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Chapter II.3
WHEN General Barrios stopped to address Mrs. Gould, Antonia raised
negligently her hand holding an open fan, as if to shade from the sun her head,
wrapped in a light lace shawl. The clear gleam of her blue eyes gliding behind
the black fringe of eyelashes paused for a moment upon her father, then
travelled further to the figure of a young man of thirty at most, of medium height,
rather thick-set, wearing a light overcoat. Bearing down with the open palm of his
hand upon the knob of a flexible cane, he had been looking on from a distance;
but directly he saw himself noticed, he approached quietly and put his elbow over
the door of the landau.
The shirt collar, cut low in the neck, the big bow of his cravat, the style of his
clothing, from the round hat to the varnished shoes, suggested an idea of French
elegance; but otherwise he was the very type of a fair Spanish creole. The fluffy
moustache and the short, curly, golden beard did not conceal his lips, rosy, fresh,
almost pouting in expression. His full, round face was of that warm, healthy
creole white which is never tanned by its native sunshine. Martin Decoud was
seldom exposed to the Costaguana sun under which he was born. His people
had been long settled in Paris, where he had studied law, had dabbled in
literature, had hoped now and then in moments of exaltation to become a poet
like that other foreigner of Spanish blood, Jose Maria Heredia. In other moments
he had, to pass the time, condescended to write articles on European affairs for
the Semenario, the principal newspaper in Sta. Marta, which printed them under
the heading "From our special correspondent," though the authorship was an
open secret. Everybody in Costaguana, where the tale of compatriots in Europe
is jealously kept, knew that it was "the son Decoud," a talented young man,
supposed to be moving in the higher spheres of Society. As a matter of fact, he
was an idle boulevardier, in touch with some smart journalists, made free of a
few newspaper offices, and welcomed in the pleasure haunts of pressmen. This
life, whose dreary superficiality is covered by the glitter of universal blague, like
the stupid clowning of a harlequin by the spangles of a motley costume, induced
in him a Frenchified--but most un-French--cosmopolitanism, in reality a mere
barren indifferentism posing as intellectual superiority. Of his own country he
used to say to his French associates: "Imagine an atmosphere of opera-bouffe in
which all the comic business of stage statesmen, brigands, etc., etc., all their
farcical stealing, intriguing, and stabbing is done in dead earnest. It is
screamingly funny, the blood flows all the time, and the actors believe
themselves to be influencing the fate of the universe. Of course, government in
general, any government anywhere, is a thing of exquisite comicality to a
discerning mind; but really we Spanish-Americans do overstep the bounds. No
man of ordinary intelligence can take part in the intrigues of une farce macabre.
However, these Ribierists, of whom we hear so much just now, are really trying in
their own comical way to make the country habitable, and even to pay some of its
debts. My friends, you had better write up Senor Ribiera all you can in kindness