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_By V. Blasco Ibáñez_

_By Pío Baroja_

_By Alberto Blest-Gana_

_Other volumes in preparation_




[Illustration: colophon]



_Published October, 1917_



In San Sebastián, a beautiful watering place on the northern coast of
Guipúzcoa, Spain, Don Pío Baroja y Nessi was born on the 28th day of
December, 1872. There, wandering among the foothills of the Pyrenees,
listening to the talk of the hardy Basque peasants, playing on the
beautiful crescent of the _playa_, sailing about the pretty land-locked
harbour, he spent his childhood. In those early days he became
thoroughly conversant with the Basque tongue - that mysterious and
impossibly difficult language of whose true origin students are still in

His father was Don Serafín Baroja. Born in San Sebastián in 1840, Don
Serafín was a well known mining engineer, and enjoyed no small amount of
fame as a writer. As far as literature is concerned, he is perhaps best
known for his songs and ballads written in the Basque tongue. He
composed the libretto of the first Basque opera ever produced, the music
of which was by Santesteban. He is said to have been responsible for the
libretto of one other opera - a Spanish one.

His son, Don Pío, decided to take up the study of medicine, and he went
to Valencia for that purpose. He received his doctorate in 1893, when he
was but twenty-one years of age.

He practised his profession in Cestona, in the Province of Guipúzcoa.
Life in that small, provincial town proved very dull indeed, and he
decided that the medical profession was not his proper sphere. After two
years in Cestona, he moved to Madrid. There he tried his hand at several
kinds of business. He even set up a bakery in partnership with his
brother Ricardo, a painter and engraver of no mean ability! We do not
hear of his return to the practice of medicine. Evidently he had proved
to his own satisfaction that he was not suited to it.

After he had failed in several attempts at business, he began writing
for the newspapers. He succeeded in obtaining positions on _El País_,
_El Imparcial_, and _El Globo_. His success in this line of work
inspired him to further effort, and, from that time on (1900), he
devoted himself entirely to literature.

His first published work was a collection of short stories, or sketches,
entitled _Vidas Sombrías_. Among them are some exquisite pictures of
Basque life. This volume was closely followed by a novel, _La casa de
Aizgorri_. These two books scarcely caused a ripple in the literary
circles of the Cortes. Certainly, Baroja cannot claim to have sprung
into fame over night! His next attempt was a humorous novel which he
called _Aventuras, inventos y mixtificaciones de Silvestre Paradox_. It
was scarcely more successful than the first two.

His next book, _Camino de perfección_, was characterized as “a book of
apparently sane tendencies”! From that time on, he became a recognized
figure in the Spanish literature of the day. _Idilios vascos_ appeared
that same year, and in 1903 he produced _El mayorazgo de Labraz_, a
novel that has been compared most favourably (by Spanish critics) with
the best of contemporary novels both in Spain and abroad.

In all lists of the works of Pío Baroja, most of his novels are divided
into trilogies. For the sake of convenience, I shall follow the same
plan, without any attempt at chronological order:

_Tierra vasca (Basque Country): La casa de Aizgorri; El mayorazgo de
Labraz; Zalacaín, el aventurero._

_La vida fantastica (Life Fantastic): Camino de perfección; Inventos,
aventuras y mixtificaciones de Silvestre Paradox; Paradox, rey._

_La Raza (Race): La dama errante; La ciudad de la niebla; El árbol de la

_La lucha por la vida (The Struggle for Life): La busca; Mala hierba;
Aurora roja._ (In this trilogy, Don Pío evinces a “spirit of opposition
to the present social organization and the prejudices that embitter life
and kill human spontaneity.”)

_El pasado (The Past): La feria de los discretos; Los últimos
romanticos; Las tragedias grotescas._

_Las ciudades (Cities): César o nada, El mundo es así_ (incomplete).

_El mar (The Sea): Las inquietudes de Shanti Andía_ (incomplete).

