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The Shadow of the Cathedral by Vicente Blasco Ibanez

Part 4 out of 6

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so dearly, that even to-day, after four centuries, scattered on the
shores of the Danube or the Bosphorus there are Spanish Jews who weep,
like old Castillians, for their lost country:

'Perdimos la bella Sion;
Perdimos tambien Espana
Nido de consolacion.'[1]

[Footnote 1: 'We lost our lovely Sion; we also lost our Spain, that
nest of consolation.]

"That people who had given Maimonides to the science of the Middle
Ages, and who were the mainstay of all the industries and commerce
of Spain, left our country _en masse_. Spain, deceived by its
extraordinary vitality was opening its own veins to satisfy the
growing fanaticism, believing that it could survive this loss without
danger. Afterwards came what a modern writer has called 'the foreign
body,' interposing itself in our national life--those Austrians who
came to reign and caused Spain to lose her distinctive character."

"Gabriel," interrupted the priest, "you are talking absurdities. The
true Spain began with the emperor, and went on equally gloriously
under Don Philip II. This is the pure and uncorrupted Spain that we
ought to take as an example, and which we hope to restore."

"No. The pure and uncorrupted Spain, the Spanish Spain without foreign
admixture, is that of the Arabs, Moors and Jews, that of religious
tolerance, that of industrial and agricultural wealth, and of free
municipalities; that which perished under the Catholic kings. What
came after was a Teutonic and a Flemish Spain turned into a German
colony, serving as a mercenary under foreign standards, ruining itself
in undertakings in which it had no interest, shedding blood and gold
for the ambition of the so-called Holy Roman Empire. I can understand
the enchantment that the emperor exercised over the bigoted and
ignorant people who worshipped the past. A great man that Don Carlos!
Brave in fight, astute in politics, jolly and hearty as one of the
burgomasters of his own country; a great eater, a great drinker, and
loving to catch the girls round the waist. But he had nothing Spanish
about him. He only appreciated his mother's heritage for what he could
wring out of it. Spain became a servant to Germany, ready to supply
as many men as were required, and to furnish loans and taxes. All the
exuberant life garnered in this country by Hispano-Arab culture
was absorbed by the north in less than a hundred years. The free
municipalities disappeared, their defenders went to the scaffold both
in Castille and Valencia; the Spaniard abandoned his plough or his
weaving to range the world with an arquebus on his shoulder, and the
town militias were transformed into bands which fought all over Europe
without knowing why. The flourishing towns became villages; churches
were turned into convents; the popular and tolerant clergy were
changed into friars who imitated with servile complacency the German
fanaticism. The fields remained barren for want of hands to cultivate
them, the poor dreamt of becoming rich from the sack of the enemy's
towns and left their work; the industrious burghers abandoned commerce
as only fit for heretics, and became nurseries of clerks and petty
magistrates; and the armies of Spain as unbeaten and glorious as they
were ragged, with no pay but pillage and in continual mutiny against
their chiefs, flooded our country with a swarm of wretched vagabonds,
from whence proceeded the bully, the beggar with his blunderbuss, the
highwayman, the wandering hermits, the starving nobleman, and all
those characters of which picturesque novels have availed themselves."

"But, the devil, Gabriel!" cried indignantly Silver Stick; "do you
deny that Don Carlos, who built the Alcazar of Toledo, and Don Philip
II., who lived in this very cloister, were two great kings?"

"I do not deny it; they were two extraordinary men, but they killed
Spain for ever. They were two foreigners, two Germans; Philip II.
clothed himself with a false Spaniardism to continue the German policy
of his father. This masquerading caused us great harm, because there
are many men now who think of him as the noblest representation of a
Spaniard. The absurd inventions and lapses from truth to which those
times give rise are enough to drive one mad. Many Catholics dream of
canonising Philip II. for the cold cruelty with which he exterminated
heretics, but such a king had really no Catholicism but his own; he
was heir to the German Caesarism, that eternal hammer of the Popes.
Driven by pride, he was always sailing to the windward of schism and
heresy; that he did not break with the Pontificate was solely that
this latter feared that the Spanish soldiery, who had twice entered
Rome, would remain there for ever, and that it would have to submit to
all their extortions. The father and son robbed us with dissimulation
of our nationality, and dissipated our life for their purely personal
plans of reviving the Caesarism of Charlemagne and forming the Catholic
religion to their own imagination and taste. They nearly destroyed the
ancient religious feeling of Spain, so cultivated and tolerant from
its continual intercourse with Mahomedanism and Judaism; that Spanish
Church, whose priests lived peacefully in the towns with the alfaqui
and the rabbi, and who punished with moral penalties those who from
excess of zeal disturbed the worship of the infidels. That religious
intolerance which foreign historians consider a purely Spanish product
was really imported by the German Caesars. It was the German friar who
came with his devout brutality and his crazy theology, not tempered
as in Spain by Semitic culture. With their intolerance and
impracticability they provoked the revolution of the Reformation in
the northern countries, and, driven out of them, they came here to
plant afresh their ignorance and fanaticism. The ground was well
prepared. When the free towns whose municipalities were republics
fell, the people also languished; the foreign seed produced in a
short time an immense forest, the forest of the Inquisition and the
fanaticism which still exists; the modern woodmen cut and lop, but
they soon fall off wearied; the arms of one man can do little against
a trunk that has grown for centuries. Fire, nothing but fire, can
exterminate that cursed vegetation."

Don Antolin opened his eyes in horror. He was not angry now, he seemed
quite thunderstruck by Luna's words.

"Gabriel, my son!" he exclaimed; "you are 'greener' than I thought.
Just think where you are; remember what you are saying. We are in the
Holy Metropolitan Church of all the Spains."

But Luna was fairly launched by the renewal of his historical
remembrances and he was not to be stopped, driven on as he was by his
propagandist zeal. He was fired by the old oratorical fervour, and he
spoke as at those meetings when he could scarcely continue his speech
for the applause, and the protests and surging of the multitude
obstructing the police.

The horror of the priest only seemed to excite him more.

"Philip II.," he continued, "was a foreigner, a German to the very
bones. His grave taciturnity, his slow and penetrating mind, were not
Spanish, they were Flemish. The impassibility with which he received
the reverses which ruined the nation was that of a foreigner who was
bound by no ties of affection to the country. 'It is better to reign
over corpses than over heretics,' he said, and corpses the Spaniards
really were, condemned not to think, but to lie in order to conceal
their thoughts. All the ancient offices had disappeared. Outside
the Church there was no future for any adventurous soul, except in
America--which ceased to be of any use to the nation after it became
converted into the treasure chest of the king--or to be a soldier
fighting in Europe for the rehabilitation of the Holy German Empire,
for the subjection of the Pope to the Emperor or the extinction of the
reformed religion, undertakings that in no way concerned Spain, but
were all the same very blood-letting affairs, even for those who
escaped with their lives. All the handicraftsmen disappeared, carried
away to the armies, and the towns became filled with invalids and
veterans, carrying their rusty swords, their only proof of personal
valour. All the middle-class guilds were suppressed; there only
remained nobles proud of being servants to the king and a populace
who only asked for bread and entertainments, like the Romans, and
contented themselves with the broth from the convents and the burning
of heretics organised by the Inquisition.

"After this, ruin overwhelmed us; after the great Caesars, so fatal to
Spain, came the little ones--Philip III., who gave the final blow by
expelling the Moors; Philip IV., a degenerate with literary fancies,
who wrote verses and courted nuns, and the miserable Charles II.

"Spain had never been so religious, Don Antolin," said Luna. "The
Church was mistress of everything; the ecclesiastical tribunals judged
even the king himself, but secular justice could not touch even the
hem of a garment of the lowest sacristan, even though he committed the
greatest crimes in the public streets. Only the Church could judge its
own; as Barrioneuva relates in his memoirs, friars armed to the teeth
wrested from the king's justice at the foot of the scaffold, in broad
daylight in the midst of the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, one of their own
brothers condemned for murder. The Inquisition, not satisfied with
burning heretics, judged and punished gangs of cattle-lifters. Men of
letters, terrified, took refuge in ornamental literature as the last
refuge of thought, confining themselves to the production of witty
novels or plays, in which a fantastic honour was exalted which only
existed in poets' imagination, while the greatest corruption of morals
reigned. The great Spanish genius ignored or feigned to ignore what
the religious revolution beyond the frontiers was saying. Quevedo
only, who was the most daring, ventured to say:

'With the Inquisition....
Hush! Silence!'

the sad epitaph of Spanish thought which preferred to perish as it
could not speak the truth. In order to live quietly and support
themselves in those days of ignorance, many poets sought the shadow
of the Church and wore its vestments. Lope de Vega, Calderon, Tirsode
Molina, Miradamerscua, Tarriga, Argensola, Gongora, Rioja, and others
were priests, many of them after stormy lives. Montalban was a priest
and employed in the Inquisition, and even the poor Cervantes, in
his old age, had to take the habit of St. Francis. Spain had eleven
thousand convents, more than a hundred thousand friars, and forty
thousand nuns, and to these must be added seventy-eight thousand
priests and the innumerable servitors and dependents of the Church,
such as alguaciles, familiars, jailors, and notaries of the
Inquisition, sacristans, stewards, buleros,[1] convent door-porters,
choristers, singers, lay brothers, novices--and I know not how many
other people. In exchange, the nation from a population of thirty
millions had shrunk to seven millions in less than two hundred
years. The expulsion of Jews and Moors by religious intolerance, the
continual foreign wars, the emigration to America in the hopes of
growing rich without work, hunger, the lack of sanitation, and the
abandonment of agriculture, had brought about this rapid depopulation.
The revenues of Spain had fallen to fourteen million ducats, whereas
the clerical revenue had risen to eight millions; the Church possessed
more than half the national fortune! What times! Eh, Don Antolin?"

[Footnote 1: _Buleros_--One charged with distributing crusading bulls
and collecting alms for them.]

Silver Stick listened coldly, as though he had formed some definite
idea about Luna, and therefore did not make much account of his words.

"However bad they were," he said slowly, "they could not be worse than
they are at present. At all events no one robbed the Church. Everyone
was contented in his poverty, thinking of heaven, which is the only
truth, and the worship of God which corresponds to it. Is it that you
possibly do not believe in God?"

Gabriel avoided an answer, and went on talking of those times.

"It was a period of barbarism and stagnation, and while Europe was
developing and progressing the people who had been foremost in all
civilisation were now left far behind. The kings, inspired by Spanish
pride and the hereditary pretensions of the German Caesars, conceived
the mad idea of mastering all Europe, with no more support than
a nation of seven million of inhabitants, and a few companies of
ill-paid and starving soldiers. The gold from America had gone to fill
the Dutchmen's purses, and in this undertaking, worthy of Don Quixote,
the nation received blow after blow. Spain became more and more
Catholic, poorer and more barbarous. She aspired to conquer the whole
world, yet in the interior she had whole provinces uninhabited; many
of the old towns had disappeared, the roads were obliterated and no
one in Spain knew for certain the geography of the country though few
were ignorant of the situation of heaven and of purgatory. The farms
of any fertility were not occupied by granges but by convents, and
along the few highways bivouacked bands of robbers, who took refuge,
when they found themselves pursued, in the monasteries, where they
were welcomed for their piety, and for the many masses they ordered
for their sinful souls.

