Sick and without any work by which he could earn his living, precluded from seeking work among the printers, as his name was encircled by a halo which terrified the masters, Gabriel fell into such extreme poverty that the little help and succour his companions could afford were unable to relieve it, and he travelled from end to end of the Peninsula begging from his fellows and hiding from the police.
His spirit was broken, he was conquered, and he had no longer strength to continue the struggle. Nothing remained for him but to die, but merciful death came slowly to his call. He thought of his brother, the only affection remaining to him in the world; he remembered the quiet family in the Claverias, of which he had caught a glimpse on his last visit to the Cathedral, and he turned to seek them as his last hope.
On his return to Toledo, he found the happy family dissolved; misfortune had come even to that silent and stagnant corner.
But the Cathedral, insensible to all human vicissitudes was there, the same as ever, and to it he clung, hiding himself in its recesses, hoping to die there in peace, with no other hope but to be forgotten; dying before his proper time, tasting the bitter happiness of annihilation, leaving behind him at the door, like an animal who sheds its skin, all that rebellion which had drawn upon him the hatred of society.
His happiness was not to think, not to speak, to mould himself to that dead world; he would be among the living statues peopling the upper cloister, one more automaton; he would imitate those beings who seemed to have absorbed into themselves something of the austerity of the granite buttresses, he would inhale like a healing balsam the scent of the rusty iron railings and the incense that spread through the church, the ancient perfume of the past centuries.
On leaving the cloister in the mornings soon after daybreak, the first person Gabriel would see was Don Antolin, the “Silver Stick.” This priest exercised an authority like that of Governor of the Cathedral, for all the lay servants were under his orders, and all the repairs of little importance were done under his supervision.
Down below, in the church, he watched the sacristans and the acolytes, careful that the canons and beneficiaries should have no cause of complaint in the services. Upstairs, in the cloister, he watched over the good behaviour and cleanliness of the families, being by the grace of the cardinal archbishop a sort of magistrate over that little town.