so! It breaks my heart to see
you. Calm yourself; Don Luis has no doubt repented of his sin; do you
repent likewise, and nothing more need be said. God will pardon you
both, and make a couple of saints of you. Since Don Luis is going away
the day after to-morrow, it is a sure sign that virtue has triumphed in
him, and that he flees from you, as he should, that he may do penance
for his sin, fulfil his vow, and return to his vocation."
"That is all very well," replied Pepita; "fulfil his vow, return to
his vocation, after giving me my death-wound! Why did he love me, why
did he encourage me, why did he deceive me? His kiss was a brand; it
was as a hot iron with which he marked me and stamped me as his slave.
Now that I am marked and enslaved, he abandons and betrays and destroys
me. A good beginning to give to his missions, his preachings, and
Gospel triumphs! It shall not be! By Heaven, it shall not be!"
This outbreak of anger and scorned love confounded the reverend
Pepita had risen. Her attitude, her gesture, had something in them
of tragic animation. Her eyes gleamed like daggers; they shone like two
suns. The vicar was silent, and regarded her almost with terror. She
paced the apartment with hasty steps. She did not now seem like a timid
gazel, but like an angry lioness.
"What!" she said, once more facing the vicar, "has he nothing to do
but laugh at me, tear my heart to pieces, humiliate it, trample it
under foot, after having cheated me out of it? He shall remember me! He
shall pay me for this! If he is so holy, if he is so virtuous, why did
he with his glance promise me everything? If he loves God so much, why
does he seek to hurt one of God's poor creatures? Is this charity? Is
this religion? No; it is pitiless selfishness."
Pepita's anger could not last long. After she had spoken the last
words, it turned to dejection. She sank into a chair, weeping more
bitterly than ever, and abandoning herself to real anguish.
The vicar's heart was touched with pity; but he recovered himself
on seeing that the enemy gave signs of yielding.
"Pepita, child," he said, "be reasonable; don't torment yourself in
this way. Console yourself with the thought that it was not without a
hard struggle he was able to conquer himself; that he has not deceived
you; that he loves you with his whole soul, but that God and his duty
come first. This life is short, and soon passes. In heaven you will be
reunited, and will love each other as the angels love. God will accept
your sacrifice; he will reward you, and repay you with interest. Even
your self-love ought to be satisfied. How great must be your merit,
when you have caused a man like Don Luis to waver in his resolution,
and even to sin! How deep must be the wound you have made in his heart!
Let this suffice you. Be generous, be courageous! Be his rival in
firmness. Let him depart; cast out from your heart the fire of impure
love; love him as your neighbour, for the love of God. Guard his image
in your memory, but as that of the creature, reserving to the Creator
the noblest part of your soul. I know not what I am saying to you, my
child, for I am very much troubled; but you have a great deal of
intelligence and a great deal of common sense, and you will understand
what I mean. Besides, there are powerful worldly reasons against this
absurd love, even if the vocation and the vow of Don Luis were not
opposed to it. His father is your suitor. He aspires to your hand, even
though you do not love him. Does it look well that the son should turn
out now to be the rival of his father? Will not the father be
displeased with the son for loving you? See how dreadful all this is,
and control yourself, for the sake of Jesus and His blessed Mother!"
"How easy it is to give advice!" returned Pepita, becoming a little
calmer. "How hard for me to follow it, when there is a fierce and
unchained tempest, as it were, raging in my soul! I am afraid I shall
"The advice I give you is for your own good. Let Don Luis depart.
Absence is a great remedy for the malady of love. In giving himself up
to his studies, and consecrating himself to the service of the altar,
he will be cured of his passion. When he is far away you will recover
your serenity by degrees, and will preserve in your memory only a
grateful and melancholy recollection of him that will do you no harm.
It will be like a beautiful poem, whose music will harmonize your
existence. Even if all your desires could be fulfilled, earthly love
lasts, after all, but a short time. The delight the imagination
anticipates in its enjoyment-what is it in comparison with the bitter
dregs. How much better is it that your love, hardly yet contaminated,
hardly despoiled of its purity, should be dissipated, and exhale itself
now, rising up to heaven like a cloud of incense, than that, after it
is once satisfied, it should perish through satiety! Have the courage
to put away from your lips the cup while you have hardly tasted of its
contents. Make a libation of them and an offering to the Divine
Redeemer. He will give you, in exchange, the draft He offered to the
Samaritan-a draft that does not satiate, that quenches the thirst, and
that gives eternal life!"
"How good you are, father! Your holy words lend me courage. I will
control myself-I will conquer myself. It would be shameful-would it
not?-that Don Luis should be able to control and conquer himself, and
that I should not be able to do so? Let him depart. He is going away
the day after to-morrow. Let him go, with God's blessing. See his card.
He was here, with his father, to take leave of me, and I would not
receive him. I will never see him again. I did not even want to
preserve the poetical remembrance of him of which you speak. This love
has been a nightmare; I will cast it way from me."
"Good-very good! It is thus that I want to see you-energetic,
"Ah, father, God has cast down my pride with this blow! I was
insolent in my arrogance, and the scorn of this man was necessary to my
self-abasement. Could I be more humbled or resigned than I am now? Don
Luis is right-I am not worthy of him. However great the efforts I might
make, I could not succeed in elevating myself to him and comprehending
him, in putting my spirit into perfect communication with his. I am a
rude country girl unlearned, uncultured; and he-there is no science he
does not understand, no secret of which he is ignorant, no region of
the intellectual world, however exalted, to which he may not soar.
Thither on the wings of his genius does he mount; and me he leaves
behind in this lower sphere-poor, ignorant woman that I am-incapable of
following him, even in my hopes or with my aspirations!"
"But, Pepita, for Heaven's sake, don't say such things, or think
them! Don Luis does not scorn you because you are ignorant, or because
you are incapable of comprehending him, or for any other of those
absurd reasons that you are stringing together. He goes away because he
must fulfil his obligation toward God; and you should rejoice that he
is going away, for you will then get over your love for him, and God
will reward you for the sacrifice you make."
Pepita, who had left off crying, and had dried her tears with her
handkerchief, answered quietly: "Very well, father. I shall be very
glad of it; I am almost glad now that he is going away. I long for
to-morrow to pass, and for the time to come when Antoñona shall say to
me when I awake, 'Don Luis is gone.' You shall see then how peace and
serenity will spring up again in my heart."
"God grant it may be so!" said the reverend vicar; and, convinced
that he had wrought a miracle, and almost cured Pepita's malady, he
took leave of her and went home, unable to repress a certain feeling of
vanity at the thought of the influence he had exercised over the noble
spirit of this charming woman.
PEPITA, who had risen as the reverend vicar was about to take his
leave, after she had closed the door, stood for a moment motionless in
the middle of the room-her gaze fixed on space, her eyes tearless. A
poet or an artist, seeing her thus, would have been reminded of
Ariadne, as Catullus describes her, after Theseus has abandoned her on
the island of Naxos. All at once, as if she had but just succeeded in
untying the knot of a cord that was strangling her, Pepita broke into
heartrending sobs, let loose a torrent of tears, and threw herself down
on the tiled floor of her apartment. There, her face buried in her
hands, her hair loose, her dress disordered, she continued to sigh and
She might have remained thus for an indefinite time if Antoñona had
not come to her. Antoñona had heard her sobs from without, and hurried
to her apartment. When she saw her mistress extended on the floor,
Antoñona gave way to a thousand extravagant expressions of fury.
"Here's a pretty sight!" she cried; "that sneak, that blackguard,
that old fool, what a way he has to console his friends! I shouldn't
wonder if he has committed some piece of barbarity-given a couple of
kicks to this poor child, perhaps; and now I suppose he has gone back
to the church to get everything ready to sing the funeral chant, and
sprinkle her with hyssop, and bury her out of sight without more ado."
Antoñona was about forty, and a hard worker-energetic, and stronger
than many a laborer. She often lifted up, with scarcely more than the
strength of her hand, a skin of oil or of wine weighing nearly ninety
pounds, and placed it on the back of a mule, or carried a bag of wheat
up to the garret where the grain was kept. Although Pepita was not a
feather, Antoñona now lifted her up in her arms from the floor as if
she had been one, and placed her carefully on the sofa, as though she
were some delicate and precious piece of porcelain that she feared to
"What is the meaning of all this?" asked Antoñona. "I wager
anything that drone of a vicar has been preaching you a sermon as
bitter as aloes, and has left you now with your heart torn to pieces
Pepita continued to weep and sob without answering.
"Come, leave off crying, and tell me what is the matter. What has
the vicar said to you?"
"He said nothing that could offend me," finally answered Pepita.
Then, seeing that Antoñona was waiting anxiously to hear her speak,
and feeling the need of unburdening herself to some one who could
sympathize more fully with her, and with more human feeling, Pepita
spoke as follows:
"The reverend vicar has admonished me gently to repent of my sins;
to allow Don Luis to go away; to rejoice at his departure; to forget
him. I have said yes to everything; I have promised him to rejoice at
Don Luis's departure; I have tried to forget him, and even to hate him.
But, look you, Antoñona, I can not; it is an undertaking superior to my
strength. While the vicar was here I thought I had strength for
everything; but no sooner had he gone than, as if God had let go His
hold of me, I lost my courage, and fell, crushed with sorrow, on the
floor. I had dreamed of a happy life at the side of the man I love; I
already saw myself elevated to him by the miraculous power of love-my
poor mind in perfect communion with his sublime intellect, my will one
with his, both thinking the same thought, our hearts beating in unison.
And now God has taken him away from me, and I am left alone, without
hope or consolation. Is this not frightful? The arguments of the
reverend vicar are just and full of wisdom; for the time, they
convinced me. But he has gone away, and all those arguments now seem to
me worthless-a tissue of words, lies, entanglements, and sophistries. I
love Don Luis, and this argument is more powerful than all other
arguments put together. And if he loves me in return, why does he not
leave everything and come to me, break the vows he has taken, and
renounce the obligations he has contracted? I did not know what love
was; now I know-there is nothing stronger on earth or in heaven. What
would I not do for Don Luis? And he-he does nothing for me! Perhaps he
does not love me. No; Don Luis does not love me. I have deceived
myself; I was blinded by vanity. If Don Luis loved me, he would
sacrifice his plans, his vows, his fame, his aspirations to be a saint
and a light of the Church, he would sacrifice all to me. God forgive
me, what I am about to say is horrible, but I feel it here in the
depths of my heart, it burns here in my fevered brow: for him I would
give even the salvation of my soul!"
"Holy Virgin!" exclaimed Antoñona.
"It is true; may our blessed Lady of Sorrows pardon me-I am mad-I
know not what I say, I blaspheme!"
"Yes, child; you are talking indeed a little naughtily. Heaven help
us! To think how this coxcomb of a theologian has turned your head!
Well, if I were in your place, I would not take Heaven to task, which
is in nowise to blame, but the jackanapes of a collegian, and I would
have it out with him, or never again call myself Pepita Jiménez. I
should like to go hunt him up, and bring him here to you by the ear,
and make him beg your pardon and kiss your feet on his knees."
"No, Antoñona; I see that my madness is contagious, and that you
are raving too. There is, in fact, nothing left for me to do but what
the reverend vicar advises. And I will do it, even though it should
cost me my life. If I die for him, he will then love me; he will
cherish my image in his memory, my love in his heart; and God, who is
so good, will permit me to see him again in Heaven with the eyes of the
soul, and will let our spirits mingle together and love each other
Antoñona, although of a rugged nature, and not at all sentimental,
on hearing these words felt the tears start to her eyes.
"Good gracious, child!" she said; "do you want to make me take out
my handkerchief and begin to bellow like a calf? Calm yourself, and
don't talk about dying, even in jest. I can see that your nerves are
very much excited. Sha'n't I bring you a cup of fine flower tea?"
"No, thanks; leave me-you see how calm I am now."
"I shall close the window, then, to see if you can sleep. How
should you feel well when you have not slept for days? The devil take
that same Don Luis, with his fancy for making himself a priest! A nice
price you are paying for it!"
Pepita had closed her eyes; she was calm and silent, weary now of
her colloquy with Antoñona.
The latter, either thinking she was asleep, or hoping her to be so,
bent over Pepita, imprinted a kiss softly and slowly on her white
forehead, smoothed out the folds of her dress, arranged the windows so
as to leave the room half dark, and went out on tiptoe, closing the
door behind her, without making the slightest noise.
WHILE these things were taking place at the house of Pepita, Don
Luis de Vargas was neither happier nor more tranquil in his.
His father, who scarcely let a day pass without riding out into the
country, had to-day wished to take Don Luis with him; but he had
excused himself, on the pretext of a headache, and Don Pedro had gone
without him. Don Luis had spent the whole morning alone, delivered up
to his melancholy thoughts, and continuing firm as a rock in his
resolution of blotting from his soul the image of Pepita, and of
consecrating himself wholly to God.
Let it not be supposed, however, that he did not love the young
widow. We have already, in his letters, seen the proof of the vehemence
of his passion for her, but he continued his efforts to curb it by
means of the devout sentiments and elevated reflections of which he has
given us in his letters so extended a specimen, and of which we may
here omit a repetition, in order not to appear prolix.
Perhaps, if we examine into this matter closely, we shall find that
the reasons which militated in the breast of Don Luis against his love
for Pepita were not only his vow to himself-which, though unconfirmed,
was binding in his eyes-or the love of God, or respect for his father,
whose rival he did not wish to be; or, finally, the vocation which he
felt himself to have for the priesthood. There were other reasons of a
more doubtful character than these.
Don Luis was stubborn; he was obstinate; he had that quality of
soul which, well directed, constitutes what is called firmness of
character, and there was nothing that lowered him more in his own eyes
than to feel himself obliged to change his opinions or his conduct. The
purpose of his life-a purpose which he had declared and maintained on
all occasions-his moral ideal, in a word, was that of an aspirant to
holiness, of a man consecrated to God, of one imbued with the sublimest
religious teachings. All this could not fall to earth, as it would fall
if he allowed himself to be carried away by his love for Pepita,
without great discredit. Although the price, indeed, was in this case
incomparably higher, yet Don Luis felt that, should he yield to his
passion, he would be following the example of Esau, selling his
birthright, and bringing opprobrium on his name.
Men, as a rule, allow themselves to be the playthings of
circumstances; they let themselves be carried along by the current of
events, instead of devoting all their energies to one single aim. We do
not choose our part in life, but accept and play the part allotted us,
that which blind fortune assigns to us. The profession, the political
faith, the entire life of many men, depend on chance circumstances, on
what is fortuitous, on the caprice and the unexpected turns of fate.
Against all this the pride of Don Luis vigorously rebelled. What
would be thought of him, and, above all, what would he think of
himself, if the ideal of his life, the new man that he had created in
his soul, if all his plans of virtue, of honor, and even of holy
ambition, should vanish in an instant, should melt away in the warmth
of a glance, at the fugitive flame of a pair of beautiful eyes, as the
hoar-frost melts in the yet mild ray of the morning sun?
These and other egotistic reasons militated against the young
widow, side by side with others more weighty and legitimate, but every
argument clothed itself in the same religious garb, so that Don Luis
himself was unable to recognize and distinguish between them, believing
to be the love of God not only what was in truth the love of God, but
also self-love. He recalled to mind, for instance, the examples of many
saints who had resisted greater temptations than his, and he did not
wish to be less than they. And he recalled to mind, above all, the
notable firmness of St. Chrysostom, who was able to disregard the
caresses of a good and tender mother, and her tears and gentle
entreaties, and all the eloquent and touching words she spoke to him,
in the very room where he was born, to the end that he might not
abandon her and become a priest. And after reflecting on this, Don Luis
could not tolerate in himself the weakness of being unable to reject
the entreaties of a woman who was a stranger to him, whom he had known
for so short a time, and of still wavering between his duty and the
attractions of one who perhaps, after all, did not really love him, but
was only a coquette.
Don Luis then reflected on the supreme position of the sacerdotal
dignity to which he was called, regarding it in his thoughts as
superior to all the dignities and unsatisfying honors of the world,
since it was founded neither by any mortal man, nor by the caprice of
the variable and servile populace, nor by the irruption or invasion of
barbarians, nor by the violence of rebellious armies urged on by greed,
nor by angel nor archangel, nor by any created power; but by the
Paraclete Himself. How for a motive so unworthy, for a mere woman, for
a tear or two, feigned perhaps, scorn that august dignity, that
authority which was not conceded by God even to the archangels nearest
to His throne? How should he descend to be one of the obscure people,
become one of the flock-he, who had dreamed of being the shepherd,
tying and untying on earth what God should tie and untie in Heaven,
pardoning sins, regenerating the people by water and by the spirit,
teaching them in the name of an infallible authority, pronouncing
judgments that should be ratified and confirmed by the Lord of the
heaven-he, the instructor and the minister in tremendous mysteries
inscrutable by human reason, calling down from Heaven, not, like Elias,
the flame that consumes the victim, but the Holy Spirit, the Word made
flesh, the river of grace that purifies hearts and makes them clean
like unalloyed gold?
