Our Friend Manso

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

XIII
SHE WAS ALWAYS PALE

AS PALE AS SHE HAD BEEN as a child, with a good figure, quite slender, narrow-waisted, and extremely well-proportioned in all other parts, admirable in form and with an air about her . . . Without being a beauty of the first order, she was probably a delight to all who saw her; she certainly delighted me. She even charmed me a little, to put it plainly. One certainly might make critical observations regarding her separate features, but what professor of aesthetics could be so rigid as to criticize her general expression? I have reference to that tremulous surface of her soul which one saw in her every part and yet nowhere, always and never, in her eyes, in the echo of her voice, in places she was and where she wasn't, that glint of the air around her, that empty place she left when she went out. Her air was, to speak plainly, the sum of all those things in her which bespoke contentment with her lot and the serenity and firm temper of her spirit. At the very center of all her self-expression I could see her pure conscience and the rectitude of her moral principles. Everyone has a nature and a style; the former may be observed in one's character and actions, the latter not only in language, but in manners and dress as well. Irene's dress was proper, stylish, and without affectation, simple and neat enough to withstand the most searching critique.

Right from my first visits and inspections I was taken with her good common sense, her precise knack for seeing the things of this life and for putting at a respectful distance the things pertaining to another life. Her aplomb bespoke a superior and wondrously balanced nature. She seemed like a woman from the North of Europe, born and reared far from our enervating climate and this wicked moral atmosphere.

As soon as the children went to sleep, Irene would withdraw to the room Lica had set aside for her in the house, and nobody would see her until first thing the next morning. Tlhrough the mulatto girl I found out that she spent part of those nighttime hours caring for her things and mending her

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