“But if you ask me for that personal God invented by religions, in the likeness of a man, who brought the world out of nothing, who directs our actions, who classifies souls according to their merits, and commissions Sons to descend into the world to redeem it, I say seek for Him in that immensity, see where He hides His littleness. But even if you were immortal you might spend millions of years passing from one star to another without ever finding the corner where He hides His deposed despotic majesty. This vindictive and capricious God arose in men’s brains, and the brain is a human being’s most recent organ, the last to develop itself. When man invented God the world had existed millions of years.”
On the morning of Corpus the first person Gabriel saw on leaving the cloister was Don Antolin, who was looking over his tickets, placing them in line in front of him on the stone balustrade.
“This is a great day,” said Luna, wishing to smooth down Silver Stick. “You are preparing for a great crowd; no doubt many strangers will come.”
Don Antolin looked intently at Gabriel, evidently doubting his sincerity; but seeing that he was not laughing, he answered with a certain satisfaction.
“The feast is not beginning badly; there are a great many who wish to see our treasures. Ay, son! indeed we want it badly. You who rejoice in our troubles may be satisfied. We live in horrible straits. Our feast of Corpus is worth very little compared with former times; but all the same, what economies we have had to make in the Obreria, to provide the four ochavos that the extra festivity will cost!”
[Footnote 1: Ochavo—small Spanish brass coin, value two maravedis.]
Don Antolin remained silent for some time, still looking intently at Luna, as though some extraordinary idea had just occurred to him. At first he frowned as though he were rejecting it, but little by little his face lit up with a malicious smile.
“By the way, Gabriel,” he said in a honeyed tone which contained something very aggressive, “I remember at the time of the monument in Holy Week you spoke to me of your wish to earn some money for your brother. Now you have an opportunity. It will not be much; still it will be something. Would you care to be one of those who carry the platform of the Sacrament?”
Guessing the wish of the malicious priest to annoy him, Gabriel was on the point of answering haughtily, but suddenly he was tempted by the wish to foil Silver Stick by accepting his proposal; he wished to astound him by acceding to his absurd idea; besides, he thought that this would be a sacrifice worthy of the generosity with which his brother treated him. Even though he could not assist with much money, he could show his wish to work, and the scruples of his self-love vanished before the hope of carrying home a couple of pesetas.