When Don Luis let his mind dwell on these thoughts his spirit took
wings and soared up above the clouds into the empyrean, and poor Pepita
Jiménez remained below, far away, and hardly within sight.
But the wings of his imagination soon drooped, and the spirit of
Don Luis touched earth again. Again he saw Pepita, so graceful, so
young, so ingenuous, and so enamored. Pepita combated in his soul his
firmest and most deep-seated resolutions, and Don Luis feared that in
the end she would put them all to flight.
In this way was Don Luis allowing himself to be tormented by
opposing thoughts, that make war on each other, when Currito, without
asking leave or license, entered his room.
Currito, who had held his cousin in very slight esteem so long as
he was only a student of theology, now regarded him with wonder and
veneration, looking upon him, from the moment when he had seen him
manage Lucero so skilfully, as something more than human.
To know theology and not know how to ride, had discredited Don Luis
in the eyes of Currito; but when Currito saw that, in addition to his
learning, and to all those other matters of which he himself knew
nothing, although he supposed them to be difficult and perplexing, Don
Luis could also keep his seat so admirably on the back of a fiery
horse, his veneration and his affection for his cousin knew no bounds.
Currito was an idler, a good-for-nothing, a very block of wood; but he
had an affectionate and loyal heart.
To Don Luis, who was the idol of Currito, happened what happens
with all superior natures when inferior persons take a liking to them.
Don Luis permitted himself to be loved-that is to say, he was governed
despotically-by Currito in matters of little importance. And as for men
like Don Luis there are hardly any matters of importance in common
daily life, the result was that Don Luis was led about by Currito like
a little dog.
"I have come for you," the latter said, "to take you with me to the
clubhouse, which is full of people to-day, and unusually gay. What is
the use of sitting here alone gazing into vacancy, as if you were
waiting to catch flies?"
Don Luis, without offering any resistance, took his hat and cane,
as though the words were a command, and saying, "Let us go wherever you
wish," followed Currito, who led the way, very well pleased with the
influence he exercised over his cousin.
The clubhouse was full of people, owing to the festivities of the
morrow, which was St. John's day. Besides the gentry of the village
many strangers were there, who had come in from the neighboring
villages to be present at the fair and the vigil in the evening.
The principal point of reunion was the courtyard, which was paved
with marble. In its centre played a fountain, which was adorned with
flower pots containing roses, pinks, sweet basil, and other flowers.
Around this courtyard ran a corridor or gallery supported by marble
columns, in which, as well as in the various saloons that opened into
it, were tables for ombre, others with newspapers lying on them, others
where coffee and other refreshments were served, and finally, lounges,
benches, and several easy-chairs. The walls were like snow, from
frequent whitening; nor were pictures wanting for their adornment.
There were French colored lithographs, a minute explanation of the
subject of each being written, both in French and in Spanish below.
Some of them represented scenes in the life of Napoleon, from Toulon to
St. Helena; others, the adventures of Matilda and Malek-Adel; others,
incidents in love and war, in the lives of the Templar, Rebecca, Lady
Rowena, and Ivanhoe; and others, the gallantries, the intrigues, the
lapses and the conversions of Louis XIV. and Mademoiselle de la
Currito took Don Luis, and Don Luis allowed himself to be taken, to
the saloon where were gathered the cream of the fashion, the dandies
and cocodés of the village and of the surrounding district. Prominent
among these was the Count of Genazahar, of the neighboring city of -.
The Count was an illustrious and much admired personage. He had made
visits of great length to Madrid and Seville, and, whether as a country
dandy or as a young nobleman, was always attired by the most
The Count of Genazahar was a little past thirty. He was
good-looking, and he knew it; and could boast of his prowess in peace
and in war, in duels and in love-making. The Count, however-and this
notwithstanding the fact that he had been one of the most persistent
suitors of Pepita-had received the sugar-coated pill of refusal that
she was accustomed to bestow on those who paid their addresses to her
and aspired to her hand.
The wound inflicted on his pride by this rejection had never quite
healed. Love had turned into hatred, and the Count lost no occasion of
giving utterance to his feelings, holding Pepita up on such occasions
to ridicule as a prude.
The Count was engaged in this agreeable exercise when, by an evil
chance, Don Luis and Currito approached and joined the crowd that was
listening to the odd species of panegyric, which opened to receive
them. Don Luis, as if the Devil himself had had the arrangement of the
matter, found himself face to face with the Count, who was speaking as
"She's a cunning one, this same Pepita Jiménez, with more fancies
and whims than the Princess Micomicona. She wants to make us forget
that she was born in poverty, and lived in poverty until she married
that accursed usurer, Don Gumersindo, and took possession of his
dollars. The only good action this same widow has performed in her life
was to conspire with Satan to send the rogue quickly to hell, and free
the earth from such a contamination and plague. Pepita now has a hobby
for virtue and for chastity. All that may be very well; but how do we
know that she has not a secret intrigue with some plow-boy, and is not
deceiving the world as if she were Queen Artemisia herself?"
People of quiet tastes, who seldom take part in reunions of men
only, may perhaps be scandalized by this language. It may appear to
them indecent and brutal even to the point of incredibility; but those
who know the world will confess that language like this is very
generally employed in it, and that the most amiable and agreeable
women, the most honorable matrons, if they chance to have an enemy, or
even if they have none, are often made the subjects of accusations no
less infamous and vile than those made by the Count against Pepita; for
scandal, or, to speak more accurately, disrespect and insult are often
indulged in for the purpose of showing wit and effrontery.
Don Luis had from childhood been accustomed to the consideration
and respect of those around him, first, of the servants and dependents
of his father, who gratified him in all his wishes, and then of every
one in the seminary, not only because he was a nephew of the dean, but
also on account of his own merits, and when he heard the insolent Count
thus drag in the dust the name of the woman he loved, he felt as if a
thunderbolt had fallen at his feet.
But how undertake her defense? He knew, indeed, that although he
was neither husband, brother, nor other relative of Pepita's he might
yet come forward in her defense as a man of honor; but he saw what
scandal this would give rise to, since, far from saying a word in her
favor, all the other persons present joined in applauding the wit of
the Count. He, already the minister, almost, of a God of peace, could
not be the one to give the lie to this ruffian, and thus expose himself
to the risk of a quarrel.
Don Luis was on the point of departing in silence; but his heart
would not consent to this, and striving to clothe himself with an
authority which was justified neither by his years nor by his
countenance, where the beard had scarcely begun to make its appearance,
nor by his presence in that place, he began to speak with earnest
eloquence in denunciation of all slanderers, and to reproach the Count,
with the freedom of a Christian and in severe accents, with the
vileness of his conduct.
This was to preach in the desert, or worse. The Count answered his
homily with gibes and jests; the bystanders, among whom were many
strangers, took the part of the jester, notwithstanding the fact that
Don Luis was the son of the squire. Even Currito, who was of no account
whatever, and who was, besides, a coward, although he did not laugh,
yet made no effort to take the part of his friend, and the latter was
obliged to withdraw, disturbed and humiliated by the ridicule he had
drawn on himself.
"THIS flower only was wanting to complete the nosegay," muttered
poor Don Luis between his teeth when he had reached his house and shut
himself up in his room, vexed and ill at ease because of the jeers of
which he had been the butt. He exaggerated them to himself; they seemed
unendurable. He threw himself into a chair, depressed and disheartened,
and a thousand contradictory ideas assailed his mind.
The blood of his father, which boiled in his veins, incited him to
anger; and urged him to throw aside the clerical garb, as he had in the
beginning been advised to do in the village, and then give the Count
his deserts; but the whole future he had planned for himself would be
thus at a blow destroyed. He pictured to himself the dean disowning
him; and even the Pope, who had already sent the pontifical
dispensation permitting him to be ordained before the required age, and
the bishop of the diocese, who had based the petition for the
dispensation on his approved virtue and learning and on the firmness of
his vocation-all appeared before him now to reproach him.
Then those other arguments, cited by his father, of which the
apostle St. James, the bishops of the Middle Ages, and St. Ignatius
Loyola had made use, occurred to his mind, and now seemed less
preposterous than before, and he almost repented of not having put them
He then recalled the custom of a distinguished philosopher of
Persia, of our own day, mentioned in a book recently written on that
country-a custom which consisted in punishing with harsh words his
hearers and pupils when they laughed at his teachings or could not
understand them, and if this did not suffice, in descending from his
chair, sabre in hand, and giving them all a beating. This method, as it
appears, had proved efficacious, especially in controversy; although it
had chanced that the said philosopher, coming across an opponent of the
same way of thinking as himself, had received a severe wound in the
face from him.
Don Luis, in the midst of his mortification and ill-humor, could
not help laughing at the absurdity of this recollection. He thought
philosophers were not wanting in Spain who would willingly adopt the
Persian method, and if he himself did not put it into practise, it was
certainly not through fear of the wounds he might receive, but through
considerations of greater weight.
At last better thoughts returned and somewhat comforted his soul.
"I did very wrong in preaching there," he said to himself; "I
should have remained silent. Our Lord Jesus Christ has said, 'Give not
that which is holy to dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine,
lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.'"
"But, no; why should I complain? Why should I return evil for evil?
Why should I allow myself to be vanquished by anger? Many holy fathers
have said, 'Anger in a priest is even worse than lasciviousness.' The
anger of priests has caused many tears to be shed, and has been the
cause of terrible evils."
"It was anger-the terrible counselor-that at times persuaded them
that it was necessary for the people to shed blood at the Divine
command, and that brought before their sanguinary eyes the vision of
Isaiah; they have then seen, and caused their fanatic followers to see,
the meek Lamb converted into an inexorable avenger, descending from the
summit of Edom, proud in the multitude of his strength, trampling the
nations under foot, as the treader tramples the grapes in the
wine-press, their garments raised, and covered with blood to the
thighs. Ah, no. My God! I am about to become Thy minister. Thou art the
God of peace, and my first duty should be meekness. Thou makest the sun
to shine on the just and the unjust, and pourest down upon all alike
the fertilizing rain of inexhaustible goodness. Thou art our Father,
who dwellest in the heavens, and we should be perfect, even as Thou art
perfect, pardoning those who have offended us, and asking Thee to
pardon them, because they know not what they do. I should recall to
mind the beatitudes of the Scripture: Blessed are ye when they revile
you and persecute you, and say all manner of evil things against you.
The minister of God, or he who is about to become His minister, must be
humble, peaceable, lowly of heart; not like the oak that lifts itself
up proudly until the thunderbolt strike it, but like the fragrant herbs
of the woods and the modest flowers of the fields, that give sweeter
and more graceful perfume after the rustic has trodden them under
In these and other meditations of a like nature the hours passed
until three o'clock, when Don Pedro, who had just returned from the
country, entered his son's room to call him to dinner. The gay
joviality of his father, his jests, his affectionate attentions during
the meal, were all of no avail to draw Don Luis from his melancholy, or
to give him an appetite; he ate little, and scarcely spoke while they
were at table.
Although much troubled by the silent melancholy of his son, whose
health, though indeed robust, might nevertheless suffer from it, Don
Pedro-who rose with the dawn and had a busy time of it during the
day-when he had finished his after-dinner cigar and taken his cup of
coffee and his glass of anisette, felt fatigued, and went, according to
his custom, to take a long nap.
Don Luis had been careful not to draw the attention of his father
to the offense done him by the Count of Genazahar; for Don Pedro, who,
for his part, was not preparing for the priesthood, and who, besides,
was not of a very meek disposition, would otherwise have rushed
instantly to wreak the vengeance his son had foregone.
When his father had retired the young man also left the
dining-room, that he might give himself up undisturbed to his thoughts
in the seclusion of his own apartment.
DON LUIS had been sunk in meditation for a long time, seated before
his desk, with his elbows resting upon it, when he heard a noise close
by. He raised his eyes and saw standing beside him the meddlesome
Antoñona, who, although of such massive proportions, had entered like a
shadow, and was now watching him attentively, with a mixture of pity
and of anger.
Antoñona, taking advantage of the hour in which the servants dined
and Don Pedro slept, had penetrated thus far without being observed,
and had opened the door of the room and closed it behind her so gently
that Don Luis, even if he had been less absorbed, would not have
She had come resolved to hold a very serious conference with Don
Luis, but she did not quite know what she was going to say to him.
Nevertheless, she had asked heaven or hell, whichever of the two it may
have been, to loosen her tongue and bestow upon her the gift of
speech-not such grotesque and vulgar speech as she generally used, but
correct, elegant, and adapted to the noble reflections and beautiful
things she had in her mind and wanted to express.
When Don Luis saw Antoñona he frowned, and showed by his manner how
much this visit displeased him, at the same time saying roughly:
"What do you want here? Go away!"
"I have come to call you to account about my young mistress,"
returned Antoñona, quietly, "and I shall not go away until you have
She then drew a chair toward the table and sat down in it, facing
Don Luis with coolness and effrontery.
Don Luis, seeing there was no help for it, restrained his anger,
armed himself with patience, and, in accents less harsh than before,
"Say what you have to say!"
"I have to say," resumed Antoñona, "that what you are plotting
against my mistress is a piece of wickedness. You are behaving like a
villain. You have bewitched her; you have given her some malignant
potion. The poor angel is going to die; she neither eats nor sleeps,
nor has a moment's peace, on account of you. To-day she has had two or
three hysterical attacks at the bare thought of your going away. A good
deed you have done before becoming a priest! Tell me, wretch, why did
you not stay where you were, with your uncle, instead of coming here?
She, who was so free, so completely mistress of her own will, enslaving
that of others, and allowing her own to be taken captive by none, has
fallen into your treacherous snares. Your hypocritical sanctity was
doubtless the lure you employed. With your theologies and your pious
humbug you have acted like the wily and cruel sportsman, who whistles
to attract the silly thrushes only to catch them in his net."
"Antoñona," returned Don Luis, "leave me in peace. For God's sake,
cease torturing me! I am a villain; I confess it. I ought not to have
looked at your mistress; I ought not to have allowed her to believe
that I loved her; but I loved her, and I love her still, with my whole
heart; and I have given her no other potion or philtre than the love I
have for her. It is my duty, nevertheless, to cast away, to forget this
love. God commands me to do so. Do you imagine that the sacrifice I
make will not be-is not already-a tremendous one? Pepita ought to arm
herself with fortitude and make a similar sacrifice."
"You do not give even that consolation to the unhappy girl,"
replied Antoñona. "You sacrifice voluntarily, on the altar, this woman
who loves you, who is already yours-your victim. But she-how do you
belong to her that she should offer you up as a sacrifice? What is the
precious jewel she is going to renounce, what the beautiful ornament
she is going to cast into the flames, but an ill-requited love? How is
she going to give to God what she does not possess? Is she going to try
to cheat God, and say to Him: 'My God, since he does not love me, here
he is; I offer him up to you; I will not love him either.' God never
laughs-if He did, He would laugh at such a present as that!"
Don Luis, confounded, did not know what answer to return to these
arguments of Antoñona, more painful than her former pinches. Besides,
it was repugnant to him to discuss the metaphysics of love with a
"Let us leave aside," he said, "these idle discussions. I can not
cure the malady of your mistress. What would you have me do?"
"What would I have you do?" replied Antoñona, more gently and with
insinuating accents; "I will tell you what I would have you do. If you
can not cure the malady of my mistress, you should at least alleviate
it a little. Are you not saintly? Well, the saints are compassionate,
and courageous besides. Don't run away like an ill-mannered coward,
without saying good-by. Come to see my mistress, who is sick. Do this
work of mercy."
"And what would be gained by such a visit? It would aggravate her
malady, instead of curing it."
"It will not do so; you don't see the matter in its proper light.
You shall go to see her, and, with your honeyed tongue and the gift of
the gab that Nature has bestowed upon you, you will put some
resignation into her soul, and leave her consoled for your departure;
and if you tell her, in addition to this, that you love her, and that
it is only for the sake of God you are leaving her, her woman's vanity,
at least, will not be wounded."
"What you propose to me is to tempt God; it is dangerous both for
her and for me."
"And why should it be to tempt God? Since God can see the rectitude
and the purity of your intentions, will He not grant you His favor and
His grace that you may not yield to temptation during the visit to her,
which it is but justice you should make? Ought you not to fly to her to
deliver her from despair, and bring her back to the right path? If she
should die of grief at seeing herself scorned; or if, in a frenzy, she
should seize a rope and hang herself to a beam, I tell you, your
remorse would be harder to bear than the flames of pitch and sulphur
that surround the caldrons of Lucifer."
"This is horrible! I would not have her grow desperate. I shall arm
myself with courage-I will go to see her."
"May Heaven bless you! But my heart told me you would go. How good
"When do you wish me to go?"
"To-night, at ten o'clock precisely. I will be at the street-door
waiting for you, and will take you to her."
"Does she know you have come to see me?"
"She does not-it was all my own idea; but I will prepare her
cautiously, so that the surprise, the unexpected joy of your visit, may
not be too much for her. You promise me to come?"
"I will go."
"Good-by. Don't fail to come. At ten o'clock precisely I shall be
at the door."
