Our Friend Manso

By Benito Pérez Galdós; Robert Russell | Go to book overview

IV
MANOLITO PEÑA, MY DISCIPLE

DOÑA JAVIERA WAS A WIDOW. (I'm troubled by all those w's but I can't do anything about it.) Her establishment had had a great prosperity under the management of her deceased husband, a man of much probity who was very clever in matters having to do with horn and hide. He was a shrewd businessman, a Castilian of the old school; a man who could hold his liquor and was a wildly passionate devotee of the bullfight. He died at fifty of an intestinal blockage. When I first met Doña Javiera four years had passed since that misfortune, and she must have been about forty. About that same time neighborhood gossip had her linked illicitly with Señor Ponce, who had been a comic-opera baritone; a fellow of a certain flash and good figure but by then quite past his prime. He was a complete idler, though he boasted of certain mechanical skills that were of no use to anyone, unless one counts the man's own eager impatience and everybody else's complete boredom. The fellow would spend the whole blessed day at Doña Javiera's house, working either on a great cardboard palace to raffle off, or on a huge complicated wire cage that he would never finish. It was a copy of the Escorial, made of wire. He was good at making repairs, and had a mechanical jigsaw that he used to put together all sorts of trinkets made of wood or veneer or ivory, all very fussy and in bad taste, useless and never finished.

But let's leave Ponce and move on to my disciple. Manuel Peña was of such good character and such clear intelligence that I saw right off that it wouldn't be an onerous task to get rid of his bad habits, which in any case were the result of his hot-bloodedness, his generosity and noble instincts, that impulse toward the ideal which shows such a strong profile in the character of young people. His bad habits resulted, too, from his temperament, somewhere between strong-nerved and sanguine; from his spendid health and good humor, which kept him safe from depression; and, finally, they came

-18-

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