PART SECOND: THE ISABELS
3. CHAPTER THREE
And he would explain with railing verve what Don Vincente Ribiera
stood for--a mournful little man oppressed by his own good
intentions, the significance of battles won, who Montero was (un
grotesque vaniteux et feroce), and the manner of the new loan
connected with railway development, and the colonization of vast
tracts of land in one great financial scheme.
And his French friends would remark that evidently this little
fellow Decoud connaissait la question a fond. An important
Parisian review asked him for an article on the situation. It was
composed in a serious tone and in a spirit of levity. Afterwards
he asked one of his intimates--
"Have you read my thing about the regeneration of Costaguana--une
bonne blague, hein?"
He imagined himself Parisian to the tips of his fingers. But far
from being that he was in danger of remaining a sort of
nondescript dilettante all his life. He had pushed the habit of
universal raillery to a point where it blinded him to the genuine
impulses of his own nature. To be suddenly selected for the
executive member of the patriotic small-arms committee of Sulaco
seemed to him the height of the unexpected, one of those
fantastic moves of which only his "dear countrymen" were capable.
"It's like a tile falling on my head. I--I--executive member!
It's the first I hear of it! What do I know of military rifles?
C'est funambulesque!" he had exclaimed to his favourite sister;
for the Decoud family--except the old father and mother--used
the French language amongst themselves. "And you should see the
explanatory and confidential letter! Eight pages of it--no less!"
This letter, in Antonia's handwriting, was signed by Don Jose,
who appealed to the "young and gifted Costaguanero" on public
grounds, and privately opened his heart to his talented god-son,
a man of wealth and leisure, with wide relations, and by his
parentage and bringing-up worthy of all confidence.
"Which means," Martin commented, cynically, to his sister, "that
I am not likely to misappropriate the funds, or go blabbing to
our Charge d'Affaires here."