Caesar or Nothing
Part 5 out of 7
"We have been at Siena, which is a kind of Toledo, made up of narrow
lanes. It was very hot. We were bored, especially she who has no
"We have spent two days in Florence, a night in Bologna, another night
at Milan, and after vacillating as to whether it would be better to go
to Lake Como or to Switzerland, we have come to Geneva to spend a few
"Travelling like this in limited trains, one finds travelling more
insipid than in any other fashion. All the sleeping-cars are alike, all
the people alike, all the hotels alike. Really it is Stupid.
"It is still more stupid travelling with a woman who attracts attention
wherever she goes. She attracts attention, that is all; she doesn't
awaken any liking. She cannot comprehend why, being a beautiful and
distinguished woman, she has nobody who cares for her disinterestedly.
She notices that all the smart young men who aim for her are simply
coming to the beautiful rich woman.
"And she thinks they ought to be in ecstasies over her wit and over the
repertory of ready-made phrases she keeps for conversation."
A TIRESOME HOTEL
"In this immense, luxurious hotel, situated two thousand odd metres
above sea-level, as the announcement-cards stuck everywhere say, more
than a hundred of us gather in the dining-room at lunch-time. The
greatest coolness, the most frozen composure reigns among us.
"It is obvious that, thus harboured and united by chance in this hotel,
we disturb one another; a wall of prejudices and conventionalities
separates us. The English old maids read their romantic novels; the
German families talk among themselves; some Russian or other drinks
champagne while he stares with vague and inexpressive eyes; and
some swarthy man from a sultry country appears to be crushed by the
"Through the windows one can see Lake Leman, closed in near here by
mountains, blue like a great turquoise, ploughed by white, triangular
sails. From time to time one hears the strident noise of a steamboat's
siren and the murmur of the funicular train."
A MODEST FAMILY
"To this ostentatious hotel a family of modest air came two days ago.
It was a family made up of five persons; two ladies, one of them plain,
thin, spectacled, the other plumper and short; a merry girl, smiling
and rosy, and a melancholy little girl, with a waxen face. They were
accompanied by a man with a distinguished, weary manner.
"They are all in mourning. They are English; they treat one another with
an attractive affability. The short lady, mother of the two girls, was
pressing the man's hand and caressing it, during lunch the first day. He
kept smiling in a gentle, tired way. No doubt he was unable to stay here
long, for he did not appear that evening, and the four females were
alone in the dining-room.
"The two ladies and the fresh, blooming girl are much preoccupied about
the pale little girl, so much so that they do not notice the interest
they arouse among the guests. All the old 'misses,' loaded with jewels,
watch the family in mourning, as if they were wondering: 'How come they
here, if their position is not so good as ours? How dare they mix among
us, not being in our class?'
"And it is a fact; they cannot be; there is something that shows that
this family is not rich. Besides, and this is extraordinary enough, it
seems that they haven't come here to look down on others, or to give
themselves airs, but to take walks and to look at the immaculate peaks
of Mont Blanc. So one sees the two girls going out into the country
without making an elaborate toilet, carrying a book or an orange in
their hands, and coming back with bunches of flowers...."
_TRAGEDY IN A HOTEL ROOM_
"This morning at lunch only one of the ladies appeared in the
"'Perhaps the others have gone off on some picnic,' thought I.
"In the evening at dinner, the tall woman with the glasses and the
larger of the two girls were at table. They didn't eat, and disquietude
was painted on their faces; the girl had flushed cheeks and swollen
"'What can be happening to them?' I asked myself.
"At that juncture, in came the short lady, with two vials of medicine
in her hand, and put them on the table. By what I could hear of the
conversation, she had just come from Lausanne, where she had gone for
the doctor. The melancholy little girl, the one with the waxen face,
must be ill.
"No doubt the family have come to Switzerland for the sake of the child,
who is probably delicate, and have made a sacrifice to do so. That
explains their modest air, and the rapid departure of the man who
"The three women gazed sadly at one another. What can the poor child
have? I remember nothing about her, except her hair parted in the
middle, and the pallid colour of her bloodless skin, and nevertheless it
makes me sad to think that she is sick.
"I should like to offer myself to these women at this crisis; I should
like to say to them: 'I am a humble person, without money; but if I
could be useful to you in any way, I would do it with all my heart; and
that is more than I would do for this gang covered with brilliants.'
"The German who eats at the next table to the family understands what is
happening, and he leaves off eating to look at them, and then looks at
me with his blue eyes. At last he shrugs his shoulders, lowers his head,
and empties a glass of wine at one gulp.
"The three women rise and go to their rooms. One hears them coming and
going in the corridor; then a waiter takes their dinner upstairs.
"And while the family are desolate up there, down here in the 'hall' the
'misses' keep on looking at one another contemptuously, exhibiting rings
that sparkle on their fingers, and which would keep hundreds of people
alive; and while they are weeping upstairs, down here a blond Yankee
woman, with a large blue hat, a friend of Susanna's, who flirts with a
youth from Chicago, is laughing heartily, showing a set of white teeth
in which there shines a chip of gold."
_SUSANNA DOES NOT UNDERSTAND_
"I have spoken to Susanna about the poor English girl, who, they say, is
dying; and she has bidden me not to tell her sad things. She cannot bear
other people's suffering. She says she is more sensitive than others.
How very comical!
"This fine lady, who thinks herself so witty and so sensitive, has
an inner skin like a hippopotamus; she is covered with a magnificent
egoism, which must be at least of galvanized steel. Her armour protects
her against the action of other people's miseries and pains.
"This woman, so beautiful, is of a grotesque egotism; one understands
her husband's despising her.
"I am leaving her with her millions and going away to Spain."
_CAESAR IN ACTION_
During the night Caesar Moncada and Alzugaray chatted in the train.
Alzugaray was praising this first Quixotic sally of his friend's.
"We are going to cross the Rubicon, Caesar," he said, as he got into the
"We shall see."
Many times Alzugaray had heard Caesar explain his plans, but he had no
great confidence in their realization. Nor did this particular moment
seem to him opportune for beginning the campaign. Everybody believed
that the Liberal Ministry was stronger than ever; people were still away
for the summer; nothing was doing.
Nevertheless, Caesar insisted that the crisis was imminent, and that it
was the precise moment for him to enter politics. With this object he
was taking a letter from Alarcos, the leader of the Conservatives, to
Don Calixto Garcia Guerrero.
"Your Don Calixto will be at San Sebastian or at some water-cure," said
Alzugaray, taking his seat in the train.
"It's all the same to me. I intend to follow him until I find him,"
"And you are decided to run as a Conservative?"
"I hope you won't be sorry later."
"Pshaw! Later one jumps into the position that suits one. On these first
rungs of political life, either you have to have great luck, or you have
to go like a grasshopper, first here, then there. That is the take-off,
and when you are there all the ambitious mediocrities unite against you
if you have any talent. Naturally, I do not intend to do anything to
exhibit mine. Spanish politics are like a pond; a strong, healthy stick
of wood goes to the bottom; a piece of bark or cork or a sheaf of straw
stays on the surface. One has to disguise oneself as a cork."
"And later you will go on and make yourself known."
"Naturally. Since I find myself in the vein for making comparisons, I
will say that in Spanish politics we have a case like those in the old
comedies of intrigue, where the lackeys pretend to be gentlemen. When I
am once among the gentlemen, I shall know how to prove that I am more a
master than the people surrounding me."
"How conceited you are."
"The confidence one feels in oneself," said Caesar ironically.
"But have you really got it, or do you only pretend to have?"
"What matter whether I have it or haven't it, if I behave as if I had
"It matters a lot. It matters whether you are calm or not in the moment
"Calmness is the muse that inspires me. I haven't it in my thoughts, but
in active life you shall see me!"
The two friends stretched themselves out in their first-class
compartment, and lay half asleep until dawn, when they got up again.
The train was running rapidly across the flat country; the yellow
sunlight shone into the car; through the newly sowed fields rode men on
"These are not my dominions yet," said Caesar.
"We have two more stations till Castro Duro," responded Alzugaray,
consulting the time-table. They took off their caps, put them into the
bag, Caesar put on a fresh collar, and they sat down by the window.
"It is ugly enough, eh?" said Alzugaray.
"Naturally," replied Caesar. "What do you want; that there should be
some of those green landscapes like in your country, which for my part
THE CLASSIC STAGECOACH
They arrived at Castro Duro. In the station they saw groups of peasants.
The travellers with their baggage went out of the station. There were
two shabby coaches at the door.
