Beyond the orchards are the vineyards and olive groves that provide the staple crops of the region. A sanctuary consecrated to the Virgin Mary, the patroness of the village, sits on the summit of a neighboring hill, while another small hermitage crowns a smaller hill called Calvary. The ruins of the ancient convent of Saint Francis de Paul are two miles away. The mountains of the Sierra Nevada form a backdrop to the scene.
In spite of all the ostentatious trappings of Roman Catholicism that surround the village, its inhabitants are not entirely disconnected from their ancestors’ pagan past. The festival of Saint John’s Day, which replaced more ancient celebrations associated with the summer solstice, is still tainted by paganism and primitive naturalism; the whole population moves out-of-doors, moving among little tables laden with confections and booths selling dolls and toys. The village clubhouse is thoroughly secularized; men go there to read newspapers, play cards and chess, and to watch cockfights, while wine-buyers from Xeres strike deals there. It is in the clubhouse that Luis confronts the count of Genazahar, beating him at cards and then wounding him in a duel.
Pepita’s house. Home of the young widow Pepita Jiménez; a fine house situated in a small estate that became prosperous due to the exceptional thriftiness of Pepita’s uncle and her late husband, the petty capitalist Don Gumersindo. The house is in two parts, each with its own door. The door of the “dwelling-house” opens into the paved and colonnaded courtyard, giving access to the parlors and other family apartments, while the door of the “farmhouse” opens to inner yards, giving access to the stable and coach house, the kitchens, the mill, the wine press, the granaries, the storerooms and wine cellars.
The dwelling-house is very clean, modestly furnished, and filled with houseplants and caged canaries. At the beginning of the story the main room has a small altar bearing a carved image of the infant Jesus, about which a great many wax tapers are always burning. Pepita, who regularly entertains the local doctor and notary, as well as the vicar, hosts a social occasion at the Feast of the Cross, involving a solemn ceremonial dance.
Pepita’s personal retreat is a “study” or “library” on the upper floor, adjacent to her bedroom. It has a mahogany bookcase and table as well as a writing desk set on a smaller table; its walls are adorned with religious engravings. It is there that Pepita’s crucial confrontations with Don Pedro and Luis take place. After their triumph over convention, the room in which Pepita and Luis first meet is transformed into a “temple” with a portico and white marble columns; it contains two sumptuous pictures, one representing Psyche’s discovery of Cupid, the other a scene from the ancient Greek Longus’s pastoral romance Daphnis and Chloë (which Valera translated into Spanish), but pride of place is given to a copy of the Venus of Medici, with an inscription taken from the Epicurean poet Lucretius.
Pepita’s garden is a tract of land at the foot of a waterfall in a sheltered ravine, where Pepita cultivates strawberries, vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, peppers, walnuts, and figs. She hosts a seductive banquet there.
Don Pedro’s villa. House on the bank of the Pozo de la Solana, two leagues away from the village, which is approached by a bridle path. The sight of Pepita on horseback on the way to the villa inspires Luis with a strong desire to learn to ride.