Infomotions, Inc.Nostromo, a Tale of the Seaboard / Conrad, Joseph, 1857-1924



Author: Conrad, Joseph, 1857-1924
Title: Nostromo, a Tale of the Seaboard
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Tag(s): sulaco; nostromo; decoud; gould; capataz; costaguana; charles gould; senor; antonia; captain mitchell; mitchell; tome; don jose; don pepe; tome mine; casa gould; jose avellanos; harbour; doctor; martin decoud; gould concession; gian' battista
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Title: Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard

Author: Joseph Conrad

Release Date: January 9, 2006 [EBook #2021]

Language: English

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*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK NOSTROMO: A TALE OF THE SEABOARD ***




Produced by Judy Boss and David Widger





NOSTROMO

A TALE OF THE SEABOARD


By Joseph Conrad




"So foul a sky clears not without a storm." --SHAKESPEARE




TO JOHN GALSWORTHY




AUTHOR'S NOTE


"_Nostromo_" is the most anxiously meditated of the longer novels which
belong to the period following upon the publication of the "Typhoon"
volume of short stories.

I don't mean to say that I became then conscious of any impending change
in my mentality and in my attitude towards the tasks of my writing
life. And perhaps there was never any change, except in that mysterious,
extraneous thing which has nothing to do with the theories of art; a
subtle change in the nature of the inspiration; a phenomenon for which I
can not in any way be held responsible. What, however, did cause me some
concern was that after finishing the last story of the "Typhoon" volume
it seemed somehow that there was nothing more in the world to write
about.

This so strangely negative but disturbing mood lasted some little
time; and then, as with many of my longer stories, the first hint for
"Nostromo" came to me in the shape of a vagrant anecdote completely
destitute of valuable details.

As a matter of fact in 1875 or '6, when very young, in the West Indies
or rather in the Gulf of Mexico, for my contacts with land were short,
few, and fleeting, I heard the story of some man who was supposed to
have stolen single-handed a whole lighter-full of silver, somewhere on
the Tierra Firme seaboard during the troubles of a revolution.

On the face of it this was something of a feat. But I heard no details,
and having no particular interest in crime qua crime I was not likely to
keep that one in my mind. And I forgot it till twenty-six or seven
years afterwards I came upon the very thing in a shabby volume picked
up outside a second-hand book-shop. It was the life story of an American
seaman written by himself with the assistance of a journalist. In the
course of his wanderings that American sailor worked for some months on
board a schooner, the master and owner of which was the thief of whom I
had heard in my very young days. I have no doubt of that because there
could hardly have been two exploits of that peculiar kind in the same
part of the world and both connected with a South American revolution.

The fellow had actually managed to steal a lighter with silver, and
this, it seems, only because he was implicitly trusted by his employers,
who must have been singularly poor judges of character. In the sailor's
story he is represented as an unmitigated rascal, a small cheat,
stupidly ferocious, morose, of mean appearance, and altogether unworthy
of the greatness this opportunity had thrust upon him. What was
interesting was that he would boast of it openly.

He used to say: "People think I make a lot of money in this schooner of
mine. But that is nothing. I don't care for that. Now and then I go
away quietly and lift a bar of silver. I must get rich slowly--you
understand."

There was also another curious point about the man. Once in the course
of some quarrel the sailor threatened him: "What's to prevent me
reporting ashore what you have told me about that silver?"

The cynical ruffian was not alarmed in the least. He actually laughed.
"You fool, if you dare talk like that on shore about me you will get a
knife stuck in your back. Every man, woman, and child in that port is
my friend. And who's to prove the lighter wasn't sunk? I didn't show you
where the silver is hidden. Did I? So you know nothing. And suppose I
lied? Eh?"

Ultimately the sailor, disgusted with the sordid meanness of that
impenitent thief, deserted from the schooner. The whole episode takes
about three pages of his autobiography. Nothing to speak of; but as I
looked them over, the curious confirmation of the few casual words
heard in my early youth evoked the memories of that distant time when
everything was so fresh, so surprising, so venturesome, so interesting;
bits of strange coasts under the stars, shadows of hills in the
sunshine, men's passions in the dusk, gossip half-forgotten, faces grown
dim. . . . Perhaps, perhaps, there still was in the world something to
write about. Yet I did not see anything at first in the mere story. A
rascal steals a large parcel of a valuable commodity--so people say.
It's either true or untrue; and in any case it has no value in itself.
To invent a circumstantial account of the robbery did not appeal to me,
because my talents not running that way I did not think that the game
was worth the candle. It was only when it dawned upon me that the
purloiner of the treasure need not necessarily be a confirmed rogue,
that he could be even a man of character, an actor and possibly a victim
in the changing scenes of a revolution, it was only then that I had the
first vision of a twilight country which was to become the province
of Sulaco, with its high shadowy Sierra and its misty Campo for mute
witnesses of events flowing from the passions of men short-sighted in
good and evil.

Such are in very truth the obscure origins of "Nostromo"--the book. From
that moment, I suppose, it had to be. Yet even then I hesitated, as if
warned by the instinct of self-preservation from venturing on a distant
and toilsome journey into a land full of intrigues and revolutions. But
it had to be done.

It took the best part of the years 1903-4 to do; with many intervals
of renewed hesitation, lest I should lose myself in the ever-enlarging
vistas opening before me as I progressed deeper in my knowledge of the
country. Often, also, when I had thought myself to a standstill over the
tangled-up affairs of the Republic, I would, figuratively speaking, pack
my bag, rush away from Sulaco for a change of air and write a few pages
of the "Mirror of the Sea." But generally, as I've said before, my
sojourn on the Continent of Latin America, famed for its hospitality,
lasted for about two years. On my return I found (speaking somewhat in
the style of Captain Gulliver) my family all well, my wife heartily
glad to learn that the fuss was all over, and our small boy considerably
grown during my absence.

My principal authority for the history of Costaguana is, of course, my
venerated friend, the late Don Jose Avellanos, Minister to the Courts of
England and Spain, etc., etc., in his impartial and eloquent "History of
Fifty Years of Misrule." That work was never published--the reader will
discover why--and I am in fact the only person in the world possessed
of its contents. I have mastered them in not a few hours of earnest
meditation, and I hope that my accuracy will be trusted. In justice to
myself, and to allay the fears of prospective readers, I beg to point
out that the few historical allusions are never dragged in for the
sake of parading my unique erudition, but that each of them is closely
related to actuality; either throwing a light on the nature of current
events or affecting directly the fortunes of the people of whom I speak.

As to their own histories I have tried to set them down, Aristocracy
and People, men and women, Latin and Anglo-Saxon, bandit and politician,
with as cool a hand as was possible in the heat and clash of my own
conflicting emotions. And after all this is also the story of their
conflicts. It is for the reader to say how far they are deserving of
interest in their actions and in the secret purposes of their hearts
revealed in the bitter necessities of the time. I confess that, for me,
that time is the time of firm friendships and unforgotten hospitalities.
And in my gratitude I must mention here Mrs. Gould, "the first lady
of Sulaco," whom we may safely leave to the secret devotion of Dr.
Monygham, and Charles Gould, the Idealist-creator of Material Interests
whom we must leave to his Mine--from which there is no escape in this
world.

About Nostromo, the second of the two racially and socially contrasted
men, both captured by the silver of the San Tome Mine, I feel bound to
say something more.

I did not hesitate to make that central figure an Italian. First of
all the thing is perfectly credible: Italians were swarming into the
Occidental Province at the time, as anybody who will read further can
see; and secondly, there was no one who could stand so well by the side
of Giorgio Viola the Garibaldino, the Idealist of the old, humanitarian
revolutions. For myself I needed there a Man of the People as free as
possible from his class-conventions and all settled modes of thinking.
This is not a side snarl at conventions. My reasons were not moral but
artistic. Had he been an Anglo-Saxon he would have tried to get into
local politics. But Nostromo does not aspire to be a leader in a
personal game. He does not want to raise himself above the mass. He is
content to feel himself a power--within the People.

But mainly Nostromo is what he is because I received the inspiration for
him in my early days from a Mediterranean sailor. Those who have read
certain pages of mine will see at once what I mean when I say that
Dominic, the padrone of the Tremolino, might under given circumstances
have been a Nostromo. At any rate Dominic would have understood the
younger man perfectly--if scornfully. He and I were engaged together in
a rather absurd adventure, but the absurdity does not matter. It is a
real satisfaction to think that in my very young days there must, after
all, have been something in me worthy to command that man's half-bitter
fidelity, his half-ironic devotion. Many of Nostromo's speeches I have
heard first in Dominic's voice. His hand on the tiller and his fearless
eyes roaming the horizon from within the monkish hood shadowing his
face, he would utter the usual exordium of his remorseless wisdom: "_Vous
autres gentilhommes!_" in a caustic tone that hangs on my ear yet. Like
Nostromo! "You _hombres finos!_" Very much like Nostromo. But Dominic the
Corsican nursed a certain pride of ancestry from which my Nostromo is
free; for Nostromo's lineage had to be more ancient still. He is a man
with the weight of countless generations behind him and no parentage to
boast of. . . . Like the People.

In his firm grip on the earth he inherits, in his improvidence and
generosity, in his lavishness with his gifts, in his manly vanity, in
the obscure sense of his greatness and in his faithful devotion with
something despairing as well as desperate in its impulses, he is a Man
of the People, their very own unenvious force, disdaining to lead but
ruling from within. Years afterwards, grown older as the famous Captain
Fidanza, with a stake in the country, going about his many affairs
followed by respectful glances in the modernized streets of Sulaco,
calling on the widow of the cargador, attending the Lodge, listening in
unmoved silence to anarchist speeches at the meeting, the enigmatical
patron of the new revolutionary agitation, the trusted, the wealthy
comrade Fidanza with the knowledge of his moral ruin locked up in his
breast, he remains essentially a Man of the People. In his mingled
love and scorn of life and in the bewildered conviction of having been
betrayed, of dying betrayed he hardly knows by what or by whom, he is
still of the People, their undoubted Great Man--with a private history
of his own.

One more figure of those stirring times I would like to mention: and
that is Antonia Avellanos--the "beautiful Antonia." Whether she is a
possible variation of Latin-American girlhood I wouldn't dare to affirm.
But, for me, she is. Always a little in the background by the side of
her father (my venerated friend) I hope she has yet relief enough to
make intelligible what I am going to say. Of all the people who had seen
with me the birth of the Occidental Republic, she is the only one
who has kept in my memory the aspect of continued life. Antonia the
Aristocrat and Nostromo the Man of the People are the artisans of the
New Era, the true creators of the New State; he by his legendary and
daring feat, she, like a woman, simply by the force of what she is:
the only being capable of inspiring a sincere passion in the heart of a
trifler.

If anything could induce me to revisit Sulaco (I should hate to see all
these changes) it would be Antonia. And the true reason for that--why
not be frank about it?--the true reason is that I have modelled her on
my first love. How we, a band of tallish schoolboys, the chums of
her two brothers, how we used to look up to that girl just out of the
schoolroom herself, as the standard-bearer of a faith to which we all
were born but which she alone knew how to hold aloft with an unflinching
hope! She had perhaps more glow and less serenity in her soul than
Antonia, but she was an uncompromising Puritan of patriotism with no
taint of the slightest worldliness in her thoughts. I was not the only
one in love with her; but it was I who had to hear oftenest her scathing
criticism of my levities--very much like poor Decoud--or stand the
brunt of her austere, unanswerable invective. She did not quite
understand--but never mind. That afternoon when I came in, a shrinking
yet defiant sinner, to say the final good-bye I received a hand-squeeze
that made my heart leap and saw a tear that took my breath away. She was
softened at the last as though she had suddenly perceived (we were such
children still!) that I was really going away for good, going very far
away--even as far as Sulaco, lying unknown, hidden from our eyes in the
darkness of the Placid Gulf.

That's why I long sometimes for another glimpse of the "beautiful
Antonia" (or can it be the Other?) moving in the dimness of the great
cathedral, saying a short prayer at the tomb of the first and last
Cardinal-Archbishop of Sulaco, standing absorbed in filial devotion
before the monument of Don Jose Avellanos, and, with a lingering,
tender, faithful glance at the medallion-memorial to Martin Decoud,
going out serenely into the sunshine of the Plaza with her upright
carriage and her white head; a relic of the past disregarded by men
awaiting impatiently the Dawns of other New Eras, the coming of more
Revolutions.

But this is the idlest of dreams; for I did understand perfectly well
at the time that the moment the breath left the body of the Magnificent
Capataz, the Man of the People, freed at last from the toils of love and
wealth, there was nothing more for me to do in Sulaco.


J. C.

October, 1917.




CONTENTS

PART FIRST   THE SILVER OF THE MINE

PART SECOND  THE ISABELS

PART THIRD   THE LIGHTHOUSE




NOSTROMO




PART FIRST THE SILVER OF THE MINE


CHAPTER ONE

In the time of Spanish rule, and for many years afterwards, the town of
Sulaco--the luxuriant beauty of the orange gardens bears witness to its
antiquity--had never been commercially anything more important than a
coasting port with a fairly large local trade in ox-hides and indigo.
The clumsy deep-sea galleons of the conquerors that, needing a brisk
gale to move at all, would lie becalmed, where your modern ship built on
clipper lines forges ahead by the mere flapping of her sails, had been
barred out of Sulaco by the prevailing calms of its vast gulf. Some
harbours of the earth are made difficult of access by the treachery
of sunken rocks and the tempests of their shores. Sulaco had found an
inviolable sanctuary from the temptations of a trading world in
the solemn hush of the deep Golfo Placido as if within an enormous
semi-circular and unroofed temple open to the ocean, with its walls of
lofty mountains hung with the mourning draperies of cloud.

On one side of this broad curve in the straight seaboard of the Republic
of Costaguana, the last spur of the coast range forms an insignificant
cape whose name is Punta Mala. From the middle of the gulf the point of
the land itself is not visible at all; but the shoulder of a steep hill
at the back can be made out faintly like a shadow on the sky.

On the other side, what seems to be an isolated patch of blue mist
floats lightly on the glare of the horizon. This is the peninsula
of Azuera, a wild chaos of sharp rocks and stony levels cut about by
vertical ravines. It lies far out to sea like a rough head of stone
stretched from a green-clad coast at the end of a slender neck of
sand covered with thickets of thorny scrub. Utterly waterless, for the
rainfall runs off at once on all sides into the sea, it has not soil
enough--it is said--to grow a single blade of grass, as if it were
blighted by a curse. The poor, associating by an obscure instinct of
consolation the ideas of evil and wealth, will tell you that it is
deadly because of its forbidden treasures. The common folk of the
neighbourhood, peons of the estancias, vaqueros of the seaboard plains,
tame Indians coming miles to market with a bundle of sugar-cane or a
basket of maize worth about threepence, are well aware that heaps of
shining gold lie in the gloom of the deep precipices cleaving the stony
levels of Azuera. Tradition has it that many adventurers of olden time
had perished in the search. The story goes also that within men's memory
two wandering sailors--Americanos, perhaps, but gringos of some sort for
certain--talked over a gambling, good-for-nothing mozo, and the three
stole a donkey to carry for them a bundle of dry sticks, a water-skin,
and provisions enough to last a few days. Thus accompanied, and with
revolvers at their belts, they had started to chop their way with
machetes through the thorny scrub on the neck of the peninsula.

On the second evening an upright spiral of smoke (it could only have
been from their camp-fire) was seen for the first time within memory of
man standing up faintly upon the sky above a razor-backed ridge on the
stony head. The crew of a coasting schooner, lying becalmed three miles
off the shore, stared at it with amazement till dark. A negro fisherman,
living in a lonely hut in a little bay near by, had seen the start and
was on the lookout for some sign. He called to his wife just as the
sun was about to set. They had watched the strange portent with envy,
incredulity, and awe.

The impious adventurers gave no other sign. The sailors, the Indian,
and the stolen burro were never seen again. As to the mozo, a Sulaco
man--his wife paid for some masses, and the poor four-footed beast,
being without sin, had been probably permitted to die; but the two
gringos, spectral and alive, are believed to be dwelling to this day
amongst the rocks, under the fatal spell of their success. Their souls
cannot tear themselves away from their bodies mounting guard over the
discovered treasure. They are now rich and hungry and thirsty--a strange
theory of tenacious gringo ghosts suffering in their starved and parched
flesh of defiant heretics, where a Christian would have renounced and
been released.

These, then, are the legendary inhabitants of Azuera guarding its
forbidden wealth; and the shadow on the sky on one side with the round
patch of blue haze blurring the bright skirt of the horizon on the
other, mark the two outermost points of the bend which bears the name of
Golfo Placido, because never a strong wind had been known to blow upon
its waters.

On crossing the imaginary line drawn from Punta Mala to Azuera the
ships from Europe bound to Sulaco lose at once the strong breezes of the
ocean. They become the prey of capricious airs that play with them for
thirty hours at a stretch sometimes. Before them the head of the calm
gulf is filled on most days of the year by a great body of motionless
and opaque clouds. On the rare clear mornings another shadow is cast
upon the sweep of the gulf. The dawn breaks high behind the towering
and serrated wall of the Cordillera, a clear-cut vision of dark peaks
rearing their steep slopes on a lofty pedestal of forest rising from the
very edge of the shore. Amongst them the white head of Higuerota rises
majestically upon the blue. Bare clusters of enormous rocks sprinkle
with tiny black dots the smooth dome of snow.

Then, as the midday sun withdraws from the gulf the shadow of the
mountains, the clouds begin to roll out of the lower valleys. They
swathe in sombre tatters the naked crags of precipices above the wooded
slopes, hide the peaks, smoke in stormy trails across the snows of
Higuerota. The Cordillera is gone from you as if it had dissolved itself
into great piles of grey and black vapours that travel out slowly to
seaward and vanish into thin air all along the front before the blazing
heat of the day. The wasting edge of the cloud-bank always strives for,
but seldom wins, the middle of the gulf. The sun--as the sailors say--is
eating it up. Unless perchance a sombre thunder-head breaks away from
the main body to career all over the gulf till it escapes into the
offing beyond Azuera, where it bursts suddenly into flame and crashes
like a sinster pirate-ship of the air, hove-to above the horizon,
engaging the sea.

At night the body of clouds advancing higher up the sky smothers the
whole quiet gulf below with an impenetrable darkness, in which the sound
of the falling showers can be heard beginning and ceasing abruptly--now
here, now there. Indeed, these cloudy nights are proverbial with the
seamen along the whole west coast of a great continent. Sky, land, and
sea disappear together out of the world when the Placido--as the saying
is--goes to sleep under its black poncho. The few stars left below the
seaward frown of the vault shine feebly as into the mouth of a black
cavern. In its vastness your ship floats unseen under your feet, her
sails flutter invisible above your head. The eye of God Himself--they
add with grim profanity--could not find out what work a man's hand is
doing in there; and you would be free to call the devil to your aid with
impunity if even his malice were not defeated by such a blind darkness.

The shores on the gulf are steep-to all round; three uninhabited islets
basking in the sunshine just outside the cloud veil, and opposite the
entrance to the harbour of Sulaco, bear the name of "The Isabels."

There is the Great Isabel; the Little Isabel, which is round; and
Hermosa, which is the smallest.

That last is no more than a foot high, and about seven paces across,
a mere flat top of a grey rock which smokes like a hot cinder after
a shower, and where no man would care to venture a naked sole before
sunset. On the Little Isabel an old ragged palm, with a thick bulging
trunk rough with spines, a very witch amongst palm trees, rustles a
dismal bunch of dead leaves above the coarse sand. The Great Isabel has
a spring of fresh water issuing from the overgrown side of a ravine.
Resembling an emerald green wedge of land a mile long, and laid flat
upon the sea, it bears two forest trees standing close together, with
a wide spread of shade at the foot of their smooth trunks. A ravine
extending the whole length of the island is full of bushes; and
presenting a deep tangled cleft on the high side spreads itself out on
the other into a shallow depression abutting on a small strip of sandy
shore.

From that low end of the Great Isabel the eye plunges through an opening
two miles away, as abrupt as if chopped with an axe out of the regular
sweep of the coast, right into the harbour of Sulaco. It is an oblong,
lake-like piece of water. On one side the short wooded spurs and valleys
of the Cordillera come down at right angles to the very strand; on
the other the open view of the great Sulaco plain passes into the opal
mystery of great distances overhung by dry haze. The town of Sulaco
itself--tops of walls, a great cupola, gleams of white miradors in a
vast grove of orange trees--lies between the mountains and the plain,
at some little distance from its harbour and out of the direct line of
sight from the sea.



CHAPTER TWO

The only sign of commercial activity within the harbour, visible from
the beach of the Great Isabel, is the square blunt end of the wooden
jetty which the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company (the O.S.N. of familiar
speech) had thrown over the shallow part of the bay soon after they had
resolved to make of Sulaco one of their ports of call for the Republic
of Costaguana. The State possesses several harbours on its long
seaboard, but except Cayta, an important place, all are either small
and inconvenient inlets in an iron-bound coast--like Esmeralda, for
instance, sixty miles to the south--or else mere open roadsteads exposed
to the winds and fretted by the surf.

Perhaps the very atmospheric conditions which had kept away the
merchant fleets of bygone ages induced the O.S.N. Company to violate the
sanctuary of peace sheltering the calm existence of Sulaco. The variable
airs sporting lightly with the vast semicircle of waters within the head
of Azuera could not baffle the steam power of their excellent fleet.
Year after year the black hulls of their ships had gone up and down
the coast, in and out, past Azuera, past the Isabels, past Punta
Mala--disregarding everything but the tyranny of time. Their names, the
names of all mythology, became the household words of a coast that had
never been ruled by the gods of Olympus. The Juno was known only for
her comfortable cabins amidships, the Saturn for the geniality of her
captain and the painted and gilt luxuriousness of her saloon, whereas
the Ganymede was fitted out mainly for cattle transport, and to be
avoided by coastwise passengers. The humblest Indian in the obscurest
village on the coast was familiar with the Cerberus, a little black
puffer without charm or living accommodation to speak of, whose mission
was to creep inshore along the wooded beaches close to mighty ugly
rocks, stopping obligingly before every cluster of huts to collect
produce, down to three-pound parcels of indiarubber bound in a wrapper
of dry grass.

And as they seldom failed to account for the smallest package, rarely
lost a bullock, and had never drowned a single passenger, the name of
the O.S.N. stood very high for trustworthiness. People declared that
under the Company's care their lives and property were safer on the
water than in their own houses on shore.

The O.S.N.'s superintendent in Sulaco for the whole Costaguana section
of the service was very proud of his Company's standing. He resumed it
in a saying which was very often on his lips, "We never make mistakes."
To the Company's officers it took the form of a severe injunction, "We
must make no mistakes. I'll have no mistakes here, no matter what Smith
may do at his end."

Smith, on whom he had never set eyes in his life, was the other
superintendent of the service, quartered some fifteen hundred miles away
from Sulaco. "Don't talk to me of your Smith."

Then, calming down suddenly, he would dismiss the subject with studied
negligence.

"Smith knows no more of this continent than a baby."

"Our excellent Senor Mitchell" for the business and official world of
Sulaco; "Fussy Joe" for the commanders of the Company's ships, Captain
Joseph Mitchell prided himself on his profound knowledge of men and
things in the country--cosas de Costaguana. Amongst these last he
accounted as most unfavourable to the orderly working of his Company
the frequent changes of government brought about by revolutions of the
military type.

The political atmosphere of the Republic was generally stormy in these
days. The fugitive patriots of the defeated party had the knack of
turning up again on the coast with half a steamer's load of small arms
and ammunition. Such resourcefulness Captain Mitchell considered as
perfectly wonderful in view of their utter destitution at the time of
flight. He had observed that "they never seemed to have enough change
about them to pay for their passage ticket out of the country." And
he could speak with knowledge; for on a memorable occasion he had been
called upon to save the life of a dictator, together with the lives of a
few Sulaco officials--the political chief, the director of the customs,
and the head of police--belonging to an overturned government. Poor
Senor Ribiera (such was the dictator's name) had come pelting eighty
miles over mountain tracks after the lost battle of Socorro, in the hope
of out-distancing the fatal news--which, of course, he could not manage
to do on a lame mule. The animal, moreover, expired under him at the end
of the Alameda, where the military band plays sometimes in the evenings
between the revolutions. "Sir," Captain Mitchell would pursue with
portentous gravity, "the ill-timed end of that mule attracted attention
to the unfortunate rider. His features were recognized by several
deserters from the Dictatorial army amongst the rascally mob already
engaged in smashing the windows of the Intendencia."

Early on the morning of that day the local authorities of Sulaco had
fled for refuge to the O.S.N. Company's offices, a strong building
near the shore end of the jetty, leaving the town to the mercies of a
revolutionary rabble; and as the Dictator was execrated by the populace
on account of the severe recruitment law his necessities had compelled
him to enforce during the struggle, he stood a good chance of being
torn to pieces. Providentially, Nostromo--invaluable fellow--with some
Italian workmen, imported to work upon the National Central Railway,
was at hand, and managed to snatch him away--for the time at least.
Ultimately, Captain Mitchell succeeded in taking everybody off in his
own gig to one of the Company's steamers--it was the Minerva--just then,
as luck would have it, entering the harbour.

He had to lower these gentlemen at the end of a rope out of a hole in
the wall at the back, while the mob which, pouring out of the town, had
spread itself all along the shore, howled and foamed at the foot of the
building in front. He had to hurry them then the whole length of the
jetty; it had been a desperate dash, neck or nothing--and again it was
Nostromo, a fellow in a thousand, who, at the head, this time, of the
Company's body of lightermen, held the jetty against the rushes of the
rabble, thus giving the fugitives time to reach the gig lying ready
for them at the other end with the Company's flag at the stern. Sticks,
stones, shots flew; knives, too, were thrown. Captain Mitchell exhibited
willingly the long cicatrice of a cut over his left ear and temple, made
by a razor-blade fastened to a stick--a weapon, he explained, very much
in favour with the "worst kind of nigger out here."

Captain Mitchell was a thick, elderly man, wearing high, pointed collars
and short side-whiskers, partial to white waistcoats, and really very
communicative under his air of pompous reserve.

"These gentlemen," he would say, staring with great solemnity, "had
to run like rabbits, sir. I ran like a rabbit myself. Certain forms of
death are--er--distasteful to a--a--er--respectable man. They would have
pounded me to death, too. A crazy mob, sir, does not discriminate. Under
providence we owed our preservation to my Capataz de Cargadores, as they
called him in the town, a man who, when I discovered his value, sir, was
just the bos'n of an Italian ship, a big Genoese ship, one of the few
European ships that ever came to Sulaco with a general cargo before the
building of the National Central. He left her on account of some very
respectable friends he made here, his own countrymen, but also, I
suppose, to better himself. Sir, I am a pretty good judge of character.
I engaged him to be the foreman of our lightermen, and caretaker of our
jetty. That's all that he was. But without him Senor Ribiera would have
been a dead man. This Nostromo, sir, a man absolutely above reproach,
became the terror of all the thieves in the town. We were infested,
infested, overrun, sir, here at that time by ladrones and matreros,
thieves and murderers from the whole province. On this occasion they
had been flocking into Sulaco for a week past. They had scented the end,
sir. Fifty per cent. of that murdering mob were professional bandits
from the Campo, sir, but there wasn't one that hadn't heard of Nostromo.
As to the town leperos, sir, the sight of his black whiskers and white
teeth was enough for them. They quailed before him, sir. That's what the
force of character will do for you."

It could very well be said that it was Nostromo alone who saved the
lives of these gentlemen. Captain Mitchell, on his part, never left them
till he had seen them collapse, panting, terrified, and exasperated,
but safe, on the luxuriant velvet sofas in the first-class saloon of the
Minerva. To the very last he had been careful to address the ex-Dictator
as "Your Excellency."

"Sir, I could do no other. The man was down--ghastly, livid, one mass of
scratches."

The Minerva never let go her anchor that call. The superintendent
ordered her out of the harbour at once. No cargo could be landed, of
course, and the passengers for Sulaco naturally refused to go ashore.
They could hear the firing and see plainly the fight going on at the
edge of the water. The repulsed mob devoted its energies to an attack
upon the Custom House, a dreary, unfinished-looking structure with many
windows two hundred yards away from the O.S.N. Offices, and the only
other building near the harbour. Captain Mitchell, after directing the
commander of the Minerva to land "these gentlemen" in the first port of
call outside Costaguana, went back in his gig to see what could be done
for the protection of the Company's property. That and the property
of the railway were preserved by the European residents; that is, by
Captain Mitchell himself and the staff of engineers building the road,
aided by the Italian and Basque workmen who rallied faithfully round
their English chiefs. The Company's lightermen, too, natives of the
Republic, behaved very well under their Capataz. An outcast lot of
very mixed blood, mainly negroes, everlastingly at feud with the other
customers of low grog shops in the town, they embraced with delight
this opportunity to settle their personal scores under such favourable
auspices. There was not one of them that had not, at some time or other,
looked with terror at Nostromo's revolver poked very close at his face,
or been otherwise daunted by Nostromo's resolution. He was "much of a
man," their Capataz was, they said, too scornful in his temper ever to
utter abuse, a tireless taskmaster, and the more to be feared because
of his aloofness. And behold! there he was that day, at their head,
condescending to make jocular remarks to this man or the other.

Such leadership was inspiriting, and in truth all the harm the
mob managed to achieve was to set fire to one--only one--stack of
railway-sleepers, which, being creosoted, burned well. The main attack
on the railway yards, on the O.S.N. Offices, and especially on the
Custom House, whose strong room, it was well known, contained a large
treasure in silver ingots, failed completely. Even the little hotel kept
by old Giorgio, standing alone halfway between the harbour and the town,
escaped looting and destruction, not by a miracle, but because with the
safes in view they had neglected it at first, and afterwards found no
leisure to stop. Nostromo, with his Cargadores, was pressing them too
hard then.



CHAPTER THREE

It might have been said that there he was only protecting his own. From
the first he had been admitted to live in the intimacy of the family
of the hotel-keeper who was a countryman of his. Old Giorgio Viola,
a Genoese with a shaggy white leonine head--often called simply "the
Garibaldino" (as Mohammedans are called after their prophet)--was, to
use Captain Mitchell's own words, the "respectable married friend" by
whose advice Nostromo had left his ship to try for a run of shore luck
in Costaguana.

The old man, full of scorn for the populace, as your austere republican
so often is, had disregarded the preliminary sounds of trouble. He
went on that day as usual pottering about the "casa" in his slippers,
muttering angrily to himself his contempt of the non-political nature of
the riot, and shrugging his shoulders. In the end he was taken unawares
by the out-rush of the rabble. It was too late then to remove his
family, and, indeed, where could he have run to with the portly Signora
Teresa and two little girls on that great plain? So, barricading every
opening, the old man sat down sternly in the middle of the darkened cafe
with an old shot-gun on his knees. His wife sat on another chair by his
side, muttering pious invocations to all the saints of the calendar.

The old republican did not believe in saints, or in prayers, or in
what he called "priest's religion." Liberty and Garibaldi were his
divinities; but he tolerated "superstition" in women, preserving in
these matters a lofty and silent attitude.

His two girls, the eldest fourteen, and the other two years younger,
crouched on the sanded floor, on each side of the Signora Teresa, with
their heads on their mother's lap, both scared, but each in her own
way, the dark-haired Linda indignant and angry, the fair Giselle, the
younger, bewildered and resigned. The Patrona removed her arms, which
embraced her daughters, for a moment to cross herself and wring her
hands hurriedly. She moaned a little louder.

"Oh! Gian' Battista, why art thou not here? Oh! why art thou not here?"

She was not then invoking the saint himself, but calling upon Nostromo,
whose patron he was. And Giorgio, motionless on the chair by her side,
would be provoked by these reproachful and distracted appeals.

"Peace, woman! Where's the sense of it? There's his duty," he murmured
in the dark; and she would retort, panting--

"Eh! I have no patience. Duty! What of the woman who has been like a
mother to him? I bent my knee to him this morning; don't you go out,
Gian' Battista--stop in the house, Battistino--look at those two little
innocent children!"

Mrs. Viola was an Italian, too, a native of Spezzia, and though
considerably younger than her husband, already middle-aged. She had a
handsome face, whose complexion had turned yellow because the climate
of Sulaco did not suit her at all. Her voice was a rich contralto. When,
with her arms folded tight under her ample bosom, she scolded the squat,
thick-legged China girls handling linen, plucking fowls, pounding corn
in wooden mortars amongst the mud outbuildings at the back of the house,
she could bring out such an impassioned, vibrating, sepulchral note that
the chained watch-dog bolted into his kennel with a great rattle. Luis,
a cinnamon-coloured mulatto with a sprouting moustache and thick, dark
lips, would stop sweeping the cafe with a broom of palm-leaves to let
a gentle shudder run down his spine. His languishing almond eyes would
remain closed for a long time.

This was the staff of the Casa Viola, but all these people had fled
early that morning at the first sounds of the riot, preferring to hide
on the plain rather than trust themselves in the house; a preference for
which they were in no way to blame, since, whether true or not, it
was generally believed in the town that the Garibaldino had some money
buried under the clay floor of the kitchen. The dog, an irritable,
shaggy brute, barked violently and whined plaintively in turns at the
back, running in and out of his kennel as rage or fear prompted him.

Bursts of great shouting rose and died away, like wild gusts of wind on
the plain round the barricaded house; the fitful popping of shots
grew louder above the yelling. Sometimes there were intervals of
unaccountable stillness outside, and nothing could have been more gaily
peaceful than the narrow bright lines of sunlight from the cracks in the
shutters, ruled straight across the cafe over the disarranged chairs
and tables to the wall opposite. Old Giorgio had chosen that bare,
whitewashed room for a retreat. It had only one window, and its only
door swung out upon the track of thick dust fenced by aloe hedges
between the harbour and the town, where clumsy carts used to creak along
behind slow yokes of oxen guided by boys on horseback.

