Doña Pepa, at her brother's instance, sold one piece of land after another; but even such remittances were often long delayed; and then, instead of eating in the trattoria, near la Scala, with dancing students and the more successful of the young singers, they would stay at home; and Leonora would lay aside her scores and take a turn at cooking, learning mysterious recipes from the old danseuse.
And the lad's imagination, hasty and illogical in its decisions, used to envelop his godfather in a halo of historic interest, similar to that of the conquerors. At the stroke of the twelve o'clock chimes Labarta, who never permitted any informality in table matters, would become very impatient, cutting short the account of his journeys and triumphs. "Doña Pepa!... We have a guest here."
Doña Pepa was the housekeeper, the great man's companion who for the past fifteen years had been chained to the chariot of his glory. The portières would part and through them would advance a huge bosom protruding above an abdomen cruelly corseted.
Without answering a word, Mateo stopped, and in proportion as the other spoke, slowly raised the muzzle of his gun so that it was pointing upward when the Adjutant joined him. "Good-day, brother," said the Adjutant, holding out his hand. "It is a long time since I have seen you." "Good-day, brother." "I stopped while passing, to say good-day to you and to cousin Pepa here.
"I am ill, Esteban, very ill; these bellows let out the wind in every part." Then, as though repenting his forgetfulness, he suddenly asked: "And Pepa, your wife? I hope she is all right." The brows of the Cathedral servant contracted, and his eyes became bright as though full of tears. "She died," he said with laconic sadness.
"Suddenly she seemed to understand, and an outburst of laughter swelled her fleshy neck. "'The deuce!... How amusing you are! And with what a face you say all these things! Just like the priest of my home town.... "No, Pepa, I'm serious. I believe you're a good girl; you don't realize what you've gone into, and I'm warning you. You've fallen very low, very low. You're at the bottom.
This was the only secret that Ramel jealously concealed, and which no more than two or three of his oldest friends knew anything about, and while he hesitated about spending twopence on himself, and went to the Institute and to the Chamber of Deputies outside an omnibus, Pepa led the happy life of a millionaire who is not frightened of the to-morrow, and brought up her son like a little prince, with a tutor and three servants, who had nothing to do but to look after him.
Their Faith is very different from what it was, and the lower Sort of People, who alone adhere to the Tenets of Suesi, are entirely recovered from that stupid Obedience formerly paid to the Pepa, who, having made the World believe, that the Keys of Paradise were in his Hands, required an implicit Compliance with his Decrees, and be ready to second any Scheme of his Revenge or Ambition, with their Lives and Fortunes.
Poor Leonora entered on a life of wrong through the open door, learning, at a single stroke, all the turpitude acquired by that shrivelled maestro during his long career back-stage. Boldini would have kept her a pupil forever. He could never find her just well enough prepared to make her debut. But hardly any money was coming from Spain now. Poor doña Pepa had sold everything her brother owned and a good deal of her own land besides. Only at the cost of painful stinting could she send him anything at all. The Doctor, through connections with itinerant directors and impresarios
"Doña Pepa!..." The two old people were thee-ing and thou-ing each other with the tranquil non-morality of those that realize that they are very near to death, and forget the tremors and scruples of a life crumbling behind them.