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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Youth and Crabbed Age
By Juan Valera (1824–1905)
 
From ‘Pepita Jiménez’: Translation of William Henry Bishop

WHEN Don Gumersindo was close upon his eightieth year, Pepita Jiménez was only about to complete her sixteenth. He was rich and influential in the community, she was without means or the support of powerful friends.  1
  Indeed, from the ethical point of view, this marriage is open to question. Still, so far as the young girl is concerned, if we recollect the entreaties, the querulous complaints, nay, even the positive commands, of her mother; if we take into account that she designed by this step to secure for her mother a comfortable old age, and to save her brother from disgrace and even infamy, acting in this affair as his guardian angel and earthly providence,—then it must be confessed that there is room for an abatement of the censure—if censure be the feeling aroused in the spectator’s mind. Furthermore, who is to penetrate into the intimate recesses, the hidden depths of heart and mind, of a tender maiden, brought up most likely in extreme seclusion, and wholly ignorant of the world? who is to know what ideas she may have formed to herself of matrimony? Perchance—who knows?—she may have thought that to marry that venerable man was merely to devote her life to taking care of him; to be his nurse; to sweeten with her presence his last days; to rescue him from solitude and abandonment, where in his infirmities he would have had no aid but from mercenary hands: in a word, like an angel that takes on human form, to cheer and illumine his decline of life with the winsome and mellow glow emanating from her youth and beauty. If the girl thought somewhat of this or all of this, and in the innocence of her heart never dreamed of going on into any further aspects of the case, then indeed is her act not only free from blame, but must claim admiration as showing the warm benevolence of her nature.  2
  However this may be, and now putting aside this line of psychological examination,—which I really have no right to attempt, since I possess no personal acquaintance with Pepita Jiménez,—what remains certain is, that she lived in an edifying state of harmony with the old man for three years; that her venerable partner appeared happier than he had ever been in all his days; that she nursed him and entertained him with an admirable conscientiousness; and that in his last painful illness she waited upon him and watched over him with the tenderest and most unwearied affection,—till at length he died in her arms, and left her heiress to a large fortune.  3
 
 
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