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to sweep away entirely all our military preparations. And all this,
which could be scattered in a couple of days, what sacrifices it costs
the country!"

"Then," said the cadet ironically, "I presume we must suppress the
army, and leave the nation undefended."

"As things are to-day there is no hope of that happening. As long as
all Europe is armed and the smallest country has an army, Spain will
have one also. It is not for her to set an example; and besides, the
example would be of no use, it is as though one having a few thousand
pesetas should endeavour to initiate the remedy to social injustice by
sacrificing himself and giving them up."

After a long silence Gabriel spoke again very quietly, noticing the
ironical and even aggressive manner of the cadet.

"No doubt you are pained by what I say; believe me I feel it, as I
have no wish to wound the beliefs of anyone, least of all of those who
have formed to themselves an ideal of life. But truth is truth. The
social question does not trouble you. Is it not so? You know nothing
about it, you have never thought about it for an instant and it is the
same with all your, companions, but nevertheless, what you suffer in
your prestige, in your love of country and of your standard, has no
other cause but the social disorder at present rampant in the world.
Wealth is everything, capital is lord of the world. Science directs
humanity as the successor of faith, but the rich have possessed
themselves of its discoveries, and have monopolised them to continue
their tyranny. In the economic world they have made themselves masters
of machinery and of all progress, using them as chains to enslave the
workman, forcing an excess of production, but limiting his daily wage
to what is strictly necessary. In the life of nations the same thing
repeats itself - war to-day is nothing but an appliance of science, and
the richest countries have acquired the greatest improvements in the
art of extermination. They have crowds of recruits, thousands of
enormous cannon, they can keep millions of men under arms, with every
sort of modern improvement, without becoming bankrupt. But to poor
countries, their only remaining course is to hold their tongues, or to
rage uselessly, as the disinherited do against those in possession of
their property. The most cowardly and sedentary people on the face of
the globe may become invincible warriors if they have the money. The
bravery of chivalry came to an end with the invention of powder, and
the pride of race has faded for ever before the advent of trade. If
the Cid came to life again he would be in jail, he would have become a
highwayman, unable to adjust himself to the inequalities and injustice
of modern life. If the Gran Capitan were now minister of war, he would
probably be unable even with this military tax which oppresses the
country to put his regiments in condition to undertake a fresh war in
Italy. It is money, that cursed money! which has killed the finest
part of soldiering - personal bravery, initiative, originality - just as
it has crushed the workman, making his life a hell."

The cadet listened attentively to Gabriel, understanding for the first
time that in great nations there is something more than the warlike
sympathies of the monarch and the bravery of the army. He saw suddenly
that wealth was the basis and mainspring of all military enterprise.

"Then," he said thoughtfully, "if foreign nations do not attack us it
is not because they fear us."

"No; that we are permitted to live in peace is because these
omnipotent powers with all their ambitions and jealousies preserve a
certain equilibrium. They are like the great capitalists who, occupied
with vast projects of speculation, neglect either from carelessness or
contempt the small undertakings that lie at their door. Do you believe
that Switzerland or Belgium or other small countries live in peace
surrounded by great powers because they have an army? They would exist
just the same if they had not a single soldier, and the military power
of Spain is not greater than that of one of these small countries;
the poverty of the country and the scanty population oblige us to be
humble. In these days there are two kinds of armies those organised
for conquest and those whose only use is to keep order at home, that
are no more than police on a large scale, with guns and generals. That
of Spain, however much it costs, and however much they increase it,
comes under the latter classification."

"And if it is only this," said the cadet, "is it not something?
We keep peace at home, and we watch over the tranquillity of our
country."