"Are you going to the Comercio?" asked one driver.
"No, they are going to the Espana," said the other.
"Then you two know more than we do," answered Alzugaray, "because we
don't know where to go."
"To the Comercio!"
"To the Espana!"
"Whose coach is this one?" asked Caesar, pointing to the less dirty of
"All right, then we are going to the Comercio."
The coach, in spite of being the better of the two, was a rickety,
worn-out old omnibus, with its windows broken and spotted. It was drawn
by three skinny mules, full of galls. Caesar and Alzugaray got in and
waited. The coachman, with the whip around his neck, and a young man who
looked a bit like a seminarian, began to chat and smoke.
At the end of five minutes' waiting, Caesar asked:
"Well, aren't we going?"
"In a moment, sir."
The moment stretched itself out a good deal. A priest arrived, so fat
that he would have filled the vehicle all alone; then a woman from the
town with a basket, which she held on her knees; then the postman got in
with his bag; the driver closed the little window in the coach door, and
continued joking with the young man who looked a bit like a seminarian
and with one of the station men.
"We are in a hurry," said Alzugaray.
"We are going now, sir. All right. Good-bye!"
"Good-bye!" answered the station man and the seminarian.
The driver got up on his seat, cracked his whip, and the vehicle began
to move, with a noisy swaying and a trembling of all its wood and glass.
A very thick cloud of dust arose in the road.
"Ya, ya, Coronela!" yelled the driver. "Why do you keep getting where
you oughtn't to get? Damn the mule! Montesina, I am going to give you a
couple of whacks. Get on there, Coronela! Get up, get up.... All right!
All right!... That's enough.... That's enough.... Let it alone, now! Let
it alone, now!"
"What an amount of oratory that man is wasting," exclaimed Caesar; "he
must think that the mules are going to go better for the efforts of his
throat. It would be an advantage if he had stronger beasts, instead of
these dying ones."
The other travellers paid no attention to his observation, and Alzugaray
"These drivers drip oratory."
While the shabby coach was going along the highway which encircles
Castro hill, to the sound of the bells and the cracking of the whip, it
was possible to remain seated in the vehicle with comparative ease; but
on reaching the town's first steep, crooked, rough-cobbled street, the
swinging and tossing were such that the travellers kept falling one upon
The first street kept getting rapidly narrower, and as it grew narrower,
the crags in its paving were sharper and more prominent. At the highest
part of the street, in the middle, stood a two-wheeled cart blocking the
way. The coachman got down, from his seat and started a long discussion
with the carter, as to who was under obligations to make way.
"What idiots!" exclaimed Caesar, irritated; then, calmer, he murmured,
addressing Alzugaray, "The truth is, these people don't care about doing
anything but talk."
As the discussion between the coachman and the carter gave signs of
never ending, Caesar said:
"Come along," and then, addressing the man with the bag, he asked him,
"Is it far from here to the inn?"
"No; it is right here, in the house where the cafe is." THE INN
Sure enough, the inn was only a step away. They went into the damp, dark
entrance, up the crooked stairs, and down the corridor to the kitchen.
"Good morning, good morning!" they shouted.
"Might it be on the second floor?" asked Alzugaray.
"Let's go see."
They went up to the next floor, entered by a gallery of red brick, which
was falling to pieces, and called several times. An old woman, from
inside a dark bedroom where she was sweeping, bade them go down to the
dining-room, where she would bring them breakfast.
The dining-room had balconies toward the country, and was full of sun;
the bedrooms they were taken to, on the other hand, were dark, gloomy,
and cavernous. Alzugaray requested the old woman to show them the other
vacant chambers, and chose two on the second floor, which were lighter
The old woman told them she hadn't wanted to take them there, because
there was no paper on the walls.
"No doubt, in Castro, the prospect of bed-bugs is an agreeable
prospect," said Caesar.
After he had washed and dressed, Caesar started out to find and capture
Don Calixto, and Alzugaray went to take a stroll around the town. It was
agreed that they should each explore the region in his own way.
In these severe old Castilian towns there is one hour of ideal peace and
serenity. That is the early morning. The cocks are still crowing, the
sound of the church bells is scattered on the air, and the sun begins to
penetrate into the streets in gusts of light. The morning is a flood of
charity that falls upon the yellowish town.
The sky is blue, the air limpid, pure, and diaphanous; the transparent
atmosphere scarcely admits effects of perspective, and its ethereal
mass makes the outlines of the houses, of the belfries, of the eaves,
vibrate. The cold breeze plays at the cross-streets, and amuses itself
by twisting the stems of the geraniums and pinks that flame on the
balconies. Everywhere there is an odour of cistus and of burning broom,
which comes from the ovens where the bread is baked, and an odour of
lavender that comes from the house entries.
The town yawns and awakes; some priests pass, on their way to church;
pious women come out of their houses; and market men and women begin to
arrive from the villages nearby. The bells make that _tilin-talan_ so
sad, which seems confined to these dead towns. In the main street the
shops open; a boy hangs up the dresses, the sandals, the caps, on the
facade, reaching them up with a stick. Droves of mules are seen in front
of the grain-shops; some charcoal-burners go by, selling charcoal; and
peasant women lead, by their halters, little burros loaded with jars and
One hears all the hawksters' cries, all the clatter characteristic of
that town. The milk-vendor, the honey-vendor, the chestnut-vendor, each
has his own traditional theme. The candlestick-maker produces a sonorous
peal from two copper candlesticks, the scissors-grinder whistles on his
Then, at midday, hawksters and peasants disappear, the sun shines
hotter, and the afternoon is tiresome and enervating.
FROM THE MIRADERO
Castro Duro is situated on a hill of red earth.
One goes up to the town by a dusty highway, with the remains of little
trees which one Europeanizing mayor planted, and which all died; or else
by zigzag paths, up which saddle-animals and beasts of burden usually
From the plain Castro Duro stands out in silhouette against the sky,
between two high, many-sided edifices, one of a honey yellow, old and
respectable, the church; the other white, overgrown, modern, the prison.
These two pillars of society are conspicuous from all sides, from
whatsoever point on the plain one looks at Castro Duro.
The town was an old important city, and has, from afar, a seigniorial
air; from nearby, on the contrary, it presents that aspect of caked dust
which all the Castilian cities in ruin have; it is wide, spread out,
formed for the most part of lanes and little squares, with low crooked
houses that have blackish, warped roofs.
From the promenade beside the church, which is called the Miradero, one
can see the great valley that surrounds Castro, a plain without an end,
flat and empty. At the foot of the hill that supports the city, a broad
river, which formerly kissed the old walls, marks a huge S with a sand
The water of the river covers the beach in winter, and leaves it half
uncovered in summer. At intervals on the river banks grow little groves
of poplar, which are mirrored on the tranquil surface of the water. A
very long bridge of more than twenty arches crosses from one shore to
The hill that serves as pedestal for the historic city has very
different aspects; from one side it is seen terraced into steps, formed
of small parcels of land held up by rough stone walls. On these landings
there are thickets of vines and a few almond-trees, which grow even out
of the spaces between the stones.
On another part of the hill, called the Trenches, the whole ground is
broken by great cuttings, which in other days were no doubt used for the
defence of the city. Near the trenches are to be seen the remains of
battlemented walls, tiles, and ruins of an ancient settlement, perhaps
destroyed by the waters of the river which in time undermined its
From the Miradero one sees the bridge below, as from a balloon, with
men, riding horses, and carts going over it, all diminished by the
distance. Women are washing clothes and spreading them in the sun, and
in the evening horses and herds of goats are drinking at the river
The great plain, the immense flat land, contains cultivated fields,
square, oblong, varying in colour with the seasons, from the light green
of barley to the gold of wheat and the dirty yellow of stubble. Near the
river are truck-gardens and orchards of almonds and other fruit trees.
In the afternoon, looking from the Miradero, from the height where
Castro stands, one feels overcome by this sea of earth, by the vast
horizon, and the profound silence. The cocks toss their metallic crowing
into the air; the clock-bells mark the hours with a sad, slow clang; and
at evening the river, brilliant in its two or three fiery curves, grows
pale and turns to blue. On clear days the sunset has extraordinary
magic. The entire town floats in a sea of gold. The Collegiate church
changes from yellow to lemon colour, and at times to orange; and there
are old walls which take on, in the evening light, the colour of bread
well browned in the oven. And the sun disappears into the plain, and the
Angelus bell sounds through the immense space.
Castro Duro has a great many streets, as many as an important capital.
