Monday, June 14, 2010

Translation: La Camisa de Margarita

Margarita’s Nightgown (La Camisa de Margarita) by Ricardo Palma (from Peru)
Margarita and Luis
When the spinsters of Lima wanted to protest the price of something expensive, they would say: “Well! This is more expensive than the nightgown of Margarita Pareja!” I was curious to know who this Margarita with the famous nightgown was, and one day in Madrid I found an article that told the story that you will now read.
Margarita Pareja was, in 1765, the favorite daughter of don Raimundo Pareja, the tax collector of the port of Callao. The girl was one of those very Limeñitas whose beauty could captivate even the devil. She had a pair of black eyes that were like torpedoes loaded with dynamite and could explode the hearts of any young men in Lima.
One day, a young arrogant man came from Spain. He was the son of Madrid, called Don Luis Alcázar, and he had a bachelor uncle who was very rich and therefore very proud. Even so, until the occasion to inherit his uncle’s money came, our don Luis lived as poorly as any rat.
In a church procession,
Alcázar met the beautiful Margarita. The girl dazzled him and pierced his heart with an arrow. He courted her and, though she would not answer him with a yes nor with a no, she told him with smiles and with other feminine guiles, that he pleased her. And the truth is that they fell completely in love.
Don Raimundo's Resistance
Just like lovers forget that arithmetics exist, don Luis believed that to marry Margarita in his poverty would not be a problem, and went to her father without hesitating to ask for his daughter's hand.
But don Raimundo did not like this idea and he politely dismissed the young man, telling him that Margarita was too young to marry because despite of her eighteen years, she still played with dolls.
But this was not the real reason. In truth, don Raimundo did not want to be the father-in-law to a poor man, and he said so to his friends, one of whom went to tell the gossip to don Honorato, who was the uncle from Aragon. He, who was more proud then El Cid, became furious, and said:
“What! To reject my nephew! So many l
imeñitas would love to marry this boy. There is nobody better in all of
Lima. What insolence! Who does that damned tax collector think he is?”
Margarita, who was very nervous, screamed and pulled out her hair, became pale and thin, and talked of becoming a nun.
“To Luis or to God!” she screamed every time she got more nervous, which happened with every hour. Her father became alarmed, called a few doctors, and all of them said that the problem was serious and that the only medicine that could save her could never be bottled or sold. He could marry her to the man she loved, or burry her. Such was the medical ultimatum.
Don Honorato's Agreement
Don Raimundo, forgetting his cape and his cane, ran like a madman to don Honorato’s house and said to him:
“I come to you so that you will consent to marry your nephew with my Margarita this very morning, because if you do not, the girl will die.”
“This cannot happen,” answered the uncle coolly. “My nephew is very poor, and you’re looking for somebody rich to marry your daughter.”
The dialogue was violent. The more don Raimundo begged, the more proud and angry the uncle became. The father was about to leave without any remaining hope when don Luis intervened, saying:
“But uncle, it is not right to kill her who has no fault.”
“Do you consent to marry?”
“With all my heart, uncle.”
“Well then, boy, to please you I consent, but with one condition: don Raimundo must swear to me that will not give a centavo to his daughter nor give her a coin of inheritance.”
Here the discussion began again and grew even more agitated.
“But my good man,” argued don Raimundo, “my daughter has twenty thousand duros in her dowry.”
“Renounce the dowry. The girl will come to the household in nothing other than the clothes she is wearing.”
“Allow me at least to give her furniture and the bridal trousseau.”
“Not a pin. If you do not agree, you let the girl die.”
“Be reasonable, don Honorato. My daughter needs to bring at least one other nightgown to replace her old one.”
“Very well, I consent to this so that I cannot be blamed of being obstinate. You may give her the bridal nightgown and nothing else.”
The Bridal Nightgown
The following day don Raimundo and don Honorato went to the church of San Francisco very early to hear mass and, to follow through on the oath, Margarita’s father said:
“I swear not to give anything but a nightgown to my daughter. God condemn me if I fail to keep my word.”
And don Raimundo fulfilled his oath most literally because not in life nor after it did he give to his daughter a single centavo. But the laces that adorned the bridal nightgown cost one thousand seven hundred duros. Moreover, the collar was studded with diamonds that cost thirty thousand duros.
The newlyweds let the uncle believe that the nightgown was of little value; because don Honorato was so stubborn that if he had learned the truth, he would have forced the two to divorce.
And so, we can agree that Margarita Pareja’s nightgown deserves it’s fame.