"Yes, but that could be done by fewer people and for less money.
Besides, how about glory? Will you youths, full of illusions,
overflowing with aggressiveness and energy for new undertakings,
resign yourselves to this profession of watchmen and caretakers to a
country? Your future will be as monotonous as that of a priest in his
cathedral. Every day the same - to drill men to move this or that way,
to play at dominoes or billiards in a cafe, to walk about in uniform
or take a nap in the guard-room. There can be nothing for you beyond
a small disturbance at the tax on provisions, a strike, a closing of
shops to protest against the taxes, and then to fire on a mob armed
with sticks and stones. If at any time in your life you are ordered to
fire, you may be sure it will be on Spaniards. The Government do not
wish for an army as they know it is useless for the exterior defence
of the nation; besides, the national finances do not admit of its
maintenance, and they are consequently satisfied with an embryonic
organisation which is always insubordinate, distracted by incessant
and contradictory reforms, copying foreign improvements as a poor
girl copies the robes of a great lady. Believe me, there is nothing
pleasant in living such a narrowed and monotonous life, with no other
chance of glory but that of shooting a workman who protests or a
people who complain."

"But, how about liberty? How about political progress?" inquired the
cadet. "I have heard it said by a captain at the academy that if the
Liberal party exists in Spain it is through the army."

"There is a great deal in that," said Gabriel. "It is indubitably the
most important service the army has rendered to the State; without it,
who knows where the civil wars would have ended in this country, so
stationary and so timid about all reforms! I repeat it, I do not
ignore this service, but, believe me, that civil wars between liberty
and political absolutism will never be repeated, neither could the
guerilla warfare of the Independence with any definite issue. The
means of communication and military progress have put an end to
mountain warfare. The Mauser, which is the arm of the day, requires
well-provided parks of ammunition to follow it, cartridge magazines at
its back, and all this is incompatible with party fighting."

"But you will admit that we are of some use, and that we render the
nation good service."

"I admit it in the actual state of things, but I should admit it more
fully if you were fewer. The greater part of the grant is spent, but
all the same you live in poverty, decent and hidden, but poverty all
the same. A lieutenant earns less than many operatives, but he must
buy himself showy uniforms, be smart, and frequent when he wants
amusement the same places as the rich. He can only see before him long
years of waiting and of hidden poverty, borne with dignity, until some
promotion provides him with a few duros more monthly. You all suffer
dragging on this existence of slaves to the sword, the nation who
pays grumbles at seeing you inactive, and forgets other superfluous
expenses to fix its complaints solely on the military. Believe me, for
a modern army, you are too few and badly organised; to keep the peace
at home you are too many and too dear. The fault is not yours, your
vocation has come too late, when fate has rendered Spain powerless for
adventurous undertakings. If she revives she will have to follow a
direction which will certainly not be that of the sword. For this
reason I say that these youths stray from the right path when they
seek for glory where their ancestors thought to find it."

The appearance of Silver Stick cut short the dialogue. He ran in, pale
with excitement, gasping, rattling his bunch of keys.

"His Eminence is coming," he said, hurriedly. "He is already under the
arch; he wishes to spend the evening in the garden; it is a whim! They
say he is quite unmanageable to-day."

And he ran on to open the staircase del Tenorio, which put the
Claverias in communication with the lower cloister.

The cadet was alarmed at the unexpected proximity of his uncle. He did
not wish to meet him there, he feared the cardinal's temper, and fled
towards the tower staircase on his way to the bull-fight, sacrificing
his sweetheart sooner than meet with Don Sebastian.

Gabriel, who now found himself alone in the cloister, leant against a
column and watched the progress of this terrible prince of the Church.
He saw him come out of the doorway leading to the abode of the giants,
followed by two servants. Luna was able to examine him well for the
first time. He was enormous; but in spite of his age carried himself
erectly; over his black cassock with the red borders hung his gold
cross. He was leaning with a martial air on a staff of command, and
the gold tassels of his hat fell on the pink skin of his fat neck,
which was fringed with white hair. His small and penetrating eyes
looked on all sides in the hopes of discovering some delinquency,
something contravening the established rules, which would enable him
to break out into shouts and menaces and so give vent to his ill
humour and to the anger which furrowed his brows.

He disappeared by the staircase del Tenorio, preceded by Don Antolin,
who, after opening the iron gates, had placed himself at his orders,
shaking with fear. The silence and solitude of the Claverias were
undisturbed, it seemed as though the people hidden in their houses
remained absolutely still, guessing the danger that was passing.

