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that no rumour of their relations had ever publicly transpired,
until she died, leaving two children. Don Sebastian, a man of strong
passions, was almost vehement in his paternal feelings - those two
beings were the image of the poor dead woman, the remembrance of the
only idyll which had softened a life wholly given over to ambition,
and the calumnies circulated by his enemies, founded on the presence
of his daughter in the archiepiscopal palace nearly drove him mad.

"They believe her to be my mistress!" he said angrily. "My poor
Visitacion, so good, so affectionate, so gentle to all, changed to a
courtesan by these wretches! A sweetheart that I have taken for my
amusement from the college of Noble Ladies! As if I, old and infirm,
were able to think of such things! Brutes! wretches! Crimes have been
committed for less!"

"Let them say on. God is in heaven and sees us all."

"I know it, but this is not enough to quiet me. You have children,
Tomasa, and you know what it is to love them. It is not only what
is done against them that wounds us, but what is said. What days of
suffering I endure! You know since my boyhood all my dreams have been
to rise to where I am. I used to look at the throne in the choir and
think how comfortable I should be in it - of the immense happiness of
being a prince of the Church. Well, now I am on the throne. I have
spent half a century removing the stones from my path, leaving my skin
and even my flesh on the brambles of the hillside. I only know how
I was able to rise from the black mass and obtain a bishopric!
Afterwards - now I am an archbishop! now I am a cardinal! At last I can
rise no higher! And what is it all? Happiness always floats before us
like the cloud of light which guided the Israelites. We see it, we
almost touch it, but it never lets itself be caught. I am more unhappy
now than in the days when I struggled to rise, and thought myself the
most unfortunate of men. I am no longer young; the height on which
I stand draws all eyes to me and prevents me defending myself. Ay,
Tomasa! pity me, for I am worthy of compassion! To be a father and
to be obliged to hide it as a crime! To love my daughter with an
affection which increases more and more as I draw nearer to death, and
have to endure that people should imagine this pure affection to be
something so repugnant!"

And the terrible glance of Don Sebastian, which terrified all the
diocese, was clouded with tears.

"Moreover, I have other troubles," he went on, "but they are those of
a far-seeing man who fears the future. When I die, all that I have
will be my daughter's. Juanito inherits what belonged to his mother,
who was rich; besides, he has his profession and the support of my
friends. Visitacion will be very rich. You know my adversaries throw
in my face what they call my avarice. Avaricious I am not, but
foreseeing, and anxious for the well-being of those belonging to me. I
have saved a great deal. I am not one of those who distribute bread at
the gate of his palace, nor who seek popularity through almsgiving.
I have pasture lands in Estremadura, many vineyards in La Mancha,
houses, and above all State stock - much stock. As a good Spaniard I
have wished to help the Government with my money, more especially
as it bears interest. I do not quite know how much I possess, but
certainly twenty millions of reals, and probably more, all saved by
myself and increased by fortunate speculations. I cannot complain
of fate, and the Lord has helped me. Everything is for my poor
Visitacion. I should delight in seeing her married to a good man; but
she will not leave me. She is drawn to the Church, and that is my
fear. Do not be surprised, Tomasa; I, a prince of the Church, fear to
see how she is attracted by devotion, and I do all I can to turn her
from it. I respect a religious woman, but not one who is only happy in
the Church. A woman ought to live; she ought to be happy as a mother.
I have always looked badly on nuns."

"Let her be, señor," said the gardener's widow; "there is nothing
strange in her love for the Church. Living as she does she could
scarcely do otherwise."

"For the present time, I have no fear. I am by her side, and her being
fond of the society of the nuns signifies very little to me. But I
may die to-morrow, and just imagine what a splendid mouthful
poor Visitacion and her millions would be, left alone, with this
predilection to religious life, of which those cunning people would
be sure to take advantage! I have seen a great deal. I belong to the
class, and I am in the secret. There is no lack of religious orders
who devote themselves to hunting heiresses for the greater glory of
God, as they say. Besides, there are many foreign nuns with great
flapping caps travelling about here, who are lynxes for that sort of
work, and I am terrified lest they should pounce on my daughter. I
belong to the ancient Catholicism, to that pure Spanish religion, free
from all modern extravagances. It would be sad to have spent my life
in saving, only to fatten the Jesuits or those sisters who cannot
speak Castilian. I do not wish my money to share the fate of that of
the sacristans in the proverb. For this reason, to the annoyance
I feel at my struggles with this inimical Chapter, I must add the
distress I feel at my daughter's feeble character. Probably she will
be hunted; some rake will laugh at me and possess himself of my
money."

