Thursday, November 25, 2021

the last book I ever read (Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop, excerpt four)

from Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather:

In the golden October weather the Bishop, with his blankets and coffee-pot, attended by Jacinto, a young Indian from the Pecos pueblo, whom he employed as guide, set off to visit the Indian missions in the west. He spent a night and a day at Albuquerque, with the genial and popular Padre Gallego. After Santa Fé, Albuquerque was the most important parish in the diocese; the priest belong to an influential Mexican family, and he and the rancheros had run their church to suit themselves, making a very gay affair of it. Though Padre Gallegos was ten years older than the Bishop, he would still dance the fandango five nights running, as if he could never have enough of it. He had many friends in the American colony, with whom he played poker and went hunting, when he was not dancing with the Mexicans. His cellar was well stocked with wines from El Paso del Norte, whiskey from Taos, and grape brandy from Bernalillo. He was genuinely hospitable, and the gambler down on his luck, the soldier sobering up, were always welcome at his table. The Padre was adored by a rich Mexican widow, who was hostess at his supper parties, engaged his servants for him, made lace for the altar and napery for his table. Every Sunday her carriage, the only closed one in Albuquerque, waited in the plaza after Mass, and when the priest had put off his vestments, he came out and was driven away to the lady’s hacienda for dinner.

The Bishop and Father Vaillant had thoroughly examined the case of Father Gallegos, and meant to end this scandalous state of things well before Christmas. But on this visit Father Latour exhibited neither astonishment nor displeasure at anything, and Padre Gallegos was cordial and most ceremoniously polite. When the Bishop permitted himself to express some surprise that there was not a confirmation class awaiting him, the Padre explained smoothly that it was his custom to confirm infants at their baptism.

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