“You, for so many years,” the notary said after a brief pause, “were friends, and more than friends, inseparable companions of Bernaregui: you who, with your industriousness, intelligence, and endearing affection, helped you build your fortune and knew so much. Like himself, the businesses of the house and the prosperous state of his textile factory, you will remember that he honored me with his friendship and that he had all his confidence in me, sure that I never had, for anything or for anyone, to miss her. »
“It’s true,” Puig answered, “I’ve always heard him speak in the most respectful terms and I’ve always heard him praise his honest honesty and the beneficial influence that your advice and practice in business have exercised over most of his speculations and projects.
A sign of Benito’s assent and a movement The gratitude of the notary responded simultaneously to the interruption of Puig.
“You will not be surprised,” continued the depositary of public faith, “that for the functions of my ministry, as well as for the true and selfless friendship that united me with Bernaregui, I am much more aware than you of some circumstances of your life and of the march of a completely private affair that trusted my honesty and my silence.
“He was not the only son of Bernaregui of his honest parents, but he was the first-born, and if they had possessed a fortune, he would have been exclusively entitled to it according to our regional legislation. But those parents, who wanted Joaquín deliriously and who were perhaps somewhat unfair to Miguel, his second son, did not leave the two brothers when they died, more than what was necessary to bury their parents with decency and to dress mourning by his death. regulatory.
»Ten and seven years old Joaquín and fifteen Miguel when they were orphans; but such was the difference of their characters, of their likings and even of their physiognomies, that no one, not knowing it, would have had them as brothers. As Joaquin knew and regretted his parents’ preference for his brother, and attributed to this unjust inequality almost all of Miguel’s defects, all his effort and his only desire was to make him forgive his father’s mistakes and achieve his affection and his eternal ones sacrifices to conquer that heart that had always remained closed to brotherly love. He told him to choose a career, he paid private teachers, dressed him with luxury, surrounded him with comforts, satisfied all his whims, and while he saved the last cent and lived miserably killing himself to work without truce or rest, his brother lived in idleness, acquired vices , he contracted debts, he became a brawler, a gambler and a cheat, and deaf to advice and blind to examples, he threatened to be a criminal, a bandit.
»To say to you the sorrow of Joaquín Bernaregui; refer to them the times that, taking him out of the hands of tahures and busconas, he waited in his amendment and despaired to see his constant recidivism, it would be the story of never ending. Suffice it to say that one day Miguel disappeared without his brother participating in the place where he was going to fix his residence and without leaving him two words to express his gratitude and affection, and that this misfortune was for Joaquin, in spite of himself, the basis of his fortune and the source of his eternal misery. ”
“Of your eternal happiness, you have meant,” exclaimed Benito, interrupting the notary.
“I have meant, gentlemen, what I have said. Poor Bernaregui was always unhappy, and if you remember well the details of his character, and if they have not explained their deep melancholy and have not known how to realize the true illness that he took his life, today, out of sad necessity for me and for the circumstances that oblige me, I will draw back the veil that covered, even in the eyes of you, your true and only friends, that unhappy existence.
»Ten years are usually very short term for inactive or lazy men who do not know how to take advantage of them; but for an active nature, for an entrepreneurial character, for a vehement and persevering soul to the pair, qualities that are rarely seen together, ten years are almost a life. In them, and thanks to the luck that helped in this occasion to Bernaregui’s intelligent work, he was the owner of the factory that still bears his name, beloved of those who treated him, considered in commerce and cited in Barcelona as a model of honesty , industriousness and success in their companies. He was thirty years old, and when he met them and when he saw himself the owner of a modest fortune, he thought for the first time of sharing it with an honest woman who would carry his name with dignity,
»Little can understand of feminine ailments who consecrates his life to the constant work of work. He requires love, as a selfish tyrant, the complete abstraction of occupations and thoughts, and he does not usually give his confidence, nor open the key of his secrets and his pleasures, but he who renounces for him and for him all other passion, another employment and another objective. The women they are only passionate about those who dedicate their time and energies to them almost completely, and the honest Joaquin had already spent a third of his life in the material and moral struggle for existence without knowing what love was and without knowing half of the human race that inspires him. That was his first mistake. He wanted to find, at the first exploration in that world unknown to him, a good woman, loyal, honest and loving, and adorned in his imagination with all those qualities to the first pretty face he encountered on his way.
