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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Doña Perfecta’s Daughter
By Benito Pérez Galdós (1843–1920)
 
        
From ‘Doña Perfecta’: Translation of Mary Jane Christie Serrano
  
  [Pepe Rey, a young engineer, arrives at Orbajosa to marry his cousin Rosario, the match having been made up between his father and Doña Perfecta, the girl’s mother, who is warmly attached to the father of Pepe, her brother, and furthermore under heavy obligations to him for his excellent management of her large property interests. The landscape is the arid and poverty-stricken country of central Spain, though the town itself—“seated on the slope of a hill from the midst of whose closely clustered houses arose many dark towers, and on the height above it the ruins of a dilapidated castle”—such a town would probably be more appreciated by a traveler from abroad and a lover of the picturesque, than by a Spaniard, too familiar with its type. Orbajosa is a little place, full of narrow prejudices and vanities. Pepe Rey, with his modern ways, soon finds that he is wounding these prejudices at every turn. We look on with pained surprise at the difficulties that grow up around the young man, an excellent and kind-hearted fellow. Lawsuits are multiplied against him; he is turned out of the cathedral by order of the bishop for strolling about during service-time to look at some architectural features; and he is refused the hand of his cousin. Doña Perfecta herself joins in this hostility, which finally develops into a venomous bitterness that menaces his life. Such a feeling was not the outgrowth of mere provincial narrowness: we see in the end that it was the result of the plot of Maria Remedios, a woman of a humble sort, who aspired to secure the heiress Rosario for her own chubby-faced home-bred son. She influenced the village priest, and he influenced Doña Perfecta. Early in the day the young engineer would have abandoned the sinister place but for Rosario, who really loved him. She conveyed to him, on a scrap from the margin of a newspaper, the message:
  “They say you are going away. If you do, I shall die.”
  She is a charming picture of girlhood,—lovely, true-hearted, affectionate, aspiring to be heroic, and yet crippled at last by a filial conscience and the long habit of clinging dependence. She has agreed to flee at night with her lover, and he is already in the garden. Her mother, the stern Doña Perfecta, ranging uneasily through the house, enters her room about the appointed time for the escape.]


