There was once a student in Tuy who was so very poor that, if faith in Providence be not reckoned, he possessed no riches. But Juan Rivas was endowed with a wonderfully fine gift of ingenuity, and although he was somewhat behind in the payment for the Masses on behalf of his predecessors, and even more so with his mundane creditors, still was he a man who meant well and would do the right thing if he only had the opportunity. To the man of the world there is no greater pleasure than to pay his debts, for by so doing he increases his credit. Juan Rivas would willingly have paid every creditor had his pocket been as full of the wherewithal as his heart was of gratitude for small mercies; but there is no difficulty about showing one’s self desirous of satisfying one’s debts—the only difficulty generally rests in being able to do so. At college he had proved himself a good scholar and a true companion; but as he could no longer contribute toward the support of his college, his college could not be expected to support him. His long black cap, his flowing robes, his pantaloons, and his shoes were altered in substance, and so was Juan Rivas. Finally he became reduced to his last maravedi, and as his friends could no longer assist him, he thought it was high time he should assist himself.
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Charles Sellers is Professor of History Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. His two-volume biography of President James Polk won a Bancroft Prize in 1967.
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