(Essentials of European Literature)

Marcelo, an epicure of Madrid, received eight or ten letters from his eighty-year-old uncle, Celso, who lived in the mountains of Santander. Celso was alone in the world, and his thirty-two-year-old nephew Marcelo was his nearest relative; he wanted the young man to come to live with him. More out of pity for the old man than anything else, one October day Marcelo took the train for the heart of the Pyrenees. He was met by Chisco, a servant who explained in dialect that old Celso was the mayorazgo and a kind of beneficent patriarch of the mountain region.

Celso lodged Marcelo in a room used by the Bishops of Santander and Leon. On the first evening Marcelo met the rather unintelligent village priest, Sabas Penas, who had three different personalities: one for the Church, another for the mountains, and the third for the kitchen of the Celso manor house. Pedro Nolasco, a hugh mountaineer, was another of the group. They talked about the simple pleasures of the region, none of which appealed to Marcelo, who, having sowed his wild oats in various parts of Europe, preferred the theaters and cafes of big cities. He foresaw monotony. The Tablanca house provided bread baked twice a week and one kind of meat, with occasional fresh milk. He could return to Madrid, however, only if he deserted his relative and his own obligation to carry on the family estate, or if the old man died.

Marcelo’s first taste of rural wholesomeness was an exhausting climb to the loftiest peak in company with two hardy old citizens. More agreeable was the cordiality of the community, evident after he met Dr. Neluco and other villagers who idolized old Celso and worried about his wasting cough and worsening condition.

In the evening tertulias at the Big House and during his excursions through the town, Marcelo expressed and...

(The entire section is 747 words.)