Leon sat down on the plain wooden bench and laid his hand on the open book. He looked with weak eyes at Marcos and waited for him to speak. Marcos obliged him at once.
“I have come to see you about Juanita,” he said. “Have you given your consent to her taking the veil?”
Leon reflected. He had the air of a man who having been carefully taught a part, loses his place at the first cue.
“What business is it of yours?” he asked, rather hesitatingly at length.
Leon made a hopeless gesture of the hand and looked at his book with a face of distress and embarrassment. Marcos was sorry for him. He was strong, and it is the strong who are quickest to detect pathos.
“Will you answer me?” he asked.
And Leon shook his head.
“I have come here to warn you,” said Marcos, not unkindly. “I know that Juanita has inherited a fortune from her father. I know that the Carlist cause is falling for want of money. I know that the Jesuits will get the money if they can. Because Don Carlos is their last chance in their last stronghold in Europe. They will get Juanita’s money if they can—and they can only do it by forcing Juanita into religion. And I have come to warn you that I shall prevent them.”
Leon looked at Marcos and gulped something down in his throat. He was not afraid of Marcos, but he was in terror of some one or of something else. Marcos studied the white face, the shrinking, hunted eyes, with the quiet persistence learnt from watching Nature.
“Are you a Jesuit?” he asked bluntly.
But Leon only drew in a gasping breath and made no answer.
Then Marcos went out and closed the door behind him.
In the cloister Marcos and Sarrion went back to Pampeluna in the dusk of the winter evening, each meditating over that which they had seen and heard. Leon had become a Jesuit. And Juanita was worse—infinitely worse than alone in the world.
Marcos needed no telling of all that lay behind Leon’s scared silence; for his father had brought him up in an atmosphere of plain language and wide views of mankind. Sarnon himself had seen Navarre ruined, its men sacrificed, its women made miserable by a war which had lasted intermittently for thirty years. He had seen the simple Basques, who had no means of verifying that which their priests told them, fighting desperately and continuously for a lie. The Carlist war has always been the war of ignorance and deceit against enlightenment and the advance of thought. It is needless to say upon which side the cassock has ranged itself.
The Basques were promised their liberty; they should be allowed to live as they had always lived, practically a republic, if they only succeeded in forcing an absolute monarchy on the rest of Spain. The Jesuits made this promise. The society found itself in the position that no promise must be allowed to stick in the throat.