“I loved you before I had even seen you, and if you had not come I should have died of grief. Mamma used to give me your father’s letters to read, and he praised you so much in them that I used to say, ’That is the man who ought to be my husband.’ For a long time your father said nothing about our marrying, which seemed to me great negligence. Uncle Cayetano, whenever he spoke of you, would say, ’There are not many men like him in the world. The woman who gets him for a husband may think herself fortunate.’ At last your father said what he could not avoid saying. Yes, he could not avoid saying it—I was expecting it every day.”
Shortly after these words the same voice added uneasily: “Some one is following us.”
Emerging from among the oleanders, Pepe, turning round, saw two men approaching them, and touching the leaves of a young tree near by, he said aloud to his companion:
“It is not proper to prune young trees like this for the first time until they have taken firm root. Trees recently planted have not sufficient strength to bear the operation. You know that the roots can grow only by means of the leaves, so that if you take the leaves from a tree—”
“Ah, Senor Don Jose,” cried the Penitentiary, with a frank laugh, approaching the two young people and bowing to them, “are you giving lessons in horticulture? Insere nunc Meliboee piros; pone ordine vites, as the great singer of the labors of the field said. ’Graft the pear-tree, dear Meliboeus, trim the vines.’ And how are we now, Senor Don Jose?”
The engineer and the canon shook hands. Then the latter turned round, and indicating by a gesture a young man who was behind him, said, smiling:
“I have the pleasure of presenting to you my dear Jacintillo—a great rogue, a feather-head, Senor Don Jose.”
THE DISAGREEMENT CONTINUES TO INCREASE, AND THEREAFTER TO BECOME DISCORD
Close beside the black cassock was a fresh and rosy face, that seemed fresher and rosier from the contrast. Jacinto saluted our hero, not without some embarrassment.
He was one of those precocious youths whom the indulgent university sends prematurely forth into the arena of life, making them fancy that they are men because they have received their doctor’s degree. Jacinto had a round, handsome face with rosy cheeks, like a girl’s, and without any beard save the down which announced its coming. In person he was plump and below the medium height. His age was a little over twenty. He had been educated from childhood under the direction of his excellent and learned uncle, which is the same as saying that the twig had not become crooked in the growing. A severe moral training had kept him always straight, and in the fulfilment of his scholastic duties he had been almost above reproach. Having concluded his studies at the university with astonishing success, for there was scarcely a class in which he did not take the highest honors, he entered on the practice of his profession, promising, by his application and his aptitude for the law, to maintain fresh and green in the forum the laurels of the lecture-hall.