Critics have commented on the singularity of Galdós's Un voluntario realista in the context of the second series of the Episodios nacionales210. It is surprisingly independent of the rest of the series. The three women in Salvador Monsalud's life are absent from it. The female protagonist, Sor Teodora de Aransis, appears in this novel and then disappears from the view of Galdós's readers, apart from a brief mention in chapter V of Un faccioso más y algunos frailes menos. The love interest is constructed by a bold stroke of a triangle consisting of a voluntario realista, a nun and a liberal. Of the many twists and turns of plot engineered throughout the episodios it may be that the love triangle in Un voluntario realista is the most original and ingenious of them all. Another strange feature of Un voluntario realista is that once it was written Galdós left aside the episodios for an almost unprecedented length of time within a series. The dates of composition of the last four episodios of the second series are as follows:
- El Terror de 1824: October, 1877
- Un voluntario realista: February-March, 1878
- Los apostólicos: May-June, 1879
- Un faccioso más...: November-December, 1879.
In other words, there is a gap of over a year between Un voluntario realista and Los apostólicos. We have to go to the fifth series (when Galdós was 65 and almost at the end of his writing career) to find an example of a break as long as this within a series. Why? The obvious answer is that Galdós wished to write La familia de León Roch (composed in the same year as Un voluntario realista) and sacrificed the regular pattern of composition of the episodios in order to do so. The relevance of Un voluntario realista for contemporary Spain, although set over fifty years before (in 1827) must have seemed so apposite to Galdós that he decided to continue the theme at greater length and in a contemporary setting in La familia de León Roch. In effect, this latter novel is a contemporary continuation of the more melodramatic situation portrayed in Un voluntario realista. In La familia de León Roch the protagonist finds out too late the consequences of his physical attraction to the beautiful but fanatically religious María Egipcíaca. The bitterly ironic title of the contemporary novel displays the degree of Galdós's scepticism about any possible relationship between those of liberal views and the Spanish Church of his time: there is no family relationship for León Roch (sexual attraction and money are the only bonds). In Un voluntario realista Galdós implies that no matter how fair or noble a face the Church may present (in —130→ the figure of the beautiful Sor Teodora) to fall in love with her in her present state is to leave oneself open to be used to the point of death: the experience of the voluntario realista, Pepet Armengol.
Gumersindo de Azcárate's Minuta de un testamento, published in 1876, in its portrayal of Krausist behaviour is essentially an idealistic work in which the protagonist is an incarnation of all the positive qualities of Krausism. All difficulties and obstacles that stand between the Krausist thinker and the fullest expression of Krausist belief as is possible in the Spain of the 1870's are overcome by the exercise of reason and understanding. The overwhelming sense of integrity and sincerity that pervades the pages of Minuta de un testamento is illustrated in the chapters dealing with the protagonist's conversion to cristianismo liberal211. In these chapters (II, III and IV) the word conciencia (meaning «conscience») is used 37 times. (A check throughout the Minuta de un testamento revealed a total of 57 occasions in which conciencia, meaning «conscience», was used and only a very few occasions with the meaning «consciousness».) The word is used above all to denote the primacy, freedom and integrity of conscience: that conscience assumes precedence over Church, school of thought or party affiliation (M: 127) and that it is necessary to act out this conviction in family and social relationships.
That Galdós would have been in fullest sympathy with the hopes and ideals expressed in Minuta de un testamento is beyond question, above all with the central tenet of the work: the freedom of the individual to act in accordance with the promptings of an informed conscience. Whether he would have sympathised with the manner of expression is more open to debate212. The book, «amasijo de novela, autobiografía y catecismo», as Juan López-Morillas has described it213, projects the rarified, idealistic atmosphere inherent in any work which reiterates, as often as this one does, its absolute belief in the authenticity of its own moral perceptions. The narrative style, in spite of the fictional autobiographical structure, is almost wholly a discursive monologue, with very little dramatic interaction between the protagonist and his family and the wider society beyond the latter. The result is of a single, predominant view of life which prevails over any other. It would be hard to imagine a Galdós novel written in the first person which did not involve a process of education for the protagonist through learning from past mistakes. In the novel that immediately preceded Un voluntario realista, El Terror de 1824, Galdós had attempted to give something of a liberal testament by depicting the last hours and death of Patricio Sarmiento, who, in the capilla ardiente freely disposes of advice and opinions to his adopted daughter Sola and an audience of inquisitive dignitaries and counsellors. Yet the chapters (XXV-XXIX) that describe Sarmiento's final 48 hours are shot through with the irony of his misplaced sense of self-aggrandizement: Sarmiento's reflections are as much a confession of faith and hope by Galdós as a self-important (and hence misconceived) valedictory sermon by the old teacher.