"The ignorance was atrocious, the kings were advised even in warlike
matters by priests. Charles II., when the Dutch troops offered to
garrison the Spanish towns in Flanders, consulted with the clerics as
on a case of conscience, because this might facilitate the diffusion
of heresy, and he ended by preferring to let them fall into the hands
of the French, who, although they were enemies, were at all events
Catholics. In the university of Salamanca the poet Torres de
Villarroel could not find a single work on geography, and when he
spoke of mathematics, the pupils assured him it was a kind of sorcery,
a devilish science that could only be understood by anointing oneself
with an ointment used by witches. The theologians rejected the project
of a canal to unite the Tagus and the Manzanares, saying that this
would be a work against the will of God; but having laid this
down--fiat--the two rivers joined themselves even though they had
been separated from the beginning of the world. The doctors of Madrid
begged Philip IV. to allow the refuse to remain in the streets
'because the air of the town being exceedingly keen, it would cause
great ravages unless it were impregnated with the vapours from the
filth,' and a century later, a famous theologian in Seville registered
in a public document with those who were discussing with him, 'that
we would far rather err with Saint Clement, Saint Basil and Saint
Augustin, than agree with Descartes and Newton.'

"Philip II. had threatened with death and confiscation anyone who
published foreign books or who circulated manuscripts, and his
successors forbade any Spaniard to write on political subjects, so,
finding no ways of expansion for thought, they devoted themselves to
fine arts and poetry; painting and the theatre rose to a higher level
than in any other country; they were the safety valves of the national
genius; but this spring of art was only ephemeral, for in the midst of
the seventeenth century a grotesque and debasing decadence overwhelmed

"The poverty in those centuries was horrible; that same Philip II.,
though he was lord of the world, put up titles of nobility for sale
for the sum of six thousand reals, noting on the margin of the decree
'that it was not necessary to inquire much into the quality and origin
of the people.' In Madrid the people sacked the bakeries, fighting
with their fists for the bread. The president of Castille travelled
through the province with the executioner to wring the scanty harvest
from the peasants. The collectors of taxes, finding nothing that they
could collect in the towns, tore off the roofs of the houses, selling
the woodwork and the tiles. The families fled to the mountains
whenever they saw in the distance the king's representative, and so
the towns remained deserted and fell into ruins. Hunger came in even
to the royal palaces, and Charles II., Lord of Spain and of the
Indies, was unable on several occasions to procure food for his
servants. The ambassadors of England and Denmark were obliged to sally
forth with their armed servants to seek for bread in the suburbs of

"And amidst all this the innumerable convents, masters of more than
half the country and the sole possessors of wealth, showed their
charity by distributing soup to those who had strength to fetch it,
and by founding asylums and hospitals, where the people died of misery
though they were certain of reaching heaven. The ancient manufactures
had all disappeared. Segovia, so famous for its cloth, that had
employed over 40,000 persons in its manufacture, only held 15,000
inhabitants, and these had so completely forgotten the art of weaving
wool that when Philip V. wished to re-establish the industry, he was
obliged to import German weavers.

"And it was the same thing in Seville, in Valencia, and in Medina del
Campo, so famous for their fairs and their manufactures," continued
Gabriel. "Seville which in the fifteenth century had 16,000 silk
weavers, at the end of the seventeenth could only produce 65. Though
it is true in exchange its Cathedral clergy numbered 117 canons, and
it had 78 convents, with more than 4,000 friars and 14,000 priests
in the diocese. And Toledo? At the close of the fifteenth century
it employed 50,000 artisans in its silk and wool weaving and in its
factory of arms, to say nothing of curriers, silversmiths, glovers,
and jewellers; at the end of the seventeenth century it had hardly
15,000 inhabitants. Everything was decayed, everything was ruined;
twenty-five houses belonging to illustrious families had passed into
the hands of the convents, and the only rich people in the town were
the friars, the archbishop and the Cathedral. Spain was so exhausted
at the end of the Austrian rule that she saw herself nearly divided
among the different powers of Europe, like Poland, another Catholic
country like ours. The quarrels among the kings were the only thing
that saved her."

"If those times were so bad, Gabriel," said Silver Stick, "how was
it the Spaniards showed such unanimity? How was it there were no
'pronunciamientos' and risings in these deplorable times?"

"What could they do? The despotism of the Caesars had imposed on the
Spaniards a blind obedience to the kings as the representatives
of God, and the clergy had educated them in this belief from the
community of interests between the Church and the throne. Even the
most illustrious poets corrupted the people, exalting servility to the
monarchy in their plays. Calderon affirmed that the property and life
of a citizen did not belong to himself but to the king. Besides,
religion filled everything; it was the sole end of existence, and the
Spaniards meditating always on heaven, ended by accustoming themselves
to the miseries of earth. Do not doubt but the excess of religion was
our ruin, and came very near exterminating us as a nation. Even now we
are dragging along the consequences of this plague which lasted for
centuries. To save this country from death what had to be done? The
foreigners had to be called in, and the Bourbons came. See how low we
had fallen that we had not even soldiers. In this land, even if we
were wanting in other advantages, we could from the earliest days
reckon on good warlike leaders; but look, in the war of succession we
had to have English and French generals, and even officers, for there
was not a Spaniard who could train a cannon or command a company; we
had no one to serve us as a minister, and under Philip V. and Fernando
VI. all the Government were foreigners, strangers called in to revive
the lost manufactures, to reclaim the derelict lands, to repair the
ancient irrigation channels, and to found colonies in the deserts
inhabited by wild beasts and bandits. Spain, who had colonised half
the world after her own fashion, was now re-discovered and colonised
by Europeans.[1] The Spaniards seemed like poor Indians, guided by
their Cacique the friar, with their rags covered with scapularies and
miracle-working relics. Anti-clericalism was the only remedy against
all this superstition and ruin, and this spirit came in with the
foreign colonists. Philip V. wished to suppress the Inquisition and to
end the naval war with the Mussulman nations which had lasted for a
thousand years, depopulating the shores of the Mediterranean with the
fear of the Barbary and Turkish pirates. But the natives resisted any
reform coming from the colonists, and the first Bourbon had to desist,
finding his crown in danger. Later on his immediate successors, having
deeper roots in the country dared to continue his work. Carlos III.
in his endeavour to civilise Spain laid a heavy hand on the Church,
limiting its privileges and curtailing its revenues, being careful of
earthly things and forgetful of the heavenly. The bishops protested,
speaking in letters and pastorals 'of the persecutions of the poor
Church, robbed of its goods, outraged in its ministers, and attacked
in its immunities,' but the awakened country rejoiced in the
only prosperous days it had known in modern times before the
disestablishment. Europe was ruled by philosophic kings and Charles
III. was one of them. The echo of the English revolution still
vibrated through the world; the monarchs now wished to be loved and
not feared, and in every country they struggled against the ignorance
and brutality of the masses, bringing about progressive reforms
by royal enactment and even by force. But the great evil of the
monarchical system was its heredity, the power settled in one family,
for the son of a clever man with good intentions might be an imbecile.
After Charles III. came Charles IV., and as if this were not
sufficient, in the year of his death the French revolution broke out,
which made all the kings in Europe tremble, and the Bourbons of Spain
quite lost their heads, which they were never able to recover. They
went astray, wandering from the right way, throwing themselves once
more into the arms of the Church as the only means of avoiding the
revolutionary danger, and they have not yet returned, nor will they,
to the right track. Jesuits, friars and bishops became once more the
counsellors at the palace, as they still are, as in the times when
Carlos II. concocted his military and political plans with a council
of theologians. We have had false revolutions which have dethroned
people, but not ideas. It is true we have advanced a little, but
timidly, with halting footsteps and disorderly retreats, like one who
advances fearfully, and suddenly, at the slightest noise, rushes back
to the point of departure. The transformation has been more exterior
than interior. The minds of the people are still in the seventeenth
century; they still feel the fear and cowardice engendered by the
inquisitorial bonfires. The Spaniards are slaves to their very marrow;
their pride and their energies are all on the surface; they have not
lived through three centuries of ecclesiastical servitude for nothing.
They have made revolutions, they are capable of rebelling, but they
will always stop short at the threshold of the Church, who was their
mistress by force and remains so still, even though its power has
vanished. There is no fear of them entering here. You may remain quite
easy, Don Antolin, though in justice many accounts might be required
of her from the past. Is it because they are as religious as formerly?
You know that this is not the case, though they complain with reason
of the way in which the ancient grandeur of the Church has been
extinguished without popular aid."

[Footnote 1: In 1897 an Act was passed "to colonise derelict land in

"That is true," said Silver Stick; "there is no faith. No one is
capable of making any sacrifice for the house of God. Only in the hour
of death, when fear comes in, do some of them remember to assist us
with their fortune."

"There is no faith, that is the truth. The Spaniard, after that
religious fever that nearly killed him, lived in a state of perfect
indifference, not from scientific reflection but from inability to
think at all. They know they will go either to heaven or hell; they
believe it because they have been taught so, but they let themselves
be carried on by the stream of life, without the strength to choose
either one place or the other. They accept the established, living
in a sort of an intellectual somnambulism. If now and then thought
awakening suggests some criticism it is smothered at once by fear;
the Inquisition still lives among us though we have no longer the
bonfires, but we are terribly afraid of 'what will be said.' A
stationary and narrow-minded society is our modern holy office. He
who raises his protest, rising above the general and common monotony,
draws upon himself the stupid anger of scandalised man, and suffers
punishment; if he is poor he is put to the proof of hunger, his means
of life being cut away from him, and if he is independent he is burned
in effigy, creating emptiness around him. Everyone must be correct and
agree to what is established, and hence it arises, that, bound to
one another by fear, never an original thought arises, there is no
independent thought, and even the learned keep to themselves the
conclusions they draw from their studies. As long as this goes on the
task of the revolutionary is useless in this country; they may change
the apparent nature of the soil, but when the pickaxe strikes they
come at once on the stones of ages, solid and compact. The national
character though it has lost its religious faith is unchanged. Faith
is dead, but the corpse still remains with the appearance of life,
occupying the same place and obstructing the pathway. The Church is
poor and driven into a corner compared to what it was formerly, Don
Antolin, but do not fear, its situation will not be aggravated, the
tide has risen to its full height and will not overflow; as long as
the people in this country are afraid to say what they think, as long
as they are scandalised by a new idea, and tremble at what their
neighbours will say, so long will they laugh at revolutions, for
however much they break out, none of these will bring the water to
your mouths."

Don Antolin laughed on hearing this.

"But Gabrielillo, man--you must be mad. All this reading and
travelling has turned your head. At first I was indignant, thinking
you were among those who wished for another revolution to take
away the little that is left to us, proclaiming the republic and
suppressing all ecclesiastical things, but I see that you go much
beyond this, that you conform to nothing, and that everything seems to
you the worst; and this rather pleases me, because I see you are not a
terrible enemy to be feared as you fire from too far. It seems to me
that your head is as much affected as your chest. But do all these
revolutions we have had seem as nothing to you? Do you think the
country is still as savage as you have described it in past years? But
I," continued the priest ironically, "hear a great deal said about the
progress of the country, and I know that we have railways, and that
the long chimneys are arising in all the town suburbs, and many of the
impious are delighted at this, comparing them to the church belfries."