Gabriel, leaning on the balustrade, watched the cardinal enter the
lower cloister, walking round two sides till he came to the garden
gate. A slight gesture from the prelate was sufficient to stop the two
servants, and he walked on alone through the central avenue towards
the summer-house where Tomasa was fast asleep between its leafy walls,
her knitting in her hands.

The old woman awoke at the sound of footsteps, and seeing the prelate,
gave a cry of surprise.

"Don Sebastian! You here!"

"I wished to visit you," said the cardinal with a benevolent smile,
seating himself on a bench. "It must not be always you who come to
seek me. I owe you many visits, and here I am."

Plunging one hand into the depths of his cassock, he drew forth a
small gold case and lighted a cigarette. He stretched out his legs
with the complacency of one who being always accustomed to wear
the frowning brow of authority, finds himself for a few moments at
liberty.

"But have you not been ill?" inquired the gardener's widow. "I had
thought of coming round to the palace this afternoon to inquire after
your health from Doña Visita."

"Hold your tongue, you fool; I have never felt better, especially
since this morning. The slap I have given to _those_ by not going into
the choir to pray with them has put me in a splendid humour, and in
order that they may thoroughly understand my meaning I have come to
see you. I wish them all to know that I am quite well, and that what
is said about my illness is untrue. I wish all in Toledo to understand
that the archbishop will not see his canons, and that he does so from
a sense of dignity, not from pride, as at the same time he can come
down to see his old friend the gardener's widow."

And the terrible old man laughed like a child to think of the
annoyance this visit would cause his Chapter.

"Do not believe, however, Tomasa," he continued, "that I have come to
see you solely for this reason. I felt sad and worried in the palace
this afternoon. Visitacion was busy with some friends from Madrid, and
I had that heartache I sometimes feel when I think of the past. I felt
that I must come and see you, more especially as it is always cool in
the Cathedral garden, whereas outside it is as hot as an oven. Ah!
Tomasa! how strong I see you! So slim and so active. You wear better
than I do; you are not wrapped in fat like this sinner, and you have
not the pains that disturb my nights. Your hair is still dark, your
teeth are well preserved, and you do not need like this old cardinal
to have a mechanism inside your mouth; but all the same, Tomasa, you
are just as old as I am. We have very few years of life left to us,
however much the Lord may wish to preserve us. What would I not give
to return to those days when I ran up to your house in my red gown in
search of your father, the sacristan, and stole your breakfast. Eh,
Tomasa?"

The two old people, forgetting social differences, recalled the past
with the friendly resignation of those advancing towards death.
Everything was the same as in their childhood - the garden, the
cloister; nothing about the Cathedral had changed.

His Eminence, closing his eyes, fancied himself once more the restless
acolyte of fifty years before; the blue spirals from his cigarette
seemed to carry his thoughts back through the interminable labyrinths
of the past.

"Do you remember how your poor father used to laugh at me? 'This boy,'
he would say in the sacristy, 'is a Sixtus V. What do you wish to be?'
he would ask me, and I always gave the same answer, 'Archbishop of
Toledo.' And the good sacristan would laugh again at the certainty
with which I spoke of my hopes. Believe me, Tomasa, I thought much of
him when I was consecrated bishop, regretting his death. I should have
been delighted with his tears of joy seeing me with the mitre on my
head. I have always loved you, you are an excellent family, and have
often satisfied my hunger."

"Silence, señor, silence, and do not recall those things. I am the one
who ought to be grateful for your kindness, so simple and genuine in
spite of your rank, which comes next after the Pope. And the truth
is," added the old woman with the pride of her frankness, "that no one
is the loser. Friends like I am you can never have; like all the great
ones of the earth, you are surrounded by flatterers and rascals. If
you had remained a simple mass priest no one would have sought you
out, but Tomasa would have always been your friend, always ready to do
you a service. If I love you so much it is because you are kind and
affable, but if you had put on pride like other archbishops, I should
have kissed your ring and - 'Good-bye.' The cardinal to his palace, the
gardener's widow to her garden."

The prelate received the old woman's frankness smilingly.

