“Brother, it is well,” he said despairingly; “you are stronger than I am, let your will be accomplished. Let her remain, as you wish it, but do not let me see her!—remain, both of you. It is I that will go.”
The sewing machine clicked from early morning till night in the house of the Lunas. This and the hammering of the shoemaker were the only sounds of work that disturbed the holy silence of the upper cloister.
When Gabriel left his bed at sunrise, after a night of painful coughing, he would find Sagrario already in the entrance room preparing her machine for the day’s work. From the day following that of her return to the Cathedral she had devoted herself to work with sullen silence as a means of returning unnoticed to the Claverias, trusting that the people would forgive her past. The gardener’s widow procured her work, and so the sound of the stitching was continually heard in the old “habitacion,” accompanied very often by melodies from the Chapel-master’s harmonium.
The “Wooden Staff” moved about his house like a shadow. He remained continually in the Cathedral or in the lower cloister, only coming up to the “habitacion” when it was absolutely necessary. He ate his meals with his head bent, in order not to look at his daughter, who was seated opposite to him at the other end of the table, ready to burst into tears at the sight of her father before her. A painful silence oppressed the family. Don Luis being so absent-minded, seemed the only one not to perceive the situation, and chatted gaily with Gabriel about his hopes and his musical enthusiasms. Everything seemed to him quite natural; nothing disturbed him, and the return of Sagrario to the family hearth had not caused him the slightest surprise.
When dinner was over Esteban fled, not to return to the house till night-time; after supper he locked himself into his own room, leaving his brother and his daughter in possession of the entrance sitting-room. The machine began to work again, and Don Luis fingered his harmonium till nine o’clock, when Silver Stick locked the tower staircase, rattling his bunch of keys with a noise that equalled a curfew. Gabriel felt indignant at his brother’s obstinacy.
“You will kill the child; what you are doing is unworthy of a father.”
“I cannot help it, brother; it is impossible for me to look at her. It is sufficient for me to tolerate such things in the house. Ay! if you could only tell how the people’s looks wound me!”
In reality the scandal produced by the return of Sagrario to the Claverias had been much less than he had feared. She seemed so ill and so weary that none of the women felt any animosity against her, and the energetic protection of her Aunt Tomasa imposed respect. Besides, those simple women of instinctive passions could not now feel towards her that hostile envy that her beauty and the cadet’s courtship had formerly inspired. Even Mariquita, Silver Stick’s niece, found a certain salve to her vanity in protecting with disdainful tolerance that unhappy girl who in former days had attracted the attention of every man who visited the upper cloister.