By only circling the Square one can count the Main Street, Laurel
Street, Christ Street, Merchants' Street, Forge Street, Shoemakers'
Street, Loafing Street, Penitence Wall, and Chain Street.
These streets are built with large brick houses and small adobe houses.
Pointed cobbles form the pavement, and leave a dirty open sewer in the
The large houses have two granite columns on their facades, on either
side of the door, and these columns as well as the stones of the
threshold take on a violet tinge from the lees of wine the inhabitants
have the custom of putting on the sidewalks to dry.
Many of the big houses in Castro boast a large 'scutcheon over the door,
little crazy towers with iron weather-cocks on the roof; and some of
them a huge stork's nest.
The streets remote from the centre of town have no paving, and their
houses are low, built of adobe, and continued by yards, over whose
mud-walls appear the branches of fig-trees.
These houses lean forward or backward, and they have worn-out balconies,
staircases which hold up through some prodigy of stability, and old
grills, crowned with a cross and embellished with big flowers of wrought
The two principal monuments of Castro Duro are the Great Church and the
The Great Church is Romanesque, of a colour between yellow and brown,
gilded by the sun. It stands high, at one extremity of the hill, like a
sentinel watching the valley. The solid old fabric has rows of crenels
under the roof, which shows its warlike character.
The principal dome and the smaller ones are ribbed, like almost all the
Romanesque churches of Spain.
The round apse exhibits ornamental half columns, divers rosettes, and a
number of raised figures, and masonic symbols. In the interior of the
church the most notable thing to be seen is the Renaissance altar-piece
and a Romanesque arch that gives entrance to the baptistery.
The second archeological monument of the town is the ancient palace of
the Dukes of Castro Duro.
The palace, a great structure of stone and now blackened brick, rises at
the side of the town-hall, and has, like it, an arcade on the Square. In
the central balcony there are monumental columns, and on top of them
two giants of corroded stone, with large clubs, who appear to guard the
'scutcheon; one end of the building is made longer by a square tower.
The palace wears the noble air given to old edifices by the large spread
of wall containing windows very far apart, very small, and very much
From the inscriptions on its various escutcheons one can gather that it
was erected by the Duke of Castro Duro and his wife, Dona Guiomar.
In the rear of the palace, like a high belvedere built on the rampart,
there appears a gallery formed of ten round arches, supported on slender
pilasters. Below the gallery are the remains of a garden, with ramps and
terraces and a few old statues. The river comes almost to the foot of
Today the palace belongs to Don Calixto Garcia Guerrero, Count de la
Don Calixto and his family have no necessity for the whole of this big
palace to live in, and have been content to renovate the part fronting
on the Calle Mayor. They have had new belvederes built in, and have
given over the apartments looking on the Square and the Calle del Cristo
to the Courts and the school.
Another great building, which astonishes every one that stops over at
Castro Duro, by its size, is the Convent of la Merced. It has been half
destroyed by a fire. In the groins there remain some large Renaissance
brackets, and in one wing of the edifice, inhabited by the nuns, there
are windows with jalousies and a rather lofty tower terminating in a
weather-cock and a cross.
LIFE AT CASTRO
Castro Duro is principally a town of farmers and carriers. Its municipal
limits are very extensive; the plain surrounding it is fertile enough.
In winter there are many foggy days, and then the flat land looks like
a sea, in which hillocks and groves float like islands. Wine and
cultivated fruits constitute the principal riches of Castro. The wine is
sharp, badly made; there is one thick dark variety which always tastes
of tar, and one light variety which they reinforce with alcohol and
which they call aloque.
Autumn is the period of greatest animation in the town; the harvest
gets stowed away, the vintage made, the sweet almonds are gathered and
shelled in the porticoes.
Formerly in all the houses of rich and poor, the murk of the grapes
was boiled in a still and a somewhat bitter brandy thus manufactured.
Whether in consequence of the brandy, or of the unusual amount of money
about, or of both, the fact is that at that period a great passion for
gambling developed in Castro and more crimes were committed then than
during all the rest of the year.
The industrial processes in Castro are primitive; everything is made
by hand, and the Castrian people imagine that this establishes a
superiority. In the environs of the town there are an electrical plant,
a brickyard, various mills, and lime and plaster kilns.
The town's commerce is more extended than its industries, although no
more prosperous. In the Square and in the Calle Mayor, under the
arcades white goods are sold and woollens, and there are hat-shops
and silversmiths, one alongside the other. The shopkeepers hang their
merchandise in the arches, the saddlers and harness-makers decorate
their entrances with head-stalls and straps, and those that have no
archway put up awnings. In the Square there are continually stalls set
up for earthenware jars and pitchers and for articles in tin.
In the outlying streets there are inns, at whose doors five or six mules
with their heads together are almost constantly to be seen; there are
crockery stores containing brooms and every kind of jug and glazed pan;
there are little shops in doorways holding big baskets full of grain;
there are dark taverns, which are also eating-houses, to which the
peasants go to eat on market days, and whose signs are strings of dried
pimentoes and cayenne peppers or an elm branch. In the written signs
there is a truly Castilian charm, chaste and serene. At the Riojano oven
one reads: "'Bred' baked for all 'commers.'" And at the Campico inn it
says: "Wine served by Furibis herself." The shops and the inns have
picturesque names too. There is the Sign of the Moor, and the Sign of
the Jew, and the Sign of the Lion, and one of the Robbers.
The streets of Castro, especially those near the centre, where the crowd
is greater, are dirty and ill-smelling in summer. Clouds of flies hover
about and settle on the pairs of blissfully sleeping oxen; the sun
pours down his blinding brilliance; not a soul passes, and only a few
greyhounds, white and black, elegant and sad, rove about the streets...
In all seasons, at twilight, a few young gentlemen promenade in the
Square. At nine at night in the winter, and at ten in summer, begins the
reign of the watchmen with their dramatic and lamentable cry.
* * * * *
Alzugaray gave Caesar these details by degrees, while they were both
seated in the hotel getting ready to dine.
"And the type? The ethnic type? What is it, according to you?" asked
"A type rather thin than fat, supple, with an aquiline nose, black
"Yes, the Iberian type," said Caesar, "that is how it struck me too.
Tall, supple, dolichocephalic... It seems to me one can try to put
something through in this town..."
"And what have you been doing all day? Tell me."
"I think, my dear Alzugaray," said Caesar, "that I can say, like my
namesake Julius: 'Veni, vidi, vice.'"
"The devil! The first day?"
"Show me. What happened?"
"I left the house and entered the cafe downstairs. There was no one
there but a small boy, from whom I ordered a bottle of beer and asked if
there was a newspaper published here. He told me yes, the _Castro Mail_,
an independent weekly. I bade him fetch me a copy, even an old one, and
he brought me these two. I gave them a glance, and then, as if it didn't
interest me much, I questioned the lad about Don Calixto.
"The first impression I obtained was that Don Calixto is the most
influential person in the town; the second, that besides him, either
with him or against him, there is a Senor Don Platon Peribanez, almost
as influential as Don Calixto. Afterwards I read the two numbers of the
Castro periodical attentively, and from this reading I gathered that
there is a somewhat hazy question here about an Asylum, where it
seems some irregularities have been committed. There is a Republican
book-dealer, who is a member of the Council, and on whom the Workmen's
Club depends, and he has asked for information as to the facts from the
Municipality, and the followers of Don Calixto and of Don Platon oppose
this suggestion as an attack on the good-birth, the honour, and the
reputation of such respectable personages.
"Having verified these pieces of news, which are of interest for me, I
packed off to church and heard the whole eleven o'clock mass."
"Mighty good! You are quite a man."
"Mass ended, I went over to the Baptistery arch and stood there
examining it, as if I felt the most terrible symptoms of enthusiasm for
carved stone. Afterwards I went into the big chapel, which serves also
as a pantheon for the Dukes of Castro Duro, whose tombs you find in
the side niches of the presbytery. These niches are decorated with an
efflorescence of Gothic, which is most gay and pretty, and among all
this stone filigree you see the recumbent statues of a number of knights
and one bishop, who to judge by his sword must have been a warrior too.
"Nobody remained in the church; the priest, a nice old man, fixed his
eyes on me and asked me what I thought of the arch. And having prepared
my lesson, I talked about the Romanesque of the XII and XIII Centuries
like a professor, and then he took me into the sacristy and showed me
two paintings on wood which I told him were XV Century.
"'So they say,' the priest agreed. 'Do you think they are Italian or
"'Italian certainly, North Italian.' I might as well have said South
German, but I had to decide for something.
