“He does it badly,” said Marcos, quietly.
Juanita reflected for a moment. Then suddenly she stamped her foot on the pavement worn by the feet of generations of holy men.
“I will not go into religion,” she said. “I will not. I always feel that there is something wrong in all they say. And with you and Uncle Ramon it is different. I know at once that what you say is quite simple and plain and honest; that you have no other meaning in what you say but that which the words convey. Marcos—you and Uncle Ramon must take me away from here. I cannot get away. I am hemmed in on every side.”
“We can take you away,” answered Marcos slowly, “if you like.”
She turned and looked at him, her attention caught by some tense note in his voice.
“What do you mean?” she asked. “Your face is so odd and white. What do you mean, Marcos?”
“We can take you away, but you must marry me.”
She gave a short laugh and stopped suddenly.
“Oh—you must not joke,” she said. “You must not laugh. It is my whole life, remember.”
“I am not laughing. It is no joke,” said Marcos steadily.
For a moment they sat in silence. The low chanting of vespers came to their ears through the curtained doors of the Cathedral.
“Listen to them,” said Juanita suddenly. “They are half asleep. They are not thinking of what they are singing. They are taking snuff surreptitiously behind their hands to keep themselves awake. And it is we, poor wretched schoolgirls and nuns who have to keep the saints in a good humour by attending to every word and being most preposterously devout whether we feel inclined to be or not. No, I will not go into religion. That is certain. Marcos, I would rather marry you than that—if it is necessary.”
“It is necessary.”
“But they can have all the money; every real,’” suggested Juanita hopefully.
“No; they have tried that way. They cannot do it in these times. The only way they can get the money is for you to go of your own free will into religion and to bequeath of your own free will all your worldly possessions to the Order you join.”
“Yes, I know,” said Juanita. Her spirits had risen every minute. She was gay again now. His presence seemed to restore to her the happy gift of touching life lightly which is of the heart. And the heart knows no age, neither is it subject to the tyranny of years.
“Well, I will marry you if there is no help for it. But...”
“But...” echoed Marcos.
“But of course it is only a sort of game, is it not?”
“Yes,” he answered. “A sort of game.”
They were sitting on the steps of one of the chapels. Juanita swung round and peered through the railings as if to see what Saint had his habitation there.
“It is only St. Bartholomew,” she said, airily. “But he will do. You have promised, remember that. And St. Bartholomew has heard you. It is only to save me from being a nun that we are being married. And I am to be just the same as I am now. We can go fishing, I mean, as we used to, and climb the mountains and have jokes just as we always do in the holidays.”