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A year after being a deputy and adoptive Madrid native , Arqueta was already famous enough for everyone to know an epigram that no less than the head of the most important minority in Congress had deigned to dedicate to him.

– “That Chest, he had said, not only does not have an easy word, but he has no word.”

That already Arqueta knew; he had never intended to go to Demosthenes, nor was that the way; but having a difficult word did not hinder him, and not being a man of his word served him a lot. Of course, this last defect brought him enmity, since the victims of that lack hated and reviled him; but he already took good care that it was always the fallen who could verify the entire accuracy of the epigram … of the minority. Had he never failed to speak to the president of the Council of Ministers or to any other president on something important? Ah! Well there was the touch. What it was, that many times you had to navigate bowline; Some embroideries had to be given in a direction that seemed to move him away from his object, from the port he was looking for, but that zis-zás was bringing him closer, closer, and at each change, of course !, some fool had to stay with his mouth open.

Speaker, no! Most of his countrymen who had been expert pilots of parliamentary cabotage had been gracious in word … and clever in hand. The correction! Trust the correction and don’t run! In the conference room, in the corridors, within the commission, in the ministerial offices, Arqueta was an eagle. How the doormen respected him! They smelled in him of a future character.

In addition, although Deputy Arqueta did not expect his progress from the legislative power, he was going to the bulge, that is, to the executive power. He clung to the skirts … of the mistress of the Minister of Finance and declared her a good prey; the Arqueta and Conchita Manzano, the minister, had met in a spa in the North.

Conchita was a ham who tried to prolong the autumn of her life well into winter. Better. Arqueta already knew that he was not going to be given honey on flakes; he was content with honey, with nougat. At the spa, although the treatment was very trustworthy, Arqueta could not know, for sure, if the minister was one of the fourteen bad ladies of Father Coloma.

Confidence grew in Madrid, due to the account he had of the deputies for Polanueva, and the minister participated in the intimacy of his wife’s friends. Juana became Concha’s confidante, that something would have to tell her; and the minister, Medianez, made his favorite Chest, who was in charge for his excellence of not having a word, whenever it was convenient to give it to someone and collect it without him returning it.

The kinds of services that Arqueta rendered to Medianez were all of the kind that Mariano liked, behind the scenes ; They referred to what cannot be said (the delight of Arqueta!), and those ties were of those that only kill death; and maybe not either, because the probability will be to find himself in hell.

When he agreed, Arqueta was general director, undersecretary, and a number of other things, some without an official name or an explicit salary .

Despite the purity that Polanueva’s ascribed to the kind of relationships that bound him to the public man , he placed his main trust in the delights of the domestic home … the public man . When Arqueta was able to affirm, to his surprise, that Conchita Manzano was fourteen , it was when he breathed calmly.

His own people went up and down several times , and Arqueta came to see himself with sufficient merits to enter into a combination , to be a minister, even a temporary one … that he would already know how to take advantage of the season and even if it were the storm. A problem of hierarchy found: that being a minister was as much as his godfather and was not well. But it was the case that the circumstances made Medianez very suitable to preside over a transitional ministry, of a small dog, without high – altitude ministers ; but they could be as long as they wanted. And there he was. President Medianez and he, Arqueta, in Fomento or where God was served … why not? Thus the categories continued to be respected, as the president continued to be the boss, the master …

Why didn’t he enter the candidacies that Medianez was preparing in case they called him?

He had always attributed the decisive force to Conchita’s skirts, when it was necessary to influence Medianez’s spirit and make him serve Arqueta’s interests in a serious case. Now you had to press on this side.

“What love can do!” Thought Arqueta. Everyone says, and it is true, that Medianez knows how to wear pants with dignity; that he is not one of the politicians who let his wife rule. Indeed, I notice that Conchita does not usually impose herself on her husband; Rather, he fears him that he commands him … and yet, in all matters relating to my things, like silk! I ask for a delicacy, Medianez gets angry, Concha hesitates … I press, she sacrifices herself, I ask, I beg, I insist, I command, and … achieved!

“Now the effort is serious. But you have to take the rest. Medianez sees little minister in me ; He has a thousand commitments … It doesn’t matter, I’ll win! … Let’s press. ”

“Don’t you think I should press?” He would say to his wife. And Juana, without hesitation, answered:

“Well, it’s clear!” Squeeze!

She also continued to cultivate the friendship of the of Medianez and that of the minister himself; but, it is clear, that after what was happening, and that his wife, naturally, did not know, Arqueta did not think it was dignified for Juana to also press; apart from the fact that what he did not achieve the less his poor wife would achieve.

The minister swore and perjured that she was constantly besieging her husband to give a ministry, if he formed a cabinet, to poor Mariano, who was the most trusted man they had.

—But, fool yourself, whatever you want, I don’t command as much in Medianez as you think. He listens to me when he thinks I’m right. Thus spoke, in her privacy, the minister to her lover; but this one did not take part; insisted, insisted; squeeze you will squeeze.

It was the case that, due to one of those combinations so common in backstage politics (the one Mariano liked), Medianez was playing the game of that leader of the opposing party who was saying epigrams against Arqueta. The head of Medianez did not want transitional ministries; the enemy yes, because he was not proposed to enter the Government; He needed to divide the adversary, discredit an intermediate Cabinet, and arrive on time and as a forewarned man. Medianez and Arqueta saw the game well, but since the situation was unique for Medianez to be president of the Council, they were determined to buy those radishes, which passed, and whoever falls falls.

What Arqueta did not know was that the head of the opposing party, who was helping to rise to the presidencyHe gave Medianez his terms and conditions to the staff of the future Cabinet, and had declared that Arqueta was not a pleasant person .

Medianez concealed from his friend the battles he was fighting with that man to force him to compromise with the deputy for Polanueva, whom he wanted at all costs to take with him the Cabinet he was going to preside.

In short, in short, the crisis came, which was laborious; there were quick solutions; height ministries and boy dog ​​ministries … and finally oh joy! A ministry came that was “born dead” according to the oppositions, but was born, which was the main thing: the Medianez ministry.

And Arqueta entered Development!

What a scene, that of Arqueta with the minister, when he learned that he was on the list of ministers!

Concha was very happy, of course; but much more concerned. He did not come out of his amazement. She was sure that she had not wrested a word from her husband about making the good Chest a minister. But, in short, it was already a fact.

With his wife, Mariano was less expansive, because he had certain conscience concerns, although very slight … In the end, it was because of a marital infidelity that he came to the longed-for easy chair … Poor Juana! But, what the hell, since she was not in the secret and saw herself as a minister, she should also be very happy.

I think he was glad. He was beaming with joy. She was the one who ordered the uniform to escapeme, or it came out of nowhere, all of a sudden, depending on how soon it was ready.

At eleven o’clock in the morning they were going to swear and at ten Juana had already dressed her husband, with her own hands, the showy uniform, shining with gold, with which he was going to enter the ministerial struggle. The house had been filled with friends. And, oh the height of honor and kindness! At half past ten the couple received a flyer from Medianez saying: “Wait for me: I am going to look for you in my car and to personally congratulate Juana.”

To which the tears fell when reading this.

What a triumph!

The new president, Medianez, arrived, also in uniform, although not as brand-new as Arqueta’s.

That house was a Babel.

Chest … had a moment of weakness.

Everyone told him that he was very handsome in the uniform; But the fact was that he, because he did not seem fatuous, had not been able to look at himself in a mirror to his liking, dressed in uniform. And it was the dream of his life!

He had to confess that his happiness would not have been complete that day, if he had not been able to take advantage of two minutes to contemplate himself alone, at his pleasure, in the mirror, adoring his own ministerial image. Where better in your cabinet! Where he had dreamed of triumph so long, he wanted to see her reflected in that mirror cabinetHe had sometimes invited him to trust the exploitation of the physicist .

Nothing easier, amid the din of the crowd that filled the house, than to overshadow for a moment …

Without being missed by anyone, with the precautions of a thief, Arqueta went to his cabinet. He crossed the office; the door was ajar … opposite was the closet in whose clear moon one wanted to contemplate.

Devil! Before physical laws allowed Arqueta to see himself reflected in the mirror … he saw in it, clearly … a minister’s uniform. It was the president!

But he was not alone; In the mirror, Arqueta also saw the image of Juana la plump … with whose rosy cheeks Medianez, the president without a portfolio, made the same thing that he, Arqueta, had done the night before on the cheeks, less fresh, of the wife of the president.

Arqueta took a step back. He did not enter his cabinet … He entered the other, in which Medianez presided, that is to say, he also presided over that of Arqueta, apparently … but, in short, it means that, rejecting the first impulse of throwing everything into motion, he decided to sacrifice himself for the sake of the country. He thought first of tearing the uniform that burned him, or should burn his body, like the tunic of … he didn’t remember who; But he did not tear anything … and five minutes later he would arrive in Medianez’s car at his house, where other ministers and many important politicians were waiting. There was the protector of the new situation, the epigram, that he was going to enjoy his surreptitious triumph.

Arqueta noticed that that hero was looking at him and greeted him with a mocking, perhaps contemptuous smile. There was more. He noticed that in a group that surrounded the illustrious leader of the minority, jokes were celebrated with great laughter that the gentleman of the epigram said in a low voice … .

He could only hear what the protector of the ministry said in a loud and solemn voice:

– Sic itur ad astra!

General laugh.

– “Yes, thought Arqueta, that goes with me; which rises and the stars … I am! ”

And he got like a tomato.

“Arqueta,” the caustic head of the minority shouted at that moment, addressing the new Minister of Public Works: “Arqueta, the slander is already brewing on you.

-How! What do they say?

“That you are not going to swear … but to promise for your honor.” Absurd, right? Slander!…