And Antoñona hurried away, descended the steps two at a time, and
so gained the street.
IT can not be denied that Antoñona had displayed great prudence,
and that her language had been so dignified and proper that some may
think it apocryphal, if there were not the very best authority for all
that is related here, and if we did not know, besides, the wonders a
woman may work by her natural cleverness when she is spurred on by
interest or by some strong passion.
Great, indeed, was the affection Antoñona entertained for her
mistress, and, seeing her so much in love and in such desperate case,
she could do no less than seek a remedy for her ills.
The consent she had succeeded in obtaining from Don Luis was an
unexpected triumph; and in order to derive the greatest possible
advantage from this triumph, she was obliged to make the most of her
time, and to use all her worldly wisdom in preparing for the occasion.
Antoñona had suggested ten as the hour of Don Luis's visit, because
this was the hour in which Don Luis and Pepita had been accustomed to
see each other in the now abolished or suspended gatherings at the
house of the latter. She had suggested this hour also in order to avoid
giving rise to scandal or slander; for she had once heard a preacher
say that, according to the Gospel, there is nothing so wicked as
scandal, and that a scandal-monger ought to be flung into the sea with
a millstone hung round his neck.
Antoñona then returned to the house of her mistress, very well
satisfied with herself, and with the firm determination so to arrange
matters that the remedy she had sought should not prove useless, or
aggravate instead of curing Pepita's malady. She resolved to say
nothing of the matter to Pepita herself until the last moment, when she
would tell her that Don Luis had asked her of his own accord at what
hour he might make a farewell visit, and that she had said ten.
In order to avoid giving rise to talk, she determined that Don Luis
should not be seen to enter the house, and for this the hour and the
internal arrangement of the house itself were alike propitious. At ten
the street would be full of people, on account of the vigil, which
would make it easier for Don Luis to reach the house without being
observed. To enter the hall would be the work of a moment, and
Antoñona, who would be waiting for him, could then take him to the
library without any one seeing him.
All, or at least the greater part, of the handsome country-houses
of Andalusia are built as double rather than single houses. Each of
these double houses has its own door. The principal door leads to the
courtyard, which is paved and surrounded by columns, to the parlors and
the other apartments of the family. The other door leads to the inner
yards, the stable, and coach-house, the kitchens, the mill, the
wine-press, the granaries, the buildings where the oil, the must, the
alcohol, the brandy, and the vinegar are kept in large jars, and also
to the cask stores, or cellars, where the wine, new and old, is stored
in pipes or barrels. This second house, or portion of a house, although
it may be situated in the heart of a town of twenty or twenty-five
thousand inhabitants, is called the "farmhouse." The overseer, the
foreman, the muleteer, the principal workmen, and the domestics who
have been longest in the service of the master are accustomed to gather
here in the evenings, during the winter, around the enormous fireplace
of a spacious kitchen, and in summer in the open air, or in some cool
and well-ventilated apartment, and there chat or take their ease until
the master's family are ready to retire.
Antoñona was of opinion that the colloquy or explanation which she
desired should take place between her mistress and Don Luis must be
absolutely undisturbed, and interrupted by no one; and she therefore
determined that, as it was St. John's Eve, the maid-servants of Pepita
should be to-night released from all their occupations, and should go
to amuse themselves at the farmhouse, where, in union with the rustic
laborers, they might get up impromptu amusements, to consist of the
recitation of pretty verses, playing the castanets, and dancing jigs
In this manner the dwelling-house-with no other occupants than
Pepita and herself-would be silent and almost deserted, and therefore
quiet enough for the interview she had planned, and on which perhaps-or
rather to a certainty-depended the fate of two persons of such
WHILE Antoñona went about turning over and arranging in her mind
all these things, Don Luis had no sooner been left alone than he
repented of having proceeded with so much haste, and weakly consenting
to the interview Antoñona had asked of him. As he reflected upon it it
seemed to him full of peril. He saw before him all the danger to which
he was exposing himself, and he could perceive no advantage whatever in
thus making a visit to the beautiful widow in secret and by stealth.
To go and see her in order to succumb to her attractions and fall
into her snares, making a mockery of his vows, and placing not only the
bishop, who had endorsed his petition for a dispensation, but even the
holy Pontiff, who had conceded it, in a false position, by
relinquishing his purpose of becoming a priest, seemed to him very
dishonorable. It was, besides, a treason against his father, who loved
Pepita and desired to marry her; and to visit her in order to undeceive
her in regard to his love for her, seemed to him a greater refinement
of cruelty than to depart without saying anything.
Influenced by these considerations, the first thought of Don Luis
was to fail, without excuse or warning, to keep his appointment, and
leave Antoñona to wait in vain for him in the hall; but then, as
Antoñona had, in all probability, already announced his visit to her
mistress, he would, by failing to go, unpardonably offend, not only
Antoñona, but Pepita herself.
He then resolved on writing Pepita a very affectionate and discreet
letter, excusing himself from going to see her, justifying his conduct,
consoling her, manifesting his tender sentiments toward her, while
letting her see that duty and Heaven were before everything, and
endeavoring to inspire her with the courage to make the same sacrifice
as he himself was making.
He made four or five different attempts to write this letter. He
blotted a great deal of paper which he afterward tore up, and could
not, in the end, succeed in getting the letter to his taste. Now it was
dry, cold, pedantic, like a poor sermon or a schoolmaster's discourse;
now its contents betrayed a childish apprehension, as if Pepita were a
monster lying in wait to devour him; now it had other faults not less
serious. In fine, after wasting many sheets of paper in the attempt,
the letter remained unwritten.
"There is no help for it," said Don Luis to himself; "the die is
cast. I must summon up all my courage and go."
He comforted his spirit with the hope that his self-control would
not forsake him during the coming interview, and that God would endow
his lips with eloquence to persuade Pepita, who was so good, that it
was she herself who, sacrificing her earthly love, urged him to fulfill
his vocation, resembling in this those holy women, of whom there are
not wanting examples, who not only renounced the society of a
bridegroom or a lover, but even the companionship of a husband, as is
narrated, for instance, in the life of St. Edward of England, whose
queen lived with him as a sister.
Don Luis felt himself consoled and encouraged by this thought, and
he already pictured himself as St. Edward, and Pepita as Queen Edith.
And under the form and in the character of this virgin queen Pepita
appeared to him, if possible, more graceful, charming, and romantic
Don Luis was not, however, altogether so secure of himself, or so
tranquil; as he should have been, after forming the resolution of
following the example of St. Edward. There seemed to him something
almost criminal, which he could not well define, in the visit he was
about to make to Pepita without his father's knowledge. He felt tempted
to awaken him from his nap, and to reveal everything to him; two or
three times he rose from his chair with this purpose, then he stopped,
feeling that such a revelation would be dishonoring and a disgraceful
exhibition of childishness. He might betray his own secrets, but to
betray those of Pepita, in order to set himself right with his father,
seemed to him contemptible enough. The baseness and ridiculous meanness
of the action were still further increased in his eyes by the
reflection that what prompted him to it was the fear of not being
strong enough to resist temptation.
Don Luis kept silence, therefore, and revealed nothing to his
More than this, he did not even feel that he had the confidence and
composure necessary to present himself before his father, with the
consciousness of this secret interview interposing itself as a barrier
between them. He was, indeed, so excited and so beside himself, under
the influence of the contending emotions that disputed the possession
of his soul, that he felt as if the room, though a large one, was too
small to contain him. Starting to his feet, he paced with rapid strides
up and down the floor, like some wild animal in his cage, impatient of
confinement. At last, although-being summer-the window was open, he
felt as if he could remain here no longer, lest he should suffocate for
want of air; as if the roof pressed down upon his head; as if, to
breathe, he needed the whole atmosphere; to walk, he required space
without limits; to lift up his brow and exhale his sighs and elevate
his thoughts, to have nothing less than the immeasurable vault of
heaven above him.
Impelled by this necessity, he took his hat and cane and went out
into the street. Thence, avoiding every one he knew, he passed on into
the country, plunging into the leafiest and most sequestered recesses
of the gardens and walks that encompass the village and make for a
radius of more than half a league a paradise of its surroundings.
We have said but little, thus far, concerning the personal
appearance of Don Luis. Be it known, then, that he was in every sense
of the word a handsome fellow-tall, well-formed, with black hair, and
eyes also black and full of fire and tenderness. His complexion was
dark, his teeth were white, his lips delicate and curling slightly,
which gave his countenance an appearance of disdain; his bearing was
manly and bold, notwithstanding the reserve and meekness proper to the
sacred calling of his election. The whole mien of Don Luis bore, in a
word, that indescribable stamp of distinction and nobility that seems
to be-though this is not always the case-the peculiar quality and
exclusive privilege of aristocratic families.
On beholding Don Luis one could not but confess that Pepita Jiménez
was esthetic by instinct.
Don Luis hurried on with precipitate steps in the course he had
taken, jumping across brooks and hardly glancing at surrounding
objects, almost as a bull stung by a hornet might do. The countrymen he
met, the market-gardeners who saw him pass, very possibly took him for
Tired at last of walking on so aimlessly, he sat down at the foot
of a stone cross near the ruins of an ancient convent of St. Francis de
Paul, almost two miles from the village, and there plunged anew into
meditation, but of so confused a character that he himself was scarcely
conscious of what was passing in his mind.
The sound of the distant bells, calling the faithful to prayer, and
reminding them of the salutation of the angel to the Most Holy Virgin,
reached him in his solitude through the evening air, and at last drew
Don Luis from his meditations, recalling him once more to the world of
The sun had just sunk behind the gigantic peaks of the neighboring
mountains, making their summits-in the shape of pyramids, needles, and
broken obelisks-stand out in bold relief against a background of topaz
and amethyst-for such was the appearance of the heavens, gilded by the
beams of the setting sun. The shadows began to deepen over the plain,
and on the mountains opposite to those behind which the sun was sinking
the more elevated peaks shone like flaming gold or crystal.
The windows and the white walls of the distant sanctuary of the
Virgin, patroness of the village, situated on the summit of a hill, and
of another small temple or hermitage situated on a nearer hill called
Calvary, still shone like two beacon lights touched by the oblique rays
of the setting sun.
Nature exhaled a poetic melancholy, and all things seemed to intone
a hymn to the Creator, with that silent music heard only by the spirit.
The slow tolling of the bells. softened and almost lost in the
distance, hardly disturbed the repose of the earth, and invited to
prayer without distracting the senses by their noise. Don Luis
uncovered his head, knelt down at the foot of the cross, the pedestal
of which had served him as a seat, and repeated with profound devotion
the Angelus Domini.
The shades of evening were gathering fast, but when Night unfolds
her mantle, and spreads it over those favored regions, she delights to
adorn it with the most luminous stars and with a still brighter moon.
The vault of heaven did not exchange its cerulean hue for the blackness
of night; it still retained it, though it had assumed a deeper shade.
The atmosphere was so clear and pure that myriads of stars could be
descried shining far into the limitless depths of space. The moon
silvered the tops of the trees, and touched with its splendor the
waters of the brooks that gleamed, luminous and transparent, with
colors as changeful and iridescent as the opal. In the leafy groves the
nightingales were singing. Herbs and flowers shed a rich perfume.
Countless multitudes of glowworms shone like diamonds or carbuncles
among the grass and wild flowers along the banks of the brooks. In this
region the fire-fly is not found, but the common glowworm abounds, and
sheds a most brilliant light. Fruit trees still in blossom, acacias,
and roses without number perfumed the air with their rich fragrance.
Don Luis felt himself swayed, seduced, vanquished by this
voluptuousness of Nature, and began to doubt himself. He felt
compelled, however, to fulfil his promise and keep his appointment.
Deviating often from the straight path, hesitating at times whether
he should not rather push forward to the source of the river, where, at
the foot of a mountain and in the midst of the most enchanting
surroundings, the crystal torrent that waters the neighboring gardens
and orchards bursts from the living rock, he turned back, with slow and
lingering step, in the direction of the village.
In proportion as he approached it, the terror inspired by the
thought of what he was about to do increased. He plunged into the
thickest of the wood, hoping there to behold some sign, some wonder,
some warning, that should draw him back. He thought often of the
student Lisardo, and wished that, like him, he might behold his own
burial. But heaven smiled with her thousand lights, and invited to
love; the stars twinkled at each other with love; the nightingales sang
of love; even the crickets chirped their amorous serenade. All the
earth, on this tranquil and beautiful night, seemed given up to love.
All was life, peace, joy.
Where was his guardian angel now? Had he abandoned Don Luis as
already lost; or, deeming that he ran no risk, did he make no effort to
turn him from his purpose? Who can say? Perhaps from the danger that
menaced him would in the end result a triumph? St. Edward and Queen
Edith presented themselves again to the imagination of Don Luis, and
the vision strengthened his resolution.
Engrossed in these meditations, he delayed his return, and was
still some distance from the village when ten, the hour appointed for
his interview with Pepita, struck from the parish clock. The ten
strokes of the bell were ten blows that, falling on his heart, wounded
it as with a physical pain-a pain in which dread and treacherous
disquiet were blended with a ravishing sweetness.
Don Luis hastened his steps, that he might not be too late, and
shortly found himself in the village.
The hamlet presented a most animated scene. Young girls flocked to
wash their faces at the spring outside the village; those who had
sweethearts, that their sweethearts might remain faithful to them; and
those who had not, that t hey might obtain sweethearts. Here and there
women and children were returning from the fields, with verbena,
branches of rosemary, and other plants, which they had been gathering,
to burn as a charm. Guitars tinkled on every side, words of love were
to be overheard, and everywhere happy and tender couples were to be
seen walking together. The vigil and the early morning of St.John's
Day, although a Christian festival, still retain a certain savor of
paganism and primitive naturalism. This may be because of the
approximate concurrence of this festival and the summer solstice. In
any case, the scene to-night was purely mundane and not religious. All
was love and gallantry. In our old romances and legends the Moor always
carries off the beautiful Christian princess, and the Christian knight
receives the reward of his devotion to the Moorish princess on the eve
or in the early morning of St.John's Day; and the traditionary custom
of the old romances had been, to all appearances, preserved in the
The streets were full of people. The whole village was out of
doors, in addition to the strangers from the surrounding country.
Progress, thus rendered extremely difficult, was still further impeded
by the multitude of little tables laden with almond sweetmeats,
honey-cakes, and biscuits, with fruit-stalls, with booths for the sale
of dolls and toys, and cake-shops, where gipsies, young and old, fried
the dough-tainting the air with the odor of oil-weighed and served the
cakes, responded with ready wit to the compliments of the gallants who
passed by, and told fortunes.
Don Luis sought to avoid meeting any of his acquaintances and, when
he caught sight by chance of one he knew, turned his steps in another
direction. Thus, by degrees, he reached the entrance to Pepita's house
without having been stopped or spoken to by any one. His heart now
began to beat with violence, and he paused a moment to recover his
serenity. He looked at his watch; it was almost half-past ten.
"Good heavens!" he exclaimed; "she has been waiting for me nearly
half an hour."
He then hurried his pace and entered the hall. The lamp by which it
was always lighted was burning dimly on this particular evening.
No sooner had Don Luis entered the hall than a hand, or rather a
claw, seized him by the right arm. It belonged to Antoñona, who said to
him under her breath:
"A pretty fellow you are, for a divinity student! Ingrate!
Good-for-nothing! Vagabond! I began to think you were not coming. Where
have you been, you idiot? How dare you delay, as if you had no interest
in the matter, when the salt of the earth is melting for you, and the
sun of beauty awaits you?"
While Antoñona was giving utterance to these complaints, she did
not stand still, but continued to go forward, dragging after her by the
arm the now cowed and silent collegian. They passed the grated door,
which Antoñona closed carefully and noiselessly behind them. They
crossed the courtyard, ascended the stairs, passed through some
corridors and two sitting-rooms, and arrived at last at the door of the
library, which was closed.
Profound silence reigned throughout the house. The library was
situated in its interior, and was thus inaccessible to the noises of
the street. The only sounds that reached it, dim and vague, were the
clatter of castanets, the thrumming of a guitar, and the murmur of the
voices of Pepita's servants, who were holding their impromptu dance in
Antoñona opened the door of the library and pushed Don Luis toward
it, at the same time announcing him in these words:
"Here is Don Luis, who has come to take leave of you."
This announcement being made with due ceremony, the discreet
Antoñona withdrew, leaving the visitor and her mistress at their ease,
and closing the door behind her.
AT this point in our narrative we can not refrain from calling
attention to the character of authenticity that stamps the present
history, and paying a tribute of admiration to the scrupulous exactness
of the person who composed it. For, were the incidents related in these
paralipomena fictitious, as in a novel, there is not the least doubt
but that an interview so important and of such transcendent interest as
that of Pepita and Don Luis would have been brought about by less
vulgar means than those here employed.