“WHY don’t you sleep?” her mother asked her.
  1
  “What time is it?” asked the girl.  2
  “It will soon be midnight.”…  3
  Rosario was trembling, and everything about her denoted the keenest anxiety. She lifted her eyes to heaven supplicatingly, and then turned them on her mother with a look of the utmost terror.  4
  “Why, what is the matter with you?”  5
  “Did you not say it was midnight?”  6
  “Yes.”  7
  “Then—but is it already midnight?”…  8
  “Something is the matter with you; you have something on your mind,” said her mother, fixing on her daughter her penetrating eyes.  9
  “Yes—I wanted to tell you,” stammered the girl, “I wanted to say— Nothing, nothing; I will go to sleep.”  10
  “Rosario, Rosario! your mother can read your heart like an open book,” exclaimed Doña Perfecta with severity. “You are agitated. I have already told you that I am willing to pardon you if you will repent, if you are a good and sensible girl.”  11
  “Why, am I not good? Ah, mamma, mamma! I am dying.” Rosario burst into a flood of bitter and disconsolate tears.  12
  “What are these tears about?” said her mother, embracing her. “If they are tears of repentance, blessed be they.”  13
  “I don’t repent! I can’t repent!” cried the girl, in a burst of sublime despair. She lifted her head, and in her face was depicted a sudden inspired strength. Her hair fell in disorder over her shoulders. Never was there seen a more beautiful image of a rebellious angel.  14
  “What is this? Have you lost your senses?” said Doña Perfecta, laying both hands on her daughter’s shoulders.  15
  “I am going away! I am going away!” said the girl with the exaltation of delirium. And she sprang out of bed.  16
  “Rosario, Rosario—my daughter! For God’s sake, what is this?”  17
  “Ah mamma, señora!” exclaimed the girl, embracing her mother; “bind me fast!”  18
  “In truth, you would deserve it. What madness is this?”  19
  “Bind me fast! I am going away—I am going away with him!”…  20
  “Has he told you to do so? has he counseled you to do that? has he commanded you to do that?” asked the mother, launching these words like thunderbolts against her daughter.  21
  “He has counseled me to do it. We have agreed to be married. We must be married, mamma, dear mamma. I will love you—I know that I ought to love you—I shall be forever lost if I do not love you.”  22
  “Rosario, Rosario!” cried Doña Perfecta in a terrible voice, “rise!”  23
  There was a short pause.  24
  “This man—has he written to you?”  25
  “Yes.”  26
  “Have you seen him again since that night?”  27
  “Yes.”  28
  “And you have written to him?”  29
  “I have written to him also. O señora! why do you look at me in that way? You are not my mother.”  30
  “Would to God that I were not! Rejoice in the harm you are doing me. You are killing me; you have given me my death-blow!” cried Doña Perfecta, with indescribable agitation. “You say that that man—”  31
  “Is my husband—I will be his wife, protected by the law. You are not a woman! Why do you look at me in that way? You make me tremble. Mother, mother, do not condemn me!”  32
  “You have already condemned yourself—that is enough. Obey me, and I will forgive you. Answer me—when did you receive letters from that man?”  33
  “To-day.”  34
  “What treachery! what infamy!” cried her mother, roaring rather than speaking. “Had you appointed a meeting?”  35
  “Yes.”  36
  “When?”  37
  “To-night.”  38
  “Where?”  39
  “Here, here! I will confess everything, everything! I know it is a crime. I am a wretch; but you, my mother, will take me out of this hell. Give your consent. Say one word to me, only one word!”  40
  “That man here in my house!” cried Doña Perfecta, springing back several paces from her daughter.  41
  Rosario followed her on her knees.  42
  At the same instant three blows were heard, three crashes, three explosions. [Maria Remedios had spied upon Pepe Rey, the lover; shown Caballuco, a brutal servant and ally, how to follow him stealthily into the garden; and had then come to arouse the house.] It was the heart of Maria Remedios knocking at the door through the knocker. The house trembled with an awful dread. Mother and daughter stood as motionless as statues.  43
  A servant went down-stairs to open the door, and shortly afterward Maria Remedios, who was not now a woman but a basilisk enveloped in a mantle, entered Doña Perfecta’s room. Her face, flushed with anxiety, exhaled fire.  44
  “He is there, he is there,” she said, as she entered. “He got into the garden through the condemned door.” She paused for breath at every syllable.  45
  “I know already,” returned Doña Perfecta, with a sort of bellow.  46
  Rosario fell senseless to the floor.  47
  “Let us go down-stairs,” said Doña Perfecta, without paying any attention to her daughter’s swoon.  48
  The two women glided down-stairs like two snakes. The maids and the man-servant were in the hall, not knowing what to do. Doña Perfecta passed through the dining-room into the garden, followed by Maria Remedios.  49
  “Fortunately we have Ca-Ca-Ca-balluco there,” said the canon’s niece.  50
  “Where?”  51
  “In the garden, also. He cli-cli-climbed over the wall.”  52
  Doña Perfecta explored the darkness with her wrathful eyes. Rage gave them the singular power of seeing in the dark that is peculiar to the feline race.  53
  “I see a figure there,” she said. “It is going towards the oleanders.”  54
  “It is he,” cried Remedios. “But there comes Ramos—Ramos!” [Cristóbal Ramos, or “Cabulluco.”]  55
  The colossal figure of the Centaur was plainly distinguishable.  56
  “Towards the oleanders, Ramos! Towards the oleanders!”  57
  Doña Perfecta took a few steps forward. Her hoarse voice, vibrating with a terrible accent, hissed forth these words:—  58
  “Cristobal, Cristobal,—kill him!”  59
  A shot was heard. Then another.  60
 
        
A FAMILY OF OFFICE-HOLDERS
  
  Don Francisco de Bringas y Caballero had a second-class clerkship in one of the most ancient of the royal bureaus. He belonged to a family which had held just such offices for time out of mind. “Government employees were his parents and his grandparents, and it is believed that his great-grandparents, and even the ancestors of these, served in one way and another in the administration of the two worlds.” His wife Doña Rosalia Pipaon was equally connected with the official class, and particularly with that which had to do with the domestic service of the royal abodes. Thus, “on producing her family tree, this was found to show not so much glorious deeds of war and statesmanship as those humbler doings belonging to a long and intimate association with the royal person. Her mother had been lady of the queen’s wardrobe, her uncle a halberdier of the royal guard, her grandfather keeper of the buttery, other uncles at various removes, equerries, pages, dispatch-bearers, huntsmen, and managers of the royal farm at Aranjuez, and so forth and so on…. For this dame there existed two things wholly Divine; namely, heaven and that almost equally desirable dwelling-place for the elect which we indicate by the mere laconic word ‘the Palace.’ In the Palace were her family history and her ideal; her aspiration was that Bringas might obtain a superior post in the royal exchequer, and that then they should go and take up their abode in one of the apartments of the second story of the great mansion which were conceded to such tenants.” The above is from ‘Tormento.’ In the next succeeding novel, ‘La de Bringas,’ this aspiration is gratified; the Bringas family are installed in the Palace, in the quarters assigned to the employees of the royal household. The efforts of two of their acquaintances to find them, in the puzzling intricacies of the place, are thus amusingly described.
  61
 
 
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