THE DISAGREEMENT INCREASES
“Perhaps you think,” said Dona Perfecta, with a tinge of conceit in her tones, “that Senor Don Inocencio is going to remain silent and not give you an answer to each and every one of those points.”
“Oh, no!” exclaimed the canon, arching his eyebrows. “I will not attempt to measure my poor abilities with a champion so valiant and at the same time so well armed. Senor Don Jose knows every thing; that is to say, he has at his command the whole arsenal of the exact sciences. Of course I know that the doctrines he upholds are false; but I have neither the talent nor the eloquence to combat them. I would employ theological arguments, drawn from revelation, from faith, from the Divine Word; but alas! Senor Don Jose, who is an eminent savant, would laugh at theology, at faith, at revelation, at the holy prophets, at the gospel. A poor ignorant priest, an unhappy man who knows neither mathematics, nor German philosophy with its ego and its non ego, a poor dominie, who knows only the science of God and something of the Latin poets, cannot enter into combat with so valiant a champion.”
Pepe Rey burst into a frank laugh.
“I see that Senor Don Inocencio,” he said, “has taken seriously all the nonsense I have been talking. Come, Senor Canon, regard the whole matter as a jest, and let it end there. I am quite sure that my opinions do not in reality differ greatly from yours. You are a pious and learned man; it is I who am ignorant. If I have allowed myself to speak in jest, pardon me, all of you—that is my way.”
“Thanks!” responded the presbyter, visibly annoyed. “Is that the way you want to get out of it now? I am well aware, we are all well aware, that the views you have sustained are your own. It could not be otherwise. You are the man of the age. It cannot be denied that you have a wonderful, a truly wonderful intellect. While you were talking, at the same time that I inwardly deplored errors so great, I could not but admire, I will confess it frankly, the loftiness of expression, the prodigious fluency, the surprising method of your reasoning, the force of your arguments. What a head, Senora Dona Perfecta, what a head your young nephew has! When I was in Madrid and they took me to the Atheneum, I confess that I was amazed to see the wonderful talent which God has bestowed on the atheists and the Protestants.”
“Senor Don Inocencio,” said Dona Perfecta, looking alternately at her nephew and her friend, “I think that in judging this boy you are more than benevolent. Don’t get angry, Pepe, or mind what I say, for I am neither a savante, nor a philosopher, nor a theologian; but it seems to me that Senor Don Inocencio has just given a proof of his great modesty and Christian charity in not crushing you as he could have done if he had wished.”
“Oh, senora!” said the ecclesiastic.