Excited by his gloomy thoughts, he gave vent to an interjection both
caustic and obscene, a memory of his soldiering days; in the presence
of the gardener's widow there was no need to control himself, and the
old woman was accustomed to this relief of his temper.

"Let us see," he said imperiously after a long silence. "You, who know
me better than anyone, am I as bad as my enemies suppose? Do I deserve
that the Lord should punish me for my faults? You are one of God's
souls, simple and good, and you know more of all this by your instinct
than all the doctors of theology."

"You bad, Don Sebastian? Holy Jesus! You are a man like all others,
neither more nor less; but you are sincere, all of one piece, without
deceit or hypocrisy."

"A man - you have said it. I am a man like the rest. We who attain a
certain height are like the saints on the fronts of the churches: from
below we cause admiration for our beauty, but viewed closely we cause
horror from the ugliness of the stones corroded by time. However much
we wish to sanctify ourselves, keeping ourselves apart, we are still
nothing but men - creatures of flesh and blood like those who surround
us.

"In the Church those who free themselves from human passion are most
rare. And who knows if, even among those few privileged ones, some are
not driven by the demon of vanity to increase the asceticism of their
lives, thinking of the glory of being on an altar! The priest who
succeeds in subduing his flesh falls into avarice, which is the
ecclesiastical vice _par excellence_. I have never hoarded from vice;
I have saved for my own, but never for myself."

The prelate was silent for a long while; but in his irresistible
desire to confide in the simple old woman he went on.

"I am sure that God will not despise me when my hour comes. His
infinite mercy is above all the littleness of life. What has been my
fault? To have loved a woman, as my father loved my mother; to
have had children as the apostles and saints had. And why not?
Ecclesiastical celibacy is an invention of men, a detail of discipline
agreed upon at the councils; but the flesh and its exigencies are
anterior by many centuries; they date from Paradise. Whoever crosses
this barrier, not from vice, but from irresistible passion, because he
cannot conquer the impulse to create a family and to have a companion,
fails indubitably towards the laws of the Church, but he does not
disobey God. I fear the approach of death; many nights I doubt and
tremble like a child. But I have served God in my own way. In former
times I would have served Him with my sword, fighting against the
heretics. Now I am His priest and do battle for Him whenever I see the
impiety of the age curtailing anything of His glory. The Lord will
forgive me, receiving me into His bosom. You, who are so good, Tomasa,
and have the soul of an angel beneath your rough exterior, do you not
think so?"

The gardener's widow smiled, and her words fell slowly on the silence
of the dying evening.

"Tranquillise yourself, Don Sebastian. I have seen many saints in this
house, and they have been worth much less than you. To ensure their
salvation they would have abandoned their children. To maintain what
they call purity of soul they would have renounced their family.
Believe me, no saints enter here; they are men, nothing but men. You
have nothing to repent of in following the impulse of your heart. God
created us in His image and likeness, and also planted in us family
love. All the rest, chastity, celibacy and other trifles, you invented
for yourselves, to distinguish yourselves from the common herd of
people. Be a man, Don Sebastian, and the more you show yourself such
the better it will be for you, and the better the Lord will receive
you in His glory."




CHAPTER IX


A few days after Corpus Don Antolin went one morning in search of
Gabriel. Silver Stick smiled at Luna, speaking to him in a patronising
way.

He had thought of him all night; it pained him to see him idle,
walking about the cloister; it was the want of occupation that
inspired him with such perverse ideas.

"Let us see," he continued, "would it suit you to come down with me
every afternoon into the Cathedral, to show the Treasury and the
other curiosities? A great many foreigners come who can scarcely make
themselves understood when they question me; you will understand them,
as you know French and English, and, your brother says, many other
languages. The Cathedral would be a gainer, as it would show these
strangers that we have an interpreter at our disposal; you would
be doing us a favour and would lose nothing by it. It is always an
amusement to see new faces; and about the recompense ..."

