Patrañas; or, Spanish Stories, Legendary and Traditional | Annotated Tale

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Pedro Jimenez Grape, The

THERE was a well-to-do vine-grower named Pedro Jimenez, who cultivated a small tract of land on which his fathers had lived for many generations before him, and had been known throughout the district for men of undoubted pundonor, by which word Spaniards express the most scrupulous nicety of honourable conduct. Blessed with all other worldly advantages, Pedro Jimenez had one great trial--he had no child to whom to transmit the name he had received from his predecessors, and himself borne so creditably. When he reflected on this, there was one thought in the background which used to distress him. There was living at a sufficient distance to be quite unknown to his neighbours, a poor relation of his wife, whom he assisted frequently in secret; but he had never let the knowledge of the humiliating circumstance transpire. Yet he knew that this poor hard-working man with difficulty kept his family above want; that the greatest delicacy in which they could ever indulge was the dish popularly called duelos y quebrantos (sorrows and troubles), a stew made up of the poorest odds and ends and leavings [1], in bitter mockery of the favourite Spanish olla podrida, which is a compound of the most succulent meats and vegetables.

               Conscience would whisper in Pedro Jimenez's ear, "Here, in this poor fellow's son, is an heir whom you may adopt; take him from the present temptations to discontent and dishonesty with which privations ply him, and bring him up according to the traditional maxims of your house." But when he thought of the details of bringing the ragged lad to his respectable homestead, and the neighbours pointing to him as the relation of the wealthy Pedro Jimenez, his courage failed him, and he turned from the idea. So years passed by, and this thought remained the weak point of Pedro Jimenez's otherwise irreproachable character.

               One evening, as he was strolling through his vineyard, admiring the beautiful clusters of grapes which were his riches for the coming year, he was disturbed by the mournful howling of a dog, proceeding from the road-side at no great distance. His kind heart prompted him immediately to follow up the sound, and he was not long before he came upon a saddening sight. On the ground lay the prostrate form of a delicate youth, foot-sore and travel-worn, and now brought to a state of unconsciousness through exhaustion; by his side there lay a large shaggy dog of pitiable aspect; his bones almost protruded through his skin, his eyes were glassy and wild, and he trembled in every limb. His melancholy howling grew fainter and fainter, and by the time Pedro Jimenez got up to the group, he saw he was past the reach of help; with one more distressful howl, he rolled on his back and expired, having spent his last breath in summoning aid to his young master!

               Pedro Jimenez lost no time in raising the youth in his arms, and bearing him to his own comfortable home, where his wife's kindly care soon restored him to animation. Refreshed by her attentions, he was soon able to tell his tale; and what was the surprise of the good couple when they learnt that the poor child they had so charitably entertained, was no other than the son of their poor relation. Nevertheless his history was a sad one. His father and mother had both fallen victims to an epidemic disorder in their village; kind neighbours had taken in the younger children, a convent had provided for two older girls; and the eldest boy, having been used to labour all his life, had manfully resolved to be a charge to no stranger, but had set out to seek the advice and direction of the only relation he had to look up to, in finding work by which he could support himself, and lay by enough to portion his younger sisters. As the weary boy told his tale of domestic heroism, Pedro Jimenez's better nature stirred within him. He no longer stifled the dictates of conscience, no longer suffered himself to be governed by a false and foolish fear of human respect, but took his young kinsman by the hand, told him he was proud of his spirit, and that as Heaven had denied him direct heirs, he would henceforth make it depend entirely on his own good conduct to become the heir to his comfortable competence.

               The orphan lad was overjoyed at the prospect. In his little world the name of Pedro Jimenez had all his life stood as the embodiment of all that was respectable, and desirable, and worthy of imitation. To be suddenly elevated to the position of aspiring to one day himself inheriting that honoured name, with all its contingent advantages, was greater happiness than he had ever dared to entertain in his wildest dreams.