In a pause of stillness Giorgio cocked his gun. The ominous sound wrung
a low moan from the rigid figure of the woman sitting by his side. A
sudden outbreak of defiant yelling quite near the house sank all at once
to a confused murmur of growls. Somebody ran along; the loud catching of
his breath was heard for an instant passing the door; there were hoarse
mutters and footsteps near the wall; a shoulder rubbed against the
shutter, effacing the bright lines of sunshine pencilled across the
whole breadth of the room. Signora Teresa's arms thrown about the
kneeling forms of her daughters embraced them closer with a convulsive
pressure.

The mob, driven away from the Custom House, had broken up into several
bands, retreating across the plain in the direction of the town. The
subdued crash of irregular volleys fired in the distance was answered by
faint yells far away. In the intervals the single shots rang feebly, and
the low, long, white building blinded in every window seemed to be
the centre of a turmoil widening in a great circle about its closed-up
silence. But the cautious movements and whispers of a routed party
seeking a momentary shelter behind the wall made the darkness of the
room, striped by threads of quiet sunlight, alight with evil, stealthy
sounds. The Violas had them in their ears as though invisible ghosts
hovering about their chairs had consulted in mutters as to the
advisability of setting fire to this foreigner's casa.

It was trying to the nerves. Old Viola had risen slowly, gun in hand,
irresolute, for he did not see how he could prevent them. Already voices
could be heard talking at the back. Signora Teresa was beside herself
with terror.

"Ah! the traitor! the traitor!" she mumbled, almost inaudibly. "Now we
are going to be burnt; and I bent my knee to him. No! he must run at the
heels of his English."

She seemed to think that Nostromo's mere presence in the house would
have made it perfectly safe. So far, she, too, was under the spell of
that reputation the Capataz de Cargadores had made for himself by
the waterside, along the railway line, with the English and with the
populace of Sulaco. To his face, and even against her husband, she
invariably affected to laugh it to scorn, sometimes good-naturedly,
more often with a curious bitterness. But then women are unreasonable in
their opinions, as Giorgio used to remark calmly on fitting occasions.
On this occasion, with his gun held at ready before him, he stooped down
to his wife's head, and, keeping his eyes steadfastly on the barricaded
door, he breathed out into her ear that Nostromo would have been
powerless to help. What could two men shut up in a house do against
twenty or more bent upon setting fire to the roof? Gian' Battista was
thinking of the casa all the time, he was sure.

"He think of the casa! He!" gasped Signora Viola, crazily. She struck
her breast with her open hands. "I know him. He thinks of nobody but
himself."

A discharge of firearms near by made her throw her head back and close
her eyes. Old Giorgio set his teeth hard under his white moustache, and
his eyes began to roll fiercely. Several bullets struck the end of the
wall together; pieces of plaster could be heard falling outside; a voice
screamed "Here they come!" and after a moment of uneasy silence there
was a rush of running feet along the front.

Then the tension of old Giorgio's attitude relaxed, and a smile of
contemptuous relief came upon his lips of an old fighter with a leonine
face. These were not a people striving for justice, but thieves. Even to
defend his life against them was a sort of degradation for a man who had
been one of Garibaldi's immortal thousand in the conquest of Sicily. He
had an immense scorn for this outbreak of scoundrels and leperos, who
did not know the meaning of the word "liberty."

He grounded his old gun, and, turning his head, glanced at the coloured
lithograph of Garibaldi in a black frame on the white wall; a thread
of strong sunshine cut it perpendicularly. His eyes, accustomed to the
luminous twilight, made out the high colouring of the face, the red of
the shirt, the outlines of the square shoulders, the black patch of the
Bersagliere hat with cock's feathers curling over the crown. An immortal
hero! This was your liberty; it gave you not only life, but immortality
as well!

For that one man his fanaticism had suffered no diminution. In the
moment of relief from the apprehension of the greatest danger, perhaps,
his family had been exposed to in all their wanderings, he had turned to
the picture of his old chief, first and only, then laid his hand on his
wife's shoulder.

The children kneeling on the floor had not moved. Signora Teresa opened
her eyes a little, as though he had awakened her from a very deep and
dreamless slumber. Before he had time in his deliberate way to say a
reassuring word she jumped up, with the children clinging to her, one on
each side, gasped for breath, and let out a hoarse shriek.

It was simultaneous with the bang of a violent blow struck on the
outside of the shutter. They could hear suddenly the snorting of a
horse, the restive tramping of hoofs on the narrow, hard path in front
of the house; the toe of a boot struck at the shutter again; a spur
jingled at every blow, and an excited voice shouted, "Hola! hola, in
there!"



CHAPTER FOUR

All the morning Nostromo had kept his eye from afar on the Casa Viola,
even in the thick of the hottest scrimmage near the Custom House. "If
I see smoke rising over there," he thought to himself, "they are lost."
Directly the mob had broken he pressed with a small band of Italian
workmen in that direction, which, indeed, was the shortest line towards
the town. That part of the rabble he was pursuing seemed to think of
making a stand under the house; a volley fired by his followers from
behind an aloe hedge made the rascals fly. In a gap chopped out for
the rails of the harbour branch line Nostromo appeared, mounted on
his silver-grey mare. He shouted, sent after them one shot from his
revolver, and galloped up to the cafe window. He had an idea that old
Giorgio would choose that part of the house for a refuge.

His voice had penetrated to them, sounding breathlessly hurried: "Hola!
Vecchio! O, Vecchio! Is it all well with you in there?"

"You see--" murmured old Viola to his wife. Signora Teresa was silent
now. Outside Nostromo laughed.

"I can hear the padrona is not dead."

"You have done your best to kill me with fear," cried Signora Teresa.
She wanted to say something more, but her voice failed her.

Linda raised her eyes to her face for a moment, but old Giorgio shouted
apologetically--

"She is a little upset."

Outside Nostromo shouted back with another laugh--

"She cannot upset me."

Signora Teresa found her voice.

"It is what I say. You have no heart--and you have no conscience, Gian'
Battista--"

They heard him wheel his horse away from the shutters. The party he led
were babbling excitedly in Italian and Spanish, inciting each other to
the pursuit. He put himself at their head, crying, "Avanti!"

"He has not stopped very long with us. There is no praise from strangers
to be got here," Signora Teresa said tragically. "Avanti! Yes! That is
all he cares for. To be first somewhere--somehow--to be first with these
English. They will be showing him to everybody. 'This is our Nostromo!'"
She laughed ominously. "What a name! What is that? Nostromo? He would
take a name that is properly no word from them."

Meantime Giorgio, with tranquil movements, had been unfastening the
door; the flood of light fell on Signora Teresa, with her two girls
gathered to her side, a picturesque woman in a pose of maternal
exaltation. Behind her the wall was dazzlingly white, and the crude
colours of the Garibaldi lithograph paled in the sunshine.

Old Viola, at the door, moved his arm upwards as if referring all his
quick, fleeting thoughts to the picture of his old chief on the wall.
Even when he was cooking for the "Signori Inglesi"--the engineers (he
was a famous cook, though the kitchen was a dark place)--he was, as
it were, under the eye of the great man who had led him in a glorious
struggle where, under the walls of Gaeta, tyranny would have expired
for ever had it not been for that accursed Piedmontese race of kings
and ministers. When sometimes a frying-pan caught fire during a delicate
operation with some shredded onions, and the old man was seen backing
out of the doorway, swearing and coughing violently in an acrid cloud
of smoke, the name of Cavour--the arch intriguer sold to kings and
tyrants--could be heard involved in imprecations against the China
girls, cooking in general, and the brute of a country where he was
reduced to live for the love of liberty that traitor had strangled.

Then Signora Teresa, all in black, issuing from another door, advanced,
portly and anxious, inclining her fine, black-browed head, opening her
arms, and crying in a profound tone--

"Giorgio! thou passionate man! Misericordia Divina! In the sun like
this! He will make himself ill."

At her feet the hens made off in all directions, with immense strides;
if there were any engineers from up the line staying in Sulaco, a young
English face or two would appear at the billiard-room occupying one end
of the house; but at the other end, in the cafe, Luis, the mulatto, took
good care not to show himself. The Indian girls, with hair like flowing
black manes, and dressed only in a shift and short petticoat, stared
dully from under the square-cut fringes on their foreheads; the noisy
frizzling of fat had stopped, the fumes floated upwards in sunshine,
a strong smell of burnt onions hung in the drowsy heat, enveloping the
house; and the eye lost itself in a vast flat expanse of grass to the
west, as if the plain between the Sierra overtopping Sulaco and the
coast range away there towards Esmeralda had been as big as half the
world.

Signora Teresa, after an impressive pause, remonstrated--

"Eh, Giorgio! Leave Cavour alone and take care of yourself now we are
lost in this country all alone with the two children, because you cannot
live under a king."

And while she looked at him she would sometimes put her hand hastily
to her side with a short twitch of her fine lips and a knitting of
her black, straight eyebrows like a flicker of angry pain or an angry
thought on her handsome, regular features.

It was pain; she suppressed the twinge. It had come to her first a few
years after they had left Italy to emigrate to America and settle at
last in Sulaco after wandering from town to town, trying shopkeeping
in a small way here and there; and once an organized enterprise of
fishing--in Maldonado--for Giorgio, like the great Garibaldi, had been a
sailor in his time.

Sometimes she had no patience with pain. For years its gnawing had been
part of the landscape embracing the glitter of the harbour under
the wooded spurs of the range; and the sunshine itself was heavy and
dull--heavy with pain--not like the sunshine of her girlhood, in which
middle-aged Giorgio had wooed her gravely and passionately on the shores
of the gulf of Spezzia.

"You go in at once, Giorgio," she directed. "One would think you do not
wish to have any pity on me--with four Signori Inglesi staying in the
house." "_Va bene, va bene_," Giorgio would mutter. He obeyed. The Signori
Inglesi would require their midday meal presently. He had been one
of the immortal and invincible band of liberators who had made the
mercenaries of tyranny fly like chaff before a hurricane, "_un uragano
terribile_." But that was before he was married and had children; and
before tyranny had reared its head again amongst the traitors who had
imprisoned Garibaldi, his hero.

There were three doors in the front of the house, and each afternoon the
Garibaldino could be seen at one or another of them with his big bush of
white hair, his arms folded, his legs crossed, leaning back his leonine
head against the side, and looking up the wooded slopes of the foothills
at the snowy dome of Higuerota. The front of his house threw off a black
long rectangle of shade, broadening slowly over the soft ox-cart track.
Through the gaps, chopped out in the oleander hedges, the harbour branch
railway, laid out temporarily on the level of the plain, curved away its
shining parallel ribbons on a belt of scorched and withered grass within
sixty yards of the end of the house. In the evening the empty material
trains of flat cars circled round the dark green grove of Sulaco,
and ran, undulating slightly with white jets of steam, over the plain
towards the Casa Viola, on their way to the railway yards by the
harbour. The Italian drivers saluted him from the foot-plate with raised
hand, while the negro brakesmen sat carelessly on the brakes, looking
straight forward, with the rims of their big hats flapping in the wind.
In return Giorgio would give a slight sideways jerk of the head, without
unfolding his arms.

On this memorable day of the riot his arms were not folded on his chest.
His hand grasped the barrel of the gun grounded on the threshold; he
did not look up once at the white dome of Higuerota, whose cool purity
seemed to hold itself aloof from a hot earth. His eyes examined the
plain curiously. Tall trails of dust subsided here and there. In
a speckless sky the sun hung clear and blinding. Knots of men ran
headlong; others made a stand; and the irregular rattle of firearms came
rippling to his ears in the fiery, still air. Single figures on foot
raced desperately. Horsemen galloped towards each other, wheeled round
together, separated at speed. Giorgio saw one fall, rider and horse
disappearing as if they had galloped into a chasm, and the movements of
the animated scene were like the passages of a violent game played upon
the plain by dwarfs mounted and on foot, yelling with tiny throats,
under the mountain that seemed a colossal embodiment of silence. Never
before had Giorgio seen this bit of plain so full of active life; his
gaze could not take in all its details at once; he shaded his eyes with
his hand, till suddenly the thundering of many hoofs near by startled
him.

A troop of horses had broken out of the fenced paddock of the Railway
Company. They came on like a whirlwind, and dashed over the line
snorting, kicking, squealing in a compact, piebald, tossing mob of bay,
brown, grey backs, eyes staring, necks extended, nostrils red, long
tails streaming. As soon as they had leaped upon the road the thick dust
flew upwards from under their hoofs, and within six yards of Giorgio
only a brown cloud with vague forms of necks and cruppers rolled by,
making the soil tremble on its passage.

Viola coughed, turning his face away from the dust, and shaking his head
slightly.

"There will be some horse-catching to be done before to-night," he
muttered.

In the square of sunlight falling through the door Signora Teresa,
kneeling before the chair, had bowed her head, heavy with a twisted
mass of ebony hair streaked with silver, into the palm of her hands.
The black lace shawl she used to drape about her face had dropped to
the ground by her side. The two girls had got up, hand-in-hand, in short
skirts, their loose hair falling in disorder. The younger had thrown
her arm across her eyes, as if afraid to face the light. Linda, with
her hand on the other's shoulder, stared fearlessly. Viola looked at his
children. The sun brought out the deep lines on his face, and, energetic
in expression, it had the immobility of a carving. It was impossible to
discover what he thought. Bushy grey eyebrows shaded his dark glance.

"Well! And do you not pray like your mother?"

Linda pouted, advancing her red lips, which were almost too red; but she
had admirable eyes, brown, with a sparkle of gold in the irises, full of
intelligence and meaning, and so clear that they seemed to throw a glow
upon her thin, colourless face. There were bronze glints in the sombre
clusters of her hair, and the eyelashes, long and coal black, made her
complexion appear still more pale.

"Mother is going to offer up a lot of candles in the church. She always
does when Nostromo has been away fighting. I shall have some to carry up
to the Chapel of the Madonna in the Cathedral."

She said all this quickly, with great assurance, in an animated,
penetrating voice. Then, giving her sister's shoulder a slight shake,
she added--

"And she will be made to carry one, too!"

"Why made?" inquired Giorgio, gravely. "Does she not want to?"

"She is timid," said Linda, with a little burst of laughter. "People
notice her fair hair as she goes along with us. They call out after
her, 'Look at the Rubia! Look at the Rubiacita!' They call out in the
streets. She is timid."

"And you? You are not timid--eh?" the father pronounced, slowly.

She tossed back all her dark hair.

"Nobody calls out after me."

Old Giorgio contemplated his children thoughtfully. There was two years
difference between them. They had been born to him late, years after
the boy had died. Had he lived he would have been nearly as old as Gian'
Battista--he whom the English called Nostromo; but as to his daughters,
the severity of his temper, his advancing age, his absorption in his
memories, had prevented his taking much notice of them. He loved his
children, but girls belong more to the mother, and much of his affection
had been expended in the worship and service of liberty.

When quite a youth he had deserted from a ship trading to La Plata, to
enlist in the navy of Montevideo, then under the command of Garibaldi.
Afterwards, in the Italian legion of the Republic struggling against the
encroaching tyranny of Rosas, he had taken part, on great plains, on the
banks of immense rivers, in the fiercest fighting perhaps the world had
ever known. He had lived amongst men who had declaimed about liberty,
suffered for liberty, died for liberty, with a desperate exaltation, and
with their eyes turned towards an oppressed Italy. His own enthusiasm
had been fed on scenes of carnage, on the examples of lofty devotion, on
the din of armed struggle, on the inflamed language of proclamations.
He had never parted from the chief of his choice--the fiery apostle of
independence--keeping by his side in America and in Italy till after
the fatal day of Aspromonte, when the treachery of kings, emperors,
and ministers had been revealed to the world in the wounding and
imprisonment of his hero--a catastrophe that had instilled into him
a gloomy doubt of ever being able to understand the ways of Divine
justice.

He did not deny it, however. It required patience, he would say. Though
he disliked priests, and would not put his foot inside a church for
anything, he believed in God. Were not the proclamations against tyrants
addressed to the peoples in the name of God and liberty? "God for
men--religions for women," he muttered sometimes. In Sicily, an
Englishman who had turned up in Palermo after its evacuation by the army
of the king, had given him a Bible in Italian--the publication of the
British and Foreign Bible Society, bound in a dark leather cover.
In periods of political adversity, in the pauses of silence when the
revolutionists issued no proclamations, Giorgio earned his living with
the first work that came to hand--as sailor, as dock labourer on the
quays of Genoa, once as a hand on a farm in the hills above Spezzia--and
in his spare time he studied the thick volume. He carried it with
him into battles. Now it was his only reading, and in order not to be
deprived of it (the print was small) he had consented to accept the
present of a pair of silver-mounted spectacles from Senora Emilia Gould,
the wife of the Englishman who managed the silver mine in the mountains
three leagues from the town. She was the only Englishwoman in Sulaco.

Giorgio Viola had a great consideration for the English. This feeling,
born on the battlefields of Uruguay, was forty years old at the very
least. Several of them had poured their blood for the cause of freedom
in America, and the first he had ever known he remembered by the name of
Samuel; he commanded a negro company under Garibaldi, during the famous
siege of Montevideo, and died heroically with his negroes at the fording
of the Boyana. He, Giorgio, had reached the rank of ensign-alferez-and
cooked for the general. Later, in Italy, he, with the rank of
lieutenant, rode with the staff and still cooked for the general. He had
cooked for him in Lombardy through the whole campaign; on the march to
Rome he had lassoed his beef in the Campagna after the American manner;
he had been wounded in the defence of the Roman Republic; he was one of
the four fugitives who, with the general, carried out of the woods the
inanimate body of the general's wife into the farmhouse where she died,
exhausted by the hardships of that terrible retreat. He had survived
that disastrous time to attend his general in Palermo when the
Neapolitan shells from the castle crashed upon the town. He had cooked
for him on the field of Volturno after fighting all day. And everywhere
he had seen Englishmen in the front rank of the army of freedom.
He respected their nation because they loved Garibaldi. Their very
countesses and princesses had kissed the general's hands in London, it
was said. He could well believe it; for the nation was noble, and the
man was a saint. It was enough to look once at his face to see the
divine force of faith in him and his great pity for all that was poor,
suffering, and oppressed in this world.

The spirit of self-forgetfulness, the simple devotion to a vast
humanitarian idea which inspired the thought and stress of that
revolutionary time, had left its mark upon Giorgio in a sort of austere
contempt for all personal advantage. This man, whom the lowest class in
Sulaco suspected of having a buried hoard in his kitchen, had all his
life despised money. The leaders of his youth had lived poor, had died
poor. It had been a habit of his mind to disregard to-morrow. It was
engendered partly by an existence of excitement, adventure, and wild
warfare. But mostly it was a matter of principle. It did not resemble
the carelessness of a condottiere, it was a puritanism of conduct, born
of stern enthusiasm like the puritanism of religion.

This stern devotion to a cause had cast a gloom upon Giorgio's old
age. It cast a gloom because the cause seemed lost. Too many kings and
emperors flourished yet in the world which God had meant for the people.
He was sad because of his simplicity. Though always ready to help his
countrymen, and greatly respected by the Italian emigrants wherever he
lived (in his exile he called it), he could not conceal from himself
that they cared nothing for the wrongs of down-trodden nations. They
listened to his tales of war readily, but seemed to ask themselves what
he had got out of it after all. There was nothing that they could see.
"We wanted nothing, we suffered for the love of all humanity!" he cried
out furiously sometimes, and the powerful voice, the blazing eyes, the
shaking of the white mane, the brown, sinewy hand pointing upwards as
if to call heaven to witness, impressed his hearers. After the old man
had broken off abruptly with a jerk of the head and a movement of the
arm, meaning clearly, "But what's the good of talking to you?" they
nudged each other. There was in old Giorgio an energy of feeling, a
personal quality of conviction, something they called "terribilita"--"an
old lion," they used to say of him. Some slight incident, a chance
word would set him off talking on the beach to the Italian fishermen of
Maldonado, in the little shop he kept afterwards (in Valparaiso) to his
countrymen customers; of an evening, suddenly, in the cafe at one end of
the Casa Viola (the other was reserved for the English engineers) to the
select clientele of engine-drivers and foremen of the railway shops.

With their handsome, bronzed, lean faces, shiny black ringlets,
glistening eyes, broad-chested, bearded, sometimes a tiny gold ring in
the lobe of the ear, the aristocracy of the railway works listened
to him, turning away from their cards or dominoes. Here and there a
fair-haired Basque studied his hand meantime, waiting without protest.
No native of Costaguana intruded there. This was the Italian stronghold.
Even the Sulaco policemen on a night patrol let their horses pace softly
by, bending low in the saddle to glance through the window at the heads
in a fog of smoke; and the drone of old Giorgio's declamatory narrative
seemed to sink behind them into the plain. Only now and then the
assistant of the chief of police, some broad-faced, brown little
gentleman, with a great deal of Indian in him, would put in an
appearance. Leaving his man outside with the horses he advanced with a
confident, sly smile, and without a word up to the long trestle table.
He pointed to one of the bottles on the shelf; Giorgio, thrusting his
pipe into his mouth abruptly, served him in person. Nothing would be
heard but the slight jingle of the spurs. His glass emptied, he would
take a leisurely, scrutinizing look all round the room, go out, and ride
away slowly, circling towards the town.



CHAPTER FIVE

In this way only was the power of the local authorities vindicated
amongst the great body of strong-limbed foreigners who dug the earth,
blasted the rocks, drove the engines for the "progressive and
patriotic undertaking." In these very words eighteen months before the
Excellentissimo Senor don Vincente Ribiera, the Dictator of Costaguana,
had described the National Central Railway in his great speech at the
turning of the first sod.

He had come on purpose to Sulaco, and there was a one-o'clock
dinner-party, a convite offered by the O.S.N. Company on board the Juno
after the function on shore. Captain Mitchell had himself steered the
cargo lighter, all draped with flags, which, in tow of the Juno's steam
launch, took the Excellentissimo from the jetty to the ship. Everybody
of note in Sulaco had been invited--the one or two foreign merchants,
all the representatives of the old Spanish families then in town, the
great owners of estates on the plain, grave, courteous, simple men,
caballeros of pure descent, with small hands and feet, conservative,
hospitable, and kind. The Occidental Province was their stronghold;
their Blanco party had triumphed now; it was their President-Dictator,
a Blanco of the Blancos, who sat smiling urbanely between the
representatives of two friendly foreign powers. They had come with him
from Sta. Marta to countenance by their presence the enterprise in
which the capital of their countries was engaged. The only lady of that
company was Mrs. Gould, the wife of Don Carlos, the administrator of the
San Tome silver mine. The ladies of Sulaco were not advanced enough to
take part in the public life to that extent. They had come out strongly
at the great ball at the Intendencia the evening before, but Mrs. Gould
alone had appeared, a bright spot in the group of black coats behind the
President-Dictator, on the crimson cloth-covered stage erected under a
shady tree on the shore of the harbour, where the ceremony of turning
the first sod had taken place. She had come off in the cargo lighter,
full of notabilities, sitting under the flutter of gay flags, in the
place of honour by the side of Captain Mitchell, who steered, and her
clear dress gave the only truly festive note to the sombre gathering in
the long, gorgeous saloon of the Juno.

The head of the chairman of the railway board (from London), handsome
and pale in a silvery mist of white hair and clipped beard, hovered near
her shoulder attentive, smiling, and fatigued. The journey from London
to Sta. Marta in mail boats and the special carriages of the Sta.
Marta coast-line (the only railway so far) had been tolerable--even
pleasant--quite tolerable. But the trip over the mountains to Sulaco was
another sort of experience, in an old diligencia over impassable roads
skirting awful precipices.

"We have been upset twice in one day on the brink of very deep ravines,"
he was telling Mrs. Gould in an undertone. "And when we arrived here
at last I don't know what we should have done without your hospitality.
What an out-of-the-way place Sulaco is!--and for a harbour, too!
Astonishing!"

"Ah, but we are very proud of it. It used to be historically important.
The highest ecclesiastical court for two viceroyalties, sat here in the
olden time," she instructed him with animation.

"I am impressed. I didn't mean to be disparaging. You seem very
patriotic."

"The place is lovable, if only by its situation. Perhaps you don't know
what an old resident I am."

"How old, I wonder," he murmured, looking at her with a slight smile.
Mrs. Gould's appearance was made youthful by the mobile intelligence of
her face. "We can't give you your ecclesiastical court back again; but
you shall have more steamers, a railway, a telegraph-cable--a future
in the great world which is worth infinitely more than any amount
of ecclesiastical past. You shall be brought in touch with something
greater than two viceroyalties. But I had no notion that a place on
a sea-coast could remain so isolated from the world. If it had been a
thousand miles inland now--most remarkable! Has anything ever happened
here for a hundred years before to-day?"

While he talked in a slow, humorous tone, she kept her little smile.
Agreeing ironically, she assured him that certainly not--nothing ever
happened in Sulaco. Even the revolutions, of which there had been two in
her time, had respected the repose of the place. Their course ran in the
more populous southern parts of the Republic, and the great valley of
Sta. Marta, which was like one great battlefield of the parties, with
the possession of the capital for a prize and an outlet to another
ocean. They were more advanced over there. Here in Sulaco they heard
only the echoes of these great questions, and, of course, their official
world changed each time, coming to them over their rampart of mountains
which he himself had traversed in an old diligencia, with such a risk to
life and limb.

The chairman of the railway had been enjoying her hospitality for
several days, and he was really grateful for it. It was only since he
had left Sta. Marta that he had utterly lost touch with the feeling
of European life on the background of his exotic surroundings. In the
capital he had been the guest of the Legation, and had been kept busy
negotiating with the members of Don Vincente's Government--cultured men,
men to whom the conditions of civilized business were not unknown.

What concerned him most at the time was the acquisition of land for the
railway. In the Sta. Marta Valley, where there was already one line in
existence, the people were tractable, and it was only a matter of price.
A commission had been nominated to fix the values, and the difficulty
resolved itself into the judicious influencing of the Commissioners.
But in Sulaco--the Occidental Province for whose very development the
railway was intended--there had been trouble. It had been lying for ages
ensconced behind its natural barriers, repelling modern enterprise by
the precipices of its mountain range, by its shallow harbour opening
into the everlasting calms of a gulf full of clouds, by the benighted
state of mind of the owners of its fertile territory--all these
aristocratic old Spanish families, all those Don Ambrosios this and Don
Fernandos that, who seemed actually to dislike and distrust the coming
of the railway over their lands. It had happened that some of the
surveying parties scattered all over the province had been warned off
with threats of violence. In other cases outrageous pretensions as to
price had been raised. But the man of railways prided himself on being
equal to every emergency. Since he was met by the inimical sentiment of
blind conservatism in Sulaco he would meet it by sentiment, too, before
taking his stand on his right alone. The Government was bound to carry
out its part of the contract with the board of the new railway company,
even if it had to use force for the purpose. But he desired nothing less
than an armed disturbance in the smooth working of his plans. They
were much too vast and far-reaching, and too promising to leave a stone
unturned; and so he imagined to get the President-Dictator over there
on a tour of ceremonies and speeches, culminating in a great function
at the turning of the first sod by the harbour shore. After all he was
their own creature--that Don Vincente. He was the embodied triumph of
the best elements in the State. These were facts, and, unless facts
meant nothing, Sir John argued to himself, such a man's influence must
be real, and his personal action would produce the conciliatory effect
he required. He had succeeded in arranging the trip with the help of a
very clever advocate, who was known in Sta. Marta as the agent of the
Gould silver mine, the biggest thing in Sulaco, and even in the whole
Republic. It was indeed a fabulously rich mine. Its so-called agent,
evidently a man of culture and ability, seemed, without official
position, to possess an extraordinary influence in the highest
Government spheres. He was able to assure Sir John that the
President-Dictator would make the journey. He regretted, however, in
the course of the same conversation, that General Montero insisted upon
going, too.

General Montero, whom the beginning of the struggle had found an obscure
army captain employed on the wild eastern frontier of the State, had
thrown in his lot with the Ribiera party at a moment when special
circumstances had given that small adhesion a fortuitous importance.
The fortunes of war served him marvellously, and the victory of Rio Seco
(after a day of desperate fighting) put a seal to his success. At the
end he emerged General, Minister of War, and the military head of the
Blanco party, although there was nothing aristocratic in his descent.
Indeed, it was said that he and his brother, orphans, had been brought
up by the munificence of a famous European traveller, in whose service
their father had lost his life. Another story was that their father
had been nothing but a charcoal burner in the woods, and their mother a
baptised Indian woman from the far interior.

However that might be, the Costaguana Press was in the habit of styling
Montero's forest march from his commandancia to join the Blanco forces
at the beginning of the troubles, the "most heroic military exploit of
modern times." About the same time, too, his brother had turned up from
Europe, where he had gone apparently as secretary to a consul. Having,
however, collected a small band of outlaws, he showed some talent as
guerilla chief and had been rewarded at the pacification by the post of
Military Commandant of the capital.

The Minister of War, then, accompanied the Dictator. The board of the
O.S.N. Company, working hand-in-hand with the railway people for the
good of the Republic, had on this important occasion instructed Captain
Mitchell to put the mail-boat Juno at the disposal of the distinguished
party. Don Vincente, journeying south from Sta. Marta, had embarked at
Cayta, the principal port of Costaguana, and came to Sulaco by sea.
But the chairman of the railway company had courageously crossed the
mountains in a ramshackle diligencia, mainly for the purpose of meeting
his engineer-in-chief engaged in the final survey of the road.

For all the indifference of a man of affairs to nature, whose hostility
can always be overcome by the resources of finance, he could not help
being impressed by his surroundings during his halt at the surveying
camp established at the highest point his railway was to reach. He spent
the night there, arriving just too late to see the last dying glow of
sunlight upon the snowy flank of Higuerota. Pillared masses of black
basalt framed like an open portal a portion of the white field lying
aslant against the west. In the transparent air of the high altitudes
everything seemed very near, steeped in a clear stillness as in an
imponderable liquid; and with his ear ready to catch the first sound of
the expected diligencia the engineer-in-chief, at the door of a hut of
rough stones, had contemplated the changing hues on the enormous side
of the mountain, thinking that in this sight, as in a piece of inspired
music, there could be found together the utmost delicacy of shaded
expression and a stupendous magnificence of effect.

Sir John arrived too late to hear the magnificent and inaudible strain
sung by the sunset amongst the high peaks of the Sierra. It had sung
itself out into the breathless pause of deep dusk before, climbing down
the fore wheel of the diligencia with stiff limbs, he shook hands with
the engineer.

They gave him his dinner in a stone hut like a cubical boulder, with no
door or windows in its two openings; a bright fire of sticks (brought
on muleback from the first valley below) burning outside, sent in a
wavering glare; and two candles in tin candlesticks--lighted, it was
explained to him, in his honour--stood on a sort of rough camp table, at
which he sat on the right hand of the chief. He knew how to be amiable;
and the young men of the engineering staff, for whom the surveying of
the railway track had the glamour of the first steps on the path of
life, sat there, too, listening modestly, with their smooth faces tanned
by the weather, and very pleased to witness so much affability in so
great a man.

Afterwards, late at night, pacing to and fro outside, he had a long talk
with his chief engineer. He knew him well of old. This was not the first
undertaking in which their gifts, as elementally different as fire
and water, had worked in conjunction. From the contact of these two
personalities, who had not the same vision of the world, there was
generated a power for the world's service--a subtle force that could
set in motion mighty machines, men's muscles, and awaken also in human
breasts an unbounded devotion to the task. Of the young fellows at the
table, to whom the survey of the track was like the tracing of the path
of life, more than one would be called to meet death before the work was
done. But the work would be done: the force would be almost as strong
as a faith. Not quite, however. In the silence of the sleeping camp upon
the moonlit plateau forming the top of the pass like the floor of a
vast arena surrounded by the basalt walls of precipices, two strolling
figures in thick ulsters stood still, and the voice of the engineer
pronounced distinctly the words--

"We can't move mountains!"

Sir John, raising his head to follow the pointing gesture, felt the full
force of the words. The white Higuerota soared out of the shadows of
rock and earth like a frozen bubble under the moon. All was still, till
near by, behind the wall of a corral for the camp animals, built
roughly of loose stones in the form of a circle, a pack mule stamped his
forefoot and blew heavily twice.

The engineer-in-chief had used the phrase in answer to the chairman's
tentative suggestion that the tracing of the line could, perhaps, be
altered in deference to the prejudices of the Sulaco landowners.
The chief engineer believed that the obstinacy of men was the lesser
obstacle. Moreover, to combat that they had the great influence of
Charles Gould, whereas tunnelling under Higuerota would have been a
colossal undertaking.

"Ah, yes! Gould. What sort of a man is he?"

Sir John had heard much of Charles Gould in Sta. Marta, and wanted to
know more. The engineer-in-chief assured him that the administrator of
the San Tome silver mine had an immense influence over all these Spanish
Dons. He had also one of the best houses in Sulaco, and the Gould
hospitality was beyond all praise.

"They received me as if they had known me for years," he said. "The
little lady is kindness personified. I stayed with them for a month. He
helped me to organize the surveying parties. His practical ownership of
the San Tome silver mine gives him a special position. He seems to have
the ear of every provincial authority apparently, and, as I said, he can
wind all the hidalgos of the province round his little finger. If you
follow his advice the difficulties will fall away, because he wants the
railway. Of course, you must be careful in what you say. He's English,
and besides he must be immensely wealthy. The Holroyd house is in with
him in that mine, so you may imagine--"

He interrupted himself as, from before one of the little fires burning
outside the low wall of the corral, arose the figure of a man wrapped in
a poncho up to the neck. The saddle which he had been using for a pillow
made a dark patch on the ground against the red glow of embers.