"Bah!" exclaimed Gabriel indifferently. "There is a little of this
progress; the revolutions have placed Spain in touch with other
countries, the progressive current has caught this country and is
carrying it along as the Asiatics and others are carried; no one
can escape it nowadays. But we advance at very low water, inert and
without strength; if we advance it is with the current, and not by
our own energy, while other people stronger than we swim and swim,
advancing at every stroke. How have we contributed to this progress?
Where are our manifestations of modern life? The railways, few and
bad, are the work of foreigners, and are their property; the grass
grows between the rails, which shows that we still follow the holy
calm of carts and wagons. The most important industries, metallurgy
and mines, are all in the hands of foreigners or of Spaniards who are
subject to them, living under their bountiful protection. Commerce
languishes under an old-fashioned protection which enhances the price
of all commodities, and so there is no capital forthcoming; money
remains hidden in earthen jars in the fields as treasure, or in the
towns is devoted to usury as in past times; the most daring venture
to invest in public stock; Government continues the mismanagement,
certain of always finding someone to lend, and pointing to this credit
as a proof of the country's prosperity. There are in Spain two million
hectares of uncultivated land, twenty-six millions of unirrigated
arable land, and only one million irrigated. This cultivation of
unirrigated land, which has come to be almost our only agriculture
is a concession that Spanish indolence makes to hunger, a perpetual
demonstration of the fanaticism that trusts in prayer or in the rain
from heaven more than in human progress. The rivers rush to the sea
through scorched-up provinces overflowing in winter, not to fertilise,
but to carry away everything in the volume of the inundation; there is
plenty of stone for churches and new convents, but none for dykes and
reservoirs; they build belfries and cut down the trees that attract
the rain. And do not tell me again, Don Antolin, that the Church is
poor and in no ways in fault; the poor are yourselves, you of the old
and traditional Church, you of the religion 'a la Espanola,' for in
this as in everything else there are fashions, and the faithful
follow the most recent; for here are the Jesuits, the most modern
manifestation of Catholicism, the 'latest novelty,' with their Sacred
Heart of Jesus and other French idolatries, building palaces and
churches in all directions, diverting the money that formerly went to
the Cathedrals, the only evidence of wealth in the country. But let us
return to our progress. Worse even for agriculture than the drought
is the ignorance and routine of the labourers, every new invention or
scientific appliance repels them, thinking it evil. 'The old times
were the good ones, our ancestors cultivated in this way and so ought
we'; and so ignorance is turned into a sort of national glory, and
we cannot hope for any remedy at present. In other countries the
universities and high schools send out reformers, men fighting for
progress; here the centres of learning only send out a proletariat
of students who must live, besieging all the professions and public
appointments, with the sole desire to open themselves a way to
continuous employment. They study (if you can call it study) for a few
years, not to learn, but to gain a diploma, a scrap of paper which
authorises them to earn their bread. They learn anything that the
professor teaches, without the slightest desire to inquire any
further. The professors are for the greater part doctors or barristers
practising their profession, who come between whiles and sit for an
hour in their chairs, repeating like a phonograph what they have said
for many previous years, and then they return to their sick or their
lawsuits, without caring in the least what is being said or written in
the world since they got their appointments. All Spanish culture is at
second hand, purely on the surface, 'translated from the French,' and
even this is only for the scanty minority who read, for the rest of
those so-called intellectuals have no other library but the text-books
they studied as children, and all they learn of the progress of human
thought is from the newspapers. The parents who are desirous of
securing as soon as possible the future of their sons who are seeking
a career, send them to these centres of learning when they scarcely
know how to speak; the man-student of other countries, in the
full plenitude of his thinking powers, does not exist here. The
universities are full of children, and in the different institutes you
only see short trousers, and the Spaniard, before he shaves himself
for the first time, is a licentiate and on the high road to become
a doctor; the wet nurse will end by sitting by the professor. These
children who receive the baptism of science at an age when in other
countries they are playing with their toys, being confirmed in the
title that proclaims their scientific acquirements, study no more;
these are the intellectuals who are to direct and save us, and who
to-morrow may be legislators and ministers. Come, my good man, it is
enough to make one laugh!"

Gabriel did not laugh, but Silver Stick and the others applauded his
words. Any criticism against the present times delighted the priest.

"This country is drained, Don Antolin, nothing remains standing. The
number of towns which have vanished since our decadence commenced is
incalculable. In other countries ruins are carefully preserved, as
so many stone pages of their history; they are cleaned, preserved,
supported and strengthened, and paths opened round them so that all
can examine them. Here, where Roman, Byzantine and Arab art have
passed, and also the Mudejar, the Gothic and the Renaissance--in fact,
all the styles of Europe--the ruins in the country are hidden and
disfigured by herbage and creepers, and in the towns they are
mutilated and disfigured by the vandalism of the people. They are
constantly thinking of the past, and yet they despise its remains;
what a country of dreams and desolation! Spain is no longer a country,
it is an ill-arranged and dusty museum, full of old things that
attract all the curious of Europe, but in which even the ruins are

The eyes of Don Martin, the young curate, fastened themselves on
Gabriel. They seemed to speak to him and express the pleasure with
which he heard his words. The other listeners, silent and with bowed
heads, did not feel less the enchantment of those propositions which
sounded so audaciously in the restful and rank atmosphere of the
cloister. Don Antolin was the only one who laughed, finding Gabriel's
ideas quite charming but absolutely crazy It was getting late and the
sun had sunk below the roofs of the Cathedral. Silver Stick's niece
called to them once again from the door of her house.

"We are coming, child," said the priest, "but I have one thing first
to say to this gentleman."

And addressing himself to Luna, he continued:

"But, Hombre de Dios![1]--but I ought not to call you that as you
are so turbulent--you think everything is out of joint. The Spanish
Church, worn out as you say, has become very poor, and still you say
this revolution is a very small affair. What do you wish for? What
is it that you desire so that things might be settled? Tell us your
secret quickly and let us go, for the cold is very sharp."

[Footnote 1: Man of God.]

And he laughed again, looking at Gabriel with paternal pity as though
he were a child.

"My remedy!" exclaimed Gabriel, taking no notice of the priest's
gesture. "I have no remedy whatever, it is the progress of humanity
that alone offers one. All the nations on earth have passed through
the same evolutions; first of all they were ruled by the sword, then
by faith, and now by science. We ourselves have been ruled by warriors
and priests, but now we tarry at the gate of modern life, without the
strength or wish to take science by the hand, who is the only guide
we could have, hence our sad situation. Science is nowadays in
everything--in agriculture, in all manufactures, in arts and crafts,
in the culture and well-being of the people; it is even in war. Spain
still lives far from the sun of science, at most she knows a pale
reflection, cold and feeble, that comes to us from foreign countries.
The failure of faith has left us without strength, like those
creatures who, having suffered from a severe illness in their youth,
remain anaemic for ever, without possible recuperation, condemned to
premature old age."

"Bah! Science!" said Silver Stick, turning towards his house; "that
is the eternal cry of all the enemies of religion. There is no better
science than to love God and His works. Good evening."

"Very good evening, Don Antolin; but remember this, we have not yet
done with faith and the sword; sometimes one directs us or the other
drives us; but of science, never a word, unless Spain has changed in
the last twenty-four hours."


After this evening Gabriel avoided the meetings in the cloister, so
as to have no more discussions with Silver Stick. He repented of his
audacity, and when he was alone reflected on the danger to which
he had exposed himself in expressing his views so freely. He felt
terrified at the possibility of being expelled from the Cathedral to
roam the world afresh; he reproached himself, throwing in his own
teeth his folly in hurling himself against the prejudices of the past.
What could he hope to effect by changing the thoughts of these poor
people? What weight could the conversion of these few men, stuck
like limpets to the stones of the past, have in the emancipation of

The Cathedral was to Gabriel like a gigantic tumour, which blistered
the Spanish epidermis, like scars of its ancient infirmities. It was
not a muscle capable of development, but an abscess which bided its
time either to be extirpated, or to disappear of itself through the
working of the germs it contained; he had chosen this ruin as
his refuge and he ought to be silent, to be prudent so that his
ingratitude should not be flung in his face.

Moreover, his brother Esteban, breaking the cold reserve into which he
had retired since the arrival of his daughter, counselled prudence.

"His mind seems possessed by the demon, Esteban," said the priest,
"and he explains his views with the most perfect calmness in this holy
house, as though he were in one of those infernal clubs which exist in
foreign countries. Where on earth has your brother been to learn such
things? Never have I heard such frightful heresies. Tell him that I
shall forget it all as I have known him since his childhood, and that
I remember he was the pride of our seminary, but more especially
because he is ill, and it would be inhuman to drive him out of the
Cathedral; but he must not repeat this scandal. Silence! Let him keep
all those atrocities in his own head, if it so pleases him to lose his
soul; but in this holy house, and especially before its staff, not a
word. Do you understand? not a word. The next thing will be that he
will hold meetings in the Holy Metropolitan Church. Besides, your
brother must remember that, after all, at this moment, he is eating
the bread of the Church, as he lives on you, and is supported by you,
and it is not right to speak in this way of the most excellent work of
God, and try to point out all its defects."

This last consideration weighed the most with Gabriel, and it wounded
his dignity. Don Antolin said rightly, he was no more than a parasite
of the Cathedral, and having taken refuge in her lap, he owed her
gratitude and silence. He would keep silence. Had he not decided
when he took refuge there to live as one dead? He would live like an
animated corpse, which in some religious orders is the supreme of
human perfection. He would think like everyone else, or rather, he
would try not to think at all, but would simply vegetate there till
his last hour came, like the plants in the garden or the fungus on the
buttresses of the cloister.

The Cathedral servants seated themselves round the sewing machine,
hoping in vain that their master would come down, but content on the
whole, though they did not see him, to be near him, to look at his
empty seat, and to talk to the girl who expressed such ingenuous
admiration for her uncle's conversation. The Chapel-master was
delighted that Luna, his sole admirer, had returned to visit him;
during his temporary eclipse the poor musician had suffered all the
bitterness of solitude, despairing with almost infantile rage, as
though an immense audience had turned its back on him. He caressed
Gabriel as though he was the woman he loved, listening to his
coughing, and recommending all sorts of fantastic remedies imagined
by himself, uneasy at the progress of his malady and trembling at the
idea that death might tear from him his only listener.

He told Gabriel of all the music he had studied during his absence.
When the sick man coughed much, he would cease playing his harmonium,
and begin long talks with his friend, always on the subject of his
constant preoccupation, musical art.

"Gabriel," said the musician one evening; "you who are so keen an
observer, and who knows so much, has it ever struck you that Spain is
sad, and has not the sweet sentimentality of true poetry? She is not
melancholy, she is sad, with a wild and savage silence. She either
laughs in wild peals, or weeps moaning. She has not the gentle smile,
the joyful brightness that distinguishes the man from the animal. If
she laughs it is showing all her teeth; her inner meaning is always
gloomy, with the obscurity of a cavern in which all passions rage like
wild beasts seeking for an outlet."

"You say truly, Spain is sad," replied Luna. "She does not now go
dressed in black, with the rosary hanging to the pommel of her sword
as in former years. Still in her heart she is always dressed in
mourning and her soul is gloomy and wild. For three hundred years the
poor thing has endured the inquisitorial anguish of burning or being
burnt, and she still feels the spasm of that life of terror. There is
no joy here."

"There certainly is not, and you find this more in music than in any
other phase of Spanish life. The Germans dance the gay and voluptuous
waltz with a 'bock' in their hand, singing the _Gaudeamus igitur_,
that students' hymn glorifying the material life free from care. The
French sing amid rippling laughter, and dance with their free and
elastic limbs, greeting with rapturous applause their fantastic and
monkey-like movements. The English have turned their dance into
gymnastics, with the energy of a healthy body delighting in its own
strength. But all these people, when they feel the sweet sadness of
poetry, sing Lieds, romances, ballads, something soft and flowing,
that rests the soul and speaks to the imagination. Here even the
popular dances have much that is priestly, recalling the priestly
stiffness of the sacred dances, and the circling frenzy of the
priestess, who ended by falling in front of the altar with foaming
mouth and bloodshot eyes. And our songs? They are most beautiful, the
products of many civilisations, but most sad, despairing, gloomy,
revealing the soul of a sick and tainted people, who find their
greatest pleasure in human bloodshed, or urging on dying horses in the
enclosure of a circus. Spanish joy! Andalusian merriment! I cannot
help laughing at it. One night in Madrid I assisted at an Andalusian
fete, all that was most typical, most Spanish. We went to enjoy
ourselves immensely. Wine and more wine! And accordingly the bottle
went round, with ever frowning brows, gloomy faces, abrupt gestures.
'Ole! come along here! This is the joy of the world!' but the joy did
not appear in any part. The men looked at one another with scowling
brows, the women stamped their feet and clapped their hands with a
stupid vacuity in their looks, as though the music had emptied their
brains. The dancers swayed like erect serpents, with their mouths
open, their looks hard, grave, proud, unapproachable, like dancers who
were performing a sacred rite. Now and then above the monotonous and
sleepy rhythm, a song, harsh and strident like a roar, like the scream
of one who falls with his body run through. And the poetry? As dreary
as a dungeon, sometimes very beautiful, but beautiful as might be the
song of a prisoner behind his bars, dagger thrusts to the faithless
wife, offences against the mother washed out in blood, complaints
against the judge who sends to prison the caballeros[1] of the
broad-brimmed sombreros and sashes. The adieus of the culprit who
watches in the chapel the light of his last morning dawn. A poetry
of death and the scaffold that wrings the heart and robs it of all
happiness; even the songs to the beauty of women contain blood and
threats. And this is the music that delights the people in their hours
of relaxation and that will go on 'enlivening' them probably for
centuries. We are a gloomy people, Gabriel, we have it in our very
marrow, we do not know how to sing unless we are threatening or
weeping, and that song is the most beautiful which contains most
sighs, most painful groans and gasps of agony."