"'And they must be worth...? he then asked me with eagerness.
"'My dear man; according,' I told him. 'A dealer would offer you a
hundred or two hundred pesetas apiece. In London or New York, well
placed, they might be worth twenty or thirty thousand francs.'
"The 'pater' shot fire out of his eyes.
"'And what would one have to do about it?' he asked me.
"'My dear man, I think one would have to take some good photographs and
send them to various trades-people and to the museums in the United
"'Would it be necessary to write in English?'
"'Yes, it would be the most practical thing.' "'I don't think there is
anybody here that knows how....'
"'I would do it, with great pleasure.'
"'But are you going to be here for some time?'
"'Yes, it is probable.'
"He asked me what I came to Castro Duro for, and I told him that I had
no other object than to visit Don Calixto Garcia Guerrero.
"Astonishment on the priest's face.
"'You know him?'
"'Yes, I met him in Rome.'
"'Do you know where he lives?'
"'Then I will take you.'
"The priest and I went out into the street. He wanted to give me the
sidewalk, and I opposed that as if it were a crime. He told me he was
more accustomed than I to walking on the cobble-stones; and finally, he
on the sidewalk and I in the gutter, we arrived at Don Calixto's house."
* * * * *
"Was he at home?" asked Alzugaray.
"Yes," said Caesar. "By the way, on the road there we bowed to the
present Deputy to the Cortes, he who will be my opponent in the
approaching election, Senor Garcia Padilla."
"Dear man! What a coincidence! What sort is he?"
"He is tall, with a reddish aquiline nose, a greyish moustache, full of
cosmetic, a poor type."
"He is a Liberal?"
"Yes, he is a Liberal, because Don Calixto is a Conservative. In his
"Good. Go on."
_DON CALIXTO AT HOME_
"As I was saying, Don Calixto was at home, in a large room on the ground
floor, which serves as his office. Don Calixto is a tall, supple man,
with the blackest of hair which is beginning to turn white on the
temples, and a white moustache. He is at the romantic age of illusions,
of hopes...." "How old is he?" asked Alzugaray.
"He isn't more than fifty-four," Caesar replied, sarcastically. "Don
Calixto dresses in black, very fastidiously, and the effect is smart,
but smacks of the notary. No matter what pains he takes to appear
graceful and easy in manner, he doesn't achieve the result; he has the
inbred humility of one who has taken orders in a shop, either as a lad
or as a man.
"Don Calixto received me with great amiability, but with a certain air
of reserve, as if to say: 'In Rome I was a merry comrade to you, here I
am a personage.' We chatted about a lot of things, and before he could
ask me what I wanted, I pulled out the letter and handed it to him. The
old man put on his glasses, read attentively, and said:
"'Very good, very good; we will discuss it later.'
"The priest of course thought that he was in the way, and he left.
"When we were alone, Don Calixto said:
"'All right, Caesar, I am happy to see you. I see that you remember our
conversation in Rome. You must have lunch with me and my family.'
"'With great pleasure.'
"'I'll go and tell them to put on another place.'
"Don Calixto went out and left me alone. For a while I studied the
boss's office. On the wall, diplomas, appointments, in looking-glass
frames; a genealogical tree, probably drawn day before yesterday; in a
book-case, legal books...
"Don Calixto came back; he asked me if I was tired, and I told him no,
and when we had crossed the whole width of the house, which is huge, he
showed me the garden. My boy, what a wonderful spot! It hangs over the
river and it is a marvel. The highest part, which is the part they keep
up, isn't worth much; it is in lamentable style; just imagine, there is
a fountain which is a tin negro that spurts out water from all parts.
"However, the old part of the garden, the lower part, is lovely. There
is a big tower standing guard over the river, now converted into a
belvedere, with pomegranates, rose-bushes, and climbing plants all
around it, and above all, there is an oleander that is a marvel...; it
looks like a fire-work castle or a shower of flowers."
* * * * *
"Leave that point," said Alzugaray. "You are talking like a poor
disciple of Ruskin's."
"You are right. But when you see those gardens, you will be
* * * * *
THE POLITICAL POWERS OF CASTRO
"During our promenade Don Calixto talked to me of the immense good he
has done for the town and of the ingratitude he constantly receives for
"While I listened, I recalled a little periodical in Madrid which had no
other object than to furnish bombs at reasonable prices, and which said,
speaking of a manufacturer in Catalonia: 'Senor So-and-so is the most
powerful boss in the province of Tarragona, and even at that there are
those who dispute his bossdom.'
"Don Calixto is astonished that when he has done the Castrians the
honour to make them loans at eighty or ninety percent, they are not fond
of him. After the garden we saw the house; I won't tell you anything
about it, I don't want you to accuse me again of being a Ruskinian.
"When we reached the dining-room Don Calixto said: 'I am going to
present you to my family.'
"Thereupon, entrance, ceremonies, bows on my part, smiles ... _toute
la lyre_. Don Calixto's wife is an insignificant fat woman; the two
daughters insipid, ungainly, not at all pretty; and with them was a
little girl of about fifteen or sixteen, a niece of Don Calixto's, a
veritable little devil, named Amparo. This Amparo is a tiny, flat-faced
creature, with black eyes, and extraordinarily vivacious and
mischievous. During dinner I succeeded in irritating the child.
"I talked gravely with Don Calixto and his wife and daughters about
Madrid, about the theatrical companies that come to this town, about
their acquaintances at the Capital.
"The child interrupted us, bringing us the cat and putting a little bow
on him, and then making him walk on the key-board of the piano.
"At half-past one we went to the dining-room. Dinner was kilometres
long; and the conversation turned on Rome and Paris. Don Calixto drank
more and more, I, too; and at the end of the meal there was a bit of
toasting, from which my political intentions were made manifest.
"The elder daughter, whose name is Adela, asked me if I liked music. I
told her yes, almost closing my eyes, as if deliriously, and we went
into the drawing-room. Without paying attention, I listened, during
the horrors of digestion, to a number of sonatas, now and then saying:
'Magnificent! How wonderful that is!'
"The father was enchanted, the mother enchanted, the sister likewise;
the little girl was the one who stared at me with questioning black
eyes. She must have been thinking: 'What species of bird is this?' I
believe the damned child realized that I was acting a comedy.
"About four the ladies and I went out into the garden. Don Calixto has
the habit of taking an afternoon nap, and he left us. I succeeded in
bringing myself to, in the open air. Don Calixto's wife showed me over
an abandoned part of the house, in which there is an old kitchen as big
as a cathedral, with a stone chimney like a high altar, with the arms
of the Dukes of Castro. We chatted, I was very pleasant to the mother,
courteous to the daughters, and coldly indifferent with the little
niece. I was bored, after having exhausted all subjects of conversation,
when Don Calixto reappeared and carried me off to his office.
"The conference was important; he explained the situation of the
Conservative forces of the district to me. These forces are represented,
principally, by three men: Don Calixto, a Senor Don Platon, and a friar.
Don Calixto represents the modern Conservative tendency and is, let us
say, the Canovas of the district; with him are the rich members of the
Casino, the superior judge, the doctors, the great proprietors, etc.
Don Platon Peribanez, a silversmith in the Calle Mayor, represents the
middle-class Conservatives; his people are less showy, but more in
earnest and better disciplined; this Platonian or Platonic party is made
up of chandlers, silversmiths, small merchants, and the poor priests.
The friar, who represents the third Conservative nucleus, is Father
Martin Lafuerza. Father Martin is prior of the Franciscan monastery,
which was established here after the Order was expelled from Filinas.
"Father Martin is an Ultramontanist up to the eyes. He directs priests,
friars, nuns, sisters, and is the absolute master of a town nearby
called Cidones, where the women are very pious.
"Despite their piety, the reputation of those ladies cannot be very
good, because there is a proverb, certainly not very gallant: 'Don't get
either a wife or a mule at Cidones; neither a wife nor a mule nor a pig
"Opposed to these three Conservative nuclei are the friends of the
present Deputy, who amount to no more than the official element, which
is always on the ruling side, and a small guerilla band that meets in
the Workingmen's Casino, and is composed principally of a Republican
bookseller, an apothecary who invents explosives, also Republican, an
anarchist doctor, a free-thinking weaver, and an innkeeper whom they
call Furibis, who is also a smuggler and a man with hair on his chest."