Perhaps our hero and heroine, in the course of some new excursion
into the country, might have been surprised by a sudden and frightful
tempest, thus finding themselves obliged to take refuge in the ruins of
some ancient castle or Moorish tower, with the reputation, of course,
of being haunted by ghosts or other supernatural visitants. Perhaps our
hero and heroine might have fallen into the power of a party of
bandits, from whom they would have escaped, thanks to the presence of
mind and courage of Don Luis; taking shelter afterward for the
night-they two alone, and without the possibility of avoiding it-in a
cavern or grotto. Or, finally, perhaps the author would have arranged
the matter in such a way that Pepita and her vacillating admirer would
have been obliged to make a journey by sea, and, although at the
present day there are neither pirates nor Algerine corsairs, it is not
difficult to invent a good shipwreck, during which Don Luis could have
saved Pepita's life, taking refuge with her afterward on a desert
island, or some other equally romantic and solitary place.
Any one of these devices would more artfully prepare the way for
the tender colloquy of the lovers, and would better serve to exculpate
Don Luis. We are of the opinion, nevertheless, that, instead of
censuring the author for not having had recourse to such complications
as those we have mentioned, we ought rather to thank him for his
conscientiousness in sacrificing to the truth of his relation the
marvelous effect he might have produced had he ventured to adorn it
with incidents and episodes drawn from his own fancy.
If the means by which this interview was brought about were, in
reality, only the officiousness and the skill of Antoñona, and the
weakness with which Don Luis acceded to her request that he should
grant it, why forge lies, and cause the two lovers to be impelled, as
it were, by Fate, to see and speak with each other alone, to the great
danger of the virtue and honor of both? Nothing of the kind! Whether
Don Luis did well or ill in keeping his appointment, and whether Pepita
Jiménez, whom Antoñona had already told that Don Luis was coming of his
own accord to see her, did well or ill in rejoicing over that somewhat
mysterious and untimely visit, let us not throw the blame on Fate, but
on the personages themselves who figure in this history, and on the
passions by which they are actuated. We confess to a great affection
for Pepita; but the truth is before everything, and must be declared,
even should it be to the prejudice of our heroine.
At eight o'clock, then, Antoñona had told her that Don Luis was
coming, and Pepita, who had been talking of dying, whose eyes were red,
and her eyelids slightly inflamed with weeping, and whose hair was in
some disorder, thought of nothing from that moment but of adorning and
dressing herself to receive Don Luis. She bathed her face with warm
water, so that the ravages her tears had made might be effaced to the
exact point of leaving her beauty unimpaired, while still allowing it
to be seen that she had wept. She arranged her hair so as to display,
rather than a studied care in its arrangement, a certain graceful and
artistic carelessness, that fell short of disorder, however, which
would have been indecorous; she polished her nails, and, as it was not
fit that she should receive Don Luis in a wrapper, she put on a simple
house-dress. In fine, she managed instinctively that all the details of
her toilet should concur in heightening her beauty and grace, but
without allowing any trace to be perceived of the art, the labor, and
the time employed in the details. She would have it appear, on the
contrary, as if all this beauty and grace were the free gift of Nature,
something inherent in her person, no matter how she might, owing to the
vehemence of her passions, neglect it on occasion.
Pepita, so far as we have been able to discover, spent more than an
hour in these labors of the toilet, which were to be perceived only by
their results. She then, with ill-concealed satisfaction, gave herself
the final touch before the looking-glass. At last, at about half-past
nine, taking a candle in her hand, she descended to the apartment in
which was the Infant Jesus. She first lighted the altar candles, which
had been extinguished; she saw with something of sorrow that the
flowers were drooping; she asked pardon of the sacred Image for
neglecting it so long, and, throwing herself on her knees before it,
prayed in her solitude with her whole heart, and with that frankness
and confidence that a guest inspires who has been so long an inmate of
the house. Of a Jesus of Nazareth bearing the cross upon his shoulders,
and crowned with thorns; of an Ecco Homo, insulted and scourged, with a
reed for derisive sceptre, and his hands bound with a rough cord; of a
Christ Crucified, bleeding and in the last throes of death, Pepita
would not have dared to ask what she now asked of a Saviour, still a
child, smiling, beautiful, untouched by suffering, and pleasing to the
eye. Pepita asked him to leave her Don Luis; not to take him away from
her, since he, who was so rich and so well provided with everything,
might, without any great sacrifices, deny himself this one of his
servants, and give him up to her.
Having completed these preparations, which we may classify as
cosmetic, decorative, and religious, Pepita installed herself in the
library, and there awaited the arrival of Don Luis with feverish
Antoñona had acted with prudence in not telling her mistress that
Don Luis was coming to see her until a short time before the appointed
hour. Even as it was, thanks to the delay of her gallant, poor Pepita,
from the moment in which she had finished her prayers and supplications
to the Infant Jesus, to that in which she beheld Don Luis standing in
the library, was a prey to anguish and disquietude.
The visit began in the most grave and ceremonious manner. The
customary salutations were mechanically interchanged, and Don Luis, at
the invitation of Pepita, seated himself in an easy-chair, without
laying aside his hat or cane, and at a short distance from her. Pepita
was seated on the sofa; beside her was a little table on which were
some books, and a candle, the light from which illuminated her
countenance. On the desk also burned a lamp. Notwithstanding these two
lights, however, the apartment, which was large, remained for the
greater part in darkness. A large window, which looked out on an inner
garden, was open on account of the heat; and although the grating of
the window was covered with climbing roses and jasmine, the clear beams
of the moon penetrated through the interlaced leaves and flowers, and
struggled with the light of the lamp and candle. Through the open
window came, too, the distant and confused sounds of the dance at the
farmhouse, which was at the other extremity of the garden, the
monotonous murmur of the fountain below, and the fragrance of the
jasmine and roses that curtained the window, mingled with that of the
mignonette, sweet-basil, and other plants that adorned the borders
There was a long pause-a silence as difficult to maintain as it was
to break. Neither of the two interlocutors ventured to speak. The
situation was, in truth, embarrassing. They found it as difficult to
express themselves then as we find it now to reproduce their words; but
there is nothing else for it than to make the effort. Let us allow them
to speak for themselves, transcribing their words with exactitude.
"SO you have finally condescended to come and take leave of me
before your departure," said Pepita; "I had already given up the hope
that you would do so." The part Don Luis had to perform was a serious
one; and, besides, in this kind of dialogue, the man, not only if he be
a novice, but even when he is old in the business and an expert, is apt
to begin with some piece of folly. Let us not too freely condemn Don
Luis, therefore, because he began unwisely.
"Your complaint is unjust," he said. "I came here with my father to
take leave of you, and, as we had not the pleasure of being received by
you, we left cards. We were told that you were somewhat indisposed, and
we have sent every day since to inquire about you. We were greatly
pleased to learn that you were improving. I hope you are now much
"I am almost tempted to say I am no better," answered Pepita, "but,
as I see that you have come as the ambassador of your father, and I do
not want to distress so excellent a friend, it is but right that I
should tell you, that you may repeat it to him, that I am much better
now. But it is strange that you have come alone. Don Pedro must be very
much occupied indeed, not to accompany you."
"My father did not accompany me, because he does not know that I
have come to see you. I have preferred to come without him, because my
farewell must be a serious, a solemn, perhaps a final one, and his
would naturally be of a very different character. My father will return
to the village in a few weeks; it is possible that I may never return
to it, and, if I do, it will be in a very different condition from my
Pepita could not restrain herself. The happy future of which she
had dreamed vanished into air. Her unalterable resolution to vanquish
this man, at whatever cost, the only man she had loved in her life, the
only one she felt herself capable of loving, seemed to have been made
in vain. She felt herself condemned at twenty years of age, with all
her beauty, to perpetual widowhood, to solitude, to an unrequited
love-for to love any other man seemed impossible to her.
The character of Pepita, in whom obstacles only strengthened and
rekindled her desires, with whom a determination, once taken, carried
everything before it until it was fulfilled, showed itself now in all
its violence and without restraint. She must conquer, or die in the
attempt. Social considerations, the fixed habit of guarding and
concealing the feelings, acquired in the great world, which serve as a
restraint to the paroxysms of passion, and which veil in ambiguous
phrases and circumlocution the most violent explosion of undisciplined
emotion, had no power with Pepita. She had had but little intercourse
with the world, she knew no middle way; her only rule of conduct
hitherto had been to obey blindly her mother and her husband while they
lived, and afterward to command despotically every other human being.
Thus it was that on this occasion Pepita spoke her thoughts and
showed herself such as she really was. Her soul, with all the passion
it contained, took form in her words; and her words, instead of serving
to conceal her thoughts and her feelings, gave them substance. She did
not speak as a woman of the world would have spoken, with
circumlocutions and attenuations of expression, but with that idyllic
frankness with which Chloe spoke to Daphnis, and with the humility and
the complete self-abandonment with which the daughter-in-law of Naomi
offered herself to Boaz.
"Do you persist in your purpose?" she asked. "Are you sure of your
vocation? Are you not afraid of being a bad priest? Don Luis, I am
going to make a supreme effort. I am going to forget that I am an
uncultured girl; I am going to dispense with all sentiment and to
reason as coldly as if it were concerning the matter most indifferent
to me. Things have taken place that may be explained in two ways; both
explanations do you discredit. I will tell you what I think:
"If a woman who, with her coquetries-not very daring ones, in
truth-almost without a word, and but a few days after seeing and
speaking to you for the first time, has been able to provoke you, to
move you to look at her with glances which reveal a profane love, and
has even obtained from you such a proof of that love as would be a
fault, a sin, in any one, but is so especially in a priest-if this
woman be, as she indeed is, a simple country girl, without education,
without talent, and without elegance, what may not be feared for you
when in great cities you see and converse with other women a thousand
times more dangerous? Your head will be turned when you are thrown into
the society of the great ladies who dwell in palaces, who tread on soft
carpets, who dazzle the eye with their diamonds and pearls, who are
clad in silks and laces instead of muslin and cotton, who display their
white and well-formed throat instead of covering it with a plebeian and
modest handkerchief, who are adepts in all the arts of flirtation, and
who, by reason of the very ostentation, luxury, and pomp that surround
them, are all the more desirable for being apparently more
inaccessible. Yes, these elegant and beautiful women discuss politics,
philosophy, religion, and literature; they sing like canaries; they are
enveloped, as it were, in clouds of incense, adoration, and homage, set
upon a pedestal of triumphs and of victories, glorified by the prestige
of an illustrious name, enthroned in gilded drawing-rooms, or secluded
in voluptuous boudoirs; and there enter only the blessed ones of the
earth, its titled ones, perhaps, who only to their most intimate
friends are 'Pepita,' 'Antoñona,' or 'Angelita,' and to the rest of the
world, 'Her Grace the Duchess,' or 'The Marchioness.'
"If you have yielded to the arts of a mere country girl when you
were on the eve of being ordained, and in spite of all the enthusiasm
for your calling that you may naturally be supposed to entertain-if you
have thus yielded, urged by a passing impulse, am I not right in
foreseeing that you will make an abominable priest, impure, worldly,
and of evil influence, and that you will yield to temptation at every
"On such a supposition as this, believe me, Don Luis-and do not be
offended with me for saying so-you are not even worthy to be the
husband of an honest woman. If, with all the ardor and tenderness of
the most passionate lover, you have pressed the hand of a woman, if you
have looked at one with glances that foretold a heaven, an eternity of
love; if you have even kissed a woman who inspired you with no other
feeling than one that for me has no name-then go, in God's name and do
not marry her! If she is virtuous, she will not desire you for a
husband, nor even for a lover. But, for God's sake, do not become a
priest either! The Church needs men more serious, more capable of
resisting temptation, as ministers of the Most High.
"If, on the other hand, you have felt a noble passion for the woman
of whom we are speaking, although she be of little worth, why abandon
and deceive her so cruelly? However unworthy she may be, if she has
inspired this great passion, do you not suppose that she must share it,
and be the victim of it? For, when a love is great, elevated, and
passionate, does it ever fail to make its power felt? Does it not
irresistibly vanquish and subjugate the beloved object? By the extent
of your love for her you may measure hers for you. How then can you
avoid fearing for her, if you abandon her? Has she the masculine
energy, the firmness of character produced by the wisdom learned from
books, the attraction of fame, the multitude of splendid projects, and
all the resources of your cultured and exalted intellect, to distract
her mind, and turn her away without destructive violence, from every
other earthly affection? Can you not see that she will die of grief,
and that you, called by your destiny to offer up bloodless sacrifices,
will begin by pitilessly sacrificing her who most loves you?"
"I too," returned Don Luis, endeavoring to conquer his emotion, and
to speak with firmness-"I too am obliged to make a great effort in
order to answer you with the calmness necessary to one who opposes
argument to argument, as in a controversy; but your accusation is
supported by so many reasons and you have invested those reasons-pardon
me for saying so-with so specious an appearance of truth, that I have
no choice left me but to disprove them by other reasons. I had no
thought of being placed in the necessity of maintaining a discussion
here, and of sharpening my poor wits for that purpose; but you compel
me to do so, unless I wish to pass for a monster. I am going to reply
to the two extremes of the cruel dilemma in which you have placed me.
"Though it is true that my youth was passed in my uncle's house and
in the seminary, where I saw nothing of women, do not therefore think
me so ignorant, or possessed of so little imagination, that I can not
picture to myself how lovely, how seductive they may be. My
imagination, on the contrary, went far beyond the reality. Excited by
the reading of the sacred writers and of profane poets, it pictured
woman more charming, more graceful, more intelligent, than they are
commonly to be found in real life. I knew then, and I even exaggerated
to myself, the cost of the sacrifice I was making, when I renounced the
love of those women for the purpose of elevating myself to the dignity
of the priesthood. I know well how much the charms of a beautiful woman
are enhanced by rich attire, by splendid jewels, by being surrounded
with all the arts of refined civilization, all the objects of luxury
produced by the indefatigable labor and the skill of man. I knew well,
too, how much the natural cleverness of a woman is increased, how much
her natural intelligence is sharpened, quickened and brightened by
intercourse with learned men, by the reading of good books, even by the
familiar spectacle of the wealth and splendor of great cities, and of
the monuments of the past that they contain. All this I pictured to
myself with so much vividness, my fancy painted it in such glowing
colors, that you need have no doubt that, should I be thrown into the
society of those women of whom you speak, far from feeling the
adoration and the transports you prophesy, I shall rather experience a
disenchantment on seeing how great a distance there is between what I
dreamed of and the truth, between the living reality and the picture of
it that my fancy drew."
"This is indeed specious reasoning," exclaimed Pepita. "How can I
deny that what you have pictured in your imagination is, in truth, more
beautiful than what exists in reality? But who will deny, either, that
the real possesses a more seductive charm than that which exists only
in the imagination? The vague and ethereal beauty of a phantasm,
however ever great, can not compete with what is palpable and visible
to the senses. I can understand that holy images might triumph over
worldly dreams, but I fear they would scarcely be able to vanquish
"Have no such fear," returned Don Luis. "My fancy, by its own
creations, has more power over my spirit than the whole universe-only
excepting yourself-by what it transmits to it through the senses."
"And why except me? Such an exception gives room to another
suspicion. The idea you have of me, the idea which you love, may be but
the creation of this potent fancy of yours, and an illusion that
resembles me in nothing."
"No, this is not the case. You may be assured that this idea
resembles you in everything. It may be that it is innate in my soul,
that it has existed in it since it was created by God, that it is a
part of its essence, the best and purest part of its being, as the
perfume is of the flower."
"This is what I had feared, and now you confess it to me You do not
love me. What you love is the essence, the fragrance, the purest part
of your own soul, that has assumed a form resembling mine."
"No, Pepita; do not amuse yourself by tormenting me. What I love is
you-and you such as you really are; but what I love is also so
beautiful, so pure, so delicate that I can not understand how it should
have reached my mind, in a material manner, through the senses. I take
it for granted. then, and it is my firm belief, that it must have had
an innate existence there. It is like the idea of God which is inborn
in my soul, which has unfolded and developed itself within me, and
which, nevertheless, has its counterpart in reality, superior,
infinitely superior to the idea. As I believe that God exists, so do I
believe that you exist, and that you are a thousand times superior to
the idea that I have formed of you."
"Still, I have a doubt left. May it not be woman in general, and
not I, solely and exclusively, that has awakened this idea?"
"No, Pepita; before I saw you, I had felt in imagination what might
be the magic power, the fascination, of a woman beautiful of soul and
graceful in person. There is no duchess or marchioness in Madrid, no
empress in all the world, no queen or princess on the face of the
globe, to be compared to the ideals and fantastic creations with whom I
"These were inhabitants of the castles and boudoirs, marvels of
luxury and taste, that I pleased myself in boyhood by erecting in my
fancy, and that I afterward gave as dwelling-places to my Lauras,
Beatrices, Juliets, Marguerites, and Leonoras; to my Cynthias,
Glyceras, and Lesbias. I crowned them in my imagination with coronets
and Oriental diadems; I clothed them in mantles of purple and gold, and
surrounded them with regal pomp like Esther and Vashti. I endowed them,
like Rebecca and the Shulamite, with the bucolic simplicity of the
patriarchal age; I bestowed on them the sweet humility and the devotion
of Ruth; I listened to them discoursing like Aspasia, or Hypatia,
mistresses of eloquence. I enthroned them in luxurious drawing-rooms,
and cast over them the splendor of noble blood and illustrious lineage,
as if they had been the proudest and noblest of patrician maidens of
ancient Rome. I beheld them graceful, coquettish, gay, full of
aristocratic ease and manner, like the ladies of the time of Louis XIV,
in Versailles; and I adorned them, now with the modest stola, inspiring
veneration and respect; now with diaphanous tunics and peplums, through
whose airy folds were revealed all the plastic perfections of their
graceful forms; now with the transparent coa of the beautiful
courtezans of Athens and Corinth, showing the white and roseate hues of
the finely molded forms that glowed beneath their vaporous covering.
