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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 Evenings at Pepita’s Tertulia
By Juan Valera (1824–1905)
From ‘Pepita Jiménez’: Translation of William Henry Bishop

AS I have mentioned to you before, Pepita receives her friends every evening at her house, from nine o’clock till twelve.  1
  Thither repair four or five matrons, and as many young girls of the village, counting in Aunt Casilda with the number; and then six or seven young men who play forfeits with the girls. Three or four engagements are already on the carpet from this association, which is natural enough. The graver portion of the social assembly [tertulia], pretty much always the same, is composed of the exalted dignitaries of the place, so to speak; that is, my father who is the squire, with the apothecary, the doctor, the notary, and his Reverence the vicar….  2
  I am never quite certain in which section of the company I ought to place myself. If it is with the young people, I fear my seriousness is a damper on their sports and their flirtation; if with the older set, then I am constrained to play the part of a mere looker-on in things I do not understand. The only games I know how to play are the simple ones of “blind donkey,” “wide-awake donkey,” and a little tute or brisca cruzada.  3
  The best thing for me would be not to go to the tertulia at all. My father, however, insists that I shall go; not to do so, according to him, would be to make myself ridiculous.  4
  My father breaks out in many expressions of wonderment at noticing my complete ignorance of certain things; such as that I cannot play ombre,—not even ombre. This strikes him simply with bewilderment.  5
  “Your uncle has brought you up in the gleam of a twopenny rushlight,” he exclaims. “He has stuffed you with theology, and then more theology still, and left you wholly in the dark about everything that it is really important to know. From the very fact that you are to be a priest, and consequently cannot dance nor make love when you go out in society, you ought to know how to play ombre. If not, what are you going to do with yourself, you young wretch? just tell us that.”  6
  To this and other shrewd discourse of the sort I have finally had to give in; and my father is teaching me ombre at home, so that as soon as I know it I can play it at Pepita’s receptions. He has been anxious furthermore to teach me fencing, and after that to smoke, and to shoot, and to throw the bar; but I have not consented to any of these latter propositions.  7
  “What a difference between my youthful years and yours!” my father likes to exclaim.  8
  And then he will add, laughingly:—  9
  “However, it’s all essentially the same thing. I too had my canonical hours, but they were in the Life Guards barracks: a good cigar was our incense, a pack of cards was our hymn-book; nor was there ever lacking to us a good supply of other devotional exercises all just as spiritual as those.”  10
  Although you, my good uncle, had forewarned me of this levity of character in my father,—and indeed it is precisely on account of it that I passed twelve years of my life with you, from the age of ten to that of twenty-two,—still my father’s way of talking, sometimes free beyond all bounds, often alarms and mortifies me. But what can I do about it? At any rate, though it is not becoming in me to censure it, I shall never show approval nor laugh at it.  11

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