[Footnote 1: Highwaymen.]

"It is true, the Spanish people must necessarily be so. It believes
with its eyes shut in its kings and priests as the representatives of
God, and it moulds itself in their image and likeness. Its merriment
is that of the friars--a coarse merriment of dirty jests, of greasy
words and hoarse laughs. Our spicy novels are stories of the refectory
composed in the hours of digestion, with the garments loosened, the
hands crossed on the paunch, and the triple chin resting on
the scapulary. Their laughter arises always from the same
sources--grotesque poverty, the troublesome hangers on, the tricks
of hunger to rob a companion of his provision of begged scraps. The
tricks to filch purses from the gaily-dressed ladies who flaunt in the
churches, who serve as models to our poets of the golden age to depict
a lying world devoid of honour. The woman enslaved behind iron bars
and shutters, more dishonest and vicious than the modern woman with
all her liberty. The Spanish sadness is the work of her kings, of
those gloomy invalids who dreamt of conquering the whole world while
their own people were dying of hunger. When they saw that their deeds
did not correspond to their hopes, they became hypochondriacs and
despairingly fanatical, believing their ruin to be a punishment from
God, giving themselves over to a cruel devotion in order to appease
the divinity. When Philip II. heard of the wreck of the _Invincible_,
the death of so many thousand men, and the sorrow of half Spain, he
never even winked an eyelid. 'I sent it to fight with men, not with
the elements,' and he went on with his prayers in the Escorial. The
imperturbable gloom and ferocity of the kings re-acted on the nation,
and this is why for many centuries black was the favourite colour at
the court of Spain. The sombre groves in the royal palaces, with their
gloomy winter foliage, were and still are their favourite resorts; the
roofs of their country palaces are black, with towers surmounted by
weather-cocks, and dark cloisters like monasteries."

Shut into that small room with no other listener than the
Chapel-master, Gabriel forgot the discretion he had imposed on
himself with a view to the continuance of his quiet existence in
the Cathedral. He could speak without fear in the presence of the
musician, and he spoke warmly about the Spanish kings and of the gloom
that from them had filtered through the country.

Melancholy was the punishment imposed by Nature on the despots of the
Western decadence. When a king had any artistic predispositions, like
Fernando VI., instead of tasting the joy of life he nearly died of
weariness listening to the airs on the guitar feebly tinkled by
Farinelli. As they were born with their minds closed to every
inspiration of beauty or poetry, they spent their lives gun in hand in
the woods near Madrid, shooting the deer and yawning with disgust at
the fatigues of the chase, while the queens amused themselves at a
distance hanging on to the arm of one of the bodyguard. They could
not live with impunity for three centuries in close contact with the
Inquisition, exercising power simply as papal delegates, under the
direction of bishops, Jesuits, confessors, and monastic orders, who
only left to the Spanish monarchy the appearance of power, turning
it, in fact, into an oppressed theocratic republic. The gloom of
Catholicism penetrated into their very bones, and while the fountains
of Versailles were playing among their marble nymphs, and the
courtiers of Louis XIV. were decked like butterflies in their
multi-coloured garments, as shameless as pagans among the beautiful
goddesses, the court of Spain, dressed in black, with a rosary hanging
at its girdle, assisted at the burnings and, girt with the green scarf
of the holy office, honoured itself by undertaking the duties of
alguacil at the bonfires of heretics. While humanity, warmed by the
soft breath of the Renaissance, was admiring the Apollos and adoring
the Venus' discovered by the plough amid the ruins of mediaeval
catastrophes, the type of supreme beauty for the Spanish monarchy
was the criminal of Judea. The black and dusty Christs in the old
cathedrals, with the livid mouth, the skeleton and distorted body, the
feet bony, and dripping with blood, much blood,--that liquid so loved
by the religious when doubt begins and faith weakens, and to impose
dogma they place their hand on the sword.

"For this reason the Spanish monarchy has been steeped in gloom,
transmitting its melancholy from one generation to another. If by any
chance there appeared among them anyone happy and pleased with life,
it was because in the blue blood of the maternal veins there was a
plebeian drop, which pierced like the rays of the sun into a sick

Don Luis listened to Gabriel, receiving his words with affirmative

"Yes, we are a people governed by gloom," said the musician. "The
sombre humour of those dark centuries lives in us still. I have often
thought how difficult life must have been to an awakened spirit. The
Inquisition listening to every word, and endeavouring to guess every
thought. The conquest of heaven the sole ideal of life! And that
conquest becoming daily more difficult! Money must be paid to the
Church to save one's self, and poverty was the most perfect state; and
again, besides the sacrifice of all comfort, prayers at all hours,
the daily visits to the church, the life of confraternities, the
disciplines in the vaults of the parish church, the voice of the
brother of Mortal Sin interrupting sleep to remind one of the approach
of Death; and added to this fanatical and weary life the uncertainty
of salvation, the threat of falling into hell for the slightest fault,
and the impossibility of ever thoroughly appeasing a sullen and
revengeful God. And then again, the more tangible menace, the terror
of the bonfire, engendering cowardice and debasing suspected men."

"In this way we can understand," said Gabriel, "the cynical confession
of the Canon Llorente explaining why he became secretary to the Holy
Office: 'They began to roast, and in order not to be roasted I took on
me the part of roaster.' For intelligent men there was nothing else
to be done. How could they resist and rebel? The king, master of all
lives and property, was only the servant of bishops, friars, and
familiars. The kings of Spain, except the first Bourbons, were nothing
but servants of the Church; in no country has been seen as palpably
as in this one the solidarity between Church and State. Religion
succeeded in living without the kings, but the kings could not exist
without religion. The fortunate warrior, the conqueror who founded
a throne, had no need of a priest. The fame of his exploits and his
sword were enough for him, but as death drew near he thought of his
heirs, who would be unable to dispose of glory and fear to make
themselves respected as he had done, and he drew near to the priest,
taking God as a mysterious ally who would watch over the preservation
of the throne. The founder of a dynasty reigned 'by the grace of
strength' but his descendants reigned 'by the grace of God.' The king
and the Church were everything for the Spanish people. Faith had made
them slaves by a moral chain that no revolutions could break; its
logic was indisputable--the belief in a personal God, who busied
Himself with the most minute concerns of the world, and granted His
grace to the king that he might reign, obliged them to obey under pain
of going to hell. Those who were rich and well placed in the world
grew fat, praising the Lord who created kings to save men the trouble
of governing themselves; those who suffered consoled themselves by
thinking that this life was but a passing trial, after which they
would be sure to gain a little niche in heaven. Religion is the best
of all auxiliaries to the kings; if it had not existed before the
monarchs these last would have invented it. The proof is that in these
times of doubt they are firmly anchored to Catholicism, which is the
strongest prop of the throne. Logically the kings ought to say, 'I am
king because I have the power, because I am supported by the army.'
But no, senor, they prefer to continue the old farce and say, 'I, the
king, by the grace of God.' The little tyrant cannot leave the lap of
the greater despot; it is impossible to them to maintain themselves by

Gabriel was silent for some time; he was suffocating, his chest was
heaving with the spasms of his hollow cough. The Chapel-master drew
near alarmed.

"Do not be uneasy," said Luna, recovering himself; "it is so every
day. I am ill and I ought not to talk so much, but these things excite
me, and I feel irritated by the absurdities of the monarchy and
religion, not only in this country, but all over the world. But,
notwithstanding, I have felt real pity, profound commiseration for a
being with royal blood. Can you believe it? I saw him quite close in
one of my journeys through Europe. I do not know how the police
who guarded his carriage did not drive me away, fearing a possible
attempt, but what I felt was compassion for the kings who have come
so late into a world that no longer believes in the divine right; and
these last twigs, sprouting from the worm-eaten and rotten trunk of a
dynasty, carry in their poor sap the decay of the rotten branches. It
was a youth, as sick as I am, not by the chances of life, but weakly
from his cradle, condemned before his birth to suffer from the malady
that came to him with his life. Just imagine, Don Luis, if at this
time for the preservation of my own interests I begot a son, would it
not be a coldly premeditated attempt against the future?"

And the revolutionist described the young invalid: his thin body,
artificially strengthened by hygiene and gymnastics, his eyes heavy
and sunk deep in their sockets, the lower jaw hanging loose like that
of a corpse, wanting the strength that keeps it fixed to the skull.

"Poor youth! Why was he born? What would be accomplished in his
journey through the world? Why had Nature, who so often refuses
fecundity to the strong, shown herself prodigal to the loveless union
of a dying consumptive? What was the use to him of having carriages
and horses, liveried servants to salute him, and ninnies to give him
food; it would have been far better had he never appeared in the world
but had remained in the limbo of those who are never born. Like the
squire of Don Quixote, who finding himself at last in the plenty of
Barataria, had by his side a doctor Recio to restrain his appetite,
this poor creature could never enjoy with freedom the pleasures of the
remains of life left to him."

"They pay him thousands of duros," added Gabriel, "for every minute of
his life, but no amount of gold can procure him a drop of fresh blood
to cure the hereditary poison in his veins. He is surrounded by
beautiful women, but if he feels arising the happy tremors of youth,
the sap of the spring of life, the predisposition of a family who have
only been notable for the victories won in love's battles, he must
remain cold and austere, under his mother's vigilant eye, who knows
that carnal passion would rapidly end a life so weak and uncertain.
And the end of all these sad-and painful privations--inevitable death.
Why was this poor creature born? Often the greatness of the earth is
worse than a malediction, and reasons of State are the most cruel of
all torments for an invalid, obliging him to feign a health he does
not feel. To speak of the illness of the king is a crime, and the
courtiers living under the shadow of the throne consider the slightest
allusion to the king's health as a sacrilege, a crime worthy of
punishment, as though he were not a human being subject like others to

"I do not care much for politics," said the Chapel-master; "kings and
republics are all the same to me, I am a votary of art. I do not know
what monarchy may be in the other countries that you have seen, but in
Spain it seems quite played out. It is tolerated like so many relics
of the past, but it inspires no enthusiasm and no one is inclined to
sacrifice themselves for it, and I believe that even the people who
live in its shadow, and whose interests are most bound up with those
of the crown, have more devotion on their tongues than in their

"It is so, Don Luis," said Gabriel; "for nearly a century the monarchy
has been dead in Spain; the last loved and popular king was Fernando
VII. Since then the nation has asserted itself, becoming emancipated
from the old traditions, but the kings have not progressed; on the
contrary, they have gone back, withdrawing themselves daily more and
more from the anticlerical and reforming tendencies of the first
Bourbons. If in educating a prince nowadays his masters were to say,
'We will try and make a Carlos III. of him,' even the stones of the
palace would be scandalised. The Austrians have revived like those
parasitic plants which, having been torn up, reappear after a little
while. If in the life of the kings they seek for examples in the past,
they remember the Austrian Caesars, but it is complete oblivion of
those first Bourbons who morally killed the Inquisition, expelled
the Jesuits, and fostered the material progress of the country; they
renounce the memory of those foreign ministers who came to civilise
Spain. Jesuits, friars and clerics order and direct as in the best
times of Charles II. To have had as minister a Count of Aranda, the
friend of Voltaire, is a shame of the past and to be passed over in
silence. Yes, Don Luis, you say well, the monarchy is dead. Between it
and the country there is the same relation as between a corpse and a
living man. The secular laziness, the resistance to all change, and
the fear of the unknown that all stationary people feel, are the
causes of the continuance of this institution, that has not like other
countries the military outlet or the aggrandisement of its territory
as a justification of its existence."