"But what are the joys of the senses, what the glory and
magnificence of the world, to a soul that burns and consumes itself in
Divine love, as I believed mine, perhaps with too much arrogance, to
burn and consume itself? As volcanic fires, when they burst into flame,
send flying into air, shattered in a thousand fragments, the solid
rocks, the mountainside itself, which obstruct their passage, so, or
with even greater force, did my spirit cast from itself the whole
weight of the universe and of created beauty that lay upon it and
imprisoned it, preventing it from soaring up to God, as the centre of
"No; I have rejected no delight, no sweetness, no glory, through
ignorance. I knew them all, and valued them all at more than their
worth, when I rejected them all for a greater delight, a greater
sweetness, a greater glory. The profane love of woman presented itself
to my fancy, clothed, not only with all its own charms, but with the
sovereign and almost irresistible charms of the most dangerous of all
temptation-of that which the moralists call virginal temptation-when
the mind, not yet undeceived by experience and by sin, pictures to
itself in the transports of love a supreme and ineffable delight
immeasurable superior to all reality.
"Ever since I reached manhood-that is to say, for many years past,
for my youth was short-I have scorned those delights and that beauty
that were but the shadow and the reflex of the archetypal beauty of
which I was enamored, of the supreme delight for which I longed. I have
sought to die to myself, in order to live in the beloved object; to
free, not only my senses, but even my soul itself, from every earthly
affection, from illusions and imaginings, in order to be able to say
with truth that it is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me.
Sometimes, no doubt, I sinned through arrogance and self-confidence,
and God wished to chastise me; you came across my path, and tempted me
and led me astray.
"Now you upbraid me, you deride me, you accuse me of levity and
weakness; but in upbraiding me and deriding me you insult yourself, for
you thus imply that any other woman might have had equal power over me.
I do not wish, when I ought to be humble, to fall into the sin of
pride, by trying to justify my fault. If God, in chastisement of my
pride, has let me fall from His grace, it is possible that any
temptation, however slight, might have made me waver and fall. Yet I
confess that I do not think so. It may be that I err in my judgment
that this is but the consequence of my undisciplined pride, but, I
repeat, I do not think so. I can not succeed in persuading myself that
the cause of my fall had in it anything either mean or base.
"Above all the dreams of my youthful imagination, the reality, such
as I beheld it in you, enthroned itself. You towered above all the
nymphs, queens, and goddesses of my fancy. Above the ruins of my ideal
creations, overthrown and shattered by Divine love, there arose in my
soul the faithful image, the exact reproduction of the living beauty
which adorns and is the essence of that body and of that soul. There
may be even something mysterious, something supernatural in this; for I
loved you from the moment I first saw you-almost before I saw you. Long
before I was conscious of loving you, I loved you. It would seem as if
there were some fatality in this-that it was decreed, that it was
"And if it were predestined, if it be decreed," said Pepita, "why
not submit to Fate, why still resist? Sacrifice your purpose to our
love. Have not I sacrificed much? Am I not now sacrificing my pride, my
modesty, my reserve, in supplicating you thus, in making this effort to
overcome your scorn? I too believe that I loved you before I saw you.
Now I love you with my whole heart, and without you there is no
happiness for me. It is true indeed that in my humble intelligence you
can find no rival so powerful as that which I have in yours. Neither
with the understanding, nor the will, nor the affections, can I raise
myself all at once up to God. Neither by nature nor by grace can I
mount, or desire to mount, up to such exalted spheres. My soul,
nevertheless, is full of religious devotion, and I know and love and
adore God; but I only behold His omnipotence and admire His goodness in
the works that have proceeded from His hands. Nor can I, with the
imagination, weave those visions that you tell me of.
"Yet I too dreamed of some one nobler, more intelligent, more
poetic, and more enamored than the men who have thus far sought my
hand; of a lover more distinguished and accomplished than any of my
adorers of this and the neighboring villages, who should love me, and
whom I should love and to whose will I should blindly surrender mine.
This some one was you. I had a presentiment of it when they told me
that you had arrived at the village. When I saw you for the first time,
I knew it. But, as my imagination is so sterile, the picture I had
formed of you in my mind was not to be compared, even in the most
remote degree, to the reality. I too have read something of romances
and poetry. But from all that my memory retained of them, I was unable
to form a picture that was not far inferior in merit to what I see and
divine in you since I have known you. Thus it is that from the moment I
saw you I was vanquished and undone.
"If love is, as you say, to die to self, in order to live in the
beloved object, then is my love genuine and legitimate, for I have died
to myself, and live only in you and for you. I have tried to cast this
love away from me, deeming it ill-requited, and I have not been able to
succeed in doing so. I have prayed to God with fervor to take away from
me this love, or else to kill me, and God has not deigned to hear me. I
have prayed to the Virgin Mary to blot your image from my soul, and my
prayer has been in vain. I have made vows to my patron, Saint Joseph,
to the end that he would enable me to think of you only as he thought
of his blessed spouse, and my patron saint has not succored me.
"Seeing all this, I have had the audacity to ask of Heaven that you
should allow yourself to be vanquished, that you should cease to desire
to be a priest, that there might spring up in your soul a love as great
as that which is in my heart.
"Don Luis, tell me frankly, has Heaven been deaf to this last
prayer also? Or is it, perchance, that to subjugate a soul as weak, as
wretched, and as petty as mine, a petty love is sufficient, while to
master yours, protected and guarded as it is by vigorous and lofty
thoughts, a more powerful love than mine is necessary, a love that I am
neither worthy of inspiring, nor capable of sharing, nor even able to
"Pepita," returned Don Luis, "it is not that your soul is less than
mine, but that it is free from obligations, and mine is not. The love
you have inspired me with is profound, but my obligations, my vows, the
purpose of my whole life so near to its realization, contend against
it. Why should I not say it without fearing to offend you? If you
succeed in making me love you, you do not humiliate yourself. If I
succumb to your love, I both humiliate and abase myself. I leave the
Creator for the creature. I renounce the unwavering purpose of my life,
I break the image of Christ that was in my soul; and the new man, which
I had created in myself at such cost, disappears, that the old man may
come to life again. Instead of my lowering myself to the earth, to the
impurity of the world that I have hitherto despised, why do not you
rather elevate yourself to me by virtue of that very love you entertain
for me, freeing it from every earthly alloy? Why should we not love
each other without shame, and without sin, and without dishonor? God
penetrates holy souls with the pure and refulgent fire of His love, and
so fills them with it that, as metal fresh from the forge, without
ceasing to be a metal, shines and glitters and is all fire, these souls
are filled with joy, and see God, in all things penetrated by God in
every part, through the grace of the Divine love. These souls love and
enjoy each other, as if they loved and enjoyed God, loving and enjoying
Him in truth because they are God. Let us mount together in spirit this
steep and mystical ladder. Let our souls ascend, side by side, to this
bliss, which even in this mortal life is possible! But to do this we
must separate in the body; it is essential that I should go whither I
am called by my duty, my vow, and the voice of the Most High, who
disposes of His servant, and has destined him to the service of His
"Ah, Don Luis," replied Pepita, full of sorrow and contrition, "now
indeed I see how vile is the metal I am made of, and how unworthy I am
that the Divine fire should penetrate and transform me. I will confess
everything, casting away even shame.
"I am a vile sinner; my rude and uncultured understanding can not
grasp these subtleties, these distinctions, these refinements of love.
My rebellious will refuses what you propose. I can not even conceive of
you but as yourself. For me you are your mouth, your eyes, your dark
locks that I desire to caress with my hands; your sweet voice, the
pleasing sound of your words that fall upon my ears and charm them
through the senses; your whole person, in a word, which charms and
seduces me, and through which, and only through which, I perceive the
invisible spirit, vague and full of mystery. My stubborn soul,
incapable of these mystical raptures, will never be able to follow you
to those regions whither you would take it. If you soar up to them, I
shall remain alone, abandoned, plunged in the deepest affliction. I
prefer to die; I deserve death; I desire it. It may be that after death
my soul, loosening or breaking the vile bonds which chain it here, will
be able to understand the love with which you desire we should be
"Kill me, then, in order that we may thus love each other; kill me,
and my spirit, set free, will follow you whithersoever you may go, and
will journey invisible by your side, watching over your steps,
contemplating you with rapture, penetrating your most secret thoughts,
beholding your soul as it is, without the intervention of the senses.
"But in this life it can not be. I love in you, not only the soul,
but the body, and the shadow cast by the body, and the reflection of
the body in the mirror and in the water, and the Christian name, and
the surname, and the blood, and all that goes to make you such as you
are, Don Luis de Vargas; the sound of your voice, your gesture, your
gait, and I know not what else besides. I repeat that you must kill me.
Kill me without compassion. No, I am not a Christian; I am a material
Here Pepita made a long pause. Don Luis knew not what to say, and
was silent. Tears bathed the cheeks of Pepita, who continued, sobbing:
"I know it; you despise me, and you are right to despise me. By
this just contempt you will kill me more surely than with a dagger, and
without staining either your hands or your conscience with blood.
Farewell! I am about to free you from my odious presence. Farewell
Having said this, Pepita rose from her seat, and, without looking
at Don Luis, her face bathed with tears, beside herself, rushed toward
the door that led to the inner apartment. An unconquerable tenderness,
a fatal pity, took possession of Don Luis. He feared Pepita would die.
He started forward to detain her, but it was too late. Pepita had
crossed the threshold. Her form disappeared in the darkness within. Don
Luis, impelled by a superhuman power, drawn as by an invisible hand,
followed her into the unlighted chamber.
THE LIBRARY remained deserted.
The servants' dance must have already terminated, for the only
sound to be heard was the murmur of the fountain in the garden below.
Not even a breath of wind troubled the stillness of the night and
the serenity of the air.
The perfume of the flowers and the light of the moon entered softly
through the open window. After a long interval, Don Luis made his
appearance, emerging from the darkness. Terror was depicted on his
countenance, mingled with despair-such despair as Judas may have felt
after he had betrayed his Master.
He dropped into a chair, and burying his face in his hands, with
his elbows resting on his knees, he remained for more than half an hour
plunged in a sea of bitter reflections.
To see him thus, one might have supposed that he had just murdered
Pepita, nevertheless, at last made her appearance. With a slow
step, and an air of the deepest melancholy, with bent head, and eyes
directed to the floor, she approached Don Luis, and spoke.
"Now, indeed," said she, "though, alas! too late, I know all the
vileness of my heart and the iniquity of my conduct. I have nothing to
say in my own defense, but I would not have you think me more wicked
than I am. You must not think I have used any arts-that I have laid any
plans for your destruction. Yes; it is true that I have been guilty of
an atrocious crime, but an unpremeditated one; a crime inspired,
perhaps, by the spirit of evil that possesses me. Do not abandon
yourself to despair, do not torture yourself, for God's sake! You are
responsible for nothing. It was a frenzy, a madness, that took
possession of your noble spirit. Your sin is a light one; mine is
flagrant, shameful, horrible. Now I am less worthy of you than ever. It
is I who now ask you to leave this place. Go; do penance. God will
pardon you. Go; a priest will give you absolution. Once cleansed from
sin, carry out your purpose, and become a minister of the Most High.
Then, through the holiness of your life, through your ceaseless labors,
not only will you efface from your soul the last traces of this fall,
but you will obtain for me, when you have pardoned me the evil I have
done you, the pardon of Heaven also. You are bound to me by no tie, and
even if you were I should loosen or break it. You are free. Let it
suffice me that I have taken captive by surprise the star of the
morning. It is not my desire-I neither can nor ought to seek to keep
him in my power. I divine it, I read it in your manner, I am convinced
of it-you despise me more than before. And you are right in despising
me; there is neither honor, nor virtue, nor shame in me!"
When she had thus spoken, Pepita, throwing herself on her knees,
bowed her face till her forehead touched the floor. Don Luis continued
in the same attitude as before. Thus, for some moments. they remained
both silent with the silence of despair.
In a stifled voice, and without raising her face from the floor,
Pepita after a time continued:
"Go, now, Don Luis, and do not, through an insulting pity, remain
any longer at the side of so despicable a wretch as I. I shall have
courage to bear your indifference, your forgetfulness, your contempt,
for I have deserved them all. I shall always be your slave-but far from
you, very far from you, in order that nothing may recall to your memory
the infamy of this night!"
Pepita's voice, as she ended, was choked with sobs.
Don Luis could restrain himself no longer. He arose, approached
Pepita, and, raising her in his arms from the floor, pressed her to his
heart; then, putting aside from her face the blond tresses that fell in
disorder over it, he covered it with passionate kisses.
"Soul of my soul," he said at last, "life of my life, treasure of
my heart, light of my eyes, raise your dejected brow, and do not
prostrate yourself any longer before me. The sinner, the vile wretch,
he who has shown himself weak of purpose, who has made himself the butt
of scorn and ridicule, is I, not you. Angels and devils alike must
laugh at me and mock me. I have clothed myself with a false sanctity. I
was not able to resist temptation, and to undeceive you in the
beginning, as would have been right, and now I am equally unable to
show myself a gentleman, a man of honor, or a tender lover who knows
how to value the favors of his mistress. I can not understand what it
was you saw in me to attract you. There never was in me any solid
virtue-nothing but vain show and the pedantry of a student who has read
pious books as one reads a novel, and on this foundation has based his
foolish romance of a future devoted to converting the heathen and to
solemn meditations. If there had been any real virtue in me I should
have undeceived you in time, and neither you nor I would have sinned.
True goodness is not so easily vanquished. Notwithstanding your beauty,
notwithstanding your intelligence, notwithstanding your love for me, I
should not have fallen if I had been really good. God, to whom all
things are possible, would have bestowed His grace upon me. It would
have needed nothing less than a miracle, or some other supernatural
event, to have enabled me to resist your love, but God would have
wrought the miracle, if I had been worthy of it and there was a motive
sufficient for its being wrought. You are wrong to counsel me to become
a priest. I know my own unworthiness. It was only pride that actuated
me. It was a worldly ambition, like any other. What do I say-like any
other? It was worse than any other; it was hypocritical, sacrilegious,
"Do not judge yourself so harshly," said Pepita, now more tranquil,
and smiling through her tears. "I do not want you to judge yourself
thus, not even for the purpose of making me appear less unworthy to be
your companion. No; I would have you choose me through love-freely; not
to repair a fault, not because you have fallen into the snare you
perhaps think I have perfidiously spread for you. If you do not love
me, if you distrust me, if you do not esteem me-then go. My lips shall
not breathe a single complaint if you abandon me for ever, and never
think of me again."
To answer this fittingly, our poor and beggarly human speech was
insufficient for Don Luis. He cut short Pepita's words by pressing his
lips to hers, and again clasping her to his heart.
SOME time afterward, with much previous coughing and shuffling of
the feet, Antoñona entered the library with the words:
"What a long talk you must have had! The sermon our student has
been preaching this time can not have been that of the seven words-it
came very near being that of the forty hours. It is time you should go
now, Don Luis; it is almost two o'clock in the morning."
"Very well," answered Pepita; "he will go directly."
Antoñona left the library again, and waited outside.
Pepita was like one transformed. One might suppose that the joys
she had missed in her childhood, the happiness and contentment she had
failed to taste in her early youth, the gay activity and sprightliness
that a harsh mother and an old husband had repressed, and, as it were,
crushed within her, had suddenly burst into life in her soul, like the
green leaves of the trees, whose germination has been retarded by the
snows and frosts of a long and severe winter.
A town-bred lady, familiar with what we call social
conventionalities, may find something strange, and even worthy of
censure, in what I am about to relate of Pepita. But Pepita, although
refined by instinct, was a being in whom every feeling was spontaneous,
and in whose nature there was no room for the affected sedateness and
circumspection that are customary in the great world. Thus it was that,
seeing the obstacles removed that had stood in the way of her
happiness, and Don Luis conquered, holding his voluntary promise that
he would make her his wife, and believing herself, with justice, to be
loved-nay, worshiped-by him whom she too loved and worshiped, she
danced and laughed, and gave way to other manifestations of joy that
had in them, after all, something childlike and innocent.
But it was necessary that Don Luis should now depart. Pepita took a
comb and smoothed his hair lovingly, and kissed him. She then
rearranged his necktie.
"Farewell, lord of my life," she said, "dear sovereign of my soul.
I will tell your father everything if you fear to do so. He is kind,
and he will forgive us."
