“I cannot help thinking,” he went on, “that Francisco dimly perceived that he was the victim of a careful plot—one sees something like that in all these ramifications. Three million pesetas are worth scheming for. They would make a difference in any cause. They might make all the difference at this moment in Spain. Kingdoms have been won and lost for less than three million pesetas. I believe he was watched in Cuba, and his return was known. Or perhaps he was brought back by some clever forgery. Who knows? At all events, it was known that he had left his money nearly all to Leon.”
“We will ask Leon,” suggested Marcos, “what reason his father gave for making a new will.”
“And he will lie to you,” said Sarrion.
“But he will lie badly,” murmured Marcos, with his leisurely reflective smile.
“I think,” said Sarrion, after a pause, “nay, I feel sure that Francisco left his fortune to Juanita at the last moment, as a forlorn hope—leaving it to you and me to get her out of the hobble in which he placed her. You know it was always his hope that you and Juanita should marry.”
But Marcos’ face hardened, and he had nothing to say to this reiteration of the dead man’s hope. The silence was not again broken before Leon de Mogente came in.
He looked from one to the other with an apprehensive glance. His pale eyes had that dulness which betokens, if not an absorption in the things to come, that which often passes for the same, an incompetence to face the present moment.
“I was about to write to you,” he said, addressing himself to Sarrion. “I am having a mass celebrated tomorrow in the Cathedral. My father, I know... "
“I shall be there,” said Sarrion, rather shortly.
“I, also,” replied Marcos.
“One must do what one can,” said Leon, with a resigned sigh.
Marcos, the man of action and not of words, looked at him and said nothing. He was perhaps noticing that the dishonest boy had grown into a dishonest man. Monastic religion is like a varnish, it only serves to bring out the true colour, and is powerless to alter it by more than a shade. Those who have lived in religious communities know that human nature is the same there as in the world—that a man who is not straightforward may grow in monastic zeal day by day, but he will never grow straightforward. On the other hand, if a man be a good man, religion will make him better, but it must not be a religion that runs to words.
Leon sat with folded hands and lowered eyes. He was a sort of amateur monk, and, like all amateurs, he was apt to exaggerate outward signs. It was Marcos who spoke at length.
“Do you intend,” he asked in his matter-of-fact way, “to make any effort to discover and punish your father’s assassins?”
“I have been advised not to.”
Leon looked distressed. He was pained, it would seem, that the friend of his childhood should step so bluntly on to delicate ground.