»Completely ignorant of the moral world in everything that is related to the reciprocal life of the two sexes, had not had time to even know, no longer to study it, the problem that about marriage existed before Dumas son made him his own , and the classification that of the women had made the philosophers of all the countries and of all the times before giving it to the stamp the author of the Divorce . Joaquín did not know that women are divided into three categories:
»And that to make mistakes with each other, and to choose one of the companions who have been born to have no partner, or of those who drag their lives being all of them, is a mistake that can not be corrected except with death, in the countries Catholics, lle goes with the misery of man, the destruction of a home and the ruin of a family.
“That thirty-year-old man, whose heart, virgin to love, began to beat with such greater violence the longer he had lived limited to carry out his physiological functions of cardiac muscle; whose robustness had developed in the hygienic gymnastics of work and continence; whose imagination had broken only in dreams the fence that separates the daily practice of life, the phantasmagorical illusion of the unknown; that man, in short, in the fullness of his strength, his sensations and his desires; that honest, methodical and willing merchant of good, fell in love with all the forces of his heart and his spirit of a beautiful young woman, without goods of fortune and whose antecedents, if not scandalous and proven perverse, were not as clear of suspicion as he deserved the innocent simplicity of his lover.
“But who dares to draw back the blindfold of love, and to accuse without evidence as clear as the light of the sun to which it is the object of adoration, and which, knowing its decisive influence upon a heart in love, must have how many means and resources to be victorious, and to turn into mortal enemy of the man who adores her who dares to indicate her as not worthy of public esteem and to legitimize her passion with the holy sacrament of marriage?
“I myself, at whose news some first adventures of Pilar Suárez had arrived, which was the name of Joaquín Bernaregui’s girlfriend, I dared one day to beg her to try to restrain her passion, and to spend some time examining that woman’s brief past. that she was not even twenty years old and that not everyone who knew her spoke with respect. I even dared to tell him that, living Pilar’s relatives in a small village on the Levante coast, and having said to her many times that only incompatibility of characters separated them, it was fitting that he himself should go and speak with them, without notifying the interested, and acquire there reliable data about their life and their customs. He rejected my advice, ignored how many warnings more or less muffled some colleagues did,
»Thus, one day Miguel Bernaregui reappeared in Barcelona, without warning his return, as he had not warned his departure: he learned what Joaquín was referring to, he knew the state of his fortune, his love relations with Pilar, the planned link of both, and without giving himself, no longer offended, but almost aware of such events, he showed up at home of his brother as the prodigal son, asking forgiveness of his past wanderings and promising him an amendment that was to make the happiness of all.
“But the prodigal son of the Bible was falsified. Perhaps among the rags of his misery, in the horrible twilights of a thousand days without bread, among the murderous mists of that America where he had dragged the ten years of his sterile youth, he felt the spark of remorse and the longing of the peace of the conscience and well-being of the body. It is possible and even probable that, when disembarking in his homeland, those ideas will come to want to seize his brain; but a sad, brutal, frightening fact had plunged him back into the perversity of his past. His brother, the one who was going to forgive him, to open his arms, to install him in his own house, to give him participation in his labors and in his joys, the one who was to leave him all his fortune, had decided to marry; he had already chosen the mother of his children,he , the only heir, the legitimate successor of the rich and celibate merchant. He again heard, after twenty-eight years of struggle, the terrible curse that had presided over his birth. He was the second son , the pariah, the eternal beggar; and now without hope, without probabilities, without amendment in Mane , Texel , Phares , of his destiny.
His dismay was terrible, his resolution quick and sublime for the genius of evil that dictated it. If he had possessed the quality of value, which is not usually to miss the great criminals, the death of his brother would have been decreed and carried out with the dagger or the poison; but practical in the horrible sides of existence, he thought that the moral stabs are as safe as those that can be done with a sheet of Albacete, and does not run with them the danger of the code and the punishment of human justice.
