The old man and the girl

Old precisely … no. But compared to her, yes; it could be his father. That was enough for the two to be separated by an abyss of time; and like them, her mother and the world, who let them walk together and alone through theaters and walks, without distrust or suspicion of any kind. He was his mother’s cousin, and the mother, thinking that, as boys, they had been somewhat boyfriends, consequently concluded that leaving her daughter entrusted to that contemporary of hers did not offer any danger, nor could she give malice to say.

Years and years they lived like this.

If you want to figure out what he was like, remember Sagasta, not how he is now, naturally, but how he was there, for the days when he said he was going to “fall on the side of freedom” … without breaking any fibula, back then . Don Diego had more correct features than Don Práxedes, but I do not know what elegant, sympathetic melancholy himself. His hair was still black, with something gray just in a loop, over his right temple. In that concealed curl there was a singular graceful sadness, which mysteriously harmonized with the look between mocking and loving, somewhat tired, and sad, with resignationtion that godliness and experience give. He was tastefully dressed in the elegance of his age.

She … was as pretty as you want to imagine. Brunette or blonde, it doesn’t matter. Sweet, serene, with balanced moods, yes.

They returned from the Retreat on an afternoon in September, when the day died. They had been in a gathering in the open air, surrounded, while they were occupying strollers, by a half dozen worshipers that Paquita never lacked. They were all young men of a few years; very chosen gummy, as it was said then, of the finest society. They were not Senecas, nor had they roasted the butter. One by one, isolated, they did not cloak. All together, they seemed repeated echoes of the same insubstantiality. It was difficult to distinguish them, despite the physical differences.

Paquita, upon reaching the Puerta de Alcalá, took hold of the arm of his harmless friend, who came a little worried, somewhat moved, but not with sad thoughts.

“But, you see, I must be condemned to a perpetual baby?”

“Like babies?” Eduardo is at least twenty years old and Alfredo is nineteen.

“You see what roosters!”

“And what do you want your roosters for?”

The two were silent. Don Diego knew too much that Paquita did not like the few years. Of this they had spoken a thousand times, with the great satisfaction of the very sly friend, and, as the girl’s street tutor.

Several boyfriends had known Don Diego a Paquita; as he was her confidant in such cases. But the innocent loves of that girl always lasted, little, and they deepened almost nothing in her spirit. Out of vanity, out of curiosity, to please the mother, who wanted relationships that were formal and would ensure a secure position for her daughter, Paquita admitted those amorous flings; but, strictly speaking, she had never yet been “what is called in love.” This too Don Diego knew; and she often repeated it to him, almost proud of that way of feeling hers, and she said it over and over again to her friend and Mentor, as one who insists on a charity work.

In so many years of intimate life, of constant familiarity, never from Don Diego’s lips had a word come out that Paquita could take for the daring of a gallant with pretensions. Instead, their common life was full of eloquent silences; and in the indispensable contacts in walks, theaters, churches, dances, etc., etc., nor had there ever been dishonest gestures, not even insinuations that the young woman could have led to a bad part, she had had, on both sides, unconfessed delight .

Paquita noticed that the boyfriends changed and the old friend was always the same. Without telling them, they both knew that the other was thinking this; that the nameless contract of their strange friendship was much more serious than the girl’s fleeting, almost childish love affairs.

The two of them knew something else: that Paquita In all that the meticulous conduct of Don Diego was worth, who had never, neither with an apology for the great desire nor with an apology for the insidious occasion, had he succumbed to the temptations that the intimate and continuous treatment made him suffer. Never the smallest outrage … and that coldness and apathy not even the most blind could point to them as the cause of that sublime prudence. He and she remembered the kisses that when Paquita was a child, a girl at all, she gave to the good lord, and that had ended, never to return; and Don Diego had been the first to renounce, without explanation, it is clear, such a royalty.

“Why have you quarreled with Periquillo?” The old man asked the girl on one occasion.

—Because he insisted that I be out on the balcony during the dead hours, watching him walk the street, and I didn’t want to … because I was bored.

And they both laughed out loud, thinking of that singular way of loving her boyfriends that Paquita had.

That afternoon Don Diego returned very happy, to himself, because in the gathering, in the open air, in the Retreat, he had displayed his wit, with great naturalness and modesty, at the expense of those poor seven-month-olds. Paquita had admired him, casting sparks of contained enthusiasm from her eyes; well he had repaired it. That is why he returned so satisfied … and with a diabolical temptation, that He had had a thousand times, but he had always resisted … and now he did not believe he could resist.

They arrived at the Prado and it occurred to Paquita to sit there again. The afternoon, now near dark, was delicious; and the girl declared that she was sorry to go home so soon, to miss that twilight, that sweet breeze …

They sat very alone, with no living soul to notice them.

They spoke with great heat, both very happy, without knowing why, their eyes in their eyes.

“What are you thinking about?” Asked Paquita, seeing Don Diego suddenly lost in thought.

—Hey, Paca … Who in the world is the person, not counting your mother, that you trust most?

“Who must it be?” Your.

“Well, then …” and Don Diego began to say some things that astonished the girl. He spoke a lot, with a lot of passion and a lot of circumlocution. We are more in a hurry and less qualms, and we have to say it all in a few words.

It went something like this: Don Diego proposed that they play a game that was delightful, but which only two people of different sex could play, if the game was to be funny, and that they trust each other at all. It was necessary to give each other a word, each one sure that the other would fulfill it, not to draw any practical consequence from that game; that’s why it was game. The thing consisted in confessing to each other, without reservation of any kind, what each one thought and felt and had thought and felt about the other; it bad, no matter how bad, good no matter how good it was. And later, as if nothing had been said. He should not be offended by the unpleasant, nor take advantage of the pleasant.

Paquita was like scarlet; I felt a fever; he had understood and felt the deep and malicious moral voluptuousness, that is to say, immoral, of the game that the old man proposed. Everything had to be said, everything that had been thought, at any time, anywhere, on the occasion of that friend; how many scenes the imagination had drawn, making him appear as a character …

Paquita, after looking purple, went pale, got to her feet, wanted to speak and couldn’t. Two tears came to her eyes. And without looking at Don Diego, she turned her back on him, and with a slow step began to walk home.

The frightened old man, horrified by what he had done, followed the poor friend; but without daring to mate with her, behind, like a servant.

He did not dare to speak to him. Only, upon reaching the portal of her house, did he dare to say:

“Paquita, Paquita, what have you got?” Hey: What have you got? What have I done to you? What will mom say? …

Without answering him or moving her head, she shook it slowly with a negative sign.

No, he would not speak: his mother would not know anything … But when he reached the staircase he ran, ran up as if fleeing, knocked on the door of his house in a hurry, and when they opened he disappeared, and closed in a hurry, leaving out the miserable Mr. Diego.

Who went out into the street in confusion and shame, And when he saw two of the order in a corner, he was tempted to tell them:

“Take me to jail, I’m a criminal; my crime is one of the ugliest, of those whose hearing has to be held behind closed doors, out of respect for modesty, for honesty …