The principal divergence of view between Azcárate and Galdós may be seen in the protagonists of Minuta de un testamento and Un voluntario realista. In Minuta de un testamento he is an idealistic creation designed to promote the most positive view of Krausism. The idealism of Minuta de un testamento is reinforced rather than otherwise by the footnotes to the work, —131→ which almost invariably support in the most emphatic way what has been written in the main body of the text. The protagonist is, in effect, the fictional embodiment of the Ideal de la humanidad para la vida. Sor Teodora, the protagonist of Un voluntario realista, also transcends the ostensible subject of the novel, the so-called «Revolt of the Aggrieved» of 1827214. She not only sums up much of the ethos of the militant apostolicism of her time but is also a forerunner of the Church of Galdós's own time, converted to pacifism, but still holding power over the minds of that part of Spain represented in Un voluntario realista by Pepet Armengol. This is the reason for what at first sight may appear to be an inflated description of Monsalud in the last chapter of Un voluntario realista: «Él tenía del historiógrafo el discernimiento que clasifica y juzga los hechos, y del poeta, la fantasía que los agranda y embellece; también poseía la vista larga y penetrante del profeta»215. Is not Galdós in reality describing here his own role of historian, poet and prophet as author of the Episodios nacionales?216 We notice that history is only one element of three, and the least important: the ability to classify and judge facts. Poetry places these facts in a more universal context, and prophecy sees beyond both history and poetry to their meaning for the future. Galdós's narrative skill in presenting the love triangle in the way that he does enables the reader of Un voluntario realista to move beyond the facts of the 1827 revolt to a «prophecy» about Spanish society in the late 1870's. These concluding complimentary remarks about Monsalud, when taken in conjunction with the scene in the previous chapter, where Sor Teodora argues with her conscience, show Galdós's view that it was the Church that needed to examine its conscience, not so much in respect of the 1827 revolt (Sor Teodora's remorse for her part in this seems genuine [see chapter XVI]) but rather in respect of its reactionary attitudes in the 1870's217. It is doubtful if Galdós held out any hopes that such an examination would bear positive fruit: Sor Teodora is plunged into the «negro abismo» (101) of despair. Even if it is argued that at this point she becomes a repentant sinner within the Church, looking for «su Padre espiritual» (101), the Church, symbolised by the two old priests of the ruined monastery, pays no heed to her, because it is too busy digging Pepet Armengol's grave, thus burying the traces of the revolt that it had conspired to bring about.
Azcárate's article «El derecho y la religión» (published with other essays in 1877218) forms an interesting comparison with Galdós's attitude. Azcárate is certainly aware that in Spain the struggle for survival of the new ideas would be difficult, but the tone of the conclusion of his essay is an apt illustration of the difference in outlook between himself and Galdós:
Galdós, while doubtless agreeing with these noble sentiments, takes a more sceptical view of the position, if we are to judge by the portrayal of the character —132→ of Sor Teodora in Un voluntario realista written a year after the publication of Azcárate's article.