»This is in case the wounded person realizes the hand that hurts him, which does not always happen, because the circumstances surrounding the crime and the skill and hypocrisy of the criminal can keep the victim away from even the slightest suspicion of who It may have been his executioner.
“In the plan that Miguel conceived, two solutions were presented, and both, calculated with the perverse coldness of an inveterate hatred, assured him of the future of perpetual impunity and the possession of the fortune of the unfortunate innocent he cherished with the warmth of his bosom. to the viper that was to kill him with his incurable poison.
»Let’s see your project. Above all, and as a basis for his subsequent resolutions, it was necessary to conquer Pilar’s love, a company he judged, and rightly so, not very difficult, given the young woman’s background and the difference that for a girl of little austere principles had to exist among the honorable slave trader of labor, always busy in business and unaware of the superficial, but pleasant trifles of love, and the man running in love conquests, owner of all his time, and practical in handling the advantages that idleness, the treatment of people and the knowledge of human weaknesses can give a man on a superficial woman and friend of material pleasures. If Joaquín Bernaregui, simple, serious, rich and unfamiliar with the feminine heart, was the beautiful ideal of the husband, Miguel, skull, elegant, audacious and passionate, he was the model of lovers. Of course, if he had presented himself to Pilar as an aspirant in her hand, she was not so foolish and so devoid of practicality that she would have preferred her future husband; between the two brothers the choice was not doubtful. Applying to men the classification that Dumas makes of women, Joaquín was the man of the home, Miguel the one of the street, and Pilar had a very perverted heart to not be satisfied with the first and to stop seeing the second with pleasure. It could be at the same time, if the circumstances pushed her to such extremity, lover of the second and wife of the first. Miguel was not wrong in his judgments, nor saw his projects fail. The land was purposely for the seed that he thought to throw in it, and the harvest was soon to be collected.
»He did not need to use all his resources for that conquest. Two or three lectures alone, some insignificant gifts and opportunely offered, and most of all a vehement passion, perfectly feigned, and a relentless audacity siva for the young women who are soothing and intoxicating and irresistible to almost all women who have already known the pleasure of the senses, made the seductive owner of that beautiful young woman, chosen by Joaquin to be the guardian of her honored name and the priestess of your home.
How could the loyal one, the noble heart of Joaquin, ever imagine that his own brother, the one who owed him everything he was and how much he could be in the world, and the woman who was going to change his modest position, almost miserable, for public consideration and the fortune saintly acquired, mocked, offended and found in his holy purpose the safeguarding of his crime and the impunity of his crime?
“The infamous could taste at ease all the joys of their criminal passion; they could well surrender to all the extremes of an unworthy love: they were more sure of the innocent honesty of the victim than of their well-thought-out precautions. Even the change of behavior that apparently took place in Miguel was a new link in which Joaquin fell. There is nothing to say about Pilar: for women like her, pretense is trivial, and the greater the offense they make to the man they deceive, the greater the ability to feign affection, tenderness and sympathy. Happiness Joaquin never was happier, he was never more sure of his happiness on earth, than during those few months that were to precede his marriage. God, compassion Without doubt, his past sufferings and rewarding his industriousness, his beautiful thoughts and his beautiful soul, already gave him on earth the prize that he rarely grants to the good before opening the golden doors of his enduring heaven.
“And here are the two solutions foreseen by Miguel in carrying out with as much ease as perversion the conquest of his future sister-in-law. If chance or deliberate purpose made his brother discover the criminal loves and the unprecedented betrayal of those who offended him, the moral stab was given. Would the blow be quite effective to drag Joaquin to suicide or to natural death, as a logical result of one of the most horrible disappointments of existence? And if so, what after all was only a credible presumption, would it not be possible, and even as logical as the fact itself, that the mortally wounded, the victim in the end of such odious maneuvers, disregarding the advice of his Christian resignation, revenge of his assassins disinheriting them at the time of his death, and bequeathing all his fortune to the first stranger, or to the pious establishments, casting aside their iniquitous plan and their infamous calculations? This solution, then, was discarded by mutual consent by the two lovers, who took extreme precautions so that their guilty love would be secretly enveloped in the deepest mystery.