At last the lovers separated.
When Pepita found herself alone, her restless gaiety disappeared,
and her countenance assumed a grave and thoughtful expression.
Two thoughts now presented themselves to her mind, both equally
serious; the one possessing a merely mundane interest, the other an
interest of a higher nature. The first thought was that her conduct
to-night-the delirium of passion once past-might prejudice her in the
opinion of Don Luis; but, finding after a severe examination of her
conscience, that neither premeditation nor artifice had had any part in
her actions, which were the offspring of an irresistible love, and of
impulses noble in themselves, she came to the conclusion that Don Luis
could not despise her for it, and she therefore made her mind easy on
Nevertheless, although her frank confession that she was unable to
comprehend a love that was purely spiritual, and her taking refuge
afterward in her chamber-without foreseeing consequences-were both the
result of an impulse innocent enough in itself, Pepita did not seek to
deny in her own mind that she had sinned against God, and on this point
she could find for herself no excuse. She commended herself, with all
her heart, therefore, to the Virgin, entreating her forgiveness. She
vowed to the image of Our Lady of Solitude, in the convent of the nuns,
seven beautiful golden swords of the finest and most elaborate
workmanship, to adorn her breast, and determined to go to confess
herself on the following day to the vicar, and to submit herself to the
harshest penance he should choose to impose upon her, in order to merit
the absolution of those sins by means of which she had vanquished the
obstinacy of Don Luis, who, but for them, would without a doubt have
become a priest.
While Pepita was engaged in these reflections, and while she was
arranging with so much discretion the affairs of her soul, Don Luis had
descended to the hall below, accompanied by Antoñona.
Before taking his leave, Don Luis, without preface or
circumlocution, spoke thus:
"Antoñona, tell me, you who are acquainted with everything, who is
the Count of Genazahar, and what has he had to do with your mistress?"
"You begin to be jealous very soon."
"It is not jealousy that makes me ask this; it is simply
"So much the better. There is nothing more tiresome than jealousy.
Well, I will try to satisfy your curiosity. This same Count has given
room enough for talk. He is a dissipated fellow, a gambler, and a man
of no principle whatever, but he has more vanity than Don Roderick on
the gallows. He made up his mind that my mistress should fall in love
with him and marry him, and as she has refused him a thousand times he
is mad with rage. This does not prevent him, however, from keeping in
his money chest more than a thousand piastres that Don Gumersindo lent
him years ago, without any more security than a bit of paper, through
the fault and at the entreaty of Pepita, who is better than bread. The
fool of a Count thought, no doubt, that Pepita, who was so good to him
when a wife that she persuaded her husband to lend him money, would be
so much better to him as a widow that she would consent to marry him.
He was soon undeceived, however, and then he became furious."
"Good-by, Antoñona," said Don Luis, as he left the house, grave and
The lights of the shops and of the booths in the fair were now
extinguished, and every one was going home to bed, with the exception
of the owners of the toy-shops and other poor hucksters, who slept
beside their wares in the open air.
Under some of the grated windows were still to be seen lovers,
wrapped in their cloaks, and chatting with their sweethearts. Almost
every one else had disappeared.
Don Luis, once out of sight of Antoñona, gave a loose rein to his
thoughts. His resolution was taken, and all his reflections tended to
confirm this resolution. The sincerity and ardor of the passion with
which he had inspired Pepita, her beauty, the youthful grace of her
person, and the fresh exuberance of her soul, presented themselves to
his imagination and made him happy.
Notwithstanding this, however, he could not but reflect, with
mortified vanity, on the change that had been wrought in himself. What
would the dean think? How great would be the horror of the bishop! And,
above all, how serious were the grounds for complaint he had given his
father! The displeasure of the latter, his anger when he should know of
the bond which united his son to Pepita, caused him infinite
As for what-before he fell-he had called his fall, it must be
confessed that, after he had fallen, it did not seem to him either so
very serious or so very reprehensible. His spiritual-mindedness, viewed
in the light that had just dawned upon him, he fancied to have had
neither reality nor consistency; to have been but the vain and
artificial product of his reading, of his boyish arrogance, of his
aimless softness in the innocent days of his college life. When he
remembered that he had at times thought himself the recipient of
supernatural gifts and graces, had heard mystic whisperings, had held
spiritual communion with superior beings; when he remembered that he
had fancied himself almost beginning to tread the path that leads to
spiritual union, through contemplation of the Divine, penetrating into
the recesses of the soul, and mounting up to the region of pure
intelligence, he smiled to himself, and began to suspect that during
the period in question he had not been altogether in his right mind.
It had all been simply the result of his own arrogance. He had
neither done penance, nor passed long years in meditation; he did not
possess, nor had he ever possessed, sufficient merits for God to favor
him with such privileges as these. The greatest proof he could give
himself of the truth of this, the greatest certainty he could possess
that the supernatural favors he had enjoyed were spurious, mere
recollections of the authors he had read, was that not one of them had
ever given him the rapture of Pepita's "I love you," or of the soft
touch of her hand caressing his dark locks.
Don Luis had recourse to another species of Christian humility, to
justify in his eyes what he now no longer called his fall, but his
change of purpose. He confessed himself unworthy to be a priest. He
reconciled himself to becoming a commonplace married man, a good sort
of country gentleman, like any other, taking care of his vines and
olives, and bringing up his children-for he now desired to have
children-and to being a model husband at the side of his Pepita.
HERE again I think myself under the necessity-responsible as I am
for the publication and disclosure of this history-of interpolating
various reflections and explanations of my own.
I said at the beginning of the story that I was inclined to think
that the narrative part, called paralipomena, was composed by the
reverend Dean for the purpose of completing the story and supplying
incidents not related in the letters; but I had not at that time read
the manuscript with attention. Now, on observing the freedom with which
certain matters are treated, and the indulgence with which certain
frailties are regarded by the author, I am compelled to ask whether the
reverend Dean, with the severity of whose morals I am well acquainted,
would have spent his time in writing what we have just read.
There are not sufficient grounds, however, for denying positively
that the reverend Dean was the author of these paralipomena. The
question, therefore, may still be left in doubt, as in substance they
contain nothing opposed to Catholic doctrine or to Christian morality.
On the contrary, if we examine them carefully, we shall see that they
contain a lesson to pride and arrogance in the person of Don Luis. This
history might easily serve as an appendix to the "Spiritual
Disillusions" of Father Arbiol.
As for the opinion entertained by two or three ingenious friends of
mine, that the reverend Dean, if he were the author, would have used a
different style in his narration, saying "my nephew" in speaking of Don
Luis, and interposing, from time to time, moral reflections of his own,
I do not think it an argument of any great weight. The reverend Dean
proposed to himself to tell what had taken place, without seeking to
prove any thesis, and he acted with judgment in narrating things as
they were, without analyzing motives or moralizing.
He did not do ill either, in my opinion, in concealing his
personality, and in avoiding the use of the word I, which is a proof,
not only of his humility and modesty, but of his literary taste also;
for the epic poets and historians, who should serve us as models, do
not say I, even when speaking of themselves or when they are the heroes
of the events they relate. The Athenian Xenophon, to cite an instance,
does not say I in his "Anabasis," but speaks of himself, when
necessary, in the third person, as if the historian of those exploits
were one person and the hero of them another. And there are whole
chapters in which no mention at all is made of Xenophon. Only once, a
little before the famous battle in which the youthful Cyrus met his
death, while this prince was reviewing the Greeks and barbarians who
formed his army, and when that of his brother Artaxerxes was already
near-having been descried on the broad, treeless plain afar off, first
as a little white cloud, then as a dark stain, and, finally, clearly
and distinctly, while the neighing of the horses, the creaking of the
war-chariots armed with formidable scythes, the snorting of the
elephants, and the sound of warlike instruments reach the ears, and the
glitter of the brass and gold of the weapons irradiated by the sun
strike the eyes of the spectators-only at this moment, I repeat, and
not before, does Xenophon appear in his own person. Then he emerges
from the ranks to speak with Cyrus, and explains to him the cry that
ran from Greek to Greek. It was what in our day would correspond to a
watchword, and on that occasion it was 'Jupiter the savior, and
The reverend Dean, who was a man of taste and very well versed in
the classics, would not be likely to fall into the error of introducing
himself into the narrative, and mixing himself up with it, under the
pretext of being the uncle or tutor of the hero, and of vexing the
reader by coming out at every step, slightly difficult or slippery,
with a "Stop there!" or, "What are you about to do?" or, "Take care you
do not fall, unhappy boy!" or other warnings of a like sort. Not to
open his lips, on the other hand, or manifest disapprobation in any way
whatever, he being present at least in spirit, would, in the case of
some of the incidents related, have been but little becoming. In view
of these facts, the reverend Dean, with the discretion which was
characteristic of him, may possibly have composed the paralipomena
without disclosing his identity to the reader. This much is certain,
however: he added notes and comments of an edifying and profitable
character, where such and such a passage seemed to require them. But
these I have suppressed, for the reason that notes and comments are now
out of fashion, and because this book would become unduly voluminous if
it were printed with these additions.
I shall insert here, however, in the body of the text, the comment
of the reverend Dean on the rapid transformation of Don Luis from
spiritual-mindedness to the reverse, as it is curious, and throws much
light on the whole matter.
"This change of purpose of my nephew," he says, "does not
disappoint me. I foresaw it from the time he wrote me his first
letters. I was deceived in regard to Luisito in the beginning. I
believed him to have a true religious call, but I soon recognized the
fact that his was a vain, poetic spirit. Mysticism was the form his
poetic imaginings took, only until a more seductive form presented
"Praised be God, who has willed that Luisito should be undeceived
in time! He would have made but a bad priest if Pepita Jiménez had not
so opportunely presented herself. His very impatience to attain to
perfection at a single bound would have caused me to suspect something
if I had not been blinded by the affection of an uncle. What! are the
favors of Heaven thus obtained all at once? Is it only necessary to
present one's self in order to triumph? A friend of mine, a naval
officer, used to relate that, when he was in certain cities of America,
being then very young, he sought to gain favor with the ladies with too
much precipitation, and that they would say to him in their languid
American accent: 'You have only just presented yourself, and you
already want to be loved. Do something to deserve it, if you can.' If
these ladies answered thus, what answer will not Heaven give to those
who hope to gain it without merit, and in the twinkling of an eye?
"Many efforts must be made, much purification is needed, much
penance must be done, in order to begin to stand well in the sight of
God and to enjoy His favors. Even in those vain and false philosophies
that have in them anything of mysticism, no supernatural gift or grace
is received without a powerful effort and a costly sacrifice.
Iamblichus was not given power to evoke the genii, and cause them to
emerge from the fountain of Gadara, without first spending days and
nights in study, and mortifying the body with privations and
abstinences. Apollonius of Tyana is thought to have mortified himself
severely before performing his false miracles. And in our own day the
Krausists, who behold God, as they affirm, with corporeal vision, are
forced to read and learn beforehand the whole "Analytics" of Sanz del
Rio, which is a much harder task and a greater proof of patience and
endurance than to flagellate the body until it looks like a ripe fig.
My nephew desired, without effort or merit, to be a perfect man,
and-see how it has ended!
"The important thing now is that he shall make a good husband, and
that, since he is unsuited for great things, he may be fit for smaller
ones-for domestic life, and to make Pepita happy, whose own fault,
after all, is to have fallen madly in love with him, with all the
innocence and violence of an untamed creature."
Thus far the comments of the reverend Dean, written with easy
familiarity, as if for himself alone; for the good man was far from
suspecting that I would play him the trick of giving them to the
DON LUIS, in the middle of the street, at two o'clock in the
morning, was occupied with the thought, as we have said, that his life,
which until now, he had dreamed might be worthy of the "Golden Legend,"
was about to be converted into a sweet and perpetual idyl. He had not
been able to resist the lures of earthly passion. He had failed to
imitate the example set by so many saints, among others by St. Vincent
Ferrer with regard to a certain dissolute lady of Valencia; though,
indeed the cases were dissimilar. For if to flee from the diabolical
courtezan in question was an act of heroic virtue in St. Vincent, to
flee from the self-abandonment, the ingenuousness, and the humility of
Pepita would in him have been something as monstrous and cruel as if,
when Ruth lay down at the feet of Boaz, saying to him, "I am thy
handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid," Boaz had
given her a blow and sent her about her business! Don Luis, then, when
Pepita surrendered herself to him, was obliged to follow the example of
Boaz, and exclaim: "Daughter, blessed be thou of the Lord; thou hast
showed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning."
Thus did Don Luis justify himself in not following the example of
St. Vincent, and other saints no less churlish. As for the ill success
of the design he had entertained of imitating St. Edward, he tried to
justify and excuse that also. St. Edward married for reasons of state,
and without entertaining any affection for Queen Edith; but in his case
and in that of Pepita Jiménez there were no reasons of state, but only
tender love on both sides.
Don Luis, however, did not deny to himself-and this imparted to his
present happiness a slight tinge of melancholy-that he had proved false
to his ideal; that he had been vanquished in the conflict. Those who
have no ideal, who have never had an ideal, would not distress
themselves on this account. Don Luis did distress himself; but he
presently came to the conclusion that he would substitute a more humble
and easily attained ideal for his former exalted one. And although the
recollection of Don Quixote's resolution to turn shepherd, on being
vanquished by the Knight of the White Moon, here crossed his mind with
ludicrous appositeness, he was in no way daunted by it. He thought, in
union with Pepita Jiménez, to renew, in our prosaic and unbelieving
time, the golden age, and to repeat the pious example of Philemon and
Baucis, creating a model of patriarchal life in these pleasant fields,
founding in the place where he was born a home presided over by
religion, that should be at once the asylum of the needy, the centre of
culture and friendly conviviality, and the clear mirror in which the
domestic virtues should be reflected; joining in one, finally, conjugal
love and the love of God, in order that God might sanctify and be
present in their dwelling, making it the temple in which both should be
His ministers, until by the will of Heaven they should be called to a
Two obstacles must first be removed, however, before all this could
be realized, and Don Luis began to consider with himself how he might
best remove them.
The one was the displeasure, perhaps the anger, of his father, whom
he had defrauded of his dearest hopes. The other was of a very
different and, in a certain sense, of a much more serious character.
Don Luis, while he entertained the purpose of becoming a priest, was
right in defending Pepita from the gross insults of the Count of
Genazahar by the weapons of argument only, and in taking no vengeance
for the scorn and contempt with which those arguments were listened to.
But having now determined to lay aside the cassock, and obliged, as he
was, to declare immediately that he was betrothed to Pepita and was
going to marry her, Don Luis, notwithstanding his peaceable
disposition, his dreams of human brotherhood, and his religious belief,
all of which remained intact in his soul, and all of which were alike
opposed to violent measures, could not succeed in reconciling it with
his dignity to refrain from breaking the head of the insolent Count. He
knew well that dueling is a barbarous practise, that Pepita had no need
of the blood of the Count to wash from her name the stain of calumny,
and even that the Count himself had uttered the insults he had uttered,
not because he believed them, nor perhaps through an excess of hatred,
but through stupidity and want of breeding. Notwithstanding all these
reflections, however, Don Luis was conscious that he would never again
be able to respect himself, and, as a consequence, would never be able
to perform to his taste the part of Philemon, if he did not begin with
that of Fierabras, by giving the Count his deserts, asking God,
meantime, never to place him in a similar position again.
This matter, then, being decided upon, he resolved to bring it to
an end as soon as possible. And as it appeared to him that it would be
inexpedient, as well as in bad taste, to arrange the affair through
seconds, and thus make the honor of Pepita a subject of common talk, he
determined to provoke a quarrel with the Count under some other
Thinking that the Count, being a stranger in the village and a
confirmed gambler, might possibly be still engaged at play in the
club-house, notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, Don Luis went
The club-house was still open, but both in the courtyard and the
parlor the lights were nearly all extinguished. In one apartment only
was there still a light. Thither Don Luis directed his steps, and on
reaching it, he saw through the open door the Count of Genazahar
engaged in playing monte, in which he acted as banker. Only five other
persons were playing; two were strangers like the Count; the others
were the captain of cavalry in charge of the remount, Currito, and the
doctor. Things could not have been better arranged to suit the purpose
of Don Luis. So engrossed were the players in their game that they did
not observe him, who, as soon as he saw the Count, left the club-house
and went rapidly homeward.
On reaching his house the door was opened for him by a servant. Don
Luis inquired for his father, and finding that he was asleep, procured
a light and went up to his own room, taking care to make no noise lest
he should disturb him. There he took about a hundred and fifty piastres
in gold that he had laid by, and put them in his pocket. He then called
the servant to open the door for him again, and returned to the
Arrived there, Don Luis noisily entered the parlor in which the
players were, comporting himself with an assumed foppish swagger. The
players were struck with amazement at seeing him.
"You here at this hour!" said Currito.
"Where do you come from, little priest?" said the doctor.
"Have you come to preach me another sermon?" cried the Count.