With this the conversation ended that evening in the Chapel-master's
little room.

Gabriel found himself drawn afresh by the affection of his admirers
in the Claverias. They coaxed him and followed him, lamenting his
absence. They could not live without him, so declared the shoemaker.
They had become accustomed to listen to him, they felt the desire of
being enlightened, and they begged the master not to desert them.

"We meet in the tower now," said the bell-ringer; "Silver Stick
looks on our meetings with an evil eye, and he has gone so far as
to threaten the shoemaker to turn him out of the Claverias if the
meetings continue to be held in his house. He will not interfere with
me; he knows my character. Besides, if he rules in the upper cloister,
I rule in my tower. I am quite capable, if he comes to disturb us with
his spying, of throwing him down the stairs, the miserly devil!"

And he added with an affectionate expression, a great contrast to his
usual rough and taciturn character:

"Come, Gabriel, we expect you in my house. When you are tired of
keeping your niece and that crazy Don Luis company, come up for a
little while. We cannot get on without your words. Don Martin has been
quite enthusiastic since he heard you the other evening; he wants to
see you; he says he would go from one end of Toledo to the other to
hear you. He wishes me to let him know if you decide on rejoining your
friends, because Don Antolin in speaking to him sets you down as a
madman and a heretic who does not know what to be after. But he is an
ignoramus who, after studying for his profession, can do no better
than sell tickets and squeeze the poor."

Luna returned to the meetings in the bell-ringer's house. The greater
part of the morning he sat by his niece, soothed by the tic-tac of the
machine, which caused a gentle drowsiness, watching the cloth pass
under the presser with little jumps, spreading the peculiar chemical
scent of new stuffs.

He watched Sagrario always sad, devoting herself to her work with
taciturn tenacity; when now and then she raised her head to regulate
her cotton and met Gabriel's glance, a faint smile would pass over her

In the isolation in which the anger of her father had left them they
felt obliged to draw together as though a common danger threatened
them, and their bodily infirmities were a further bond of union.
Gabriel pitied the fate of the poor young woman, seeing how hardly the
world had treated her after her flight from the family hearth. Her
long illness had changed her greatly and still caused her pain, her
once beautiful teeth were no longer white and regular, and the lips
were pallid and drawn; her hair had grown thin in places, but she
contrived to conceal this with locks of the auburn hair, remains of
her former beauty, which she dressed with great skill; but in spite
of this her youth was beginning to assert itself, giving light to her
eyes and charm to her smile.

Many nights Gabriel, tossing on his bed unable to sleep, coughing, and
with his head and chest bathed in cold sweat, would hear in the room
adjoining the suppressed moans of his niece, timid and smothered so
that the rest of the household should not be disturbed.

"What was the matter with you last night?" asked Gabriel the following
morning. "What were you moaning for?"

And Sagrario, after many denials, finally admitted her discomfort:

"My bones ache; directly I get to bed the pain begins and I feel as
though my limbs were being torn asunder. And you, how are you? All
night I heard you cough, and I thought you were suffocating."

And the two invalids stricken by life forgot their own aches and pains
to sympathise with those of the other, establishing between their
hearts a current of loving pity, attracted to each other not by the
difference of sex, but by the fraternal sympathy aroused by each
other's misfortunes.

Very often Sagrario would try to send her uncle away; it pained her
to see him sitting close by her, doing nothing, coughing painfully,
fixing his eyes upon her as though she were an object of adoration.

"Get up from here," the girl would say gaily--"it makes me nervous
seeing you so very quiet keeping me company when what you want is
life and movement. Go to your friends; they are expecting you in the
bell-ringer's tower. They have been talking about me, thinking it is
I who keep you in the house. Go out to walk, uncle! Go and speak of
those things that stir you so much, and that those poor people listen
to open-mouthed. Be careful as you go up the stairs; go slowly and
stop often, so that the demon of the cough, may not get hold of you."

Gabriel spent the later hours of the morning in the bell-ringer's
"habitacion." The walls of ancient whitewash were adorned by faded
and yellow engravings, representing episodes in the Carlist war,
remembrances of the mountain campaign which for long years had been
the pride of Mariano, but of which now he never spoke.

Here Gabriel met all his admirers. Even the shoemaker worked at night
in order not to deprive himself of this meeting. Don Martin, the
curate, also came up, concealing himself carefully so that Silver
Stick should not see him. It was a small community grouping itself
round the sick apostle, with all the zeal inspired by the unknown.

Gabriel answered all these men's questions, that so often betrayed the
simplicity of their minds. When a fit of coughing seized him, they all
surrounded him with concern written on their faces. They would have
wished even at the cost of their own lives to restore him to health.
Luna, carried away by his enthusiasm, ended by narrating to them the
story of his life and sufferings, and so the prestige of martyrdom
came to increase the ardour of these people. The narrowed minds of
these sedentary men, living tranquil and safe in the Cathedral, made
them admire the adventures and torments of this fighter; for them he
was a martyr to this new religion of the humble and oppressed, and
besides, their innocence converted him into a victim of that social
injustice which they daily hated more.

For them there was no other truth but Gabriel's words; the
bell-ringer, although the roughest and most silent among them, was
the most advanced in his conversion. His admiration for Gabriel which
dated from their childhood, his dog-like fidelity, carried him on with
leaps and bounds, making him accept at once even the most distant

"I am whatever you are, Gabriel," he said firmly. "Are you not an
anarchist? I will be one also--indeed, I think I have always been one.
Do you not preach that the poor should live and the rich should work;
that everyone should possess what he earns, and that we should all
help one another? Well, this is just what I thought when we wandered
over the country with our guns and our scarf. And as far as religion
is concerned, which formerly nearly drove us mad, I feel perfectly
indifferent. I am convinced on hearing you that it is a sort of fable
invented by clever people in order that we, the poor and unfortunate,
should submit to the miseries of this world hoping for heaven; it
is not badly imagined, for in the end those who die and do not find
heaven will not return to complain."

One day Gabriel wished to go up where the bells were hung. It was now
well on in spring; it was warm, and the intense blue of the sky seemed
to attract him.

"I have not seen the 'big bell' since I was a child," he said. "Let us
go up; I should like to see Toledo for the last time."

And accompanied by his admirers, indeed, almost carried by them, he
went slowly up the narrow spiral staircase. Arrived at the top, the
soft wind was murmuring through the great iron railings, the cages of
the bells. From the centre of the vault hung the famous "Gorda," an
immense bronze bell, with all one side split by a large crack; the
clapper, which was the author of the mischief, lay below it, engraved
and as thick as a column, and a smaller one now occupied the cavity.
The roofs of the Cathedral, dark and ugly, lay at their feet, and in
front on a hill rose the Alcazar, higher and larger than the church,
as though keeping up the spirit of the emperor who built it, Caesar
of Catholicism, champion of the faith, but who nevertheless strove to
keep the Church at his feet.

The city spread out around the Cathedral, the houses disappearing in
the crowd of towers, cupolas and absides. It was impossible to look on
any side without meeting with chapels, churches, convents and ancient
hospitals. Religion had absorbed the industrious Toledo of old, and
still guarded the dead city beneath its hood of stone. From some of
the belfries a red flag was floating, bearing a white chalice; this
meant that some newly-ordained priest was singing his first mass.

"I have never been up here," said Don Martin, sitting by Gabriel's
side on one of the rafters, "without seeing some of these flags;
ecclesiastical recruiting never ceases, there are always visionaries
to fill its ranks. Those who really have faith are the minority, the
greater part enter because they see the Church still triumphant and
seemingly commanding, and they think that in her ranks some tremendous
career is waiting for them. Unlucky wights! I also was led to the
altar with music and oratorical shouts, as though I were walking to a
triumph. Incense spread its clouds before my eyes, all my family wept
with emotion at seeing me nothing less than a minister of God. And
the day following all this theatrical pomp, when the lights and the
censers were extinguished and the church had recovered its ordinary
aspect, began this miserable life of poverty and intrigue to earn
one's bread--seven duros a month! To endure at all hours the
complaints of those poor women, with their tempers embittered by
seclusion, common as the lowest servants, who spend their lives
gossiping in the parlour of what is passing in the towns, inventing
scandals to please the canons, or the families who protect the house.
And there are priests who envy me! hungering against me for this
coveted chaplaincy of nuns! looking upon me as a flattering hanger-on
of the archiepiscopal palace, not understanding how otherwise, being
so young, I could have hooked out this preferment that allows me to
live in Toledo on seven duros a month!"

Gabriel nodded his head, sympathising with the young priest's

"Yes, it is you who are deceived. The day for making great fortunes in
the Church is past, and the poor youths who now wear the cassock and
dream of a mitre make me think of those emigrants who go to distant
countries famous through long centuries of plunder, and find them even
more poverty-stricken than their own land."

"You are right, Gabriel. The day of the all-powerful Church is past;
she has still in her udders milk enough for all, but there are few who
can fasten on to them and fill themselves to repletion, while others
groan with hunger. One could die of laughing when one hears of the
equality and the democratic spirit of the Church. It is all a lie; in
no other institution does so cruel a despotism reign. In early days
Popes and bishops were elected by the faithful, and were deposed from
power if they used it badly. The aristocracy of the Church exists
still; it may be a canon upwards, or one who succeeds in crowning
himself with a mitre; from them no account is required. Among the
laity appointments are changed, ministers are turned out, soldiers are
degraded--even kings are dethroned; but who exacts responsibility from
Pope or bishops once they are anointed and in more or less frequent
intercourse with the Holy Spirit? If you want Justice you are sent
before tribunals equally formed by the aristocrats of the Church;
there is no power more absolute on earth, not even the Grand Turk, who
in a measure is responsible through fear of revolts in his seraglio.
Here, in the seraglio of the Church, we are all less than women. If it
happens that a priest, weary of persecution, feeling the man once more
rising beneath his cassock, deals a heavy blow at his tyrant, he is
declared mad; the climax of hypocrisy! They try to demonstrate that in
the Church one lives in the best of worlds, and it is only the lack of
reason that causes any rebellion against its authority."