"I shall see Holroyd himself on my way back through the States," said
Sir John. "I've ascertained that he, too, wants the railway."

The man who, perhaps disturbed by the proximity of the voices, had
arisen from the ground, struck a match to light a cigarette. The flame
showed a bronzed, black-whiskered face, a pair of eyes gazing straight;
then, rearranging his wrappings, he sank full length and laid his head
again on the saddle.

"That's our camp-master, whom I must send back to Sulaco now we
are going to carry our survey into the Sta. Marta Valley," said the
engineer. "A most useful fellow, lent me by Captain Mitchell of the
O.S.N. Company. It was very good of Mitchell. Charles Gould told me I
couldn't do better than take advantage of the offer. He seems to know
how to rule all these muleteers and peons. We had not the slightest
trouble with our people. He shall escort your diligencia right into
Sulaco with some of our railway peons. The road is bad. To have him at
hand may save you an upset or two. He promised me to take care of your
person all the way down as if you were his father."

This camp-master was the Italian sailor whom all the Europeans in
Sulaco, following Captain Mitchell's mispronunciation, were in the
habit of calling Nostromo. And indeed, taciturn and ready, he did take
excellent care of his charge at the bad parts of the road, as Sir John
himself acknowledged to Mrs. Gould afterwards.



CHAPTER SIX

At that time Nostromo had been already long enough in the country
to raise to the highest pitch Captain Mitchell's opinion of the
extraordinary value of his discovery. Clearly he was one of those
invaluable subordinates whom to possess is a legitimate cause of
boasting. Captain Mitchell plumed himself upon his eye for men--but
he was not selfish--and in the innocence of his pride was already
developing that mania for "lending you my Capataz de Cargadores" which
was to bring Nostromo into personal contact, sooner or later, with
every European in Sulaco, as a sort of universal factotum--a prodigy of
efficiency in his own sphere of life.

"The fellow is devoted to me, body and soul!" Captain Mitchell was
given to affirm; and though nobody, perhaps, could have explained why it
should be so, it was impossible on a survey of their relation to throw
doubt on that statement, unless, indeed, one were a bitter, eccentric
character like Dr. Monygham--for instance--whose short, hopeless laugh
expressed somehow an immense mistrust of mankind. Not that Dr. Monygham
was a prodigal either of laughter or of words. He was bitterly taciturn
when at his best. At his worst people feared the open scornfulness of
his tongue. Only Mrs. Gould could keep his unbelief in men's motives
within due bounds; but even to her (on an occasion not connected with
Nostromo, and in a tone which for him was gentle), even to her, he had
said once, "Really, it is most unreasonable to demand that a man
should think of other people so much better than he is able to think of
himself."

And Mrs. Gould had hastened to drop the subject. There were strange
rumours of the English doctor. Years ago, in the time of Guzman Bento,
he had been mixed up, it was whispered, in a conspiracy which was
betrayed and, as people expressed it, drowned in blood. His hair had
turned grey, his hairless, seamed face was of a brick-dust colour; the
large check pattern of his flannel shirt and his old stained Panama hat
were an established defiance to the conventionalities of Sulaco. Had
it not been for the immaculate cleanliness of his apparel he might have
been taken for one of those shiftless Europeans that are a moral eyesore
to the respectability of a foreign colony in almost every exotic part of
the world. The young ladies of Sulaco, adorning with clusters of pretty
faces the balconies along the Street of the Constitution, when they saw
him pass, with his limping gait and bowed head, a short linen jacket
drawn on carelessly over the flannel check shirt, would remark to each
other, "Here is the Senor doctor going to call on Dona Emilia. He has
got his little coat on." The inference was true. Its deeper meaning was
hidden from their simple intelligence. Moreover, they expended no
store of thought on the doctor. He was old, ugly, learned--and a little
"loco"--mad, if not a bit of a sorcerer, as the common people suspected
him of being. The little white jacket was in reality a concession
to Mrs. Gould's humanizing influence. The doctor, with his habit of
sceptical, bitter speech, had no other means of showing his profound
respect for the character of the woman who was known in the country as
the English Senora. He presented this tribute very seriously indeed;
it was no trifle for a man of his habits. Mrs. Gould felt that, too,
perfectly. She would never have thought of imposing upon him this marked
show of deference.

She kept her old Spanish house (one of the finest specimens in Sulaco)
open for the dispensation of the small graces of existence. She
dispensed them with simplicity and charm because she was guided by an
alert perception of values. She was highly gifted in the art of human
intercourse which consists in delicate shades of self-forgetfulness and
in the suggestion of universal comprehension. Charles Gould (the Gould
family, established in Costaguana for three generations, always went to
England for their education and for their wives) imagined that he had
fallen in love with a girl's sound common sense like any other man,
but these were not exactly the reasons why, for instance, the whole
surveying camp, from the youngest of the young men to their mature
chief, should have found occasion to allude to Mrs. Gould's house
so frequently amongst the high peaks of the Sierra. She would have
protested that she had done nothing for them, with a low laugh and
a surprised widening of her grey eyes, had anybody told her how
convincingly she was remembered on the edge of the snow-line above
Sulaco. But directly, with a little capable air of setting her wits to
work, she would have found an explanation. "Of course, it was such a
surprise for these boys to find any sort of welcome here. And I suppose
they are homesick. I suppose everybody must be always just a little
homesick."

She was always sorry for homesick people.

Born in the country, as his father before him, spare and tall, with
a flaming moustache, a neat chin, clear blue eyes, auburn hair, and a
thin, fresh, red face, Charles Gould looked like a new arrival from over
the sea. His grandfather had fought in the cause of independence under
Bolivar, in that famous English legion which on the battlefield of
Carabobo had been saluted by the great Liberator as Saviours of his
country. One of Charles Gould's uncles had been the elected President
of that very province of Sulaco (then called a State) in the days of
Federation, and afterwards had been put up against the wall of a church
and shot by the order of the barbarous Unionist general, Guzman Bento.
It was the same Guzman Bento who, becoming later Perpetual President,
famed for his ruthless and cruel tyranny, readied his apotheosis in the
popular legend of a sanguinary land-haunting spectre whose body had been
carried off by the devil in person from the brick mausoleum in the nave
of the Church of Assumption in Sta. Marta. Thus, at least, the priests
explained its disappearance to the barefooted multitude that streamed
in, awestruck, to gaze at the hole in the side of the ugly box of bricks
before the great altar.

Guzman Bento of cruel memory had put to death great numbers of people
besides Charles Gould's uncle; but with a relative martyred in the cause
of aristocracy, the Sulaco Oligarchs (this was the phraseology of Guzman
Bento's time; now they were called Blancos, and had given up the federal
idea), which meant the families of pure Spanish descent, considered
Charles as one of themselves. With such a family record, no one could
be more of a Costaguanero than Don Carlos Gould; but his aspect was
so characteristic that in the talk of common people he was just the
Inglez--the Englishman of Sulaco. He looked more English than a casual
tourist, a sort of heretic pilgrim, however, quite unknown in Sulaco.
He looked more English than the last arrived batch of young railway
engineers, than anybody out of the hunting-field pictures in the numbers
of Punch reaching his wife's drawing-room two months or so after date.
It astonished you to hear him talk Spanish (Castillan, as the natives
say) or the Indian dialect of the country-people so naturally. His
accent had never been English; but there was something so indelible
in all these ancestral Goulds--liberators, explorers, coffee
planters, merchants, revolutionists--of Costaguana, that he, the only
representative of the third generation in a continent possessing its
own style of horsemanship, went on looking thoroughly English even
on horseback. This is not said of him in the mocking spirit of the
Llaneros--men of the great plains--who think that no one in the world
knows how to sit a horse but themselves. Charles Gould, to use the
suitably lofty phrase, rode like a centaur. Riding for him was not a
special form of exercise; it was a natural faculty, as walking straight
is to all men sound of mind and limb; but, all the same, when cantering
beside the rutty ox-cart track to the mine he looked in his English
clothes and with his imported saddlery as though he had come this moment
to Costaguana at his easy swift pasotrote, straight out of some green
meadow at the other side of the world.

His way would lie along the old Spanish road--the Camino Real of popular
speech--the only remaining vestige of a fact and name left by that
royalty old Giorgio Viola hated, and whose very shadow had departed from
the land; for the big equestrian statue of Charles IV. at the entrance
of the Alameda, towering white against the trees, was only known to the
folk from the country and to the beggars of the town that slept on the
steps around the pedestal, as the Horse of Stone. The other Carlos,
turning off to the left with a rapid clatter of hoofs on the disjointed
pavement--Don Carlos Gould, in his English clothes, looked as
incongruous, but much more at home than the kingly cavalier reining in
his steed on the pedestal above the sleeping leperos, with his marble
arm raised towards the marble rim of a plumed hat.

The weather-stained effigy of the mounted king, with its vague
suggestion of a saluting gesture, seemed to present an inscrutable
breast to the political changes which had robbed it of its very name;
but neither did the other horseman, well known to the people, keen and
alive on his well-shaped, slate-coloured beast with a white eye, wear
his heart on the sleeve of his English coat. His mind preserved its
steady poise as if sheltered in the passionless stability of private
and public decencies at home in Europe. He accepted with a like calm the
shocking manner in which the Sulaco ladies smothered their faces with
pearl powder till they looked like white plaster casts with beautiful
living eyes, the peculiar gossip of the town, and the continuous
political changes, the constant "saving of the country," which to his
wife seemed a puerile and bloodthirsty game of murder and rapine played
with terrible earnestness by depraved children. In the early days of
her Costaguana life, the little lady used to clench her hands with
exasperation at not being able to take the public affairs of the country
as seriously as the incidental atrocity of methods deserved. She saw in
them a comedy of naive pretences, but hardly anything genuine except
her own appalled indignation. Charles, very quiet and twisting his long
moustaches, would decline to discuss them at all. Once, however, he
observed to her gently--

"My dear, you seem to forget that I was born here." These few words made
her pause as if they had been a sudden revelation. Perhaps the mere
fact of being born in the country did make a difference. She had a great
confidence in her husband; it had always been very great. He had struck
her imagination from the first by his unsentimentalism, by that very
quietude of mind which she had erected in her thought for a sign of
perfect competency in the business of living. Don Jose Avellanos, their
neighbour across the street, a statesman, a poet, a man of culture, who
had represented his country at several European Courts (and had suffered
untold indignities as a state prisoner in the time of the tyrant Guzman
Bento), used to declare in Dona Emilia's drawing-room that Carlos had
all the English qualities of character with a truly patriotic heart.

Mrs. Gould, raising her eyes to her husband's thin, red and tan face,
could not detect the slightest quiver of a feature at what he must have
heard said of his patriotism. Perhaps he had just dismounted on his
return from the mine; he was English enough to disregard the hottest
hours of the day. Basilio, in a livery of white linen and a red sash,
had squatted for a moment behind his heels to unstrap the heavy, blunt
spurs in the patio; and then the Senor Administrator would go up the
staircase into the gallery. Rows of plants in pots, ranged on the
balustrade between the pilasters of the arches, screened the corredor
with their leaves and flowers from the quadrangle below, whose paved
space is the true hearthstone of a South American house, where the quiet
hours of domestic life are marked by the shifting of light and shadow on
the flagstones.

Senor Avellanos was in the habit of crossing the patio at five o'clock
almost every day. Don Jose chose to come over at tea-time because the
English rite at Dona Emilia's house reminded him of the time he lived in
London as Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of St. James. He did
not like tea; and, usually, rocking his American chair, his neat little
shiny boots crossed on the foot-rest, he would talk on and on with a
sort of complacent virtuosity wonderful in a man of his age, while he
held the cup in his hands for a long time. His close-cropped head was
perfectly white; his eyes coalblack.

On seeing Charles Gould step into the sala he would nod provisionally
and go on to the end of the oratorial period. Only then he would say--

"Carlos, my friend, you have ridden from San Tome in the heat of the
day. Always the true English activity. No? What?"

He drank up all the tea at once in one draught. This performance
was invariably followed by a slight shudder and a low, involuntary
"br-r-r-r," which was not covered by the hasty exclamation, "Excellent!"

Then giving up the empty cup into his young friend's hand, extended with
a smile, he continued to expatiate upon the patriotic nature of the San
Tome mine for the simple pleasure of talking fluently, it seemed, while
his reclining body jerked backwards and forwards in a rocking-chair of
the sort exported from the United States. The ceiling of the largest
drawing-room of the Casa Gould extended its white level far above
his head. The loftiness dwarfed the mixture of heavy, straight-backed
Spanish chairs of brown wood with leathern seats, and European
furniture, low, and cushioned all over, like squat little monsters
gorged to bursting with steel springs and horsehair. There were
knick-knacks on little tables, mirrors let into the wall above marble
consoles, square spaces of carpet under the two groups of armchairs,
each presided over by a deep sofa; smaller rugs scattered all over the
floor of red tiles; three windows from the ceiling down to the ground,
opening on a balcony, and flanked by the perpendicular folds of the
dark hangings. The stateliness of ancient days lingered between the four
high, smooth walls, tinted a delicate primrose-colour; and Mrs. Gould,
with her little head and shining coils of hair, sitting in a cloud of
muslin and lace before a slender mahogany table, resembled a fairy posed
lightly before dainty philtres dispensed out of vessels of silver and
porcelain.

Mrs. Gould knew the history of the San Tome mine. Worked in the early
days mostly by means of lashes on the backs of slaves, its yield had
been paid for in its own weight of human bones. Whole tribes of Indians
had perished in the exploitation; and then the mine was abandoned, since
with this primitive method it had ceased to make a profitable return,
no matter how many corpses were thrown into its maw. Then it became
forgotten. It was rediscovered after the War of Independence. An English
company obtained the right to work it, and found so rich a vein that
neither the exactions of successive governments, nor the periodical
raids of recruiting officers upon the population of paid miners they had
created, could discourage their perseverance. But in the end, during the
long turmoil of pronunciamentos that followed the death of the famous
Guzman Bento, the native miners, incited to revolt by the emissaries
sent out from the capital, had risen upon their English chiefs and
murdered them to a man. The decree of confiscation which appeared
immediately afterwards in the Diario Official, published in Sta. Marta,
began with the words: "Justly incensed at the grinding oppression of
foreigners, actuated by sordid motives of gain rather than by love for a
country where they come impoverished to seek their fortunes, the mining
population of San Tome, etc. . . ." and ended with the declaration: "The
chief of the State has resolved to exercise to the full his power
of clemency. The mine, which by every law, international, human, and
divine, reverts now to the Government as national property, shall remain
closed till the sword drawn for the sacred defence of liberal principles
has accomplished its mission of securing the happiness of our beloved
country."

And for many years this was the last of the San Tome mine. What
advantage that Government had expected from the spoliation, it is
impossible to tell now. Costaguana was made with difficulty to pay a
beggarly money compensation to the families of the victims, and then
the matter dropped out of diplomatic despatches. But afterwards another
Government bethought itself of that valuable asset. It was an ordinary
Costaguana Government--the fourth in six years--but it judged of its
opportunities sanely. It remembered the San Tome mine with a secret
conviction of its worthlessness in their own hands, but with an
ingenious insight into the various uses a silver mine can be put to,
apart from the sordid process of extracting the metal from under the
ground. The father of Charles Gould, for a long time one of the most
wealthy merchants of Costaguana, had already lost a considerable part of
his fortune in forced loans to the successive Governments. He was a man
of calm judgment, who never dreamed of pressing his claims; and when,
suddenly, the perpetual concession of the San Tome mine was offered to
him in full settlement, his alarm became extreme. He was versed in the
ways of Governments. Indeed, the intention of this affair, though no
doubt deeply meditated in the closet, lay open on the surface of the
document presented urgently for his signature. The third and most
important clause stipulated that the concession-holder should pay at
once to the Government five years' royalties on the estimated output of
the mine.

Mr. Gould, senior, defended himself from this fatal favour with many
arguments and entreaties, but without success. He knew nothing of
mining; he had no means to put his concession on the European market;
the mine as a working concern did not exist. The buildings had been
burnt down, the mining plant had been destroyed, the mining population
had disappeared from the neighbourhood years and years ago; the very
road had vanished under a flood of tropical vegetation as effectually
as if swallowed by the sea; and the main gallery had fallen in within a
hundred yards from the entrance. It was no longer an abandoned mine; it
was a wild, inaccessible, and rocky gorge of the Sierra, where vestiges
of charred timber, some heaps of smashed bricks, and a few shapeless
pieces of rusty iron could have been found under the matted mass of
thorny creepers covering the ground. Mr. Gould, senior, did not desire
the perpetual possession of that desolate locality; in fact, the mere
vision of it arising before his mind in the still watches of the night
had the power to exasperate him into hours of hot and agitated insomnia.

It so happened, however, that the Finance Minister of the time was a
man to whom, in years gone by, Mr. Gould had, unfortunately, declined to
grant some small pecuniary assistance, basing his refusal on the ground
that the applicant was a notorious gambler and cheat, besides being more
than half suspected of a robbery with violence on a wealthy ranchero in
a remote country district, where he was actually exercising the function
of a judge. Now, after reaching his exalted position, that politician
had proclaimed his intention to repay evil with good to Senor
Gould--the poor man. He affirmed and reaffirmed this resolution in the
drawing-rooms of Sta. Marta, in a soft and implacable voice, and
with such malicious glances that Mr. Gould's best friends advised him
earnestly to attempt no bribery to get the matter dropped. It would have
been useless. Indeed, it would not have been a very safe proceeding.
Such was also the opinion of a stout, loud-voiced lady of French
extraction, the daughter, she said, of an officer of high rank (_officier
superieur de l'armee_), who was accommodated with lodgings within the
walls of a secularized convent next door to the Ministry of Finance.
That florid person, when approached on behalf of Mr. Gould in a proper
manner, and with a suitable present, shook her head despondently. She
was good-natured, and her despondency was genuine. She imagined she
could not take money in consideration of something she could not
accomplish. The friend of Mr. Gould, charged with the delicate mission,
used to say afterwards that she was the only honest person closely or
remotely connected with the Government he had ever met. "No go," she
had said with a cavalier, husky intonation which was natural to her, and
using turns of expression more suitable to a child of parents unknown
than to the orphaned daughter of a general officer. "No; it's no go. _Pas
moyen, mon garcon. C'est dommage, tout de meme. Ah! zut! Je ne vole
pas mon monde. Je ne suis pas ministre--moi! Vous pouvez emporter votre
petit sac_."

For a moment, biting her carmine lip, she deplored inwardly the tyranny
of the rigid principles governing the sale of her influence in high
places. Then, significantly, and with a touch of impatience, "_Allez_,"
she added, "_et dites bien a votre bonhomme--entendez-vous?--qu'il faut
avaler la pilule_."

After such a warning there was nothing for it but to sign and pay.
Mr. Gould had swallowed the pill, and it was as though it had been
compounded of some subtle poison that acted directly on his brain. He
became at once mine-ridden, and as he was well read in light literature
it took to his mind the form of the Old Man of the Sea fastened upon his
shoulders. He also began to dream of vampires. Mr. Gould exaggerated
to himself the disadvantages of his new position, because he viewed it
emotionally. His position in Costaguana was no worse than before. But
man is a desperately conservative creature, and the extravagant novelty
of this outrage upon his purse distressed his sensibilities. Everybody
around him was being robbed by the grotesque and murderous bands that
played their game of governments and revolutions after the death of
Guzman Bento. His experience had taught him that, however short
the plunder might fall of their legitimate expectations, no gang in
possession of the Presidential Palace would be so incompetent as to
suffer itself to be baffled by the want of a pretext. The first casual
colonel of the barefooted army of scarecrows that came along was able to
expose with force and precision to any mere civilian his titles to a sum
of 10,000 dollars; the while his hope would be immutably fixed upon a
gratuity, at any rate, of no less than a thousand. Mr. Gould knew that
very well, and, armed with resignation, had waited for better times. But
to be robbed under the forms of legality and business was intolerable to
his imagination. Mr. Gould, the father, had one fault in his sagacious
and honourable character: he attached too much importance to form. It is
a failing common to mankind, whose views are tinged by prejudices. There
was for him in that affair a malignancy of perverted justice which, by
means of a moral shock, attacked his vigorous physique. "It will end
by killing me," he used to affirm many times a day. And, in fact, since
that time he began to suffer from fever, from liver pains, and mostly
from a worrying inability to think of anything else. The Finance
Minister could have formed no conception of the profound subtlety of his
revenge. Even Mr. Gould's letters to his fourteen-year-old boy Charles,
then away in England for his education, came at last to talk of
practically nothing but the mine. He groaned over the injustice, the
persecution, the outrage of that mine; he occupied whole pages in the
exposition of the fatal consequences attaching to the possession of that
mine from every point of view, with every dismal inference, with words
of horror at the apparently eternal character of that curse. For the
Concession had been granted to him and his descendants for ever. He
implored his son never to return to Costaguana, never to claim any
part of his inheritance there, because it was tainted by the infamous
Concession; never to touch it, never to approach it, to forget that
America existed, and pursue a mercantile career in Europe. And each
letter ended with bitter self-reproaches for having stayed too long in
that cavern of thieves, intriguers, and brigands.

To be told repeatedly that one's future is blighted because of the
possession of a silver mine is not, at the age of fourteen, a matter
of prime importance as to its main statement; but in its form it is
calculated to excite a certain amount of wonder and attention. In course
of time the boy, at first only puzzled by the angry jeremiads, but
rather sorry for his dad, began to turn the matter over in his mind in
such moments as he could spare from play and study. In about a year he
had evolved from the lecture of the letters a definite conviction
that there was a silver mine in the Sulaco province of the Republic of
Costaguana, where poor Uncle Harry had been shot by soldiers a great
many years before. There was also connected closely with that mine a
thing called the "iniquitous Gould Concession," apparently written on
a paper which his father desired ardently to "tear and fling into the
faces" of presidents, members of judicature, and ministers of State.
And this desire persisted, though the names of these people, he noticed,
seldom remained the same for a whole year together. This desire (since
the thing was iniquitous) seemed quite natural to the boy, though why
the affair was iniquitous he did not know. Afterwards, with advancing
wisdom, he managed to clear the plain truth of the business from the
fantastic intrusions of the Old Man of the Sea, vampires, and ghouls,
which had lent to his father's correspondence the flavour of a gruesome
Arabian Nights tale. In the end, the growing youth attained to as
close an intimacy with the San Tome mine as the old man who wrote these
plaintive and enraged letters on the other side of the sea. He had been
made several times already to pay heavy fines for neglecting to work the
mine, he reported, besides other sums extracted from him on account
of future royalties, on the ground that a man with such a valuable
concession in his pocket could not refuse his financial assistance to
the Government of the Republic. The last of his fortune was passing away
from him against worthless receipts, he wrote, in a rage, whilst he was
being pointed out as an individual who had known how to secure enormous
advantages from the necessities of his country. And the young man in
Europe grew more and more interested in that thing which could provoke
such a tumult of words and passion.

He thought of it every day; but he thought of it without bitterness. It
might have been an unfortunate affair for his poor dad, and the
whole story threw a queer light upon the social and political life of
Costaguana. The view he took of it was sympathetic to his father, yet
calm and reflective. His personal feelings had not been outraged, and it
is difficult to resent with proper and durable indignation the physical
or mental anguish of another organism, even if that other organism is
one's own father. By the time he was twenty Charles Gould had, in his
turn, fallen under the spell of the San Tome mine. But it was another
form of enchantment, more suitable to his youth, into whose magic
formula there entered hope, vigour, and self-confidence, instead of
weary indignation and despair. Left after he was twenty to his own
guidance (except for the severe injunction not to return to Costaguana),
he had pursued his studies in Belgium and France with the idea of
qualifying for a mining engineer. But this scientific aspect of his
labours remained vague and imperfect in his mind. Mines had acquired for
him a dramatic interest. He studied their peculiarities from a personal
point of view, too, as one would study the varied characters of men. He
visited them as one goes with curiosity to call upon remarkable persons.
He visited mines in Germany, in Spain, in Cornwall. Abandoned workings
had for him strong fascination. Their desolation appealed to him like
the sight of human misery, whose causes are varied and profound. They
might have been worthless, but also they might have been misunderstood.
His future wife was the first, and perhaps the only person to detect
this secret mood which governed the profoundly sensible, almost
voiceless attitude of this man towards the world of material things. And
at once her delight in him, lingering with half-open wings like those
birds that cannot rise easily from a flat level, found a pinnacle from
which to soar up into the skies.

They had become acquainted in Italy, where the future Mrs. Gould was
staying with an old and pale aunt who, years before, had married a
middle-aged, impoverished Italian marquis. She now mourned that man, who
had known how to give up his life to the independence and unity of his
country, who had known how to be as enthusiastic in his generosity as
the youngest of those who fell for that very cause of which old Giorgio
Viola was a drifting relic, as a broken spar is suffered to float away
disregarded after a naval victory. The Marchesa led a still, whispering
existence, nun-like in her black robes and a white band over the
forehead, in a corner of the first floor of an ancient and ruinous
palace, whose big, empty halls downstairs sheltered under their painted
ceilings the harvests, the fowls, and even the cattle, together with the
whole family of the tenant farmer.

The two young people had met in Lucca. After that meeting Charles Gould
visited no mines, though they went together in a carriage, once, to see
some marble quarries, where the work resembled mining in so far that
it also was the tearing of the raw material of treasure from the earth.
Charles Gould did not open his heart to her in any set speeches. He
simply went on acting and thinking in her sight. This is the true method
of sincerity. One of his frequent remarks was, "I think sometimes that
poor father takes a wrong view of that San Tome business." And they
discussed that opinion long and earnestly, as if they could influence a
mind across half the globe; but in reality they discussed it because the
sentiment of love can enter into any subject and live ardently in remote
phrases. For this natural reason these discussions were precious to Mrs.
Gould in her engaged state. Charles feared that Mr. Gould, senior, was
wasting his strength and making himself ill by his efforts to get rid
of the Concession. "I fancy that this is not the kind of handling it
requires," he mused aloud, as if to himself. And when she wondered
frankly that a man of character should devote his energies to plotting
and intrigues, Charles would remark, with a gentle concern that
understood her wonder, "You must not forget that he was born there."

She would set her quick mind to work upon that, and then make the
inconsequent retort, which he accepted as perfectly sagacious, because,
in fact, it was so--

"Well, and you? You were born there, too."

He knew his answer.

"That's different. I've been away ten years. Dad never had such a long
spell; and it was more than thirty years ago."

She was the first person to whom he opened his lips after receiving the
news of his father's death.

"It has killed him!" he said.

He had walked straight out of town with the news, straight out before
him in the noonday sun on the white road, and his feet had brought
him face to face with her in the hall of the ruined palazzo, a room
magnificent and naked, with here and there a long strip of damask, black
with damp and age, hanging down on a bare panel of the wall. It was
furnished with exactly one gilt armchair, with a broken back, and an
octagon columnar stand bearing a heavy marble vase ornamented with
sculptured masks and garlands of flowers, and cracked from top to
bottom. Charles Gould was dusty with the white dust of the road lying
on his boots, on his shoulders, on his cap with two peaks. Water dripped
from under it all over his face, and he grasped a thick oaken cudgel in
his bare right hand.

She went very pale under the roses of her big straw hat, gloved,
swinging a clear sunshade, caught just as she was going out to meet him
at the bottom of the hill, where three poplars stand near the wall of a
vineyard.

"It has killed him!" he repeated. "He ought to have had many years yet.
We are a long-lived family."

She was too startled to say anything; he was contemplating with a
penetrating and motionless stare the cracked marble urn as though he
had resolved to fix its shape for ever in his memory. It was only when,
turning suddenly to her, he blurted out twice, "I've come to you--I've
come straight to you--," without being able to finish his phrase, that
the great pitifulness of that lonely and tormented death in Costaguana
came to her with the full force of its misery. He caught hold of her
hand, raised it to his lips, and at that she dropped her parasol to pat
him on the cheek, murmured "Poor boy," and began to dry her eyes under
the downward curve of her hat-brim, very small in her simple, white
frock, almost like a lost child crying in the degraded grandeur of the
noble hall, while he stood by her, again perfectly motionless in the
contemplation of the marble urn.

Afterwards they went out for a long walk, which was silent till he
exclaimed suddenly--

"Yes. But if he had only grappled with it in a proper way!"

And then they stopped. Everywhere there were long shadows lying on the
hills, on the roads, on the enclosed fields of olive trees; the shadows
of poplars, of wide chestnuts, of farm buildings, of stone walls; and
in mid-air the sound of a bell, thin and alert, was like the throbbing
pulse of the sunset glow. Her lips were slightly parted as though in
surprise that he should not be looking at her with his usual expression.
His usual expression was unconditionally approving and attentive. He was
in his talks with her the most anxious and deferential of dictators,
an attitude that pleased her immensely. It affirmed her power without
detracting from his dignity. That slight girl, with her little feet,
little hands, little face attractively overweighted by great coils of
hair; with a rather large mouth, whose mere parting seemed to breathe
upon you the fragrance of frankness and generosity, had the fastidious
soul of an experienced woman. She was, before all things and all
flatteries, careful of her pride in the object of her choice. But now he
was actually not looking at her at all; and his expression was tense and
irrational, as is natural in a man who elects to stare at nothing past a
young girl's head.

"Well, yes. It was iniquitous. They corrupted him thoroughly, the poor
old boy. Oh! why wouldn't he let me go back to him? But now I shall know
how to grapple with this."

After pronouncing these words with immense assurance, he glanced down at
her, and at once fell a prey to distress, incertitude, and fear.

The only thing he wanted to know now, he said, was whether she did love
him enough--whether she would have the courage to go with him so far
away? He put these questions to her in a voice that trembled with
anxiety--for he was a determined man.

She did. She would. And immediately the future hostess of all the
Europeans in Sulaco had the physical experience of the earth falling
away from under her. It vanished completely, even to the very sound of
the bell. When her feet touched the ground again, the bell was still
ringing in the valley; she put her hands up to her hair, breathing
quickly, and glanced up and down the stony lane. It was reassuringly
empty. Meantime, Charles, stepping with one foot into a dry and dusty
ditch, picked up the open parasol, which had bounded away from them
with a martial sound of drum taps. He handed it to her soberly, a little
crestfallen.

They turned back, and after she had slipped her hand on his arm, the
first words he pronounced were--

"It's lucky that we shall be able to settle in a coast town. You've
heard its name. It is Sulaco. I am so glad poor father did get that
house. He bought a big house there years ago, in order that there should
always be a Casa Gould in the principal town of what used to be called
the Occidental Province. I lived there once, as a small boy, with my
dear mother, for a whole year, while poor father was away in the United
States on business. You shall be the new mistress of the Casa Gould."

And later, in the inhabited corner of the Palazzo above the vineyards,
the marble hills, the pines and olives of Lucca, he also said--

"The name of Gould has been always highly respected in Sulaco. My uncle
Harry was chief of the State for some time, and has left a great name
amongst the first families. By this I mean the pure Creole families, who
take no part in the miserable farce of governments. Uncle Harry was no
adventurer. In Costaguana we Goulds are no adventurers. He was of the
country, and he loved it, but he remained essentially an Englishman
in his ideas. He made use of the political cry of his time. It was
Federation. But he was no politician. He simply stood up for social
order out of pure love for rational liberty and from his hate of
oppression. There was no nonsense about him. He went to work in his
own way because it seemed right, just as I feel I must lay hold of that
mine."

In such words he talked to her because his memory was very full of the
country of his childhood, his heart of his life with that girl, and his
mind of the San Tome Concession. He added that he would have to leave
her for a few days to find an American, a man from San Francisco, who
was still somewhere in Europe. A few months before he had made his
acquaintance in an old historic German town, situated in a mining
district. The American had his womankind with him, but seemed lonely
while they were sketching all day long the old doorways and the
turreted corners of the mediaeval houses. Charles Gould had with him the
inseparable companionship of the mine. The other man was interested in
mining enterprises, knew something of Costaguana, and was no stranger to
the name of Gould. They had talked together with some intimacy which
was made possible by the difference of their ages. Charles wanted now
to find that capitalist of shrewd mind and accessible character. His
father's fortune in Costaguana, which he had supposed to be still
considerable, seemed to have melted in the rascally crucible of
revolutions. Apart from some ten thousand pounds deposited in England,
there appeared to be nothing left except the house in Sulaco, a vague
right of forest exploitation in a remote and savage district, and the
San Tome Concession, which had attended his poor father to the very
brink of the grave.

He explained those things. It was late when they parted. She had never
before given him such a fascinating vision of herself. All the eagerness
of youth for a strange life, for great distances, for a future in which
there was an air of adventure, of combat--a subtle thought of redress
and conquest, had filled her with an intense excitement, which she
returned to the giver with a more open and exquisite display of
tenderness.

He left her to walk down the hill, and directly he found himself alone
he became sober. That irreparable change a death makes in the course
of our daily thoughts can be felt in a vague and poignant discomfort
of mind. It hurt Charles Gould to feel that never more, by no effort of
will, would he be able to think of his father in the same way he used
to think of him when the poor man was alive. His breathing image was
no longer in his power. This consideration, closely affecting his own
identity, filled his breast with a mournful and angry desire for action.
In this his instinct was unerring. Action is consolatory. It is the
enemy of thought and the friend of flattering illusions. Only in the
conduct of our action can we find the sense of mastery over the Fates.
For his action, the mine was obviously the only field. It was imperative
sometimes to know how to disobey the solemn wishes of the dead.
He resolved firmly to make his disobedience as thorough (by way of
atonement) as it well could be. The mine had been the cause of an absurd
moral disaster; its working must be made a serious and moral success.
He owed it to the dead man's memory. Such were the--properly
speaking--emotions of Charles Gould. His thoughts ran upon the means
of raising a large amount of capital in San Francisco or elsewhere; and
incidentally there occurred to him also the general reflection that the
counsel of the departed must be an unsound guide. Not one of them
could be aware beforehand what enormous changes the death of any given
individual may produce in the very aspect of the world.

