The eyes of Don Martin, the young curate, fastened themselves on Gabriel. They seemed to speak to him and express the pleasure with which he heard his words. The other listeners, silent and with bowed heads, did not feel less the enchantment of those propositions which sounded so audaciously in the restful and rank atmosphere of the cloister. Don Antolin was the only one who laughed, finding Gabriel’s ideas quite charming but absolutely crazy It was getting late and the sun had sunk below the roofs of the Cathedral. Silver Stick’s niece called to them once again from the door of her house.
“We are coming, child,” said the priest, “but I have one thing first to say to this gentleman.”
And addressing himself to Luna, he continued:
“But, Hombre de Dios!—but I ought not to call you that as you are so turbulent—you think everything is out of joint. The Spanish Church, worn out as you say, has become very poor, and still you say this revolution is a very small affair. What do you wish for? What is it that you desire so that things might be settled? Tell us your secret quickly and let us go, for the cold is very sharp.”
[Footnote 1: Man of God.]
And he laughed again, looking at Gabriel with paternal pity as though he were a child.
“My remedy!” exclaimed Gabriel, taking no notice of the priest’s gesture. “I have no remedy whatever, it is the progress of humanity that alone offers one. All the nations on earth have passed through the same evolutions; first of all they were ruled by the sword, then by faith, and now by science. We ourselves have been ruled by warriors and priests, but now we tarry at the gate of modern life, without the strength or wish to take science by the hand, who is the only guide we could have, hence our sad situation. Science is nowadays in everything—in agriculture, in all manufactures, in arts and crafts, in the culture and well-being of the people; it is even in war. Spain still lives far from the sun of science, at most she knows a pale reflection, cold and feeble, that comes to us from foreign countries. The failure of faith has left us without strength, like those creatures who, having suffered from a severe illness in their youth, remain anaemic for ever, without possible recuperation, condemned to premature old age.”
“Bah! Science!” said Silver Stick, turning towards his house; “that is the eternal cry of all the enemies of religion. There is no better science than to love God and His works. Good evening.”
“Very good evening, Don Antolin; but remember this, we have not yet done with faith and the sword; sometimes one directs us or the other drives us; but of science, never a word, unless Spain has changed in the last twenty-four hours.”