Don Martin was silent for a long while as though he were searching in
his memory; at length he continued:

"You also laugh at the idea of the actual poverty of the Church in
Spain. She is like the great ruined noblemen, who still have enough
to live upon in idleness, but who think themselves miserably poor
compared to their former wealth; the Church has the nostalgia of those
former centuries when she possessed half the wealth of Spain. Poor
she is if she thinks of those times, but if you compare her with the
Catholicism of other modern nations you find that, as in former years,
she is by far the most favoured and best paid establishment in the
State. She absorbs forty-one millions of the revenue, which is
enormous in a country which only devotes nine millions to schools and
teaching, and one million to the relief of the poor. To maintain an
intercourse with God costs a Spaniard five times as much as to learn
to read. But this forty-one millions is a blind. My own poverty made
me inquisitive, and I wished to know what the clergy in Spain really
receive, and what comes to our hands, the rank and file. The demands
and pensions of the Church are an intricate tangle, apart from the
forty-one millions. There is not a single ministry in which the Church
has not struck her roots; she is paid by the Ministers of State for
foreign missions, which are no use to anyone, by the Ministers of
War and Marine for military clergy, and by the Ministers of Public
Instruction and Justice. She is paid to support the pomp of the Roman
Pontiff, as we maintain his ambassador in Spain, which is as though
I allowed myself the luxury of keeping servants, and laid on my
neighbour the obligation of paying them. She is paid for the repairs
to churches, for episcopal libraries, for the colonisation of
Fernando Po, for unforeseen occurrences, and I do not know how many
supplemental items besides! And you must take into account what the
Spanish people pay the Church voluntarily apart from what the State
gives. The Bull of the Holy Crusade produces two and a half million
pesetas annually; besides this you must consider what the parochial
clergy draw from their congregations, the annual gifts to the
religious orders for their ministry and offices (and this is
the fattest portion), and the ecclesiastical revenue from the
Ayuntamientos and deputations. In short, this Church, which is
continually speaking of its poverty, draws from the State and the
country more than three hundred million pesetas annually--nearly
double what the army costs; although they are always complaining
in the sacristies of these modern times, saying that everything is
devoured by the military, and that the fault of everything that has
happened is theirs, as they threw themselves on to the side of that
cursed liberty. Three hundred millions, Gabriel! I have calculated it
carefully! And I, who form part of this great establishment, receive
seven duros a month; the greater part of the vicars in Spain are paid
less than an excise officer, and thousands of clergy live from hand to
mouth, wandering from sacristy to sacristy trying to obtain a mass to
put the stew on the fire; and if bands of clergy do not go into the
highways to rob, it is only from fear of the civil guard, and because
after a couple of days of hunger a third may come in which they may
beg some scraps to eat; there is always a crumb to allay hunger, and
no cassock ever falls in the street dying of want, but there are a
great many clerics who spend their existence deceiving their stomachs,
trying to imagine they nourish themselves, till some sudden illness
comes which hurries them out of the world. Where, then, does all this
money go? To the aristocracy of the Church, to the true sacerdotal
caste; but we who are in religion are people of the backstairs. What a
terrible mistake, Gabriel! To renounce love and family affection, to
fly all worldly pleasures, the theatre, concerts, the cafe; to be
looked upon by people, even by those who think themselves religious,
as a strange being, a sort of intermediate, neither a man nor a woman;
to wear petticoats and to be dressed like a lugubrious doll; and in
exchange for all these sacrifices to earn less than a man who breaks
stones on the road. We live idly, certain that we shall never fall
from over-work, but our poverty is greater than that of many workmen;
we cannot acknowledge it, nor put ourselves in the way of begging
alms, for the honour of our cloth. And besides, why should they keep
us if we are of no practical use and cost the country so dear? When
the religious domination came to an end in Spain it was only we, the
lower ones, who suffered in consequence. The priest is poor, the
temple is poor also; but the prince of the Church retains his
thousands of duros yearly, and his great ecclesiastical state, and
he sings his psalms tranquilly, certain that his pittance is in no
danger. The revolution up to now has only prejudiced the lower clergy;
the power of the Church is ended, it is gone; what we see is only its
corpse, but an enormous corpse that will cost a great deal to remove,
and whose preservation will swallow up a great deal of money."

"It is true the Church is defunct; what we fight are only its remains.
The vulgar believe it still lives because they can see and touch it,
forgetting that a religion counts centuries in its life as minutes,
and that generation after generation pass between its death and
burial. Centuries before the birth of Jesus Paganism had fallen.
The Athenian poets mocked the gods of Olympus on the stage, and the
philosophers despised it. All the same Christianity required many
years of propaganda and the political support of the Caesars to bring
it to an end, and even then it was not done with, for dogmas are like
men who leave behind something of themselves in the family who succeed
them. Religions do not disappear suddenly through a trapdoor; they
are extinguished slowly, leaving some of their beliefs and their
ceremonies to the religions that follow them. We have been born in one
of those times of transition, we are present at the death of a whole
world of beliefs. How long will the agony last? Who knows? Two
centuries? Possibly less may be wanted to crystallise in humanity a
fresh proof of its uncertainty and of its fear of the great mystery of
nature, but death is certain, inevitable. But what religion has been
eternal? The symptoms of dissolution are visible everywhere. Where is
that faith that drove those warlike multitudes to the crusades? Where
is that fervour which continued building cathedrals for a couple of
hundred years with angelic patience to shelter a host under a mountain
of stone? Who scourges themselves to-day, or tortures their flesh,
or lives in the desert musing continually on death and hell? Three
centuries of intolerance and of excessive clerical severity have
made our nation the most indifferent to all religious matters. The
ceremonies of worship are followed by routine, because they appeal
to the imagination, but no one takes the trouble to understand the
foundations of the beliefs they profess; they live as they please,
certain that in their last hours it is sufficient to save their souls,
to die surrounded by priests with a crucifix in their hands. In former
days the pressure from clergy, friars, and inquisitors was so great
that the machine of faith burst into a thousand pieces, and there
is no one now who can fit the pieces together, which require the
co-operation of all. And that was a piece of good luck, friend Don
Martin; a century more of religious intolerance and we should have
been like those Mussulmen in Africa, who live in barbarism on account
of their excessive bigotry, after having been the civilising Arabs of
Cordoba and Granada."

"Do you know," said the young curate, "why Catholicism has held up its
appearances of power? It is because from ancient times, in all Latin
countries, it has possessed itself of every avenue through which human
life must pass."

"It is true, no religion has been so cautious as ours, or has ambushed
itself better to entrap men. None has chosen with such certainty in
the time of power the positions it can hold strongly in its decadence.
It is impossible to move without stumbling against her. She knows of
old that man as long as he is healthy, in the plenitude of his vital
strength, is by instinct irreligious. When he lives comfortable the
so-called eternal life concerns him very little. He only believes in
God and fears Him in the hour of supreme cowardice, when death opens
before him the bottomless pit of nothingness, and his pride as a
rational animal revolts against the complete extinction of his being.
He wishes his soul to be immortal, and so he accepts the religious
phantasies of heaven and hell. The Church, fearing the irreligiousness
of health, has occupied, as you say, all the avenues of life, so that
no man shall accustom himself to live without her, appealing solely to
her in the hour of death. The dead provide much money, they are her
best asset; but she wishes equally to reign over the living. Nothing
escapes her despotism and her spying. She insinuates herself into
all human concerns from the greatest to the most insignificant, she
interferes in both public and private life; she baptizes the child
when it comes into the world, accompanies the child to school,
monopolises love, declaring it shameful and abominable if it does
not submit to her benediction, and divides the earth into two
categories--the consecrated, for those who die in her bosom, and the
dunghill in the open air for the heretic. The Church interferes in
dress, laying down what is honest and Christian wear and what is
scandalous frivolity. She interferes in the most intimate relations
of domestic life, and even penetrates into the kitchen, turning
Catholicism into a culinary art, ruling what ought to be eaten, what
ought or ought not to be mixed, and anathematizing certain foods,
which, being good enough the rest of the year, become the most
horrible sacrilege if partaken on certain days. She accompanies a man
from his birth, and does not leave him even after he is laid in the
tomb; she keeps him chained by his soul, making it wander through
space, passing from one place to another, ascending the pathway to
heaven, according to the sacrifices imposed on themselves by his
successors for the benefit of the Church. A greater or more complete
despotism no tyrant could possibly imagine."

It was mid-day. The bell-ringer had disappeared; suddenly the rattle
of chains and pulleys was heard and a dull thunder made the tower
tremble; all the stones and metal and even the surrounding ether
vibrated. The big "Gorda" had just rung, deafening the bystanders. A
few moments afterwards, from the front of the Alcazar, came the sound
of martial music, trumpets, and drums.

"Let us go," said Gabriel. "Really, Mariano might have warned us and
spared us this surprise."

And he added, smiling ironically:

"It is always the same; it is the parasites who shine the most and
make the most noise; they make up in noise what they lack in utility."

The festival of Corpus drew near without anything occurring to ruffle
the quiet life of the Cathedral. Sometimes in the upper cloister they
spoke of His Eminence's health. His serious quarrels with the Chapter
had obliged him to keep his bed, and he had just had an attack which
made them fear for his life.

"It is his heart," said the Tato--who was usually very well informed
about things in the palace--"Dona Visita is weeping like a Magdalen
and cursing the canons, seeing Don Sebastian so ill."

As Wooden Staff sat down to table with his family he began to speak
of the decadence of the feast of Corpus, which had been so famous in
Toledo in former times. In his desire to complain he forgot the bitter
silence he had imposed on himself in his daughter's presence.

"You will hardly recognise our Corpus," he said to Gabriel. "Of all
that we remember nothing remains but the famous tapestries that are
hung outside the Cathedral. The giants are not drawn up before the
Puerta del Perdon, and the procession is shorn of its glory."

The Chapel-master also complained bitterly.

"And the mass, Senor Esteban? Just think what a mass for such a solemn
festivity! Four instruments from outside the house, and a Rossini mass
of the lightest description so as not to cost much. It would have been
far better for this to have played the organ alone."

According to an ancient custom, on the vesper before the feast, the
band of the Academy of Infantry played in the evening before the
Cathedral. All Toledo came to hear the serenade, which was an event in
the monotonous life of the town, and from the province of Madrid many
strangers came for the bull-fight on the following day.

Mariano, the bell-ringer, invited his friends to listen to the
serenade from the Greco-Roman gallery on the principal front. At the
hour when the lights were usually extinguished in the Claverias and
Don Antolin locked the street door, Gabriel and his friends glided
cautiously to the bell-ringer's "habitacion." Sagrario was also
persuaded to come by her uncle, who in this way managed to tear her
from her machine. She really must enjoy some little amusement; she
ought to appear in the world now and then; she was killing herself
with all that tiresome work.

They all sat in the gallery. The shoemaker had brought his wife,
always with a small baby at her flabby breast. The Tato was talking
delightedly to the organ-blower and the verger about the bull-fight on
the following day, and Mariano stood by his adored comrade, while his
wife, a woman as rough as himself, spoke with Sagrario.

The men were deploring the absence of Don Martin. Probably he had gone
down below among the people who filled the square, doubtless dreading
that he must be up before daybreak to say mass to the nuns.

The palace of the Ayuntamiento was decorated with strings of light,
which were reflected on to the facade of the Cathedral, giving the
stones a rosy flush as of fire.

Among the trees walked groups of girls with flowers and white blouses,
like the first appearances of spring. The cadets followed them,
their hands on the pommels of their swords, walking along with
their pinched-in waists and their full pantaloons _a la Turc_. The
archiepiscopal palace remained entirely closed. Above the rosy light
in the piazza, spread the beautiful summer sky, clear and deep,
spangled with innumerable brilliant stars.

When the music ceased, and the lights began to fade, the inhabitants
of the Cathedral felt unwilling to leave their seats. They were very
comfortable there, the night was warm, and they, accustomed to the
confinement and the silence of the Claverias, felt the joy of freedom,
sitting on that balcony with Toledo at their feet and the immensity of
space above them.

Sagrario, who had never been out of the upper cloister since her
return to the paternal roof, looked at the stars with delight.

"How many stars!" she murmured dreamily.

"There are more than usual to-night," said the bell-ringer. "The
summer sky seems a field of stars in which the harvest increases with
the fine weather."

Gabriel smiled at the simplicity of his companions. They all wondered
at God, so foreseeing and so thoughtful, who had made the moon to give
light to men by night, and the stars so that the darkness should not
be complete.

"Well, then," inquired Gabriel, "why is there not a moon always if it
was made to give us light?"

