Our Friend Manso

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

VI
HER NAME WAS IRENE

HER PALLOR and her slightly wandering, anxious glance-- probably the result of malnutrition; her inhibited and shy demeanor, as if she were extremely uncomfortable doing the errands her aunt entrusted to her; all this awakened in me a great pity for her. So it was that, besides the alms for Doña Cándida, I got into the habit of keeping a supply of sweets in my desk. Supposing that the urgent appetites of childhood were rarely satisfied in her, I gave her those treats without making her wait, and she would take them with unconcealed eagerness, thanking me shyly, and start to eat them immediately. I suspected that this haste in the enjoyment of my little gifts derived from her fear that, if she reached home with candies or sweets in her bag, Doña Cándida would want to share in them. Later on I learned that I had not been mistaken in that opinion.

I can see her now, beside my desk, peering over books, manuscripts, papers, reading some of each thing that she found. She was twelve then, and in little more than three years she had overcome the obstacles of primary education in some private school or other. I used to have her read aloud, and I was amazed at her intonation and her confidence in reading, as well as her ability to understand the ideas. She was never stopped by an unusual word or an obscure phrase. When I asked her to write for me, so that I could see her penmanship, she would write my name in the elegant strokes of English calligraphy, and add underneath: Professor.

As she talked with me and answered my inquiries about her studies, her life, and her probable career, she revealed to me a grade of discernment beyond her years. She bore the outline, already, of a lovely, decent, intelligent woman. What a pity if, by harmful influences, her proper development should be twisted or ruined before reaching its appropriate maturity! But I could see in her spirit some admirable resources for defense and an embryonic sort of will-power, constituting a foundation for great rectitude of character. Her ability to see beyond the obvious was remarkable

-29-

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