The latest phase in the history of the mine Mrs. Gould knew from
personal experience. It was in essence the history of her married life.
The mantle of the Goulds' hereditary position in Sulaco had descended
amply upon her little person; but she would not allow the peculiarities
of the strange garment to weigh down the vivacity of her character,
which was the sign of no mere mechanical sprightliness, but of an
eager intelligence. It must not be supposed that Mrs. Gould's mind was
masculine. A woman with a masculine mind is not a being of
superior efficiency; she is simply a phenomenon of imperfect
differentiation--interestingly barren and without importance. Dona
Emilia's intelligence being feminine led her to achieve the conquest of
Sulaco, simply by lighting the way for her unselfishness and sympathy.
She could converse charmingly, but she was not talkative. The wisdom of
the heart having no concern with the erection or demolition of theories
any more than with the defence of prejudices, has no random words at its
command. The words it pronounces have the value of acts of integrity,
tolerance, and compassion. A woman's true tenderness, like the true
virility of man, is expressed in action of a conquering kind. The ladies
of Sulaco adored Mrs. Gould. "They still look upon me as something of a
monster," Mrs. Gould had said pleasantly to one of the three gentlemen
from San Francisco she had to entertain in her new Sulaco house just
about a year after her marriage.

They were her first visitors from abroad, and they had come to look at
the San Tome mine. She jested most agreeably, they thought; and Charles
Gould, besides knowing thoroughly what he was about, had shown himself
a real hustler. These facts caused them to be well disposed towards his
wife. An unmistakable enthusiasm, pointed by a slight flavour of irony,
made her talk of the mine absolutely fascinating to her visitors, and
provoked them to grave and indulgent smiles in which there was a good
deal of deference. Perhaps had they known how much she was inspired by
an idealistic view of success they would have been amazed at the state
of her mind as the Spanish-American ladies had been amazed at the
tireless activity of her body. She would--in her own words--have
been for them "something of a monster." However, the Goulds were in
essentials a reticent couple, and their guests departed without the
suspicion of any other purpose but simple profit in the working of a
silver mine. Mrs. Gould had out her own carriage, with two white mules,
to drive them down to the harbour, whence the Ceres was to carry them
off into the Olympus of plutocrats. Captain Mitchell had snatched at the
occasion of leave-taking to remark to Mrs. Gould, in a low, confidential
mutter, "This marks an epoch."

Mrs. Gould loved the patio of her Spanish house. A broad flight of stone
steps was overlooked silently from a niche in the wall by a Madonna in
blue robes with the crowned child sitting on her arm. Subdued voices
ascended in the early mornings from the paved well of the quadrangle,
with the stamping of horses and mules led out in pairs to drink at the
cistern. A tangle of slender bamboo stems drooped its narrow, blade-like
leaves over the square pool of water, and the fat coachman sat muffled
up on the edge, holding lazily the ends of halters in his hand.
Barefooted servants passed to and fro, issuing from dark, low doorways
below; two laundry girls with baskets of washed linen; the baker with
the tray of bread made for the day; Leonarda--her own camerista--bearing
high up, swung from her hand raised above her raven black head, a bunch
of starched under-skirts dazzlingly white in the slant of sunshine. Then
the old porter would hobble in, sweeping the flagstones, and the
house was ready for the day. All the lofty rooms on three sides of
the quadrangle opened into each other and into the corredor, with its
wrought-iron railings and a border of flowers, whence, like the lady of
the mediaeval castle, she could witness from above all the departures
and arrivals of the Casa, to which the sonorous arched gateway lent an
air of stately importance.

She had watched her carriage roll away with the three guests from the
north. She smiled. Their three arms went up simultaneously to their
three hats. Captain Mitchell, the fourth, in attendance, had already
begun a pompous discourse. Then she lingered. She lingered, approaching
her face to the clusters of flowers here and there as if to give time
to her thoughts to catch up with her slow footsteps along the straight
vista of the corredor.

A fringed Indian hammock from Aroa, gay with coloured featherwork, had
been swung judiciously in a corner that caught the early sun; for the
mornings are cool in Sulaco. The cluster of _flor de noche buena_ blazed
in great masses before the open glass doors of the reception rooms. A
big green parrot, brilliant like an emerald in a cage that flashed like
gold, screamed out ferociously, "_Viva Costaguana!_" then called twice
mellifluously, "Leonarda! Leonarda!" in imitation of Mrs. Gould's voice,
and suddenly took refuge in immobility and silence. Mrs. Gould reached
the end of the gallery and put her head through the door of her
husband's room.

Charles Gould, with one foot on a low wooden stool, was already
strapping his spurs. He wanted to hurry back to the mine. Mrs. Gould,
without coming in, glanced about the room. One tall, broad bookcase,
with glass doors, was full of books; but in the other, without shelves,
and lined with red baize, were arranged firearms: Winchester carbines,
revolvers, a couple of shot-guns, and even two pairs of double-barrelled
holster pistols. Between them, by itself, upon a strip of scarlet
velvet, hung an old cavalry sabre, once the property of Don Enrique
Gould, the hero of the Occidental Province, presented by Don Jose
Avellanos, the hereditary friend of the family.

Otherwise, the plastered white walls were completely bare, except for
a water-colour sketch of the San Tome mountain--the work of Dona Emilia
herself. In the middle of the red-tiled floor stood two long tables
littered with plans and papers, a few chairs, and a glass show-case
containing specimens of ore from the mine. Mrs. Gould, looking at all
these things in turn, wondered aloud why the talk of these wealthy and
enterprising men discussing the prospects, the working, and the safety
of the mine rendered her so impatient and uneasy, whereas she could talk
of the mine by the hour with her husband with unwearied interest and
satisfaction. And dropping her eyelids expressively, she added--

"What do you feel about it, Charley?"

Then, surprised at her husband's silence, she raised her eyes, opened
wide, as pretty as pale flowers. He had done with the spurs, and,
twisting his moustache with both hands, horizontally, he contemplated
her from the height of his long legs with a visible appreciation of her
appearance. The consciousness of being thus contemplated pleased Mrs.
Gould.

"They are considerable men," he said.

"I know. But have you listened to their conversation? They don't seem to
have understood anything they have seen here."

"They have seen the mine. They have understood that to some purpose,"
Charles Gould interjected, in defence of the visitors; and then his
wife mentioned the name of the most considerable of the three. He was
considerable in finance and in industry. His name was familiar to many
millions of people. He was so considerable that he would never have
travelled so far away from the centre of his activity if the doctors had
not insisted, with veiled menaces, on his taking a long holiday.

"Mr. Holroyd's sense of religion," Mrs. Gould pursued, "was shocked
and disgusted at the tawdriness of the dressed-up saints in the
cathedral--the worship, he called it, of wood and tinsel. But it seemed
to me that he looked upon his own God as a sort of influential partner,
who gets his share of profits in the endowment of churches. That's a
sort of idolatry. He told me he endowed churches every year, Charley."

"No end of them," said Mr. Gould, marvelling inwardly at the mobility
of her physiognomy. "All over the country. He's famous for that sort of
munificence." "Oh, he didn't boast," Mrs. Gould declared, scrupulously.
"I believe he's really a good man, but so stupid! A poor Chulo who
offers a little silver arm or leg to thank his god for a cure is as
rational and more touching."

"He's at the head of immense silver and iron interests," Charles Gould
observed.

"Ah, yes! The religion of silver and iron. He's a very civil man, though
he looked awfully solemn when he first saw the Madonna on the staircase,
who's only wood and paint; but he said nothing to me. My dear Charley,
I heard those men talk among themselves. Can it be that they really wish
to become, for an immense consideration, drawers of water and hewers of
wood to all the countries and nations of the earth?"

"A man must work to some end," Charles Gould said, vaguely.

Mrs. Gould, frowning, surveyed him from head to foot. With his riding
breeches, leather leggings (an article of apparel never before seen in
Costaguana), a Norfolk coat of grey flannel, and those great flaming
moustaches, he suggested an officer of cavalry turned gentleman farmer.
This combination was gratifying to Mrs. Gould's tastes. "How thin the
poor boy is!" she thought. "He overworks himself." But there was no
denying that his fine-drawn, keen red face, and his whole, long-limbed,
lank person had an air of breeding and distinction. And Mrs. Gould
relented.

"I only wondered what you felt," she murmured, gently.

During the last few days, as it happened, Charles Gould had been kept
too busy thinking twice before he spoke to have paid much attention to
the state of his feelings. But theirs was a successful match, and he had
no difficulty in finding his answer.

"The best of my feelings are in your keeping, my dear," he said,
lightly; and there was so much truth in that obscure phrase that he
experienced towards her at the moment a great increase of gratitude and
tenderness.

Mrs. Gould, however, did not seem to find this answer in the least
obscure. She brightened up delicately; already he had changed his tone.

"But there are facts. The worth of the mine--as a mine--is beyond doubt.
It shall make us very wealthy. The mere working of it is a matter of
technical knowledge, which I have--which ten thousand other men in the
world have. But its safety, its continued existence as an enterprise,
giving a return to men--to strangers, comparative strangers--who invest
money in it, is left altogether in my hands. I have inspired confidence
in a man of wealth and position. You seem to think this perfectly
natural--do you? Well, I don't know. I don't know why I have; but it is
a fact. This fact makes everything possible, because without it I would
never have thought of disregarding my father's wishes. I would never
have disposed of the Concession as a speculator disposes of a valuable
right to a company--for cash and shares, to grow rich eventually if
possible, but at any rate to put some money at once in his pocket. No.
Even if it had been feasible--which I doubt--I would not have done so.
Poor father did not understand. He was afraid I would hang on to the
ruinous thing, waiting for just some such chance, and waste my life
miserably. That was the true sense of his prohibition, which we have
deliberately set aside."

They were walking up and down the corredor. Her head just reached to his
shoulder. His arm, extended downwards, was about her waist. His spurs
jingled slightly.

"He had not seen me for ten years. He did not know me. He parted from me
for my sake, and he would never let me come back. He was always talking
in his letters of leaving Costaguana, of abandoning everything and
making his escape. But he was too valuable a prey. They would have
thrown him into one of their prisons at the first suspicion."

His spurred feet clinked slowly. He was bending over his wife as they
walked. The big parrot, turning its head askew, followed their pacing
figures with a round, unblinking eye.

"He was a lonely man. Ever since I was ten years old he used to talk to
me as if I had been grown up. When I was in Europe he wrote to me every
month. Ten, twelve pages every month of my life for ten years. And,
after all, he did not know me! Just think of it--ten whole years away;
the years I was growing up into a man. He could not know me. Do you
think he could?"

Mrs. Gould shook her head negatively; which was just what her husband
had expected from the strength of the argument. But she shook her
head negatively only because she thought that no one could know her
Charles--really know him for what he was but herself. The thing was
obvious. It could be felt. It required no argument. And poor Mr. Gould,
senior, who had died too soon to ever hear of their engagement, remained
too shadowy a figure for her to be credited with knowledge of any sort
whatever.

"No, he did not understand. In my view this mine could never have been
a thing to sell. Never! After all his misery I simply could not have
touched it for money alone," Charles Gould pursued: and she pressed her
head to his shoulder approvingly.

These two young people remembered the life which had ended wretchedly
just when their own lives had come together in that splendour of hopeful
love, which to the most sensible minds appears like a triumph of good
over all the evils of the earth. A vague idea of rehabilitation had
entered the plan of their life. That it was so vague as to elude the
support of argument made it only the stronger. It had presented itself
to them at the instant when the woman's instinct of devotion and the
man's instinct of activity receive from the strongest of illusions their
most powerful impulse. The very prohibition imposed the necessity of
success. It was as if they had been morally bound to make good their
vigorous view of life against the unnatural error of weariness and
despair. If the idea of wealth was present to them it was only in so
far as it was bound with that other success. Mrs. Gould, an orphan from
early childhood and without fortune, brought up in an atmosphere of
intellectual interests, had never considered the aspects of great
wealth. They were too remote, and she had not learned that they were
desirable. On the other hand, she had not known anything of absolute
want. Even the very poverty of her aunt, the Marchesa, had nothing
intolerable to a refined mind; it seemed in accord with a great grief:
it had the austerity of a sacrifice offered to a noble ideal. Thus even
the most legitimate touch of materialism was wanting in Mrs. Gould's
character. The dead man of whom she thought with tenderness (because
he was Charley's father) and with some impatience (because he had been
weak), must be put completely in the wrong. Nothing else would do
to keep their prosperity without a stain on its only real, on its
immaterial side!

Charles Gould, on his part, had been obliged to keep the idea of wealth
well to the fore; but he brought it forward as a means, not as an end.
Unless the mine was good business it could not be touched. He had to
insist on that aspect of the enterprise. It was his lever to move
men who had capital. And Charles Gould believed in the mine. He
knew everything that could be known of it. His faith in the mine was
contagious, though it was not served by a great eloquence; but business
men are frequently as sanguine and imaginative as lovers. They are
affected by a personality much oftener than people would suppose; and
Charles Gould, in his unshaken assurance, was absolutely convincing.
Besides, it was a matter of common knowledge to the men to whom he
addressed himself that mining in Costaguana was a game that could be
made considerably more than worth the candle. The men of affairs knew that
very well. The real difficulty in touching it was elsewhere. Against
that there was an implication of calm and implacable resolution in
Charles Gould's very voice. Men of affairs venture sometimes on acts
that the common judgment of the world would pronounce absurd; they make
their decisions on apparently impulsive and human grounds. "Very well,"
had said the considerable personage to whom Charles Gould on his way
out through San Francisco had lucidly exposed his point of view. "Let us
suppose that the mining affairs of Sulaco are taken in hand. There would
then be in it: first, the house of Holroyd, which is all right; then,
Mr. Charles Gould, a citizen of Costaguana, who is also all right; and,
lastly, the Government of the Republic. So far this resembles the first
start of the Atacama nitrate fields, where there was a financing house,
a gentleman of the name of Edwards, and--a Government; or, rather, two
Governments--two South American Governments. And you know what came of
it. War came of it; devastating and prolonged war came of it, Mr. Gould.
However, here we possess the advantage of having only one South
American Government hanging around for plunder out of the deal. It is an
advantage; but then there are degrees of badness, and that Government is
the Costaguana Government."

Thus spoke the considerable personage, the millionaire endower of
churches on a scale befitting the greatness of his native land--the same
to whom the doctors used the language of horrid and veiled menaces. He
was a big-limbed, deliberate man, whose quiet burliness lent to an ample
silk-faced frock-coat a superfine dignity. His hair was iron grey, his
eyebrows were still black, and his massive profile was the profile of
a Caesar's head on an old Roman coin. But his parentage was German and
Scotch and English, with remote strains of Danish and French blood,
giving him the temperament of a Puritan and an insatiable imagination
of conquest. He was completely unbending to his visitor, because of the
warm introduction the visitor had brought from Europe, and because of
an irrational liking for earnestness and determination wherever met, to
whatever end directed.

"The Costaguana Government shall play its hand for all it's worth--and
don't you forget it, Mr. Gould. Now, what is Costaguana? It is the
bottomless pit of 10 per cent. loans and other fool investments.
European capital has been flung into it with both hands for years. Not
ours, though. We in this country know just about enough to keep indoors
when it rains. We can sit and watch. Of course, some day we shall step
in. We are bound to. But there's no hurry. Time itself has got to wait
on the greatest country in the whole of God's Universe. We shall be
giving the word for everything: industry, trade, law, journalism, art,
politics, and religion, from Cape Horn clear over to Smith's Sound,
and beyond, too, if anything worth taking hold of turns up at the North
Pole. And then we shall have the leisure to take in hand the outlying
islands and continents of the earth. We shall run the world's business
whether the world likes it or not. The world can't help it--and neither
can we, I guess."

By this he meant to express his faith in destiny in words suitable to
his intelligence, which was unskilled in the presentation of general
ideas. His intelligence was nourished on facts; and Charles Gould, whose
imagination had been permanently affected by the one great fact of a
silver mine, had no objection to this theory of the world's future.
If it had seemed distasteful for a moment it was because the sudden
statement of such vast eventualities dwarfed almost to nothingness the
actual matter in hand. He and his plans and all the mineral wealth of
the Occidental Province appeared suddenly robbed of every vestige of
magnitude. The sensation was disagreeable; but Charles Gould was not
dull. Already he felt that he was producing a favourable impression; the
consciousness of that flattering fact helped him to a vague smile, which
his big interlocutor took for a smile of discreet and admiring assent.
He smiled quietly, too; and immediately Charles Gould, with that mental
agility mankind will display in defence of a cherished hope, reflected
that the very apparent insignificance of his aim would help him to
success. His personality and his mine would be taken up because it was
a matter of no great consequence, one way or another, to a man who
referred his action to such a prodigious destiny. And Charles Gould was
not humiliated by this consideration, because the thing remained as
big as ever for him. Nobody else's vast conceptions of destiny could
diminish the aspect of his desire for the redemption of the San Tome
mine. In comparison to the correctness of his aim, definite in space and
absolutely attainable within a limited time, the other man appeared for
an instant as a dreamy idealist of no importance.

The great man, massive and benignant, had been looking at him
thoughtfully; when he broke the short silence it was to remark that
concessions flew about thick in the air of Costaguana. Any simple soul
that just yearned to be taken in could bring down a concession at the
first shot.

"Our consuls get their mouths stopped with them," he continued, with a
twinkle of genial scorn in his eyes. But in a moment he became grave.
"A conscientious, upright man, that cares nothing for boodle, and keeps
clear of their intrigues, conspiracies, and factions, soon gets his
passports. See that, Mr. Gould? Persona non grata. That's the reason our
Government is never properly informed. On the other hand, Europe must be
kept out of this continent, and for proper interference on our part the
time is not yet ripe, I dare say. But we here--we are not this country's
Government, neither are we simple souls. Your affair is all right. The
main question for us is whether the second partner, and that's you, is
the right sort to hold his own against the third and unwelcome partner,
which is one or another of the high and mighty robber gangs that run the
Costaguana Government. What do you think, Mr. Gould, eh?"

He bent forward to look steadily into the unflinching eyes of Charles
Gould, who, remembering the large box full of his father's letters, put
the accumulated scorn and bitterness of many years into the tone of his
answer--

"As far as the knowledge of these men and their methods and their
politics is concerned, I can answer for myself. I have been fed on
that sort of knowledge since I was a boy. I am not likely to fall into
mistakes from excess of optimism."

"Not likely, eh? That's all right. Tact and a stiff upper lip is what
you'll want; and you could bluff a little on the strength of your
backing. Not too much, though. We will go with you as long as the thing
runs straight. But we won't be drawn into any large trouble. This is the
experiment which I am willing to make. There is some risk, and we will
take it; but if you can't keep up your end, we will stand our loss, of
course, and then--we'll let the thing go. This mine can wait; it has
been shut up before, as you know. You must understand that under no
circumstances will we consent to throw good money after bad."

Thus the great personage had spoken then, in his own private office, in
a great city where other men (very considerable in the eyes of a vain
populace) waited with alacrity upon a wave of his hand. And rather more
than a year later, during his unexpected appearance in Sulaco, he had
emphasized his uncompromising attitude with a freedom of sincerity
permitted to his wealth and influence. He did this with the less
reserve, perhaps, because the inspection of what had been done, and more
still the way in which successive steps had been taken, had impressed
him with the conviction that Charles Gould was perfectly capable of
keeping up his end.

"This young fellow," he thought to himself, "may yet become a power in
the land."

This thought flattered him, for hitherto the only account of this young
man he could give to his intimates was--

"My brother-in-law met him in one of these one-horse old German towns,
near some mines, and sent him on to me with a letter. He's one of the
Costaguana Goulds, pure-bred Englishmen, but all born in the country.
His uncle went into politics, was the last Provincial President of
Sulaco, and got shot after a battle. His father was a prominent business
man in Sta. Marta, tried to keep clear of their politics, and died
ruined after a lot of revolutions. And that's your Costaguana in a
nutshell."

Of course, he was too great a man to be questioned as to his motives,
even by his intimates. The outside world was at liberty to wonder
respectfully at the hidden meaning of his actions. He was so great a man
that his lavish patronage of the "purer forms of Christianity" (which in
its naive form of church-building amused Mrs. Gould) was looked upon by
his fellow-citizens as the manifestation of a pious and humble spirit.
But in his own circles of the financial world the taking up of such a
thing as the San Tome mine was regarded with respect, indeed, but rather
as a subject for discreet jocularity. It was a great man's caprice. In
the great Holroyd building (an enormous pile of iron, glass, and blocks
of stone at the corner of two streets, cobwebbed aloft by the radiation
of telegraph wires) the heads of principal departments exchanged
humorous glances, which meant that they were not let into the secrets
of the San Tome business. The Costaguana mail (it was never large--one
fairly heavy envelope) was taken unopened straight into the great man's
room, and no instructions dealing with it had ever been issued thence.
The office whispered that he answered personally--and not by dictation
either, but actually writing in his own hand, with pen and ink, and, it
was to be supposed, taking a copy in his own private press copy-book,
inaccessible to profane eyes. Some scornful young men, insignificant
pieces of minor machinery in that eleven-storey-high workshop of great
affairs, expressed frankly their private opinion that the great chief
had done at last something silly, and was ashamed of his folly; others,
elderly and insignificant, but full of romantic reverence for the
business that had devoured their best years, used to mutter darkly and
knowingly that this was a portentous sign; that the Holroyd connection
meant by-and-by to get hold of the whole Republic of Costaguana, lock,
stock, and barrel. But, in fact, the hobby theory was the right one. It
interested the great man to attend personally to the San Tome mine; it
interested him so much that he allowed this hobby to give a direction to
the first complete holiday he had taken for quite a startling number
of years. He was not running a great enterprise there; no mere railway
board or industrial corporation. He was running a man! A success would
have pleased him very much on refreshingly novel grounds; but, on the
other side of the same feeling, it was incumbent upon him to cast it
off utterly at the first sign of failure. A man may be thrown off. The
papers had unfortunately trumpeted all over the land his journey to
Costaguana. If he was pleased at the way Charles Gould was going on, he
infused an added grimness into his assurances of support. Even at the
very last interview, half an hour or so before he rolled out of the
patio, hat in hand, behind Mrs. Gould's white mules, he had said in
Charles's room--

"You go ahead in your own way, and I shall know how to help you as long
as you hold your own. But you may rest assured that in a given case we
shall know how to drop you in time."

To this Charles Gould's only answer had been: "You may begin sending out
the machinery as soon as you like."

And the great man had liked this imperturbable assurance. The secret
of it was that to Charles Gould's mind these uncompromising terms were
agreeable. Like this the mine preserved its identity, with which he had
endowed it as a boy; and it remained dependent on himself alone. It was
a serious affair, and he, too, took it grimly.

"Of course," he said to his wife, alluding to this last conversation
with the departed guest, while they walked slowly up and down the
corredor, followed by the irritated eye of the parrot--"of course, a
man of that sort can take up a thing or drop it when he likes. He will
suffer from no sense of defeat. He may have to give in, or he may have
to die to-morrow, but the great silver and iron interests will survive,
and some day will get hold of Costaguana along with the rest of the
world."

They had stopped near the cage. The parrot, catching the sound of a word
belonging to his vocabulary, was moved to interfere. Parrots are very
human.

"Viva Costaguana!" he shrieked, with intense self-assertion, and,
instantly ruffling up his feathers, assumed an air of puffed-up
somnolence behind the glittering wires.

"And do you believe that, Charley?" Mrs. Gould asked. "This seems to me
most awful materialism, and--"

"My dear, it's nothing to me," interrupted her husband, in a reasonable
tone. "I make use of what I see. What's it to me whether his talk is the
voice of destiny or simply a bit of clap-trap eloquence? There's a good
deal of eloquence of one sort or another produced in both Americas. The
air of the New World seems favourable to the art of declamation. Have
you forgotten how dear Avellanos can hold forth for hours here--?"

"Oh, but that's different," protested Mrs. Gould, almost shocked. The
allusion was not to the point. Don Jose was a dear good man, who talked
very well, and was enthusiastic about the greatness of the San Tome
mine. "How can you compare them, Charles?" she exclaimed, reproachfully.
"He has suffered--and yet he hopes."

The working competence of men--which she never questioned--was very
surprising to Mrs. Gould, because upon so many obvious issues they
showed themselves strangely muddle-headed.

Charles Gould, with a careworn calmness which secured for him at once
his wife's anxious sympathy, assured her that he was not comparing. He
was an American himself, after all, and perhaps he could understand both
kinds of eloquence--"if it were worth while to try," he added, grimly.
But he had breathed the air of England longer than any of his people had
done for three generations, and really he begged to be excused. His
poor father could be eloquent, too. And he asked his wife whether she
remembered a passage in one of his father's last letters where Mr.
Gould had expressed the conviction that "God looked wrathfully at these
countries, or else He would let some ray of hope fall through a rift in
the appalling darkness of intrigue, bloodshed, and crime that hung over
the Queen of Continents."

Mrs. Gould had not forgotten. "You read it to me, Charley," she
murmured. "It was a striking pronouncement. How deeply your father must
have felt its terrible sadness!"

"He did not like to be robbed. It exasperated him," said Charles Gould.
"But the image will serve well enough. What is wanted here is law, good
faith, order, security. Any one can declaim about these things, but I
pin my faith to material interests. Only let the material interests once
get a firm footing, and they are bound to impose the conditions on
which alone they can continue to exist. That's how your money-making is
justified here in the face of lawlessness and disorder. It is justified
because the security which it demands must be shared with an oppressed
people. A better justice will come afterwards. That's your ray of hope."
His arm pressed her slight form closer to his side for a moment. "And
who knows whether in that sense even the San Tome mine may not become
that little rift in the darkness which poor father despaired of ever
seeing?"

She glanced up at him with admiration. He was competent; he had given a
vast shape to the vagueness of her unselfish ambitions.

"Charley," she said, "you are splendidly disobedient."

He left her suddenly in the corredor to go and get his hat, a soft, grey
sombrero, an article of national costume which combined unexpectedly
well with his English get-up. He came back, a riding-whip under his arm,
buttoning up a dogskin glove; his face reflected the resolute nature of
his thoughts. His wife had waited for him at the head of the stairs, and
before he gave her the parting kiss he finished the conversation--

"What should be perfectly clear to us," he said, "is the fact that there
is no going back. Where could we begin life afresh? We are in now for
all that there is in us."

He bent over her upturned face very tenderly and a little remorsefully.
Charles Gould was competent because he had no illusions. The Gould
Concession had to fight for life with such weapons as could be found at
once in the mire of a corruption that was so universal as almost to lose
its significance. He was prepared to stoop for his weapons. For a moment
he felt as if the silver mine, which had killed his father, had decoyed
him further than he meant to go; and with the roundabout logic of
emotions, he felt that the worthiness of his life was bound up with
success. There was no going back.



CHAPTER SEVEN

Mrs. Gould was too intelligently sympathetic not to share that feeling.
It made life exciting, and she was too much of a woman not to like
excitement. But it frightened her, too, a little; and when Don Jose
Avellanos, rocking in the American chair, would go so far as to say,
"Even, my dear Carlos, if you had failed; even if some untoward event
were yet to destroy your work--which God forbid!--you would have
deserved well of your country," Mrs. Gould would look up from the
tea-table profoundly at her unmoved husband stirring the spoon in the
cup as though he had not heard a word.

Not that Don Jose anticipated anything of the sort. He could not praise
enough dear Carlos's tact and courage. His English, rock-like quality
of character was his best safeguard, Don Jose affirmed; and, turning to
Mrs. Gould, "As to you, Emilia, my soul"--he would address her with the
familiarity of his age and old friendship--"you are as true a patriot as
though you had been born in our midst."

This might have been less or more than the truth. Mrs. Gould,
accompanying her husband all over the province in the search for labour,
had seen the land with a deeper glance than a trueborn Costaguanera
could have done. In her travel-worn riding habit, her face powdered
white like a plaster cast, with a further protection of a small silk
mask during the heat of the day, she rode on a well-shaped, light-footed
pony in the centre of a little cavalcade. Two mozos de campo,
picturesque in great hats, with spurred bare heels, in white embroidered
calzoneras, leather jackets and striped ponchos, rode ahead with
carbines across their shoulders, swaying in unison to the pace of the
horses. A tropilla of pack mules brought up the rear in charge of a thin
brown muleteer, sitting his long-eared beast very near the tail, legs
thrust far forward, the wide brim of his hat set far back, making a sort
of halo for his head. An old Costaguana officer, a retired senior major
of humble origin, but patronized by the first families on account of
his Blanco opinions, had been recommended by Don Jose for commissary and
organizer of that expedition. The points of his grey moustache hung far
below his chin, and, riding on Mrs. Gould's left hand, he looked about
with kindly eyes, pointing out the features of the country, telling the
names of the little pueblos and of the estates, of the smooth-walled
haciendas like long fortresses crowning the knolls above the level of
the Sulaco Valley. It unrolled itself, with green young crops, plains,
woodland, and gleams of water, park-like, from the blue vapour of the
distant sierra to an immense quivering horizon of grass and sky, where
big white clouds seemed to fall slowly into the darkness of their own
shadows.

Men ploughed with wooden ploughs and yoked oxen, small on a boundless
expanse, as if attacking immensity itself. The mounted figures of
vaqueros galloped in the distance, and the great herds fed with all
their horned heads one way, in one single wavering line as far as eye
could reach across the broad potreros. A spreading cotton-wool tree
shaded a thatched ranche by the road; the trudging files of burdened
Indians taking off their hats, would lift sad, mute eyes to the
cavalcade raising the dust of the crumbling camino real made by the
hands of their enslaved forefathers. And Mrs. Gould, with each day's
journey, seemed to come nearer to the soul of the land in the tremendous
disclosure of this interior unaffected by the slight European veneer
of the coast towns, a great land of plain and mountain and people,
suffering and mute, waiting for the future in a pathetic immobility of
patience.

She knew its sights and its hospitality, dispensed with a sort of
slumbrous dignity in those great houses presenting long, blind walls and
heavy portals to the wind-swept pastures. She was given the head of the
tables, where masters and dependants sat in a simple and patriarchal
state. The ladies of the house would talk softly in the moonlight under
the orange trees of the courtyards, impressing upon her the sweetness
of their voices and the something mysterious in the quietude of their
lives. In the morning the gentlemen, well mounted in braided sombreros
and embroidered riding suits, with much silver on the trappings of
their horses, would ride forth to escort the departing guests before
committing them, with grave good-byes, to the care of God at the
boundary pillars of their estates. In all these households she
could hear stories of political outrage; friends, relatives, ruined,
imprisoned, killed in the battles of senseless civil wars, barbarously
executed in ferocious proscriptions, as though the government of the
country had been a struggle of lust between bands of absurd devils let
loose upon the land with sabres and uniforms and grandiloquent phrases.
And on all the lips she found a weary desire for peace, the dread of
officialdom with its nightmarish parody of administration without law,
without security, and without justice.

She bore a whole two months of wandering very well; she had that power
of resistance to fatigue which one discovers here and there in some
quite frail-looking women with surprise--like a state of possession by
a remarkably stubborn spirit. Don Pepe--the old Costaguana major--after
much display of solicitude for the delicate lady, had ended by
conferring upon her the name of the "Never-tired Senora." Mrs. Gould
was indeed becoming a Costaguanera. Having acquired in Southern Europe a
knowledge of true peasantry, she was able to appreciate the great worth
of the people. She saw the man under the silent, sad-eyed beast of
burden. She saw them on the road carrying loads, lonely figures upon
the plain, toiling under great straw hats, with their white clothing
flapping about their limbs in the wind; she remembered the villages by
some group of Indian women at the fountain impressed upon her memory,
by the face of some young Indian girl with a melancholy and sensual
profile, raising an earthenware vessel of cool water at the door of a
dark hut with a wooden porch cumbered with great brown jars. The solid
wooden wheels of an ox-cart, halted with its shafts in the dust, showed
the strokes of the axe; and a party of charcoal carriers, with each
man's load resting above his head on the top of the low mud wall, slept
stretched in a row within the strip of shade.

The heavy stonework of bridges and churches left by the conquerors
proclaimed the disregard of human labour, the tribute-labour of vanished
nations. The power of king and church was gone, but at the sight of
some heavy ruinous pile overtopping from a knoll the low mud walls of a
village, Don Pepe would interrupt the tale of his campaigns to exclaim--

"Poor Costaguana! Before, it was everything for the Padres, nothing for
the people; and now it is everything for those great politicos in Sta.
Marta, for negroes and thieves."

Charles talked with the alcaldes, with the fiscales, with the
principal people in towns, and with the caballeros on the estates. The
commandantes of the districts offered him escorts--for he could show an
authorization from the Sulaco political chief of the day. How much the
document had cost him in gold twenty-dollar pieces was a secret between
himself, a great man in the United States (who condescended to answer
the Sulaco mail with his own hand), and a great man of another sort,
with a dark olive complexion and shifty eyes, inhabiting then the Palace
of the Intendencia in Sulaco, and who piqued himself on his culture and
Europeanism generally in a rather French style because he had lived in
Europe for some years--in exile, he said. However, it was pretty well
known that just before this exile he had incautiously gambled away all
the cash in the Custom House of a small port where a friend in power had
procured for him the post of subcollector. That youthful indiscretion
had, amongst other inconveniences, obliged him to earn his living for a
time as a cafe waiter in Madrid; but his talents must have been great,
after all, since they had enabled him to retrieve his political
fortunes so splendidly. Charles Gould, exposing his business with an
imperturbable steadiness, called him Excellency.