Juan López-Morillas coined a useful phrase to define the relationship between Krausism and literature when he wrote of the «influjo atmosférico» of the new philosophy219. The liberal ethic of freedom, tolerance and inner conviction which Krausism promoted was something that all civilized persons could accept to a greater or lesser degree. As Azcárate himself had written in Minuta de un testamento:
An example of such a convergence of ideas that may or may not constitute an influence can be seen in the Ideal de la humanidad para la vida (1860) and Trafalgar (1873). The general ideas in the Ideal de la humanidad para la vida concerning the fragmentary state of humankind, of «las particulares y hoy antipáticas nacionalidades, los pueblos y las Uniones de pueblos, separados unos de otros con límites históricos y geográficos»220, and the desire that nations should unite in the name of humanity, are echoed in Galdós's novel by young Gabriel Araceli. As a result of his experience of the Battle of Trafalgar he reflects on his own ideal for humanity, which corresponds closely (although the expression of it is naturally different) to the sentence quoted from the Ideal de la humanidad para la vida:
Dentro de poco los hombres de unas y otras islas se han de convencer de que hacen un gran disparate armando tan terribles guerras, y llegará un día en que se abrazarán, conviniendo todos en no formar más que una sola familia221.
While allowing for this general influence of a shared world picture, López-Morillas has seen in Minuta de un testamento a direct influence on Galdós's La familia de León Roch, particularly in the matter of the marriage of the protagonist of Minuta de un testamento and that of León Roch222. The former stays happily married, in spite of the religious differences between himself and his wife: Azcárate's footnote to this happy state of affairs is closely related to the situation in La familia de León Roch. In a gloss on the protagonist's phrase, «las condiciones morales de su familia» (that is, the family of the protagonist's intended wife), he writes:
In La familia de León Roch the combination of ultramontanism and moral decadence within the Tellería family gives rise to the «conflictos... insolubles» of which Minuta de un testamento speaks.
In Un voluntario realista the influence of Minuta de un testamento appears less direct. The subjects of marriage and family relationships so central to —133→ Minuta de un testamento and La familia de León Roch are absent from the episodio: in the latter none of the three main characters (Teodora, Pepet and Monsalud) has any relevant family ties at the time of the setting of the novel, and a significant part of the novel takes place in a convent. What can be seen in Minuta de un testamento and Un voluntario realista, however, are important points of convergence. No less important are the points of divergence between the two works, which shows, as does a comparison between Minuta de un testamento and La familia de León Roch, that Azcárate and Galdós could have shared general moral values and religious attitudes without Galdós's necessarily being a krausista. In general terms Minuta de un testamento is almost wholly the account of a religious conscience outside the framework of the Spanish Catholic Church, while Un voluntario realista is in part the account of a religious conscience within it. Here is the crucial difference between the works: Galdós preferred to write from within the mainstream of the realities of Spanish life.
The most important point of convergence between the two works is the emphasis given to freedom in both. Minuta de un testamento, less dramatic in nature, stresses freedom of thought and conscience. Un voluntario realista dramatises in many forms the threat to freedom posed by fanaticism. The role played by conscience is central to both works. This is illustrated in Minuta de un testamento by the repeated references to conscience, and nowhere more dramatically in Galdós's novels than in Un voluntario realista, where conscience becomes a character in the penultimate chapter. Other points of convergence will emerge in our discussion of both works.
The first crisis of conscience that the anonymous protagonist of Minuta de un testamento suffers concerns his continuance in his medical career, which in effect had been chosen for him by his parents. His medical career becomes the subject of an «examen de conciencia» (M: 103). This career is distinguished from the true «vocación» (M: 106) of the protagonist, which he feels lies in teaching and speculative research. The quasi-religious use of the word «vocación» is reinforced in footnote 26 which states: «seguir el camino que la vocación nos señala es atender a la voz de Dios» (M: 106). By contrast with the scruples of conscience of the protagonist of Minuta de un testamento, Sor Teodora in Un voluntario realista has no qualms of conscience about her convent vocation. Her background (the portrayal of which is delayed by Galdós until chapter XVI of the novel) leads her directly to the convent life: «no pensó más que en ser monja» (52). Chapter VIII of Minuta de un testamento, which deals with the parents' attitude to the choice of career of their children, suggests as positive an influence as the influences on Teodora were negative. In Minuta de un testamento the parents follow the children's choice of career «a fin de conocer su verdadera vocación y guiarles» (M: 183). With the death of Teodora's father she is reared by relations in France, «por indolencias de su madre» (52), who send her to be educated in a convent in Lérida. Thus removed from the influence of her family, both immediate and distant, she is «catequizada» (52) by the nuns and chaplain. When her decision to be a nun is known, «ninguna persona de su familia trató de contrariar esta vocación juvenil, que por lo precoz debió haber sido sujeta a observación» (52-53). The comportment of Sor Teodora and her family with respect to the —134→ former's vocation is the opposite of the concerned and scrupulous attention shown by the protagonist of Minuta de un testamento both in the matter of his own career and those of his children. Such a vocation as Teodora's, Galdós implies, was bound to be a hit-or-miss affair, the long-term results of which effectively become the principal subject of Un voluntario realista.