There was a long silence. They were all thinking over Gabriel's
question. The bell-ringer, being most intimate with the master,
ventured to put the question about which they were all thinking. "What
were the heavens, and what was there beyond the blue?"

The square was now deserted and in darkness, there was no light but
the gentle shimmering of the stars scattered in space like golden
dust. From the immense vault there seemed to fall a religious calm, an
overwhelming majesty that stirred the souls of those simple people.
The infinite seemed to bewilder them with its vast grandeur.

"You," said Gabriel, "have your eyes closed to immensity, you cannot
understand it. You have been taught a wretched and rudimentary origin
of the world, imagined by a few ragged and ignorant Jews in a corner
of Asia, which, having been written in a book, has been accepted down
to our days. This personal God, like to ourselves in His shape and
passions, is an artificer of gigantic capacity, who worked six days
and made everything existing. On the first day He created light, and
on the fourth the sun and stars; from whence then came that light if
the sun had not then been created? Is there any distinction between
one and the other? It seems impossible that such absurdities should
have been credited for centuries."

The listeners nodded their heads in assent; the absurdity appeared to
them palpable--as it always did when Gabriel spoke.

"If you wish to penetrate the heavens," continued Luna, "you must get
rid of the human conception of distance. Man measures everything by
his own stature, and he conceives dimensions by the distance his eyes
can reach. This Cathedral seems to us enormous because underneath its
naves we seem like ants; but, nevertheless, the Cathedral seen from
far is only an insignificant wart; compared with the piece of land we
call Spain it is less than a grain of sand, and on the face of the
earth it is a mere atom--nothing. Our sight makes us consider thirty
or forty yards a dizzy height. At this moment we think we are very
high because we are near the roof of the Cathedral, but compared to
the infinite this height is as small as when an ant balances on the
top of a pebble not knowing how to come down. Our sight is short, and
we who can only measure by yards, and apprehend short distances, must
make an immense effort of imagination to realise infinity. Even then
it escapes us and we speak of it very often as of a thing that has no
meaning. How shall I make you understand the immensity of the world?
You must not believe, as our ancestors did, that the earth is flat
and stationary and that the heaven is a crystal dome on which God has
fastened the stars like golden nails, and in which the sun and moon
move to give us light, you must understand that the earth is round,
and whirls round in space."

"Yes, we do know a little about that," said the bell-ringer
doubtfully, "for we were taught so at school. But, really, do you
think it moves?"

"Because in your littleness as human beings, because to our
microscopic mole-like sight the immense mechanism of the world is
lost, do not for a moment doubt it. The earth turns. Without moving
from where you are, in twenty-four hours you will have made the
complete circuit with the globe. Without moving our feet we rush along
at the rate of four hundred leagues an hour, a velocity that the
fastest trains cannot attain. You are astonished? We rush along
without knowing it. Our planet does not only turn on itself, but at
the same time it turns round the sun at the rate of nearly a hundred
thousand miles an hour. Every second we cover thirty thousand miles.
Men have never invented a cannon ball that could fly so quickly. You
move through space fixed to a projectile which whirls with dizzy
speed, and, deceived by your smallness, you think you are living
immovable in a dead cathedral. And this velocity is as nothing
compared with others. The sun round which we turn, flies and flies
through space, carrying on by its attraction the earth and the other
planets. It goes through immensity, dragging us along, travelling
towards the unknown, without ever striking other bodies, finding
always sufficient space to move in with a rapidity which makes one
giddy; and this has gone on for thousands and millions of centuries
without either it or the earth who follows it in its flight ever
passing twice over the same spot."

They all listened to Gabriel open-mouthed with astonishment, and their
bright eyes seemed dazed and bewildered.

"It is enough to drive one mad," murmured the bell-ringer. "What then
is man, Gabriel?"

"Nothing; even as this earth, which seems so large, and that we have
peopled with religions, kingdoms and revelations from God, is nothing.
Dreams of ants! even less! This same sun which seems so enormous
compared to our globe is nothing more than an atom in immensity. What
you call stars are other suns like ours, surrounded by planets like
our earth, but which are invisible on account of their small size. How
many are they? Man brings his optical instruments to perfection and
is able to pierce further into the fields of heaven, discovering ever
more and more. Those which are scarcely visible in the infinite appear
much nearer when a new telescope is invented, and beyond them in
the depths of space others and again others appear, and so on
everlastingly. They are unaccountable. Some are worlds inhabited like
ours; others were so, and revolve solitary in space, waiting for a
fresh evolution of life; many are still forming; and yet all these
worlds are no more than corpuscles of the luminous mist of the
infinite. Space is peopled by fires that have burnt for millions,
trillions and quadrillions of centuries, throwing out heat and light.
The milky way is nothing but a cloud of stars that seem to us as one
mass, but which in reality are so far apart that thousands of suns
like ours with all their planets could revolve among them without ever
coming into collision."

Gabriel remembered the travelling of sound and light. "Their velocity
is insignificant compared with the distances in space. The sun, which
is the nearest to us, is still so far that for a sound to go from us
to it would take three millions of years. Poor human beings will never
be able to travel with the rapidity of sound.

"These suns travel like ours towards the unknown with giddy flight,
but they are so distant that three or four thousand years may pass
without man being aware that they have moved more than a finger's
breadth. The distances of infinity are maddening. The sun is a nebula
of inflammatory gas, and the earth an imperceptible molecule of sand.

"The luminous ray of the Polar star requires half a century to reach
our eyes; it might have disappeared forty-nine years ago, and still we
should see it in space.

"And all these worlds are created, grow and die like human beings.
In space there is no more rest than on earth. Some stars are
extinguished, others vary, and others shine with all the power of
their young life. The dead planets dissolved by fires furnish
the material for new worlds; it is a perpetual renewal of forms,
throughout millions and millions of centuries, that represent in their
lives what the few dozen years to which we are limited, are in our
own. And beyond all those incalculable distances there is space, and
more space on every side, with fresh conglomerations of worlds without
limit or end."

Gabriel spoke in the midst of solemn silence. The listeners closed
their eyes as if such immensity stunned them. They followed in
imagination Gabriel's description, but their narrowed minds wished to
place a term to the infinite, and in their simplicity they imagined
beyond these incalculable distances a vault of firm matter millions of
leagues thick. Surely all that strange and fantastic work must have a
limit. What was at the back of it? And the barrier created by their
imagination fell suddenly; and again they flew through space, always
infinite, with ever new worlds.

Gabriel spoke of them and of their life with absolute certainty.
Spectral analysis showed the same composition in the stars as on the
earth, consequently if life had arisen in our atom, most certainly it
must exist in other celestial bodies, though probably in different
forms; in many planets it had already ended, in many it was still to
come; but surely all those millions of worlds had had, or would have,

Religions, wishing to explain the origin of the world, paled and
trembled before the infinite. It was like the Cathedral tower, which
covered with its bulk a great part of the heavens, hiding millions of
worlds, but which was of insignificant size compared to the immensity
it hid, less than an infinitesimal part of a molecule--nothing. It
seemed very great because it was close to men, concealing immensity,
but when men looked above it, getting a full grasp of the infinite,
they laughed at its Lilliputian pride.

"Then," inquired timidly the old organ-blower, pointing to the
Cathedral, "what is it they teach us in there?"

"Nothing," replied Gabriel.

"And what are we--men?" asked the Perrero.


"And the governments, the laws, and the customs of society?" inquired
the bell-ringer.

"Nothing. Nothing."

Sagrario fixed her eyes, grown larger by her earnest contemplation of
the heavens, on her uncle.

"And God," she asked in a soft voice; "where is God?"

Gabriel stood up, leaning on the balustrade of the gallery; his figure
stood out dark and clear against the starry space.

"We are God ourselves, and everything that surrounds us. It is life
with its astonishing transformations, always apparently dying, yet
always being infinitely renewed. It is this immensity that astounds us
with its greatness, and that cannot be realised in our minds. It is
matter that lives, animated by the force that dwells in it, with
absolute unity, without separation or duality. Man is God, and the
world is God also."

He was silent for a moment and then added with energy:

"But if you ask me for that personal God invented by religions, in the
likeness of a man, who brought the world out of nothing, who directs
our actions, who classifies souls according to their merits, and
commissions Sons to descend into the world to redeem it, I say seek
for Him in that immensity, see where He hides His littleness. But even
if you were immortal you might spend millions of years passing from
one star to another without ever finding the corner where He hides His
deposed despotic majesty. This vindictive and capricious God arose in
men's brains, and the brain is a human being's most recent organ, the
last to develop itself. When man invented God the world had existed
millions of years."


On the morning of Corpus the first person Gabriel saw on leaving the
cloister was Don Antolin, who was looking over his tickets, placing
them in line in front of him on the stone balustrade.

"This is a great day," said Luna, wishing to smooth down Silver Stick.
"You are preparing for a great crowd; no doubt many strangers will

Don Antolin looked intently at Gabriel, evidently doubting his
sincerity; but seeing that he was not laughing, he answered with a
certain satisfaction.

"The feast is not beginning badly; there are a great many who wish to
see our treasures. Ay, son! indeed we want it badly. You who rejoice
in our troubles may be satisfied. We live in horrible straits. Our
feast of Corpus is worth very little compared with former times; but
all the same, what economies we have had to make in the Obreria, to
provide the four ochavos[1] that the extra festivity will cost!"

[Footnote 1: _Ochavo_--small Spanish brass coin, value two maravedis.]

Don Antolin remained silent for some time, still looking intently at
Luna, as though some extraordinary idea had just occurred to him. At
first he frowned as though he were rejecting it, but little by little
his face lit up with a malicious smile.

"By the way, Gabriel," he said in a honeyed tone which contained
something very aggressive, "I remember at the time of the monument in
Holy Week you spoke to me of your wish to earn some money for your
brother. Now you have an opportunity. It will not be much; still it
will be something. Would you care to be one of those who carry the
platform of the Sacrament?"

Guessing the wish of the malicious priest to annoy him, Gabriel was on
the point of answering haughtily, but suddenly he was tempted by the
wish to foil Silver Stick by accepting his proposal; he wished to
astound him by acceding to his absurd idea; besides, he thought that
this would be a sacrifice worthy of the generosity with which his
brother treated him. Even though he could not assist with much money,
he could show his wish to work, and the scruples of his self-love
vanished before the hope of carrying home a couple of pesetas.

"You do not care about it," said the priest in mocking accents, "you
are too 'green,' and your dignity would suffer too much by carrying
the Lord through the streets of Toledo."

"You are mistaken. As for wishing it, I do wish it, but you must
remember it is very heavy work for an invalid."

"Do not let that trouble you," said Don Antolin resolutely; "you will
be at least ten inside the car, and I have chosen all strong men; you
would go to complete the number, and I should recommend you to accept
in order to earn a little."

"Then we will clench the business, Don Antolin; you may reckon on me,
I am always ready to earn a day's wage whenever it turns up."

His great wish to get out of the Cathedral had finally decided him,
his wish once more to walk through the streets of Toledo, that he had
not seen during his seclusion in the cloister, and without anyone
being able to take notice of him. Besides, the ironical situation
tickled him extremely, that he of all men with his round religious
denials should be the one to pilot the God of Catholicism through the
devout crowd.

This spectacle made him smile, possibly it was a symbol; certainly
Wooden Staff would greatly rejoice, he would look upon it as a small
triumph for religion, that obliged His enemies to carry Him on their
shoulders. But he himself would look upon it in a different way;
inside the eucharistic car he would represent the doubt and denials
hidden in the heart of worship, splendid in its exterior pomp, but
void of faith and ideals.

"Then we are agreed, Don Antolin. I will come down shortly into the

They parted, and Gabriel, after quietly digesting the milk his niece
brought him, went down into the Cathedral without saying a word to
anyone about the work he intended carrying out; he was afraid of his
brother's objections.