Don Antolin stopped here, scratching his head beneath his skull cap.
He would see what he could screw out of the funds of the Obreria; if
just at first nothing could be managed, as the revenues of the Primacy
were meagre and at their lowest ebb, no doubt something could be given
later on.

He looked anxiously for Gabriel's answer, who, however, was quite
agreeable; when all was said and done he was a guest of the Cathedral
and owed it something. And from that afternoon he went down at the
hour of choir to show the foreigners all the treasures of the church.

There was no lack of travellers who showed Don Antolin's coloured
tickets waiting for the time to see the jewels. Silver Stick could
never see a stranger without imagining that he was a lord or a
duke, and often felt very much surprised at the shabbiness of their
clothing; according to his ideas only the great ones of the earth
could give themselves the pleasure of travelling, and he opened wide
his incredulous and scandalised eyes when Gabriel told him that many
were shoemakers from London or shopkeepers from Paris, who during
their holidays treated themselves to a trip through the ancient
country of the Moors.

Five canons in their choir surplices advanced up the nave, each one
holding a key in his hand; these were the guardians of the treasure.
Each one opened the lock confided to his custody, the door swung
heavily, and the chapel, with its antique treasures, was opened. In
large glass cases, like a museum, was displayed the ancient opulence
of the Cathedral: statues of chiselled silver, large globes crowned
by graceful little figures all of precious metal, ivory caskets of
complicated work, custodias and viriles[1] of gold, enormous gilt
dishes, embossed with mythological subjects reviving the joy of
paganism in that sordid and dusty corner of the Christian Church, and
precious stones spread their varied colours over pectorals, mitres and
mantles for the Virgin. There were diamonds so immense as to make one
doubt their being genuine, emeralds the size of pebbles, amethysts,
topaz, and pearls - very many pearls, strewn by the hundreds and
thousands on the Virgin's garments. The foreigners were amazed at all
this wealth and dazzled by the quantity, while Gabriel, who had become
accustomed to see it daily, looked at it carelessly. The Treasury
presented a deplorable spectacle of neglect: the riches had aged with
the Cathedral, the diamonds did not flash, the gold seemed tarnished
and dusty, the silver was blackened, the pearls were opaque and sick,
the smoke from the wax tapers and the damp atmosphere of the church
had sadly dulled everything.

[Footnote 1: _Virile_ - small box with double glass in which the Host
is exhibited.]

"The Church," said Gabriel to himself, "ages everything she touches.
The treasures lose their brilliancy in her hands, like jewels that
fall into the power of usurers. The diamond becomes dulled in the
bosom of the great miser, and the most beautiful picture becomes
blackened on her altars."

After the visit to the Treasury came the exhibition of the Ochavo, the
octagonal chapel of dark marbles, that pantheon of relics where
the most repulsive human remains - skulls with their ghastly grin,
mummified arms and worn-eaten vertebras - were shown in gold or silver
shrines. The gross and credulous piety of former days displayed
itself in the full tide of unbelief, so that even Don Antolin, so
uncompromising when he spoke of the glories of his Cathedral, lowered
his voice and hurried over his explanations as he showed a piece
of the mantle worn by Santa Leocadia when she "appeared" to the
Archbishop of Toledo, quite understanding the difficulty of explaining
how an apparition could wear garments of stuff.

Gabriel translated faithfully Don Antolin's explanation, repeating
it again and again with imperturbable gravity, while the canons who
escorted the batch of strangers drew a few paces away with an absent
look, to avoid questions.

One day a phlegmatic Englishman interrupted the interpreter.

"And have you not amongst all these things a feather from the wings of
St. Michael?"

"No, señor, and it is a great pity," said Luna, equally seriously,
"but you will probably find it in some other Cathedral; we cannot have
everything here."

In the Chapter-house, a mixture of Arab and Gothic architecture, the
foreigners were much interested by the double row of portraits of the
Toledan archbishops hanging on the wall, with their mitres and golden
croziers. Gabriel called their attention to the picture of Don
Cerebruno, a mediaeval prelate, so called from his enormous head; but
it was the wardrobe which more especially surprised the foreigners.

