He had enough strength left for one more caress the day when, escorted by don Andres, Rafael entered with his degree as a Doctor of Law. He gave the boy his shotgun—a veritable jewel, the admiration of the entire District—and a magnificent horse. And as if he had been waiting around just to see the realization of old Don Jaime’s ambition, which he himself had not been able to fulfill, he passed away.
All the bells of the city tolled mournfully.
The Party weekly came out with a black border a palm wide; and from all over the District folks came in droves to see whether the powerful don Ramon Brull, who had been able to rain upon the just and unjust alike on this earth, could possibly have died the same as any other human being.
When dona Bernarda found herself alone, and absolute mistress of her home, she could not conceal her satisfaction.
Now they would see what a woman could do.
She counted on the advice and experience of don Andres, who was closer than ever to her now; and on the prestige of Rafael, the young lawyer, who bade fair to sustain the reputation of the Brulls.
The power of the family continued unchanged. Don Andres, who, at the death of his master, had succeeded to the authority of a second father in the Brull house, saw to the maintenance of relations with the authorities at the provincial capital and with the still bigger fish in Madrid. Petitions were heard in the patio the same as ever. Loyal party adherents were received as cordially as before and the same favors were done, nor was there any decline of influence in places that don Andres referred to as “the spheres of public administration.”
There came an election for Parliament, and as usual, dona Bernarda secured the triumph of the individual whose nomination had been dictated from Madrid. Don Ramon had left the party machine in perfect condition; all it needed was enough “grease” to keep it running smoothly; and there his widow was besides, ever alert at the slightest suggestion of a creak in the gearing.
At provincial headquarters they spoke of the District with the usual confidence:
“It’s ours. Brull’s son is as powerful as the old man himself.”
The truth was that Rafael took little interest in “the Party.” He looked upon it as one of the family properties, the title to which no one could dispute. He confined his personal activities to obeying his mother. “Go to Riola with don Andres. Our friends there will be happy to see you.” And he would go on the trip, to suffer the torment of an interminable rally, a paella, during which his fellow partisans would bore him with their uncouth merriment and ill-mannered flattery. “You really ought to give your horse a couple of days’ rest. Instead of going out for a ride, spend your afternoon at the Club! Our fellows are complaining they never