The provincial Excellency assumed a weary superiority, tilting his chair
far back near an open window in the true Costaguana manner. The military
band happened to be braying operatic selections on the plaza just then,
and twice he raised his hand imperatively for silence in order to listen
to a favourite passage.

"Exquisite, delicious!" he murmured; while Charles Gould waited,
standing by with inscrutable patience. "Lucia, Lucia di Lammermoor! I am
passionate for music. It transports me. Ha! the divine--ha!--Mozart. Si!
divine . . . What is it you were saying?"

Of course, rumours had reached him already of the newcomer's intentions.
Besides, he had received an official warning from Sta. Marta. His manner
was intended simply to conceal his curiosity and impress his visitor.
But after he had locked up something valuable in the drawer of a large
writing-desk in a distant part of the room, he became very affable, and
walked back to his chair smartly.

"If you intend to build villages and assemble a population near the
mine, you shall require a decree of the Minister of the Interior for
that," he suggested in a business-like manner.

"I have already sent a memorial," said Charles Gould, steadily, "and I
reckon now confidently upon your Excellency's favourable conclusions."

The Excellency was a man of many moods. With the receipt of the money
a great mellowness had descended upon his simple soul. Unexpectedly he
fetched a deep sigh.

"Ah, Don Carlos! What we want is advanced men like you in the province.
The lethargy--the lethargy of these aristocrats! The want of public
spirit! The absence of all enterprise! I, with my profound studies in
Europe, you understand--"

With one hand thrust into his swelling bosom, he rose and fell on
his toes, and for ten minutes, almost without drawing breath, went on
hurling himself intellectually to the assault of Charles Gould's polite
silence; and when, stopping abruptly, he fell back into his chair,
it was as though he had been beaten off from a fortress. To save his
dignity he hastened to dismiss this silent man with a solemn
inclination of the head and the words, pronounced with moody, fatigued
condescension--

"You may depend upon my enlightened goodwill as long as your conduct as
a good citizen deserves it."

He took up a paper fan and began to cool himself with a consequential
air, while Charles Gould bowed and withdrew. Then he dropped the fan
at once, and stared with an appearance of wonder and perplexity at the
closed door for quite a long time. At last he shrugged his shoulders as
if to assure himself of his disdain. Cold, dull. No intellectuality. Red
hair. A true Englishman. He despised him.

His face darkened. What meant this unimpressed and frigid behaviour? He
was the first of the successive politicians sent out from the capital
to rule the Occidental Province whom the manner of Charles Gould in
official intercourse was to strike as offensively independent.

Charles Gould assumed that if the appearance of listening to deplorable
balderdash must form part of the price he had to pay for being left
unmolested, the obligation of uttering balderdash personally was by
no means included in the bargain. He drew the line there. To these
provincial autocrats, before whom the peaceable population of
all classes had been accustomed to tremble, the reserve of that
English-looking engineer caused an uneasiness which swung to and fro
between cringing and truculence. Gradually all of them discovered that,
no matter what party was in power, that man remained in most effective
touch with the higher authorities in Sta. Marta.

This was a fact, and it accounted perfectly for the Goulds being by
no means so wealthy as the engineer-in-chief on the new railway could
legitimately suppose. Following the advice of Don Jose Avellanos,
who was a man of good counsel (though rendered timid by his horrible
experiences of Guzman Bento's time), Charles Gould had kept clear of the
capital; but in the current gossip of the foreign residents there he
was known (with a good deal of seriousness underlying the irony) by the
nickname of "King of Sulaco." An advocate of the Costaguana Bar, a
man of reputed ability and good character, member of the distinguished
Moraga family possessing extensive estates in the Sulaco Valley, was
pointed out to strangers, with a shade of mystery and respect, as
the agent of the San Tome mine--"political, you know." He was tall,
black-whiskered, and discreet. It was known that he had easy access to
ministers, and that the numerous Costaguana generals were always anxious
to dine at his house. Presidents granted him audience with facility. He
corresponded actively with his maternal uncle, Don Jose Avellanos;
but his letters--unless those expressing formally his dutiful
affection--were seldom entrusted to the Costaguana Post Office. There
the envelopes are opened, indiscriminately, with the frankness of a
brazen and childish impudence characteristic of some Spanish-American
Governments. But it must be noted that at about the time of the
re-opening of the San Tome mine the muleteer who had been employed by
Charles Gould in his preliminary travels on the Campo added his small
train of animals to the thin stream of traffic carried over the mountain
passes between the Sta. Marta upland and the Valley of Sulaco. There
are no travellers by that arduous and unsafe route unless under very
exceptional circumstances, and the state of inland trade did not visibly
require additional transport facilities; but the man seemed to find his
account in it. A few packages were always found for him whenever he
took the road. Very brown and wooden, in goatskin breeches with the
hair outside, he sat near the tail of his own smart mule, his great hat
turned against the sun, an expression of blissful vacancy on his long
face, humming day after day a love-song in a plaintive key, or, without
a change of expression, letting out a yell at his small tropilla in
front. A round little guitar hung high up on his back; and there was a
place scooped out artistically in the wood of one of his pack-saddles
where a tightly rolled piece of paper could be slipped in, the wooden
plug replaced, and the coarse canvas nailed on again. When in Sulaco
it was his practice to smoke and doze all day long (as though he had
no care in the world) on a stone bench outside the doorway of the Casa
Gould and facing the windows of the Avellanos house. Years and years
ago his mother had been chief laundry-woman in that family--very
accomplished in the matter of clear-starching. He himself had been
born on one of their haciendas. His name was Bonifacio, and Don Jose,
crossing the street about five o'clock to call on Dona Emilia, always
acknowledged his humble salute by some movement of hand or head. The
porters of both houses conversed lazily with him in tones of grave
intimacy. His evenings he devoted to gambling and to calls in a spirit
of generous festivity upon the peyne d'oro girls in the more remote
side-streets of the town. But he, too, was a discreet man.



CHAPTER EIGHT

Those of us whom business or curiosity took to Sulaco in these years
before the first advent of the railway can remember the steadying effect
of the San Tome mine upon the life of that remote province. The outward
appearances had not changed then as they have changed since, as I am
told, with cable cars running along the streets of the Constitution, and
carriage roads far into the country, to Rincon and other villages, where
the foreign merchants and the Ricos generally have their modern villas,
and a vast railway goods yard by the harbour, which has a quay-side, a
long range of warehouses, and quite serious, organized labour troubles
of its own.

Nobody had ever heard of labour troubles then. The Cargadores of the
port formed, indeed, an unruly brotherhood of all sorts of scum, with
a patron saint of their own. They went on strike regularly (every
bull-fight day), a form of trouble that even Nostromo at the height of
his prestige could never cope with efficiently; but the morning after
each fiesta, before the Indian market-women had opened their mat
parasols on the plaza, when the snows of Higuerota gleamed pale over
the town on a yet black sky, the appearance of a phantom-like horseman
mounted on a silver-grey mare solved the problem of labour without fail.
His steed paced the lanes of the slums and the weed-grown enclosures
within the old ramparts, between the black, lightless cluster of huts,
like cow-byres, like dog-kennels. The horseman hammered with the butt of
a heavy revolver at the doors of low pulperias, of obscene lean-to sheds
sloping against the tumble-down piece of a noble wall, at the wooden
sides of dwellings so flimsy that the sound of snores and sleepy mutters
within could be heard in the pauses of the thundering clatter of his
blows. He called out men's names menacingly from the saddle, once,
twice. The drowsy answers--grumpy, conciliating, savage, jocular, or
deprecating--came out into the silent darkness in which the horseman sat
still, and presently a dark figure would flit out coughing in the still
air. Sometimes a low-toned woman cried through the window-hole softly,
"He's coming directly, senor," and the horseman waited silent on a
motionless horse. But if perchance he had to dismount, then, after a
while, from the door of that hovel or of that pulperia, with a ferocious
scuffle and stifled imprecations, a cargador would fly out head first
and hands abroad, to sprawl under the forelegs of the silver-grey mare,
who only pricked forward her sharp little ears. She was used to that
work; and the man, picking himself up, would walk away hastily from
Nostromo's revolver, reeling a little along the street and snarling low
curses. At sunrise Captain Mitchell, coming out anxiously in his night
attire on to the wooden balcony running the whole length of the O.S.N.
Company's lonely building by the shore, would see the lighters already
under way, figures moving busily about the cargo cranes, perhaps hear
the invaluable Nostromo, now dismounted and in the checked shirt and red
sash of a Mediterranean sailor, bawling orders from the end of the jetty
in a stentorian voice. A fellow in a thousand!

The material apparatus of perfected civilization which obliterates the
individuality of old towns under the stereotyped conveniences of modern
life had not intruded as yet; but over the worn-out antiquity of Sulaco,
so characteristic with its stuccoed houses and barred windows, with
the great yellowy-white walls of abandoned convents behind the rows of
sombre green cypresses, that fact--very modern in its spirit--the San
Tome mine had already thrown its subtle influence. It had altered, too,
the outward character of the crowds on feast days on the plaza before
the open portal of the cathedral, by the number of white ponchos with a
green stripe affected as holiday wear by the San Tome miners. They had
also adopted white hats with green cord and braid--articles of good
quality, which could be obtained in the storehouse of the administration
for very little money. A peaceable Cholo wearing these colours (unusual
in Costaguana) was somehow very seldom beaten to within an inch of his
life on a charge of disrespect to the town police; neither ran he much
risk of being suddenly lassoed on the road by a recruiting party of
lanceros--a method of voluntary enlistment looked upon as almost legal
in the Republic. Whole villages were known to have volunteered for the
army in that way; but, as Don Pepe would say with a hopeless shrug to
Mrs. Gould, "What would you! Poor people! Pobrecitos! Pobrecitos! But
the State must have its soldiers."

Thus professionally spoke Don Pepe, the fighter, with pendent
moustaches, a nut-brown, lean face, and a clean run of a cast-iron jaw,
suggesting the type of a cattle-herd horseman from the great Llanos of
the South. "If you will listen to an old officer of Paez, senores," was
the exordium of all his speeches in the Aristocratic Club of Sulaco,
where he was admitted on account of his past services to the extinct
cause of Federation. The club, dating from the days of the proclamation
of Costaguana's independence, boasted many names of liberators amongst
its first founders. Suppressed arbitrarily innumerable times by
various Governments, with memories of proscriptions and of at least one
wholesale massacre of its members, sadly assembled for a banquet by the
order of a zealous military commandante (their bodies were afterwards
stripped naked and flung into the plaza out of the windows by the
lowest scum of the populace), it was again flourishing, at that period,
peacefully. It extended to strangers the large hospitality of the cool,
big rooms of its historic quarters in the front part of a house, once
the residence of a high official of the Holy Office. The two wings, shut
up, crumbled behind the nailed doors, and what may be described as a
grove of young orange trees grown in the unpaved patio concealed the
utter ruin of the back part facing the gate. You turned in from the
street, as if entering a secluded orchard, where you came upon the foot
of a disjointed staircase, guarded by a moss-stained effigy of some
saintly bishop, mitred and staffed, and bearing the indignity of a
broken nose meekly, with his fine stone hands crossed on his breast. The
chocolate-coloured faces of servants with mops of black hair peeped
at you from above; the click of billiard balls came to your ears, and
ascending the steps, you would perhaps see in the first sala, very stiff
upon a straight-backed chair, in a good light, Don Pepe moving his long
moustaches as he spelt his way, at arm's length, through an old Sta.
Marta newspaper. His horse--a stony-hearted but persevering black brute
with a hammer head--you would have seen in the street dozing motionless
under an immense saddle, with its nose almost touching the curbstone of
the sidewalk.

Don Pepe, when "down from the mountain," as the phrase, often heard in
Sulaco, went, could also be seen in the drawing-room of the Casa Gould.
He sat with modest assurance at some distance from the tea-table.
With his knees close together, and a kindly twinkle of drollery in his
deep-set eyes, he would throw his small and ironic pleasantries into the
current of conversation. There was in that man a sort of sane, humorous
shrewdness, and a vein of genuine humanity so often found in simple
old soldiers of proved courage who have seen much desperate service. Of
course he knew nothing whatever of mining, but his employment was of a
special kind. He was in charge of the whole population in the territory
of the mine, which extended from the head of the gorge to where the cart
track from the foot of the mountain enters the plain, crossing a stream
over a little wooden bridge painted green--green, the colour of hope,
being also the colour of the mine.

It was reported in Sulaco that up there "at the mountain" Don Pepe
walked about precipitous paths, girt with a great sword and in a shabby
uniform with tarnished bullion epaulettes of a senior major. Most miners
being Indians, with big wild eyes, addressed him as Taita (father), as
these barefooted people of Costaguana will address anybody who wears
shoes; but it was Basilio, Mr. Gould's own mozo and the head servant
of the Casa, who, in all good faith and from a sense of propriety,
announced him once in the solemn words, "El Senor Gobernador has
arrived."

Don Jose Avellanos, then in the drawing-room, was delighted beyond
measure at the aptness of the title, with which he greeted the old major
banteringly as soon as the latter's soldierly figure appeared in the
doorway. Don Pepe only smiled in his long moustaches, as much as to say,
"You might have found a worse name for an old soldier."

And El Senor Gobernador he had remained, with his small jokes upon
his function and upon his domain, where he affirmed with humorous
exaggeration to Mrs. Gould--

"No two stones could come together anywhere without the Gobernador
hearing the click, senora."

And he would tap his ear with the tip of his forefinger knowingly. Even
when the number of the miners alone rose to over six hundred he seemed
to know each of them individually, all the innumerable Joses, Manuels,
Ignacios, from the villages _primero--segundo--or tercero_ (there were
three mining villages) under his government. He could distinguish them
not only by their flat, joyless faces, which to Mrs. Gould looked
all alike, as if run into the same ancestral mould of suffering and
patience, but apparently also by the infinitely graduated shades of
reddish-brown, of blackish-brown, of coppery-brown backs, as the two
shifts, stripped to linen drawers and leather skull-caps, mingled
together with a confusion of naked limbs, of shouldered picks, swinging
lamps, in a great shuffle of sandalled feet on the open plateau before
the entrance of the main tunnel. It was a time of pause. The Indian
boys leaned idly against the long line of little cradle wagons standing
empty; the screeners and ore-breakers squatted on their heels smoking
long cigars; the great wooden shoots slanting over the edge of the
tunnel plateau were silent; and only the ceaseless, violent rush of
water in the open flumes could be heard, murmuring fiercely, with the
splash and rumble of revolving turbine-wheels, and the thudding march
of the stamps pounding to powder the treasure rock on the plateau below.
The heads of gangs, distinguished by brass medals hanging on their bare
breasts, marshalled their squads; and at last the mountain would swallow
one-half of the silent crowd, while the other half would move off in
long files down the zigzag paths leading to the bottom of the gorge.
It was deep; and, far below, a thread of vegetation winding between the
blazing rock faces resembled a slender green cord, in which three lumpy
knots of banana patches, palm-leaf roots, and shady trees marked the
Village One, Village Two, Village Three, housing the miners of the Gould
Concession.

Whole families had been moving from the first towards the spot in the
Higuerota range, whence the rumour of work and safety had spread over
the pastoral Campo, forcing its way also, even as the waters of a high
flood, into the nooks and crannies of the distant blue walls of the
Sierras. Father first, in a pointed straw hat, then the mother with the
bigger children, generally also a diminutive donkey, all under burdens,
except the leader himself, or perhaps some grown girl, the pride of the
family, stepping barefooted and straight as an arrow, with braids of
raven hair, a thick, haughty profile, and no load to carry but the small
guitar of the country and a pair of soft leather sandals tied together
on her back. At the sight of such parties strung out on the cross
trails between the pastures, or camped by the side of the royal road,
travellers on horseback would remark to each other--

"More people going to the San Tome mine. We shall see others to-morrow."

And spurring on in the dusk they would discuss the great news of the
province, the news of the San Tome mine. A rich Englishman was going
to work it--and perhaps not an Englishman, Quien sabe! A foreigner with
much money. Oh, yes, it had begun. A party of men who had been to Sulaco
with a herd of black bulls for the next corrida had reported that from
the porch of the posada in Rincon, only a short league from the town,
the lights on the mountain were visible, twinkling above the trees. And
there was a woman seen riding a horse sideways, not in the chair seat,
but upon a sort of saddle, and a man's hat on her head. She walked
about, too, on foot up the mountain paths. A woman engineer, it seemed
she was.

"What an absurdity! Impossible, senor!"

"_Si! Si! Una Americana del Norte_."

"Ah, well! if your worship is informed. _Una Americana_; it need be
something of that sort."

And they would laugh a little with astonishment and scorn, keeping a
wary eye on the shadows of the road, for one is liable to meet bad men
when travelling late on the Campo.

And it was not only the men that Don Pepe knew so well, but he seemed
able, with one attentive, thoughtful glance, to classify each woman,
girl, or growing youth of his domain. It was only the small fry that
puzzled him sometimes. He and the padre could be seen frequently side by
side, meditative and gazing across the street of a village at a lot
of sedate brown children, trying to sort them out, as it were, in low,
consulting tones, or else they would together put searching questions
as to the parentage of some small, staid urchin met wandering, naked and
grave, along the road with a cigar in his baby mouth, and perhaps his
mother's rosary, purloined for purposes of ornamentation, hanging in a
loop of beads low down on his rotund little stomach. The spiritual and
temporal pastors of the mine flock were very good friends. With Dr.
Monygham, the medical pastor, who had accepted the charge from Mrs.
Gould, and lived in the hospital building, they were on not so intimate
terms. But no one could be on intimate terms with El Senor Doctor, who,
with his twisted shoulders, drooping head, sardonic mouth, and side-long
bitter glance, was mysterious and uncanny. The other two authorities
worked in harmony. Father Roman, dried-up, small, alert, wrinkled,
with big round eyes, a sharp chin, and a great snuff-taker, was an old
campaigner, too; he had shriven many simple souls on the battlefields of
the Republic, kneeling by the dying on hillsides, in the long grass, in
the gloom of the forests, to hear the last confession with the smell
of gunpowder smoke in his nostrils, the rattle of muskets, the hum
and spatter of bullets in his ears. And where was the harm if, at the
presbytery, they had a game with a pack of greasy cards in the early
evening, before Don Pepe went his last rounds to see that all the
watchmen of the mine--a body organized by himself--were at their posts?
For that last duty before he slept Don Pepe did actually gird his old
sword on the verandah of an unmistakable American white frame house,
which Father Roman called the presbytery. Near by, a long, low, dark
building, steeple-roofed, like a vast barn with a wooden cross over the
gable, was the miners' chapel. There Father Roman said Mass every day
before a sombre altar-piece representing the Resurrection, the grey
slab of the tombstone balanced on one corner, a figure soaring upwards,
long-limbed and livid, in an oval of pallid light, and a helmeted brown
legionary smitten down, right across the bituminous foreground. "This
picture, my children, _muy linda e maravillosa_," Father Roman would say
to some of his flock, "which you behold here through the munificence
of the wife of our Senor Administrador, has been painted in Europe, a
country of saints and miracles, and much greater than our Costaguana."
And he would take a pinch of snuff with unction. But when once an
inquisitive spirit desired to know in what direction this Europe was
situated, whether up or down the coast, Father Roman, to conceal his
perplexity, became very reserved and severe. "No doubt it is extremely
far away. But ignorant sinners like you of the San Tome mine should
think earnestly of everlasting punishment instead of inquiring into the
magnitude of the earth, with its countries and populations altogether
beyond your understanding."

With a "Good-night, Padre," "Good-night, Don Pepe," the Gobernador would
go off, holding up his sabre against his side, his body bent forward,
with a long, plodding stride in the dark. The jocularity proper to an
innocent card game for a few cigars or a bundle of yerba was replaced
at once by the stern duty mood of an officer setting out to visit the
outposts of an encamped army. One loud blast of the whistle that
hung from his neck provoked instantly a great shrilling of responding
whistles, mingled with the barking of dogs, that would calm down slowly
at last, away up at the head of the gorge; and in the stillness two
serenos, on guard by the bridge, would appear walking noiselessly
towards him. On one side of the road a long frame building--the
store--would be closed and barricaded from end to end; facing it
another white frame house, still longer, and with a verandah--the
hospital--would have lights in the two windows of Dr. Monygham's
quarters. Even the delicate foliage of a clump of pepper trees did not
stir, so breathless would be the darkness warmed by the radiation of the
over-heated rocks. Don Pepe would stand still for a moment with the two
motionless serenos before him, and, abruptly, high up on the sheer face
of the mountain, dotted with single torches, like drops of fire fallen
from the two great blazing clusters of lights above, the ore shoots
would begin to rattle. The great clattering, shuffling noise, gathering
speed and weight, would be caught up by the walls of the gorge, and sent
upon the plain in a growl of thunder. The pasadero in Rincon swore that
on calm nights, by listening intently, he could catch the sound in his
doorway as of a storm in the mountains.

To Charles Gould's fancy it seemed that the sound must reach the
uttermost limits of the province. Riding at night towards the mine, it
would meet him at the edge of a little wood just beyond Rincon. There
was no mistaking the growling mutter of the mountain pouring its stream
of treasure under the stamps; and it came to his heart with the
peculiar force of a proclamation thundered forth over the land and the
marvellousness of an accomplished fact fulfilling an audacious desire.
He had heard this very sound in his imagination on that far-off evening
when his wife and himself, after a tortuous ride through a strip of
forest, had reined in their horses near the stream, and had gazed for
the first time upon the jungle-grown solitude of the gorge. The head of
a palm rose here and there. In a high ravine round the corner of the
San Tome mountain (which is square like a blockhouse) the thread of a
slender waterfall flashed bright and glassy through the dark green of
the heavy fronds of tree-ferns. Don Pepe, in attendance, rode up, and,
stretching his arm up the gorge, had declared with mock solemnity,
"Behold the very paradise of snakes, senora."

And then they had wheeled their horses and ridden back to sleep that
night at Rincon. The alcalde--an old, skinny Moreno, a sergeant of
Guzman Bento's time--had cleared respectfully out of his house with his
three pretty daughters, to make room for the foreign senora and their
worships the Caballeros. All he asked Charles Gould (whom he took for a
mysterious and official person) to do for him was to remind the supreme
Government--El Gobierno supreme--of a pension (amounting to about a
dollar a month) to which he believed himself entitled. It had been
promised to him, he affirmed, straightening his bent back martially,
"many years ago, for my valour in the wars with the wild Indios when a
young man, senor."

The waterfall existed no longer. The tree-ferns that had luxuriated in
its spray had died around the dried-up pool, and the high ravine was
only a big trench half filled up with the refuse of excavations and
tailings. The torrent, dammed up above, sent its water rushing along
the open flumes of scooped tree trunks striding on trestle-legs to the
turbines working the stamps on the lower plateau--the mesa grande of the
San Tome mountain. Only the memory of the waterfall, with its amazing
fernery, like a hanging garden above the rocks of the gorge, was
preserved in Mrs. Gould's water-colour sketch; she had made it hastily
one day from a cleared patch in the bushes, sitting in the shade of
a roof of straw erected for her on three rough poles under Don Pepe's
direction.

Mrs. Gould had seen it all from the beginning: the clearing of the
wilderness, the making of the road, the cutting of new paths up the
cliff face of San Tome. For weeks together she had lived on the spot
with her husband; and she was so little in Sulaco during that year that
the appearance of the Gould carriage on the Alameda would cause a social
excitement. From the heavy family coaches full of stately senoras and
black-eyed senoritas rolling solemnly in the shaded alley white hands
were waved towards her with animation in a flutter of greetings. Dona
Emilia was "down from the mountain."

But not for long. Dona Emilia would be gone "up to the mountain" in a
day or two, and her sleek carriage mules would have an easy time of
it for another long spell. She had watched the erection of the first
frame-house put up on the lower mesa for an office and Don Pepe's
quarters; she heard with a thrill of thankful emotion the first wagon
load of ore rattle down the then only shoot; she had stood by her
husband's side perfectly silent, and gone cold all over with excitement
at the instant when the first battery of only fifteen stamps was put
in motion for the first time. On the occasion when the fires under the
first set of retorts in their shed had glowed far into the night she did
not retire to rest on the rough cadre set up for her in the as yet bare
frame-house till she had seen the first spongy lump of silver yielded to
the hazards of the world by the dark depths of the Gould Concession;
she had laid her unmercenary hands, with an eagerness that made them
tremble, upon the first silver ingot turned out still warm from the
mould; and by her imaginative estimate of its power she endowed that
lump of metal with a justificative conception, as though it were not
a mere fact, but something far-reaching and impalpable, like the true
expression of an emotion or the emergence of a principle.

Don Pepe, extremely interested, too, looked over her shoulder with a
smile that, making longitudinal folds on his face, caused it to resemble
a leathern mask with a benignantly diabolic expression.

"Would not the muchachos of Hernandez like to get hold of this
insignificant object, that looks, por Dios, very much like a piece of
tin?" he remarked, jocularly.

Hernandez, the robber, had been an inoffensive, small ranchero,
kidnapped with circumstances of peculiar atrocity from his home during
one of the civil wars, and forced to serve in the army. There his
conduct as soldier was exemplary, till, watching his chance, he killed
his colonel, and managed to get clear away. With a band of deserters,
who chose him for their chief, he had taken refuge beyond the wild and
waterless Bolson de Tonoro. The haciendas paid him blackmail in cattle
and horses; extraordinary stories were told of his powers and of his
wonderful escapes from capture. He used to ride, single-handed, into the
villages and the little towns on the Campo, driving a pack mule before
him, with two revolvers in his belt, go straight to the shop or store,
select what he wanted, and ride away unopposed because of the terror his
exploits and his audacity inspired. Poor country people he usually left
alone; the upper class were often stopped on the roads and robbed; but
any unlucky official that fell into his hands was sure to get a severe
flogging. The army officers did not like his name to be mentioned in
their presence. His followers, mounted on stolen horses, laughed at the
pursuit of the regular cavalry sent to hunt them down, and whom they
took pleasure to ambush most scientifically in the broken ground of
their own fastness. Expeditions had been fitted out; a price had been
put upon his head; even attempts had been made, treacherously of course,
to open negotiations with him, without in the slightest way affecting
the even tenor of his career. At last, in true Costaguana fashion, the
Fiscal of Tonoro, who was ambitious of the glory of having reduced the
famous Hernandez, offered him a sum of money and a safe conduct out of
the country for the betrayal of his band. But Hernandez evidently was
not of the stuff of which the distinguished military politicians and
conspirators of Costaguana are made. This clever but common device
(which frequently works like a charm in putting down revolutions) failed
with the chief of vulgar Salteadores. It promised well for the Fiscal at
first, but ended very badly for the squadron of lanceros posted (by the
Fiscal's directions) in a fold of the ground into which Hernandez had
promised to lead his unsuspecting followers They came, indeed, at the
appointed time, but creeping on their hands and knees through the bush,
and only let their presence be known by a general discharge of firearms,
which emptied many saddles. The troopers who escaped came riding very
hard into Tonoro. It is said that their commanding officer (who, being
better mounted, rode far ahead of the rest) afterwards got into a state
of despairing intoxication and beat the ambitious Fiscal severely with
the flat of his sabre in the presence of his wife and daughters,
for bringing this disgrace upon the National Army. The highest civil
official of Tonoro, falling to the ground in a swoon, was further kicked
all over the body and rowelled with sharp spurs about the neck and
face because of the great sensitiveness of his military colleague.
This gossip of the inland Campo, so characteristic of the rulers of the
country with its story of oppression, inefficiency, fatuous methods,
treachery, and savage brutality, was perfectly known to Mrs. Gould.
That it should be accepted with no indignant comment by people of
intelligence, refinement, and character as something inherent in the
nature of things was one of the symptoms of degradation that had the
power to exasperate her almost to the verge of despair. Still looking at
the ingot of silver, she shook her head at Don Pepe's remark--

"If it had not been for the lawless tyranny of your Government, Don
Pepe, many an outlaw now with Hernandez would be living peaceably and
happy by the honest work of his hands."

"Senora," cried Don Pepe, with enthusiasm, "it is true! It is as if God
had given you the power to look into the very breasts of people. You
have seen them working round you, Dona Emilia--meek as lambs, patient
like their own burros, brave like lions. I have led them to the very
muzzles of guns--I, who stand here before you, senora--in the time of
Paez, who was full of generosity, and in courage only approached by the
uncle of Don Carlos here, as far as I know. No wonder there are bandits
in the Campo when there are none but thieves, swindlers, and sanguinary
macaques to rule us in Sta. Marta. However, all the same, a bandit is a
bandit, and we shall have a dozen good straight Winchesters to ride with
the silver down to Sulaco."

Mrs. Gould's ride with the first silver escort to Sulaco was the closing
episode of what she called "my camp life" before she had settled in her
town-house permanently, as was proper and even necessary for the wife of
the administrator of such an important institution as the San Tome mine.
For the San Tome mine was to become an institution, a rallying point
for everything in the province that needed order and stability to live.
Security seemed to flow upon this land from the mountain-gorge. The
authorities of Sulaco had learned that the San Tome mine could make it
worth their while to leave things and people alone. This was the nearest
approach to the rule of common-sense and justice Charles Gould felt it
possible to secure at first. In fact, the mine, with its organization,
its population growing fiercely attached to their position of privileged
safety, with its armoury, with its Don Pepe, with its armed body of
serenos (where, it was said, many an outlaw and deserter--and even some
members of Hernandez's band--had found a place), the mine was a power in
the land. As a certain prominent man in Sta. Marta had exclaimed with
a hollow laugh, once, when discussing the line of action taken by the
Sulaco authorities at a time of political crisis--

"You call these men Government officials? They? Never! They are
officials of the mine--officials of the Concession--I tell you."

The prominent man (who was then a person in power, with a lemon-coloured
face and a very short and curly, not to say woolly, head of hair) went
so far in his temporary discontent as to shake his yellow fist under the
nose of his interlocutor, and shriek--

"Yes! All! Silence! All! I tell you! The political Gefe, the chief of
the police, the chief of the customs, the general, all, all, are the
officials of that Gould."

Thereupon an intrepid but low and argumentative murmur would flow on
for a space in the ministerial cabinet, and the prominent man's passion
would end in a cynical shrug of the shoulders. After all, he seemed
to say, what did it matter as long as the minister himself was not
forgotten during his brief day of authority? But all the same, the
unofficial agent of the San Tome mine, working for a good cause, had
his moments of anxiety, which were reflected in his letters to Don Jose
Avellanos, his maternal uncle.

"No sanguinary macaque from Sta. Marta shall set foot on that part of
Costaguana which lies beyond the San Tome bridge," Don Pepe used to
assure Mrs. Gould. "Except, of course, as an honoured guest--for our
Senor Administrador is a deep politico." But to Charles Gould, in
his own room, the old Major would remark with a grim and soldierly
cheeriness, "We are all playing our heads at this game."

Don Jose Avellanos would mutter "Imperium in imperio, Emilia, my soul,"
with an air of profound self-satisfaction which, somehow, in a curious
way, seemed to contain a queer admixture of bodily discomfort. But that,
perhaps, could only be visible to the initiated. And for the initiated
it was a wonderful place, this drawing-room of the Casa Gould, with its
momentary glimpses of the master--El Senor Administrador--older, harder,
mysteriously silent, with the lines deepened on his English, ruddy,
out-of-doors complexion; flitting on his thin cavalryman's legs across
the doorways, either just "back from the mountain" or with jingling
spurs and riding-whip under his arm, on the point of starting "for the
mountain." Then Don Pepe, modestly martial in his chair, the llanero who
seemed somehow to have found his martial jocularity, his knowledge
of the world, and his manner perfect for his station, in the midst of
savage armed contests with his kind; Avellanos, polished and familiar,
the diplomatist with his loquacity covering much caution and wisdom in
delicate advice, with his manuscript of a historical work on Costaguana,
entitled "Fifty Years of Misrule," which, at present, he thought it was
not prudent (even if it were possible) "to give to the world";
these three, and also Dona Emilia amongst them, gracious, small,
and fairy-like, before the glittering tea-set, with one common
master-thought in their heads, with one common feeling of a tense
situation, with one ever-present aim to preserve the inviolable
character of the mine at every cost. And there was also to be seen
Captain Mitchell, a little apart, near one of the long windows, with an
air of old-fashioned neat old bachelorhood about him, slightly pompous,
in a white waistcoat, a little disregarded and unconscious of it;
utterly in the dark, and imagining himself to be in the thick of things.
The good man, having spent a clear thirty years of his life on the high
seas before getting what he called a "shore billet," was astonished at
the importance of transactions (other than relating to shipping) which
take place on dry land. Almost every event out of the usual daily
course "marked an epoch" for him or else was "history"; unless with his
pomposity struggling with a discomfited droop of his rubicund, rather
handsome face, set off by snow-white close hair and short whiskers, he
would mutter--

"Ah, that! That, sir, was a mistake."