In the lower cloister he again met Silver Stick, who was talking to
the gardener's widow, showing her contemptuously a bunch of wheat ears
tied with a red ribbon. He had found it in the holy water stoup by the
Puerta del Alegria. Every year on the day of Corpus he had found the
same offering in the same place; an unknown had thus dedicated to the
Church the first wheat of the year.

"It must be a madman," said the priest. "What is the good of this?
What does this bunch mean? If at least it had been a cart of sheaves
as in the good old times of the tenths!"

And while he threw the ears with contempt into a flower border in the
garden, Gabriel thought with delight of the atavic force which had
resuscitated in a Catholic church, the pagan offering: the homage to
the divinity of the firstfruits of the earth fertilised by the spring.

The choir was ended and the mass beginning when Gabriel entered the
Cathedral, the lower servants were discussing at the door of the
sacristy the great event of the day. His Eminence had not come down to
the choir and would not assist at the procession. He said he was ill,
but those of the household laughed at this excuse, remembering that
the evening before he had walked as far as the Hermitage of the Virgin
de la Vega. The truth was he would not meet his Chapter; he was
furious with them, and showed his anger by refusing to preside over
them in the choir.

Gabriel strolled through the naves. The congregation of the faithful
was greater than on other days, but even so the Cathedral seemed
deserted. In the crossways, kneeling between the choir and the high
altar, were several nuns in starched linen bibs and pointed hoods, in
charge of sundry groups of children dressed in black, with red or
blue stripes according to the colleges to which they belonged; a
few officials from the academy, fat and bald, listened to the mass
standing, bending their heads over their cuirass. In this scattered
assemblage, listening to the music, stood out the pupils from the
school of noble ladies, some of them quite girls, others proud-looking
young women in all the pride of their budding beauty, looking on with
glowing eyes, all dressed in black silk, with mantillas of blonde
mounted over high combs with bunches of roses--aristocratic ladies
with "_manolesca_" grace, escaped from a picture by Goya.

Gabriel saw his nephew the Tato dressed in his scarlet robes like the
noble Florentine, striking the pavement with his staff to scare the
dogs. He was talking with a group of shepherds from the mountains,
swarthy men twisted and gnarled as vine shoots, in brown jackets,
leather sandals, and thonged leggings; women with red kerchiefs
and greasy and mended garments that had descended through several
generations. They had come down from their mountains to see the Corpus
of Toledo, and they walked through the naves with wonder in their
eyes, starting at the sound of their own footsteps, trembling each
time the organ rolled, as though fearing to be turned out of that
magic palace, which seemed to them like one in a fairy tale. The women
pointed out with their fingers the coloured glass windows, the great
rosettes on the porches, the gilded warriors on the clock of the
Puerta de la Feria, the tubes of the organs, and finally remained
open-mouthed in stupid wonder. The Perrero in his scarlet garments
seemed like a prince to them, and overwhelmed with the respect they
felt for him, they could not succeed in understanding what he said,
but when the Tato threatened with his staff a mastiff following
closely at his master's heels, those simple people decided to leave
the church sooner than abandon the faithful companion of their wild
mountain life.

Gabriel looked through the choir railings; both the upper and lower
stalls were full. It was a great festival, and not only were all the
canons and beneficiaries in their places, but all the priests of the
chapel of the kings,[1] and the prebends of the Muzarabe chapel--those
two small churches who live quite apart with traditional autonomy
inside the Cathedral of Toledo.

[Footnote 1: The kings of Spain are canons of Toledo Cathedral, and
are fined in case of absence on festival days.]

In the middle of the choir Luna saw his friend the Chapel-master in
his crimped and pleated surplice, waving a small baton. Around him
were grouped about a dozen musicians and singers, whose voices and
instruments were completely smothered each time the organ sounded from
above, while the priest directed with a resigned look the music, which
lost itself feeble and swamped in the solitude of the immense naves.

At the High Altar, on its square car, stood the famous Custodia,
executed by the celebrated master Villalpando. A Gothic shrine,
exquisitely worked and chiselled, bright with the shimmering of its
gold in the light of the wax tapers, and of such delicate and airy
work that the slightest motion made it shiver, shaking its finials
like ears of corn.

Those invited to the procession were arriving in the Cathedral. The
town dignitaries in black robes, professors from the academy in full
dress with all their decorations, officers of the Civil Guard, whose
quaint uniform reminded one of that of the soldiers of the early part
of the century. Through the naves with affectedly skipping steps
came the children, dressed as angels--angels _a la Pompadour_, with
brocaded coat, red-heeled shoes, blonde lace frills, tin wings
fastened to their shoulders, and mitres with plumes on their white
wigs. The Primacy got out for this festivity all its traditional
vestments. The gala uniform of all the church attendants belonged to
the eighteenth century, the time of its greatest prosperity. The two
men who were to guide the car had powdered hair, black coats, and knee
breeches, like the priests of the last century. The vergers and Wooden
Staffs wore starched ruffs and perukes, and though they had scarcely
enough to eat, brocade and velvet covered all the people from the
Claverias; even the acolytes wore gold embroidered dalmatics.

The High Altar was decorated by the "Tanta Monta" tapestries--those
famous hangings of the Catholic kings, with emblems and shields, given
by Cisneros to the Cathedral. The auxiliary bishop said mass, and his
attendant deacons were perspiring under the traditional mantles
and chasubles covered with beautiful raised embroidery in high and
splendid relief, as stiff and uncomfortable as ancient armour.

The surroundings of the Cathedral were disturbed by the gathering for
the procession; the doors of the sacristies slammed, opened and shut
hurriedly by the various officials and people employed. In that quiet
and monotonous life the annual occurrence of a procession which had to
pass through many streets caused as much confusion and disturbance as
an adventurous expedition to a distant country.

When the mass ended the organ began to play a noisy and disorderly
march, rather like a savage dance, while the procession was being
marshalled in order. Outside the Cathedral the bells were ringing,
the band of the academy had ceased playing its quick march, and the
officers' words of command and the rattle of the muskets could be
heard as the cadets drew up in companies by the Puerta Llana.

Don Antolin, with his great silver staff and a pluvial of white
brocade, went from one place to another collecting the employees of
the Church; Gabriel saw him approaching, red-faced and perspiring.

"To your post; it is time."

And he led him to the High Altar by the Custodia. Gabriel and eight
other men crept inside the scaffolding, raising the cloth with which
its sides were covered. They were obliged to bend themselves inside
the erection, and their duty was to push it, so that it should move
along on its hidden wheels. Their only duty was to push it; outside,
the two servants in black clothes and white wigs were in charge of
the front and back shaft or tiller, which guided the eucharistic car
through the tortuous streets. Gabriel was placed by his companions in
the centre; he was to warn them when to stop and when to recommence
their march. The monumental Custodia was mounted on a platform with a
great counterpoise, and between it and the framework of the car was
about a hand's breadth of space, through which Gabriel looked, thus
transmitting the orders of the front pilot.

"Attention! March!" shouted Gabriel, obeying an outside signal.

And the sacred car began to move slowly down the inclined wooden plane
that covered the steps of the High Altar. It was obliged to stop on
passing the railings. All the people knelt, and Don Antolin and the
Wooden Staffs having opened a way between them, the canons advanced in
their ample red robes, the auxiliary bishop with his gilded mitre,
and the other dignitaries in white linen mitres without ornament
whatsoever. They all knelt around the Custodia. The organ was silent,
and, accompanied by the hoarse blare of a trombone, they intoned a
hymn in adoration of the Sacrament; the incense rose in blue clouds
around the Custodia, veiling the brilliancy of its gold. When the hymn
ceased the organ began to play again, and the car once more resumed
its march. The Custodia trembled from base to summit, and the motion
made a quantity of little bells hanging on to its Gothic adornments
tinkle like a cascade of silver. Gabriel walked along holding on to
one of the crossbeams, with his eyes fixed on the pilots, feeling
on his legs the movements of those who pushed this scaffolding, so
similar to the cars of Indian idols.

On coming out of the Cathedral by the Puerta Llana, the only door in
the church on a level with the street, Gabriel could take in the whole
procession at a glance. He could see the horses of the Civil Guards
breaking the regularity of the march, the players of the city
kettledrums dressed in red, and the crosses of the different parishes
grouped without order round the enormous and extremely heavy banner
of the Cathedral, like a huge sail covered with embroidered figures.
Beyond, all the centre of the street was clear, flanked on either side
by rows of clergy and soldiers carrying tapers, the deacons with their
censers, assisted by the roccoco angels carrying the vessels for the
Asiatic perfume, and the canons in their extremely valuable historical
capes. Behind the sacrament were grouped the authorities, and the
battalion of cadets brought up the rear, their muskets on their arms,
their shaven heads bare, keeping step to the time of the march.

Gabriel breathed with delight the air of the public streets. He who
had seen all the great capitals of Europe admired the streets of the
ancient city after his long seclusion in the Cathedral. They seemed
to him very populous, and he felt the surprise that great modern
improvements must cause to those used to a retired and sedentary life.

The balconies were hung with ancient tapestries and shawls from
Manilla; the streets were covered with awnings, and the pavement
spread thickly with sand, so that the eucharistic car should glide
easily over the pointed cobble stones.

Up the hills the Custodia advanced laboriously, the men inside the
car sweating and gasping. Gabriel coughed, his spine aching with the
enclosure in the movable prison, and the dignity of the march was
disturbed by the words of command from the Canon Obrero, who, in
scarlet robes with a staff in his hand, directed the procession,
reproving the pilots and those who pushed the car inside for their
jerky and irregular movements.

Apart from these discomforts, Gabriel was delighted with his
extraordinary escapade through the town; he laughed, thinking what the
crowd, kneeling in veneration, would have said had they known whose
eyes were looking out at them from underneath the car. No doubt many
of those officials escorting God, in their white trousers, red coats,
with swords by their sides and cocked hats would have news of his
existence; they would surely have heard some one speak of him, and
they probably kept his name in their memory as that of a social enemy.
And this reprobate, rejected by all, concealed in a hole in the
Cathedral like those adventurous birds who rested in its vaultings,
was the man who was guiding the footsteps of God through this most
religious city!

A little after mid-day the Custodia returned to the Cathedral, passing
in front of the Puerta del Mollete. Gabriel saw the exterior walls
hung with the famous tapestries. As soon as the farewell hymns were
ended the canons despoiled themselves quickly of their vestments,
rushing to the door on their dismissal without saluting. They were
going to their dinners much later than usual, as this extraordinary
day upset the even course of their lives. The church, so noisy and
illuminated in the morning, emptied itself rapidly, and silence and
twilight once more reigned in it.

Esteban was furious when he saw Gabriel emerging from the eucharistic

"You will kill yourself, such work is not for you. What caprice could
have seized you?"

Gabriel laughed. Yes, it was a caprice, but he did not repent of it.
He had taken a turn through the town without being seen, and he could
give his brother sufficient for two days' maintenance; he wished to
work, not to be a heavy charge on him.

Wooden Staff was softened.

"You idiot, have I asked anything of you? Do I want anything else but
that you should live quietly and get better?"

But, as though he wished to acknowledge this exertion on his brother's
part by something which would please him, when he returned to the
Claverias he dropped his usual sullen face, and spoke to his daughter
during the meal.

Towards evening the Claverias were quite deserted. Don Antolin hurried
down with his tickets, rejoicing in the knowledge that many strangers
were waiting for him. The Tato and the bell-ringer had slipped
furtively down the tower stairs, dressed in their best clothes; they
were going to the bull-fight. Sagrario obliged to be idle in order to
keep the feast day holy, had gone to the shoemaker's house, and while
he was showing the giants to the servants and soldiers of the academy,

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