Reasons of State
been flogged, mocked by the crowd, and covered with excrement and filth a long while ago.
    There was the town of La Verónica, with that big house and its three wings and two roofs—lightning conductor, sky-blue dovecote, and squeaking weathercock—where his children had been born while he was still leading the miserable existence of a provincial journalist and could provide them with only cane syrup one day and brown sugar the next, to sweeten the stew of bananas and crusts, which was their invariable supper dish. There, in that whitewashed patio, he and his family had taken the first jump in that game of hopscotch which, following in his father’s bold political footsteps, had taken them jump by jump, from square to square, from number to number, up the spiral path in the game of royal goose. From Surgidero they had gone to the capital, always ascending from the tiny area of our port life to the great world outside, the old world, for them the New World, although there was to be sadness among the pleasures and bright lights of that climax of good fortune. Ofelia was who she was—
sum qui sum
ever since a child—and would never be otherwise; she still had the character and appearance of the tempestuous, determined little girl, both stubborn and unstable, who had discovered the universe through blind man’s buff, “Frère Jacques,” ring-a-ring-of-roses, skittles, forfeits, and “Malbrough s’en va-t-en guerre.” Nothing could be said against Ariel: a born diplomat, he tricked the priests as a small boy, answered questions with other questions, lied when he wanted to, kept in with both parties, wore a row of decorations, and (when under pressure to explain some awkward incident) had instant recourse to a manual of ambiguities, just as Chateaubriand would have done with ministries in a similar predicament. Radames, amongst many successes, had been struck by cruel and sudden disaster and the evidence could still be seen in newspapers all over the world: having entered himself in a motor race against Ralph De Palma at Indianapolis, he shotto heaven from the burning hot asphalt of the sixth mile, as a result of adding too much ether to his petrol so as to make it lighter, more explosive and dynamic. He had tried to forget the blow of being ploughed in an exam at West Point Military Academy in the intoxication of speed …
    And there, limping among the hopscotch squares, he saw his youngest son, Marcus Antonius, in short pants, the most evasive and invisible of the clan, lost amongst the branches of trees that did not belong to this earth, but to some genealogical forest where he had taken refuge—perhaps because he was the least precocious of the family and the most exotic-looking, both as to profile and eyes. Much given to fantasizing—mad, we should say now—carried away by the impulse of the moment, he had experienced an adolescent mystical crisis on discovering one day, as he stood before the looking-glass on his cupboard, that his penis had become twisted into a corkscrew by the clap. Absurdly enough, he decided to go to Rome and kiss the Pope’s sandal, and cure himself with cardinal’s permanganate; but he had got no farther than the Cardinal’s antechambers, where, happening to run into a dealer in armorial bearings, he convinced himself that he was descended, by a rather crooked, collateral, indirect, and tangled line, from the Byzantine emperors, the last of whom, Palaeologus, died in Barbados, leaving descendants who came to our country. His mystical aspirations forgotten, he spent a great many pesos on acquiring the title of
Limitrophe
[
sic
: see Justinian’s Code], Count of Dalmatia, as it happened; he paraded his brand-new nobility throughout Europe, a Title among Titles, jealous of other Titles, expert in Titles, going to bed with women of Title, and many comments on his virility went the rounds among those who had experienced the virtues, well known amongst us, of a “stallion liana” often

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