The reception of the first consignment of San Tome silver for shipment
to San Francisco in one of the O.S.N. Co.'s mail-boats had, of course,
"marked an epoch" for Captain Mitchell. The ingots packed in boxes of
stiff ox-hide with plaited handles, small enough to be carried easily by
two men, were brought down by the serenos of the mine walking in careful
couples along the half-mile or so of steep, zigzag paths to the foot of
the mountain. There they would be loaded into a string of two-wheeled
carts, resembling roomy coffers with a door at the back, and harnessed
tandem with two mules each, waiting under the guard of armed and mounted
serenos. Don Pepe padlocked each door in succession, and at the signal
of his whistle the string of carts would move off, closely surrounded by
the clank of spur and carbine, with jolts and cracking of whips, with a
sudden deep rumble over the boundary bridge ("into the land of thieves
and sanguinary macaques," Don Pepe defined that crossing); hats bobbing
in the first light of the dawn, on the heads of cloaked figures;
Winchesters on hip; bridle hands protruding lean and brown from under
the falling folds of the ponchos. The convoy skirting a little wood,
along the mine trail, between the mud huts and low walls of Rincon,
increased its pace on the camino real, mules urged to speed, escort
galloping, Don Carlos riding alone ahead of a dust storm affording a
vague vision of long ears of mules, of fluttering little green and white
flags stuck upon each cart; of raised arms in a mob of sombreros with
the white gleam of ranging eyes; and Don Pepe, hardly visible in the
rear of that rattling dust trail, with a stiff seat and impassive face,
rising and falling rhythmically on an ewe-necked silver-bitted black
brute with a hammer head.

The sleepy people in the little clusters of huts, in the small ranches
near the road, recognized by the headlong sound the charge of the San
Tome silver escort towards the crumbling wall of the city on the Campo
side. They came to the doors to see it dash by over ruts and stones,
with a clatter and clank and cracking of whips, with the reckless rush
and precise driving of a field battery hurrying into action, and the
solitary English figure of the Senor Administrador riding far ahead in
the lead.

In the fenced roadside paddocks loose horses galloped wildly for a
while; the heavy cattle stood up breast deep in the grass, lowing
mutteringly at the flying noise; a meek Indian villager would glance
back once and hasten to shove his loaded little donkey bodily against a
wall, out of the way of the San Tome silver escort going to the sea; a
small knot of chilly leperos under the Stone Horse of the Alameda would
mutter: "Caramba!" on seeing it take a wide curve at a gallop and dart
into the empty Street of the Constitution; for it was considered the
correct thing, the only proper style by the mule-drivers of the San Tome
mine to go through the waking town from end to end without a check in
the speed as if chased by a devil.

The early sunshine glowed on the delicate primrose, pale pink, pale
blue fronts of the big houses with all their gates shut yet, and no face
behind the iron bars of the windows. In the whole sunlit range of empty
balconies along the street only one white figure would be visible
high up above the clear pavement--the wife of the Senor
Administrador--leaning over to see the escort go by to the harbour, a
mass of heavy, fair hair twisted up negligently on her little head, and
a lot of lace about the neck of her muslin wrapper. With a smile to her
husband's single, quick, upward glance, she would watch the whole thing
stream past below her feet with an orderly uproar, till she answered
by a friendly sign the salute of the galloping Don Pepe, the stiff,
deferential inclination with a sweep of the hat below the knee.

The string of padlocked carts lengthened, the size of the escort grew
bigger as the years went on. Every three months an increasing stream of
treasure swept through the streets of Sulaco on its way to the strong
room in the O.S.N. Co.'s building by the harbour, there to await
shipment for the North. Increasing in volume, and of immense value also;
for, as Charles Gould told his wife once with some exultation, there had
never been seen anything in the world to approach the vein of the
Gould Concession. For them both, each passing of the escort under the
balconies of the Casa Gould was like another victory gained in the
conquest of peace for Sulaco.

No doubt the initial action of Charles Gould had been helped at the
beginning by a period of comparative peace which occurred just about
that time; and also by the general softening of manners as compared with
the epoch of civil wars whence had emerged the iron tyranny of Guzman
Bento of fearful memory. In the contests that broke out at the end of
his rule (which had kept peace in the country for a whole fifteen years)
there was more fatuous imbecility, plenty of cruelty and suffering
still, but much less of the old-time fierce and blindly ferocious
political fanaticism. It was all more vile, more base, more
contemptible, and infinitely more manageable in the very outspoken
cynicism of motives. It was more clearly a brazen-faced scramble for a
constantly diminishing quantity of booty; since all enterprise had been
stupidly killed in the land. Thus it came to pass that the province of
Sulaco, once the field of cruel party vengeances, had become in a way
one of the considerable prizes of political career. The great of the
earth (in Sta. Marta) reserved the posts in the old Occidental State
to those nearest and dearest to them: nephews, brothers, husbands
of favourite sisters, bosom friends, trusty supporters--or prominent
supporters of whom perhaps they were afraid. It was the blessed province
of great opportunities and of largest salaries; for the San Tome mine
had its own unofficial pay list, whose items and amounts, fixed in
consultation by Charles Gould and Senor Avellanos, were known to a
prominent business man in the United States, who for twenty minutes or
so in every month gave his undivided attention to Sulaco affairs. At
the same time the material interests of all sorts, backed up by the
influence of the San Tome mine, were quietly gathering substance in that
part of the Republic. If, for instance, the Sulaco Collectorship was
generally understood, in the political world of the capital, to open the
way to the Ministry of Finance, and so on for every official post, then,
on the other hand, the despondent business circles of the Republic had
come to consider the Occidental Province as the promised land of safety,
especially if a man managed to get on good terms with the administration
of the mine. "Charles Gould; excellent fellow! Absolutely necessary to
make sure of him before taking a single step. Get an introduction to
him from Moraga if you can--the agent of the King of Sulaco, don't you
know."

No wonder, then, that Sir John, coming from Europe to smooth the path
for his railway, had been meeting the name (and even the nickname) of
Charles Gould at every turn in Costaguana. The agent of the San Tome
Administration in Sta. Marta (a polished, well-informed gentleman, Sir
John thought him) had certainly helped so greatly in bringing about the
presidential tour that he began to think that there was something in
the faint whispers hinting at the immense occult influence of the Gould
Concession. What was currently whispered was this--that the San Tome
Administration had, in part, at least, financed the last revolution,
which had brought into a five-year dictatorship Don Vincente Ribiera, a
man of culture and of unblemished character, invested with a mandate
of reform by the best elements of the State. Serious, well-informed
men seemed to believe the fact, to hope for better things, for the
establishment of legality, of good faith and order in public life. So
much the better, then, thought Sir John. He worked always on a great
scale; there was a loan to the State, and a project for systematic
colonization of the Occidental Province, involved in one vast scheme
with the construction of the National Central Railway. Good faith,
order, honesty, peace, were badly wanted for this great development of
material interests. Anybody on the side of these things, and especially
if able to help, had an importance in Sir John's eyes. He had not been
disappointed in the "King of Sulaco." The local difficulties had fallen
away, as the engineer-in-chief had foretold they would, before Charles
Gould's mediation. Sir John had been extremely feted in Sulaco, next
to the President-Dictator, a fact which might have accounted for the
evident ill-humour General Montero displayed at lunch given on board
the Juno just before she was to sail, taking away from Sulaco the
President-Dictator and the distinguished foreign guests in his train.

The Excellentissimo ("the hope of honest men," as Don Jose had addressed
him in a public speech delivered in the name of the Provincial Assembly
of Sulaco) sat at the head of the long table; Captain Mitchell,
positively stony-eyed and purple in the face with the solemnity of
this "historical event," occupied the foot as the representative of the
O.S.N. Company in Sulaco, the hosts of that informal function, with the
captain of the ship and some minor officials from the shore around him.
Those cheery, swarthy little gentlemen cast jovial side-glances at the
bottles of champagne beginning to pop behind the guests' backs in the
hands of the ship's stewards. The amber wine creamed up to the rims of
the glasses.

Charles Gould had his place next to a foreign envoy, who, in a listless
undertone, had been talking to him fitfully of hunting and shooting.
The well-nourished, pale face, with an eyeglass and drooping yellow
moustache, made the Senor Administrador appear by contrast twice as
sunbaked, more flaming red, a hundred times more intensely and silently
alive. Don Jose Avellanos touched elbows with the other foreign
diplomat, a dark man with a quiet, watchful, self-confident demeanour,
and a touch of reserve. All etiquette being laid aside on the occasion,
General Montero was the only one there in full uniform, so stiff with
embroideries in front that his broad chest seemed protected by a cuirass
of gold. Sir John at the beginning had got away from high places for the
sake of sitting near Mrs. Gould.

The great financier was trying to express to her his grateful sense
of her hospitality and of his obligation to her husband's "enormous
influence in this part of the country," when she interrupted him by a
low "Hush!" The President was going to make an informal pronouncement.

The Excellentissimo was on his legs. He said only a few words, evidently
deeply felt, and meant perhaps mostly for Avellanos--his old friend--as
to the necessity of unremitting effort to secure the lasting welfare of
the country emerging after this last struggle, he hoped, into a period
of peace and material prosperity.

Mrs. Gould, listening to the mellow, slightly mournful voice, looking
at this rotund, dark, spectacled face, at the short body, obese to the
point of infirmity, thought that this man of delicate and melancholy
mind, physically almost a cripple, coming out of his retirement into a
dangerous strife at the call of his fellows, had the right to speak with
the authority of his self-sacrifice. And yet she was made uneasy. He
was more pathetic than promising, this first civilian Chief of the
State Costaguana had ever known, pronouncing, glass in hand, his simple
watchwords of honesty, peace, respect for law, political good faith
abroad and at home--the safeguards of national honour.

He sat down. During the respectful, appreciative buzz of voices that
followed the speech, General Montero raised a pair of heavy, drooping
eyelids and rolled his eyes with a sort of uneasy dullness from face
to face. The military backwoods hero of the party, though secretly
impressed by the sudden novelties and splendours of his position (he
had never been on board a ship before, and had hardly ever seen the sea
except from a distance), understood by a sort of instinct the advantage
his surly, unpolished attitude of a savage fighter gave him amongst all
these refined Blanco aristocrats. But why was it that nobody was looking
at him? he wondered to himself angrily. He was able to spell out the
print of newspapers, and knew that he had performed the "greatest
military exploit of modern times."

"My husband wanted the railway," Mrs. Gould said to Sir John in the
general murmur of resumed conversations. "All this brings nearer the
sort of future we desire for the country, which has waited for it in
sorrow long enough, God knows. But I will confess that the other day,
during my afternoon drive when I suddenly saw an Indian boy ride out
of a wood with the red flag of a surveying party in his hand, I felt
something of a shock. The future means change--an utter change. And yet
even here there are simple and picturesque things that one would like to
preserve."

Sir John listened, smiling. But it was his turn now to hush Mrs. Gould.

"General Montero is going to speak," he whispered, and almost
immediately added, in comic alarm, "Heavens! he's going to propose my
own health, I believe."

General Montero had risen with a jingle of steel scabbard and a ripple
of glitter on his gold-embroidered breast; a heavy sword-hilt appeared
at his side above the edge of the table. In this gorgeous uniform, with
his bull neck, his hooked nose flattened on the tip upon a blue-black,
dyed moustache, he looked like a disguised and sinister vaquero.
The drone of his voice had a strangely rasping, soulless ring. He
floundered, lowering, through a few vague sentences; then suddenly
raising his big head and his voice together, burst out harshly--

"The honour of the country is in the hands of the army. I assure you
I shall be faithful to it." He hesitated till his roaming eyes met Sir
John's face upon which he fixed a lurid, sleepy glance; and the figure
of the lately negotiated loan came into his mind. He lifted his glass.
"I drink to the health of the man who brings us a million and a half of
pounds."

He tossed off his champagne, and sat down heavily with a half-surprised,
half-bullying look all round the faces in the profound, as if appalled,
silence which succeeded the felicitous toast. Sir John did not move.

"I don't think I am called upon to rise," he murmured to Mrs. Gould.
"That sort of thing speaks for itself." But Don Jose Avellanos came
to the rescue with a short oration, in which he alluded pointedly to
England's goodwill towards Costaguana--"a goodwill," he continued,
significantly, "of which I, having been in my time accredited to the
Court of St. James, am able to speak with some knowledge."

Only then Sir John thought fit to respond, which he did gracefully in
bad French, punctuated by bursts of applause and the "Hear! Hears!"
of Captain Mitchell, who was able to understand a word now and then.
Directly he had done, the financier of railways turned to Mrs. Gould--

"You were good enough to say that you intended to ask me for something,"
he reminded her, gallantly. "What is it? Be assured that any request
from you would be considered in the light of a favour to myself."

She thanked him by a gracious smile. Everybody was rising from the
table.

"Let us go on deck," she proposed, "where I'll be able to point out to
you the very object of my request."

An enormous national flag of Costaguana, diagonal red and yellow, with
two green palm trees in the middle, floated lazily at the mainmast head
of the Juno. A multitude of fireworks being let off in their thousands
at the water's edge in honour of the President kept up a mysterious
crepitating noise half round the harbour. Now and then a lot of rockets,
swishing upwards invisibly, detonated overhead with only a puff of smoke
in the bright sky. Crowds of people could be seen between the town gate
and the harbour, under the bunches of multicoloured flags fluttering on
tall poles. Faint bursts of military music would be heard suddenly, and
the remote sound of shouting. A knot of ragged negroes at the end of the
wharf kept on loading and firing a small iron cannon time after time. A
greyish haze of dust hung thin and motionless against the sun.

Don Vincente Ribiera made a few steps under the deck-awning, leaning on
the arm of Senor Avellanos; a wide circle was formed round him, where
the mirthless smile of his dark lips and the sightless glitter of his
spectacles could be seen turning amiably from side to side. The
informal function arranged on purpose on board the Juno to give the
President-Dictator an opportunity to meet intimately some of his most
notable adherents in Sulaco was drawing to an end. On one side, General
Montero, his bald head covered now by a plumed cocked hat, remained
motionless on a skylight seat, a pair of big gauntleted hands folded
on the hilt of the sabre standing upright between his legs. The white
plume, the coppery tint of his broad face, the blue-black of the
moustaches under the curved beak, the mass of gold on sleeves and
breast, the high shining boots with enormous spurs, the working
nostrils, the imbecile and domineering stare of the glorious victor of
Rio Seco had in them something ominous and incredible; the exaggeration
of a cruel caricature, the fatuity of solemn masquerading, the atrocious
grotesqueness of some military idol of Aztec conception and European
bedecking, awaiting the homage of worshippers. Don Jose approached
diplomatically this weird and inscrutable portent, and Mrs. Gould turned
her fascinated eyes away at last.

Charles, coming up to take leave of Sir John, heard him say, as he bent
over his wife's hand, "Certainly. Of course, my dear Mrs. Gould, for a
protege of yours! Not the slightest difficulty. Consider it done."

Going ashore in the same boat with the Goulds, Don Jose Avellanos was
very silent. Even in the Gould carriage he did not open his lips for
a long time. The mules trotted slowly away from the wharf between the
extended hands of the beggars, who for that day seemed to have abandoned
in a body the portals of churches. Charles Gould sat on the back seat
and looked away upon the plain. A multitude of booths made of green
boughs, of rushes, of odd pieces of plank eked out with bits of canvas
had been erected all over it for the sale of cana, of dulces, of fruit,
of cigars. Over little heaps of glowing charcoal Indian women, squatting
on mats, cooked food in black earthen pots, and boiled the water for the
mate gourds, which they offered in soft, caressing voices to the country
people. A racecourse had been staked out for the vaqueros; and away to
the left, from where the crowd was massed thickly about a huge temporary
erection, like a circus tent of wood with a conical grass roof, came the
resonant twanging of harp strings, the sharp ping of guitars, with the
grave drumming throb of an Indian gombo pulsating steadily through the
shrill choruses of the dancers.

Charles Gould said presently--

"All this piece of land belongs now to the Railway Company. There will
be no more popular feasts held here."

Mrs. Gould was rather sorry to think so. She took this opportunity to
mention how she had just obtained from Sir John the promise that the
house occupied by Giorgio Viola should not be interfered with. She
declared she could never understand why the survey engineers ever talked
of demolishing that old building. It was not in the way of the projected
harbour branch of the line in the least.

She stopped the carriage before the door to reassure at once the old
Genoese, who came out bare-headed and stood by the carriage step.
She talked to him in Italian, of course, and he thanked her with calm
dignity. An old Garibaldino was grateful to her from the bottom of his
heart for keeping the roof over the heads of his wife and children. He
was too old to wander any more.

"And is it for ever, signora?" he asked.

"For as long as you like."

"Bene. Then the place must be named, It was not worth while before."

He smiled ruggedly, with a running together of wrinkles at the corners
of his eyes. "I shall set about the painting of the name to-morrow."

"And what is it going to be, Giorgio?"

"Albergo d'Italia Una," said the old Garibaldino, looking away for a
moment. "More in memory of those who have died," he added, "than for the
country stolen from us soldiers of liberty by the craft of that accursed
Piedmontese race of kings and ministers."

Mrs. Gould smiled slightly, and, bending over a little, began to inquire
about his wife and children. He had sent them into town on that day. The
padrona was better in health; many thanks to the signora for inquiring.

People were passing in twos and threes, in whole parties of men and
women attended by trotting children. A horseman mounted on a silver-grey
mare drew rein quietly in the shade of the house after taking off his
hat to the party in the carriage, who returned smiles and familiar
nods. Old Viola, evidently very pleased with the news he had just heard,
interrupted himself for a moment to tell him rapidly that the house was
secured, by the kindness of the English signora, for as long as he liked
to keep it. The other listened attentively, but made no response.

When the carriage moved on he took off his hat again, a grey sombrero
with a silver cord and tassels. The bright colours of a Mexican serape
twisted on the cantle, the enormous silver buttons on the embroidered
leather jacket, the row of tiny silver buttons down the seam of the
trousers, the snowy linen, a silk sash with embroidered ends, the silver
plates on headstall and saddle, proclaimed the unapproachable style of
the famous Capataz de Cargadores--a Mediterranean sailor--got up with
more finished splendour than any well-to-do young ranchero of the Campo
had ever displayed on a high holiday.

"It is a great thing for me," murmured old Giorgio, still thinking of
the house, for now he had grown weary of change. "The signora just said
a word to the Englishman."

"The old Englishman who has enough money to pay for a railway? He is
going off in an hour," remarked Nostromo, carelessly. "_Buon viaggio_,
then. I've guarded his bones all the way from the Entrada pass down to
the plain and into Sulaco, as though he had been my own father."

Old Giorgio only moved his head sideways absently. Nostromo pointed
after the Goulds' carriage, nearing the grass-grown gate in the old town
wall that was like a wall of matted jungle.

"And I have sat alone at night with my revolver in the Company's
warehouse time and again by the side of that other Englishman's heap of
silver, guarding it as though it had been my own."

Viola seemed lost in thought. "It is a great thing for me," he repeated
again, as if to himself.

"It is," agreed the magnificent Capataz de Cargadores, calmly. "Listen,
Vecchio--go in and bring me, out a cigar, but don't look for it in my
room. There's nothing there."

Viola stepped into the cafe and came out directly, still absorbed in his
idea, and tendered him a cigar, mumbling thoughtfully in his moustache,
"Children growing up--and girls, too! Girls!" He sighed and fell silent.

"What, only one?" remarked Nostromo, looking down with a sort of comic
inquisitiveness at the unconscious old man. "No matter," he added, with
lofty negligence; "one is enough till another is wanted."

He lit it and let the match drop from his passive fingers. Giorgio Viola
looked up, and said abruptly--

"My son would have been just such a fine young man as you, Gian'
Battista, if he had lived."

"What? Your son? But you are right, padrone. If he had been like me he
would have been a man."

He turned his horse slowly, and paced on between the booths, checking
the mare almost to a standstill now and then for children, for the
groups of people from the distant Campo, who stared after him with
admiration. The Company's lightermen saluted him from afar; and the
greatly envied Capataz de Cargadores advanced, amongst murmurs of
recognition and obsequious greetings, towards the huge circus-like
erection. The throng thickened; the guitars tinkled louder; other
horsemen sat motionless, smoking calmly above the heads of the crowd; it
eddied and pushed before the doors of the high-roofed building, whence
issued a shuffle and thumping of feet in time to the dance music
vibrating and shrieking with a racking rhythm, overhung by the
tremendous, sustained, hollow roar of the gombo. The barbarous and
imposing noise of the big drum, that can madden a crowd, and that even
Europeans cannot hear without a strange emotion, seemed to draw Nostromo
on to its source, while a man, wrapped up in a faded, torn poncho,
walked by his stirrup, and, buffeted right and left, begged "his
worship" insistently for employment on the wharf. He whined, offering
the Senor Capataz half his daily pay for the privilege of being admitted
to the swaggering fraternity of Cargadores; the other half would
be enough for him, he protested. But Captain Mitchell's right-hand
man--"invaluable for our work--a perfectly incorruptible fellow"--after
looking down critically at the ragged mozo, shook his head without a
word in the uproar going on around.

The man fell back; and a little further on Nostromo had to pull up. From
the doors of the dance hall men and women emerged tottering, streaming
with sweat, trembling in every limb, to lean, panting, with staring eyes
and parted lips, against the wall of the structure, where the harps
and guitars played on with mad speed in an incessant roll of thunder.
Hundreds of hands clapped in there; voices shrieked, and then all at
once would sink low, chanting in unison the refrain of a love song, with
a dying fall. A red flower, flung with a good aim from somewhere in the
crowd, struck the resplendent Capataz on the cheek.

He caught it as it fell, neatly, but for some time did not turn his
head. When at last he condescended to look round, the throng near him
had parted to make way for a pretty Morenita, her hair held up by a
small golden comb, who was walking towards him in the open space.

Her arms and neck emerged plump and bare from a snowy chemisette; the
blue woollen skirt, with all the fullness gathered in front, scanty on
the hips and tight across the back, disclosed the provoking action of
her walk. She came straight on and laid her hand on the mare's neck with
a timid, coquettish look upwards out of the corner of her eyes.

"_Querido_," she murmured, caressingly, "why do you pretend not to see me
when I pass?"

"Because I don't love thee any more," said Nostromo, deliberately, after
a moment of reflective silence.

The hand on the mare's neck trembled suddenly. She dropped her head
before all the eyes in the wide circle formed round the generous, the
terrible, the inconstant Capataz de Cargadores, and his Morenita.

Nostromo, looking down, saw tears beginning to fall down her face.

"Has it come, then, ever beloved of my heart?" she whispered. "Is it
true?"

"No," said Nostromo, looking away carelessly. "It was a lie. I love thee
as much as ever."

"Is that true?" she cooed, joyously, her cheeks still wet with tears.

"It is true."

"True on the life?"

"As true as that; but thou must not ask me to swear it on the Madonna
that stands in thy room." And the Capataz laughed a little in response
to the grins of the crowd.

She pouted--very pretty--a little uneasy.

"No, I will not ask for that. I can see love in your eyes." She laid
her hand on his knee. "Why are you trembling like this? From love?" she
continued, while the cavernous thundering of the gombo went on without a
pause. "But if you love her as much as that, you must give your Paquita
a gold-mounted rosary of beads for the neck of her Madonna."

"No," said Nostromo, looking into her uplifted, begging eyes, which
suddenly turned stony with surprise.

"No? Then what else will your worship give me on the day of the fiesta?"
she asked, angrily; "so as not to shame me before all these people."

"There is no shame for thee in getting nothing from thy lover for once."

"True! The shame is your worship's--my poor lover's," she flared up,
sarcastically.

Laughs were heard at her anger, at her retort. What an audacious
spitfire she was! The people aware of this scene were calling out
urgently to others in the crowd. The circle round the silver-grey mare
narrowed slowly.

The girl went off a pace or two, confronting the mocking curiosity of
the eyes, then flung back to the stirrup, tiptoeing, her enraged face
turned up to Nostromo with a pair of blazing eyes. He bent low to her in
the saddle.

"Juan," she hissed, "I could stab thee to the heart!"

The dreaded Capataz de Cargadores, magnificent and carelessly public
in his amours, flung his arm round her neck and kissed her spluttering
lips. A murmur went round.

"A knife!" he demanded at large, holding her firmly by the shoulder.

Twenty blades flashed out together in the circle. A young man in holiday
attire, bounding in, thrust one in Nostromo's hand and bounded back into
the ranks, very proud of himself. Nostromo had not even looked at him.

"Stand on my foot," he commanded the girl, who, suddenly subdued, rose
lightly, and when he had her up, encircling her waist, her face near to
his, he pressed the knife into her little hand.

"No, Morenita! You shall not put me to shame," he said. "You shall have
your present; and so that everyone should know who is your lover to-day,
you may cut all the silver buttons off my coat."

There were shouts of laughter and applause at this witty freak, while
the girl passed the keen blade, and the impassive rider jingled in his
palm the increasing hoard of silver buttons. He eased her to the ground
with both her hands full. After whispering for a while with a very
strenuous face, she walked away, staring haughtily, and vanished into
the crowd.

The circle had broken up, and the lordly Capataz de Cargadores, the
indispensable man, the tried and trusty Nostromo, the Mediterranean
sailor come ashore casually to try his luck in Costaguana, rode slowly
towards the harbour. The Juno was just then swinging round; and even
as Nostromo reined up again to look on, a flag ran up on the improvised
flagstaff erected in an ancient and dismantled little fort at the
harbour entrance. Half a battery of field guns had been hurried over
there from the Sulaco barracks for the purpose of firing the regulation
salutes for the President-Dictator and the War Minister. As the
mail-boat headed through the pass, the badly timed reports announced the
end of Don Vincente Ribiera's first official visit to Sulaco, and for
Captain Mitchell the end of another "historic occasion." Next time when
the "Hope of honest men" was to come that way, a year and a half later,
it was unofficially, over the mountain tracks, fleeing after a defeat on
a lame mule, to be only just saved by Nostromo from an ignominious death
at the hands of a mob. It was a very different event, of which Captain
Mitchell used to say--

"It was history--history, sir! And that fellow of mine, Nostromo, you
know, was right in it. Absolutely making history, sir."

But this event, creditable to Nostromo, was to lead immediately to
another, which could not be classed either as "history" or as "a
mistake" in Captain Mitchell's phraseology. He had another word for it.

"Sir" he used to say afterwards, "that was no mistake. It was a
fatality. A misfortune, pure and simple, sir. And that poor fellow of
mine was right in it--right in the middle of it! A fatality, if ever
there was one--and to my mind he has never been the same man since."





PART SECOND THE ISABELS


CHAPTER ONE

Through good and evil report in the varying fortune of that struggle
which Don Jose had characterized in the phrase, "the fate of national
honesty trembles in the balance," the Gould Concession, "Imperium in
Imperio," had gone on working; the square mountain had gone on pouring
its treasure down the wooden shoots to the unresting batteries of
stamps; the lights of San Tome had twinkled night after night upon the
great, limitless shadow of the Campo; every three months the silver
escort had gone down to the sea as if neither the war nor its
consequences could ever affect the ancient Occidental State secluded
beyond its high barrier of the Cordillera. All the fighting took place
on the other side of that mighty wall of serrated peaks lorded over by
the white dome of Higuerota and as yet unbreached by the railway, of
which only the first part, the easy Campo part from Sulaco to the Ivie
Valley at the foot of the pass, had been laid. Neither did the telegraph
line cross the mountains yet; its poles, like slender beacons on the
plain, penetrated into the forest fringe of the foot-hills cut by
the deep avenue of the track; and its wire ended abruptly in the
construction camp at a white deal table supporting a Morse apparatus,
in a long hut of planks with a corrugated iron roof overshadowed by
gigantic cedar trees--the quarters of the engineer in charge of the
advance section.

The harbour was busy, too, with the traffic in railway material, and
with the movements of troops along the coast. The O.S.N. Company found
much occupation for its fleet. Costaguana had no navy, and, apart from a
few coastguard cutters, there were no national ships except a couple of
old merchant steamers used as transports.

Captain Mitchell, feeling more and more in the thick of history, found
time for an hour or so during an afternoon in the drawing-room of the
Casa Gould, where, with a strange ignorance of the real forces at work
around him, he professed himself delighted to get away from the
strain of affairs. He did not know what he would have done without his
invaluable Nostromo, he declared. Those confounded Costaguana politics
gave him more work--he confided to Mrs. Gould--than he had bargained
for.

Don Jose Avellanos had displayed in the service of the endangered
Ribiera Government an organizing activity and an eloquence of which
the echoes reached even Europe. For, after the new loan to the Ribiera
Government, Europe had become interested in Costaguana. The Sala of the
Provincial Assembly (in the Municipal Buildings of Sulaco), with its
portraits of the Liberators on the walls and an old flag of Cortez
preserved in a glass case above the President's chair, had heard all
these speeches--the early one containing the impassioned declaration
"Militarism is the enemy," the famous one of the "trembling balance"
delivered on the occasion of the vote for the raising of a second
Sulaco regiment in the defence of the reforming Government; and when the
provinces again displayed their old flags (proscribed in Guzman Bento's
time) there was another of those great orations, when Don Jose greeted
these old emblems of the war of Independence, brought out again in the
name of new Ideals. The old idea of Federalism had disappeared. For
his part he did not wish to revive old political doctrines. They were
perishable. They died. But the doctrine of political rectitude was
immortal. The second Sulaco regiment, to whom he was presenting this
flag, was going to show its valour in a contest for order, peace,
progress; for the establishment of national self-respect without
which--he declared with energy--"we are a reproach and a byword amongst
the powers of the world."

Don Jose Avellanos loved his country. He had served it lavishly with
his fortune during his diplomatic career, and the later story of his
captivity and barbarous ill-usage under Guzman Bento was well known
to his listeners. It was a wonder that he had not been a victim of
the ferocious and summary executions which marked the course of that
tyranny; for Guzman had ruled the country with the sombre imbecility of
political fanaticism. The power of Supreme Government had become in his
dull mind an object of strange worship, as if it were some sort of
cruel deity. It was incarnated in himself, and his adversaries, the
Federalists, were the supreme sinners, objects of hate, abhorrence, and
fear, as heretics would be to a convinced Inquisitor. For years he had
carried about at the tail of the Army of Pacification, all over the
country, a captive band of such atrocious criminals, who considered
themselves most unfortunate at not having been summarily executed. It
was a diminishing company of nearly naked skeletons, loaded with irons,
covered with dirt, with vermin, with raw wounds, all men of position,
of education, of wealth, who had learned to fight amongst themselves for
scraps of rotten beef thrown to them by soldiers, or to beg a negro
cook for a drink of muddy water in pitiful accents. Don Jose Avellanos,
clanking his chains amongst the others, seemed only to exist in order to
prove how much hunger, pain, degradation, and cruel torture a human
body can stand without parting with the last spark of life. Sometimes
interrogatories, backed by some primitive method of torture, were
administered to them by a commission of officers hastily assembled in a
hut of sticks and branches, and made pitiless by the fear for their own
lives. A lucky one or two of that spectral company of prisoners would
perhaps be led tottering behind a bush to be shot by a file of soldiers.
Always an army chaplain--some unshaven, dirty man, girt with a sword and
with a tiny cross embroidered in white cotton on the left breast of
a lieutenant's uniform--would follow, cigarette in the corner of the
mouth, wooden stool in hand, to hear the confession and give absolution;
for the Citizen Saviour of the Country (Guzman Bento was called thus
officially in petitions) was not averse from the exercise of rational
clemency. The irregular report of the firing squad would be heard,
followed sometimes by a single finishing shot; a little bluish cloud
of smoke would float up above the green bushes, and the Army of
Pacification would move on over the savannas, through the forests,
crossing rivers, invading rural pueblos, devastating the haciendas of
the horrid aristocrats, occupying the inland towns in the fulfilment of
its patriotic mission, and leaving behind a united land wherein the evil
taint of Federalism could no longer be detected in the smoke of burning
houses and the smell of spilt blood. Don Jose Avellanos had survived
that time. Perhaps, when contemptuously signifying to him his release,
the Citizen Saviour of the Country might have thought this benighted
aristocrat too broken in health and spirit and fortune to be any longer
dangerous. Or, perhaps, it may have been a simple caprice. Guzman Bento,
usually full of fanciful fears and brooding suspicions, had sudden
accesses of unreasonable self-confidence when he perceived himself
elevated on a pinnacle of power and safety beyond the reach of mere
mortal plotters. At such times he would impulsively command the
celebration of a solemn Mass of thanksgiving, which would be sung in
great pomp in the cathedral of Sta. Marta by the trembling, subservient
Archbishop of his creation. He heard it sitting in a gilt armchair
placed before the high altar, surrounded by the civil and military heads
of his Government. The unofficial world of Sta. Marta would crowd into
the cathedral, for it was not quite safe for anybody of mark to stay
away from these manifestations of presidential piety. Having thus
acknowledged the only power he was at all disposed to recognize as
above himself, he would scatter acts of political grace in a sardonic
wantonness of clemency. There was no other way left now to enjoy his
power but by seeing his crushed adversaries crawl impotently into the
light of day out of the dark, noisome cells of the Collegio. Their
harmlessness fed his insatiable vanity, and they could always be got
hold of again. It was the rule for all the women of their families to
present thanks afterwards in a special audience. The incarnation of that
strange god, El Gobierno Supremo, received them standing, cocked hat on
head, and exhorted them in a menacing mutter to show their gratitude
by bringing up their children in fidelity to the democratic form of
government, "which I have established for the happiness of our country."
His front teeth having been knocked out in some accident of his former
herdsman's life, his utterance was spluttering and indistinct. He
had been working for Costaguana alone in the midst of treachery and
opposition. Let it cease now lest he should become weary of forgiving!

Don Jose Avellanos had known this forgiveness.

He was broken in health and fortune deplorably enough to present a truly
gratifying spectacle to the supreme chief of democratic institutions.
He retired to Sulaco. His wife had an estate in that province, and she
nursed him back to life out of the house of death and captivity. When
she died, their daughter, an only child, was old enough to devote
herself to "poor papa."

Miss Avellanos, born in Europe and educated partly in England, was a
tall, grave girl, with a self-possessed manner, a wide, white forehead,
a wealth of rich brown hair, and blue eyes.

