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 nearhaving 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 spectatorsonly 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 victory.
The reverend Dean, who was a man of taste and very well versed in the classics, would not be likely to fall into the error of introducing himself into the narrative, and mixing himself up with it, under 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 itself.
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 ones 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, andsee 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 onesfor 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 public.