The Ghost of a Grudge
(El fantasma de un rencor)
by Juana Manuela Gorriti
Translator’s note: this story directly follows “El emparedado” (In the Wall). Canon B. contributes his own story of a coincidence to the group of ten people trapped together by a winter storm.
Eight years ago I was the curate of Lurin, and I was called to administer the sacraments to a young woman dying of consumption. They had brought her to Lima in the hope of a cure; but the inexorable illness continued its fatal course, and carried her away.
Such an angel of candor, virtue, and resignation! She withdrew from life with a serene spirit, regretting only the pain of those who wept over her.
But there was one black spot on her immaculate soul: resentment.
“But my daughter, you must cast out from your heart everything that might displease God, who is waiting to receive you into his bosom: you must forgive,” I told her.
“Father, I have already forgiven him,” the dying woman answered, “he is my brother and my fraternal love has never been denied. But in the name of heaven, don’t force his presence on me, for it would kill me!”
“That sin is called rancor,” I said with severity, “and I, who receive your confession, I, minister of God, adjure you in His name to call your brother and give him the kiss of forgiveness.”
“Let the will of God be done,” the young woman murmured, lowering her pale brow. And I had a man from the house sent immediately on horseback to Lima.
The sick woman had been a brilliant jewel of society, envied for her beauty and her virtues. She had always received indifferently the tributes of the numerous pretenders who aspired to her hand, but had finally fixed upon a young soldier, brave, handsome and well-liked. He, unfortunately, aroused the emnity of his fiancee’s brother over a political question. Nothing is as bitter as a party hatred; and if the officer sacrified his own for the affection of his enemy’s sister, the brother forbade her from receiving the officer, turned the family against him, and broke off the desired union.
The young officer, desperate, committed suicide; the poor girl was dying, and the brother, surrendering to deep remorse, bitterly regretted the fatal madness that drove him to cause such disasters.
While my envoy was on his way to Lima, the patient went into delirium.
“Don’t come here, Eduardo,” she said in labored tones, “I want to die in peace; and your presence, your voice, the voice that condemned Enrique, would keep me from pardoning you.”
“He is coming!” she went on, in terror. “Murderer of Enrique, go away, flee, or receive my curse!”
This exclamation was accompanied by a scream that brought her family to gather around her bed.
“What is it, Rosalia? Rosalia, how do you feel?” they asked her.
“Help!” the sick woman cried, “Help Eduardo, whose horse was frightened by my shroud and has just thrown him to the ground where he lies senseless!”
“She is delirious!” they said to each other, “and she won’t be able to receive the sacraments!”
Soon after, my envoy arrived alone.
“The horse he was riding was frightened while passing through a stand of willows at the outskirts of the town, reared up and threw him against a wall. It left him senseless, and I’ve come for help in reviving him and bringing him here.”
They did indeed bring Eduardo, already recovered from his fall.
At the sight of him the delirium cleared from the sick woman’s mind; she recognized her brother and held out her arms. The rest of her resentment melted away amidst tears and fraternal kisses. Leaning back against her brother’s breast, she received the sacraments and in his arms exhaled her last breath.
* * *
The young women cried while listening to the canon’s sad tale.
“Good heavens!” exclaimed one young lady, “these priests’ stories have infused such a strong odor of sanctity into the atmosphere. We must neutralize the incense, saturate it with essence of roses. And if it’s about coincidences, that is one of many.”
“Let the new age speak,” responded the vicar, with a roguish wink.