One of the central features of the chapters in Minuta de un testamento dealing with the protagonist's loss of his traditional religious faith is the contrast between obedience to the inner promptings of conscience and the purely external practice of religious observance (see especially chapter IV), particularly with reference to «el catolicismo al uso [...] formulario [...] litúrgico y ritualista más que vivificador y práctico» (137). This description is of a piece with the scene in chapter III of Un voluntario realista which describes the reception of Teodora into the convent. The theatricality of the ceremony (the narrator calls it an «espectáculo» ) foreshadows Teodora's future: a life to be lived by empty ceremonies. Both Bishop and priests are dressed in «deslumbradoras ropas con encajes, oro, pedrerías [que] cubrieron los encorvados hombros» (14). The postulant Teodora «vestía las fastuosas ropas mundanas [...] lujosas pedrerías adornaban su garganta y orejas, y sobre sus hombros caían los más hermosos cabellos negros» (12). The verbal similarities between both descriptions («pedrerías... pedrerías», «deslumbradoras ropas... fastuosas ropas», «los encorvados hombros... sobre sus hombros») not only suggest that the profound changes which Teodora was supposed to undergo owed more to surface than to substance, but also in the analogy between age and youth there is a suggestion that Teodora's youthful potential is about to age and wither. This latter condition of Teodora is also anticipated in the ceremony: «parecía una estatua, una mujer muerta» (12) and «la hermosa doncella que parecía muerta» (12), while later, in chapter XVI, the narrator uses the phrase «sepultada en vida» (53) to describe her life. The music played during the ceremony is of the sentimental, romantic kind. Teodora's hair is dramatically cut, which does not, according to a sister nun (71), prevent her later from putting flowers in her hair. The «palabras huecas» of the sermon about living a life of humility and penance are not relevant to the convent of San Salomó where, according to the local inhabitants, all is «bienestar y abundancia» (10). The hair-cutting ceremony has a profound effect on the youthful sacristan Pepet Armengol. He cries out against it and then loses consciousness. After some confusion the Bishop begins to laugh, and the others follow. There is a strong suggestion here that Pepet saw beyond the theatricality of the ceremony to what it really represented in Teodora's case. She would have made a good wife and mother, her conscience tells her at the end (100), and at the ceremony the narrator comments that the flowers that were on her breasts for the occasion were more at home there than where they had been growing (12), a remark meant to convey that the natural potential of Teodora is about to be wasted in the aimless self-indulgence of the convent of San Salomó. We have remarked above that Galdós delays information about the background to Teodora's entry into the convent until chapter XVI. Her precipitate entry into both the convent and the novel in chapter III is certainly dramatically effective, but is there, too, on the moral level a suggestion of impetuosity and haste —135→ about the event? Just as Teodora found out too late that she had no religious vocation, so the information that none of her family had investigated whether her vocation was true or not, comes to the reader long after the theatrical event of her reception. When we compare the whole scene with the new «profesión de fe» of the protagonist of Minuta de un testamento -made, he tells us, «después de muchas vigilias y angustias, que más de una vez me costaron lágrimas de sangre» (M: 116)- the way both Azcárate and Galdós make the same point in very divergent ways is striking.