Besides these trilogies, Baroja has written several novels under the
general title of _Memorias de un hombre de acción (Memoirs of a Man of
Action)_, long winded affairs in which any real action is sadly lacking.

In addition to his novels, he has published several volumes of essays,
and not a little verse. Few of his works have been translated into other
languages; none (except the present novel) into English.

Personally, Señor Baroja is somewhat of an enigma, a mystery. He is
extremely modest and retiring, and seldom appears prominently before the
public. It has been said of him that, although he apparently knows what
every one else thinks and believes, there is no one who can say for sure
just what his thoughts and beliefs are. He is an ardent, pious Catholic,
with very advanced ideas. One is led to believe from some of his works
that he is an ardent Republican. Some even go so far as to assert that
he entertains strong anarchistic views. But, just as we have about made
up our minds as to his political creed, along comes a novel like _La
feria de los discretos_, in which he ridicules Republicans and
Anarchists, and we are forced to reject our conception.

While his name is often coupled with that of V. Blasco Ibáñez, there is
more difference than similarity between the two, especially in their
style. The Valencian spreads his canvas with the broad, brilliant,
impressionistic strokes of a Sorolla, while Baroja employs the more
subtle and delicate methods of a Zuloaga. He is a stylist. His
vocabulary is remarkably extensive, and he employs it in a masterly
fashion - not as one who would overwhelm his readers with a flood of
ponderous verbiage, but rather as one who, knowing all the delicate
shades and nuances of his language, employs words as an artist uses his
colours - to produce the proper effects. His power of description is
marvellous. In a sentence, sometimes in a single phrase, he brings a
character or scene vividly before our mental vision. The chapter headed
“Spring,” in _The City of the Discreet_, fairly aches with the
drowsiness of an Andalusian Spring.

_La feria de los discretos_ has been chosen for this series mainly on
account of its Spanish atmosphere. Though not his best novel, it is
perhaps the best one with which to introduce him to the English reading
public. Above all else, it demonstrates his powers of description, and
his subtle, quaint humour. It is not my purpose in this paper to write a
criticism of this novel. I shall leave that to abler pens. I might say,
however, that in this work, Pío Baroja has no special message to convey,
no propaganda. His purpose here is essentially to entertain, to amuse.
One suspects that he derived no little pleasure himself from its
creation. It is said that its appearance aroused a storm of protests
from Republicans on account of the sorry light into which he put them.
Be that as it may, the details of his description of Cordova and its
environs are accurate in the extreme. _The City of the Discreet_ might
almost serve as a guide book to that ancient city. One can follow
Quentin’s adventures on any accurate map of Cordova. Of his knowledge of
Masonry, one cannot speak quite so highly!

J. S. F., Jr.

Cambridge, Mass.

October, 1917.



I A conversation on the train 9

II O, oriental, romantic city! 25

III Infancy: sombre vestibule of life 33

IV Blue eyes, black eyes 43

V Noble and ancient ancestral homes! 54

VI Concerning an adventure of Quentin’s in the
neighbourhood of El Potro 65

VII In which is told the history of a tavern on Sierra Morena 82

VIII A fight in an olive orchard 95

IX In which Señor Sabadía abuses words and wine 105

X Don Gil finishes his story 114

XI More incomprehensible than the heart of a
grown woman, is that of a girl-child 124

XII In search of a jewel-case 132

XIII A picnic and a ride 145

XIV Spring 156

XV Where his beautiful expectations went! 163

XVI The man of action begins to make himself known 171

XVII “I am a little Catiline” 182

XVIII The tavern in the Calle del Bodegoncillo 193

XIX The pleasant ironies of reality 207

XX Philosophers without realizing the fact 211

XXI Juan talks 222

XXII Sticks, shots, and stones 227

XXIII Pursuit and escape 233

XXIV The victim of a feuilleton 245

XXV An abduction is prepared 250

XXVI Explanations 261

XXVII In which a countess, a professional bandit, and
a man of action have a talk 273

XXVIII The mason’s message 285

XXIX A conference 292

XXX Projects 305

XXXI Night and day 314

XXXII The city of the discreet 322

XXXIII The departure 332

XXXIV The end 343




Quentin awoke, opened his eyes, looked about him, and exclaimed between
his yawns:

“We _must_ be in Andalusia now.”

