Pedro Sánchez, a young provincial proud of his descent from Sancho Abarco, a tenth century king of Navarre, had seen little of Spain when he left his father and three sisters to go to Madrid. Augusto Valenzuela, a visiting politician, has promised to look after Pedro’s future in the capital. It is October, 1852, when Pedro takes the coach from Santander. Among the passengers are a down-at-heels bureaucrat, Serafín Balduque, and his attractive daughter, Carmen. From a student in the coach, Pedro learns of a cheap boardinghouse where he hopes to stay until he can contact Valenzuela.
The politician proves hard to find. After settling in his lodgings, Pedro calls at Valenzuela’s house, where Pilita, his wife, and his daughter, Clara, give the young man a cool reception. The politician, finally tracked down after a dozen visits to his office, vaguely promises to keep Pedro in mind if anything should turn up. The boy, however, writes his father an optimistic letter in which he lies about his reception by the Valenzuela family.
Pedro’s acquaintances at the boardinghouse are more helpful. Matica shows him around Madrid and, when Pedro’s money gives out and he is about to return home, finds him a job on the antigovernment newspaper, El Clarín, at twenty-five duros a month. Pedro learns from the staff of the crookedness of Valenzuela. Occasionally Pedro sees Balduque. Mostly he spends his free time in efforts to become a writer.
In the autumn, when one of the El Clarín contributors enters government service, Pedro is advanced to writing reviews under his own name, which is announced as the pseudonym of a famous literary man. Redondo, the editor, hints that plays and novels by friends in the party are to get preferential treatment, while literary works by members of the opposition are to be severely criticized. One of Pedro’s first tasks is to criticize Clemencia, by Pardo Bazán.
Pedro’s success goes to his head. He abandons his old friends, even Matica. He sees Clara, and in spite of his disdain he finds himself falling in love with her. Valenzuela, however, does nothing to help the young man get ahead in Madrid. Since all El Clarín employees are revolution-minded, Pedro...
(The entire section is 927 words.)