               Pedro Jimenez had every reason to be satisfied with the decision he had come to. All the neighbours who were sufficiently men of worth to make their opinion a matter of consequence, far from looking down on him for the disclosure, warmly applauded his generosity; and in return for the few worthless ones whose acquaintance he lost by it, he won for himself the affection of a devoted son. The old man had never known a greater pleasure than that he now found in taking his adopted child out with him day by day, and instructing him in all the various arts of treating the vine--the mode of planting and culture, the vintage, the pressing of the grape, and the disposal of the wine; and to all this, his young charge listened with an earnestness and intelligence that repaid all his care. His frugality, and industry, and straightforward manly conduct on all occasions--his almost feminine kindliness of manner in supplying to the best of his power the offices of the old wife, when God took her home, all rendered the old man quite easy as to the future successor to his name.

               At last the time came when Pedro Jimenez the elder, full of years and honour, was called to his account; and as his adopted son turned to meet the desolation of the lonely house, there was one thought of consolation to gild his bereavement, the sense that he could make his whole after-life a token of obedience to the upright maxims of his benefactor, in whose stead he now stood.

               While our hero had been living in rustic tranquillity in the remotest part of the south of Spain, great events had been stirring Europe. The tumultuous tide of the French Revolution had overflowed the Peninsula. I will not detain you with any thing you can consider a dry epitome of history. Suffice it to say, that in consequence of the troubles in which his country was involved, young Pedro Jimenez was called to join the army.

               Having felt, as I hope you have, some interest in the honest pride with which he was on the point of entering on his inheritance, I am sure you will sympathize with the sadness of heart which now overshadowed him as he was obliged to abandon his fair homestead just as it had become his own. "It is well the old man never suspected it would come to this! ... and then peace must come and restore me to my home some time or other," he used to say to comfort himself during the weary march or tedious drill. There was, however, yet a heavier trial in store. It was the policy of the intruded French ruler to send away the native troops out of their country, and replace them with French troops. Now it happened that Pedro Jimenez was attached to the regiment of General Romano, which was one of those selected for foreign service. Ordered to the banks of the Rhine, poor Pedro Jimenez seemed farther than ever from the fulfilment of his darling hopes. He had perhaps felt the defence of his country some compensation for the separation from home; but to fight for the unjust aggressions of one who was the usurper of the throne of his native land was surpassingly hard. When not joining his comrades in lamenting their hard fate, he would wander over the country, trying to find any incident which might remind him of his beloved Andalusia. His attention was thus arrested by the vines which he found growing on the heights around. The knowledge of the subject he had acquired during so many years' apprenticeship, and under so experienced a master, now proved invaluable. His practised eye readily distinguished among the varieties presented to it a superior variety adapted to the soil and climate of Andalusia, and he determined, whenever Providence was pleased to give him an opportunity of returning, that he would provide himself with the means of propagating this stock in his own plantation.

               Nor was this opportunity very long withheld. General Romano, though scarcely taller than the length of an ordinary man's arm [2] bore in his little body a large and loyal heart: by dint of persevering efforts, he succeeded in making a way of escape for his whole regiment, shipped them, and carried them safely round to a friendly port of Portugal, and thence draughted them all back into Spain, where they did good service under Wellington.

               Pedro could hardly believe his ears for joy, when the mysterious order was transmitted to him, to prepare for the secret return: yet he did not in his transports forget the coveted vine. The plant thus obtained, tended and preserved with much care and anxiety through the voyage, might still have been condemned to perish, had he been called to active service; but the rough life and the long voyage had impaired his health. After several months in hospital, during which time, you may be sure, he did not neglect his precious plant, he was sent home invalided.

               He found his own viña in a sad state of neglect; but his native air having soon restored his strength, he was able within a few years more, not only to bring it round again, but also to produce a goodly show from his newly imported vine-stock. And from this vintage it is--the Rhenish stock planted in Andalusian soil, and cultivated with tender care and intelligence--that we get the choice variety of sherry wine (you can ask Papa to let you taste it some day at dessert) called "Pedro Jimenez."



[1] There is so little trace of flesh meat in it that it was allowed on fast-days. 

[2] Tamaño como del codo á la mano.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Pedro Jimenez Grape, The
Tale Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel
Book Title: Patrañas; or, Spanish Stories, Legendary and Traditional
Book Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel
Publisher: Griffith and Farran
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1870
Country of Origin: Spain
Classification: unclassified

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