The second-class coach was occupied by six persons. Opposite Quentin, a
distinguished-looking Frenchman, corpulent, clean-shaven, and with a red
ribbon in his buttonhole, was showing a magazine to a countryman in the
garb of a wealthy cattle owner, and was graciously explaining the
meanings of the illustrations to him.

The countryman listened to his explanations smiling mischievously,
mumbling an occasional aside to himself in an undertone:

“What a simpleton.”

Leaning against the shoulder of the Frenchman, dozed his wife - a faded
woman with a freakish hat, ruddy cheeks, and large hands clutching a
portfolio. The other persons were a bronze-coloured priest wrapped in a
cloak, and two recently-married Andalusians who were whispering the
sweetest of sweet nothings to each other.

“But haven’t we reached Andalusia yet?” Quentin again inquired

“Oh, yes!” replied the Frenchman. “The next station is Baeza.”

“Baeza! - Impossible!”

“It _is_, never-the-less - It _is_,” insisted the Frenchman, rolling his
r’s in the back of his throat. “I have been counting the stations.”

Quentin arose, his hands thrust into his overcoat. The rain beat
incessantly against the coach windows which were blurred by the

“I don’t know my own country,” he exclaimed aloud; and to see it better
he opened the window and looked out.

The train was passing through a ruddy country spotted here and there
with pools of rainwater. In the distance, small, low hills, shadowed by
shrubs and thickets raised themselves into the cold, damp air.

“What weather!” he exclaimed in disgust, as he closed the window. “This
is no land of mine!”

“Are you a Spaniard?” inquired the Frenchman.

“Yes, sir.”

“I would have taken you for an Englishman.”

“I have just left England, where I spent eight years.”

“Are you from Andalusia?”

“From Cordova.”

The Frenchman and his wife, who had awakened, studied Quentin. Surely
his looks were not Spanish. Tall, stout, and clean-shaven, with a good
complexion and brown hair, enveloped in a grey overcoat, and with a cap
on his head; he looked like a young Englishman sent by his parents to
tour the continent. He had a strong nose, thick lips, and the expression
of a dignified and serious young man which a roguish, mischievous, and
gipsy-like smile completely unmasked.

“My wife and I are going to Cordova,” remarked the Frenchman as he
pocketed his magazine.

Quentin bowed.

“It must be a most interesting city - is it not?”

“Indeed it is!”

“Charming women with silk dresses ... on the balconies all day.”

“No; not _all_ day.”

“And with cigarettes in their mouths, eh?”


“Ah! Don’t Spanish women smoke?”

“Much less than French women.”

“French women do not smoke, sir,” said the woman somewhat indignantly.

“Oh! I’ve seen them in Paris!” exclaimed Quentin. “But you won’t see any
of them smoking in Cordova. You French people don’t know us. You believe
that all we Spaniards are toreadors, but it is not so.”

“Ah! No, no! Pardon me!” replied the Frenchman, “we are very well
acquainted with Spain. There are two Spains: one, which is that of the
South, is Théophile Gautier’s; the other, which is that of Hernani, is
Victor Hugo’s. But perhaps you don’t know that Hernani is a Spanish

“Yes, I know the place,” said Quentin with aplomb, though never in his
life had he heard any one mention the name of the tiny Basque village.

“A great city.”

“Indeed it is.”