»The other solution, if longer term, of safer success in life and then in the possible death of Joaquín, was to put those relationships in perpetuity. If the marriage had children, legal children should always be the husband, and therefore heirs of all his fortune, if great then, greater than sure in the future. If he did not have them, everything depended on the skill, the deceit, the hypocrisy of Pilar. Who has more right to the husband’s inheritance than the faithful, tender and loving wife?
“They did not count, however, with what later they called an unforeseen coincidence and it was nothing but a logical result of their actions. Life perpetually offers examples of similar cases. The same criminals, the great thinkers, as the statesmen, incur blunders completely indisputable even in the eyes of fools, madmen and children. In their vast projects, in their scientific lucubrations, in their deep calculations, they measure and weigh all the difficulties, combine all the elements, foresee all the eventualities, tie in order, as it is commonly said, all the ends, and let loose the most simple, the most natural, the one that before any other should have been planned and calculated.
And that is why human self-love, which never wants to declare itself defeated and less convinced of its ephemeral success, appeals to its late and sterile defense to mutable fate, and calls blows of chance and fatality of circumstances to what it should recognize as own awkwardness and like crazy instability and certainty of human calculations. That is why doom is the goddess of the proud and Providence the God of the humble. That is why those who do not conceive that their talent is so clumsy and their knowledge so useless, call their mistakes the book of destiny; and those who do not trust themselves to be correct in the calculations to which the events of life give rise, see in all the results of their mistaken judgments the finger of God.
“How could the two lovers not foresee, despite all their calculations, despite all the combinations of their infernal project, which embraced so many and so many different probabilities, the simplest, the most natural, the easiest of avoid all? Human incomprehensible blindness, which was to compromise the success of all his plans and to overthrow in a moment his laborious machinations!
»Pilar was pregnant. If the wedding was not celebrated quickly, the compromise solution was, if not impossible, very difficult. To delay with feigned reasons the marriage and to appeal to the resource of a disease to seek, under the pretext of needing the native airs and the hygienic life of the countryside, a safe home where to leave secretly in the power of their relatives the proof of their disgrace, was also exposed to a thousand adventures. Those relatives, who were not after all more than a cousin of Pilar’s mother and his wife, could not have great affection for those who had voluntarily exempted themselves from their advice and moral protection, living to their liking, free and not with excessive modesty, from the age of sixteen; that is, from the time when he most needed the protection and vigilance of honest relatives. If the news of her niece reached her ears, they were not to reassure the scruples of a people who were moderate in their habits and firm in their beliefs, and they had motivated the coldness of that family affection to the point that both were written in the solemnities of Easter and celebration of births, how would receive the host and how was it to make discreet accomplices of their dishonor and their infamy?
“If upon hearing of her niece’s upcoming marriage to the honored and wealthy Bernaregui, they had dared to answer her that before giving her hand she confessed all her imprudence or lightness that could have compromised her name, and swore in the hands of her future husband the firm purpose of the amendment, not assuming, however, guilty of complete and transcendental errors, but repeated coquetries and courtships, how to count on them so that in his honest home that indelible swoon would fall, and even more so, that by hiding from the whole world the lack of his niece, they would help her to deceive villainously the worthy man who would receive her later on the altars as an honest maid and worthy wife to bear his name?
»This was impossible, absurd, unrealizable. And how, having family or persons of her that could accompany her on another trip to more distant climates, she had invent the medical prescription of that healing plan, if she lacked the means to perform it alone, and it was not natural for her future brother-in-law to accompany her? What if Bernaregui resolved to leave his factory in order to accompany his fiancee, to see for himself how he was cured of that sudden and incomprehensible illness?
“Decidedly, the best, the most opportune thing to conjure up all the dangers of that terrible situation was to force Bernaregui to accelerate the wedding. On what found that desire, little excusable in an honest young woman? By what means to get the same boyfriend who proposed to Pilar the swift celebration of the marriage agreed for a few months later, and for which, believing it relatively distant, there was nothing arranged?
