“The door of the room was suddenly flung open. The defeated poet made his appearance; he was quite pale but apparently calm. Nevertheless, I perceived at the first glance that his calmness was assumed, and that the smile which contracted his lips closely resembled that of a condemned man who wishes to die bravely.
“A gleam of joy illuminated Clotilde’s face. She rose swiftly and flung her arms around his neck, saying in a broken voice:
“’I have ruined you, my poor Inocencio, I have ruined you! How generous you are! But listen, I swear to you, by the memory of my father, that I will atone for the humiliation you have just suffered.’
“‘There is no need for you to atone, my dear girl,’ replied the poet, in a soft tone under which a disdainful anger could be felt, ’my family has not achieved its illustrious name through the intercession of any actor. From this day henceforth I gladly renounce the theater and all that is connected with it. Accordingly,—I wish you good-day.’ And, unclasping the arms that imprisoned his neck, and smiling sarcastically, he retreated a few steps and took his leave. Clotilde gazed at him in a stupor, then fell unconscious on the divan.
“At the sight of her in such a state I felt my blood take fire, and I followed the young man out. I overtook him near the stairs, and, grasping him by the wrist, I said to him:
“’A word with you. The first thing that a man has to be, before he can be a poet, is a gentleman,—and that is something you are not. Your play was hissed because it lacks the same thing that you lack,—and that is a heart. Here, sir, is my card.’”
“And did you not send him your seconds, Don Jeronimo?” inquired the medical student.
“Silence, silence!” exclaimed another of the group, “here is Clotilde.”
And, in fact, the charming actress at that moment appeared in the doorway, and her large and sad black eyes, all the more beautiful beneath her white Louis XV coiffure, smiled tenderly upon her faithful friends.
CAPTAIN VENENO’S PROPOSAL OF MARRIAGE
Pedro Antonio de Alarcon
“Great heavens! What a woman!” cried the captain, and stamped with fury. “Not without reason have I been trembling and in fear of her from the first time I saw her! It must have been a warning of fate that I stopped playing ecarte with her. It was also a bad omen that I passed so many sleepless nights. Was there ever mortal in a worse perplexity than I am? How can I leave her alone without a protector, loving her, as I do, more than my own life? And, on the other hand, how can I marry her, after all my declaimings against marriage?”