Having made this remark, Quentin lit a cigarette, passed his hand along
the blurred windowpane until he had made it transparent, and began to
hum to himself as he contemplated the landscape. The humid, rainy
weather had saddened the deserted fields. As far as one could see there
were no hamlets, no villages - only here and there a dark farmhouse in
the distance.

They passed abandoned stations, crossed huge olive groves with trees
planted in rows in great squares on the ruddy hillsides. The train
approached a broad and muddy river.

“The Guadalquivir?” inquired the Frenchman.

“I don’t know,” replied Quentin absently. Then, doubtless, this
confession of ignorance seemed ill-advised, for he looked at the river
as if he expected it to tell him its name, and added: “It is a tributary
of the Guadalquivir.”

“Ah! And what is its name?”

“I don’t remember. I don’t believe it has any.”

The rain increased in violence. The country was slowly being converted
into a mudhole. The older leaves of the wet olive trees shone a dark
brown; the new ones glistened like metal. As the train slackened its
speed, the rain seemed to grow more intense. One could hear the patter
of the drops on the roof of the coach, and the water slid along the
windows in broad gleaming bands.

At one of the stations, three husky young men climbed into the coach.
Each wore a shawl, a broad-brimmed hat, a black sash, and a huge silver
chain across his vest. They never ceased for an instant talking about
mills, horses, women, gambling, and bulls.

“Those gentlemen,” asked the Frenchman in an undertone, as he leaned
over to Quentin, “What are they - toreadors?”

“No, - rich folk from hereabouts.”

“Hidalgos, eh?”

“Pst! You shall see.”

“They are talking a lot about gambling. One gambles a great deal in
Andalusia, doesn’t one?”


“I have heard some one say, that once a hidalgo was riding along on
horseback, when he met a beggar. The horseman tossed him a silver coin,
but the beggar, not wishing to accept it drew a pack of cards from among
his rags and proposed a game to the hidalgo. He won the horse.”

“Ha! Ha! Ha!” laughed Quentin boisterously.

“But isn’t it true?” asked the Frenchman somewhat piqued.

“Perhaps - perhaps it is.”

“What a simpleton!” murmured the countryman to himself.

“Isn’t it true either, that all beggars have the right to use the

“Yes, indeed, that’s true enough,” answered Quentin, smiling his gipsy

The three husky youths in the shawls got off at the next station to
Cordova. The sky cleared for an instant: up and down the platform walked
men with broad-brimmed Andalusian hats, young women with flowers in
their hair, old women with huge, red umbrellas....

“And those young men who just went by,” asked the Frenchman, full of
curiosity about everything, “each one carries his knife, eh?”

“Oh, yes! - Probably,” said Quentin, unconsciously imitating his
interlocutor’s manner of speech.

“The knives they carry are very large?”

“The knives! Yes, very large.”

“What might their dimensions be?”

“Two or three spans,” asserted Quentin, to whom a span more or less
mattered very little.

“And is it hard to manage that terrible weapon?”

“It has its difficulties.”

“Do you know how?”

“Naturally. But the really difficult thing is to hit a mark with a knife
at a distance of twenty or thirty metres.”

“How do they do that?”

“Why, there’s nothing much to it. You place the knife like this,” and
Quentin assumed that he had placed one in the palm of his hand, “and
then you throw it with all your might. The knife flies like an arrow,
and sticks wherever you wish.”

“How horrible!”

“That is what we call ‘painting a _jabeque_ [a facial wound].’”

“A ca - a cha - a what?”


“It is truly extraordinary,” said the Frenchman, after attempting in
vain to pronounce the guttural. “You have doubtless killed bulls also?”

“Oh! yes, indeed.”

“But you are very young.”


“Didn’t you tell me that you have been in England for eight years?”


“So you killed bulls when you were fourteen?”

“No ... in my vacations.”

“Ah! You came from England just for that?”

“Yes - for that, and to see my sweetheart.”

The Frenchwoman smiled, and her husband said:

“Weren’t you afraid?”

