THIS flower only was wanting to complete the nosegay, muttered poor Don Luis between his teeth when he had reached his house and shut himself up in his room, vexed and ill at ease because of the jeers of which he had been the butt. He exaggerated them to himself; they seemed unendurable. He threw himself into a chair, depressed and disheartened, and a thousand contradictory ideas assailed his mind.
The blood of his father, which boiled in his veins, incited him to anger; and urged him to throw aside the clerical garb, as he had in the beginning been advised to do in the village, and then give the Count his deserts; but the whole future he had planned for himself would be thus at a blow destroyed. He pictured to himself the dean disowning him; and even the Pope, who had already sent the pontifical dispensation permitting him to be ordained before the required age, and the bishop of the diocese, who had based the petition for the dispensation on his approved virtue and learning and on the firmness of his vocationall appeared before him now to reproach him.
Then those other arguments, cited by his father, of which the apostle St. James, the bishops of the Middle Ages, and St. Ignatius Loyola had made use, occurred to his mind, and now seemed less preposterous than before, and he almost repented of not having put them into practise.
He then recalled the custom of a distinguished philosopher of Persia, of our own day, mentioned in a book recently written on that countrya custom which consisted in punishing with harsh words his hearers and pupils when they laughed at his teachings or could not understand them, and if this did not suffice, in descending from his chair, sabre in hand, and giving them all a beating. This method, as it appears, had proved efficacious, especially in controversy; although it had chanced that the said philosopher, coming across an opponent of the same way of thinking as himself, had received a severe wound in the face from him.
Don Luis, in the midst of his mortification and ill-humor, could not help laughing at the absurdity of this recollection. He thought philosophers were not wanting in Spain who would willingly adopt the Persian method, and if he himself did not put it into practise, it was certainly not through fear of the wounds he might receive, but through considerations of greater weight.
I did very wrong in preaching there, he said to himself; I should have remained silent. Our Lord Jesus Christ has said, Give not that which is holy to dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
But, no; why should I complain? Why should I return evil for evil? Why should I allow myself to be vanquished by anger? Many holy fathers have said, Anger in a priest is even worse than lasciviousness. The anger of priests has caused many tears to be shed, and has been the cause of terrible evils.
It was angerthe terrible counselorthat at times persuaded them that it was necessary for the people to shed blood at the Divine command, and that brought before their sanguinary eyes the vision of Isaiah; they have then seen, and caused their fanatic followers to see, the meek Lamb converted into an inexorable avenger, descending from the summit of Edom, proud in the multitude of his strength, trampling the nations under foot, as the treader tramples the grapes in the wine-press, their garments raised, and covered with blood to the thighs. Ah, no. My God! I am about to become Thy minister. Thou art the God of peace, and my first duty should be meekness. Thou makest the sun to shine on the just and the unjust, and pourest down upon all alike the fertilizing rain of inexhaustible goodness. Thou art our Father, who dwellest in the heavens, and we should be perfect, even as Thou art perfect, pardoning those who have offended us, and asking Thee to pardon them, because they know not what they do. I should recall to mind the beatitudes of the Scripture: Blessed are ye when they revile you and persecute you, and say all manner of evil things against you. The minister of God, or he who is about to become His minister, must be humble, peaceable, lowly of heart; not like the oak that lifts itself up proudly until the thunderbolt strike it, but like the fragrant herbs of the woods and the modest flowers of the fields, that give sweeter and more graceful perfume after the rustic has trodden them under foot.
In these and other meditations of a like nature the hours passed until three oclock, when Don Pedro, who had just returned from the country, entered his sons room to call him to dinner. The gay joviality of his father, his jests, his affectionate attentions during the meal, were all of no avail to draw Don Luis from his melancholy, or to give him an appetite; he ate little, and scarcely spoke while they were at table.
Although much troubled by the silent melancholy of his son, whose health, though indeed robust, might nevertheless suffer from it, Don Pedrowho rose with the dawn and had a busy time of it during the daywhen he had finished his after-dinner cigar and taken his cup of coffee and his glass of anisette, felt fatigued, and went, according to his custom, to take a long nap.
Don Luis had been careful not to draw the attention of his father to the offense done him by the Count of Genazahar; for Don Pedro, who, for his part, was not preparing for the priesthood, and who, besides, was not of a very meek disposition, would otherwise have rushed instantly to wreak the vengeance his son had foregone.