Azcárate's view of «el catolicismo al uso» as «despertador del odio y de la guerra, no del amor y de la paz» (M: 137) is fully borne out in Un voluntario realista, in the portrayal of the convent of San Salomó. Some nuns are not on speaking terms with each other (10), and the convent plays an important part in the 1827 revolt. In chapter V of the novel Teodora and her co-conspirators are described as «asemejadas en cierto modo a espectros sanguinosos» (20), an apt description of Teodora, in the light of her enthusiasm for war expressed later in the chapter (22). The attitude to the armed forces expressed in chapter VIII of Minuta de un testamento is also to some extent reflected in Galdós's novel. In Minuta de un testamento one of the protagonist's sons contracts a passing fancy for the military life. The coincidence in character between the protagonist's son and Pepet Armengol is evident: both are of the same temperament, as the protagonist of Minuta de un testamento describes his son: «de cierto ardor bélico que hay en el fondo de su carácter» (M: 185). The one receives no encouragement, and the interest fades; the other is incited by Sor Teodora's fanatical, reactionary account (in chapter IV) of the Spain of her time, writes to her on campaign (33), and tells her at their final meeting that she was the chief motivating factor in his search for glory (93). Again we can see a convergence of view between the authors, arriving by different routes.
The exercise of freedom in many guises is a recurrent feature throughout the Minuta de un testamento. Although the topic of freedom of conscience dominates the Minuta de un testamento, particularly in chapters II, III and IV, the desirability of other kinds of freedom is also mentioned. In chapter V, which deals with the protagonist's political activity and attitudes, doubt is cast on whether the restored Bourbon monarchy will be tolerant and respectful of the law (M: 167). The coup d'état of January 1874, which paved the way for the Restoration later in that year, is roundly condemned: «Pocas veces ha sido la legalidad tan hollada por la fuerza bruta» (M: 164). In chapter VI, which deals with the protagonist's teaching profession, the importance of academic freedom is stressed.
The sense of freedom or its opposite pervades Un voluntario realista. There is a strikingly large number of scenes, arising either directly or indirectly out of the 1827 revolt, where persons are held captive by another person. Don Pedro Guimaraens is taken prisoner by Pepet Armengol, Monsalud is also detained by the latter, and by Carlos Garrote. Pepet himself is imprisoned by Jep dels Estanys. Teodora is initially held at knife-point by Monsalud, and she is also abducted from the burning convent by Pepet. The whole ambience of the revolt, with its summary arrests, expropriation of property and executions, mainly carried out by Pepet Armengol, is one of fanaticism —136→ not only in its methods of achieving its aims, but also in the very aims themselves; as Monsalud comments after his fortuitous release from detention by Armengol:
The 1827 revolt in its turn prompts a reaction from the central authority in the person of the despotic Conde de España. The paragraphs devoted to him towards the end of the novel are not idle ones. His despotic and fanatical character both within his home and outside it emerge from the anecdotes. Again, the result of incurring the displeasure of the Conde is imprisonment at least. If his wife's cooking is not up to his standards, she is put under house arrest for five or six days «con un oficial de guardia a la puerta» (89) (conduct, incidentally, that falls a long way short of the ideal for marriage expressed in Minuta de un testamento). Any citizen that cannot instantly produce a rosary for him «va derecho a la cárcel» (89). The protagonist of Minuta de un testamento tells of having fought in the First Carlist War and regrets the loss of integrity on both sides through «la consagración del principio inicuo e inmoral de que el buen fin autoriza los malos medios» (M: 158). This point, closely allied to the question of integrity of conscience, is also made by Galdós through the character of Teodora, who maintains during her conspiratorial phase that «la guerra impulsada y sostenida por un fin santo es necesaria» (22). She herself becomes a victim of the violence that she had promoted earlier. Although she gives up her interest in the revolt, the effects cannot be so easily laid aside, and in a kind of Calderonian nemesis the concentric waves that the violence produces engulf the convent, reach as high as Teodora's isolated cell, and plunge her towards the «negro abismo» of her final plight. Basically peaceful characters such as Monsalud and Guimaraens are caught in the middle of the violence and fanaticism about them. Guimaraens, described initially as a «pacífico veterano» (25), comes out of retirement after his imprisonment by Pepet and ends up being classified with other military personnel by one of the priests as «muy déspotas» (86).