_DON PLATON PERIBANEZ_
"After having given me these data, Don Calixto told me that by counting
on Senor Peribanez, the election was almost sure; and since the quicker
things go the better, he proposed that we should go to see him, and I
"Don Platon Peribanez has a silver-shop fitted up in the old style; a
small show-window, full of rattles, Moorish anklets, necklaces, little
crosses, et cetera; a narrow, dark shop, then a long passage, and at the
rear, a workroom with a window on a court.
"As his assistant in the silver-shop, Don Platon has a boy who is a
nonsuch. I believe that if you took him to London and exhibited him,
saying beforehand: 'Bear in mind, gentlemen, that this is not a monkey
or an anthropoid, but a man,' you would rake in a mad amount of pounds
"We went into Don Platon's little shop, we asked the young macaco for
him, and we passed on into the workshop.
"Senor Peribanez is a man of medium stature, dressed in black, with a
trimmed white beard, grey eyes, and modest manners. He speaks coldly,
thinks closely of what he is saying; he has a monotonous, slow voice,
and nothing escapes him.
"Don Calixto presented me to him; the silversmith gave me his hand as if
with a certain repugnance, and the boss explained who I was and what I
"Don Platon said that he could not reply categorically without
consulting with his friends and with Father Martin. The Father has other
candidates; one the Duke of Castro himself; and the other a rich farmer
of the town.
"The Duke of Castro presents no other drawback than that he has been
arrested in Paris for an insignificant swindle he has committed; but
it seems that a rich Cuban wants to get him out of his difficulties on
condition that he will marry his daughter.
"If he comes out of jail and gets married, then they will nominate him
as Deputy from here.
"I said to Don Platon, in case the worthy Duke does not come out of
jail, would he have difficulties over my being his candidate. He replied
that I am very young, and after many circumlocutions he said flatly that
he doesn't know if I would be accepted or not as a candidate by his
followers; but in case I were, the conditions precedent would be: first,
that I would not interfere in any way in the affairs of the district,
which would be ventilated in the town, as previously; secondly, that I
should bear the costs of the election, which would amount approximately
to some ten thousand pesetas.
"Don Calixto looked at me questioningly, and I smiled in a way to make
it understood that I agreed, and after extracting a promise from Don
Platon that he will give us a definite answer this week, we took leave
of him and went to the Casino.
"There I was introduced to the judge, an Andalusian who has a spotless
reputation for veniality, and to the mayor, who is a rich farmer; and
the most important persons of the town being thus gathered at one table,
we chatted about politics, women, and gambling.
"I told them a number of tales; I told them that I once lost ten
thousand dollars at Monte Carlo, playing with two Russian princes and a
Yankee millionairess; I talked to them about the mysteries and crimes of
gambling houses and of those great centres of pleasure, and I left them
speechless. At half-past nine, with a terrible headache, I came back
here. I think I have not lost a day, eh?"
"No! The devil! What speed!" exclaimed Alzugaray.
"But you are not eating any supper. Don't you intend to take anything?"
"No. I am going to see if I can sleep. Listen, day after tomorrow we are
both invited to dine at Don Calixto's."
"Yes; I told them that you are a rich tourist, and they want to know
"And what am I to do there?"
"You can study these people, as an entomologist studies insects. Listen,
it wouldn't do any harm if you took a walk to that town near here, named
Cidones, to see if you can find out what sort of bird this Father Martin
"And if you don't mind, go into that Republican bookseller's shop, under
any pretext, and talk to him."
"I will do so."
"Then, till tomorrow!"
"You are going now?"
Caesar left his room and marched off to sleep.
THE BOOKSELLER AND THE ANARCHISTS
The following day, very early in the morning, Alzugaray went to a
livery-stable which they had directed him to at the hotel, and asked to
hire a horse. They brought him a large, old one; he mounted, and crossed
the town more slowly than if he had been on foot, and set out for
On reaching that town, he left the horse at a blacksmith's and went up
through the narrow lanes of Cidones, which are horribly long, dark, and
Then he ascended to la Pena, the rock on which the Franciscan monastery
stands; but was unable to obtain any fresh information about Father
Martin and his friars. The people with whom he talked were not disposed
to unbosom themselves, and he preferred not to insist, so as not to be
Afterwards he went down to Cidones again and returned to Castro Duro.
Caesar was still in bed. Alzugaray went into his room.
"Don't you intend to get up?" he asked him.
"Don't you intend to eat, either?"
"Are you sick?"
"What is the matter with you? Laziness?"
"Something like that."
Alzugaray ate alone, and after he had had coffee, he directed his steps
to the bookstore of the Republican councilman, of whom Caesar had spoken
to him. He found it in a corner of the Square; and it was at the same
time a stationer's shop and a newsdealer's. Behind the counter were an
old man and a lad.
Alzugaray went in. He bought various Madrid periodicals from the lad,
and then addressing the old man, asked him:
"Haven't you some sort of a map of the province, or of the neighbourhood
of Castro Duro?"
"No, sir, there isn't one."
"Nor a guidebook, perhaps?"
"Nor that either. At the townhall we have a map of the town...."
"Only of the part built up?"
"Then it would do me no good."
"You want a map for making excursions, eh?"
"That's it. Yes."
"Well, there is none. We are very much behind the times."
"Yes, that's true. It wouldn't cost very much, and it would be useful
for ever, both to the people here and to strangers."
"Just tell that to our town government!" exclaimed the old bookseller.
"Whatever is not for the advantage of the rich and the clerical element,
there is no hope of."
"Those gentlemen have a great deal of influence here?" asked Alzugaray.
"Uf! Enormous. More every day."
"But there don't appear to be many convents."
"No, there are not many convents; but there is one that counts for a
hundred, and that is the one at Cidones."
"Why is that?"
"Because it has a wild beast for a prior. Father Martin Lafuerza. He is
famous all through this region. And he is a man of talent, there's no
denying it, but despotic and exigent. He is into everything, catechizes
the women, dominates the men. There is no way to fight against him. Here
am I with this bookshop, and I have my pension as a lieutenant, which
gives me enough to live very meanly, and with what little I get out of
the periodicals I scrape along. Besides, I am a Republican and very
liberal, and I like propaganda. If I didn't, I should have left all this
long ago, because they have waged war to the death on me, an infamous
sort of war which a person that lives in Madrid cannot understand;
calumnies that come from no one knows where, atrocious accusations,
Alzugaray stared at the bookseller's grey eyes, which were
extraordinarily bright. The old man was tall, stooped, grizzled, with a
prominent nose and a beard trimmed to a point.
"But you have stuck firmly to your post," said Alzugaray.
"Having been a soldier must do something for a man," replied the
bookseller. "He learns not to draw back in the face of danger. And this
is my life. Now I am a councillor and I work at the town hall as much as
I can, even though I know I shall accomplish nothing. Grafting goes on
before my face, I know it exists, and yet it is impossible to find it.
Six months ago I informed the judge of irregularities committed in a
Sisters' Asylum, things I had proof of.... The judge laid my information
on the table, and things went on as if nothing had happened."
"Spain is in a bad way. It is a pity!" exclaimed Alzugaray.
"You people in Madrid, and I don't say this to irritate you, do not
understand what goes on in the small towns."
"My dear man, I have never taken any part in political affairs."
"Well, I think that everybody ought to take part in politics, because it
is for the general interest."
At this moment two persons entered the bookshop. Alzugaray was going to
leave, but the bookseller said to him:
"If you have nothing to do, sit down for a while."
Alzugaray sat down and examined the new arrivals. One of them was a
skinny man, with bushy hair and whiskers; the other was a smooth-shaven
party, short, cross-eyed, dressed in copper-coloured cloth edged with
broad black braid.
"_The Rebel_ hasn't come?" asked the whiskered one.
"No," replied the bookseller. "It didn't come out this week."
"They must have reported it," said the whiskered one. "Yes, probably."
"Has the doctor been in?" the shaven, little man with the black braid
asked in his turn.
"All right. Let's go see if we can find him in the club. Salutations!"
"Who are those rascals?" asked Alzugaray, when they had gone out.
"They are two anarchists that we have here, who accuse me of being a
bourgeois ... ha ... ha.... The shaven one is the son of the landlady of
an inn who is called Furibis, and they call him that too. He used to be
a Federalist. They call the other one 'Whiskers,' and he came here from
Linares, not long ago."
"What do they do?"
"Nothing. They sit in the club chatting, and nowadays the doctor we have
here runs with them, Dr. Ortigosa, who is half mad. He will be in soon.
