THE HISTORY of Pepita and Luisito should, properly speaking, end here. This epilogue is not necessary to the story, but, as it formed part of the bundle of papers left at his death by the reverend Dean, although we refrain from publishing it entire, we shall at least give samples of it.
No one can entertain the least doubt that Don Luis and Pepita, united by an irresistible love, almost of the same ageshe beautiful, he brave and handsome, both intelligent and full of goodnesswould enjoy, during a long life, as much peace and happiness as falls to the lot of mortals. And this supposition, which for those who have read the preceding narrative is a logically drawn deduction from it, is converted into a certainty for him who reads the epilogue.
The epilogue gives, besides, some information respecting the secondary personages of the narrative, in whose fate the reader may possibly be interested. It consists of a collection of letters addressed by Don Pedro de Vargas to his brother the Dean, dating from the day of his sons marriage to four years later.
Luis manifests the most lively gratitude toward Antoñona, without whose services he would not now possess Pepita. But this woman, the accomplice of the sole fault of which either he or Pepita had been guilty in their lives, living as she did on the most familiar footing in the house, and fully acquainted with all that had taken place, could not but be in the way. To get rid of her, then, and at the same time to do her a service, Luis set to work to bring about a reconciliation between her and her husband, whose daily fits of drunkenness she had refused to put up with. The son of Master Cencias gave his promise that he would get hardly ever drunk; but he would not venture on an absolute and uncompromising never. Confiding in this half-promise, however, Antoñona consented to return to the conjugal roof. Husband and wife being thus reunited, it occurred to Luis that a homeopathic principle of treatment might prove efficacious with the son of Master Cencias in curing him radically of his vice; for having heard it affirmed that confectioners detest sweets, he concluded that, on the same principle, tavern-keepers ought to detest spirits, and he sent Antoñona and her husband to the capital of the province, where at his own cost he set them up in a fine tavern. Both live there together happily; they have succeeded in obtaining many patrons, and will probably become rich. He still gets drunk occasionally; but Antoñona, who is stronger of the two, is accustomed at such times to give him a good trouncing, so help on his cure.
Currito, anxious to imitate his cousin, whom he admires more and more every day, and seeing and enjoying the domestic felicity of Pepita and Luis, made haste to find a sweetheart, and married the daughter of a rich farmer of the place, healthy, fresh, red as a poppy, and who promises soon to acquire proportions as ample as those of her mother-in-law Casilda.
The Count of Genazahar, after being confined to his bed for five months, is now cured of his wound, and, it is said, is very much improved in manners. He paid Pepita, a short time ago, more than half of his debt to her, and asks for a respite in the payment of the remainder.
We have had a very great grief, although one that we had foreseen for some time past. The father vicar, yielding to the advance of years, has passed to a better life. Pepita remained till the last at his bedside, and closed his eyes with her own beautiful hands. The father vicar died the death of a blessed servant of the Lord. Rather than death, it seemed a happy transit to serener regions. Nevertheless, Pepita and all of us have mourned him sincerely. He has left behind him only a few piastres and his furniture, for he gave all he had in alms. His death would have made orphans of the poor of the village, if it were not that Pepita still lives.
Every one in the village laments the death of the reverend vicar, and there are many who regard him as a real saint, worthy of religious honors, and who attribute miracles to him. I know not how that may be, but I do know that he was an excellent man, and that he must have gone straight to heaven, where we may hope that he intercedes for us. With all this, his humility, his modesty, and his fear of God, were such that he spoke of his sins in the hour of death as if he had in reality committed many, and he besought our prayers to the Lord and to the Virgin Mary for their forgiveness.
A strong impression has been produced on the mind of Luis by the exemplary life and death of this man. He was simple, it must be confessed, and of limited intelligence, but of upright will, ardent faith, and fervent charity. When Luis compares himself with the vicar, he feels humiliated. This has infused into his soul a certain bitter melancholy; but Pepita, who has a great deal of tact, dissipates it with smiles and caresses.
Everything prospers with us. Luis and I have some wine-vaults, than which there are no better in Spain, if we except those of Xeres. The olive crop of this year has been superb. We can afford to allow ourselves every luxury; and I advise Luis and Pepita to make the tour of Germany, France, and Italy as soon as Pepita is over her trouble, and once more in her usual health. The dear children can afford to spend a few thousand piastres on the expedition, and will bring back some fine books, pieces of furniture, and objects of art, to adorn their dwelling.
We have deferred the baptism for two weeks, in order that it may take place on the first anniversary of the wedding. The child is a marvel of beauty, and is very healthy. I am the godfather, and he has been named after me. I am already dreaming of the time when Periquito shall begin to talk, and amuse us with his prattle.