The scene between Monsalud and Teodora in the latter's cell is an image in microcosm of the thrust of Un voluntario realista as a whole: that violence destroys all human freedom. Monsalud opens Teodora's cell door «con fuerza [...] poniéndole su puñal al pecho» (63). Teodora asks him to leave, saying that she will not reveal his presence in the convent. Monsalud interprets this as a gesture of generosity, gives his pistols and dagger to Teodora, eventually goes on his knees before her, and, confessing that he is a liberal, invites her to act «según lo que la conciencia le dicte» (68). The scene could up to this point be a lesson on the primacy of conscience and of non-violent attitudes. Yet as Galdós has already indicated in chapter XVI, Teodora's present religious existence is not conducive to the extraordinary act of tolerance on her part that is apparently being enacted in this scene. Her «agradables sensaciones que producen los movimientos de benevolencia en el corazón humano» (67) almost immediately give way to «abrasadora curiosidad» and later to a «tono —137→ de lástima y melancolía» (70) as she thinks of freedom outside the convent. And Galdós reminds us several times during the scene of Teodora's «soberana hermosura» (68): her «preciosa cabeza», her beautiful white hands and elegant fingers, her dark eyes and fine teeth. Such a relentless concentration on the worldly thoughts and physical beauty of the nun means that underlying the potential idealism of the scene is the reality of a personality caught up in an unequal conflict between religious duty and natural desires. The conflict in Minuta de un testamento between moral/religious duty and social pressures is only unequal inasmuch as it is always resolved in favour of the protagonist.
The principal justification for seeing Un voluntario realista as at least in part sharing the same moral atmosphere as Minuta de un testamento is the novel's unusual penultimate chapter (XXXI) in which Teodora's conscience appears as a character. Her conscience is a spectre-like figure, and it comes out of her heart as out of a tomb, a reference to the fact that in the recent past Teodora's conscience has been in a state akin to death. However, the phrases used to describe its entrance -«majestuosamente», «imponente grandor» (99)- also point to the primacy and indestructibility of conscience. A feature of the attitude of both authors to the role of conscience that may be either no more than coincidence, a shared attitude to this aspect of character, or else an influence of Minuta de un testamento on Un voluntario realista, is the manner in which conscience enters the scene in Galdós's novel: «De repente vio [Teodora] un espectro» (99). This phrase could almost be a dramatisation of Note 29 in Minuta de un testamento, where Azcárate draws a distinction between the acquisition of scientific truth and religious truth. The former process, he writes, is «continua y lenta» (M: 107), but the work of conscience «pasa bruscamente de un estado a otro estado» (M: 107). The synonymous coincidence of the words «de repente» and «bruscamente» to depict the different appearances of conscience again points to a close relationship of thought between Azcárate and Galdós. The fact that the phrase «la voz de Dios» is used by conscience in Un voluntario realista to describe itself (99) and that it is also used in Minuta de un testamento as a synonym for the same attribute may be no more than coincidence. Yet if we look at the expression in Minuta de un testamento, it is used in a context where in spite of the fact that the word «conciencia» is employed frequently throughout the work, this is the only occasion when it is stressed sufficiently strongly to warrant italics:
Apart from the dramatic entrance of Teodora's conscience in the Galdós novel, the conscience of another character, Carlos Garrote, is crucial to the direction of the final stages of the plot, and the latter can only seem contrived to the reader if conscience is not accepted as an important motivating force. Garrote is unwilling to execute his archrival Monsalud «cuando no puedo darle los auxilios religiosos [...] no quiero cuestiones con mi conciencia» (89). —138→ Whether Galdós thought this action of Garrote praiseworthy or not, it allows Teodora to bring about the substitution of Pepet for Monsalud and prepares the way for the ambiguous scene of semi-reconciliation between Monsalud and Garrote in chapter XXX of Un faccioso más y algunos frailes menos. Another strange glimpse into the conscience of a character is given to the reader when the leader of the revolt, Jep dels Estanys, is introduced. In spite of his services to the Apostolic cause, including the practice of having his troops say the rosary between battles, he appears to undergo his own version of a crisis of faith at the prospect of execution after the 1827 revolt: his «conciencia privada, digámoslo así» (43) leads him to come to blows with the priests who offer him the Last Rites.