Then you will see a type. He is a very bad-tempered man, and is always
looking for an excuse to quarrel. But above all, he is an enemy of
religion. He never says Good-bye, but Salutations or Farewell. In
the same way, he doesn't say Holy Week, but Clerical Week. His great
pleasure is to find a temperament of a fibre like his own; then his eyes
flash and he begins to swear. And if he is hit, he stands for it."
"He is an anarchist, too?"
"How do I know? He doesn't know himself. Formerly, for four or five
months, he got out a weekly paper named _The Protest_, and sometimes
he wrote about the canalization of the river, and again about the
inhabitants of Mars."
The bookseller and Alzugaray chatted about many other things, and after
some while the bookseller said:
"Here is Dr. Ortigosa. He is coming in."
The door opened and a slim individual appeared, worn and sickly, with a
black beard and spectacles. His necktie was crooked, his suit dirty, and
he had his hat in his hand. He stared impertinently at Alzugaray, cast
a glance at a newspaper, and set to shouting and talking ill of
"This is a town full of dumb beasts," he said from time to time, with
the energy of exasperation.
Then, supposing Alzugaray to come from Madrid, he started to speak ill
of the Madrilenos.
"They are a collection of fools," he said roundly, various times.
"They know nothing, they understand nothing, and still they talk
authoritatively about everything."
Alzugaray put up with the downpour as if it had no reference to him,
looking over a newspaper; and when the doctor was in the thick of his
discourse, Alzugaray got up, shook hands with the bookseller, thanked
him, and left the shop.
The doctor looked at him over his glasses with fury, and began to walk
up and down in the bookstore.
Alzugaray went to the hotel, arranging in his memory the data collected.
Caesar was feeling well, and the two of them talked of the bookseller
and his friends and of Father Martin Lafuerza.
"I am going to jot down all these points," said Caesar. "It wouldn't be
a bad idea for you to go on cultivating the bookseller."
"I am going to."
"Tomorrow, you know," said Caesar. "Grand dinner at Don Calixto's. The
practical manoeuvres begin."
The table had been set in that wonderful gallery of the ancient palace
of the Dukes of Castro Duro, which looked out over the garden. The early
autumn weather was of enchanting softness and sweetness.
Caesar and Alzugaray were very smart and elegant, with creases in their
trousers: Caesar dressed in black, with the ceremonious aspect
that suits a grave man; Alzugaray in a light suit with a coloured
handkerchief in his breast pocket.
"I think we are 'gentlemen' today," said Caesar.
"It seems so to me."
They entered the house and were ushered into the drawing-room. The
majority of the guests were already there; the proper introductions
and bows took place. Caesar stayed in the group of men, who remained
standing, and Alzugaray went over to enter the sphere of Don Calixto's
wife and the judge's wife.
The judge, from the first moment, treated Caesar like a man of
importance, and began to call him Don Caesar every moment, and to find
everything he said, good.
In the ladies' group there was an old priest, a tall, big, deaf man, a
great friend of the family, named Don Ramon.
The judge's wife told Alzugaray that this Don Ramon was a simpleton.
He was the pastor of a very rich hermitage nearby, the hermitage of la
Vega, and he had spent all the money he had got by an inheritance, in
fixing up the church.
The poor man was childlike and sweet. He said various times that he had
many cloaks for the Virgin in the sacristy of his church, and that he
wished they could be given to poor parishes, because two or three were
enough in his.
While they were talking an automobile horn was heard, and a little later
Don Calixto's niece entered the drawing-room.
This was Amparito, the flat-faced girl with black eyes, of whom Caesar
had spoken to Alzugaray. Her father accompanied her.
The priest patted the girl's cheeks.
Her father was a clumsy man, red, sunburned, with the face of a
contractor or a miner.
The girl took off her cap and the veil she wore in the automobile, and
seated herself between Don Calixto's daughters. Alzugaray looked her
over. Amparito really was attractive; she had a short nose, bright black
eyes, red lips too thick, white teeth, and smooth cheeks. She wore her
hair down, in ringlets; but in spite of her infantile get-up, one saw
that she was already a woman.
"Caesar is right; this is quite a lively girl," murmured Alzugaray.
The mayor's son now arrived, and his sister. He was an insignificant
little gentleman, mild and courteous; he had studied law at Salamanca,
and it seemed that he had certain intentions about Don Calixto's second
All the guests being assembled, the master of the house said that, since
nobody was missing and it was time, they might pass into the gallery,
where the table was set.
At one end the lady of the house seated herself, having the priest on
one side and the judge on the other; at the other end, Don Calixto,
between the judge's wife and the mayor's daughter. Caesar had a seat
assigned between Don Calixto's elder daughter and Amparito, and
Alzugaray one between the second daughter and the judge's girl.
A few moments before they sat down, Amparito went running out of
the gallery into the garden. "Where has that child gone?" asked Don
"Something or other has occurred to her," said Amparito's father,
The girl reappeared a little later with a number of yellow and red
chrysanthemums in her hand.
She gave red ones to the mayor's daughter and to her cousins, who were
all three brunettes, and a yellow one to the judge's daughter, who was
blond. Then she proceeded to the men.
"This one is for you," to the mayor's son; "this one for you," and she
gave Alzugaray a yellow one; "this one for you," and she gave Caesar
a red one; "and this one for me," and she put a similar flower in her
"And the rest of us?" asked Don Calixto.
"I don't give you chrysanthemums, because your wives would be jealous,"
"Man, man!" exclaimed the judge; "how does it strike you, Don Calixto?
That these little girls know the human heart pretty well?"
"These children do not know how to appreciate our merits," said Don
"Oh, yes; your merits are for your wives," replied Amparito.
"I must inform you that my friend Caesar is married, too," said
"Pshaw!" she exclaimed, smiling and showing her white, strong teeth. "He
hasn't the face of a married man."
"Yes, he has got the face of a married man. Look at him hard."
"Very well; as his wife isn't here, she won't quarrel with me."
Alzugaray examined this girl. She had great vivacity; any idea that
occurred to her was reflected in her face in a manner so lively and
charming, that she was an interesting spectacle to watch.
At first the conversation was of a languid and weary character; Don
Calixto, the judge, and Caesar started in to exchange political
reflexions of crass vulgarity. Caesar was gallantly attentive to the
wants of Don Calixto's elder daughter, and less gallantly so to his
other neighbour Amparito; the mayor's son, despite the fact that his
official mission was to court one of Don Calixto's girls, looked more at
Amparito than at his intended, and Alzugaray listened smilingly to the
young person's sallies.
Toward the middle of the meal the conversation grew brisker; the judge
recounted, with much art, a mysterious crime that had occurred in a town
in Andalusia among farming people, and he succeeded in keeping them all
hanging to his lips.
At the end of the recital, the conversation became general; the younger
element talked together, and Caesar made comments about what the judge
had told them, and defended the most immoral and absurd conclusions, as
though they were Conservative ideas.
Caesar's observations were discussed by the men, and the judge and Don
Calixto agreed that Caesar was a man of real talent, who would play a
great role in Congress.
"Please give me a little wine," said Amparito, holding her glass to
Alzugaray; "your friend pays no attention to me; I have asked him for
some wine twice, and nothing doing."
Caesar acted as if he hadn't heard and kept on talking;
Amparito took the glass, wet her lips in it, and looked at Alzugaray
After eating and having coffee, as the two married ladies and the girls
were inert from so long a meal, they arose, and Alzugaray, the mayor's
son, and Amparito's father followed them. Don Calixto, the judge, and
Caesar remained at table. The priest had gone to sleep.
A bottle of chartreuse was brought, and they started in drinking and
Caesar's throat grew dry and he became nauseated from drinking, smoking,
At five the judge took his leave, because he had to glance in at court;
Don Calixto wanted to take his nap, and after he had escorted Caesar to
the garden, he went away. The two married ladies were alone, because
the young people had gone with Amparito's father on an excursion to the
Devil's Threshold, a defile where the river flows between some red
precipitous rocks full of clefts.
Caesar joined the two ladies, and kept up a monotonous, dreary
conversation about the ways of the great city.
At twilight all the excursionists came back from their jaunt. One of the
young ladies played something very noisy on the piano, and the judge's
daughter was besought to recite one of Campoamor's poems.
"It is a very pretty thing," said the judge's wife, "a girl who laments
because her lover abandons her."
"Given the customs of Spain, as they are, the girl would be in a house
of prostitution," said Caesar in a low tone, ironically.
"Shut up," replied Alzugaray.
The girl recited the poem, and Caesar asked Alzugaray sarcastically if
those verses were by the girl's father, because they sounded to him like
the verses of a notary or a judge of the Court of First Instance.
