Juanita read the paper now by the light of the candles which Sor Teresa set on the table. It was a curt, military document without explanation or unnecessary mitigation of the truth. For Pampeluna had seen the like before and understood this business thoroughly.
“You can think about it,” said Sor Teresa, folding the paper and placing it in her pocket. “I will send you something to eat and drink in this room.”
She closed the door, leaving Juanita to realise the grim fact that—shape our lives how we will, with all foresight—every care—the history of the world or of a nation will suddenly break into the story of the single life and march over it with a giant stride.
Presently a lay-sister brought refreshments and set the tray on the table without speaking. Juanita knew her well—and she, doubtless, knew Juanita’s story; for her pious face was drawn into lines indicative of the deepest disapproval.
Juanita ate heartily enough, not noticing the cold simplicity of the fare. She had finished before Sor Teresa returned and without thinking of what she was doing, had rearranged the tray after the manner of the refectory. She was standing by the window which she had opened. The sounds of war came into the room with startling distinctness. The boom of the distant guns disputing the advance of the Carlists; while nearer, the bugles called the men to arms and the heavy tramp of feet came and went in the Calle de la Dormitaleria.
“Well,” asked Sor Teresa. “What have you decided to do?”
Juanita listened to the alarm of war for a moment before turning from the window.
“It is not a false alarm?” she inquired. “The Carlists are really out?”
For she had fallen into the habit of the Northern Provinces, of speaking of the insurrection as if it were a recurrent flood.
“They have been preparing all the winter,” answered Sor Teresa.
“And Pampeluna is to be invested?”
“And Torre Garda?...”
“Torre Garda,” answered the nun, “is to be taken this time. The Carlists have decided to besiege it. It is at the mouth of the valley that the fighting is taking place.”
“Then I will go back to Torre Garda,” said Juanita.
At the ford “They will allow two nuns to pass anywhere,” said Sor Teresa with her chilling smile as she led the way to her own cell in the corridor overhead. She provided Juanita with that dress which is a passport through any quarter of a town, across any frontier; to any battlefield. So Juanita took the veil at last—in order to return to Marcos.
Sor Teresa’s words proved true enough at the city gates where the sentinels recognised her and allowed her carriage to pass across the drawbridge by a careless nod of acquiescence to the driver.
It was a clear dark night without a moon. The prevailing wind which hurries down from the Pyrenees to the warmer plains of Spain stirred the budding leaves of the trees that border the road below the town walls.