Without heeding any of the bystanders, Padre Damaso went directly to the bed of the sick girl and taking her hand said to her with ineffable tenderness, while tears sprang into his eyes, “Maria, my daughter, you mustn’t die!”
The sick girl opened her eyes and stared at him with a strange expression. No one who knew the Franciscan had suspected in him such tender feelings, no one had believed that under his rude and rough exterior there might beat a heart. Unable to go on, he withdrew from the girl’s side, weeping like a child, and went outside under the favorite vines of Maria Clara’s balcony to give free rein to his grief.
“How he loves his goddaughter!” thought all present, while Fray Salvi gazed at him motionlessly and in silence, lightly gnawing his lips the while.
When he had become somewhat calm again Doña Victorina introduced Linares, who approached him respectfully. Fray Damaso silently looked him over from head to foot, took the letter offered and read it, but apparently without understanding, for he asked, “And who are you?”
“Alfonso Linares, the godson of your brother-in-law,” stammered the young man.
Padre Damaso threw back his body and looked the youth over again carefully. Then his features lighted up and he arose. “So you are the godson of Carlicos!” he exclaimed. “Come and let me embrace you! I got your letter several days ago. So it’s you! I didn’t recognize you,—which is easily explained, for you weren’t born when I left the country,—I didn’t recognize you!” Padre Damaso squeezed his robust arms about the young man, who became very red, whether from modesty or lack of breath is not known.
After the first moments of effusion had passed and inquiries about Carlicos and his wife had been made and answered, Padre Damaso asked, “Come now, what does Carlicos want me to do for you?”
“I believe he says something about that in the letter,” Linares again stammered.
“In the letter? Let’s see! That’s right! He wants me to get you a job and a wife. Ahem! A job, a job that’s easy! Can you read and write?”
“I received my degree of law from the University.”
“Carambas! So you’re a pettifogger! You don’t show it; you look more like a shy maiden. So much the better! But to get you a wife—”
“Padre, I’m not in such a great hurry,” interrupted Linares in confusion.
But Padre Damaso was already pacing from one end of the hallway to the other, muttering, “A wife, a wife!” His countenance was no longer sad or merry but now wore an expression of great seriousness, while he seemed to be thinking deeply. Padre Salvi gazed on the scene from a distance.
“I didn’t think that the matter would trouble me so much,” murmured Padre Damaso in a tearful voice. “But of two evils, the lesser!” Then raising his voice he approached Linares and said to him, “Come, boy, let’s talk to Santiago.”
Linares turned pale and allowed himself to be dragged along by the priest, who moved thoughtfully. Then it was Padre Salvi’s turn to pace back and forth, pensive as ever.
A voice wishing him good morning drew him from his monotonous walk. He raised his head and saw Lucas, who saluted him humbly.
“What do you want?” questioned the curate’s eyes.
“Padre, I’m the brother of the man who was killed on the day of the fiesta,” began Lucas in tearful accents.
The curate recoiled and murmured in a scarcely audible voice, “Well?”
Lucas made an effort to weep and wiped his eyes with a handkerchief. “Padre,” he went on tearfully, “I’ve been to Don Crisostomo to ask for an indemnity. First he received me with kicks, saying that he wouldn’t pay anything since he himself had run the risk of getting killed through the fault of my dear, unfortunate brother. I went to talk to him yesterday, but he had gone to Manila. He left me five hundred pesos for charity’s sake and charged me not to come back again. Ah, Padre, five hundred pesos for my poor brother—five hundred pesos! Ah, Padre—”
At first the curate had listened with surprise and attention while his lips curled slightly with a smile of such disdain and sarcasm at the sight of this farce that, had Lucas noticed it, he would have run away at top speed. “Now what do you want?” he asked, turning away.
“Ah, Padre, tell me for the love of God what I ought to do. The padre has always given good advice.”
“Who told you so? You don’t belong in these parts.”
“The padre is known all over the province.”
With irritated looks Padre Salvi approached him and pointing to the street said to the now startled Lucas, “Go home and be thankful that Don Crisostomo didn’t have you sent to jail! Get out of here!”
Lucas forgot the part he was playing and murmured, “But I thought—”
“Get out of here!” cried Padre Salvi nervously.
“I would like to see Padre Damaso.”
“Padre Damaso is busy. Get out of here!” again ordered the curate imperiously.
Lucas went down the stairway muttering, “He’s another of them—as he doesn’t pay well—the one who pays best!”
At the sound of the curate’s voice all had hurried to the spot, including Padre Damaso, Capitan Tiago, and Linares.
“An insolent vagabond who came to beg and who doesn’t want to work,” explained Padre Salvi, picking up his hat and cane to return to the convento.