"You will always be Don Sebastian to me," she continued. "When you
told me not to call you Eminence or to use the same ceremonies as
other people, I was as pleased as if I had been given the mantle of
the Virgin del Sagrario. Such ceremonies would have stuck in my throat
and made me ready to cry out, 'Let him have his fill of Eminence and
Illustrious, but we have scratched each other thousands of times when
we were little, and this big thief could never see a scrap of bread or
an apricot in my hand without trying to snatch and devour it!' You may
be thankful I spoke of you as 'usted'[1] when you became a beneficiary
of the Cathedral, for, after all, it would not do to 'thou' a priest
as if he were an acolyte."

[Footnote 1: Contraction of _vuestra merced_ - your worship.]

Silence fell on the two old people, their eyes wandered tenderly over
the garden, as if each tree or arcade covered with foliage contained
some memory.

"Do you know what I have just remembered," said Tomasa. "I remember
that we saw each other just here many many years ago, at least
forty-eight or fifty. I was with my poor elder sister who had just
married Luna the gardener, and in the cloister wandering round me was
he who afterwards became my husband. We saw a handsome sergeant come
into the summer-house with a great jingle of spurs, a sword on his
arm, and a helmet with a tail just like the Jews on the Monument. It
was you, Don Sebastian, who had come to Toledo to visit your uncle
the beneficiary, and who would not leave without visiting your friend
Tomasita. How handsome and smart you were. I do not say it to flatter
you, it is truth. You looked like being a rogue with the girls! And I
still remember you said something to me about how pretty and fresh you
thought me after so many years absence. You don't mind my reminding
you of this? Really? It was only a soldier's gallant jests. How many
would say that now? When you left, I said to my brother-in-law, 'He
has put on the uniform for good and all; it is useless his uncle, the
beneficiary, thinking of making a priest of him.'"

"It was a youthful sally," said the cardinal smiling, remembering with
pride the dashing sergeant of dragoons. "In Spain, there are only
three professions worthy of a man - the sword, the Church and the toga.
My blood was hot and I wanted to be a soldier, but unluckily I fell on
times of peace, my promotion would have been very slow, and in order
not to embitter my uncle's last years, I renewed my studies and turned
to the Church. One can serve God or one's country as well in one place
as another, but, believe me, very often in spite of the pomp of my
cardinalate I think with envy of that soldier you saw. What happy
times they were! Even now the sword draws me. When I see the cadets I
would gladly exchange with some of them, giving them my crozier and
cross. And possibly I might have done better than any of them! Ah! if
only the great times of the reconquest could return when the prelates
went out to fight the Moors! What a great Archbishop of Toledo I
should have been!"

And Don Sebastian drew up his fat old body, and proudly stretched out
his arms with all the remains of his former strength.

"You have always been a strong man," said the gardener's widow. "I say
very often to some of the priests who speak of you and criticise you:
'You must not trifle with His Eminence, he is quite capable of going
one day into the choir - some he likes and some he does not - and
driving you all out at one fell swoop.'"

"I have more than once been tempted to do so," said the prelate
firmly, his eyes flashing with energy, "but I have been prevented by
the thought of my charge and my character as a peaceful priest. I am
the shepherd of a Catholic flock, not a wolf who tears the sheep in
his fierceness. But sometimes I can bear no more, and God forgive me!
I have often been tempted to raise the shepherd's crook and chastise
with blows that rebel flock who harbour in the Cathedral."

The prelate became excited, speaking of his quarrels with the Chapter;
the placidity of mind produced by the quiet of the garden disappeared
as he thought of his hostile subordinates. He felt obliged as at
other times to confide his troubles to the gardener's widow with that
instinctive kindly feeling which often causes highly-placed people to
confide in humble friends.