“Afraid of which? - The bulls, or my sweetheart?”

“Of both!” exclaimed the Frenchman, laughing heartily.

“What a simpleton!” reiterated the countryman, smiling, and looking at
him as he would at a child.

“All you have to do with women and bulls to understand them,” said
Quentin, with the air of a consummate connoisseur, “is to know them. If
the bull attacks you on the right, just step to the left, or _vice

“And if you don’t have time to do that?” questioned the Frenchman rather

“Then you may count yourself among the departed, and beg them to say a
few masses for the salvation of your soul.”

“It is frightful - And the ladies are very enthusiastic over a good
toreador, eh?”

“Of course - on account of the profession.”

“What do you mean by ‘on account of the profession’?”

“Don’t the ladies bully us?”

“That’s true,” said the countryman, smiling.

“And he who fights best,” continued the Frenchman, “will have the doors
of society opened to him?”

“Of course.”

“What a strange country!”

“Pardon me,” asked his wife, “but is it true that if a girl deceives her
lover, he always kills her?”

“No, not always - sometimes - but he is not obliged to.”

“And you - have you killed a sweetheart?” she inquired, consumed with

“I!” - and Quentin hesitated as one loath to confess - “Not I.”

“Ah! - Yes, yes!” insisted the Frenchwoman, “you have killed a
sweetheart. One can see it in your face.”

“My dear,” said her husband, “do not press him: the Spaniards are too
noble to talk about some things.”

Quentin looked at the Frenchman and winked his eye confidentially,
giving him to understand that he had divined the true cause of his
reserve. Then he feigned a melancholy air to conceal the joy this farce
afforded him. After that, he diverted himself by looking through the

“What a bore this weather is,” he murmured.

He had always pictured his arrival at Cordova as taking place on a
glorious day of golden sunshine, and instead, he was encountering
despicable weather, damp, ugly, and sad.

“I suppose the same thing will happen to everything I have planned.
Nothing turns out as you think it will. That, according to my schoolmate
Harris, is an advantage. I’m not so sure. It is a matter for

This memory of his schoolmate made him think of Eton school.

“I wonder what they are doing there now?”

Absorbed in his memories, he continued to look out the window. As the
train advanced, the country became more cultivated. Well-shaped horses
with long tails were grazing in the pastures.

The travellers commenced to prepare their luggage for a quick descent
from the train: Quentin put on his hat, stuffed his cap into his pocket,
and placed his bag on the seat.

“Sir,” said the Frenchman to him quickly, “I thank you for the
information with which you have supplied me. I am Jules Matignon,
professor of Spanish in Paris. I believe we shall see each other again
in Cordova.”

“My name is Quentin García Roelas.”

They shook hands, and waited for the train to stop: it was already
slowing up as it neared the Cordova station.

They arrived; Quentin got off quickly, and crossed the platform, pursued
by four or five porters. Confronting one of these who had a red
handkerchief on his head, and handing him his bag and check, he ordered
him to take them to his house.

“To the Calle de la Zapatería,” he said. “To the store where they sell
South American comestibles. Do you know where it is?”

“The house of Don _Rafaé_? Of course.”


This done, Quentin opened his umbrella, and began to make his way toward
the centre of the city.

“It seems as though I hadn’t crossed the Channel at all,” he said to
himself, “but were walking along one of those roads near the school. The
same grey sky, the same mud, the same rain. Now I am about to see the
parks and the river - ”

But no - what he saw was the orange trees on the Victoria, laden with
golden fruit glistening with raindrops.

“I’m beginning to be convinced that I am in Cordova,” murmured Quentin,
and he entered the Paseo del Gran Capitán, followed the Calle de
Gondomar as far as Las Tendillas, whence, as easily as if he had passed
through the streets but yesterday, he reached his house. He scarcely
recognized it at first glance: the store no longer occupied two windows
as before, but the whole front of the house. The doors were covered with

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