"I have done with sermons," returned Don Luis, calmly. "The bad
success of the last one I preached has clearly convinced me that God
does not call me to that path in life, and I have chosen another. You,
Count, have wrought my conversion. I have thrown aside the cassock. I
have come here for amusement; I am in the flower of my youth, and I
want to enjoy it."
"Come, I am glad of that," returned the Count; "but take care, my
lad, for if the flower be a delicate one, it may wither and drop its
leaves before their time."
"I shall take care of that," returned Don Luis. "I see you are
playing, and I too feel like trying my luck. Do you know, Count, I
think it would be amusing if I could break your bank?"
"You think it would be amusing, eh? You have been dining
"I have dined as I pleased."
"The youngster is learning to answer back."
"I learn what it is my pleasure to learn."
"Damnation!" cried the Count; and the storm was about to burst when
the captain, interposing, succeeded in reestablishing the peace.
"Come," said the Count when he had recovered his temper, "out with
your cash, and try your luck."
Don Luis seated himself at the table, and took out all his gold. At
sight of it the Count regained his serenity completely, for it must
have exceeded in amount the sum he had in the bank, and he thought he
should at once win it of this novice.
"There is no need to cudgel one's brains much in this game," said
Don Luis to the Count; "I think I understand it already. I put money on
a card, and if the card turns up I win; if not, you win."
"Just so, my young friend; you have a strong intellect."
"And the best of it is that I have not only a strong understanding,
but a strong will as well. But though I may have the stubbornness of a
donkey, I am not such a donkey as many people in this neighborhood."
"What a witty mood you are in to-night, and how anxious you are to
display your wit!"
Don Luis was silent. He played a few deals, and was lucky enough to
win almost every time.
The Count began to be annoyed.
"What if the youngster should pluck me?" he said to himself.
"Fortune favors the innocent."
While the Count was troubling himself with this reflection, Don
Luis, feeling fatigued, and weary now of the part he was playing,
determined to end the matter at once.
"The object of all this," he said, "is to see if I can win all your
gold, or if you can win mine. Is it not so, Count?"
"Well, then, why should we remain here all night? It is getting
late, and according to your advice I ought to retire early, so that the
flower of my youth may not wither before its time."
"How is this? Do you want to go away already? Do you want to back
"I have no desire to back out. Quite the contrary. Currito, tell
me, in this heap of gold here is there not already more than there is
in the bank?"
Currito looked at the gold and answered:
"Without a doubt."
"How shall I explain," asked Don Luis, "that I wish to stake on one
card all that I have here, against what there is in the bank?"
"You do that," responded Currito, "by saying, 'I play banco!'"
"Well, then I play banco," said Don Luis, addressing himself to the
Count; "I play banco on this king of spades, whose companion will to a
certainty turn up before his opponent, the three, does."
The Count, whose whole cash capital was in the bank, began to be
alarmed at the risk he ran; but there was nothing for it but to accept.
It is a common saying that those who are fortunate in love are
unfortunate at play, but the reverse of this is often more nearly the
truth. He who is fortunate in one thing is apt to be fortunate in
everything; it is the same when one is unfortunate.
The Count continued to draw cards, but no three turned up. His
emotion, notwithstanding his efforts to conceal it, was great. Finally,
he came to a card which he knew by certain lines at the top to be the
king of hearts, and paused.
"Draw," said the captain.
"It is of no use! The king of hearts! Curses on it! The little
priest has plucked me. Take up your money."
The Count threw the cards angrily on the table.
Don Luis took up the money calmly, and with apparent indifference.
After a short silence the Count said:
"My little priest, you must give me my revenge."
"I see no such necessity."
"It seems to me that between gentlemen-"
"According to that rule the game would have no end," said Don Luis,
"and it would be better to save one's self the trouble of playing
"Give me my revenge," replied the Count, without paying any
attention to this argument.
"Be it so," returned Don Luis; "I wish to be fair."
The Count took up the cards again, and proceeded to deal.
"Stop a moment," said Don Luis; "let us understand each other.
Where is the money for your new bank?"
The Count showed signs of confusion and disturbance.
"I have no money here," he returned, "but it seems to me that my
word is more than enough."
Don Luis answered, with grave and measured accent:
"Count, I should be quite willing to trust the word of a gentleman,
and allow him to remain in my debt, if it were not that in doing so I
should fear to lose your friendship, which I am now in a fair way to
gain; but as I heard this morning of the cruelty with which you have
treated certain friends of mine to whom you are indebted, I do not wish
to run the risk of becoming culpable in your eyes by means of the same
fault. How ridiculous to suppose that I should voluntarily incur your
enmity by lending you money which you would not repay me, as you have
not repaid, except with insults, that which you owe Pepita Jiménez!"
From the fact that this accusation was true, the offense was all
the greater. The Count became livid with anger, and, by this time on
his feet, ready to come to blows with the collegian.
"You lie, slanderer!" he exclaimed. "I will tear you limb from
This last insult, which reflected on his birth and on the honor of
her whose memory was most sacred to him, was never finished; its end
never reached the ears of him against whom it was directed. For, with
marvelous quickness, dexterity, and force, he reached across the table
which was between himself and the Count, and with the light, flexible
bamboo cane with which he had armed himself, struck his antagonist on
the face, raising on it instantly a livid mark.
There was neither retort, outcry, nor uproar. When the hands come
into play, the tongue is apt to be silent. The Count was about to throw
himself on Don Luis for the purpose of tearing him to pieces, if it
were in his power. But opinion had changed greatly since yesterday
morning, and was now on the side of Don Luis. The captain, the doctor,
and even Currito, who now showed more courage than he had done on that
occasion, all held back the Count, who struggled and fought ferociously
to release himself.
"Let me go!" he cried; "let me get at him and kill him!"
"I do not seek to prevent a duel," said the captain; "a duel is
inevitable. I only seek to prevent your fighting here like two porters.
I should be wanting in self-respect if I consented to be present at
such a combat."
"Let weapons be brought!" said the Count; "I do not wish to defer
the affair for a single moment. At once-and here!"
"Will you fight with swords?" said the captain.
"Yes," responded Don Luis.
"Swords be it," said the Count.
All this was said in a low voice, so that nothing might be heard in
the street. Even the servants of the club-house, who slept on chairs in
the kitchen and in the yard, were not awakened by the noise.
Don Luis chose as his seconds the captain and Currito; the Count
chose the two strangers. The doctor made ready to practice his art, and
showed the emblem of the Red Cross.
It was not yet daylight. It was agreed that the apartment in which
they were should be the field of combat, the door being first closed.
The captain went to his house for the swords, and returned soon
afterward carrying them under the cloak which he had put on for the
purpose of concealing them.
We already know that Don Luis had never wielded a weapon in his
life. Fortunately, the Count, although he had never studied theology,
or entertained the purpose of becoming a priest, was not much more
skilled than he in the art of fence.
The only rules laid down for the duel were that, their swords once
in hand, each of the combatants should use his weapon as Heaven might
best direct him.
The door of the apartment was closed. The tables and chairs were
placed in a corner, to leave a free field for the combatants, and the
lights were suitably disposed.
Don Luis and the Count divested themselves of their coats and
waistcoats, remaining in their shirt-sleeves, and each selected his
weapon. The seconds stood on one side. At a signal from the captain the
combat began. Between two persons who know neither how to parry a
stroke nor how to put themselves on guard, a combat must of necessity
be brief; and it was.
The fury of the Count, restrained for some time past, now burst
forth and blinded his reason. He was strong, and he had wrists of
steel; and with his sword he showered down on Don Luis a storm of
strokes without order or sequence. Four times he succeeded in touching
Don Luis-each time, fortunately, with the flat of his weapon. He
bruised his shoulders, but did not wound him. The young theologian had
need of all his strength to keep from falling to the floor, overcome by
the force of the blows and the pains of his bruises. A fifth time the
Count hit Don Luis, on the left arm, and this time with the edge of his
weapon, although aslant. The blood began to flow abundantly. Far from
stopping, the Count resumed the attack with renewed fury, in the hope
of again wounding his antagonist. He almost placed himself under the
weapon of Don Luis. The latter, instead of putting himself in position
to parry brought his sword down vigorously on his adversary, and
succeeded in wounding the Count in the head. The blood gushed forth,
and ran down his forehead and into his eyes. Stunned by the blow, the
Count fell heavily to the floor.
The whole combat was a matter of a few seconds. Don Luis had
remained tranquil throughout, like a Stoic philosopher who is obliged
by the hard law of necessity to take part in a conflict opposed alike
to his habits and his ways of thought. But no sooner did he see his
antagonist extended on the floor, bathed in blood and looking as though
he were dead, than he experienced the most poignant anguish, and feared
for a moment that he should faint. He who, until within the last five
or six hours, had held unwaveringly to his resolution of being a
priest, a missionary, a minister, and a messenger of the Gospel, had
committed, or accused himself of having committed, during those few
hours, every crime, and of breaking all the commandments of God. There
was now no mortal sin by which he was not contaminated. First, his
purpose of leading a life of perfect and heroic holiness had been put
to flight; then had followed his purpose of leading a life of holiness
of a more easy, commonplace sort. The devil seemed to please himself in
overthrowing his plans. He reflected that he could now no longer be
even a Christian Philemon, for to lay his neighbor's head open with a
stroke of a sabre was not a very good beginning of his idyl.
Don Luis, after all the excitement of the day, was now in a
condition resembling that of a man who has brain fever. Currito and the
captain, one at each side, took hold of him and led him home.
DON PEDRO DE VARGAS got out of bed in terror when he was told that
his son had come home wounded. He ran to see him, examined his bruises
and the wound in his arm, and saw that they were none of them attended
with danger; but he broke out into threats of vengeance, and would not
be pacified until he was made acquainted with the particulars of the
affair, and learned that Don Luis had known how to avenge himself in
spite of his theology.
The doctor came soon after to examine the wound, and was of opinion
that in three or four days' time Don Luis would be able to go out again
as if nothing had happened. With the Count, on the other hand, it would
be a matter of months. His life, however, was in no danger. He had
returned to consciousness, and had asked to be taken to his own home,
which was distant only a league from the village in which these events
took place. A hired coach had been procured, and he had been conveyed
thither, accompanied by his servant and also by the two strangers who
had acted as his seconds.
Four days after the affair the doctor's opinion was justified by
the result, and Don Luis, although sore from his bruises and with his
wound still unhealed, was in a condition to go out, and promised a
complete recovery within a short time.
The first duty which Don Luis thought himself obliged to fulfil, as
soon as he was off the sick list, was to confess to his father his love
for Pepita, and his intention of marrying her.
Don Pedro had not gone out to the country, nor had he occupied
himself in any other way than in taking care of his son during his
sickness. He was constantly at his side, waiting on him and petting him
with tender affection.
On the morning of the 27th of June, after the doctor had gone, Don
Pedro being alone with his son, the confession, so difficult for Don
Luis to make, took place in the following manner:
"Father," said Don Luis, "I ought not to deceive you any longer.
To-day I am going to confess my faults to you, and cast away
"If it is a confession you are about to make, my boy, it would be
better for you to send for the reverend vicar. My standard of morality
is an indulgent one, and I shall give you absolution for everything,
without my absolution being of much value to you, however. But if you
wish to confide to me some weighty secret, as to your best friend,
begin by all means; I am ready to listen to you."
"What I am about to confess to you is a very serious fault of which
I have been guilty; and I am ashamed to-"
"You have no need to be ashamed before your father; speak frankly."
Here Don Luis growing very red, and with visible confusion, said:
"My secret is, that I am in love with-Pepita Jiménez-and that she-"
Don Pedro interrupted his son with a burst of laughter, and
finished the sentence for him:
"And that she is in love with you, and that on the night of St.
John's Eve you had a tender meeting with her until two o'clock in the
morning, and that, for her sake, you sought a quarrel with the Count of
Genazahar, whose head you have broken.
"A pretty secret to confide to me, truly! There isn't a cat or a
dog in the village that is not fully acquainted with every detail of
the business. The only thing there seemed a possibility of being able
to conceal was, that your interview lasted until just two o'clock in
the morning; but some gipsy-cake women chanced to see you leave
Pepita's house, and did not stop until they had told every living
creature in the place of it. Pepita, besides, makes no great effort to
conceal the truth, and in this she does well, for that would be only
the concealment of Antequera. Since you have been wounded, Pepita comes
here twice a day, and sends Antoñona two or three times more to inquire
after you; and if they have not come in to see you, it is because I
would not consent to their doing so, lest it should excite you."
The confusion and the distress of Don Luis reached their climax
when he heard his father thus compendiously tell the whole story.
"How surprised," he said, "how astounded you must have been!"
"No, my boy, I was neither surprised nor astounded. The matter has
been known in the village only for four days, and indeed, to tell the
truth, your transformation did create some surprise. 'Oh, the
sly-boots! the wolf in sheep's clothing! the hypocrite!' every one
exclaimed; 'how we have been deceived in him!' The reverend vicar,
above all, is quite bewildered. He is still crossing himself at the
thought of how you toiled in the vineyard of the Lord on the night of
the 23d and the morning of the 24th, and of the strange character of
your labors. But there was nothing in these occurrences to surprise me,
except your wound. We old people can hear the grass grow. It is not
easy for the chickens to deceive the huckster."
"It is true, I sought to deceive you! I have been a hypocrite!"
"Don't be a fool; I do not say this to blame you. I say it in order
to give myself an air of perspicacity. But let us speak with frankness.
My boasting is, after all, without foundation. I knew, step by step,
for more than two months past, the progress of your love affair with
Pepita; but I know it because your uncle the dean, to whom you were
writing all that passed within your mind, has communicated it to me.
Listen to your uncle's letter of accusation, and to the answer I gave
him, a very important document, of which I have kept the copy."
Don Pedro took some papers from his pocket, and read aloud his
brother's letter: "MY DEAR BROTHER: "It grieves me to the heart to be
obliged to give you a piece of bad news; but I trust that God will
grant you patience and endurance to enable you to hear it without
feeling too much anger or bitterness. "Luisito has been writing me
strange letters for some days past, in which he reveals, in the midst
of his mystical exaltation, an inclination, earthly and sinful enough,
toward a certain widow, charming, mischievous, and coquettish, who
lives in your village. Until now I had deceived myself, believing
Luisito's call to be a true one; and I flattered myself with giving to
the Church of God a wise, virtuous, and exemplary priest. But his
letters have dispelled my illusions. Luisito shows himself, in them, to
have more of poetry than of true piety in his nature; and the widow,
who must be a limb of Satan, will be able to vanquish him with but a
very slight effort. Although I wrote to Luisito admonishing him to flee
from temptation, I am already certain that he will fall into it. This
ought not to grieve me; for if he is to be false to his vocation, to
indulge in gallantries, and to make love, it is better that this evil
disposition should reveal itself in time, and that he should not become
a priest. I should not, therefore, see any serious objection to
Luisito's remaining with you, for the purpose of being tested by the
touchstone and analyzed in the crucible of such a love, making the
little widow the agent by whose means might be discovered how great is
the quantity of the pure gold of his clerical virtues, and how much
alloy is mixed with that gold, were it not that we are met by the
difficulty that the widow whom we would thus convert into a faithful
assayer, is the object of your own addresses, and, it may be, your
sweetheart. "That your son should turn out to be your rival would be
too serious a matter. This would be a monstrous scandal, and to avoid
it in time I write to you to-day, to the end that, under whatever
pretext, you may send or bring Luisito here-the sooner the better."
Don Luis listened in silence, and with his eyes cast down. His
father then read him his reply to the dean: "DEAR BROTHER AND
VENERABLE SPIRITUAL FATHER: "I return you a thousand thanks for the
news you sent me, and for your counsel and advice. Although I flatter
myself with not being wanting in shrewdness, I confess my stupidity on
this occasion; I was blinded by vanity. Pepita Jiménez, from the time
that my son arrived here, manifested so much amiability and affection
toward me that I began to indulge in pleasing hopes on my own account.
