Father Muro was afraid that Sarrion could not see Juanita. It was not within his province, but he knew that it was against the rules. Then he remembered that he had seen a letter addressed to the Count de Sarrion. It was lying on the table at the refectory door, where letters intended for the post were usually placed. It was doubtless from Juanita. He would fetch it.
Sarrion took the letter and read it, with a pleasant smile on his face, while Father Muro watched him with those eyes that seemed to want something they could not have.
“Yes,” said the Count at length, “it is from Juanita de Mogente.”
He folded the paper and placed it in his pocket.
“Did you know the contents of this letter, my father?” he asked.
“No, my son. Why should I?”
And Sarrion passed out, while Father Muro held the door open rather obsequiously.
The grip of the velvet glove
On returning to the hotel in the corner of the Plaza de la Constitution,
Sarrion threw down on the table before Marcos the note that Father Muro
had given him. He made no comment.
“My dear uncle,” the letter ran, “I am writing to advise you of my decision to go into religion. I am prompted to communicate this to you without delay by the remembrance of your many kindnesses to me. You will, I know, agree with me that this step can only be for my happiness in this world and the next. Your grateful niece.—Juanita de Mogente.”
Marcos read the letter carefully, and then seeking in his pocket, produced the note that Juanita had passed to him through the hole in the wall of the convent school at Saragossa. It seemed that he carried with him always the scrap of paper that she had hidden within her dress until the moment that she gave it to him.
He laid the two letters side by side and compared them.
“The writing is the writing of Juanita,” he said; “but the words are not. They are spelt correctly!”
He folded the letters again, with his determined smile, and placed them in his pocket. Sarrion, smoking a cigarette by the stove, glanced at his son and knew that Juanita’s fate was fixed. For good or ill, for happiness or misery, she was destined to marry Marcos de Sarrion if the whole church of Rome should rise up and curse his soul and hers for the deed.
Sarrion appeared to have no suggestions to make. He continued to smoke reflectively while he warmed himself at the stove. He was wise enough to perceive that his must now be the secondary part. To possess power and to resist the temptation to use it, is the task of kings. To quietly relinquish the tiller of a younger life is a lesson that gray hairs have to learn.
“I think,” said Marcos at length, “that we must see Leon. He is her guardian. We will give him a last chance.”