Then somebody suggested that they should have supper there.
Caesar noticed that this plan did not appeal to the mistress of the
house, and he said:
"One should be moderate in all things. I am going home to bed."
After this somewhat pedantic phrase, which to Don Calixto seemed a
pearl, Caesar took leave of his new acquaintances with a great deal of
ceremony and coolness. Alzugaray said he would remain a while longer.
When Caesar was bowing to Amparito, she asked him jokingly:
"Is it your wife that keeps you in such good habits?"
"My wife!" exclaimed Caesar, surprised.
"Didn't your friend say..."
"Ah! Yes, it is she who makes me have such good habits."
This said, he left the drawing-room and went quickly down the stairs.
The cool night air made him shiver, and he went with a heavy, aching
head to his hotel, and got to bed. He slept very profoundly, but not
for more than an hour, and woke up sweaty and thirsty. His headache was
gone. It was not yet past eleven. He lighted the light, and sitting
up in bed, set to thinking over the probabilities of success in his
Meanwhile he stared at the red chrysanthemum which was in the
button-hole of his coat, and remembered Amparito.
"That child is a prodigy of coquetry and bad bringing-up," he thought
with vexation; "these emancipated small town young ladies are more
unattractive than any others. I prefer Don Calixto's daughter, who at
least is naively and unobjectionably stupid. But this other one is
Without knowing why, he felt more antipathy for the girl than was
natural under the circumstances. He did not like to admit it to himself;
but he felt the hostility which is produced in strong, self-willed
characters by the presence of another person with a strong character
proposing to exert itself.
THE TWO FRIENDS' COMMENTS
Caesar was thinking over the details of the visit, when Alzugaray came
home, and seeing a light in Caesar's room, went in there. Alzugaray was
quite lively. The two friends passed the persons met that day in ironic
review, and in general they were agreed about everything, except about
valuing Amparito's character.
Caesar found her distasteful, pert and impertinent; to his friend, on
the contrary, she had seemed very attractive, very amiable and very
"To me," said Caesar, "she appears one of these small town lasses who
have a flirtation with a student, then with a captain, and finally
marry some rich brute, and get fat, and turn into old sows, and grow
"In that I think you are fundamentally unjust," said Alzugaray.
"Amparito is not a small town lass, for she lives in Madrid almost all
year. Besides, that makes no difference; what I have not observed is her
committing any folly or impertinence." "Dear man, it all depends on
how you look at it. To me her conduct seemed bad, to you it seems all
"You are an extremist, for I can assure you that you were actually rude
"Actually rude, I don't think; but I admit that I was cool and not very
"And why were you?"
"First, because it is politic of me, since Don Calixto's family do not
care for Amparito; and secondly, because the little creature didn't
please me, either."
"And why didn't she please you? For no reason at all?"
"I am not partial to the platyrrhine races."
"What nonsense! And you wish to look at things clearly! A man that
judges people by their noses!"
"It seems to you little to go on? A brunette girl, brachicephalic and
rather platyrrhine.... There is no more to say."
"And if she had been blond, dolichocephalic, and long-nosed, she would
have seemed all right to you."
"Her ethnic type would have seemed all right."
"Let's not discuss it. What's the use? But I feel that you are arbitrary
to an extreme."
"If she knew of our discussion, the young thing couldn't complain,
because if she has had a systematic detractor in me, she has found an
enthusiastic defender in you."
"Yes, dear man; it is only at such long intervals that I see a person
with ingenuousness and enthusiasm, that when I do meet one, I get a real
joy from it."
"You are a sentimentalist."
"That's true; and you have become an inquisitor."
"Most certainly. I believe we agree on that and on all the rest."
"I think so. All right. Good-bye!" said Alzugaray, ill-humouredly.
"Salutations!" replied Caesar.
Caesar impatiently awaited Senor Peribanez's reply, so that he might
return to Madrid. He was fed up with Don Calixto's conversation and his
wife's, and with the familiarity they had established with him.
Alzugaray, on the other hand, was entertained and content. Amparito's
father showed a great liking for him and took him everywhere in his
Caesar, in order to satisfy his requirements for isolation, had begun to
get up very early and take walks on the highway. He almost always walked
too far, and was done up for the whole day, and at first he slept badly
He wanted to see, one by one, the parts of his future realm, the scene
where his initiative was to bear seed and his plans to be realized.
A lot of ideas occurred to him: to build a bridge here, to take
advantage there of the fall of the river and establish a big electric
plant for industrial purposes. He would have liked to change everything
he saw, in an instant.
To think of these sleeping forces irritated him: the waterfall, lost
without leaving its energy anywhere; the ravine, which might be
transformed into an irrigation reservoir; the river, which was flowing
gently without fertilizing the fields; the land around the hermitage,
which might have been converted into a park, with a bright, gay
schoolhouse; all these things that could be done and were not done,
seemed to him more real than the people with whom he talked and lived.
One morning Caesar walked to Cidones; the sun shone strongly on the
highway, and he reached the town choked and thirsty.
The streets of Cidones were so narrow, so cold and damp, that Caesar
shivered on entering the first one, and he turned back, and instead of
going inside that polypus of dark clefts, he walked around it by the
road. On a small house with an arbour, which was on a corner, he saw a
sign saying: 'Cafe Espanol'; and went in.
THE CAFE ESPANOL
The cafe was dark and completely empty, but at one end there was a
balcony where the sun entered. Caesar crossed the cafe and sat down near
He called several times, and clapped his hands, and a girl appeared.
"What do you want?" she asked.
"Something to drink. A bottle of beer."
"I will call Uncle Chinaman."
The girl went out, and soon after a thick, chubby man came in, with a
bottle of beer in his hand, the label of which he showed to Caesar,
asking him if that was what he wanted.
"Yes, sir; that will do very well."
The man opened the bottle with his corkscrew, put it on the table, and
as he seemed to have a desire to enter into conversation, Caesar asked
"Why did the girl tell me that Uncle Chinaman would come? Who is the
"The Chinaman, or Uncle Chinaman, as you like; I am."
"My dear man!"
"Yes, we all have nicknames here. They called my father that, and they
call me that. Psh! It makes no difference. Because if a person is cross
about it, it's all the worse. A few days ago a muleteer from a town
in the district arrived here, and went to the inn, and as he had no
nickname and they are very fond here in Cidones of giving one to every
living creature, they said to him: 'No matter how short a while you stay
here, you will be given a nickname'; and he answered contemptuously:
'Bah! Little fear.' Soon after, as he was crossing the square, a girl
said to him: 'Good-bye, Little Fear!' and Little Fear it remained."
As Uncle Chinaman seemed very communicative, Caesar asked him some
questions about life in the town.
Uncle Chinaman talked a great deal and with great clearness. According
to him, the cause of all trouble in the town was cowardice. The two or
three bosses of Castro and Father Martin ruled their party arbitrarily,
and the rest of the people didn't dare breathe.
The poor didn't understand that by being united they could offset the
influence of the rich, and even succeed in dominating them. Besides,
fear didn't permit them to move.
"But fear of what?" said Caesar.
"Fear of everything; fear that they will levy a tax, that they won't
provide work, that they will take your son for a soldier, that they will
put you in jail for something or other, that the two or three bullies
who are in the bosses' service might beat you."
"Does their tyranny go as far as that?"
"They do whatever they choose."
The Chinaman, who looked more like a Tartar, could make himself quite
clear. If it had not been that he used the wrong words and had an itch
for unusual ones, he would have given the impression of being a most
He said he was anti-clerical, declared himself a pantheist, and spoke of
the "controversories" he maintained with different persons.
"A relative of mine who is a monk," he said, "is always reprehending me,
and saying: 'Lucas, you are a Free-Thinker.' ... 'And it's greatly to
my credit,' I tell him."
Then, apropos of his monkish relative, he told a scandalous story. A
niece of the Chinaman's, who had served for some while in the cafe, had
gone to live with this monk.
Uncle Chinaman's account of it was rather grotesque.
"I had a niece," he said, "in the house, you know, very spruce, very
good-looking, with breasts as hard as a rock. My wife loved her as
'muchly' as if she had been our daughter, and so did I. Suddenly we
heard the poor child had made a false step... or two false steps... and
a little while later the girl was in a bad condition. Well, then; she
went to town, and came back here to the cafe, and again we heard that
the poor child had made a false step... or two false steps; and as I
have daughters, you know, this 'pro... missiousness' didn't please me,
and I went and told her: 'Look here, Maria, this isn't right at all, and
what you ought to do is get out.' She understood me, and went away, and
went to her uncle the monk, and the two of them formed a 'cohabit.'...
Curse her! I went after them; and if I ever find them, I'll kill them.
All very well for the poor child to make a false step... or two false
steps; but this thing of getting into a 'cohabit' with a monk, and he
her uncle, that is a 'hulimination' for the family. You may believe that
we had to empty the cup down to the 'drugs.'"
Caesar was listening to Uncle Chinaman with joy, when he saw two friars
passing along the road below the balcony.
"They are from the monastery of la Pena, I suppose," he said.
The Chinaman looked out and replied:
"One of them is the prior, Father Lafuerza. The other is an intriguing
young chap who has been here only a short while."
"Man, I have to see them," said Caesar.
"They are coming up the street now."
Uncle Chinaman and Caesar went to the other end of the cafe, and waited
for them to pass.
The younger of the two friars had an air of mock humility, and was
weakly-looking, with a straggling yellowish beard and a crafty
expression; Father Martin, on the contrary, looked like a pasha parading
through his dominions. He was tall, stout, of an imposing aspect, with a
grizzly blond beard, blue eyes, and a straight, well-shaped nose.
The two friars came up the narrow, steep street, stopping to talk to the
women that were sewing and embroidering in the arcades.
Caesar and the Chinaman followed them with their eyes until the two
friars turned a corner. Then Caesar left the cafe and walked back to
A TRYING SCENE
Don Platon Peribanez's reply was delayed longer than he had promised. No
one knew whether the Duke of Castro Duro would get married or not get
married, whether he would come out of prison or stay in.
Caesar had nothing for it but to wait, although he was already fed up
with his stay. Alzugaray had a good time; he visited the surrounding
towns in the company of Amparito and her father. Caesar, on the other
hand, began to be bored. Accustomed to live with the independence of a
savage, the social train of a town like Castro irritated him.
His good opinion of people was in direct ratio to the indifference
they felt for him. Amparito's father was one of those who showed most
antipathy. Sometimes he invited him to go motoring, but only for
politeness. Caesar used to reply to these invitations with a courteous
Amparito, who was doubtless accustomed to seeing everybody in town
fluttering about her, was wounded at this indifference and took every
chance to see Caesar, and then shot her wit at him and was sharply
The young creature was more intelligent than she had at first appeared
and she spoke very plainly.
Caesar could not permit a young girl to make fun of him and combat his
ideas for her own amusement.
"Let's see, Moneada," Amparito said to him one day in the gallery at Don
Calixto's. "What are your political plans?"
"You wouldn't understand them," replied Caesar.
"Why not? Do you think I am so stupid?"
"No. It is merely that politics are not a matter for children." "Ah! But
how old do you think I am?" she asked.
"You must be twelve or thirteen."
"You are a malicious joker, Senor Moncada, You know that I am almost
"I don't. How should I know it?"
"Because I told your friend Alzugaray...."
"All right, but I don't ask my friend what you have told him."
"It doesn't interest you? Very good. You are very polite. But your
politics do interest me. Come on, tell me. What reforms do you intend
to make in the town? What improvements are you going to give the
inhabitants? For I warn you, Senor Moncada, that they are all going to
vote against you otherwise, I will tell my father."
"I don't believe his political interest is so keen."
"It is keen enough, and my father will do what I tell him. My father
says that you are ambitious."
"If I were, I should make love to you, because you are rich."
"And do you suppose I would respond?"
"I don't know, but I should try it, as others do; and you can see that I
Amparito bit her lips and said ironically:
"Are you reserving yourself for my cousin Adelaida?"
"I am not reserving myself for anybody."
"We couldn't say that you are very amiable."
"That is true. I never have been."
"If you keep on like that when you are a Deputy...."
"What difference is it to you whether I am a Deputy or not? Is it
because you have some beau who wants the place? If it is, tell me. I
will withdraw in his favour. You must see that I can do no more," said
"And how you would hate me then; if you had to give up being a Deputy on
"You hate me already."
"No. You are mistaken." "Yes. I believe if you could, you would strike
"No, the most I should do would be to shut you up in a dark room."
"You are an odious, antipathetic man. I thought I rather liked you, but
I only hate you."
"You know already, Amparito, that I am a candidate for Deputy, but not
one for you."
"All right. All right. I don't wish to hear any more stupid remarks."
"The stupid remarks are those you are making."
And Caesar, who was beginning to feel angry, rebuked Amparito too
severely, for her coquetry, her bad intentions, and her desire to
humiliate and mortify people without any reason.
Amparito listened to him, pale and panting.
"And after all," said Caesar, "all this is nothing to me. If I am in
your family's way, or even in your way, I can go away from here, and all
"No, do not go away," murmured Amparito, raising her handkerchief to her
eyes and beginning to weep bitterly.
Caesar felt deeply grieved; all his anger disappeared, and he stood
there, amazed, and not knowing what to do.
"Do not cry," exclaimed Caesar; "what will they think of me? Come, don't
cry. It is childish."
At that moment Amparito's father entered the gallery, and he came
running to the girl's side.
"What have you done to my daughter?" he cried, approaching Caesar
"I, nothing," he said.
"You have. What has he done to you?" screamed the father.
"Nothing, Papa. Do not shriek that way, for God's sake," moaned
Amparito; "I was entirely to blame."
"No, I tell you he hasn't done anything to me."
Caesar, who had remained motionless in face of Amparito's father's
threatening attitude, turned on his heel, and went slowly out. THE
ETERNAL GAME OF DISDAIN
Caesar went back to the hotel, thinking very hard. Alzugaray asked him
what the matter was, and Caesar told his friend what had happened in
the gallery. On hearing the story Alzugaray assumed a look of deep
"I don't understand what is the matter with the girl, for her to show
such antipathy for me," Caesar concluded.
"It is very simple," said Alzugaray, sadly; "the girl is interested in
you. The eternal game of disdain has produced its effect. She has seen
you show yourself indifferent toward her, speak curtly to her, and she
has gone on thinking more and more about you, and now she thinks of
nothing else. That is what has happened."
"Bah! I don't believe it. You act as if this were in a novel."
"It's no novel. It's the truth."
The next day, when Caesar got up, the maid handed him two letters. One
was from Don Calixto and said that Senor Peribanez accepted him as
candidate. It had been learned that the Duke of Castro Duro had married
his landlady in England; the arrangement with the Cuban gentleman was
impossible, and the poor Duke would definitely have to winter in Paris,
in the prison, along with the distinguished apaches, Bibi de Montmartre
and the Panther of the Batignolles.
The other letter was from Amparito.
Don Calixto's niece told him he mustn't believe that she hated him; if
she had said anything to him, it was without bad intention; she would be
very happy if all his projects were realized.
Despite his ambitious plans and the desire he had that the question of
his candidacy should be definitely settled, Amparito's letter interested
him much more than Don Calixto's.
A new, disturbing element was coming into his life, without any warning
and without any reason. He said nothing about Amparito's letter to his
friend Alzugaray. He felt him to be a rival, and in spite of having no
intentions of going further, the idea of rivalry between them troubled
him. He did not wish to offend him by taking the attitude of a lucky
He went out into the street and set off for a walk on the highway.
"It is strange," he thought, "this coarse psychology, which proves that
a man and a woman, especially a woman, are not complex beings, but
stupidly simple. The complex thing in a woman is not the intelligence or
the soul, but instinct. Why does a woman rebuff a man who pleases her?
For the same reason that the female animal repulses the male, and at the
same time calls him to her.
"And this instinctive love, this mixture of hatred and attraction, is
the curious thing, the enigmatic thing about human nature. The intellect
of each individual is, by contrast, so poor, so clear!
"This girl, rich and attractive, flattered by everybody, is bored in
this town. She sees a man that doesn't pay attention to her, who is
after another goal, and simply for that reason she feels offended and
hunts out a way to mortify him, for her entertainment and for spite; and
when she finds that she doesn't succeed, she gets to thinking about him
all the time.
"And this spite, this wounded vanity, is changed to an absorbing
interest. Why shouldn't that absorbing interest be called love? Yes, she
is in love, and finds great satisfaction in thinking so.
"She is not an insignificant girl, daughter of a commonplace gentleman;
to herself, she is a romantic figure. She seems to be absorbed in
another, and what is really the case is that she is absorbed in herself.
How ridiculous this all is!... And this is life. Is the whole of life
nothing, in reality, but ridiculous?"
Caesar returned home, and unknown to Alzugaray, wrote a letter to
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