Your letter was necessary to undeceive me. I now understand that in
making herself so sociable, in showing me so many attentions, and in
dancing attendance on me, as she did, this cunning Pepita had in her
mind only the father of the smooth-faced theologian. I shall not
attempt to conceal from you that, for the moment, this disappointment
mortified and distressed me a little; but when I reflected over it with
due consideration, my mortification and my distress were converted into
joy. "Luis is an excellent boy. Since he has been with me I have
learned to regard him with much greater affection than formerly. I
parted from him, and gave him up to you to educate, because my own life
was not very exemplary, and, for this and other reasons, he would have
grown up a savage here. You went beyond my hopes and even my desires,
and almost made a father of the Church of Luisito. To have a holy son
would have flattered my vanity; but I should have been very sorry to
remain without an heir to my house and name, who would give me handsome
grandchildren, and who after my death would enjoy my wealth, which is
my glory, for I acquired it by skill and industry, and not by cunning
and trickery. Perhaps the conviction I had that there was no remedy,
and that Luis would inevitably go abroad to convert the Chinese, the
Indians, or the blacks of the Congo, made me resolve on marrying, so as
to provide myself with an heir. "Naturally enough, I cast my eyes on
Pepita Jiménez, who is not, as you imagine, a limb of Satan, but a
lovely creature, as innocent as an angel, and ardent in her nature,
rather than coquettish. I have so good an opinion of Pepita that, if
she were sixteen again, with a domineering mother who tyrannized over
her, and if I were eighty, like Don Gumersindo-that is to say, if death
were already knocking at the door-I would marry Pepita, that her smile
might cheer me on my deathbed, as if my guardian angel had taken human
shape in her, and for the purpose of leaving her my position, my
fortune, and my name. But Pepita is not sixteen, but twenty; nor is she
now in the power of that serpent, her mother; nor am I eighty, but
fifty-five. I am at the very worst age, because I begin to feel myself
considerably the worse for wear, with something of asthma, a good deal
of cough, rheumatic pains, and other chronic ailments; yet devil a bit
do I wish to die, notwithstanding! I believe I shall not die for twenty
years to come, and, as I am thirty-five years older than Pepita, you
may calculate the miserable future that would await her, tied to an old
man who would live forever. At the end of a few years of marriage she
would be reduced to hating me, notwithstanding her goodness. Doubtless
it is because she is good and wise that she has not chosen to accept me
for a husband, notwithstanding the perseverance and the obstinacy with
which I have proposed to her. "How much do I not thank her for this
now! Even my self-love, wounded by her scorn, is soothed by the
reflection that, if she does not love me, at least she loves one of my
blood, is captivated by a son of mine. If this fresh and luxuriant ivy,
I say to myself, refuses to twine around the old trunk, worm-eaten
already, it climbs by it to reach the new sprout it has put forth-a
green and flourishing offshoot. May God bless them both, and make their
love prosper! "Far from bringing the boy back to you, I shall keep him
here-by force, if it be necessary. I have determined to oppose his
entering the priesthood. I dream already of seeing him married. I shall
grow young again contemplating the handsome pair joined together by
love. And how will it be when they shall have given me a family of
grand-children? Instead of going as a missionary, and bringing back to
me from Australia, or Madagascar, or India, neophytes black as soot,
with lips the size of your hand, or yellow as deerskin, and with eyes
like owls, will it not be better for Luisito to preach the Gospel in
his own house, and to give me a series of little catechumens, fair,
rosy, with eyes like those of Pepita, who will resemble cherubim
without wings? The catechumens he would bring me from those foreign
lands I should have to keep at a respectful distance, in order not to
be overpowered by their odor; while those I speak of would seem to me
like roses of Paradise, and would come to climb up on my knees, and
would call me grandpapa, and with their little hands pat the bald spot
I am beginning to acquire. "When I was in all my vigor I had no
particular longing for domestic joys: but now that I am approaching old
age, if I have not already entered on it, as I have no intention of
turning monk, I please myself in thinking that I shall play the part of
a patriarch And do not imagine, either, that I am going to leave it to
time to bring this young engagement to a happy close. No! I shall
myself set to work to do this. "Continuing your comparison, since you
speak of Pepita as a crucible and Luis as a metal, I shall find, or
rather I have found already, a bellows, or blow-pipe, very well adapted
to kindle up the fire, so that the metal may melt in it the more
quickly. Antoñona has an understanding with me already, and through her
I know that Pepita is over head and ears in love. "We have agreed that
I shall continue to seem blind to everything, and to know nothing of
what passes. The reverend vicar, who is a simple soul, always in the
clouds, helps me as much as Antoñona does, or more, and without knowing
it, because he repeats to Pepita everything Luis says to him, and
everything Pepita says to Luis; so that this excellent man, with the
weight of half a century in each foot, has been converted-oh, miracle
of love and of innocence!-into a carrier-dove by which the two lovers
send each other their flatteries and endearments, while they are as
ignorant as he is of the fact. "So powerful a combination of natural
and artificial methods ought t o give an infallible result. You will be
made acquainted with this result when I give you notice of the wedding,
so that you may come to perform the ceremony, or else send the lovers
your blessing and a handsome present."
With these words Don Pedro finished the reading of his letter; and
on looking again at Don Luis he saw that he had been listening to him
with his eyes full of tears.
Father and son united in a long and close embrace.
Just a month from the date of this interview the wedding of Don
Luis de Vargas and Pepita Jiménez took place.
The reverend Dean-fearing the ridicule of his brother at the
spiritual-mindedness of Don Luis having thus come to naught, and
recognizing also that he would not play a very dignified part in the
village, where every one would say he was a poor hand at turning out
saints-declined to be present, excusing himself on the ground of being
too busy, although he sent his blessing, and a magnificent pair of
earrings as a present for Pepita.
The reverend vicar, therefore, had the pleasure of marrying her to
The bride, elegantly attired, was thought lovely by every one, and
was looked upon as a good exchange for the hair shirt and the scourge.
That night Don Pedro gave a magnificent ball in the courtyard of
his house and the contiguous apartments. Servants and gentlemen, nobles
and laborers, ladies and country-girls were present, and mingled
together as if it were the ideal golden age-though why called golden I
know not. Four skilful, or, if not skilful, at least indefatigable,
guitar-players played a fandango; two gipsies, a man and a woman, both
famous singers, sang verses of a tender character and appropriate to
the occasion; and the schoolmaster read an epithalamium in heroic
There were tarts, fritters, jumbles, gingerbread, sponge-cake, and
wine in abundance for the common people. The gentry regaled themselves
with refreshments-chocolate, lemonade, honey, and various kinds of
aromatic and delicate cordials.
Don Pedro was like a boy-sprightly, gallant, and full of jests. It
did not look as if there were much truth in what he had said in his
letter to the Dean in regard to his rheumatism and other ailments. He
danced the fandango with Pepita, as also with the most attractive among
her maids, and with six or seven of the village girls. He gave each of
them, on reconducting her, tired out, to her seat, the prescribed
embrace, and to the least demure a couple of pinches, though this
latter forms no part of the ceremonial. He carried his gallantry to the
extreme of dancing with Doña Casilda, who could not refuse him, and
who, with her two hundred and fifty pounds of humanity, and the heat of
July, perspired at every pore. Finally, Don Pedro stuffed Currito so
full, and made him drink so often to the health of the newly married
pair, that the muleteer Dientes was obliged to carry him home to sleep
off the effect of his excesses, slung like a wine-skin across the back
of an ass! The ball lasted until three in the morning; but the young
couple discreetly disappeared before eleven, and retired to the house
Although it is the unfailing use and custom of the village to treat
every widow or widower who marries again to a terrible charivari-that
particularly noisy kind of mock serenade-leaving them not a moment's
rest from the cow-bells during the first night of marriage, Pepita was
such a favorite, Don Pedro was so much respected, and Don Luis was so
beloved, that there were no bells on this occasion, nor was there the
least attempt made at ringing them-a singular circumstance, which is
recorded as such in the annals of the village.
Part III.-Letters of My Brother
THE HISTORY of Pepita and Luisito should, properly speaking, end
here. This epilogue is not necessary to the story, but, as it formed
part of the bundle of papers left at his death by the reverend Dean,
although we refrain from publishing it entire, we shall at least give
samples of it.
No one can entertain the least doubt that Don Luis and Pepita,
united by an irresistible love, almost of the same age-she beautiful,
he brave and handsome, both intelligent and full of goodness-would
enjoy, during a long life, as much peace and happiness as falls to the
lot of mortals. And this supposition, which for those who have read the
preceding narrative is a logically drawn deduction from it, is
converted into a certainty for him who reads the epilogue.
The epilogue gives, besides, some information respecting the
secondary personages of the narrative, in whose fate the reader may
possibly be interested. It consists of a collection of letters
addressed by Don Pedro de Vargas to his brother the Dean, dating from
the day of his son's marriage to four years later.
Without prefixing the dates, although following their chronological
order, we shall transcribe here a few short extracts from these
letters, and thus bring our task to an end:
Luis manifests the most lively gratitude toward Antoñona, without
whose services he would not now possess Pepita. But this woman, the
accomplice of the sole fault of which either he or Pepita had been
guilty in their lives, living as she did on the most familiar footing
in the house, and fully acquainted with all that had taken place, could
not but be in the way. To get rid of her, then, and at the same time to
do her a service, Luis set to work to bring about a reconciliation
between her and her husband, whose daily fits of drunkenness she had
refused to put up with. The son of Master Cencias gave his promise that
he would get hardly ever drunk; but he would not venture on an absolute
and uncompromising never. Confiding in this half-promise, however,
Antoñona consented to return to the conjugal roof. Husband and wife
being thus reunited, it occurred to Luis that a homeopathic principle
of treatment might prove efficacious with the son of Master Cencias in
curing him radically of his vice; for having heard it affirmed that
confectioners detest sweets, he concluded that, on the same principle,
tavern-keepers ought to detest spirits, and he sent Antoñona and her
husband to the capital of the province, where at his own cost he set
them up in a fine tavern. Both live there together happily; they have
succeeded in obtaining many patrons, and will probably become rich. He
still gets drunk occasionally; but Antoñona, who is stronger of the
two, is accustomed at such times to give him a good trouncing, so help
on his cure.
Currito, anxious to imitate his cousin, whom he admires more and
more every day, and seeing and enjoying the domestic felicity of Pepita
and Luis, made haste to find a sweetheart, and married the daughter of
a rich farmer of the place, healthy, fresh, red as a poppy, and who
promises soon to acquire proportions as ample as those of her
The Count of Genazahar, after being confined to his bed for five
months, is now cured of his wound, and, it is said, is very much
improved in manners. He paid Pepita, a short time ago, more than half
of his debt to her, and asks for a respite in the payment of the
We have had a very great grief, although one that we had foreseen
for some time past. The father vicar, yielding to the advance of years,
has passed to a better life. Pepita remained till the last at his
bedside, and closed his eyes with her own beautiful hands. The father
vicar died the death of a blessed servant of the Lord. Rather than
death, it seemed a happy transit to serener regions. Nevertheless,
Pepita and all of us have mourned him sincerely. He has left behind him
only a few piastres and his furniture, for he gave all he had in alms.
His death would have made orphans of the poor of the village, if it
were not that Pepita still lives.
Every one in the village laments the death of the reverend vicar,
and there are many who regard him as a real saint, worthy of religious
honors, and who attribute miracles to him. I know not how that may be,
but I do know that he was an excellent man, and that he must have gone
straight to heaven, where we may hope that he intercedes for us. With
all this, his humility, his modesty, and his fear of God, were such
that he spoke of his sins in the hour of death as if he had in reality
committed many, and he besought our prayers to the Lord and to the
Virgin Mary for their forgiveness.
A strong impression has been produced on the mind of Luis by the
exemplary life and death of this man. He was simple, it must be
confessed, and of limited intelligence, but of upright will, ardent
faith, and fervent charity. When Luis compares himself with the vicar,
he feels humiliated. This has infused into his soul a certain bitter
melancholy; but Pepita, who has a great deal of tact, dissipates it
with smiles and caresses.
Everything prospers with us. Luis and I have some wine-vaults, than
which there are no better in Spain, if we except those of Xeres. The
olive crop of this year has been superb. We can afford to allow
ourselves every luxury; and I advise Luis and Pepita to make the tour
of Germany, France, and Italy as soon as Pepita is over her trouble,
and once more in her usual health. The dear children can afford to
spend a few thousand piastres on the expedition, and will bring back
some fine books, pieces of furniture, and objects of art, to adorn
We have deferred the baptism for two weeks, in order that it may
take place on the first anniversary of the wedding. The child is a
marvel of beauty, and is very healthy. I am the godfather, and he has
been named after me. I am already dreaming of the time when Periquito
shall begin to talk, and amuse us with his prattle.
In order that nothing may be wanting to the prosperity of this
tender pair, it turns out now, according to letters received from
Havana, that the brother of Pepita, whose evil ways we feared might
disgrace the family, is almost-and indeed without an almost-about to
honor and elevate it by becoming a person of eminence. During all the
time in which we heard nothing from him he has been profiting by his
opportunities, and fortune has sent him favoring gales. He obtained
another employment in the Custom-house; then he trafficked in negroes;
then he failed-an occurrence which for certain business men is like a
good pruning for trees, making them sprout again with fresh vigor; and
now he is so prosperous that he has formed the resolution of entering
the highest circles of the aristocracy, under the title of Marquis or
Duke. Pepita is frightened and troubled at this unexpected turn of
fortune, but I tell her not to be foolish: if her brother is, and must
in any case be, a rascal, is it not better that he should at least be a
We might thus go on making extracts did we not fear to weary the
reader. We shall end, then, by copying one of the latest letters:
My children have returned from their travels in good health.
Periquito is very mischievous and very charming. Luis and Pepita have
come back resolved never again to leave the village, though they should
live longer than Philemon and Baucis. They are more in love with each
other than ever.
They have brought back with them articles of furniture, a great
many books, some pictures, and all sorts of other elegant trifles,
purchased in the various countries through which they have traveled,
and principally in Paris, Rome, Florence, and Vienna.
The affection they entertain for each other, and the tenderness and
cordiality with which they treat each other and every one else, have
exercised a beneficent influence on manners here; and the elegance and
good taste with which they are now completing the furnishing of their
house will go far to make superficial culture take root and spread.
The people in Madrid say that in the country we are stupid and
uncouth; but they remain where they are, and never take the trouble to
come and reform our manners. On the contrary, no sooner does any one
make his appearance in the country who knows or is worth anything, or
who thinks he knows or is worth anything, than he makes every possible
effort to get away from it, and leaves the field and provincial towns
behind him. Pepita and Luis pursue the opposite course, and I commend
them for it with my whole heart. They are gradually improving and
beautifying their surroundings, so as to make of this secluded spot a
Do not imagine, however, that the inclination of Pepita and Luis
for material well-being has cooled in the slightest degree their
religious feelings. The piety of both grows deeper every day; and in
each new pleasure or satisfaction which they enjoy, or which they can
procure for their fellow beings, they see a new benefaction of Heaven,
in which they recognize fresh cause for gratitude. More than this, no
pleasure or satisfaction would be such, none would be of any worth, or
substance, or value in their eyes, were it not for the thought of
higher things, and for the firm belief they have in them.
Luis, in the midst of his present happiness, never forgets the
overthrow of the ideal he had set up for himself. There are times when
his present life seems to him vulgar, selfish, and prosaic, compared
with the life of sacrifice, with the spiritual existence to which he
believed himself called in the first years of his youth. But Pepita
solicitously hastens to dispel his melancholy on such occasions; and
then Luis sees and acknowledges that it is possible for man to serve
God in every state and condition, and succeeds in reconciling the
lively faith and the love of God that fills his soul with this
legitimate love of the earthly and perishable. But in the earthly and
perishable he beholds the divine principle, as it were, without which,
neither in the stars that stud the heavens, nor in the flowers and
fruits that beautify the fields, nor in the eyes of Pepita, nor in the
innocence and beauty of Periquito, would he behold anything lovely. The
greater world, all this magnificent fabric of the universe, he
declares, would without its all-seeing God seem to him sublime indeed,
but without order, or beauty, or purpose. And as for the world's
epitome, as we are accustomed to call man, neither would he love that
were it not for God; and this, not because God commands him to love it,
but because the dignity of man, and his title to be loved, have their
foundation in God Himself, who not only made the soul of man in His own
likeness, but ennobled also his body, making it the living temple of
the Spirit, holding communion with it by means of the sacrament, and
exalting it to the extreme of uniting with it His incarnate Word. In
these and other arguments, which I am unable to set forth here, Luis
He reconciles himself to having relinquished his purpose of leading
a life devoted to pious meditations, ecstatic contemplation, and
apostolic works, and ceases to feel the sort of generous envy with
which the father vicar inspired him on the day of his death; but both
he and Pepita continue to give thanks, with great Christian devoutness,
for benefits they enjoy, comprehending that not to their own merit do
they owe these benefits, but only to the goodness of God.
And so my children have in their house a couple of apartments
resembling beautiful little Catholic chapels or oratories; but I must
confess that these chapels have, too, their trace of paganism-an
amorous-pastoral-poetic and Arcadian air which is to be seen only
beyond city walls.
The orchard of Pepita is no longer an orchard, but a most
enchanting garden, with its araucarias and Indian figs, which grow here
in the open air, and its well-arranged though small hothouse, full of
The room in which we ate the strawberries on the afternoon on which
Pepita and Luis saw and spoke with each other for the second time, has
been transformed into a graceful temple, with portico and columns of
white marble. Within is a spacious apartment, comfortably furnished,
and adorned by two beautiful pictures. One represents Psyche
discovering by the light of her lamp Cupid asleep on his couch; the
other represents Chloe when the fugitive grasshopper has taken refuge
in her bosom, where, believing itself secure, it begins to chirp in its
pleasant hiding-place, from which Daphnis is trying, meanwhile, to take
A very good copy, in Carrara marble, of the Venus de Medici
occupies the most prominent place in the apartment, and, as it were,
presides over it. On the pedestal are engraved, in letters of gold,
this thought of Lucretius:"Without thee, darkness reigns instead of
light,And nothing lovely is, and nothing ever bright."