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Juan Valera (1824–1905). Pepita Jimenez. The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.

Part II.—Paralipomena

Chapter X

THE LIBRARY remained deserted.    1
  The servants’ dance must have already terminated, for the only sound to be heard was the murmur of the fountain in the garden below.    2
  Not even a breath of wind troubled the stillness of the night and the serenity of the air.    3
  The perfume of the flowers and the light of the moon entered softly through the open window. After a long interval, Don Luis made his appearance, emerging from the darkness. Terror was depicted on his countenance, mingled with despair—such despair as Judas may have felt after he had betrayed his Master.    4
  He dropped into a chair, and burying his face in his hands, with his elbows resting on his knees, he remained for more than half an hour plunged in a sea of bitter reflections.    5
  To see him thus, one might have supposed that he had just murdered Pepita.    6
  Pepita, nevertheless, at last made her appearance. With a slow step, and an air of the deepest melancholy, with bent head, and eyes directed to the floor, she approached Don Luis, and spoke.    7
  “Now, indeed,” said she, “though, alas! too late, I know all the vileness of my heart and the iniquity of my conduct. I have nothing to say in my own defense, but I would not have you think me more wicked than I am. You must not think I have used any arts—that I have laid any plans for your destruction. Yes; it is true that I have been guilty of an atrocious crime, but an unpremeditated one; a crime inspired, perhaps, by the spirit of evil that possesses me. Do not abandon yourself to despair, do not torture yourself, for God’s sake! You are responsible for nothing. It was a frenzy, a madness, that took possession of your noble spirit. Your sin is a light one; mine is flagrant, shameful, horrible. Now I am less worthy of you than ever. It is I who now ask you to leave this place. Go; do penance. God will pardon you. Go; a priest will give you absolution. Once cleansed from sin, carry out your purpose, and become a minister of the Most High. Then, through the holiness of your life, through your ceaseless labors, not only will you efface from your soul the last traces of this fall, but you will obtain for me, when you have pardoned me the evil I have done you, the pardon of Heaven also. You are bound to me by no tie, and even if you were I should loosen or break it. You are free. Let it suffice me that I have taken captive by surprise the star of the morning. It is not my desire—I neither can nor ought to seek to keep him in my power. I divine it, I read it in your manner, I am convinced of it—you despise me more than before. And you are right in despising me; there is neither honor, nor virtue, nor shame in me!”    8
  When she had thus spoken, Pepita, throwing herself on her knees, bowed her face till her forehead touched the floor. Don Luis continued in the same attitude as before. Thus, for some moments. they remained both silent with the silence of despair.    9
  In a stifled voice, and without raising her face from the floor, Pepita after a time continued:   10
  “Go, now, Don Luis, and do not, through an insulting pity, remain any longer at the side of so despicable a wretch as I. I shall have courage to bear your indifference, your forgetfulness, your contempt, for I have deserved them all. I shall always be your slave—but far from you, very far from you, in order that nothing may recall to your memory the infamy of this night!”   11
  Pepita’s voice, as she ended, was choked with sobs.   12
  Don Luis could restrain himself no longer. He arose, approached Pepita, and, raising her in his arms from the floor, pressed her to his heart; then, putting aside from her face the blond tresses that fell in disorder over it, he covered it with passionate kisses.   13
  “Soul of my soul,” he said at last, “life of my life, treasure of my heart, light of my eyes, raise your dejected brow, and do not prostrate yourself any longer before me. The sinner, the vile wretch, he who has shown himself weak of purpose, who has made himself the butt of scorn and ridicule, is I, not you. Angels and devils alike must laugh at me and mock me. I have clothed myself with a false sanctity. I was not able to resist temptation, and to undeceive you in the beginning, as would have been right, and now I am equally unable to show myself a gentleman, a man of honor, or a tender lover who knows how to value the favors of his mistress. I can not understand what it was you saw in me to attract you. There never was in me any solid virtue—nothing but vain show and the pedantry of a student who has read pious books as one reads a novel, and on this foundation has based his foolish romance of a future devoted to converting the heathen and to solemn meditations. If there had been any real virtue in me I should have undeceived you in time, and neither you nor I would have sinned. True goodness is not so easily vanquished. Notwithstanding your beauty, notwithstanding your intelligence, notwithstanding your love for me, I should not have fallen if I had been really good. God, to whom all things are possible, would have bestowed His grace upon me. It would have needed nothing less than a miracle, or some other supernatural event, to have enabled me to resist your love, but God would have wrought the miracle, if I had been worthy of it and there was a motive sufficient for its being wrought. You are wrong to counsel me to become a priest. I know my own unworthiness. It was only pride that actuated me. It was a worldly ambition, like any other. What do I say—like any other? It was worse than any other; it was hypocritical, sacrilegious, simoniacal.”   14
  “Do not judge yourself so harshly,” said Pepita, now more tranquil, and smiling through her tears. “I do not want you to judge yourself thus, not even for the purpose of making me appear less unworthy to be your companion. No; I would have you choose me through love—freely; not to repair a fault, not because you have fallen into the snare you perhaps think I have perfidiously spread for you. If you do not love me, if you distrust me, if you do not esteem me—then go. My lips shall not breathe a single complaint if you abandon me for ever, and never think of me again.”   15
  To answer this fittingly, our poor and beggarly human speech was insufficient for Don Luis. He cut short Pepita’s words by pressing his lips to hers, and again clasping her to his heart.   16