In order that nothing may be wanting to the prosperity of this tender pair, it turns out now, according to letters received from Havana, that the brother of Pepita, whose evil ways we feared might disgrace the family, is almostand indeed without an almostabout to honor and elevate it by becoming a person of eminence. During all the time in which we heard nothing from him he has been profiting by his opportunities, and fortune has sent him favoring gales. He obtained another employment in the Custom-house; then he trafficked in negroes; then he failedan occurrence which for certain business men is like a good pruning for trees, making them sprout again with fresh vigor; and now he is so prosperous that he has formed the resolution of entering the highest circles of the aristocracy, under the title of Marquis or Duke. Pepita is frightened and troubled at this unexpected turn of fortune, but I tell her not to be foolish: if her brother is, and must in any case be, a rascal, is it not better that he should at least be a fortunate one?
My children have returned from their travels in good health. Periquito is very mischievous and very charming. Luis and Pepita have come back resolved never again to leave the village, though they should live longer than Philemon and Baucis. They are more in love with each other than ever.
They have brought back with them articles of furniture, a great many books, some pictures, and all sorts of other elegant trifles, purchased in the various countries through which they have traveled, and principally in Paris, Rome, Florence, and Vienna.
The affection they entertain for each other, and the tenderness and cordiality with which they treat each other and every one else, have exercised a beneficent influence on manners here; and the elegance and good taste with which they are now completing the furnishing of their house will go far to make superficial culture take root and spread.
The people in Madrid say that in the country we are stupid and uncouth; but they remain where they are, and never take the trouble to come and reform our manners. On the contrary, no sooner does any one make his appearance in the country who knows or is worth anything, or who thinks he knows or is worth anything, than he makes every possible effort to get away from it, and leaves the field and provincial towns behind him. Pepita and Luis pursue the opposite course, and I commend them for it with my whole heart. They are gradually improving and beautifying their surroundings, so as to make of this secluded spot a paradise.
Do not imagine, however, that the inclination of Pepita and Luis for material well-being has cooled in the slightest degree their religious feelings. The piety of both grows deeper every day; and in each new pleasure or satisfaction which they enjoy, or which they can procure for their fellow beings, they see a new benefaction of Heaven, in which they recognize fresh cause for gratitude. More than this, no pleasure or satisfaction would be such, none would be of any worth, or substance, or value in their eyes, were it not for the thought of higher things, and for the firm belief they have in them.
Luis, in the midst of his present happiness, never forgets the overthrow of the ideal he had set up for himself. There are times when his present life seems to him vulgar, selfish, and prosaic, compared with the life of sacrifice, with the spiritual existence to which he believed himself called in the first years of his youth. But Pepita solicitously hastens to dispel his melancholy on such occasions; and then Luis sees and acknowledges that it is possible for man to serve God in every state and condition, and succeeds in reconciling the lively faith and the love of God that fills his soul with this legitimate love of the earthly and perishable. But in the earthly and perishable he beholds the divine principle, as it were, without which, neither in the stars that stud the heavens, nor in the flowers and fruits that beautify the fields, nor in the eyes of Pepita, nor in the innocence and beauty of Periquito, would he behold anything lovely. The greater world, all this magnificent fabric of the universe, he declares, would without its all-seeing God seem to him sublime indeed, but without order, or beauty, or purpose. And as for the worlds epitome, as we are accustomed to call man, neither would he love that were it not for God; and this, not because God commands him to love it, but because the dignity of man, and his title to be loved, have their foundation in God Himself, who not only made the soul of man in His own likeness, but ennobled also his body, making it the living temple of the Spirit, holding communion with it by means of the sacrament, and exalting it to the extreme of uniting with it His incarnate Word. In these and other arguments, which I am unable to set forth here, Luis finds consolation.
He reconciles himself to having relinquished his purpose of leading a life devoted to pious meditations, ecstatic contemplation, and apostolic works, and ceases to feel the sort of generous envy with which the father vicar inspired him on the day of his death; but both he and Pepita continue to give thanks, with great Christian devoutness, for benefits they enjoy, comprehending that not to their own merit do they owe these benefits, but only to the goodness of God.
And so my children have in their house a couple of apartments resembling beautiful little Catholic chapels or oratories; but I must confess that these chapels have, too, their trace of paganisman amorous-pastoral-poetic and Arcadian air which is to be seen only beyond city walls.
The orchard of Pepita is no longer an orchard, but a most enchanting garden, with its araucarias and Indian figs, which grow here in the open air, and its well-arranged though small hothouse, full of rare plants.
The room in which we ate the strawberries on the afternoon on which Pepita and Luis saw and spoke with each other for the second time, has been transformed into a graceful temple, with portico and columns of white marble. Within is a spacious apartment, comfortably furnished, and adorned by two beautiful pictures. One represents Psyche discovering by the light of her lamp Cupid asleep on his couch; the other represents Chloe when the fugitive grasshopper has taken refuge in her bosom, where, believing itself secure, it begins to chirp in its pleasant hiding-place, from which Daphnis is trying, meanwhile, to take it forth.
A very good copy, in Carrara marble, of the Venus de Medici occupies the most prominent place in the apartment, and, as it were, presides over it. On the pedestal are engraved, in letters of gold, this thought of Lucretius: