Caesar or Nothing
Part 6 out of 7
Amparito. He put the letter into the box, and then went to call on Don
Calixto, and take leave of him. Don Calixto invited Caesar and Alzugaray
to dinner the next day, and there were the same guests as the first
The dinner was cold and ceremonious. Amparito was grave, like a
grown person. Scarcely speaking, she replied with discreet smiles to
Alzugaray's occasional phrases, but she was not in a humour to tease
The train started about the middle of the afternoon, and Don Calixto had
arranged to have the carriage got ready, and to accompany the travellers
to the station.
Caesar was uneasy, thinking of the leave-taking. The moment for saying
good-bye to Amparito and her father, it seemed to him, would be a
difficult moment. Nevertheless, everything went off smoothly. The father
offered his hand, without grudge. Amparito blushed a little and said:
"We shall see each other again, Moncada?"
"Yes, I'm sure of it," replied Caesar; and the two friends and Don
Calixto took the carriage for the station.
The two friends' return trip to Madrid was scarcely agreeable. Alzugaray
was offended at Caesar's personal success with Amparito; Caesar
understood his comrade's mental attitude and didn't know what to say or
To them both the journey seemed long and unpleasant, and when they
reached their destination, they were glad to separate.
WHAT THEY SAID IN THE TOWNS
A short while later the eventuality predicted by Caesar occurred. The
Liberal ministry met a crisis, and after various intermediate attempts
at mixed cabinets, the Conservatives came into power.
Caesar had no need to insist with the Minister of the Interior. He was
one of the inevitable. He was pigeon-holed as an adherent, from the
The Government had given out the decree for the dissolution of the
Cortes in February and was preparing for the General Election in the
middle of April.
Caesar would have gone immediately to Castro Duro, but he feared that if
he showed interest it would complicate the situation. There were a
lot of elements there, whose attitude it was not easy to foresee; Don
Platon's friends, Father Martin and his people, Amparito's father, the
friends of the opposing candidate, Garcia Padilla. Caesar thought it
better that they should consider him a young dandy with no further
ambition than to give himself airs, rather than a future master of the
He wrote to Don Calixto, and Don Calixto told him there was no hurry,
everything was in order; it would be sufficient for him to appear five
or six days before the election.
Caesar was impatient to begin his task, and it occurred to him that he
might visit the towns that made up the district, without saying anything
to anybody or making himself known. The excursion commenced at the
beginning of the month of April. He left the train at a station before
Castro. He bought a horse and went about through the towns. Nobody in
the villages knew that there was going to be an election; such things
made no difference to anybody.
After the inauguration of a new Government there was a little revolution
in each village, produced by the change of the town-council and by the
distribution of all the jobs that were municipal spoils, which passed
from the hands of those calling themselves Liberals to the hands of
those calling themselves Conservatives.
Caesar discovered that besides the Liberal Garcia Padilla, there was
another candidate, protected by Father Martin La-fuerza; but it looked
as if the Clericals were going to abandon him. In a town named Val de
San Gil, the schoolmaster explained to him, with some fantastic details,
the politics of Don Calixto. The schoolmaster was a Liberal and a frank,
brusque, intelligent man, but he formed his judgment of Don Calixto's
politics on the prejudices of a Republican paper in Madrid, which was
the only one he read.
According to him, Senor Moncada, whom nobody knew, was nothing more
than a figure-head for the Jesuits. Father Martin Lafuerza was getting
possession of too much land in Castro, and wanted everything to belong
to his monastery. The Jesuits had learned of this and were sending young
Moncada to undo the Franciscan friar's combinations and establish the
reign of the Loyolists.
In another place, named Villavieja, Caesar found that the four or five
persons interested in Castrian politics were against him. It seemed that
the Conservative candidate they wanted was the one protected by Father
Martin, who had promised them results greatly to their advantage.
In general, the people in the towns were not up on politics; when Caesar
asked them what they thought about the different questions that interest
a country, they shrugged their shoulders.
In the outlying hamlets they didn't know either who the king was or what
his name was.
The only way in which the trip was of service to the future candidate
was by giving him an idea of how elections were carried on, by teaching
him who carried the returns to Don. Calixto, and showing him which of
these people could be warranted to be honourable and which were rascals.
INDIFFERENCE IN CASTRO
Three days before the election Caesar appeared in Castro and went to
stay at Don Calixto's house. Nobody knew about his expedition in the
environs. There were no preparations whatever. People said they were
going to change Deputies; but really this was of no great moment in the
life of the town.
Saturday night the party committee met in the Casino at seven. Caesar
arrived a few minutes early; no one was there. He was shown into a
shabby salon, lighted by an oil lamp.
It was cold in the room, and Caesar walked about while he waited. On the
ceiling a complete canopy of spider-webs, like dusty silver, trembled in
At half-past eight the first members of the committee arrived; the
others kept on coming lazily in. Each one had some pretext to excuse his
The fact was that the matter interested nobody; the politics of the
district were going to go on as formerly, and really it wasn't worth
while thinking about. Caesar was a decorative figure with no background.
At nine all the members of the committee were in the Casino. Don Calixto
made a speech which he prolonged in an alarming manner. Caesar answered
him in another speech, which was heard with absolute coldness.
Then a frantic gabbling let loose; everybody wanted to talk. They
abandoned themselves fruitfully to distinctions. "If it is certain
that....Although it is true....Not so much because ..." and they
eulogized one another as orators, with great gravity.
The next day, Sunday, the proclamation of the candidates took place.
They were three: Moncada, Governmental; Garcia Padilla, Liberal; and San
San Roman was the old Republican bookseller; it was sure beforehand that
he couldn't win, but it suited Caesar that he should run, so that the
Workmen's Club elements should not vote for the Liberal candidate.
Two days before the election Caesar went to Cidones and entered the Cafe
He asked for Uncle Chinaman, and told him that he was the future Deputy.
Uncle Chinaman recognized the young man with whom he had talked some
months previous in his cafe, he remembered him with pleasure, and
received him with great demonstrations.
"Man," Caesar said to him, "I want you to do me a favour."
"Only tell me."
"It is a question about the election."
"Good. Let's hear what it is."
"There are several towns where Padilla's adherents are ready, after
the count, to change the real returns for forged ones. Everything is
prepared for it. As I have sent people to their voting-places, they
intend to make the change on the road, taking the returns from the
messengers and giving them forged ones instead. I want twenty or thirty
reliable men to send, four by four, to accompany the messengers that
come with the returns, or else to carry them themselves."
"All right, I will get them for you," said Uncle Chinaman.
"How much money do you need?"
"Twenty dollars will do me."
"All right. Which towns are they?"
Caesar told him the names of the towns where he feared substitution.
Then he warned him:
"You will say nothing about this."
Caesar gave precise instructions to the landlord of the cafe, and on
bidding Uncle Chinaman good-bye, he told him:
"I know already that you are really on my side."
"You believe so?"
"Yes." On Sunday the elections began with absolute inanimation. In
the city the Republicans were getting the majority, especially in the
suburbs. Padilla was far behind. Nevertheless, it was said at the Casino
that it was possible Padilla would finally win the election, because he
might have an overwhelming majority in five or six rural wards.
At four in the afternoon the results in the city gave the victory to
Moncada. Next to him came San Roman, and in the last place Padilla.
The returns began to come in from the villages. In all of them the
results were similar. It was found that the official element voted
for the Government candidate, and those who had been attached to the
preceding town-council for the Liberal.
At eight in the evening the returns arrived from the first village where
Padilla expected a victory. The messenger, surrounded by four men from
Cidones, was in a terrified condition. He handed over the returns and
left. The result was the same as in all the other rural districts.
In one village alone, the presiding officer had been able to evade the
vigilance of the guards sent by Caesar and Uncle Chinaman, and change
the number of votes in the returns; but despite this, the election was
won for Caesar.
The next day the exact result of the election was known. It stood:
Moncada, 3705. Garcia Padilla, 1823. San Roman, 750.
When it was known that Caesar had played a trick on his enemies under
their noses, he came into great estimation.
The judge said:
"I believe you were all deceived. You supposed Don Caesar to be a
sucking dove, and he is going to turn out to be a vulture for us."
Caesar listened to felicitations and accepted congratulations smiling,
and some days later returned to Madrid.
CAESAR AS DEPUTY
TRIPPING THEM UP
People who didn't know Caesar intimately used to ask one another: "What
purpose could Moncada have had in getting elected Deputy? He never
speaks, he takes no part in the big debates."
His name appeared from time to time on some committee about Treasury
affairs; but that was all.
His life was completely veiled; he was not seen at first nights, or in
salons, or on the promenade; he was a man apparently forgotten, lost
to Madrid life. Sometimes on coming out of the Chamber he would see
Amparito in an automobile; she would look for him with her eyes, and
smile; he would take his hat off ostentatiously, with a low bow.
Among a very small number of persons Caesar had the reputation of an
intelligent and dangerous man. They suspected him of great personal
ambition. It would not have been logical to think that this cold
unexpansive man was, in his heart, a patriot who felt Spain's decadence
deeply and was seeking the means to revive her.
"No pleasures, no middle-class satisfactions," he thought; "but to live
for a patriotic ideal, to shove Spain forward, and to form with the
flesh of one's native land a great statue which should be her historic
That was his plan. In Congress Caesar kept silence; but he talked in
the corridors, and his ironic, cold, dispassionate comments began to be
He had formed relations with the Minister of the Treasury, a man who
passed for famous and was a mediocrity, passed for honourable and was a
rogue. Caesar was much in his company.
The famous financier realized that Moncada knew far more than he did
about monetary questions, and among his friends he admitted it; but he
gave them to understand that Caesar was only a theorist, incapable of
quick decision and action.
Caesar's friendship was a convenience to the Minister, and the
Minister's to Caesar. In his heart the Minister hated Caesar, and Caesar
felt a deep contempt for the famous financier.
Nobody seeing them in a carriage talking affectionately together could
have imagined that there existed such an amount of hatred and hostility
The majority of people, with an absolute want of perspicacity, believed
Caesar to be fascinated by the Minister's brilliant intellect; but there
were persons that understood the situation of the pair and who used to
"Moncada has an influence over the Minister like that of a priest over a
And there was some truth in it.
Caesar carried his experimental method over from the stock exchange into
politics. He kept a note-book, in which he put down all data about the
private lives of Ministers and Deputies, and he filed these papers after
Castro Duro began to be aware of Caesar's exertions. The secretary of
the municipality, the employees, all who were friends and adherents to
the boss's group that Don Platon belonged with, began by degrees to
Those who had lost their jobs, and their protectors too, began to write
letters and more letters to the Deputy. At first they believed that
Caesar wasn't interested; but they were soon able to understand at
Castro that he was interested enough, but not in them. The Minister of
the Treasury served him as a battering-ram to use against the Clericals
at Castro Duro.
Don Calixto was inwardly rejoiced to see his rivals reduced to
Caesar began to establish political relations with the Republican
bookseller and his friends. When he began to perceive that he was making
headway with the Liberal and Labour element, he started without delay to
set mines under Don Calixto's terrain. The judge, who was a friend of
Don Calixto's, was transferred; so were some clerks of the court; and
the Count of la Sauceda, the famous boss, was soon able to realize that
his protege was firing against him.
"I have nourished a serpent in my bosom," said Don Calixto; "but I know
how I can grind its head."
He could not have been very sure of his strength; for Don Calixto found
himself in a position where he had to beg for quarter. Caesar conceded
it, on the understanding that Don Calixto would not take any more part
in Castro politics.
"You people had the power and you didn't use it very well for the town.
Now just leave it to me."
In exchange for Don Calixto's surrender, Caesar agreed to have his Papal
At the end of a year and a half Caesar had all the bosses of Castro in
"Suppressing the bosses in the district was easy," Caesar used to say;
"I managed to have one make all the others innocuous, and then I made
that one, who was Don Calixto, innocuous and gave him a title."
Caesar did not forget or neglect the least detail. He listened to
everybody that talked to him, even though they had nothing but nonsense
to say; he always answered letters, and in his own handwriting.
With the townpeople he used the tactics of knowing all their names,
especially the old folks', and for this purpose he carried a little
note-book. He wrote down, for example: "Senor Ramon, was in the Carlist
war; Uncle Juan, suffers with rheumatism."
When, by means of his notes, he remembered these details, it produced
an extraordinary effect on people. Everybody considered himself the
CAESAR'S MANNER OF LIVING
Caesar lived simply; he had a room in an hotel in the Carrera de San
Jeronimo, where he received calls; but nobody ever found him there
except in business hours.
He used to go now and then to Alzugaray's house, where he would talk
over various matters with his friend's mother and sister; he would find
out about everything, and go away after giving them advice on questions
of managing their money, which they almost always observed and followed.
Of all people, Ignacio Alzugaray was the most incredulous in regard
to his friend; his mother and his sister believed in Caesar as in an
oracle. Caesar often thought that he ought to fall definitely in love
with Ignacio's sister and marry her; but neither he nor she seemed to
have set upon passing the limits of a cordial friendship.
Caesar told the Alzugaray family how he lived and caused them to laugh
He had rented a fairly large upper story in a street in Valle Hermoso,
for five dollars. The days he had nothing to do he went there. He put
on an old, worn-out fur coat, which was still a protection, a soft hat,
took a stick, and went walking in the environs.
His favourite walk was the neighbourhood of the Canalillo and of the
Dehesa de Amaniel.
Generally he went out of his house on the side opposite the Model
Prison, then he walked toward Moncloa, and taking the right, passed near
the Rubio Institute, and entered the Cerro del Pimiento by an open lot
which he got into through a broken wall.
From there one could see, far away, the Guadarrama range, like a curtain
of blue mountains and snowy crests; on clear days, the Escorial;
Aravaca, the Casa de Campo, and the Sierra de Gredos, which ran out on
the left hand like a promontory. Nearby one saw a pine grove, close to
the Rubio Institute, and a valley containing market-gardens, and the
ranges of the Moncloa shooting school.
Caesar would walk on by the winding road, and stop to look at the
Cemetery of San Martin on the right, with its black cypresses and its
Then he would follow the twists of the Canalillo, and pass in front of
the third Reservoir, to the Amaniel road.
That was where Caesar would have built himself a house, had he had the
idea of living retired.
The dry, hard landscape was the kind he liked. The mornings were
wonderful, the blue sky radiant, the air limpid and thin.
The twilight had an extraordinary enchantment. All that vast extent of
land, the mountains, the hills of the Casa de Campo, the cypresses of
the cemetery, were bathed in a violet light.
In winter there were hunters of yellow-hammers and goldfinches in these
regions, who set their nets and their decoys on the ground, and spent
hours and hours watching for their game.
On Sunday, in particular, the number of hunters was very large. They
went in squads of three; one carried a big bundle on his shoulder, which
was the net all rolled up; another the decoy cages, fastened with a
strap; and the third a frying-pan, a skin of wine, and some kindling for
Caesar used to talk with the guards at Amaniel, with the
octroi-officers, and he got to be great friends with a little hunchback,
a bird hunter.
It was curious to hear this hunchback talk of the habits of the birds
and of the influence of the winds. He knew how the gold-finches,
yellow-hammers, and linnets make their nests, and the preference some of
them have for coltsfoot cotton, and others for wool or for cow's hair.
He told Caesar a lot of things, many of which could have existed only in
his imagination, but which were entertaining.
ONE DAY AT CHRISTMASTIME
One day at Christmastime Alzugaray went in the morning to look for
Caesar. He knew where to find him and walked direct to the Calle de
Galileo. At the house, they told him that Caesar was eating in a tavern
close at hand.
Alzugaray went into the place and found his friend the Deputy seated
in a coner eating. He had the appearance of a superior workman, an
electrician, carver, or something of the sort.
"If people find out you behave so extravagantly, they will think you are
crazy," said Alzugaray.
"Pshaw! Nobody comes here," replied Caesar. "The political world and
this are separate worlds. This one belongs to the people who have to
shoulder the load of everything, and the other is a world of villains,
robbers, idiots, and fools. Really, it is difficult to find anything
so vile, so inept, and so useless as a Spanish politician. The Spanish
middle class is a warren of rogues and villains. I feel an enormous
repugnance to brushing against it. That is why I came here now and then
to talk to these people; not because these are good, no; the first and
the last of them are riff-raff, but at least they say what they mean and
they blaspheme naively."
"What are you going to do after lunch?" Alzugaray asked him. "Have you
got a sweetheart in one of the old-clothes shops of the quarter?"
"No. I was thinking of taking a walk; that's all."
"Then come along."
They left the tavern and went along a street between sides of sand cut
straight down, and started up the Cerro del Pimiento. The soft, vague
mist allowed the Guadarrama to stand out visible.
"This landscape enchants me," said Caesar.
"It seems hard and gloomy," responded Alzugaray.
"Yes, that is true; hard and gloomy, but noble. When one is drenched
with a miserable political life, when one actually forms a part of
that Olympus of madmen called Congress, one needs to be purified. How
miserable, how vile that political life is! How many faces pale with
envy there are! What low and repugnant hatreds! When I come out
nauseated by seeing those people; when I am soaked with repugnance, then
I come out here to walk, I look at those serious mountains, so frowning
and strong, and the mere sight of them seems like a purifying flame
which cleanses me from meanness."
"I see that you are as absurd as ever, Caesar. It would never occur to
anybody to come and comfort himself with some melancholy mountains, out
here between an abandoned hospital, which looks like a leper-asylum, and
a deserted cemetery."
"Well, these mountains give me an impression of energy and nobility,
which raises my spirits. This leper-asylum, as you call it, sunken in a
pit, this deserted cemetery, those distant mountains, are my friends;
I imagine they are saying to me: 'One must be hard, one must be strong
like us, one must live in solitude....'"
They did not continue their walk much further, because the night and
the fog combined made it difficult to see the path along the
Canalillo, which made it possible to fall in, and that would have been
They returned the way they had come. From the top of a hill they saw
Madrid in the twilight, covered with fog; and in the streets newly
opened between the sides of sand, the lights of the gas-lamps sparkled
in a nimbus of rainbow....
MONEY ON THE EXCHANGE
Although Caesar did not distinguish himself especially in Congress, he
worked hard. His activities were devoted mainly to two points: the stock
exchange and Castro Duro.
Caesar had found a partner to play the market for him, a Bilboan
capitalist, whom he had convinced of the correctness of his system.
Senor Salazar had deposited, in Caesar's name, thirty thousand dollars.
With this sum Caesar played for millions and he was drawing an
extraordinary dividend from his stocks.
Their operations were made in the name of Alzugaray, whose job it was
to go every month to see the broker, and to sign and collect the
certificates. Caesar gave his orders by telephone, and Alzugaray
communicated them to the broker.
Alzugaray often went to see Caesar and said to him:
"The broker came to my house terrified, to tell me that what we are
going to do is an absurdity."
"Let it alone," Caesar would say. "You know our agreement. You get
ten percent of the profits for giving the orders. Do not mix in any
Often, on seeing the positive result of Caesar's speculations, Alzugaray
would ask him:
"Do you find out at the Ministry what is going to happen?"
"Pshaw!" Caesar would say; "the market is not a capricious thing, as you
think. There are signs. I pay attention to a lot of facts, which give
me indications: coupons, the amount shares advance, the calculation of
probabilities; and I compare all these scientific data with empirical
observations that are difficult to explain. In such a situation, events
are what make the least difference to me. Is there going to be a
revolution or a Carlist war?...I am careless about it."
"But this is impossible," Alzugaray used to say. "Excuse me for saying
so, but I don't believe you. You have some secret, and that is what
"How fantastic you all are!"' Caesar would exclaim; "you refuse to
believe in the rational, and still you believe in the miraculous."
"No, I do not believe in the, miraculous; but I cannot explain your
"That's clear! Am I to explain them to you! When you don't know the
mechanism of the market! I am certain that you have never considered the
mechanism of the rise produced by the reintegration of the coupon, or
the way that rise is limited to double its value. Tell me. Do you know
what that means?"
"Well, then, how are you to understand anything?"
"All right, then; explain it to me."
"There's no difficulty. You know that the natural tendency of the market
is to rise."
"To rise and to fall," interrupted Alzugaray.
"No, only to rise."
"I don't see it."
"The general tendency of the market is to rise, because having to fall
eighty _centimos_, the value of the coupon, every quarter, if the market
didn't rise to offset that loss, shares would reach zero...."
"I don't understand," said Alzugaray.
"Imagine a man on a stairway; if you oblige him to go down one step
every so often, in order to keep in the same place as before he will
necessarily have to go up again, because if he didn't do so, he would be
constantly approaching the front door."
"Yes, surely." "Well, this man on the stairway is the quotation, and the
mechanical task of constantly making up for the quarterly loss is what
is called the reintegration of the coupon."
"You do not convince me."
Alzugaray didn't like listening to these explanations. He had formed
an opinion that had not much foundation, but he would not admit that
Caesar, by reasoning, could arrive at the glimmering of an inductive and
deductive method, where others saw no more than chance.
CAESAR BEGINS HIS TASK
With the money he made on the market, Caesar was making himself the
master of Castro Duro. He constantly assumed a more Liberal attitude in
the Chamber, and was in a position to abandon the Conservative majority,
on any pretext.
His plan of campaign at Castro Duro corresponded to this political
position of his: he had rehabilitated the Workmen's Club and paid its
debts. The Club had been founded by the workmen of a thread factory,
now shut. The number of members was very small and the labourers and
employees of the railway and some weavers were its principal support.
On learning that it was about to be closed for lack of funds, Caesar
promised to support it. He thought of endowing the Club with a library,
and installing a school in the country. On seeing that the Deputy was
patronizing the Club, a lot of labourers of all kinds joined it. A new
governing board was named, of which Caesar was honourary president, and
the Workmen's Club re-arose from its ashes. The Republicans and the
little group of Socialists, almost all weavers, were on Caesar's side
and promised to vote for him in the coming election.
Various Republicans who went to Madrid to call on Caesar, told him
he ought to come out as a Republican. They would vote for him with
"No; why should I?" Caesar used to answer. "Are we going to do any more
at Castro by my being a Republican than when I am not one? Besides the
fact that I should not be elected on that ticket and should thus have no
further influence, to me the forms of a government are indifferent;
I don't even care whether it has a true ideal or a false one. What I
do want is for the town to progress; whether by means of a dream or
by means of a reality. A politician should seek for efficiency before
asking anything else, and at present the Republican dream would not be
efficient at Castro."
Most of the Republicans did not go away very well satisfied with what
Caesar had said; and after leaving him, they would say:
"He is a very curious person, but he favours us and we'll have to follow
The reopening of the Workmen's Club in Castro was the chance for an
event. Caesar was in favour of inaugurating the Club without any
celebration, without attracting the attention of the Clericals; but the
members of the Club, on the contrary, wished to give the reactionaries a
dose to swallow, and Caesar could not but promise his participation in
"Would you like to come to Castro?" Caesar said to Alzugaray.
"What are you going to do there?"
"We are going to open a Club."
"Are you going to speak?"
"All right. Let's go, so that I can hear you. Probably you will do it
"And what you say won't please anybody."
"That's possible, too. But that makes no difference. You will come?"
"Yes. Will there be picturesque speakers?"
"There are some, but they are not going to speak. There is one, Uncle
Chinaman, who is a marvel. In describing the actual condition of Spain,
he once uttered this authoritative phrase: 'Clericalism in the zenith,
immorality in high places, the debt floating more every day,...'"
"That's very good." "It certainly is. He made another happy phrase,
criticizing the Spanish administration. 'For what reason do they write
so many useless papers?' he said. 'So that rats, the obscene reptiles,
can go on eating them....'"
"That's very good too."
"He is a man without any education, but very intelligent. So you are
going to come?"
"Then we will meet at the station."
CAN ONE CHANGE OR NOT?
They took the train at night and they chatted as they went along in it.
Caesar explained to Alzugaray the difficulties he had had to overcome
in order that the Workmen's Club could be reinstituted, and went on
detailing his projects for the future.
"Do you believe the town is going to be transformed?" asked Alzugaray.
"Yes, certainly!" said Caesar, staring at his friend.
"So then, you, a Darwinist who hold it as a scientific doctrine
that only the slow action of environment can transform species and
individuals, believe that a poor worn-out, jog-trotting race is going
to revive suddenly, in a few years! Can a Darwinist believe in a
"Previously, no; but now he can."
"My dear fellow! How so?"
"Haven't you read anything about the experiments of the Dutch botanist
Hugo de Vries?"
"Well, his experiments have proved that there are certain vegetable
species which, all at once, without any preparation, without anything
to make you expect it, change type absolutely and take on other
"The devil! That really is extraordinary."
"Vries verified this rapid transformation first in a plant named
OEnotheria Lamarckiana, which, all of a sudden, with no influence from
the environment, with nothing to justify it, at times changes and
metamorphosizes itself into a different plant."
"But this transformation may be due to a disease," said Alzugaray.
"No, because the mutation, after taking place, persists from generation
to generation, not with pathological characteristics, but with
completely normal ones."
"It is most curious."
"These experiments have produced Neo-Darwinism. The Neo-Darwinists, with
Hugo de Vries at their head, believe that species are not generally
gradually transformed, but that they produce new forms in a sudden,
brusque way, having children different from the fathers. And if such
brusque variations can take place in a characteristic so fixed as
physiological form, what may not happen in a thing so unstable as the
manner of thinking? Thus, it is very possible that the men of the
Italian Renaissance or the French Revolution were mentally distinct from
their predecessors and their successors, and they may even have been
"But this overthrows the whole doctrine of evolution," said Alzugaray.
"No. The only thing it has done is to distinguish two forms of change:
one, the slow variation already verified by everybody, the other the
brusque variation pointed out by Hugo de Vries. We see now that the
impulses, which in politics are called evolution and revolution, are
only reflexions of Nature's movements."
"So then, we may hope that Castro Duro will change into an Athens?"
"We may hope so," said Caesar.
"All right, let's hope sleeping."
They ordered the porter to prepare two berths in the car, and they both
In the morning Caesar went to the dressing-room, and a short while later
came back clean and dressed up as if he were at a ball.
"How spruce you are!" Alzugaray said to him.
"Yes, that's because they will come to receive me at the station."
"Ha...ha...ha...!" laughed Alzugaray.
"What are you laughing at?" asked Caesar, smiling.
"At your having arranged a reception and brought me along for a
"No, man, no," said Caesar; "I have arranged nothing. The workmen of the
Club will come down out of gratitude."
"Ah, that's it! Then there will be only a few."
At this juncture the car door opened and a man in the dirty clothes of a
"Don Caesar Moncada?" he inquired.
"What is it?" said Caesar.
"I belong to the Castro Workmen's Club and I have come to welcome you
ahead of anybody else," and he held out his hand. "Greetings!"
"Greetings! Regards to the comrades," said Caesar, shaking his hand.
"Damn it, what enthusiasm!" murmured Alzugaray.
The employee disappeared. On arriving at the station, Alzugaray looked
out the window and saw with astonishment that the platform was full of
As the car entered the covered area of the station, noisy applause broke
out. Caesar opened the door and took off his hat courteously.
"Hurrah for Moncada! Hurrah for the Deputy from Castro! Hurrah for
liberty!" they heard the shouts.
Caesar got out of the car, followed by Alzugaray, and found himself
surrounded by a lot of people. There were some workmen and peasants, but
the majority were comfortable citizens.
They all crowded around to grasp his hand.
Surrounded by this multitude, they left the station. There Caesar took
leave of all his acquaintances and got into a carriage with Alzugaray,
while hurrahs and applauses resounded.
"Eh? What did you think of the reception?" asked Caesar.
"Magnificent, my boy!"
"You can't say I behaved like a demagogue."
"On the contrary, you were too distant."
"They know I am like that and it doesn't astonish them."
Caesar had a rented house in Castro and the two friends went to it.
All morning and part of the afternoon committees kept coming from the
villages, who wanted to talk with Caesar and consult him about the
affairs of their respective municipalities.
INAUGURATION OF THE CLUB
In the evening the Workmen's Club was inaugurated. Nobody in Castro
talked of anything else. The Clerical element had advised all religious
persons to stay away from the meeting.
The large hall of the Club was profusely lighted; and by half-past six
was already completely full.
At seven the ceremony began. The president of the Club, a printer,
spoke, and told of Caesar's benefactions; then the Republican
bookseller, San Roman, give a discourse; and after him Caesar took up
He explained his position in the Chamber in detail. The people listened
with some astonishment, doubtless wishing to find an opportune occasion
for applause, and not finding it.
Some of the old men put their hands to their ears, like a shell, so as
to hear better.
Next, Caesar spoke about life in Castro, and pointed out the town's
"You have here," he said, "three fundamental problems, as is the case
with almost all towns in the interior of Spain. First: water. You have
neither good drinking water, nor enough water for irrigation. For
want of drinkable water, the mortality of Castro is high; for want of
irrigation, you cannot cultivate more than a very small zone, under
good conditions. For that reason water must be brought here, and an
irrigation canal begun. Second problem: subsistence. Here, as in the
whole of Castile, there are people who corner the grain market and raise
the price of wheat, and people who corner the necessities of life and
put up their prices as high as they feel like. To prevent this, it is
necessary for the Municipality to establish a public granary which shall
regulate prices. For, want of that, the people are condemned to hunger,
and people that do not eat can neither work nor be free. Third problem:
means of transport. You have the railway here, but you have neither good
highways nor good byways, and transportation is most difficult. I,
for my part, will do all I can to keep the federal government
from neglecting this region, but we must also stir up the little
municipalities to take care of their roads.
"These three are questions that must be settled as soon as possible.
"Water, subsistence, transportation; those are not matters of luxury,
but of necessity, matters of life. They belong to what may be called the
politics of bread.
"I cannot make the reforms alone; first, because I have not the means;
next, because even supposing I had, if I must leave these improvements
in a township that would not look after them, not take care of them,
they would soon disappear; they would be like the canals dug by the
Moors and afterwards allowed to fill up through the neglect of
the Christians. That is what politics are needed for, to convince
"At the same time, looking toward the future, let us start the school,
which I should like to see not merely a primary school, but also a
school for working-men.
"Let us endeavour, too, to turn the field of San Roque into a park."
After explaining his program, Caesar called on all progressive men who
had liberal ideas and loved their city, to collaborate in his work.
When he ended his speech, all the audience applauded violently.
Alzugaray was able to verify the fact that the majority of them had not
understood what Caesar was saying. "They didn't understand anything. A
few sparkling phrases would have pleased them much better."
"Ah, of course. But that makes no difference," replied Caesar. "They
will get used to it."
The inauguration over, the bookseller, San Roman, Dr. Ortigosa, Senor
Camacho, who was the pharmacist that called himself an inventor of
explosives, and some others, met in the office of the Club, and talked
with great enthusiasm of the transformation that was obviously taking
place at Castro.
THE PITFALL OF SINIGAGLIA
A COMMISSION FOR THE MINISTER
A few days later, during Carnival, the Minister of the Treasury
presented himself at Caesar's hotel. The famous financier was a trifle
"Come along with me," he said.
They got into a motor, and the Minister suddenly asked:
"Could you go to Paris immediately?"
"There's nothing to prevent. What is it to do?"
"You know that the great financier Dupont de Sarthe is studying out a
plan for restoring the value of the currency of Spain."
"Well, today the Speaker asked me several times if it was ready. It is
necessary for me to introduce it soon, as soon as possible, and along
with the plan for restoring the currency, one for the suppression of the
"The Speaker wishes to have these plans introduced?"
"Yes, he wishes them introduced at once."
"That indicates that the Conservative situation is very strong," said
"And what do you want me to do?"
"Go to Dupont de Sarthe and have him explain his scheme clearly, and
tell you the difficulties; if he has an outline of it, have him give it
to you; if not, have him give you his notes."
"All right. Shall I go tonight?"
"If you can, it would be the best thing." "There's nothing to prevent.
Take me back to the hotel and I will pack."
The Minister told the chauffeur to go back to Caesar's house.
"As soon as you arrive, let me know by wire, and write to me explaining
the scheme in the greatest possible detail."
"You will need money; I don't know if I have any here," said the
Minister, feeling for his pocket-book.
"I have enough for the trip," replied Caesar. "But, as I might need some
in Paris, it would not be a bad idea for you to open an account for me
at a bank there, or else to give me a cheque."
The Minister vacillated, then went into the hotel writing-room and
signed a cheque on a Parisian banker in the Rue de Provence, which he
handed to Caesar.
"See you on your return," he said.
Caesar called a servant and bade him:
"Telephone to my friend Alzugaray. You know his number. Tell him to be
here inside an hour."
"Very good, sir."
This arranged, Caesar went to the main door and saw that the Minister's
motor was headed for down town. Immediately he took a carriage and went
to the Chamber. The undersecretary of the Speaker was a friend of his;
sometimes he gave him advice about playing the market.
Caesar looked him up, and when he found him, said:
"How are we getting on?"
"All right, man," replied the undersecretary.
"Come over here, so I can see you in the light," said Caesar, and taking
him by the hand, he looked into his eyes.
"It's true," said the undersecretary, laughing, "that the situation is
not very strong."
"What is the danger?"
"The only danger is your friend, the famous financier. He is the one who
could play us a dirty trick."
"Do you suspect what it could be?" "No. Not clearly. You must know
better than any one else."
"I have just seen the Minister, and he gave me the impression of being
"Then everything is all right. But I haven't much confidence."
Caesar left the undersecretary, went out of the Chamber, and returned
home in the carriage. Alzugaray was waiting in the entry for him.
Caesar called to him from the carriage:
"I am going to Paris," he told him, "to spend a few days."
"I must draw out what money I have in the Bank."
"Let's go there now."
They went to the Bank, to the paying teller, and Caesar drew out twenty
thousand pesetas of his few months' winnings on the market.
"You are not going to play at all, this month?" asked Alzugaray.
"No, not this month."
They left the Bank.
"I will wire you my address in Paris," said Caesar.
"Very good. And nothing is to be done?"
"No. That is to say, my partner and I are not going to play.
Nevertheless, I am going to leave you two thousand pesetas, and if you
think well, you can use it as you choose."
"All right," said Alzugaray, pleased at Caesar's confidence in his
talents for speculation.
"In case I need any information which had best not be public," Caesar
went on, "I will wire you in code. Do you know the Aran code?"
"I will give it to you, directly, at my house. If you receive a telegram
from me from Paris, beginning with your name: 'Ignacio, do thus or so,'
you will know it is in the code."
"I follow you. What's up?"
"An affair the Minister is putting through, which we will not let him
pull off without getting our share out of him. I will explain it to you,
when I come back."
"How long do you expect to be there?"
"Two weeks at most; but perhaps I'll come right back."
On arriving at the train, Caesar bought all the evening papers. In one
of them he found an article entitled: _The Projects of the Minister of
Finance_, and he read it carefully.
The writer said that the Minister of Finance had never been so closely
identified with the Conservative Cabinet as at that moment; that he
had plans for a number of projects for the salvation of the Spanish
Treasury, which he would briefly explain.
"It's a witty joke," thought Caesar.
He was too well acquainted with the market and monetary affairs in
general, too well acquainted with the sterling worth of the famous
financier not to understand the idea of his scheme.
Caesar knew that the Minister not only was not on good terms with his
colleagues in the Government, but was at sword's points with them, and
was moreover disposed to give up his portfolio from one day to the next.
Whence came this haste to launch the plan for the suppression of the
government tax and restoring the value of the currency? Why did he send
him, Caesar, on this errand, and not somebody in the Department?
His haste to launch the plan was easy to comprehend.
The Minister was about to give a decisive impulse to all stocks; the
suppression of the affidavit and the restoring the value of the currency
would shove up domestic paper in Spain and foreign stocks in France to
extraordinary heights. Then a difficulty with the Speaker, a moment of
anger, such as was to be expected in a character like the Minister's,
would oblige him to offer his resignation ... prices would take a
terrible drop, and the Minister, having already planned for a big bear
scoop in Paris, would clear some hundreds of thousands of francs and
keep his reputation as a patriot and an excellent financier.
Why was he sending Caesar? No doubt because he suspected his secretary,
whom he had probably given similar missions to previously.
Caesar knew the Minister well. He had described him in his notes in
these words: "He is dark and brachicephalic; a man of tradition and
good common sense; average intellect, astute, a good father and a good
Catholic. He believes himself cleverer than he really is. His two
leading passions are vanity and money."
Caesar knew the Minister, but the Minister did not know Caesar. He
imagined him to be a man of brilliant intellect, but incapable of
After thinking a long while over the business, while he was undressing
to go to bed in the sleeping-car, Caesar said:
"There is only one thing to find out. Who is the Minister's broker in
Paris, and who is his banker? With Yarza's assistance that is not going
to be difficult for me to ascertain. When we know what broker he works
through and what banker, the affair is finished."
Having concluded thus, he got into his berth, put out the light, and lay
On arriving at Paris next evening, he left his luggage in the hotel at
the Quai d'Orsay station. He wired his address to the Minister and to
Alzugaray, and went out at once to look for Carlos Yarza. He was unable
to find him until very late at night. He explained to his friend what
had brought him, and Yarza told him he was at his disposition.
"When you need me, let me know."
Caesar went off to bed, and the next morning he proceeded to the
banking-house in the Rue de Provence where he was to cash the cheque
handed him by the Minister of the Treasury.
He entered the bank and asked for the president. A clerk came out and
Caesar explained to him that on arriving at his hotel he had missed a
cheque for three thousand francs from the Spanish Minister of Finance.
He introduced himself as a Deputy, as an intimate friend of the
Minister's, and behaved as if much vexed. The department manager told
him that they could do no more than take the number and not pay the
cheque if anybody presented it for payment.
"You don't handle the Minister's business here?" asked Caesar.
"No, only very rarely," said the manager.
"You don't know who his regular banker is?"
"No; I will ask, because it is very possible that the chief may know."
The clerk went out and came back a little later, informing Caesar that
they said the house the Spanish Minister of Finance did his banking with
was Recquillart and Company, Rue Bergere.
The street was near at hand, and it took Caesar only a very little while
to get there. The building was dark, lighted by electricity even in the
daytime, one of those classic corners where Jewish usurers amass great
There was no question of employing the same ruse as in the Rue de
Provence, and Caesar thought of another.
He asked for M. Recquillart, and out came a heavy gentleman, a blond
going grey, with a rosy cranium and gold eyeglasses.
Caesar told him he was secretary to a rich Spanish miner, who was then
in Paris. That gentleman wanted to try some business on the Bourse, but
was unable to come to the bank because he was ill of the dropsy.
"Who recommended our house to this gentleman?" asked the banker.
"I think it was the Minister of Finance, in Spain."
"Ah, yes, very good, very good! And how are we to communicate with him?
"No. He told me he would prefer to have a clerk who knows Spanish come
to him and take his orders." "That is all right; one shall go. We
happen to have a Spanish clerk. At what hour shall he come?" said M.
Recquillart, taking out a pencil.
"At nine in the evening."
"For whom shall he ask?"
"For Senor Perez Cuesta."
"At what hotel?"
"The one in the Quai d'Orsay station."
"Very good indeed."
Caesar bowed; and after he had sent Yarza a telephone message, making
an appointment for after the Bourse at the Cafe Riche, he took an
automobile and went to hunt for the great financier Dupont de Sarthe,
who lived on the other bank of the Seine, near the Montparnasse station.
He had a large, sumptuous office, with an enormous library. Two
secretaries were at work at small tables placed in front of the
balconies, and the master wrote at a big Ministerial table full of
books. When Caesar introduced himself, the great economist rose, offered
his hand, and in a sharp voice with a Parisian accent, asked what he
Caesar told him the Minister's request, and the great economist became
"Does that gentleman imagine that I am at his bidding, to begin a piece
of work and stop it according as it suits him, and take it up again when
he orders? No, tell him no. Tell him the scheme he asked me for is not
done, not finished; that I cannot give him any data or any information
In view of the great man's indignation, Caesar made no reply, but left
the house. He lunched at his hotel, gave orders that if any one brought
a letter or message for Senor Perez Cuesta they should receive it, and
went again to the Rue de Provence, where he said he had had the good
luck to find his cheque.
With all these goings and comings it got to be three o'clock, and Caesar
turned his steps toward the Cafe Riche. Yarza was there and the two
talked a long while. Yarza knew of the manoeuvres of the Minister of
Finance, and he gave his opinion about them with great knowledge of the
business questions. He also knew Recquillart's clerk, the Catalan Pujol,
of whom he had not a very good opinion.
The two friends made an engagement for the next day and Caesar
hurried to his hotel. He wrote to the Minister, telling him what the
fundamentals of Dupont de Sarthe's project were; and between his own
ideas and those Yarza had expounded to him, he was able to draw up a
complete enough plan.
"The Minister being a man who knows nothing about all this," thought
Caesar, "when he understands that the ideas I expound are those of the
celebrated Dupont de Sarthe, will find them wonderful."
After having written his letter and taken a little tea, he lay stretched
out on a divan, until they brought him word that a young man was asking
for Senor Perez Cuesta.
"Send him up."
Senor Puchol entered, a dark little man who wore a morning-coat and had
a hat with a flat brim edged with braid.
Caesar greeted him affably and made him sit down.
"But are you not Spanish?" Caesar asked him.
"Yes, I was born in Barcelona."
"I should have taken you for a Frenchman."
"In dress and everything else, I am a complete Parisian."
"This poor man is full of vanity," thought Caesar. "All the better." He
immediately began to explain the affair.
"Look," he said, "the whole matter is this: the Spanish Minister of
Finance, my chief, has dealings on a large scale with the Recquillart
bank; you know that, and so do I; but the Recquillarts, besides charging
an inflated commission, interfere in his buying and selling with so
little cleverness, that whenever he buys, it turns out that he bought
for more than the market price of the security, and whenever he sells,
he sells lower than the quotation. The Minister does not wish to break
off with the Recquillarts...."
"He can't, you meant to say," replied Puchol, in an insinuating manner.
"Since you know the situation..." responded Caesar.
"Oughtn't I to?"
"Since you know the whole situation," continued Caesar, "I will say that
he cannot indeed break off with the Recquillarts, but the Minister would
like to do business with somebody else, without passing under the yoke
of the chief."
"He ought to make arrangements with another broker here," said Puchol.
"Ah, certainly. I have brought some twenty thousand francs with that
"Then there is no difficulty."
"But we need a go-between. The Minister doesn't care to turn to the
first banker at hand and explain all his combinations to him."
"That's where I come in."
"Good, but we must know beforehand how much you are to get. Your
demands may be such that it would be better for him to stick to the
"Recquillart gets ten percent of the profits, besides a small commission
as broker. I will take five."
"It's a good deal."
"I will not accept less; the arrangement might cost me my career.
"If I could consult him! The truth is that there may not be time. We
will accept five."
"What does the Minister wish to speculate in? The same things as with
Recquillart? Foreign Loans and Northerns?"
"Exactly. Just as before."
"All right. The investment, as you can see, is safe," Puchol continued.
"I would put my fortune in it, if I had one. There are a lot of
newspapers bought; all the financial reviews are predicting a rise."
The clerk took out a folded review and handed it to Caesar, who read:
"We are assured that the plan of the Spanish Minister of Finance must
make foreign securities rise considerably. Northerns will follow the
same path, and there are indications that their rise will be very rapid
and will cover several points."
"The field is going to be covered with corpses," said Caesar.
Senor Puchol burst out laughing; Caesar invited him to dine with him,
and gave him a sumptuous dinner with good wines.
Puchol was absolutely vain, and he boasted of his triumphs on the
Bourse; it was he who guided Recquillart in the dealings he had with
Spaniards, in which they had plucked various incautious persons.
"How much will the Minister's operation amount to?" Caesar asked him.
"Nobody can prevent his making three hundred thousand, at the least.
With the increase he has ordered you to make, it will come to six
hundred thousand. We will gobble up the two points it falls."
"I don't know if there may have been some new order while I was in the
train coming to Paris," said Caesar.
"No, his operation is all arranged," replied Puchol, and he got out a
note-book and consulted it. "It will be like giving away bread. We are
going to sell ten millions of Foreigns and five hundred Northerns on the
seventeenth, the eighteenth, and the twentieth."
"And the scoop will take place?" asked Caesar.
"On the 27th."
"So that on those days we shall sell just as much again?"
"And we shall sell much dearer."
They dropped that point and talked of other things.
Senor Puchol was a literary man and was writing a symbolistic drama
which he wanted to read to Caesar.
At twelve they said good-night. Puchol was to tell his chief that he had
not been able to do any business with Senor Perez Cuesta. In respect to
the other matter, they had an engagement for ten the next morning at a
cafe in the neighbourhood of the Bourse.
There were no great difficulties to overcome. They saw a broker named
Mueller. Caesar entrusted him with his twenty thousand francs, and hinted
that the speculation was being made for some rich people, who would
have no objection to making up any loss, if he should exceed the twenty
The broker told him he could play whatsoever sum he wished.
As Caesar had not entire confidence in Puchol, and did not care either
to tell the broker that he was to begin only when the stocks fell, he
brought Yarza into the deal.
Puchol was to say to Yarza: "The Minister has given the order to sell";
and Yarza would first verify this, if he could verify it; then he would
tell the broker: "Sell." It might go as far as handling twenty millions
of Foreigns and up to a thousand of Northerns.
In order to get all the ends well tied up, Caesar had to get from one
place to another without a moment's rest.
The trap being set, Caesar took the train, worn out and feverish. He
arrived at Madrid, took a bath, and went to see the Minister; and after
the interview went to his house in the Calle de Galileo and spent two
days in bed, alone in the completest silence.
The third day Alzugaray arrived, anxious.
"What's the matter? Are you sick?" he asked.
"No. How did you know I was here?"
"Your janitress came to my house to tell me you were in bed."
"Well, there's nothing wrong with me, boy."
"You should know that there's a splendid chance to make some money,
"My dear fellow!"
"Yes, and we haven't done anything in the market, except one miserable
"And why do you think there is such a good chance?"
"Because there is, because everybody can see it," said Alzugaray.
"Prices are going to rise with this project of the Minister of
Finance's; they are going in for a big deal; everybody has been
indiscreet, without meaning to be, and people on the market are buying
and buying. Everybody is sure of a rise ... and we are doing nothing."
"We are doing nothing," repeated Caesar.
"But it is absurd."
"What's the date?"
"The evening of the twenty-seventh we will talk."
"How mysterious you are, boy."
"I can't tell you any more now. If you have bought anything, sell it."
"I can't tell you."
"All right, when you get on these sibylline airs, I say no more. Another
thing. Various gentlemen have come to tell me that they wanted to play
the market; they have heard that it is about to go up...."
"Who were they?"
"Among others, Amparito's father and Don Calixto Garcia Guerrero."
"If they wish to give security, tell our broker, and I will sell them
anything they want to buy."
"Really. I have my reasons for doing it."
"This time we are all going to make, except you."
"Dear Ignacio, I am at Sinigaglia."
"What does that mean?"
"If you have a moment free, read the history of the Borgias," murmured
Caesar, turning over in bed.
The next few days Caesar lived in constant intranquillity. Yarza
telegraphed him, saying that they had done the whole operation. On the
27th, in the afternoon, Caesar wandered toward the Calle de Alcala;
Madrid wore its normal aspect; the newspaper boys were calling no
extras. More worried than he liked, Caesar went for his walk by the
Canalillo and then shut himself in his house. In the evening he went out
breathless and bought the newspapers. His first impression was one of
panic; there was nothing; on reaching the third page he uttered an
exclamation and smiled. The Minister of Finance had just offered his
The next morning Caesar went to the hotel in the Carrera de San Jeronimo
where he had a room, and in the afternoon to the Chamber. He telephoned
to Alzugaray to come and see him after the exchange closed.
Alzugaray arrived, looking pale, in company with Amparito's father, Don
Calixto, and the broker. They were all wretched. The news was horrible.
Domestics had fallen two points and were still falling; in Paris the
Foreign Loan had fallen more than four; Northern was not falling but
tumbling to the bottom of a precipice.
"Did you know that the Minister was going to present his resignation?"
asked the broker, in despair.
"I, no. How should I know it? Even the Minister himself couldn't have
known it yesterday. But I had scientific data for not believing in that
"I am ruined," exclaimed the broker. "I have lost my savings."
Don Calixto and Amparito's father had also lost very large sums, which
Caesar won, and they were disconsolate.
When they were gone and only Alzugaray remained, he said to Caesar:
"And you have played in Paris, too, probably."
"On a fall?"
"You are a bandit."
"This game, my dear Ignacio, based solely on events, is not a
speculator's game, but is, simply, a hold-up. The other day I told you:
'I am at Sinigaglia.' Did you read the history of Caesar Borgia?"
"Well, what he did at Sinigaglia to the _condottieri_, to Vittellozzo,
Oliverotto da Fermo, and his other two captain-adventurers, I have done
to the Minister of Finance, to Don Calixto, Amparito's father, and many
others." And Caesar explained his game. Alzugaray was amazed.
"How much have you made?"
"From what these telegrams say, I think I shall go over half a million
francs. From those beginners, Don Calixto and Amparito's father, I think
I have made forty thousand pesetas."
"What an atrocious person! If the Minister should find out about your
"Let him find out. I am not worried. The famous financier, in addition
to being an idiot, is an honourable rogue. He plays the market with
the object of enriching himself and leaving a fortune to his repugnant
children. I, on the other hand, play it with a patriotic object."
The matter didn't rest there: Puchol, carried away by an easily
comprehensible desire for lucre, and thinking it brought the same amount
to the famous financier whether he played through Recquillart or through
Muller, had made the last bid for the Minister through the new broker.
The Minister's winnings diminished considerably and Caesar's gained in
proportion. The illustrious financier, on learning what had happened,
shrieked to heaven; but he said nothing, because of the secret
transaction they had had together. Puchol was dismissed by Recquillart,
and with the thirty thousand francs he collected from Caesar he set up
The Minister, a little later, went to Biarritz, to collect his share.
On his return he sent Caesar a note, unsigned and written on the
type-writer. It read:
"I did not think you had enough ability for cheating. Another time I
will be more careful."
Caesar replied in the same manner, as follows:
"When it's a question of a man who, besides being an idiot, is a poor
creature and a cheat like you, I have no scruple in robbing him first
and despising him afterwards."
Some days later Caesar published an article attacking the retiring
Minister of Finance and disclosing a lot of data and figures.
The Minister answered with a letter in a Conservative paper, in which
he denied everything Caesar alleged, and said, with contempt, that
questions of Finance were not to be treated by "amateurs."
Caesar said that he considered himself insulted by the Minister's words,
whom, however, he admired as a financier; and a few months later he
joined the Liberal party and was received with open arms by its famous
THE WATER SUPPLY
Caesar had money in abundance, and he decided to exert a decisive
influence on Castro Duro.
For a long while he had had various projects planned.
He thought it was an appropriate moment to put them into practice.
The first that he tried to carry out was the water supply.
The Municipality had a plan for this in the archives, and Caesar asked
for it to study. The scheme was big and expensive; the stream it was
necessary to harness so as to bring it to Castro, was far away. Besides
it was requisite to construct a piping system or an aqueduct.
Caesar consulted an engineer, who told him:
"From a business point of view, this is very poor. Even if you use
the superfluous water, in a factory for instance, it will give you no
"What shall we do then?"
"The simplest thing would be to put in a pumping plant and pump up the
"But it is infected water, full of impurities."
"It can be purified by filtering. That's not difficult."
Caesar laid this plan before the Municipality, and it was decided to
carry it out, as the most practical and practicable. A company was
formed to pump up the water, and work was begun.
The stockholders were almost all rich people of Castro, and the company
drew up its constitution in such a manner that the town got scarcely any
benefit out of it. They were not going to instal more than two public
fountains inside the city limits, and those were to run only a few
hours. Caesar tried to convince them that this was absurd, but nobody
paid any attention to him.
A bit disappointed, he left the "Water Pumping Company" to go its way,
and devoted himself entirely to things that he could carry out alone.
The first one he tried was establishing a circulating library of
technical books on trades and agriculture, and of polite and scientific
literature, in the Workmen's Club.
"They will sell the books," everybody said; "they will get them all
soiled, and tear out the leaves...."
Caesar had the volumes bound, and at the end of each he had ten or
twelve blank sheets put in, in case the reader wished to write notes.
The experiment began; predictions were not fulfilled; the books came
back to the library untorn and unspotted and with some very ingenuous
notes in them. Lots of people took out books.
The clerical element immediately protested; the priests said in the
pulpit that to send any chance book to working people's houses without
examining it first, was to lead people into error. Dr. Ortigosa retorted
that Science did not need the approval of sacristans. As, in spite
of the clerical element's advice, people kept on reading, there were
various persons that took out books and filled them with obscene
drawings and tore out illustrations. Dr. Ortigosa sent Caesar a letter
informing him what was happening, and Caesar answered that he must limit
the distribution of books to the members of the Workmen's Club and
people that were known. He bade him replace the six or seven books
abused, and continued to send new ones.
The ferment kept the city stirred up; there were no end of heated
discussions; lectures were given in the Club, and Dr. Ortigosa's paper,
_The Protest_, came to life again.
"I am with you in whatever will agitate the people's ideas," wrote
Caesar; "but if they start to play orators and revolutionists, and
you folks come along with pedantic notions, then I for my part shall
drop the whole thing."
When Caesar was in Castro, he spent his evenings at the Workmen's Club.
They gave moving pictures and frequent balls. Caesar did not miss one of
the Club's entertainments. The men came to him for advice, and the
girls and the little boys bowed to him affectionately. There was great
enthusiasm over him.
THE BENEVOLENT SOCIETY
Shortly after the initiation of these improvements in the Club, there
appeared in Castro Duro, without fuss, without noise, two rather
mysterious societies; the Benevolent Society of Saint Joseph and the
Agricultural Fund. In an instant the Benevolent Society of Saint Joseph
had a numerous array of members and patrons. All the great landholders
of the region, including Amparito's father, bound themselves to employ
no labourers except those belonging to the Benevolent Society. In the
neighbouring villages the inhabitants joined _en masse_. At the same
time as this important society, Father Martin and his friends founded
the Castrian Agricultural Fund, whose purpose was to make loans, at a
low rate of interest, to small proprietors.
The two Catholic institutions set themselves up in rivalry to the
Workmen's institution. The town was divided; the Catholics were more
numerous and richer; the Liberals more determined and enthusiastic. The
Catholics had given their upholders a resigned character.
Moreover, the name Catholic applied to the members of the two Clerical
societies made those who did not belong to them admit with great
tranquillity that _they_ were not Catholics.
The Clericals called their enemies Moncadists, and by implication
Schismatics, Atheists, and Anarchists. Inside the town there was a
Moncadist majority; in the environs everybody was a Catholic and
belonged to the Benevolent Society.
Generally the Catholics were abused in word and deed by the Moncadists;
the members of the Workmen's Club held those of the Benevolent Society
for cowards and traitors. Doubtless Father Martin did not wish that
his followers should be distinguished by Christian meekness, and he
appointed a bully whom people called "Driveller" Juan warden of the
Benevolent Society. This Juan was a lad who lived without working; his
mother and his sisters were dressmakers, and he bled them for money, and
spent his life in taverns and gambling-dens.
"Driveller" began to insult members of the club, especially the boys,
and to defy them, on any pretext. Dr. Ortigosa went to see Caesar and
explained the situation. "Driveller" was a coward, he didn't venture
beyond a few peaceable workmen; but if he had defied "Furibis" or
"Panza" or any of the railway men that belonged to the Club, they
would have given him what he deserved. But in spite of "Driveller's"
cowardice, he inspired terror among the young boys and apprentices.
Dr. Ortigosa was in favour of getting another bully, who could undertake
the job of cutting out "Driveller's" guts.
"Whom are we to get?" asked Caesar.
"We know somebody," said Ortigosa.
"Who is it?"
"' El Montes.'"
"What kind of a party is he?"
"A bandit like the other, but braver."
"El Montes" had just come out of Ocana.
He was a Manchegan, tall, strong, robust, and had been in the
penitentiary several times.
"And how do we manage 'El Montes'?" asked Caesar.
"We make him a servant at the Workmen's Club."
"He will corrupt the place."
"Yes, that's true. Then at the right moment we shall send him to the
Cafe del Comercio. They gamble at that cafe; he can go there and in two
or three days call a halt on 'Driveller' Juan." "Good."
"We must arrange for you to dismiss the new judge and put in some friend
of yours, and one fine day we will get a quarrel started and we will put
all Father Martin's friends in jail."
"You two play atrocious politics," said Alzugaray, who was listening to
"It's the only kind that will work," replied Ortigosa. "This is
scientific politics. Ruffianism converted into philosophy. We are
playing a game of chess with Father Martin and we are going to see if we
can't win it."
"But, man, employing all these cut-throats!"
"My dear friend," responded Caesar, "political situations include such
things; with their heads they touch the noblest things, the safety of
one's native land and the race; with their feet they touch the meanest
things, plots, vices, crimes. A politician of today still has to mingle
with reptiles, even though he be an honourable man."
"Besides, we need have no scruples," added Ortigosa; "the inhabitants of
Castro are laboratory guinea-pigs. We are going to experiment on them,
we are going to see if they can stand the Liberal serum."
* * * * *
_THE TWO ASYLUMS_
A little after these rivalries between the Benevolent Society and the
Workmen's Club, which stirred up every one's passions to an extreme
never before known at Castro Duro, another motive for agitation
There were two asylums in the town; the Municipal Aid and the Asylum of
the Little Sisters of the Poor.
The Municipal Aid had its own property and was wisely organized; the old
people were permitted to go out of the asylum, they had no uniform, and
from time to time they were allowed to drink a glass of something. In
the Little Sisters' Home, on the contrary, discipline was most severe;
all the inmates had to go dressed in a horrible uniform, which the
poor hated; to be present, like a chorus, at the funerals of important
persons; pray at every step; and besides all that, they were forbidden
under pain of expulsion, to smoke or to drink anything.
So the result was that there were abandoned old wretches, who, if they
couldn't get a place in the Aid, let themselves die in some corner,
rather than put on the uniform of the Little Sisters' Home, degrading in
That asylum had no income, because its Catholic managers had eaten it
all up. In view of the institution's bad economic condition, it occurred
to Father Martin to consolidate the two; to make one asylum of the
municipal and the religious, and to put it under the strict rule of the
religious one. What Father Martin wanted was that the Little Sisters
should have a finger in the whole thing, and that the income of one
institution should serve for both.
Caesar threatened the mayor with dismissal if he accepted the
arrangement, and insisted that the Liberal councilmen should not permit
the fusion, which was to the great advantage of the Clerical party.
As a matter of fact, the plan came to nothing, and Caesar treated the
Municipal Aid to two barrels of wine and tobacco in abundance, which
aroused great enthusiasm among the old people, who cheered for the
Deputy of their District.
Caesar rode over the situation on horseback; but the Clerical campaign
strengthened at the same rate that popular sympathies went out toward
him. In almost every sermon there were allusions to the immorality and
the irreligion that reigned in the town. The support of the women was
sought and they were exhorted to influence their husbands, brothers, and
sons to resign from the Workmen's Club.
The old pulpit oratory began to seem mild, and on the feast of the
Virgin of the Rock, a young preacher launched out, in the church, into
an eloquent, violent, and despotic sermon in which he threatened eternal
suffering to those who belonged to heretical clubs and would not return
to the loving bosom of the Church. The homily caused the greatest
impression, and there were a few unhappy mortals who, some days later,
were reported as dead or missing at the Workmen's Club.
AMPARITO IN ACTION
_LAURA AT CASTRO_
A time for new elections arrived, and Caesar stood for Castro Duro. Don
Calixto, who had married his two daughters and was bored at not being
allowed to pull the strings in the town, decided to move to Madrid.
First he had thought of spending only some time at the capital, but
later he decided to stay there and he had his furniture sent down.
People said that Don Calixto had no great affection for the old palace
of the Dukes of Castro, and Caesar proposed that he should rent the
house to him.
Don Calixto hesitated; in Castro he would certainly have refused, but
being in Madrid he accepted. His wife advised him that if he had any
scruples, he should ask more rent. They came to the agreement that
Caesar should pay three thousand pesetas a year for the part Don Calixto
had formerly inhabited.
This time Caesar had the election won, and there was not the slightest
fight. He was the boss of Castro, a good boss, accepted by everybody,
save the Clericals.
Caesar had money, and he wrote to his sister to come and see him at
Castro in his seigniorial mansion. Laura arrived at Madrid in the
autumn, and the two went to Castro together.
Laura's appearance in the town created a great sensation. At first
people said she was Caesar's wife. Others said she was an actress; until
finally everybody understood that she was his sister.
Laura really took undue advantage of her superiority. She was
irresistibly amiable and bewitching with everybody. The majority of the
men in Castro Duro talked of nothing but her, and the women hated her to
Being a marchioness, a Cardinal's niece, and a Deputy's sister, gave
her, besides, a terrible social prestige.
One person who clung to her, enchanted to have such a friend, was
Amparito. She went to the palace in her motor at all hours, to see Laura
and chat with her. In the afternoon the two of them used to walk in
Amparito's father's property, where the labourers, who were threshing,
received them like queens.
What enchanted Laura was the wild garden at Don Calixto's house, with
its pomegranates and laurels, its tower above the river, full of
climbing plants and oleanders.
"You ought to buy this house," she used to tell Caesar.
"It would cost a good deal."
"Pshaw! You could arrange that wonderfully. You would get married and
live here like a prince."
"Yes. To Amparito. That young thing is enchanting.
"She will make a splendid little wife. Even for your respectability as a
Deputy, it would be fitting to marry. A bachelor politician has a poor
Caesar paid no attention to these suggestions and continued to lead
an unsocial life. He covered the environs on horseback, found out
everything that was going on and settled it. In this he set himself
an enormous task, which was not notable for results; but he hoped to
succeed in conquering the district completely, and then to extend his
sphere of action to others and yet others.
After being a fortnight in Castro Duro, Laura went to Biarritz, as was
her custom every year.
AMPARITO AND CAESAR
Caesar was left alone. He had seen Amparito with his sister many times
but had scarcely ever exchanged more than a few words with her. One
afternoon Caesar was in the gallery in an arm-chair, with his feet high.
He felt melancholy and lazy, and was watching the clouds move across the
sky. Soon he heard steps, and saw Amparito with an old servant who had
been her nurse.
Caesar jumped up.
"What's the matter?" he exclaimed.
"I came to get something Laura forgot," said Amparito.
"She forgot something?" asked Caesar stupidly.
"Yes," replied Amparito; and added, addressing the old woman:
"Go see if there is a little glass box in Senorita Laura's room."
The old woman went out, and Amparito, looking at Caesar, who was on his
feet watching her nervously, said:
"Do you still hate me?"
"I?" exclaimed Caesar.
"Yes, you do hate me."
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