(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story begins with a description of three people in a sitting room of a manorial house in Granada in March of 1768. A mature woman of noble bearing sits near one of the balconies, watching a pale, sickly child playing on the floor. The little boy is dressed as an elegant little gentleman. In one corner near a window, a beautiful nun of about thirty sits staring toward the sky. Next, the narrator identifies the characters and reveals their family history. The widowed Dowager Countess de Santos had not obeyed the spirit of her father-in-law’s will, which stipulated that the family fortune be divided between the two oldest grandchildren in order to ensure the survival of the family name. Instead, the countess, who idolized her oldest child, a male, placed her second child, Isabel de Santos, in a convent when the girl was only eight years old.

When Sister Isabel de los Angeles later renounced all worldly property, her brother Alfonso inherited the entire estate. On the early death of both the brother and his wife, his three-year-old son, Carlos, the only remaining heir to the title, came to live at the family estate. Meanwhile, the ailing Sister Isabel, now a beautiful young woman, has been sent home to recuperate. She has received permission to live at home, as if it were a convent, in order to help rear her nephew. The spoiled young Carlos now tyrannizes the entire household.

When the story resumes, he busily destroys a book on heraldry...

(The entire section is 513 words.)