It was a room surrounded by large cupboards and shelves of old wood;
above these the walls were covered with dusty and torn pictures,
copies of Flemish paintings that the canons had relegated to this
corner; round the room were placed in line the ancient armchairs of
the church, some of Spanish workmanship, austere, with straight lines
and ravelled coverings, others of Greek design with curved feet
inlaid with ivory. The capes and chasubles were piled on the shelves,
according to colours, with the collars outside the heap, so that
people could examine the wonderful embroidery. A whole world of
patterns appeared with every possible brilliancy of colour on a few
inches of stuff. The astonishing art of the ancient embroiderers made
the silk a series of vivid pictures; the collar and the narrow stripes
on the front of a cape were large enough to reproduce all the scenes
of the biblical creation and the passion of Jesus. Brocade and silk
unrolled the magnificence of their textures. One cape was a garden
of flame-coloured carnations, another was a bed of roses and other
fantastic flowers with twisted stamens and metallic petals. The
sacristans produced from the deep shelves, as though they were books,
the splendid and famous frontals of the high altar. There were special
ones for each festival; that for St. John's Day was brightly coloured
with verbenas, purple bunches of grapes, and golden lambs that fat
little angels were caressing with their chubby hands. The most
ancient, of soft and rather faded colours, showed Persian gardens with
blue waters in which fabulous reddish beasts were drinking.

The visitors were bewildered seeing all this vast collection of
stuffs and embroideries unrolled piece after piece - all the past of
a Cathedral which, having millions of revenue, employed for its
embellishment armies of embroiderers, acquiring the richest textures
of Valencia and Seville, reproducing in gold and colours all the
episodes from the Holy books, and the torments of the martyrs, all the
glorious legends of the Church, immortalised by the needle, before
printing had been able to do so.

Gabriel returned every evening to the upper cloister, wearied out with
walking the length and breadth of the Cathedral. During the first few
days he was delighted with the novelty of seeing fresh faces, to hear
the rustle of the visitors who, branching off from the great stream of
travellers who inundated Europe, came as far as Toledo. But after a
little while the people he saw every afternoon seemed to him just the
same. There were the same questions, the same stiff and hard-featured
Englishwomen, and the same o-o-o-h's of cold and conventional
admiration, and the same identical way of turning their backs with
rude pride when there was nothing else to be shown. Returning to
the quiet of the upper cloister after the daily exhibition of the
Treasury, Gabriel thought the poverty of the Claverias even more
revolting and intolerable. The shoemaker seemed sadder and yellower in
the rank atmosphere of his den, bending over his bench hammering the
soles, his wife more feeble and ill, the miserable slave of maternity,
weakened by hunger, and offering to her little son as his only hope of
food those flaccid breasts in which there was nothing left but a drop
of blood. The little child was dying! Sagrario, who had left her
machine to spend the greater part of the day in the shoemaker's room
said so in a low voice to her uncle. She did all the work of the
house, while the poor mother, motionless in a chair, with the little
one in her lap, looked at it with weeping eyes. When the baby woke
from its stupor it would wearily raise its head from its little neck,
which had become a mere thread; the mother to stifle its feeble moans
would press it to her breast, but the child would turn away its mouth
guessing the inutility of expending its strength on that rag of flesh
from which it could only succeed in extracting the last drop.

Gabriel examined the child, noting its extreme emaciation and the
spots that scrofula had spread over its straw-coloured skin. He shook
his head incredulously when the neighbours who had gathered round the
invalid each diagnosed some particular ailment, and recommended every
imaginable sort of household remedy, from decoctions of rare herbs and
stinking ointments to applications on the chest of miracle working
prints, and tracing seven crosses on the navel with as many
paternosters.

"It is hunger," said Luna to his niece, "nothing but hunger." And
depriving himself of part of his own food, he sent to the shoemaker's
house the milk that had been brought up for himself. But the child's
stomach could not retain the liquid too substantial for its weakness,
and threw it up as soon as swallowed. The Aunt Tomasa, with her
energetic and enterprising character, brought a woman from outside the
Cathedral to nourish the child, but after two days, and before the
effects became visible, she came no more, as if she had felt disgusted
at the miserable and corpse-like little body touching her. In vain the
gardener's widow searched; it was not easy to find generous breasts
who would give their milk for very little pay.