The other young ladies of Sulaco stood in awe of her character and
accomplishments. She was reputed to be terribly learned and serious. As
to pride, it was well known that all the Corbelans were proud, and her
mother was a Corbelan. Don Jose Avellanos depended very much upon the
devotion of his beloved Antonia. He accepted it in the benighted way of
men, who, though made in God's image, are like stone idols without sense
before the smoke of certain burnt offerings. He was ruined in every
way, but a man possessed of passion is not a bankrupt in life. Don Jose
Avellanos desired passionately for his country: peace, prosperity,
and (as the end of the preface to "Fifty Years of Misrule" has it)
"an honourable place in the comity of civilized nations." In this last
phrase the Minister Plenipotentiary, cruelly humiliated by the bad faith
of his Government towards the foreign bondholders, stands disclosed in
the patriot.

The fatuous turmoil of greedy factions succeeding the tyranny of Guzman
Bento seemed to bring his desire to the very door of opportunity. He
was too old to descend personally into the centre of the arena at Sta.
Marta. But the men who acted there sought his advice at every step. He
himself thought that he could be most useful at a distance, in Sulaco.
His name, his connections, his former position, his experience commanded
the respect of his class. The discovery that this man, living in
dignified poverty in the Corbelan town residence (opposite the Casa
Gould), could dispose of material means towards the support of the cause
increased his influence. It was his open letter of appeal that decided
the candidature of Don Vincente Ribiera for the Presidency. Another of
these informal State papers drawn up by Don Jose (this time in the
shape of an address from the Province) induced that scrupulous
constitutionalist to accept the extraordinary powers conferred upon him
for five years by an overwhelming vote of congress in Sta. Marta. It
was a specific mandate to establish the prosperity of the people on the
basis of firm peace at home, and to redeem the national credit by the
satisfaction of all just claims abroad.

On the afternoon the news of that vote had reached Sulaco by the usual
roundabout postal way through Cayta, and up the coast by steamer. Don
Jose, who had been waiting for the mail in the Goulds' drawing-room, got
out of the rocking-chair, letting his hat fall off his knees. He rubbed
his silvery, short hair with both hands, speechless with the excess of
joy.

"Emilia, my soul," he had burst out, "let me embrace you! Let me--"

Captain Mitchell, had he been there, would no doubt have made an apt
remark about the dawn of a new era; but if Don Jose thought something
of the kind, his eloquence failed him on this occasion. The inspirer
of that revival of the Blanco party tottered where he stood. Mrs. Gould
moved forward quickly and, as she offered her cheek with a smile to her
old friend, managed very cleverly to give him the support of her arm he
really needed.

Don Jose had recovered himself at once, but for a time he could do no
more than murmur, "Oh, you two patriots! Oh, you two patriots!"--looking
from one to the other. Vague plans of another historical work, wherein
all the devotions to the regeneration of the country he loved would be
enshrined for the reverent worship of posterity, flitted through his
mind. The historian who had enough elevation of soul to write of Guzman
Bento: "Yet this monster, imbrued in the blood of his countrymen, must
not be held unreservedly to the execration of future years. It appears
to be true that he, too, loved his country. He had given it twelve years
of peace; and, absolute master of lives and fortunes as he was, he
died poor. His worst fault, perhaps, was not his ferocity, but his
ignorance;" the man who could write thus of a cruel persecutor (the
passage occurs in his "History of Misrule") felt at the foreshadowing of
success an almost boundless affection for his two helpers, for these two
young people from over the sea.

Just as years ago, calmly, from the conviction of practical necessity,
stronger than any abstract political doctrine, Henry Gould had drawn
the sword, so now, the times being changed, Charles Gould had flung
the silver of the San Tome into the fray. The Inglez of Sulaco, the
"Costaguana Englishman" of the third generation, was as far from being
a political intriguer as his uncle from a revolutionary swashbuckler.
Springing from the instinctive uprightness of their natures their action
was reasoned. They saw an opportunity and used the weapon to hand.

Charles Gould's position--a commanding position in the background of
that attempt to retrieve the peace and the credit of the Republic--was
very clear. At the beginning he had had to accommodate himself to
existing circumstances of corruption so naively brazen as to disarm the
hate of a man courageous enough not to be afraid of its irresponsible
potency to ruin everything it touched. It seemed to him too contemptible
for hot anger even. He made use of it with a cold, fearless scorn,
manifested rather than concealed by the forms of stony courtesy which
did away with much of the ignominy of the situation. At bottom, perhaps,
he suffered from it, for he was not a man of cowardly illusions, but
he refused to discuss the ethical view with his wife. He trusted
that, though a little disenchanted, she would be intelligent enough to
understand that his character safeguarded the enterprise of their lives
as much or more than his policy. The extraordinary development of the
mine had put a great power into his hands. To feel that prosperity
always at the mercy of unintelligent greed had grown irksome to him.
To Mrs. Gould it was humiliating. At any rate, it was dangerous. In the
confidential communications passing between Charles Gould, the King
of Sulaco, and the head of the silver and steel interests far away in
California, the conviction was growing that any attempt made by men of
education and integrity ought to be discreetly supported. "You may tell
your friend Avellanos that I think so," Mr. Holroyd had written at the
proper moment from his inviolable sanctuary within the eleven-storey
high factory of great affairs. And shortly afterwards, with a credit
opened by the Third Southern Bank (located next door but one to the
Holroyd Building), the Ribierist party in Costaguana took a practical
shape under the eye of the administrator of the San Tome mine. And Don
Jose, the hereditary friend of the Gould family, could say: "Perhaps, my
dear Carlos, I shall not have believed in vain."



CHAPTER TWO

After another armed struggle, decided by Montero's victory of Rio Seco,
had been added to the tale of civil wars, the "honest men," as Don Jose
called them, could breathe freely for the first time in half a century.
The Five-Year-Mandate law became the basis of that regeneration,
the passionate desire and hope for which had been like the elixir of
everlasting youth for Don Jose Avellanos.

And when it was suddenly--and not quite unexpectedly--endangered by that
"brute Montero," it was a passionate indignation that gave him a
new lease of life, as it were. Already, at the time of the
President-Dictator's visit to Sulaco, Moraga had sounded a note of
warning from Sta. Marta about the War Minister. Montero and his brother
made the subject of an earnest talk between the Dictator-President
and the Nestor-inspirer of the party. But Don Vincente, a doctor of
philosophy from the Cordova University, seemed to have an exaggerated
respect for military ability, whose mysteriousness--since it appeared
to be altogether independent of intellect--imposed upon his imagination.
The victor of Rio Seco was a popular hero. His services were so recent
that the President-Dictator quailed before the obvious charge of
political ingratitude. Great regenerating transactions were being
initiated--the fresh loan, a new railway line, a vast colonization
scheme. Anything that could unsettle the public opinion in the capital
was to be avoided. Don Jose bowed to these arguments and tried to
dismiss from his mind the gold-laced portent in boots, and with a sabre,
made meaningless now at last, he hoped, in the new order of things.

Less than six months after the President-Dictator's visit, Sulaco
learned with stupefaction of the military revolt in the name of national
honour. The Minister of War, in a barrack-square allocution to the
officers of the artillery regiment he had been inspecting, had declared
the national honour sold to foreigners. The Dictator, by his weak
compliance with the demands of the European powers--for the settlement
of long outstanding money claims--had showed himself unfit to rule. A
letter from Moraga explained afterwards that the initiative, and even
the very text, of the incendiary allocution came, in reality, from
the other Montero, the ex-guerillero, the _Commandante de Plaza_.
The energetic treatment of Dr. Monygham, sent for in haste "to the
mountain," who came galloping three leagues in the dark, saved Don Jose
from a dangerous attack of jaundice.

After getting over the shock, Don Jose refused to let himself be
prostrated. Indeed, better news succeeded at first. The revolt in the
capital had been suppressed after a night of fighting in the streets.
Unfortunately, both the Monteros had been able to make their escape
south, to their native province of Entre-Montes. The hero of the
forest march, the victor of Rio Seco, had been received with frenzied
acclamations in Nicoya, the provincial capital. The troops in garrison
there had gone to him in a body. The brothers were organizing an army,
gathering malcontents, sending emissaries primed with patriotic lies to
the people, and with promises of plunder to the wild llaneros. Even
a Monterist press had come into existence, speaking oracularly of the
secret promises of support given by "our great sister Republic of the
North" against the sinister land-grabbing designs of European powers,
cursing in every issue the "miserable Ribiera," who had plotted
to deliver his country, bound hand and foot, for a prey to foreign
speculators.

Sulaco, pastoral and sleepy, with its opulent Campo and the rich silver
mine, heard the din of arms fitfully in its fortunate isolation. It was
nevertheless in the very forefront of the defence with men and money;
but the very rumours reached it circuitously--from abroad even, so
much was it cut off from the rest of the Republic, not only by natural
obstacles, but also by the vicissitudes of the war. The Monteristos were
besieging Cayta, an important postal link. The overland couriers ceased
to come across the mountains, and no muleteer would consent to risk the
journey at last; even Bonifacio on one occasion failed to return from
Sta. Marta, either not daring to start, or perhaps captured by the
parties of the enemy raiding the country between the Cordillera and
the capital. Monterist publications, however, found their way into the
province, mysteriously enough; and also Monterist emissaries preaching
death to aristocrats in the villages and towns of the Campo. Very early,
at the beginning of the trouble, Hernandez, the bandit, had proposed
(through the agency of an old priest of a village in the wilds) to
deliver two of them to the Ribierist authorities in Tonoro. They had
come to offer him a free pardon and the rank of colonel from General
Montero in consideration of joining the rebel army with his mounted
band. No notice was taken at the time of the proposal. It was joined, as
an evidence of good faith, to a petition praying the Sulaco Assembly for
permission to enlist, with all his followers, in the forces being
then raised in Sulaco for the defence of the Five-Year Mandate of
regeneration. The petition, like everything else, had found its way
into Don Jose's hands. He had showed to Mrs. Gould these pages of
dirty-greyish rough paper (perhaps looted in some village store),
covered with the crabbed, illiterate handwriting of the old padre,
carried off from his hut by the side of a mud-walled church to be the
secretary of the dreaded Salteador. They had both bent in the lamplight
of the Gould drawing-room over the document containing the fierce and
yet humble appeal of the man against the blind and stupid barbarity
turning an honest ranchero into a bandit. A postscript of the priest
stated that, but for being deprived of his liberty for ten days, he had
been treated with humanity and the respect due to his sacred calling. He
had been, it appears, confessing and absolving the chief and most of the
band, and he guaranteed the sincerity of their good disposition. He had
distributed heavy penances, no doubt in the way of litanies and fasts;
but he argued shrewdly that it would be difficult for them to make their
peace with God durably till they had made peace with men.

Never before, perhaps, had Hernandez's head been in less jeopardy than
when he petitioned humbly for permission to buy a pardon for himself
and his gang of deserters by armed service. He could range afar from the
waste lands protecting his fastness, unchecked, because there were no
troops left in the whole province. The usual garrison of Sulaco had gone
south to the war, with its brass band playing the Bolivar march on the
bridge of one of the O.S.N. Company's steamers. The great family coaches
drawn up along the shore of the harbour were made to rock on the high
leathern springs by the enthusiasm of the senoras and the senoritas
standing up to wave their lace handkerchiefs, as lighter after lighter
packed full of troops left the end of the jetty.

Nostromo directed the embarkation, under the superintendendence
of Captain Mitchell, red-faced in the sun, conspicuous in a white
waistcoat, representing the allied and anxious goodwill of all the
material interests of civilization. General Barrios, who commanded the
troops, assured Don Jose on parting that in three weeks he would have
Montero in a wooden cage drawn by three pair of oxen ready for a tour
through all the towns of the Republic.

"And then, senora," he continued, baring his curly iron-grey head to
Mrs. Gould in her landau--"and then, senora, we shall convert our swords
into plough-shares and grow rich. Even I, myself, as soon as this little
business is settled, shall open a fundacion on some land I have on the
llanos and try to make a little money in peace and quietness. Senora,
you know, all Costaguana knows--what do I say?--this whole South
American continent knows, that Pablo Barrios has had his fill of
military glory."

Charles Gould was not present at the anxious and patriotic send-off. It
was not his part to see the soldiers embark. It was neither his part,
nor his inclination, nor his policy. His part, his inclination, and
his policy were united in one endeavour to keep unchecked the flow of
treasure he had started single-handed from the re-opened scar in the
flank of the mountain. As the mine developed he had trained for himself
some native help. There were foremen, artificers and clerks, with Don
Pepe for the gobernador of the mining population. For the rest his
shoulders alone sustained the whole weight of the "Imperium in Imperio,"
the great Gould Concession whose mere shadow had been enough to crush
the life out of his father.

Mrs. Gould had no silver mine to look after. In the general life of the
Gould Concession she was represented by her two lieutenants, the doctor
and the priest, but she fed her woman's love of excitement on events
whose significance was purified to her by the fire of her imaginative
purpose. On that day she had brought the Avellanos, father and daughter,
down to the harbour with her.

Amongst his other activities of that stirring time, Don Jose had become
the chairman of a Patriotic Committee which had armed a great proportion
of troops in the Sulaco command with an improved model of a military
rifle. It had been just discarded for something still more deadly by
one of the great European powers. How much of the market-price for
second-hand weapons was covered by the voluntary contributions of the
principal families, and how much came from those funds Don Jose was
understood to command abroad, remained a secret which he alone could
have disclosed; but the Ricos, as the populace called them, had
contributed under the pressure of their Nestor's eloquence. Some of the
more enthusiastic ladies had been moved to bring offerings of jewels
into the hands of the man who was the life and soul of the party.

There were moments when both his life and his soul seemed overtaxed
by so many years of undiscouraged belief in regeneration. He appeared
almost inanimate, sitting rigidly by the side of Mrs. Gould in the
landau, with his fine, old, clean-shaven face of a uniform tint as if
modelled in yellow wax, shaded by a soft felt hat, the dark eyes looking
out fixedly. Antonia, the beautiful Antonia, as Miss Avellanos was
called in Sulaco, leaned back, facing them; and her full figure, the
grave oval of her face with full red lips, made her look more mature
than Mrs. Gould, with her mobile expression and small, erect person
under a slightly swaying sunshade.

Whenever possible Antonia attended her father; her recognized devotion
weakened the shocking effect of her scorn for the rigid conventions
regulating the life of Spanish-American girlhood. And, in truth, she was
no longer girlish. It was said that she often wrote State papers from
her father's dictation, and was allowed to read all the books in
his library. At the receptions--where the situation was saved by the
presence of a very decrepit old lady (a relation of the Corbelans),
quite deaf and motionless in an armchair--Antonia could hold her own in
a discussion with two or three men at a time. Obviously she was not the
girl to be content with peeping through a barred window at a cloaked
figure of a lover ensconced in a doorway opposite--which is the correct
form of Costaguana courtship. It was generally believed that with her
foreign upbringing and foreign ideas the learned and proud Antonia would
never marry--unless, indeed, she married a foreigner from Europe or
North America, now that Sulaco seemed on the point of being invaded by
all the world.



CHAPTER THREE

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 to your own bondholders. Really, if what
I am told in my letters is true, there is some chance for them at last."

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."

The whole thing was being carried out behind the back of the War
Minister, Montero, a mistrusted member of the Ribiera Government, but
difficult to get rid of at once. He was not to know anything of it till
the troops under Barrios's command had the new rifle in their hands. The
President-Dictator, whose position was very difficult, was alone in the
secret.

"How funny!" commented Martin's sister and confidante; to which the
brother, with an air of best Parisian blague, had retorted:

"It's immense! The idea of that Chief of the State engaged, with the
help of private citizens, in digging a mine under his own indispensable
War Minister. No! We are unapproachable!" And he laughed immoderately.

Afterwards his sister was surprised at the earnestness and ability
he displayed in carrying out his mission, which circumstances made
delicate, and his want of special knowledge rendered difficult. She had
never seen Martin take so much trouble about anything in his whole life.

"It amuses me," he had explained, briefly. "I am beset by a lot
of swindlers trying to sell all sorts of gaspipe weapons. They are
charming; they invite me to expensive luncheons; I keep up their hopes;
it's extremely entertaining. Meanwhile, the real affair is being carried
through in quite another quarter."

When the business was concluded he declared suddenly his intention of
seeing the precious consignment delivered safely in Sulaco. The whole
burlesque business, he thought, was worth following up to the end. He
mumbled his excuses, tugging at his golden beard, before the acute young
lady who (after the first wide stare of astonishment) looked at him with
narrowed eyes, and pronounced slowly--

"I believe you want to see Antonia."

"What Antonia?" asked the Costaguana boulevardier, in a vexed and
disdainful tone. He shrugged his shoulders, and spun round on his heel.
His sister called out after him joyously--

"The Antonia you used to know when she wore her hair in two plaits down
her back."

He had known her some eight years since, shortly before the Avellanos
had left Europe for good, as a tall girl of sixteen, youthfully
austere, and of a character already so formed that she ventured to treat
slightingly his pose of disabused wisdom. On one occasion, as though she
had lost all patience, she flew out at him about the aimlessness of his
life and the levity of his opinions. He was twenty then, an only son,
spoiled by his adoring family. This attack disconcerted him so greatly
that he had faltered in his affectation of amused superiority before
that insignificant chit of a school-girl. But the impression left was so
strong that ever since all the girl friends of his sisters recalled to
him Antonia Avellanos by some faint resemblance, or by the great force
of contrast. It was, he told himself, like a ridiculous fatality. And,
of course, in the news the Decouds received regularly from Costaguana,
the name of their friends, the Avellanos, cropped up frequently--the
arrest and the abominable treatment of the ex-Minister, the dangers and
hardships endured by the family, its withdrawal in poverty to Sulaco,
the death of the mother.

The Monterist pronunciamento had taken place before Martin Decoud
reached Costaguana. He came out in a roundabout way, through Magellan's
Straits by the main line and the West Coast Service of the O.S.N.
Company. His precious consignment arrived just in time to convert the
first feelings of consternation into a mood of hope and resolution.
Publicly he was made much of by the _familias principales_. Privately Don
Jose, still shaken and weak, embraced him with tears in his eyes.

"You have come out yourself! No less could be expected from a Decoud.
Alas! our worst fears have been realized," he moaned, affectionately.
And again he hugged his god-son. This was indeed the time for men of
intellect and conscience to rally round the endangered cause.

It was then that Martin Decoud, the adopted child of Western Europe,
felt the absolute change of atmosphere. He submitted to being embraced
and talked to without a word. He was moved in spite of himself by that
note of passion and sorrow unknown on the more refined stage of European
politics. But when the tall Antonia, advancing with her light step in
the dimness of the big bare Sala of the Avellanos house, offered him her
hand (in her emancipated way), and murmured, "I am glad to see you here,
Don Martin," he felt how impossible it would be to tell these two people
that he had intended to go away by the next month's packet. Don Jose,
meantime, continued his praises. Every accession added to public
confidence, and, besides, what an example to the young men at home
from the brilliant defender of the country's regeneration, the worthy
expounder of the party's political faith before the world! Everybody had
read the magnificent article in the famous Parisian Review. The world
was now informed: and the author's appearance at this moment was like
a public act of faith. Young Decoud felt overcome by a feeling of
impatient confusion. His plan had been to return by way of the United
States through California, visit Yellowstone Park, see Chicago, Niagara,
have a look at Canada, perhaps make a short stay in New York, a longer
one in Newport, use his letters of introduction. The pressure of
Antonia's hand was so frank, the tone of her voice was so unexpectedly
unchanged in its approving warmth, that all he found to say after his
low bow was--

"I am inexpressibly grateful for your welcome; but why need a man be
thanked for returning to his native country? I am sure Dona Antonia does
not think so."

"Certainly not, senor," she said, with that perfectly calm openness of
manner which characterized all her utterances. "But when he returns, as
you return, one may be glad--for the sake of both."

Martin Decoud said nothing of his plans. He not only never breathed a
word of them to any one, but only a fortnight later asked the mistress
of the Casa Gould (where he had of course obtained admission at once),
leaning forward in his chair with an air of well-bred familiarity,
whether she could not detect in him that day a marked change--an air, he
explained, of more excellent gravity. At this Mrs. Gould turned her face
full towards him with the silent inquiry of slightly widened eyes and
the merest ghost of a smile, an habitual movement with her, which
was very fascinating to men by something subtly devoted, finely
self-forgetful in its lively readiness of attention. Because, Decoud
continued imperturbably, he felt no longer an idle cumberer of the
earth. She was, he assured her, actually beholding at that moment the
Journalist of Sulaco. At once Mrs. Gould glanced towards Antonia, posed
upright in the corner of a high, straight-backed Spanish sofa, a large
black fan waving slowly against the curves of her fine figure, the tips
of crossed feet peeping from under the hem of the black skirt. Decoud's
eyes also remained fixed there, while in an undertone he added that Miss
Avellanos was quite aware of his new and unexpected vocation, which in
Costaguana was generally the speciality of half-educated negroes and
wholly penniless lawyers. Then, confronting with a sort of urbane
effrontery Mrs. Gould's gaze, now turned sympathetically upon himself,
he breathed out the words, "_Pro Patria!_"

What had happened was that he had all at once yielded to Don Jose's
pressing entreaties to take the direction of a newspaper that would
"voice the aspirations of the province." It had been Don Jose's old
and cherished idea. The necessary plant (on a modest scale) and a large
consignment of paper had been received from America some time before;
the right man alone was wanted. Even Senor Moraga in Sta. Marta had not
been able to find one, and the matter was now becoming pressing;
some organ was absolutely needed to counteract the effect of the lies
disseminated by the Monterist press: the atrocious calumnies, the
appeals to the people calling upon them to rise with their knives in
their hands and put an end once for all to the Blancos, to these Gothic
remnants, to these sinister mummies, these impotent paraliticos, who
plotted with foreigners for the surrender of the lands and the slavery
of the people.

The clamour of this Negro Liberalism frightened Senor Avellanos. A
newspaper was the only remedy. And now that the right man had been found
in Decoud, great black letters appeared painted between the windows
above the arcaded ground floor of a house on the Plaza. It was next to
Anzani's great emporium of boots, silks, ironware, muslins, wooden toys,
tiny silver arms, legs, heads, hearts (for ex-voto offerings), rosaries,
champagne, women's hats, patent medicines, even a few dusty books in
paper covers and mostly in the French language. The big black letters
formed the words, "Offices of the Porvenir." From these offices a single
folded sheet of Martin's journalism issued three times a week; and
the sleek yellow Anzani prowling in a suit of ample black and carpet
slippers, before the many doors of his establishment, greeted by a deep,
side-long inclination of his body the Journalist of Sulaco going to and
fro on the business of his august calling.



CHAPTER FOUR

Perhaps it was in the exercise of his calling that he had come to see
the troops depart. The Porvenir of the day after next would no doubt
relate the event, but its editor, leaning his side against the landau,
seemed to look at nothing. The front rank of the company of infantry
drawn up three deep across the shore end of the jetty when pressed too
close would bring their bayonets to the charge ferociously, with an
awful rattle; and then the crowd of spectators swayed back bodily,
even under the noses of the big white mules. Notwithstanding the great
multitude there was only a low, muttering noise; the dust hung in a
brown haze, in which the horsemen, wedged in the throng here and there,
towered from the hips upwards, gazing all one way over the heads. Almost
every one of them had mounted a friend, who steadied himself with both
hands grasping his shoulders from behind; and the rims of their hats
touching, made like one disc sustaining the cones of two pointed crowns
with a double face underneath. A hoarse mozo would bawl out something to
an acquaintance in the ranks, or a woman would shriek suddenly the word
Adios! followed by the Christian name of a man.

General Barrios, in a shabby blue tunic and white peg-top trousers
falling upon strange red boots, kept his head uncovered and stooped
slightly, propping himself up with a thick stick. No! He had earned
enough military glory to satiate any man, he insisted to Mrs. Gould,
trying at the same time to put an air of gallantry into his attitude. A
few jetty hairs hung sparsely from his upper lip, he had a salient nose,
a thin, long jaw, and a black silk patch over one eye. His other eye,
small and deep-set, twinkled erratically in all directions, aimlessly
affable. The few European spectators, all men, who had naturally drifted
into the neighbourhood of the Gould carriage, betrayed by the solemnity
of their faces their impression that the general must have had too much
punch (Swedish punch, imported in bottles by Anzani) at the Amarilla
Club before he had started with his Staff on a furious ride to the
harbour. But Mrs. Gould bent forward, self-possessed, and declared her
conviction that still more glory awaited the general in the near future.

"Senora!" he remonstrated, with great feeling, "in the name of God,
reflect! How can there be any glory for a man like me in overcoming that
bald-headed embustero with the dyed moustaches?"

Pablo Ignacio Barrios, son of a village alcalde, general of division,
commanding in chief the Occidental Military district, did not frequent
the higher society of the town. He preferred the unceremonious
gatherings of men where he could tell jaguar-hunt stories, boast of his
powers with the lasso, with which he could perform extremely difficult
feats of the sort "no married man should attempt," as the saying
goes amongst the llaneros; relate tales of extraordinary night rides,
encounters with wild bulls, struggles with crocodiles, adventures in
the great forests, crossings of swollen rivers. And it was not mere
boastfulness that prompted the general's reminiscences, but a genuine
love of that wild life which he had led in his young days before he
turned his back for ever on the thatched roof of the parental tolderia
in the woods. Wandering away as far as Mexico he had fought against the
French by the side (as he said) of Juarez, and was the only military
man of Costaguana who had ever encountered European troops in the field.
That fact shed a great lustre upon his name till it became eclipsed
by the rising star of Montero. All his life he had been an inveterate
gambler. He alluded himself quite openly to the current story how once,
during some campaign (when in command of a brigade), he had gambled away
his horses, pistols, and accoutrements, to the very epaulettes, playing
monte with his colonels the night before the battle. Finally, he had
sent under escort his sword (a presentation sword, with a gold hilt) to
the town in the rear of his position to be immediately pledged for five
hundred pesetas with a sleepy and frightened shop-keeper. By daybreak he
had lost the last of that money, too, when his only remark, as he rose
calmly, was, "Now let us go and fight to the death." From that time he
had become aware that a general could lead his troops into battle
very well with a simple stick in his hand. "It has been my custom ever
since," he would say.

He was always overwhelmed with debts; even during the periods of
splendour in his varied fortunes of a Costaguana general, when he held
high military commands, his gold-laced uniforms were almost always
in pawn with some tradesman. And at last, to avoid the incessant
difficulties of costume caused by the anxious lenders, he had assumed
a disdain of military trappings, an eccentric fashion of shabby old
tunics, which had become like a second nature. But the faction Barrios
joined needed to fear no political betrayal. He was too much of a real
soldier for the ignoble traffic of buying and selling victories. A
member of the foreign diplomatic body in Sta. Marta had once passed a
judgment upon him: "Barrios is a man of perfect honesty and even of
some talent for war, _mais il manque de tenue_." After the triumph of the
Ribierists he had obtained the reputedly lucrative Occidental
command, mainly through the exertions of his creditors (the Sta. Marta
shopkeepers, all great politicians), who moved heaven and earth in his
interest publicly, and privately besieged Senor Moraga, the influential
agent of the San Tome mine, with the exaggerated lamentations that if
the general were passed over, "We shall all be ruined." An incidental
but favourable mention of his name in Mr. Gould senior's long
correspondence with his son had something to do with his appointment,
too; but most of all undoubtedly his established political honesty. No
one questioned the personal bravery of the Tiger-killer, as the populace
called him. He was, however, said to be unlucky in the field--but this
was to be the beginning of an era of peace. The soldiers liked him
for his humane temper, which was like a strange and precious flower
unexpectedly blooming on the hotbed of corrupt revolutions; and when
he rode slowly through the streets during some military display, the
contemptuous good humour of his solitary eye roaming over the crowds
extorted the acclamations of the populace. The women of that class
especially seemed positively fascinated by the long drooping nose,
the peaked chin, the heavy lower lip, the black silk eyepatch and band
slanting rakishly over the forehead. His high rank always procured an
audience of Caballeros for his sporting stories, which he detailed very
well with a simple, grave enjoyment. As to the society of ladies, it was
irksome by the restraints it imposed without any equivalent, as far as
he could see. He had not, perhaps, spoken three times on the whole to
Mrs. Gould since he had taken up his high command; but he had observed
her frequently riding with the Senor Administrador, and had pronounced
that there was more sense in her little bridle-hand than in all the
female heads in Sulaco. His impulse had been to be very civil on parting
to a woman who did not wobble in the saddle, and happened to be the wife
of a personality very important to a man always short of money. He even
pushed his attentions so far as to desire the aide-de-camp at his side
(a thick-set, short captain with a Tartar physiognomy) to bring along a
corporal with a file of men in front of the carriage, lest the crowd in
its backward surges should "incommode the mules of the senora." Then,
turning to the small knot of silent Europeans looking on within earshot,
he raised his voice protectingly--

"Senores, have no apprehension. Go on quietly making your Ferro
Carril--your railways, your telegraphs. Your--There's enough wealth in
Costaguana to pay for everything--or else you would not be here. Ha! ha!
Don't mind this little picardia of my friend Montero. In a little while
you shall behold his dyed moustaches through the bars of a strong wooden
cage. Si, senores! Fear nothing, develop the country, work, work!"

The little group of engineers received this exhortation without a word,
and after waving his hand at them loftily, he addressed himself again to
Mrs. Gould--

"That is what Don Jose says we must do. Be enterprising! Work! Grow
rich! To put Montero in a cage is my work; and when that insignificant
piece of business is done, then, as Don Jose wishes us, we shall grow
rich, one and all, like so many Englishmen, because it is money that
saves a country, and--"

But a young officer in a very new uniform, hurrying up from the
direction of the jetty, interrupted his interpretation of Senor
Avellanos's ideals. The general made a movement of impatience; the other
went on talking to him insistently, with an air of respect. The horses
of the Staff had been embarked, the steamer's gig was awaiting the
general at the boat steps; and Barrios, after a fierce stare of his one
eye, began to take leave. Don Jose roused himself for an appropriate
phrase pronounced mechanically. The terrible strain of hope and fear was
telling on him, and he seemed to husband the last sparks of his fire for
those oratorical efforts of which even the distant Europe was to hear.
Antonia, her red lips firmly closed, averted her head behind the raised
fan; and young Decoud, though he felt the girl's eyes upon him, gazed
away persistently, hooked on his elbow, with a scornful and complete
detachment. Mrs. Gould heroically concealed her dismay at the appearance
of men and events so remote from her racial conventions, dismay too deep
to be uttered in words even to her husband. She understood his voiceless
reserve better now. Their confidential intercourse fell, not in moments
of privacy, but precisely in public, when the quick meeting of their
glances would comment upon some fresh turn of events. She had gone to
his school of uncompromising silence, the only one possible, since so
much that seemed shocking, weird, and grotesque in the working out of
their purposes had to be accepted as normal in this country. Decidedly,
the stately Antonia looked more mature and infinitely calm; but she
would never have known how to reconcile the sudden sinkings of her heart
with an amiable mobility of expression.

Mrs. Gould smiled a good-bye at Barrios, nodded round to the Europeans
(who raised their hats simultaneously) with an engaging invitation, "I
hope to see you all presently, at home"; then said nervously to Decoud,
"Get in, Don Martin," and heard him mutter to himself in French, as he
opened the carriage door, "_Le sort en est jete_." She heard him with a
sort of exasperation. Nobody ought to have known better than himself
that the first cast of dice had been already thrown long ago in a most
desperate game. Distant acclamations, words of command yelled out, and a
roll of drums on the jetty greeted the departing general. Something like
a slight faintness came over her, and she looked blankly at Antonia's
still face, wondering what would happen to Charley if that absurd man
failed. "A la casa, Ignacio," she cried at the motionless broad back of
the coachman, who gathered the reins without haste, mumbling to himself
under his breath, "Si, la casa. Si, si nina."

The carriage rolled noiselessly on the soft track, the shadows fell
long on the dusty little plain interspersed with dark bushes, mounds
of turned-up earth, low wooden buildings with iron roofs of the Railway
Company; the sparse row of telegraph poles strode obliquely clear of
the town, bearing a single, almost invisible wire far into the great
campo--like a slender, vibrating feeler of that progress waiting outside
for a moment of peace to enter and twine itself about the weary heart of
the land.

The cafe window of the Albergo d'ltalia Una was full of sunburnt,
whiskered faces of railway men. But at the other end of the house, the
end of the Signori Inglesi, old Giorgio, at the door with one of his
girls on each side, bared his bushy head, as white as the snows of
Higuerota. Mrs. Gould stopped the carriage. She seldom failed to speak
to her protege; moreover, the excitement, the heat, and the dust had
made her thirsty. She asked for a glass of water. Giorgio sent the
children indoors for it, and approached with pleasure expressed in his
whole rugged countenance. It was not often that he had occasion to see
his benefactress, who was also an Englishwoman--another title to his
regard. He offered some excuses for his wife. It was a bad day with her;
her oppressions--he tapped his own broad chest. She could not move from
her chair that day.

Decoud, ensconced in the corner of his seat, observed gloomily Mrs.
Gould's old revolutionist, then, offhand--

"Well, and what do you think of it all, Garibaldino?"

Old Giorgio, looking at him with some curiosity, said civilly that the
troops had marched very well. One-eyed Barrios and his officers had done
wonders with the recruits in a short time. Those Indios, only caught
the other day, had gone swinging past in double quick time, like
bersaglieri; they looked well fed, too, and had whole uniforms.
"Uniforms!" he repeated with a half-smile of pity. A look of grim
retrospect stole over his piercing, steady eyes. It had been otherwise
in his time when men fought against tyranny, in the forests of Brazil,
or on the plains of Uruguay, starving on half-raw beef without salt,
half naked, with often only a knife tied to a stick for a weapon. "And
yet we used to prevail against the oppressor," he concluded, proudly.