“This was the difficult question, and the accomplices appealed to resolve it to an ingenious resource. Two anonymous letters were written, one addressed to Bernaregui and the other to Pilar. It is clear that the redaction of both was in charge of Miguel, and that they were later found evidence of their guilty collusion.
»The one addressed to the bridegroom was conceived in these terms:»
As he said these words, the notary drew a wallet from his pocket and two letters from it, which showed by their color and the sign of their folds that had been read frequently. He unfolded the first one and read the following:
« Mr. D. Joaquín Bernaregui.
“A loyal friend, who owes you many favors and is interested as is just for his happiness, warns you that there are those who want to take from you the love of their bride; that gathers attractiveness of youth and wealth, and uses all your time, which you have plenty, to assert your personal merits, and that if you out of apathy or too much confidence delay to achieve the happiness you expect, it is possible that when you decide to claim the promises of the woman she worships, it’s too late to get it. ”
“The second anonymous was of another kind, and he had to give margin, if Bernaregui did not give importance to the first, to a sensible and dignified resolution apparently on the part of the bride.
»This was the second.»
The notary opened another letter and read it:
“Adorable Pilar: I am too much a man of the world to fall into the trap you have tended to fools, believing in your announced wedding with Bernaregui. Your loves are too public, and your interviews too secret, not to discover their true significance. And since your irresistible beauty and natural aspirations make it worthy of a much more brilliant position and of a more positive future than that offered by a modest merchant, I hasten to confess my amorous passion. I am extremely rich, free, young, and I have a noble title. I have no family to whom to give an account of my actions; my immense possessions in France and Italy offer you safe and lavish asylum on our honeymoon, and from them you can choose the one you like best as a wedding gift . If one day, which is not credible, you or I were convinced that we could not be happy prolonging our union, it would always remain for you, instead of an abhorrent lover, a superb fortune, legally constituted as a dowry the day before get on the road.
»A flower pot placed tomorrow on your balcony will indicate to me that you accept my proposals in principle, and will authorize me to ask you for an interview with the witnesses you choose, so that in it, and listening to the immense love that I profess it, decide your luck and mine. ”
»Between the two letters there were four days to pass: it was not possible to wait any longer; time was urgent, and before taking another extreme determination, it was convenient to see the result of the two anonymous.
»The one who received Bernaregui did not give a solution to the matter. The merchant was very careful not to read Pilar, and only stated that it would be advisable to set the date of his marriage herself, within three or four months. Of course, they would start choosing fabrics for the trousseau , they would take care of the furniture that Pilar wanted to have for her dresser, and nothing else. Of the anonymous nor a word. The heart of Bernaregui to conceive the slightest suspicion regarding the selfless and faithful love of his future; and if unfortunately he had entertained an offensive doubt about her, his punishment was to devour her in silence and not to offend an honest woman with infamous suspicions.
The one who received Pilar would perhaps have produced no effect either, to be delivered by it to his future; but it took another path that, although longer, should bring the desired term sooner.
»Pilar, who did not frequent the confessional, went to him nevertheless in the time that marks the maximum Father Ripalda, and did not have to comply very well with the precepts of the sacrament of penance when, counting to his confessor, the same morning he received the anonymous, all his false life and hiding the true one, asked him for advice in that tribulation. She swore and protested that she was honest and for nothing or for no one wanted to stop being one: that she loved Bernaregui and that she only wanted to be a wife; but that the duration of their chaste relations, the loneliness in which he lived, and perhaps the difference of fortune of both boyfriends, gave rise to the bad judgments of idle or ill-conceived people. In a situation so delicate and exposed for its honor, since it authorized the first daring to disrespect it and to the consideration that virtue deserves,trousseaux and furniture for after celebrated, and finish like this suddenly and for always with slander and audacity. She should not do it out of decorum, but a priest was not in that case and could and should propose it for the good of all.
»The confessor fell into the trap: he approved the discreet and Christian resolution of his penitent, dried his tears, and determined to fulfill the duties of his ministry, described the matter as urgent and went quickly to the house of Bernaregui.»