Gabriel was just eighteen when he lost his father. The old gardener died quietly, happy in seeing all his family in the service of the Cathedral and the good old tradition of the Lunas continued without interruption. Thomas, the eldest son, remained in the garden, Esteban, after serving many years as acolyte and assistant to the sacristans, was Silenciario, and had been given the Wooden Staff and seven reals a day, the height of all his ambition; and as far as regarded the youngest, the good Senor Esteban had the firm conviction that he had begotten a Father of the Church, for whom a place in heaven was especially reserved at the right hand of God Omnipotent.
Gabriel had acquired in the seminary that ecclesiastic sternness that turns the priest into a warrior more intent on the interest of the Church than on the concerns of his family. For this reason he did not feel the death of his father very greatly; besides, much greater misfortunes soon occurred to preoccupy the young seminarist.
There was great excitement both in the Cathedral and in the seminary, everyone discussing from morning till night the news from Madrid, for these were the days of the September revolution. The traditional and healthy Spain, the Spain of the great historical tradition had fallen. The Cortes Constituyentes were a volcano, a breath from the infernal regions, to those gentlemen of the black cassock who crowded round the unfolded newspaper, and, if they found comfort and satisfaction in a speech of Maesterola’s they would suffer the agonies of death at the revolutionary harangues, which dealt such terrible blows at the olden days. The clergy had turned their eyes towards Don Carlos, who was beginning the war in the northern provinces; the king of the Vascongados mountains would be able to remedy everything when he came down into the plains of Castille. But years passed by, Amadeus had come and gone, they had even proclaimed a republic! And yet the cause of God did not seem to advance much, and Heaven seemed deaf. A republican deputy proclaimed a war against God, challenging Him to silence him; and so impiety stalked along immune and triumphant, and its eloquence flowed abroad like a poisonous spring.
[Footnote 1: Provinces of Alava, Guipuscoa, and the lordship of Biscay.]
Gabriel lived in a state of bellicose excitement—he forgot his books, he disregarded his future, he never thought now of singing his mass. What would happen to his career now that the Church was in peril, and that the sleepy poetry of past ages, that had enveloped him from his cradle like a perfumed cloud of old incense and dried roses, was on the point of vanishing?
Often some of the pupils disappeared from the seminary, and the professors would reply to the inquiries of the curious with a sly wink.
“They have gone out—with the good sort. They could not see quietly what was happening—’child’s play,’ ‘follies.’”