Nothing had changed in this gloomy house.
“The dear Sister Superior is at prayer in the chapel,” the doorkeeper had whispered. The usual formula; for a nun must always be given the benefit of the doubt. If she is alone in her cell or in the chapel it is always piously assumed that she is at prayer. Juanita smiled at the familiar words.
“Then I will wait,” she said, “but not very long.”
She gave the nun a familiar little nod of warning as if to intimate that no tricks of the trade need be tried upon her.
She stood alone in the little gray, dim room now, and waited with brooding eyes. Within, all was quiet with that air of awesome mystery peculiar to the cloister, which so soon gives place with increasing familiarity, to a sense of deadly monotony. It is only from outside that the mystery of the cloister continues to interest. Juanita knew every stone in this silent house. Its daily round of artificial duties appeared small to her eyes.
“They have nothing to do all day in a nunnery,” she once said to Marcos in jest. “So they rise up very early in the morning to do it.”
She had laughed on first seeing the mark of Marcos’ heel on the window-sill. She turned and looked at it again now—without laughing. And she thought of Torre Garda with its keen air, cool to the cheek like spring water; with the scent of the bracken that she loved; with the tall, still pines, upright against the sky, motionless, whispering with the wind.
She had always thought that the cloister represented safety and peace in a world of strife. And now that she was back within the walls she felt that it was better to be in the world, to take part in the strife, if necessary; for Heaven had given her a proud and a fierce heart. She would rather be miserable here all her life than go back to Marcos, who had dared to marry her without loving her.
The door of the waiting-room opened and Sor Teresa stood on the threshold.
“I have come back,” said Juanita. “I think I shall go into religion. I have left Torre Garda.”
She gave a short laugh and looked curiously at Sor Teresa—impassive in her straight-hanging robes.
“So you have got me back,” she said. “Back to the convent.”
“Not to this convent,” replied Sor Teresa, quietly.
“But I have come back. I shall come back—the Mother Superior...”
“The Mother Superior is in Saragossa. I am mistress here,” replied Sor Teresa, standing still and dark, like one of the pines at Torre Garda. The Sarrion blood was rising to her pale cheek. Her eyes glowed darkly beneath her overshadowing head-dress. Command—that indefinable spirit which is vouchsafed to gentle people, while rough and strong men miss it—was written in every line of her face, every fold of her dress, in the quiet of her small, white hands, resting motionless against her skirt.
Juanita stood looking at her with flashing eyes, with her head thrown back, with clenched hands,