“I don’t know whether I can go,” said Caballuco. “As I am in hiding now I cannot measure my strength against Don Jose Poquita Cosa. If I were not as I am—with half my face hidden, and the other half uncovered—I would have broken his back for him already twenty times over. But what happens if I attack him? He discovers who I am, he falls upon me with the soldiers, and good-bye to Caballuco. As for giving him a treacherous blow, that is something I couldn’t do; nor would Dona Perfecta consent to it, either. For a stab in the dark Cristobal Ramos is not the man.”
“But are you crazy, man? What are you thinking about?” said the Penitentiary, with unmistakable signs of astonishment. “Not even in thought would I advise you to do an injury to that gentleman. I would cut my tongue out before I would advise such a piece of villany. The wicked will fall, it is true; but it is God who will fix the moment, not I. And the question is not to give a beating, either. I would rather receive a hundred blows myself than advise the administration of such a medicine to any Christian. One thing only will I say to you,” he ended, looking at the bravo over his spectacles, “and that is, that as my niece is going there; and as it is probable, very probable, is it not, Remedios? that she may have to say a few plain words to that man, I recommend you not to leave her unprotected, in case she should be insulted.”
“I have something to do to-night,” answered Caballuco, laconically and dryly.
“You hear what he says, Remedios. Leave your business for to-morrow.”
“I can’t do that. I will go alone.”
“No, you shall not go alone, niece. Now let us hear no more about the matter. Senor Ramos has something to do, and he cannot accompany you. Fancy if you were to be insulted by that rude man!”
“Insulted! A lady insulted by that fellow!” exclaimed Caballuco. “Come that must not be.”
“If you had not something to do—bah! I should be quite easy in my mind, then.”
“I have something to do,” said the Centaur, rising from the table, “but if you wish it——”
There was a pause. The Penitentiary had closed his eyes and was meditating.
“I wish it, Senor Ramos,” he said at last.
“There is no more to be said then. Let us go, Senora Dona Maria.”
“Now, my dear niece,” said Don Inocencio, half seriously, half jestingly, “since we have finished supper bring me the basin.”
He gave his niece a penetrating glance, and accompanying it with the corresponding action, pronounced these words:
“I wash my hands of the matter.”
FROM PEPE REY TO DON JUAN REY
“ORBAJOSA, April 12.
“MY DEAR FATHER: