Don Elías Cofiño, a native of Vigo, had made a regular fortune in America with the book trade. He had begun by founding political and literary newspapers, which he wrote with other amateurs in what they called the cultivation of the muses. Cofiño believed himself to be a poet and political writer until he was twenty-five; But several disappointments and a little hunger, with many other troubles, made him sharpen his intimate sense and get to know himself better. He became convinced that in literature he would never be more than a discreet reader, an enthusiast for the good, or how it seemed to him, and an imitator of how much it excited him. And furthermore, he understood that Espronceda and Pablo Luis Courier (who were his idols) were not going to be practiced in Buenos Aires, and that their hidden jokes and ironies, almost copied from Courier and Figaro , were not well understood by those new peoples. . In short, he stopped writing newspapers, and discovered with great satisfaction his latent aptitude for commerce. He imported French, English and Spanish books; he studied the taste of the American public, flattered it at first, “tried to rectify it and channel it” later; he put himself in correspondence with the best publishing houses in London, Paris and Madrid, and in a few years he won what no Spanish writer could ever win; and determined to be rich, he continued earnestly in his endeavor, and did not stop until a millionaire.
The death of his wife, a beautiful American, daughter of English and Spanish, a poet in Spanish and English, took away the good Cofiño’s courage to continue working; he transferred trade, and with his millions and his only daughter, seven years old, he returned to Europe, where he divided his time and money between Paris and Madrid. Rita’s education (that’s how the girl was called, because she remembered the name of Don Elías’s late mother) was the main concern of Cofiño, who wanted for his daughter all the graces of Nature and all the charms that she can add the art of raising angels to be young ladies. The loving father tried various systems of education; was never satisfied, nor did he find anywhere, although he paid them by weight of gold, sufiHundred guarantees for the material and moral health of the idol he had engendered. If he spent a whole year in Madrid, at the end he would deny Madrid’s education, and say that there were no teachers in the capital of Spain worthy of his daughter. He built the house, moved to Paris, and there seemed more content with his teaching; but after a few months patriotism began to protest, and he feared that Rita would become more French than Spanish, which would be like being less of a Cofiño’s daughter.
Years passed in these comings and goings, and a lot of money was spent; and when he believed the education of his angel in long clothes was complete, he took notice of the court of Spain, where they spent the winters. The summer and some of the autumn he distributed between Vigo and a delicious country house that the rich bookseller had bought near Pontevedra on the banks of the poetic Lerez.
Don Elías, if not all, kept some of his millions, and if some of his capital lost in a journalistic company in which he got involved, due to a kind of palingenesis of vanity, he still took out, in addition to his hands on his head, unharmed some two hundred thousand dollars and the purpose of not getting into bad business, no matter how flattering they were for his self-esteem.
More powerful than he was his fondness for letters, which became irritated anew with the approach of old age, compelled him to seek the treatment of writers, and not always for nothing. His first vanity was Rita; slender, white, discreet even in her gait, elegant, moving with an apprehension of wings on his shoulders, who looked at everything like the blue sky, serious and sweet, with nothing more than a bit of irony on the tip of his tongue for evil when it was ridiculous, and for ignorance when it fell on a constant male forced to know what he was proclaiming to have by heart. But Cofiño’s second vanity, slightly less strong, was the friendship of the great literati. When he was still poor and wrote newspapers, Don Elías had a more difficult taste; The idea of swallowing them like fists frightened him, of admiring the bad for the good: but now, the well-being and the years had made him more benevolent and partly ravaged the palate. He already had as great writers those who were no more than average, and even some who, when the count was rushed, would probably be bad. He, who did not need anyone, in order to be friends with notabilitiesHe flattered the very ones whom he used to feed; and to more than one parasite of his he made the court with a humility unworthy of his character, haughty in other matters. Academics praised the dictionary and purism, and the parsimony of his literary life, and with them he spoke of Greek lines, classical chastity , and models. With the revolutionary authors he explained himself in a different way, saying pests of bookworms and the “cold conventions of pseudo-classicism.” To the young he granted that it was necessary to replace the outdated idols; to the old, that art would die with them. And this was done by poor Don Elías because he was well with everyone, because he was everyone’s friend, and because experience had taught him that the delicacy of this class of gods is murmuring, and that on their altars, more than incense, the blood of a man of letters slain is estimated alive on the altar.
All of this could be forgiven the former bookseller, because the purpose he proposed was not low, not even interested. But what was unforgivable was his determination to marry Rita to an illustrious writer, or at least that he was on the way to becoming one. Rita deserved her beauty as a slender blonde, a blonde with an undertoneAndalusian, soft, mixed with others of angel and serious woman; for his thorough, discreet, and timely education, for his candor, for his talent a little ashamed of himself, and for the treasures of home virtue that heralded everything he had, from the way he kissed a child to the way he doubled the mantilla, he deserved for all that, and for his healthy fortune, although not fabulous, a boyfriend to ask of mouth, a large proportion, something like a minister, or a banker, or an honest and handsome man at least. But Don Elías demanded from every possible suitor the status of a man of letters, and quite well known.
Augusto Rejoncillo, the legitimate son of Don Roque, magistrate of the Supreme Court, and of Dona Olegaria Martín y Martín, deceased, became a doctor in both rights at the age of twenty, doctor of physical and mathematical sciences at twenty-two, and doctor of philosophy and letters at twenty-three. But since he took the first tassel he began to appear and to be secretary of everything, and to ask to speak at the Academy of Jurisprudence, and to say: “I understand, gentlemen,” and “I have it for myself.”
And it was not that he had for himself, but that he wanted to have and retain and keep for old age, which is why he and his father drank the winds; and as soon as a new political party was formed, there was Rejoncillo, one of the first, very clean, very handsome (because he was handsome, colorful), with a tight frock coat, a shiny hat, and fat, red-stitched gloves. There was no one like him to stir up or for electoral manipulations. He had made more tables than the most reputable cabinetmaker, and anyone who wanted to be president of something had only to do so.
He was a contributor to several newspapers, but he confessed that the press burdened him; he preferred the rostrum. The chief of the week went to the editorial offices (that is, the head of the party or party in which Augustus was active that week); it had drums written by the boss himself or by Rejoncillo, but inspired in any case by the boss. For this and to ask for the seats of the Royal or the tickets for a dance, he used to appear in the offices of the newspapers, from which he left early, because humble journalists charged him, and especially those who boasted of being literary.
“He also wrote”, but not block letters, on paper of many pesetas; wrote motions and other lucubrations of litigation. He was an intern at the home of a famous lawyer, who was also a group leader in Congress, and president of two boards of directors of railroad companies.
As much as he despised literature, he respected and admired the Rejoncillo forum; but not as an “ultimate” end, as he said, but as preparation for politics and spending aid.
He planned to become famous as a politician, and thus win clients as a lawyer; and once a lawyer with lawsuits, take advantage of this to win in the political category. It was the ordinary, and Rejoncillo never did more than the ordinary, which was the best. Only he did it with a lot of drive.
Of course: Rejoncillo’s pushes were formidable; If, in order to occupy a position that suited him, he had to attack a poor neighbor placed on the edge of the abyss, for example, on the edge of the Viaduct on Segovia Street, Rejoncillo did not hesitate a moment, and gave an elbow, or even a kick , in the belly of the encumbrance, and remained as fresh as Sigismund in Life is a dream , saying to his cloak: “God lives, what could be!” Lest his conscience remorse him, he had in due time become a skeptic of the disguised, who are the most graceful; skeptic who kept his opinion and professed the current and defended everything stable, everything old, everything that “could become a government, in short.”
At a political-literary tea Augusto met Cofiño and his daughter. Rita had gone to such a party because the housewife was as political as her husband, or more, and had invited friends. Cofiño had accepted the invitation, because the politician was also a writer. There was a toast, and Rejoncillo, neat, uptight, serious, with shirt cuffs that gave glory and gave off rays of whiteness, spoke like an illustrated tooth remover, imitating the style and criteria of the master of the house. It was all the rage.His was the speech of the night. How well he had known how to treat arid political and administrative matters with picturesque images and other rhetorical devices, so that the ladies would not get bored! He spoke of the warmth of the home on the occasion of insulting the Minister of Finance; He showed that the tax equivalent to that of salt conspired against that cornerstone of the social edifice called the family; and once within the family, he performed prodigies of eloquence. Why was France lost? For the dissolution of the family. Why was Spain preserved? For family life. He made the mother’s eulogy, the grandmother’s eulogy, the father and son’s apotheosis, and even had pathetic outbursts in favor of faithful and ancient servants. Well, all that I wanted to destroy in an hour (one hour said) the Minister of Finance. Synthesis: that the only viable ministry would be that of the master of the house. Whose wife was the lover Rejoncillo, according to gossip.
The triumph of Augustus was solemn. The next day the newspapers spoke of him. The master of the tea house made him his secretary. And he, learning that a young woman, Rita, who had applauded him a lot that night, was rich, decided to drink that square and made himself appear at Cofiño’s house.
Antonio Reyes was a tall, slim, blond young man with glasses; He coughed a lot, but gracefully; with a kind of modesty of a chronically ill patient tired of disturbing the whole world. This way of coughing and the fine, sharp and trimmed golden beard had caught the attention of Rita Cofiño in the gathering of a certain literary marquis, where Don Elías would take her from time to time.
“The one with the cough,” she called him to herself. While a multitude of poets recited verses and the contest applauded, and spoke loudly, and laughed and shouted, amid the noise Rita perceived Reyes’ cough, and she felt more and more sympathy for that boy, and more desire to take care of that cold that he seemed not to think. She did not know why, Cofiño’s daughter found in that dry cough noise something familiar, something worthy of attention, something much more interesting than all those rhyming complaints with which poets lamented between two chandeliers, as if the gathering could Improve your luck and fix the rogue world.
Agapito Milfuegos read chaotic poems, from which it turned out that the universe was a bad joke invented by God to mortify him, the miserable Agapito. Restituto Mata was complaining in sosculptural nets of a girlfriend from Tierra de Campos, who had left him for a harvester; Roque Sarga lamented in heroic romances (not as heroic as the listeners) the loss of faith, and Pepe Tudela sang electricity, the discovery of the microscope and radiant matter. Antonio Reyes coughed.
Rita never spoke to Antonio in that gathering. A few months after she noticed him, the interesting coughing stopped there.
“And Reyes?” Said someone one night.
“He has gone to Paris,” they replied.
“Who is this Reyes?” Rita asked her father when they returned home.
“Antonio Reyes?” “An eccentric, a lazy person, a boy who is worth a lot, but who doesn’t want to work. That is to say …, read …, know …, understand …; but nobody knows him. Now he has gone to Paris as a newspaper correspondent, as a political correspondent … anything … to earn the chickpeas …; That is to say, the chickpeas will not, because you will not eat them there … It’s a shame; OK OK…; understands, reads a lot, knows everything modern …; but he does not work, he does not write. He is very proud. Besides, it’s bad; Didn’t you hear him cough? A chronic cold … and the lonely one; besides that, a tapeworm … I think he’s a gourmet … and eats a lot … He’s a skeptic, a thinking stomach.
Rita did not see Reyes again, or hear about him, for a long time.
“From four to five, don’t forget it;” Friday … – said a woman’s voice, vibrant, sweetly imperious; and a short, thin hand, covered with a white glove, which reached up the arm, shook with force another thin and long hand.
Regina Theil de Fajardo said goodbye to Antonio Reyes, reminding him of her promise to attend his evening gathering on Friday. She got into her car, which disappeared into the shadows; and Reyes, who had ratified his promise by bowing his head and smiling, stood between the tram rails on the mud. The smile was still on his face, but it had a different color ; now she expressed a complacency somewhere between melancholic and malicious.
The whistle of a tram approaching head-on with an eye of red fire in the middle of its black stain, forced Reyes out of his abstraction. In two jumps he got on the sidewalk, and went up Alcalá Street towards El Suizo.
It was a night in May. It had rained all afternoon between lightning and thunder, and the storm said goodbye, murmuring in the distance, like a grumpy dog that unwillingly obeys the voice that imposes silence on it. The Madrid that enjoys was thrown out on foot or by car, with the desire to savor its ordinary nocturnal pleasures. After a long, boring afternoon spent between walls, he suckedThe open air was redoubled with delight, and the expected and beloved spectacle was sought with haste and childish eagerness, the coffee corner, which is almost a property, the gathering, in short, the delicious and expensive custom.
Antonio Reyes entered the Suizo Nuevo, and approached one of the tables closest to the street.
“They’ve all left,” said Don Elías Cofiño, who was waiting for him reading The Correspondence . “How did it take you so long?” Do you know about Augusto?
“What Augusto?” Asked Reyes, taking off a glove, distracted, and still smiling at his ideas.
“What Augustus must he be?” Rejoncillo.
“What’s wrong with him?” Said Antonio with a look of bad humor, like someone avoiding an inappropriate conversation.
“That they finally made him undersecretary!”
“It’s a scandal!”
“What do you mean why?” Because he does not have sufficient merits … I do not deny him talent … He is a speaker … He is brave, audacious … He knows how to live … Say it if not his History of Parliamentarism , in which it turns out that the best speaker in the world He is the Marquis de los Cenojiles, the husband of his beloved …
Antonio, who had looked like vinegar since hearing the news that scandalized Cofiño, bit his lip and felt the blood flow from his face to his chest.
“Don’t say … absurd,” (he murmured between angry and dismissive). “Those idiotic and envious slanders are not worthy of you repeating. Regina is unable to …
“Missing the marquis?”
“No … I’m not saying that.” Of loving Rejoncillo. She is a talented woman.
Don Elías shrugged his shoulders. He did not want to dispute. He did not believe Regina incapable of loving anyone. Every lover had known him! But that’s not what it was about. What Don Elías wanted to show was that Rejoncillo did not deserve to be undersecretary of Ultramar, at least for now.
“But do you think you have enough political stature for an undersecretary?”
Reyes replied with a gesture of indifference. He wanted to imply that he did not like the conversation, however insignificant.
“Has Celestino been here?” He asked, to speak of something else.
“Have you complained about the stick?”
“He’s a blessed one.” He does not say anything; but that devil of Enjuto pulled the conversation; She asked him if they had made him come on stage yet last night … and he blushed and said yes, through his teeth, as if embarrassed by the applause from the audience. The truth is that Juanito’s article doesn’t go around the corner; It is implacable, but there is no one to move it, it is right; drama is bad, dog, and deserves nothing but scorn and joke …
“Well, you applauded the night of the opening …”
“I will say to you: the impression … well, the first impression … is not bad; and since he is a friend of Celestino, and the public was enthusiastic …; but Reseco has put the points on the i i. That one has talent!
Once again Reyes’s gesture turned sour. He tossed a glove on the table and stood up. That night Don Elías was unbearable; he said nothing but nonsense. “There was no worse bug than the fan of literature.” Without being able to help it, and after a yawn, Antonio said:
—Reseco …, ps! …, in the land of the blind … In PariSeco he would be one of many sprit boys ; here is the terror of the fools and the Celestinians.
Don Elías admired this Reseco, although he did not like him; but the opinion of Reyes, who came from Paris, of living among the fashionable literati, seemed very respectable to him. Yes; Antoñico, as he called him in front of people to indicate the confidence with which he treated him; Antoñico frequented the brasseries in Paris , where notable Parnassians , illustrious pseudonyms of la petite-presse , drank coffee, beer or chocolate or absinthe.and from some major newspapers; Antonico had been a Parisian correspondent for a newspaper with a large circulation, and the contemptuous tone with which he spoke in his letters of certain French and Spanish celebrities had overwhelmed Don Elías, and had made him gradually transfer his consideration of those battered celebrities to the that zahería them. Cofiño had always been a bit soft when it came to opinions; but the years had turned him to wax put on fire. Any book, comedy, speech, article, or whatever he was easily excited about; but a contrary opinion expressed with courage, with frank contempt and with hints of mocking and disdainful superiority, terrified him, made him see a colossal talent in which he censured in such a way; He stopped admiring the book, comedy, speech or whatever it was to submit to the tyrant, to the critic who had subverted his ideas and consecrated idolatrous worship, as long as there was no better bidder: another stronger, more mocking, more disappointed and more disdainful critic.
Don Elías vaguely understood that Reyes disliked, at least that night, talking about Reseco and talking about Rejoncillo; And since the current affairs of the day were the undersecretary of the one and the suit that the other had given to poor Celestino, and Don Elías hardly spoke of anything that was not the literary news, or at least the politics of cafes, theaters, athenaeums. and squares, he thought it best to shut up and end the session. And he stood up too, asking:
“Are you coming to Rivas?”
“To the premiere of Fernando?” Before death. No sir, I have to do.
-I’m sorry. I … have to go … Fernandito’s zarzuelas are loaded on me …; but I have to go…; It is a commitment … Besides, I have to pick up Rita, who is in the box of … (Don Elías was a little disturbed, remembering what he had said earlier), in the box of Cenojiles.
“Yes, with the Marchioness … So, aren’t you coming?”
—No (he said, after much thought); do not…; I have to do…; perhaps … there … at the end, at the hour of triumph.
—Ó of the whistle …
-Bah! It will be a triumph … There is nothing but triumphs! Until tomorrow or see you later …
Reyes longed to be alone with his thoughts; resume the pleasant visions that had accompanied him from Cibeles to Suizo; But, strange thing! As soon as Don Elías disappeared, he found himself worse, less free, more upset. He remembered that when he was a child and he used to amuse himself singing alone or declaiming, if an importunate interrupted him for a moment, when he returned to his shouts and songs, he did so without relish, with distaste and a little ashamed, until he stopped playing his games and burst into tears. He felt a similar impression now: that fool Don Elías had made him fall from the fifth heaven; It had made him collapse from pleasant illusions that flattered vanity, the senses, and perhaps something of the heart, to the boulders of the day’s chronicle; He had fallen headlong on Rejoncillo’s undersecretary and his alleged love affairs with Cenojiles’; it had bounced off the Reseco article …; and … “that a fool could have such an influence on his thoughts!” Antonio set out down the street of Seville towards that of the Prince, determined to forget all that and to return to the most sweet idea (yes, very sweet, even though flirting with himself he wanted to deny it), of his almost safe, secure relationships with Regina Theil. But nothing; the flattering thoughts did not return; Those broken threads of the novel that he had already begun to weave, unintentionally, were not tied up while walking up the Calle de Alcala. Instead of funny and spicy adventures, the abstract image of Rejoncillo’s undersecretary was represented between his eyes and the wet and glistening slabs at times; it was vague, confused, sometimes in figures of half-erased block letters,The Correspondence ; other times in the form of a luxurious armchair, somewhat worn, it was not known if it was made of satin, if it was made of leather, or what structure …, and maybe, zás! Rejoncillo dressed in a tailcoat, with a large shiny bib, jumping from loose to loose by those of La Correspondencia , until he stood in the office of his undersecretary; or else greeting many gentlemen in a room, which was the same as the main hall, despite being a room. “He wanted to tell himself that he was daydreaming, and that the dream, despite the vigilant will, insisted on being stupid, absurd!”
And Reyes stopped before the sparkles of the spoons next to the Meneses window. As if obeying a suggestion, he stared helplessly.der remedy it in those reflections of whiteness. There was no reason to step forward or backward, and he stood still in the light. He did not know where to go: now it occurred to him to remember that he had no plan for that night: a quarter of an hour before he would have sworn that he would not have time for everything he had to do before going to bed, for how much fun he was going to have … and it turned out there was no such thing; that he had no plan, that he had not thought of anything, that he had nowhere to hang out, to forget all the nonsense that stuck in his head. Why wasn’t he already happy? Why had that optimism, which almost like a pleasant buzzing in the ears, or rather like a symphony, had accompanied him up the Calle de Alcalá, now had turned into spleen?mortal? “Let’s be clear: am I envious of Rejoncillo?” And Antonio smiled in such a way that any passerby would have believed that he was making fun of the silver Meneses. “Envy Rejoncillo!” The thought seemed so ridiculous to him, the reaction of pride was so strong that, as if all those passions that had him standing on the sidewalk had turned into an electric shock, Antonio turned an automatic turn, started to walk towards the Carrera de San Jerónimo He went down it, crossed the Puerta del Sol, took up Calle de la Montera and entered the Ateneo.
He saw himself, without knowing how, in those sad and dark corridors, full of smoke: there the heat seemed like a heavy paste that floated in the air, swallowing and sticking to the stomach. Without knowing how nor, without realizing that the will was intervening in his movements, did he arrive at the newspaper room, went to the end of the table, and sat down determined not to look at anything but foreign papers, at least colonial ones, which were definitely They would talk about the Rejoncillo Undersecretariat. To himself it seemed a lie to see himself going through the columns of a collection of Diarios de la Marina .
Then he took Le Journal de Petersbourg … which was close by. There they spoke, in a correspondence from Paris, of the last poems of a French writer whom he was dealing with. This consideration was a slight tonic. Reyes approached the Spanish newspapers; from the middle of the table, blurred copies of La Correspondencia began to be seen here and there ; They had some stinky oil cake just out of the oven. He couldn’t help it; did what everyone present: took The Correspondence. On the second page, in the middle of the third column, was the news, more or less as he had seen it on the damp and shiny slabs of the street of Seville. There were Augusto Rejoncillo and his undersecretary; it was, indeed, that of Ultramar. The appointment was a fact; no claim, no; a fact: the decree had been signed.
“What a country!” – Reyes began to think, without realizing it; he, who long ago boasted of despising the country absolutely and not remembering it at all .— “What a country!” “Everything is lost; but this is too much! This is nauseous. Who wants to be nothing? Deputation, portfolio …, What would all that be to self-love? Nothing … worse, an insult … How should I be flattered to be a minister … having previously been Rejoncillo undersecretary? On this side there is no longer ever to look for anything; politics is no longer a career for a man like me; it is a humiliation, it is a filthy alley; we must take seriously this stoic resolution of not wanting to be a deputy or a minister, or anything like that, for dignity, for decorum ”. And the fleeting and brilliant idea of being head of a new party exploded in Reyes’ brain, which he called in French, to himself, the Zutista party , that of “there is no place to deliberate, that of the annulment of politics, the anarchist party of the aristocracy of talent and distinction ”. Yes, politics had to be killed, turned into craftsmen’s trade, given to shoemakers, to those who cannot read or write: a politician was a rude man, with a wooden soul, limited in ambitions and tastes, an unpleasant being: It was necessary to proclaim zutism or gossip , abstention; people of taste, talent, noble and delicate spirit did not need to rule or be governed. “We will go to Congress to close it and throw the key down a well,” he thought to say on the party’s program. Of course, in Reyes these attempts of great resolutions were lightning bolts of heatleast of all, fireworks to which he did not give any importance. He would let fantasy build those palaces of smoke at will, and then he would remain so impassive, determined not to get involved in anything. However, the idea of the Zutista party was beautiful, although unrealizable. On everything had served to elevate him in his own eyes, “over those miseries of undersecretaries and Rejoncillos.” “No, he was not envious of that jerk; of this I was … sure ”; But thinking about it, getting irritated at the nonsense of the ministry that made such an appointment, was already unworthy of Antonio Reyes; the man who carried the plan of that novel within his head, who had not finished writing because of how much he despised the public who had to read it.
In the newspaper room a certain movement of chairs began and a murmur of low-voiced conversation. The partners passed to the public chair. The shouts of a janitor sounded in the distance, saying: “Section of moral and political sciences! Moral and Political Sciences Section! … ”
Cervantes’s plaster head, covered in dust, yawned on a wooden column, plunged into shadow; and Reyes’ eyes, fixed on her, wanted to wrest the secret of her infinite boredom in that life of perpetual academic discussion, where the puny children of a century spoiled at the best of their years, spent the little and bad blood that they had to warm up their helmets by running and shouting because of a thousand useless words and distinctions, that good Cervantes he had never heard speak in life. Above all, the moral and political sciences section (Reyes thought the pale and dirty bust must be thinking) was something to turn the stomach to a statue that didn’t even have it. It was bad to hear those gentlemen quarrel, on the grounds of denying Christ divinity or granting it to him; bad also to put up with them when they spoke of the ideals of artthat he, Cervantes, had never known anything; but everything was less detestable than the political and sociological discussions, where everything in Madrid of enlightened foolishness and nonsense dared to ask for the floor and shout their nonsense, now retrograde, already advanced like a major advance. Those members, Reyes thought, were divided into right and left, as if all of them were not united by their native cretinism in a great party, the party of the invisible goiter., of intellectual nihilism. Yes, they were all one, and they believed not; They were all moles, determined to see clearly in the most arduous questions of the world, the practical questions of common and solidary life, which cannot be posed with any probability of success until hundreds and hundreds of auxiliary and preparatory sciences have been formed, developed and perfected. Meanwhile, and until the truly wise men, from a very distant future, very distant, perhaps never, took this matter on their own, they ventilated it with formulas of historical or philosophical emptiness all those anemic of soul, even more despicable than the practical, empirical politicians; because these, at last, were after an interest real, for a passion of its own, true, ambition, however low it might be. The miserable man who in our times of intellectual chaos dedicates himself to abstract politics, to the social sciences, seemed to Reyes the genuine representative of the irremediable human stupidity in which he believed as in a dogma. And if Antonio still despised those who passed for wise in these matters, what would he feel before those good gentlemen and beardless young men, who repeated there for the thousandth time the theories most brought and carried from one school to another!
Years ago, before he went to Paris, the social question as a whole was discussed in the moral and political sciences section , and it was discussed whether there would be one or not. The lords across the street , those on the right (Reyes sat on the left, near a balcony hidden in the darkness), ended up assuring that there would always be the poor among you, and with five or six other texts of the Gospel they considered the question settled. Those on the left, on the occasion of these quotes, denied the divinity of Jesus Christ; and to the great scandal of some associates who were very friendly to the order and attending all the sessions, “one section was unduly passed from one section to another”; but it did not matter, it was already known that it would always happen there, and the president, expert and tolerant, did not veto the appointments of a Krausist with demagogic tendencies, who “with all due respect to the Nazarene”, put Christianity as a dómine sucker, denying that he, Fernando Chispas, owed him anything (to whom he owed the landlady), because what Christianity was good about, what he owed to Platonic philosophy, to the sages of Egypt, Persia, and finally, anywhere, but not to his own effort. From one to the other all dogma, all morals, and all discipline were discussed. A gentleman who spoke three or four times every year in all sections, got up to reproach Jesus’ religion, as he had been doing in that part for eight years, to reproach him for placing thieves on altars , and forgive the great criminals for a single trait of contrition, being the last. And he cited The Devotion of the Cross , scandalized by the relaxed morality of Calderón and the Church.
Then a Hegelian Catholic emerged on the right, almost always a councilor of state, a great teacher in handling the philosophical blur. “It stood up, he said, to channel the debate, to elevate it to the pure region of ideas”; and he undertook it with Emmanuel Kant (that’s what he called him), Fichte, Schelling and Hegel, who were the four philosophers that everyone cited at this time, expounding their respective doctrines in four words. The Krausists downstairs replied, full of a philosophical-theological anointing, as a bulldog might have it. performing; and with studied preterition they cited the whole world, except Krause, the teacher, finding the cause of so many errors that, in effect, tarnish the history of human thought, in the lack of method, and above all in not starting or running each one from the first day that it occurred to him to run, through the self, not as mere thought, but in all that in reality is …
All this was years ago, before he, Reyes, left for Paris. Now, remembering such skirmishes, and contemplating the present, I felt a certain sadness, which was produced by the romantic perspective of the memories.
In those famous discussions, in which Christ paid for everything, there was at least a certain freedom of fantasy; at times those follies were moral ideals at bottom, not wholly foreign to the natural suggestions of practical morality; in short, he recognized them a certain kindness and a certain poetry, which perhaps was due to not being possible that it would return; perhaps they had no more poetry than what memory sees in everything dead. Now positivism was the king of discussions. The orators of the right and left abided by the facts, clinging to them like limpets to rocks. This was not a philosophy; it was an article from paris, the question of fifteen, or the graphic riddle called “where is the shepherdess?” Gentlemen who had never seen a corpse spoke of anatomy and physiology, and one would think that they spent their lives in the amphitheater breaking bones, stuck in human entrails, hot and bleeding, up to their knees. There was a theoretical carnage there. The same words of the physiological technicality came and went a thousand times, without being understood by almost anyone; the individual was the protoplasm, the family the cell, and society a fabric … a fabric of nonsense.
Antonio, very satisfied in the depths of his soul, because everything that was ridiculous in that bacchanal of free-thinking foolishness penetrated, got up from his blue armchair and went out into the corridors, leaving a word in his mouth with a He was a medicine man, who had learned from Letourneau’s manuals all that incoherent mass of problematic and almost always insignificant data.
“Fools, all fools!” He thought: and a wave of pink water washed over his spirit. He no longer remembered Rejoncillo, or Reseco; The feeling of almost tangible superiority filled his spirits; yes, yes, it was evident; Those men who remained in there shouting or listening with serious attention, some of whom had a reputation for being talented, were far inferior to him, unable to see the comic aspect of such disputes, the hereditary foolishness that showed in such a passion for ideas insubstantial, false, without possible application, without relation to the serious, dignified and noble world of the mysterious reality.
In the corridors it was also disputed. They were some young people who, without even Reyes suspecting it, despised the disputes of the section. They also spoke of philosophy, but their discussion had nothing to do with the one in there: they had come to the question of whether or not there was metaphysics, starting with the last novel published in France. Antonio approached the group, and was not happy as he noticed some originality and strength in the argument. A pale, dark-skinned young man with clear blue eyes and very round, dreamy, or at least less distracted, he spoke with carelessness, without binding the sentences, but with good sense and with contained enthusiasm.
– Who doubts, gentlemen, that, indeed, positivism has to go … I am not saying that it is in this century, eh? but it must go little by little … come on, modifying, changing, to end up being a new metaphysics? …
“That trend already appears in some writers,” said another, small, blond, vivacious, with glasses, who was gesticulating a lot, and to whom the dark, distracted one listened with affectionate attention. The little boy kept talking about very modern German writers who reviewed the philosophy of Kant, and that of Fichte, and that of Hegel in order to find new bases for a metaphysics that had to be built at all costs.
Then Reyes smiled with disguised contempt, satisfied, and also stepped away from that group. At last he had found what he wanted. “Those too were crazy; they believed in metaphysical resurrections; Bah !, fools like the others, like the coffee positivists, like the poor devils in there, even if they weren’t that much.
He left the Athenaeum. The sky had cleared; the last dark clouds were gathering, fleeing to the North; the stars shone as if they had just been washed; a sensual poetry came down from the dark infinite.
Reyes compared the Athenaeum to the starry sky and lost the Athenaeum. It should be forbidden to discuss the great problems of universal life.Salt, especially when you were a jerk . The stars, which surely knew more about these sublime things than men, were eternally silent; they were silent and shone. Reyes, deep in his soul, felt worthy of being a star.
He went down the Calle de la Montera. The Principal’s clock struck ten. A sad woman approached Antonio, covered in a gray shawl, with one hand wrapped in the shawl and applied to her mouth. He looked at her without seeing her, and didn’t hear what she said; but an association of ideas, of which he himself did not realize, made him suddenly remember his adventure. Regina Theil was in Rivas. Oh! Love, courtship! A sweet tremor shook her body. Two steps away he had a hansom car. The coachman slept; He woke him up with his stick on one shoulder, got on and said as he closed the door:
“¡Á Rivas, run!”
The saloon, ramshackle, old and dirty, galloped up the sad white horse, skinny and with fine hair, up the slope of Calle de Alcalá. Antonio, as soon as the beat of the rickety wheels shook his body, felt a reaction of the spirit, which made him jump from the almost mystical delight of the vanity flattered in his solitary contemplation, to a tenderness without a name, that looked for food in very distant and vague memories. It was a voluptuousness between sweet and bitter to strive to be sad, melancholic at least, in those moments when satisfied pride screamed in his ears that the world was beautiful, life dramatic, he was great, his father’s son. The run, run of the glass leaping on the wood, the continuous and dull noise of the wheels, they sounded like a nurse’s song; Drops from the recent storm, still zigzagging across the windows, caught fantastic reflections from the street lights, and with fanciful refractions they showed objects in crazy shapes. A pungent smell, indefinable, but well known (the smell of a rental car, he called it to himself), it brought back a multitude of old memories; and he suddenly saw himself sitting on the brow of another car like that, at the age of five, between the knees of a thin man, who was her father, her father who gently pressed her small body with the bones of his skinny and nervous legs. How far away all that was! How different was the world that I saw between dreams of a consciousness that is born, that precocious child, from the real world, the one of now!
The father’s knees were a hard pillow, but the child found it very soft, soft, the pillow of that blond head, a little big, full of ghosts before its time, always with a tendency to lean, leaning, to dream.
Reyes attributed to the memories of his childhood a supreme interest; preserve them with vigorous memory and with a plastic precision that he loved; He went over them very often like the songs of a beloved poem. Like that poetry of his first visions there was no other; from the age of six his interior life began to admire him; his extraordinary precocity had been a secret from the world; he was a taciturn child, who looked at outer things without seeing them.
Reality, as it had been since he had memories, had seemed despicable to him; he could only be worth transforming her, seeing other things in her; the activity was the worst of reality; it was annoying, insubstantial; the results that pleased everyone disgusted him; Wanting to do something well was an ambition of others, small, meaningless. A constant injustice of the world towards him had come out of all this very early. Nobody appreciated him for what he was worth; nobody knew him; only his father guessed him, out of love. In school, where he had seldom set foot, others won prizes with noisy displays of childish wisdom; he entered, the few days that he entered, crying; It was impossible for him to remember the lessons learned verbatim; I knew them better than the others he was sure he understood them, and the teacher always made a frown, because Antonio stuttered and said one thing for another. At family gatherings, where improvised children’s graces contests were held, the boy from Reyes was always obscured by his cousins, who jumped better, recited scenes from Zorrilla and García Gutiérrez, recited fables and hadfunny outings . He remembered as if they were those insof the cold praise, of the icy kisses with which friends and relatives caressed him to please his father, who smiled sadly and always came after the others to warm his soul with a strong, tight kiss and a squeeze between knees shaky and bony. His father understood that others did not find any grace in his son. Both of them were soon forgotten and the whole family devoted themselves to singing the praises of Alberto’s diablejo, of the hilarious Justo, of Sebastian the wise man, who at the age of seven announced certain glories of the Valcárcel family.
Emma Valcárcel was called her mother.
The image of that skinny, sick woman, of a ruined beauty, which he had never seen in his splendor of healthy and happy youth, filled Antonio’s brain. This memory was a positive pain; he did not have the sad, sophisticated voluptuousness of the others.
“My mother! …” Reyes said aloud; and leaned his head against the cold, cracked gutta-percha that lined the miserable car. She shrugged her shoulders, closed her eyes, and felt tears creep into them. The noise of the glass and wheels, louder now, echoed inside his skull; it was no longer like a nurse’s song; took a strange rhythm of infernal chorus, similar to that of the demons in El Roberto .