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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Belle of the Village Store
By Armando Palacio Valdés (1853–1938)
From ‘Señorito Octavio’: Translation of William Henry Bishop

SHE had just completed her eighteenth year; her skin was as white as milk, her hair red as gold. Her mother was a blonde of the same type also, and yet the mother had never passed for a beauty. Carmen’s eyes were blue,—a deep dark blue, like that of the sea; and one’s imagination plunged into their mysterious depths, and fancied he might find there palaces of crystal and enchanting gardens, as in the hidden caves of ocean. It seemed scarcely credible that such a rosebud was the daughter of that rough pig of a Don Marcelino. While yet a child, they had been wont to call her “The Little Angel.” She used to be much put out over it, too, and would run home to the house weeping when, on the letting out of school, the children would follow her, giving her this complimentary nickname. And in fact it would be difficult to imagine anything sweeter, more charming, in the ethereal unworldly way, than Carmen had been at twelve years old. On arriving at woman’s estate, the “angel” in her had become somewhat obscured; that celestial epithet had been a little shorn of its accuracy. Yet nothing had been lost by the change; for to the gloriously pure, sweet lines of the girlish figure had been added certain terrestrial contours and material roundnesses that became her to a marvel.  1
  I confess a liking for women with this mingling of heaven and earth; there is nothing that approaches it in thorough fascination. Hence it has happened to me, not merely once but many times, in the course of this narration, to fancy myself throwing down my pen, and introducing myself among the minor personages of the story, for the pure pleasure of paying court with the rest to the lovely daughter of Don Marcelino. Suppose now that she had not given me the mitten;—anything whatever, you know, is within the field of supposition, and yet it is a bold one; for, even apart from the aforesaid winning curves, it was stated in Vegalora that she had a very pretty fortune of her own. If Don Marcelino had accepted me for a son-in-law, I should have been at the present moment a clerk, measuring off cotton or percale by the yard, or at your service generally for whatever you might please to command, in his accredited establishment. In this way I should at any rate have escaped the humiliation and martyrdom that fall to the lot, in Spain, of the luckless wight who may, like myself, devote himself to letters or the fine arts with more liking for them than capacity; though it is true, there might have fallen upon my head other evils, of a sort from which I pray heaven to save all of you now and forever, amen!  2
  But then who would have written this veracious history of Señorito Octavio? Galdós, Alarcón, and Valera are occupied with more august matters; and I am certain besides that they have never even set foot in the shop of Don Marcelino. While as for me, in all that relates to Vegalora, and also its district for six leagues all around, I assert—though this kind of talk may appear over-bold and conceited to some—that there is not another novelist who is worthy to loose the latchet of my shoe, in respect of knowing absolutely everything about it.  3

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