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

PEPITA JIMÉNEZ, who, through my father, had heard of the great pleasure I take in the gardens of this district, has invited us to visit one that she owns at a short distance from the village, and to eat the early strawberries that grow there. This liking of Pepita’s to show herself so gracious to my father, who is a suitor for her hand, while at the same time in that capacity she will have none of him, often seems to me to savor not a little of a coquetry worthy of reprobation. But when on the next occasion I see her so natural, so perfectly frank and simple, the injurious fancy passes; and I feel that she must do everything with the most limpid purity of mind, and that she has no other purpose than to preserve the friendly feeling that unites our family to hers.  1
  Be that as it will, the day before yesterday we paid the visit to Pepita’s garden…. By quite a sybaritic piece of refinement, it was not the gardener, nor was it his wife, nor his son, nor indeed any other person of the rustic sort, who waited upon us at the luncheon; it was two pretty girls, confidential servants as it were of Pepita, dressed in the usual peasant costume, yet with consummate neatness and elegance. Their gowns were of a bright-colored cotton stuff, short in the skirt, and trimly fitted to their figures; they wore silk handkerchiefs crossed over their shoulders, and in the abundant black tresses of each one … showed a fresh sprig of roses.  2
  Pepita’s gown, except that it was of rich quality, was equally unpretentious. It was of black wool, and cut in the same form as those of the maids; without being too short, its wearer had taken care that it should not trail, nor in slouchy fashion sweep up the dust of the ground. A modest silk handkerchief, black also, covered her shoulders and bosom after the fashion of the country; and on her head she wore neither ribbon, flower, nor gem, nor any other adornment than that of her own beautiful blonde hair. The only detail in Pepita’s appearance in which I noticed that she departed from the custom of the country people, and showed a certain fastidiousness, was her concern to wear gloves. It is apparent that she takes great care of her hands, and prides herself with some little vanity on keeping them white and pretty, and the nails polished and of roseate hue. But if she has so much of vanity, it is to be pardoned to human weakness: and indeed, if I recollect aright, even St. Theresa in her youth had it also; which did not hinder her from becoming the very great saint she was.  3
  In fact I quite understand, though I do not undertake to defend, that particular bit of vanity. It is so distinguished, so high-bred, to have a comely hand; I even frequently think it has something symbolical about it. The hand is the minister of our actions; the sign of our innate gentility; the medium through which the intelligence vests with form the inventions of its artistic sense, gives being to the creations of its will, and exercises the sovereignty that God conceded to man over all created things.  4

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