Fiction > Harvard Classics > Juan Valera > Pepita Jimenez > Part I.—Letters from My Nephew > May 19th
Juan Valera (1824–1905).  Pepita Jimenez.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction.  1917.
Part I.—Letters from My Nephew
May 19th
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 ever.
  The mystical and learned St. Theresa is right in dwelling upon the suffering of timid souls that allow themselves to be disturbed by temptation; but a thousand times worse than that suffering is the awakening from error of those who, like me, have permitted themselves to indulge in arrogance and self-confidence.   2
  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 blackened.   3
  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.   4
  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.   5
  It is true—I can no longer deny it to you—I ought not to have allowed my eyes to rest with so much complacency on this dangerous woman.   6
  I do not deem myself lost; but I feel my soul troubled   7
  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.   8
  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?”   9
  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!”  10
  Works of penance, fasting, prayer, and penance, are the weapons wherewith I shall arm myself to the combat, and, with the Divine help, to vanquish.  11
  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.  12
  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.  13
  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.  14
  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.  15
  My father, confiding to the last degree, says to me when the hour arrives, without any suspicion of what is passing in my soul:  16
  “Go to Pepita’s; I will go later, when I have finished with the overseer.”  17
  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.  18
  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 throat.  19
  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.  20
  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.  21
  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.  22
  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.  23
  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 other everything.  24
  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 into it.  25
  You counsel me to reflect upon death—not on the death of this woman, but on my own. You counsel me to reflect on the instability, on the insecurity of our existence, and on what there is beyond it. But these considerations, these reflections neither terrify nor daunt me. Why should I, who desire to die, fear death? Love and death are brothers. A sentiment of self-abnegation springs to life within me, and tells me that my whole being should be consecrated to and annihilated in the beloved object. I long to merge myself in one of her glances; to diffuse and exhale my whole being in the ray of light shot forth from her eyes; to die while gazing on her, even though I should be eternally lost.  26
  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.  27
  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 consumed therein.  28
  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.  29
  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.  30



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