2. Anglès [Fragment from Bearn]
[…] Femininity today is an exquisite and necessary product and it must be seen and enjoyed close up, by which I mean in total calm. The years, in disabusing us of the illusions of Love-Out-Of-Curiosity, make us appreciate the infinite variety of love-as-custom or, if we prefer, love-in-miniature. "What will you see somewhere else that you don't see here?" Kempis asks. "The Dutch Masters, in this understanding, painted with miniaturist procedures or, in other words they did exactly the opposite to what these painters of the horrible Barbizon School, which is so much the rage today, are doing. They didn’t have to go looking for "interesting" themes as in an adventure novel because everything one looks at attentively is interesting."
As I was reading these pages written just over a year ago, God in His mercy opened up my heart to hope and I go on believing that there must exist some mysterious law that prevents the separation in the other world of two beings that have truly loved each other in this. In Book VIII of Metamorphoses, when Jupiter wants to reward Philemon and Baucis because they have helped him in the belief that he was a beggar, he gives them the same ending, turning them into trees so that they could take root together in the same place.
"“Of course this law must exist", my protector sometimes said. "Nothing can be overlooked in Heaven. If they invite a married lady then perforce they'll have to invite her husband too."
"As long as his conduct doesn't make him unworthy" I replied.
"If he's been that bad …"
The whole problem rested precisely on that.
I've already said that he hardly ever got into arguments because he was essentially stubborn by nature and, since he was also sceptical, he found it unappealing to amend in a conversation "all the errors accumulated over the experiences of centuries", as he put it. Then again, who has not had irrational convictions that have sometimes turned out to be well-founded? Some fifty years ago, George Sand found the people of Mallorca uncultured because they believed that tuberculosis was contagious. Pasteur and Koch have proved that these ignorant peasants were right after all. My protector himself, who was so liberal, had his own taboos and dogmas – not many, but they were unshakeable – that could not as much as be mentioned. Did he not categorically refuse, one memorable night when we were sitting around the fireplace, to satisfy Donya Xima's curiosity? I refer to the Dolls' Room, a sad point in Bearn's history to be sure, but how many other scabrous events are not mentioned in the Memoirs, which he has ordered to be made public!
As far as I have been able to make out through half-uttered words and a document that was mislaid in an old accounts book, at the end of the eighteenth century don Felip de Bearn, a cavalry captain and one of the young "lions" at the court, who had been transferred to Aranjuez, became friendly with an Italian adventurer who made toys and dressed dolls – "exhibiting more than twenty" – according to the document – "right there in the flag room of the barracks …" The document also reveals that, "He made all the dresses and the lace trimmings with his very own hands…" When he was expelled from the army, despite all the efforts of the Prince of Peace, who tried to get him to abandon this strange obsession, he was secluded in Bearn, where he spent the last years of his life under the sway of his madness. He wrote a great many letters and it seems he corresponded with the Court of Charles IV and that of Frederick of Prussia. Nonetheless, my protector does not mention these facts in the Memoirs. Only in the last chapters, does he offer a few general reflections about effeminate behaviour, which he believes to be a romantic degeneration, and these might help one to divine what he thought of his forebear at the time of writing. "When I was at school", he says, "I was well aware that some of my classmates who often went around with dolls were said to be effeminate. As an adult, I observed that the most virile fellows used to go to the brothels to insult the whores and throw the furniture into the street. They always had it in for me after the night I disappeared with a blonde girl … My conduct was attributed to fear because these debauches, besides being disagreeable, were dangerous, and my sense of comradeship was found wanting as well. 'You will understand' they told me, 'that, among men, first things first …'"
"Perhaps they were right, but if we think that the Universe is curved and that hake bite their own tails, we might also come to the conclusion that an excess of virility could lead to sexual perversion. There is no doubt that it is better not to be dogmatic about such matters. In the eighteenth century, there were colonels who could embroider while at once being perfect gentlemen."
I have emphasised this last sentence since this is perhaps the only allusion that my protector made to the distasteful affair. This is a matter of some psychological complexity because it seems that the day after a visit by a well-known gentleman of the City, don Felip was found at the foot of his bed and it is said that he met a violent end.
(From Bearn, 1980, p. 156-158)
Translated from the Catalan by Julie Wark ©