Our Friend Manso

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

XXIII
HISTORY ON A SLIP OF PAPER!

WHO EVER HEARD of such a wild idea? Just too many whims lately, it seems to me. First she wants the Grammar of the Royal Academy, a book she scarcely understands; then it's pencils and drawings she doesn't use; one day she wants poems in Asturian dialect and then a new song by Tosti. And now the history of the Alfonsos on a slip of paper. Who ever heard of such a thing? I really must say that reason is not completely in charge of her actions, and that the determination of spirit I thought I saw is not there; nor do I find that scorn for frivolity and whimsy that so pleased me when I did find it. But the strange thing is that in spite of her having lost, in my view, some of the unusual qualities I supposed her to be gifted with, my strong attraction to her has not diminished in the slightest; quite the contrary . . . It appears that the less perfect she is, the more womanly she becomes; and the further she falls short of the ideal of my dreams, the more I love her, and . . .

That's what I was thinking that night. Deep in abstract thought, I was staying away from the group. And the next day I was fully engrossed in an academic matter which had me running for hours from pillar to post, from the Rector's office to the Division of Public Instruction. I attended a luncheon given by my students for three professors, and before going home I made a stop at my brother's house, where I learned a stunning piece of news, which Lica related to me in full detail. Manuel Peña and the Marquess of Casa-Bojío had exchanged very bitter words the previous night. It was a question concerning good manners which soon brought in the matter of class distinctions and then personal remarks; the three things became one, and it was now necessary for the two young men to crack each other's skulls with swords or guns on what is called the field of honor. Peña's sharp, provocative phrases in that ill-fated argument, and his refusal to clarify them, made a duel unavoidable.

José María had tried to fix things up, racking his brains for some for-

-114-

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