In general the blend of optimism and pessimism in the scene between Monsalud and Garrote in chapter XXX of Un faccioso más y algunos frailes menos typifies the main point of divergence between Minuta de un testamento and Un voluntario realista. Garrote's gesture to Monsalud in Un voluntario realista and Monsalud's departure «contento» (102) for foreign parts balance to some extent the grim picture of physical and moral retribution portrayed in the characters of the Conde de España and Teodora at the end. In Minuta de un testamento the crisis of the loss of a traditional faith is transcended by a belief in freedom of conscience and personal conviction. In Un voluntario realista the crisis of a loss of vocation culminates in Sor Teodora's being plunged into the «negro abismo» of despair. Conscience in Minuta de un testamento is always obeyed; in Un voluntario realista, in Teodora's case, it is a presence to be argued with and forgotten about if possible. The scene depicting the argument with her conscience is interrupted by the noise of the firing squad assembling, and Teodora «olvidada al punto de aquel coloquio», runs to the window to watch, saying to herself: «¡si me habrá engañado Guimaraens!» (100). The implication is clear: Teodora in spite of her conscience still wishes Pepet to die in place of Monsalud. Her conscience returns immediately after the execution, but Teodora appears to be adamant in denying it. Her reply, that justice has been done, is given «con agonía de moribunda» (100), a hint, possibly, that her despair will end in death. Another possible ending, madness, is suggested at the end of the chapter: «Sor Teodora sintió, no ya una voz, sino mil voces en su alma, y un horroroso sacudimiento y estallido como si parte muy principal de ella fuese arrancada por violenta mano» (101)223. The tone here is a marked contrast with the final position of the protagonist of Minuta de un testamento, serenely disposing of his goods and counsels in preparation for death.
The outcome of Galdós's novel portrays Teodora's moral collapse before the prospect of Monsalud's death and suggests the primacy of conscience over all forms of casuistry and self-interested reasoning. Although Teodora's conscience does not reveal to her that she has morally if not physically prostituted herself with Pepet to achieve her aim of saving Monsalud, the scene in chapter XXX between Pepet and Teodora shows how she plays with Pepet's worshipful attitude to her. The words and phrases of Teodora to Pepet: «posesión» (93), «poseído» (95), «el ardor de tus sentidos» (95), «todo eso que has deseado, todo eso que has soñado» (96), «me tendrás por los siglos de los siglos» (97) and «te amo» (98), leave us in no doubt that —139→ she uses the sexual power that she has over Pepet to further her own ends. Galdós reinforces this self-condemnation with other telling details, unimaginable in the former relationship between Pepet and a nun of Teodora's stamp: «[Teodora] dejó caer su afligida cabeza sobre el hombro del guerrillero» (94), «le puso ambas manos sobre los hombros» (96), «la monja le estrechó en sus brazos» (96). Pepet, for his part, seizing the opportunity, «le tocó la barba» (96), kisses her hands «con delirante ardor» (97) and «asía con fuerte mano los brazos de la monja» (97). Surely in this scene Galdós has come as close as he could to suggesting that Teodora here has prostituted herself. Knowing her true feelings for Pepet -she describes him earlier in the scene as a «reptil despreciable» (95), «sapo», «bestia», «pobre insecto» and «murciélago asqueroso»- the bad conscience of her mystical surrender to him is all the more evident.
The difference finally between Minuta de un testamento and Un voluntario realista is between the portrayal of a good conscience and the portrayal of a bad one. While each author in his different way gives an equal importance to conscience in the respective books, in the last analysis it may be that this point of divergence outweighs the points of convergence between the works: the importance of inner conviction rather than outward ceremony, the sharing of attitudes to violence, the importance both works give to freedom, and the paramount role of conscience, continually referred to by Azcárate, and dramatised by Galdós at a crucial stage in his novel. In this emphasis on bad conscience in Galdós's novel it may also be possible to see in Un voluntario realista the first (possibly unconscious) part of a reply to Minuta de un testamento by Galdós. The full reply was to begin immediately after the completion of the episodio, when Galdós would attempt to show the reality of Spanish life in a contemporary, family setting in La familia de León Roch, whose protagonist would be a realistic reply to the perfect family man who is the protagonist of Minuta de un testamento.
Trinity College, Dublin