"You cannot imagine, Tomasa, what those men make me suffer. I will
subdue them because I am the master, because they owe me obedience by
the rule of discipline without which there can be neither Church nor
religion; but they oppose and disobey me. My orders are carried out
with grumbling, and when I assert myself even the last ordained priest
stands on what he calls his rights, lays complaints against me and
appeals either to the Rota[1] or to Rome. Let us see, am I the master
or am I not? Ought the shepherd to argue with his sheep and consult
how to guide them in the right way? They sicken and weary me with
their complaints and questions. There is not half a man amongst them,
they are all cowardly tale-bearers. In my presence they lower their
eyes, smile and praise His Eminence, and as soon as I turn my back
they are vipers trying to bite me, scorpion tongues which respect
nothing. Ay, Tomasa, my daughter! pity me! when I think of all this it
makes me quite ill."

[Footnote 1: Ecclesiastical court.]

The prelate turned pale, rising from his seat as though he felt a
sudden spasm of pain.

"Do not worry yourself so much," said the old woman, "you are above
them all, and you will overcome them."

"Clearly, I shall defeat them; if not, it would fill my cup, for it
would be the first time I had been vanquished. These squabbles among
comrades do not trouble me much after all, for I know in the end I
shall see my detested enemies at my feet. But it is their tongues,
Tomasa! - what they say about the beings I love most in the world, that
is what wounds me, and is killing me."

He sat down again, coming quite close to the gardener's widow, so as
to speak in a very low voice.

"You know my past better than anyone; I have such great confidence in
you that I have told you everything. Besides, you are very quick,
and if I had not told you, you would have guessed. You know what
Visitacion is to me, and most certainly you are aware of what those
wretches say about her. Do not play the fool; everyone inside and
outside the Cathedral listens to these calumnies and believes them.
You are the only one who does not credit them because you know the
truth. But ay! the truth cannot be told, I cannot proclaim it, these
robes forbid me."

And he seized a handful of his cassock with his clenched fingers as if
he would rend it.

A long silence followed. Don Sebastian looked fixedly at the ground,
clutching with his hands as though he were trying to grasp invisible
enemies; every now and then he felt a stab of pain and sighed
uneasily.

"Why do you think about these things?" said the gardener's widow;
"they only make you ill, and you ought not to have disturbed yourself
to come and see me, you would have done better to remain in the
palace."

"No, you distract my mind from them, it is a great comfort to tell you
of my troubles. Up there I feel in despair, and have to exert all
my self-command to suppress my anger. I do not wish my servants to
understand, for they are quite capable of laughing at me, neither do I
wish poor Visitacion to know anything. I cannot dissimulate. I cannot
feign happiness when I am so irritated! What a hell I suffer! I cannot
say that I have been a man, and that I have been weak as the flesh of
which I am made, that I have with me the fruit of my faults, and that
I will not separate myself from them, though persecuted by calumny.
Every man acts as he is able, and I wish to be good in spite of my
faults. I might have separated from my children, I might have deserted
them, as others have done to preserve their reputation as saints, but
I am a man, and I am proud of them; I am a man with all his defects
and all his virtues, neither greater nor less than the general run of
humanity. The feeling of paternity is so deeply rooted in me that I
would sooner lose my mitre than abandon my children. You remember when
Juanito's father, who passed as my nephew, died, how deeply I felt it,
I thought I should have died also. Such a fine, handsome man, and
with such a brilliant future before him! I would have made him a
magistrate, president of the supreme court, minister, anything I
wished! And in twenty-four hours he was dead as though Heaven wished
to punish me. It is true I have my grandson remaining, but this
Juanito in no way resembles his father, and I confess it to you, I
do not care much for him. I can only see in him the most distant
reflection of my poor son. Of my past, of that time which was the
happiest of my life, all I have left me is Visitacion. She is the
living image of the poor dead one. I worship her! and this feeble ray
of happiness these wretched people disturb with their calumnies. It is
enough to make one kill them!"

Overcome by the happy recollection of the spring-time which had
flowered during the first years of his episcopate, far away in an
Andalusian diocese, he repeated once again to Tomasa the tale of his
relations with a certain devout lady, who from her childhood had felt
a horror of the world. Devotion had drawn them together, but life
was not long in asserting her rights, opening herself a way by their
almost mystical relations, and finally uniting them in a carnal
embrace. They had lived faithful to each other in the secrecy of
ecclesiastical life, loving each other with scrupulous prudence, so


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