In the meanwhile the child was dying. All the women came in and out of
the shoemaker's house, and even Don Antolin would stand at the door in
the mornings.

"How is the little one? Just the same? It is all in God's hands."

And he would retire, doing the shoemaker the great charity of not
speaking to him about the pesetas he owed him, on account of the sick
child.

"Virgin's Blue" was annoyed by this incident, which upset the calm of
the cloister, and disturbed the bliss of his digestion as a happy and
well-fed servant of the Church. It was a shame that that shoemaker
should be allowed to live in the Claverias with all that flock of
wretched and scurvy children; one would die every month; all sorts
of illness would lay hold on them. By what right were they in the
Cathedral when they drew no wage from the Obreria? Such stinking
excrescences ought to remain outside the Lord's house.

His mother-in-law was furious.

"Silence, you thief of the saints!" she cried. "Silence, or I will
throw a dish at you! We are all sons of God, and if things were as
they should be, all the poor ought to live in the Cathedral. Instead
of saying such things it would be much better if you gave those
unhappy people part of what you have stolen from the Virgin."

The sacristan shrugged his shoulders with contempt. If they had not
enough to eat they should not have children. There he was himself with
only one daughter - he did not think he had any right to more - and so
thanks to Our Lady he was able to save a scrap for his old age.

Tomasa spoke of the shoemaker's child to the good gentlemen of the
Chapter when they came into the garden for a few minutes after choir.
They listened absently, putting their hands in their cassocks.

"It is all God's will! What poverty!"

And some gave her ten centimes, others a real, one or two even a
peseta. The old woman went one day to the Archbishop's palace. Don
Sebastian was engaged and unable to see her, but he sent her two
pesetas by one of the servants.

"They don't mean badly," said the gardener's widow, giving her
collection to the poor mother, "but each one lives for himself, and
his neighbour may manage as he can. No one divides his cloak with
another - take this, and see how you can get out of your trouble."

They fed a little better in the shoemaker's house; the miserable
scrofulous children collected in the cloister profited most by the
baby's illness; it was growing daily weaker, lying motionless for
hours, with almost imperceptible breathing, on its mother's lap.

When the unhappy child died, all the people of the Claverias rushed
to the home. Inside could be heard the mother's wailings, strident,
interminable, like the bellowing of a wounded beast; outside the
father wept silently, surrounded by his friends.

"It died just like a bird," he said with long pauses, his words broken
by sobs. "His mother held him on her knees - I was working - 'Antonio,
Antonio!' she called, 'see, what is the matter with the child, it is
moving its mouth and making grimaces?' I ran up quickly, its face
was quite dusky - as if it had a veil over it. It opened its mouth, a
couple of twitches with its eyes staring, and its neck fell over - just
the same as a bird, just the same."

He wept, repeating constantly the resemblance between his son and
those birds who die in winter from the cold.

The bell-ringer looked gloomily at Gabriel.

"You who know everything, is it true that it died of hunger?"

And the Tato with his scandalous impetuosity shouted loudly -

"There is no justice in the world! All this must be altered! Fancy a
child dying of hunger in this house, where money runs like water, and
where all those creatures are dressed in gold!"

When the little corpse was carried to the cemetery, the cloister
seemed quite deserted; all its life was concentrated in the
shoemaker's house, all the women surrounded the mother. Despair had
rendered that sick and feeble woman furious. She no longer wept: her
child's death had made her ferocious - she wished to bite or to dash
her skull against the wall.

"Ay! my s-o-o-o-n! my Antonio!"

At night Sagrario and the other women remained in the house to look
after her. In her desperation she wished to make some one responsible
for her misfortune, and she fixed on those highest in the cloister.
Don Antolin had not helped her with the smallest alms; his affected
niece had scarcely been in to see the little one, nothing interested
her but men.

"It is all Silver Stick's fault," wailed the poor mother - "he is
a thief. He grinds our poverty with his usurer's snares. Never a


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