His animation fell; the slight gesture of his hand expressed
discouragement; but he added that he had asked one of the sergeants to
show him the new rifle. There was no such weapon in his fighting days;
and if Barrios could not--

"Yes, yes," broke in Don Jose, almost trembling with eagerness. "We are
safe. The good Senor Viola is a man of experience. Extremely deadly--is
it not so? You have accomplished your mission admirably, my dear
Martin."

Decoud, lolling back moodily, contemplated old Viola.

"Ah! Yes. A man of experience. But who are you for, really, in your
heart?"

Mrs. Gould leaned over to the children. Linda had brought out a glass of
water on a tray, with extreme care; Giselle presented her with a bunch
of flowers gathered hastily.

"For the people," declared old Viola, sternly.

"We are all for the people--in the end."

"Yes," muttered old Viola, savagely. "And meantime they fight for you.
Blind. Esclavos!"

At that moment young Scarfe of the railway staff emerged from the
door of the part reserved for the Signori Inglesi. He had come down to
headquarters from somewhere up the line on a light engine, and had had
just time to get a bath and change his clothes. He was a nice boy, and
Mrs. Gould welcomed him.

"It's a delightful surprise to see you, Mrs. Gould. I've just come down.
Usual luck. Missed everything, of course. This show is just over, and I
hear there has been a great dance at Don Juste Lopez's last night. Is it
true?"

"The young patricians," Decoud began suddenly in his precise English,
"have indeed been dancing before they started off to the war with the
Great Pompey."

Young Scarfe stared, astounded. "You haven't met before," Mrs. Gould
intervened. "Mr. Decoud--Mr. Scarfe."

"Ah! But we are not going to Pharsalia," protested Don Jose, with
nervous haste, also in English. "You should not jest like this, Martin."

Antonia's breast rose and fell with a deeper breath. The young engineer
was utterly in the dark. "Great what?" he muttered, vaguely.

"Luckily, Montero is not a Caesar," Decoud continued. "Not the two
Monteros put together would make a decent parody of a Caesar." He
crossed his arms on his breast, looking at Senor Avellanos, who had
returned to his immobility. "It is only you, Don Jose, who are a genuine
old Roman--vir Romanus--eloquent and inflexible."

Since he had heard the name of Montero pronounced, young Scarfe had been
eager to express his simple feelings. In a loud and youthful tone he
hoped that this Montero was going to be licked once for all and done
with. There was no saying what would happen to the railway if the
revolution got the upper hand. Perhaps it would have to be abandoned.
It would not be the first railway gone to pot in Costaguana. "You know,
it's one of their so-called national things," he ran on, wrinkling
up his nose as if the word had a suspicious flavour to his profound
experience of South American affairs. And, of course, he chatted with
animation, it had been such an immense piece of luck for him at his
age to get appointed on the staff "of a big thing like that--don't you
know." It would give him the pull over a lot of chaps all through life,
he asserted. "Therefore--down with Montero! Mrs. Gould." His artless
grin disappeared slowly before the unanimous gravity of the faces turned
upon him from the carriage; only that "old chap," Don Jose, presenting a
motionless, waxy profile, stared straight on as if deaf. Scarfe did not
know the Avellanos very well. They did not give balls, and Antonia never
appeared at a ground-floor window, as some other young ladies used to do
attended by elder women, to chat with the caballeros on horseback in
the Calle. The stares of these creoles did not matter much; but what on
earth had come to Mrs. Gould? She said, "Go on, Ignacio," and gave him
a slow inclination of the head. He heard a short laugh from that
round-faced, Frenchified fellow. He coloured up to the eyes, and stared
at Giorgio Viola, who had fallen back with the children, hat in hand.

"I shall want a horse presently," he said with some asperity to the old
man.

"Si, senor. There are plenty of horses," murmured the Garibaldino,
smoothing absently, with his brown hands, the two heads, one dark with
bronze glints, the other fair with a coppery ripple, of the two girls by
his side. The returning stream of sightseers raised a great dust on the
road. Horsemen noticed the group. "Go to your mother," he said. "They
are growing up as I am growing older, and there is nobody--"

He looked at the young engineer and stopped, as if awakened from a
dream; then, folding his arms on his breast, took up his usual position,
leaning back in the doorway with an upward glance fastened on the white
shoulder of Higuerota far away.

In the carriage Martin Decoud, shifting his position as though he could
not make himself comfortable, muttered as he swayed towards Antonia, "I
suppose you hate me." Then in a loud voice he began to congratulate Don
Jose upon all the engineers being convinced Ribierists. The interest of
all those foreigners was gratifying. "You have heard this one. He is an
enlightened well-wisher. It is pleasant to think that the prosperity of
Costaguana is of some use to the world."

"He is very young," Mrs. Gould remarked, quietly.

"And so very wise for his age," retorted Decoud. "But here we have the
naked truth from the mouth of that child. You are right, Don Jose. The
natural treasures of Costaguana are of importance to the progressive
Europe represented by this youth, just as three hundred years ago
the wealth of our Spanish fathers was a serious object to the rest
of Europe--as represented by the bold buccaneers. There is a curse of
futility upon our character: Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, chivalry and
materialism, high-sounding sentiments and a supine morality, violent
efforts for an idea and a sullen acquiescence in every form of
corruption. We convulsed a continent for our independence only to
become the passive prey of a democratic parody, the helpless victims
of scoundrels and cut-throats, our institutions a mockery, our laws a
farce--a Guzman Bento our master! And we have sunk so low that when
a man like you has awakened our conscience, a stupid barbarian of a
Montero--Great Heavens! a Montero!--becomes a deadly danger, and an
ignorant, boastful Indio, like Barrios, is our defender."

But Don Jose, disregarding the general indictment as though he had
not heard a word of it, took up the defence of Barrios. The man was
competent enough for his special task in the plan of campaign. It
consisted in an offensive movement, with Cayta as base, upon the flank
of the Revolutionist forces advancing from the south against Sta. Marta,
which was covered by another army with the President-Dictator in its
midst. Don Jose became quite animated with a great flow of speech,
bending forward anxiously under the steady eyes of his daughter. Decoud,
as if silenced by so much ardour, did not make a sound. The bells of the
city were striking the hour of Oracion when the carriage rolled under
the old gateway facing the harbour like a shapeless monument of leaves
and stones. The rumble of wheels under the sonorous arch was traversed
by a strange, piercing shriek, and Decoud, from his back seat, had a
view of the people behind the carriage trudging along the road outside,
all turning their heads, in sombreros and rebozos, to look at a
locomotive which rolled quickly out of sight behind Giorgio Viola's
house, under a white trail of steam that seemed to vanish in the
breathless, hysterically prolonged scream of warlike triumph. And it
was all like a fleeting vision, the shrieking ghost of a railway engine
fleeing across the frame of the archway, behind the startled movement
of the people streaming back from a military spectacle with silent
footsteps on the dust of the road. It was a material train returning
from the Campo to the palisaded yards. The empty cars rolled lightly
on the single track; there was no rumble of wheels, no tremor of the
ground. The engine-driver, running past the Casa Viola with the salute
of an uplifted arm, checked his speed smartly before entering the yard;
and when the ear-splitting screech of the steam-whistle for the brakes
had stopped, a series of hard, battering shocks, mingled with the
clanking of chain-couplings, made a tumult of blows and shaken fetters
under the vault of the gate.



CHAPTER FIVE

The Gould carriage was the first to return from the harbour to the empty
town. On the ancient pavement, laid out in patterns, sunk into ruts and
holes, the portly Ignacio, mindful of the springs of the Parisian-built
landau, had pulled up to a walk, and Decoud in his corner contemplated
moodily the inner aspect of the gate. The squat turreted sides held up
between them a mass of masonry with bunches of grass growing at the top,
and a grey, heavily scrolled, armorial shield of stone above the apex of
the arch with the arms of Spain nearly smoothed out as if in readiness
for some new device typical of the impending progress.

The explosive noise of the railway trucks seemed to augment Decoud's
irritation. He muttered something to himself, then began to talk aloud
in curt, angry phrases thrown at the silence of the two women. They did
not look at him at all; while Don Jose, with his semi-translucent, waxy
complexion, overshadowed by the soft grey hat, swayed a little to the
jolts of the carriage by the side of Mrs. Gould.

"This sound puts a new edge on a very old truth."

Decoud spoke in French, perhaps because of Ignacio on the box above him;
the old coachman, with his broad back filling a short, silver-braided
jacket, had a big pair of ears, whose thick rims stood well away from
his cropped head.

"Yes, the noise outside the city wall is new, but the principle is old."

He ruminated his discontent for a while, then began afresh with a
sidelong glance at Antonia--

"No, but just imagine our forefathers in morions and corselets drawn
up outside this gate, and a band of adventurers just landed from their
ships in the harbour there. Thieves, of course. Speculators, too. Their
expeditions, each one, were the speculations of grave and reverend
persons in England. That is history, as that absurd sailor Mitchell is
always saying."

"Mitchell's arrangements for the embarkation of the troops were
excellent!" exclaimed Don Jose.

"That!--that! oh, that's really the work of that Genoese seaman! But
to return to my noises; there used to be in the old days the sound of
trumpets outside that gate. War trumpets! I'm sure they were trumpets. I
have read somewhere that Drake, who was the greatest of these men, used
to dine alone in his cabin on board ship to the sound of trumpets. In
those days this town was full of wealth. Those men came to take it.
Now the whole land is like a treasure-house, and all these people are
breaking into it, whilst we are cutting each other's throats. The only
thing that keeps them out is mutual jealousy. But they'll come to an
agreement some day--and by the time we've settled our quarrels and
become decent and honourable, there'll be nothing left for us. It has
always been the same. We are a wonderful people, but it has always
been our fate to be"--he did not say "robbed," but added, after a
pause--"exploited!"

Mrs. Gould said, "Oh, this is unjust!" And Antonia interjected, "Don't
answer him, Emilia. He is attacking me."

"You surely do not think I was attacking Don Carlos!" Decoud answered.

And then the carriage stopped before the door of the Casa Gould. The
young man offered his hand to the ladies. They went in first together;
Don Jose walked by the side of Decoud, and the gouty old porter tottered
after them with some light wraps on his arm.

Don Jose slipped his hand under the arm of the journalist of Sulaco.

"The Porvenir must have a long and confident article upon Barrios and
the irresistibleness of his army of Cayta! The moral effect should be
kept up in the country. We must cable encouraging extracts to Europe and
the United States to maintain a favourable impression abroad."

Decoud muttered, "Oh, yes, we must comfort our friends, the
speculators."

The long open gallery was in shadow, with its screen of plants in vases
along the balustrade, holding out motionless blossoms, and all the glass
doors of the reception-rooms thrown open. A jingle of spurs died out at
the further end.

Basilio, standing aside against the wall, said in a soft tone to
the passing ladies, "The Senor Administrador is just back from the
mountain."

In the great sala, with its groups of ancient Spanish and modern
European furniture making as if different centres under the high white
spread of the ceiling, the silver and porcelain of the tea-service
gleamed among a cluster of dwarf chairs, like a bit of a lady's boudoir,
putting in a note of feminine and intimate delicacy.

Don Jose in his rocking-chair placed his hat on his lap, and Decoud
walked up and down the whole length of the room, passing between tables
loaded with knick-knacks and almost disappearing behind the high backs
of leathern sofas. He was thinking of the angry face of Antonia; he was
confident that he would make his peace with her. He had not stayed in
Sulaco to quarrel with Antonia.

Martin Decoud was angry with himself. All he saw and heard going
on around him exasperated the preconceived views of his European
civilization. To contemplate revolutions from the distance of the
Parisian Boulevards was quite another matter. Here on the spot it was
not possible to dismiss their tragic comedy with the expression, "_Quelle
farce!_"

The reality of the political action, such as it was, seemed closer, and
acquired poignancy by Antonia's belief in the cause. Its crudeness hurt
his feelings. He was surprised at his own sensitiveness.

"I suppose I am more of a Costaguanero than I would have believed
possible," he thought to himself.

His disdain grew like a reaction of his scepticism against the action
into which he was forced by his infatuation for Antonia. He soothed
himself by saying he was not a patriot, but a lover.

The ladies came in bareheaded, and Mrs. Gould sank low before the little
tea-table. Antonia took up her usual place at the reception hour--the
corner of a leathern couch, with a rigid grace in her pose and a fan in
her hand. Decoud, swerving from the straight line of his march, came to
lean over the high back of her seat.

For a long time he talked into her ear from behind, softly, with a half
smile and an air of apologetic familiarity. Her fan lay half grasped on
her knees. She never looked at him. His rapid utterance grew more and
more insistent and caressing. At last he ventured a slight laugh.

"No, really. You must forgive me. One must be serious sometimes."
He paused. She turned her head a little; her blue eyes glided slowly
towards him, slightly upwards, mollified and questioning.

"You can't think I am serious when I call Montero a gran' bestia
every second day in the Porvenir? That is not a serious occupation. No
occupation is serious, not even when a bullet through the heart is the
penalty of failure!"

Her hand closed firmly on her fan.

"Some reason, you understand, I mean some sense, may creep into
thinking; some glimpse of truth. I mean some effective truth, for which
there is no room in politics or journalism. I happen to have said what I
thought. And you are angry! If you do me the kindness to think a little
you will see that I spoke like a patriot."

She opened her red lips for the first time, not unkindly.

"Yes, but you never see the aim. Men must be used as they are. I suppose
nobody is really disinterested, unless, perhaps, you, Don Martin."

"God forbid! It's the last thing I should like you to believe of me." He
spoke lightly, and paused.

She began to fan herself with a slow movement without raising her hand.
After a time he whispered passionately--

"Antonia!"

She smiled, and extended her hand after the English manner towards
Charles Gould, who was bowing before her; while Decoud, with his
elbows spread on the back of the sofa, dropped his eyes and murmured,
"Bonjour."

The Senor Administrador of the San Tome mine bent over his wife for
a moment. They exchanged a few words, of which only the phrase, "The
greatest enthusiasm," pronounced by Mrs. Gould, could be heard.

"Yes," Decoud began in a murmur. "Even he!"

"This is sheer calumny," said Antonia, not very severely.

"You just ask him to throw his mine into the melting-pot for the great
cause," Decoud whispered.

Don Jose had raised his voice. He rubbed his hands cheerily. The
excellent aspect of the troops and the great quantity of new deadly
rifles on the shoulders of those brave men seemed to fill him with an
ecstatic confidence.

Charles Gould, very tall and thin before his chair, listened, but
nothing could be discovered in his face except a kind and deferential
attention.

Meantime, Antonia had risen, and, crossing the room, stood looking out
of one of the three long windows giving on the street. Decoud followed
her. The window was thrown open, and he leaned against the thickness of
the wall. The long folds of the damask curtain, falling straight from
the broad brass cornice, hid him partly from the room. He folded his
arms on his breast, and looked steadily at Antonia's profile.

The people returning from the harbour filled the pavements; the shuffle
of sandals and a low murmur of voices ascended to the window. Now and
then a coach rolled slowly along the disjointed roadway of the Calle de
la Constitucion. There were not many private carriages in Sulaco; at the
most crowded hour on the Alameda they could be counted with one glance
of the eye. The great family arks swayed on high leathern springs, full
of pretty powdered faces in which the eyes looked intensely alive
and black. And first Don Juste Lopez, the President of the Provincial
Assembly, passed with his three lovely daughters, solemn in a black
frock-coat and stiff white tie, as when directing a debate from a high
tribune. Though they all raised their eyes, Antonia did not make the
usual greeting gesture of a fluttered hand, and they affected not to
see the two young people, Costaguaneros with European manners, whose
eccentricities were discussed behind the barred windows of the first
families in Sulaco. And then the widowed Senora Gavilaso de Valdes
rolled by, handsome and dignified, in a great machine in which she used
to travel to and from her country house, surrounded by an armed retinue
in leather suits and big sombreros, with carbines at the bows of their
saddles. She was a woman of most distinguished family, proud, rich, and
kind-hearted. Her second son, Jaime, had just gone off on the Staff of
Barrios. The eldest, a worthless fellow of a moody disposition, filled
Sulaco with the noise of his dissipations, and gambled heavily at the
club. The two youngest boys, with yellow Ribierist cockades in their
caps, sat on the front seat. She, too, affected not to see the Senor
Decoud talking publicly with Antonia in defiance of every convention.
And he not even her novio as far as the world knew! Though, even in that
case, it would have been scandal enough. But the dignified old lady,
respected and admired by the first families, would have been still more
shocked if she could have heard the words they were exchanging.

"Did you say I lost sight of the aim? I have only one aim in the world."

She made an almost imperceptible negative movement of her head, still
staring across the street at the Avellanos's house, grey, marked with
decay, and with iron bars like a prison.

"And it would be so easy of attainment," he continued, "this aim which,
whether knowingly or not, I have always had in my heart--ever since the
day when you snubbed me so horribly once in Paris, you remember."

A slight smile seemed to move the corner of the lip that was on his
side.

"You know you were a very terrible person, a sort of Charlotte Corday
in a schoolgirl's dress; a ferocious patriot. I suppose you would have
stuck a knife into Guzman Bento?"

She interrupted him. "You do me too much honour."

"At any rate," he said, changing suddenly to a tone of bitter levity,
"you would have sent me to stab him without compunction."

"_Ah, par exemple!_" she murmured in a shocked tone.

"Well," he argued, mockingly, "you do keep me here writing deadly
nonsense. Deadly to me! It has already killed my self-respect. And you
may imagine," he continued, his tone passing into light banter, "that
Montero, should he be successful, would get even with me in the only way
such a brute can get even with a man of intelligence who condescends to
call him a gran' bestia three times a week. It's a sort of intellectual
death; but there is the other one in the background for a journalist of
my ability."

"If he is successful!" said Antonia, thoughtfully.

"You seem satisfied to see my life hang on a thread," Decoud replied,
with a broad smile. "And the other Montero, the 'my trusted brother' of
the proclamations, the guerrillero--haven't I written that he was taking
the guests' overcoats and changing plates in Paris at our Legation in
the intervals of spying on our refugees there, in the time of Rojas? He
will wash out that sacred truth in blood. In my blood! Why do you look
annoyed? This is simply a bit of the biography of one of our great men.
What do you think he will do to me? There is a certain convent wall
round the corner of the Plaza, opposite the door of the Bull Ring. You
know? Opposite the door with the inscription, _Intrada de la Sombra_.'
Appropriate, perhaps! That's where the uncle of our host gave up his
Anglo-South-American soul. And, note, he might have run away. A man
who has fought with weapons may run away. You might have let me go
with Barrios if you had cared for me. I would have carried one of those
rifles, in which Don Jose believes, with the greatest satisfaction, in
the ranks of poor peons and Indios, that know nothing either of reason
or politics. The most forlorn hope in the most forlorn army on earth
would have been safer than that for which you made me stay here. When
you make war you may retreat, but not when you spend your time in
inciting poor ignorant fools to kill and to die."

His tone remained light, and as if unaware of his presence she stood
motionless, her hands clasped lightly, the fan hanging down from her
interlaced fingers. He waited for a while, and then--

"I shall go to the wall," he said, with a sort of jocular desperation.

Even that declaration did not make her look at him. Her head remained
still, her eyes fixed upon the house of the Avellanos, whose chipped
pilasters, broken cornices, the whole degradation of dignity was hidden
now by the gathering dusk of the street. In her whole figure her lips
alone moved, forming the words--

"Martin, you will make me cry."

He remained silent for a minute, startled, as if overwhelmed by a sort
of awed happiness, with the lines of the mocking smile still stiffened
about his mouth, and incredulous surprise in his eyes. The value of a
sentence is in the personality which utters it, for nothing new can be
said by man or woman; and those were the last words, it seemed to him,
that could ever have been spoken by Antonia. He had never made it up
with her so completely in all their intercourse of small encounters; but
even before she had time to turn towards him, which she did slowly with
a rigid grace, he had begun to plead--

"My sister is only waiting to embrace you. My father is transported with
joy. I won't say anything of my mother! Our mothers were like sisters.
There is the mail-boat for the south next week--let us go. That Moraga
is a fool! A man like Montero is bribed. It's the practice of the
country. It's tradition--it's politics. Read 'Fifty Years of Misrule.'"

"Leave poor papa alone, Don Martin. He believes--"

"I have the greatest tenderness for your father," he began, hurriedly.
"But I love you, Antonia! And Moraga has miserably mismanaged this
business. Perhaps your father did, too; I don't know. Montero was
bribeable. Why, I suppose he only wanted his share of this famous loan
for national development. Why didn't the stupid Sta. Marta people give
him a mission to Europe, or something? He would have taken five years'
salary in advance, and gone on loafing in Paris, this stupid, ferocious
Indio!"

"The man," she said, thoughtfully, and very calm before this outburst,
"was intoxicated with vanity. We had all the information, not from
Moraga only; from others, too. There was his brother intriguing, too."

"Oh, yes!" he said. "Of course you know. You know everything. You read
all the correspondence, you write all the papers--all those State papers
that are inspired here, in this room, in blind deference to a theory
of political purity. Hadn't you Charles Gould before your eyes? Rey de
Sulaco! He and his mine are the practical demonstration of what could
have been done. Do you think he succeeded by his fidelity to a theory of
virtue? And all those railway people, with their honest work! Of course,
their work is honest! But what if you cannot work honestly till the
thieves are satisfied? Could he not, a gentleman, have told this Sir
John what's-his-name that Montero had to be bought off--he and all his
Negro Liberals hanging on to his gold-laced sleeve? He ought to have
been bought off with his own stupid weight of gold--his weight of gold,
I tell you, boots, sabre, spurs, cocked hat, and all."

She shook her head slightly. "It was impossible," she murmured.

"He wanted the whole lot? What?"

She was facing him now in the deep recess of the window, very close and
motionless. Her lips moved rapidly. Decoud, leaning his back against the
wall, listened with crossed arms and lowered eyelids. He drank the tones
of her even voice, and watched the agitated life of her throat, as if
waves of emotion had run from her heart to pass out into the air in her
reasonable words. He also had his aspirations, he aspired to carry her
away out of these deadly futilities of pronunciamientos and reforms. All
this was wrong--utterly wrong; but she fascinated him, and sometimes
the sheer sagacity of a phrase would break the charm, replace the
fascination by a sudden unwilling thrill of interest. Some women
hovered, as it were, on the threshold of genius, he reflected. They did
not want to know, or think, or understand. Passion stood for all that,
and he was ready to believe that some startlingly profound remark, some
appreciation of character, or a judgment upon an event, bordered on the
miraculous. In the mature Antonia he could see with an extraordinary
vividness the austere schoolgirl of the earlier days. She seduced his
attention; sometimes he could not restrain a murmur of assent; now and
then he advanced an objection quite seriously. Gradually they began to
argue; the curtain half hid them from the people in the sala.

Outside it had grown dark. From the deep trench of shadow between the
houses, lit up vaguely by the glimmer of street lamps, ascended the
evening silence of Sulaco; the silence of a town with few carriages,
of unshod horses, and a softly sandalled population. The windows of
the Casa Gould flung their shining parallelograms upon the house of
the Avellanos. Now and then a shuffle of feet passed below with the
pulsating red glow of a cigarette at the foot of the walls; and the
night air, as if cooled by the snows of Higuerota, refreshed their
faces.

"We Occidentals," said Martin Decoud, using the usual term the
provincials of Sulaco applied to themselves, "have been always distinct
and separated. As long as we hold Cayta nothing can reach us. In all our
troubles no army has marched over those mountains. A revolution in the
central provinces isolates us at once. Look how complete it is now! The
news of Barrios' movement will be cabled to the United States, and
only in that way will it reach Sta. Marta by the cable from the other
seaboard. We have the greatest riches, the greatest fertility, the
purest blood in our great families, the most laborious population. The
Occidental Province should stand alone. The early Federalism was not
bad for us. Then came this union which Don Henrique Gould resisted.
It opened the road to tyranny; and, ever since, the rest of Costaguana
hangs like a millstone round our necks. The Occidental territory is
large enough to make any man's country. Look at the mountains! Nature
itself seems to cry to us, 'Separate!'"

She made an energetic gesture of negation. A silence fell.

"Oh, yes, I know it's contrary to the doctrine laid down in the 'History
of Fifty Years' Misrule.' I am only trying to be sensible. But my sense
seems always to give you cause for offence. Have I startled you very
much with this perfectly reasonable aspiration?"

She shook her head. No, she was not startled, but the idea shocked her
early convictions. Her patriotism was larger. She had never considered
that possibility.

"It may yet be the means of saving some of your convictions," he said,
prophetically.

She did not answer. She seemed tired. They leaned side by side on the
rail of the little balcony, very friendly, having exhausted politics,
giving themselves up to the silent feeling of their nearness, in one of
those profound pauses that fall upon the rhythm of passion. Towards the
plaza end of the street the glowing coals in the brazeros of the market
women cooking their evening meal gleamed red along the edge of the
pavement. A man appeared without a sound in the light of a street lamp,
showing the coloured inverted triangle of his bordered poncho, square on
his shoulders, hanging to a point below his knees. From the harbour
end of the Calle a horseman walked his soft-stepping mount, gleaming
silver-grey abreast each lamp under the dark shape of the rider.

"Behold the illustrious Capataz de Cargadores," said Decoud, gently,
"coming in all his splendour after his work is done. The next great man
of Sulaco after Don Carlos Gould. But he is good-natured, and let me
make friends with him."

"Ah, indeed!" said Antonia. "How did you make friends?"

"A journalist ought to have his finger on the popular pulse, and this
man is one of the leaders of the populace. A journalist ought to know
remarkable men--and this man is remarkable in his way."

"Ah, yes!" said Antonia, thoughtfully. "It is known that this Italian
has a great influence."

The horseman had passed below them, with a gleam of dim light on the
shining broad quarters of the grey mare, on a bright heavy stirrup, on a
long silver spur; but the short flick of yellowish flame in the dusk was
powerless against the muffled-up mysteriousness of the dark figure with
an invisible face concealed by a great sombrero.

Decoud and Antonia remained leaning over the balcony, side by side,
touching elbows, with their heads overhanging the darkness of the
street, and the brilliantly lighted sala at their backs. This was a
tete-a-tete of extreme impropriety; something of which in the whole
extent of the Republic only the extraordinary Antonia could be
capable--the poor, motherless girl, never accompanied, with a careless
father, who had thought only of making her learned. Even Decoud himself
seemed to feel that this was as much as he could expect of having her to
himself till--till the revolution was over and he could carry her off
to Europe, away from the endlessness of civil strife, whose folly seemed
even harder to bear than its ignominy. After one Montero there would
be another, the lawlessness of a populace of all colours and races,
barbarism, irremediable tyranny. As the great Liberator Bolivar had said
in the bitterness of his spirit, "America is ungovernable. Those who
worked for her independence have ploughed the sea." He did not care, he
declared boldly; he seized every opportunity to tell her that though she
had managed to make a Blanco journalist of him, he was no patriot. First
of all, the word had no sense for cultured minds, to whom the narrowness
of every belief is odious; and secondly, in connection with the
everlasting troubles of this unhappy country it was hopelessly
besmirched; it had been the cry of dark barbarism, the cloak of
lawlessness, of crimes, of rapacity, of simple thieving.

He was surprised at the warmth of his own utterance. He had no need
to drop his voice; it had been low all the time, a mere murmur in the
silence of dark houses with their shutters closed early against the
night air, as is the custom of Sulaco. Only the sala of the Casa Gould
flung out defiantly the blaze of its four windows, the bright appeal of
light in the whole dumb obscurity of the street. And the murmur on the
little balcony went on after a short pause.

"But we are labouring to change all that," Antonia protested. "It is
exactly what we desire. It is our object. It is the great cause. And
the word you despise has stood also for sacrifice, for courage, for
constancy, for suffering. Papa, who--"

"Ploughing the sea," interrupted Decoud, looking down.

There was below the sound of hasty and ponderous footsteps.

"Your uncle, the grand-vicar of the cathedral, has just turned under the
gate," observed Decoud. "He said Mass for the troops in the Plaza this
morning. They had built for him an altar of drums, you know. And they
brought outside all the painted blocks to take the air. All the wooden
saints stood militarily in a row at the top of the great flight of
steps. They looked like a gorgeous escort attending the Vicar-General. I
saw the great function from the windows of the Porvenir. He is amazing,
your uncle, the last of the Corbelans. He glittered exceedingly in his
vestments with a great crimson velvet cross down his back. And all the
time our saviour Barrios sat in the Amarilla Club drinking punch at
an open window. Esprit fort--our Barrios. I expected every moment your
uncle to launch an excommunication there and then at the black eye-patch
in the window across the Plaza. But not at all. Ultimately the troops
marched off. Later Barrios came down with some of the officers, and
stood with his uniform all unbuttoned, discoursing at the edge of the
pavement. Suddenly your uncle appeared, no longer glittering, but all
black, at the cathedral door with that threatening aspect he has--you
know, like a sort of avenging spirit. He gives one look, strides over
straight at the group of uniforms, and leads away the general by the
elbow. He walked him for a quarter of an hour in the shade of a
wall. Never let go his elbow for a moment, talking all the time with
exaltation, and gesticulating with a long black arm. It was a curious
scene. The officers seemed struck with astonishment. Remarkable man,
your missionary uncle. He hates an infidel much less than a heretic, and
prefers a heathen many times to an infidel. He condescends graciously to
call me a heathen, sometimes, you know."

Antonia listened with her hands over the balustrade, opening and
shutting the fan gently; and Decoud talked a little nervously, as if
afraid that she would leave him at the first pause. Their comparative
isolation, the precious sense of intimacy, the slight contact of their
arms, affected him softly; for now and then a tender inflection crept
into the flow of his ironic murmurs.

"Any slight sign of favour from a relative of yours is welcome, Antonia.
And perhaps he understands me, after all! But I know him, too, our Padre
Corbelan. The idea of political honour, justice, and honesty for him
consists in the restitution of the confiscated Church property. Nothing
else could have drawn that fierce converter of savage Indians out of the
wilds to work for the Ribierist cause! Nothing else but that wild hope!
He would make a pronunciamiento himself for such an object against any
Government if he could only get followers! What does Don Carlos Gould
think of that? But, of course, with his English impenetrability, nobody
can tell what he thinks. Probably he thinks of nothing apart from his
mine; of his 'Imperium in Imperio.' As to Mrs. Gould, she thinks of
her schools, of her hospitals, of the mothers with the young babies, of
every sick old man in the three villages. If you were to turn your head
now you would see her extracting a report from that sinister doctor in a
check shirt--what's his name? Monygham--or else catechising Don Pepe or
perhaps listening to Padre Roman. They are all down here to-day--all
her ministers of state. Well, she is a sensible woman, and perhaps Don
Carlos is a sensible man. It's a part of solid English sense not to
think too much; to see only what may be of practical use at the moment.
These people are not like ourselves. We have no political reason; we
have political passions--sometimes. What is a conviction? A particular
view of our personal advantage either practical or emotional. No one is
a patriot for nothing. The word serves us well. But I am clear-sighted,
and I shall not use that word to you, Antonia! I have no patriotic
illusions. I have only the supreme illusion of a lover."

He paused, then muttered almost inaudibly, "That can lead one very far,
though."

Behind their backs the political tide that once in every twenty-four
hours set with a strong flood through the Gould drawing-room could
be heard, rising higher in a hum of voices. Men had been dropping in
singly, or in twos and threes: the higher officials of the province,
engineers of the railway, sunburnt and in tweeds, with the frosted head
of their chief smiling with slow, humorous indulgence amongst the young
eager faces. Scarfe, the lover of fandangos, had already slipped out in
search of some dance, no matter where, on the outskirts of the town. Don
Juste Lopez, after taking his daughters home, had entered solemnly, in a
black creased coat buttoned up under his spreading brown beard. The
few members of the Provincial Assembly present clustered at once around
their President to discuss the news of the war and the last proclamation
of the rebel Montero, the miserable Montero, calling in the name of "a
justly incensed democracy" upon all the Provincial Assemblies of the
Republic to suspend their sittings till his sword had made peace and the
will of the people could be consulted. It was practically an invitation
to dissolve: an unheard-of audacity of that evil madman.

The indignation ran high in the knot of deputies behind Jose Avellanos.
Don Jose, lifting up his voice, cried out to them over the high back
of his chair, "Sulaco has answered by sending to-day an army upon his
flank. If all the other provinces show only half as much patriotism as
we Occidentals--"

A great outburst of acclamations covered the vibrating treble of the
life and soul of the party. Yes! Yes! This was true! A great truth!
Sulaco was in the forefront, as ever! It was a boastful tumult, the
hopefulness inspired by the event of the day breaking out amongst those
caballeros of the Campo thinking of their herds, of their lands, of
the safety of their families. Everything was at stake. . . . No! It was
impossible that Montero should succeed! This criminal, this shameless
Indio! The clamour continued for some time, everybody else in the
room looking towards the group where Don Juste had put on his air of
impartial solemnity as if presiding at a sitting of the Provincial
Assembly. Decoud had turned round at the noise, and, leaning his back
on the balustrade, shouted into the room with all the strength of his
lungs, "Gran' bestia!"

This unexpected cry had the effect of stilling the noise. All the eyes
were directed to the window with an approving expectation; but Decoud
had already turned his back upon the room, and was again leaning out
over the quiet street.

"This is the quintessence of my journalism; that is the supreme
argument," he said to Antonia. "I have invented this definition, this
last word on a great question. But I am no patriot. I am no more of a
patriot than the Capataz of the Sulaco Cargadores, this Genoese who has
done such great things for this harbour--this active usher-in of the
material implements for our progress. You have heard Captain Mitchell
confess over and over again that till he got this man he could never
tell how long it would take to unload a ship. That is bad for progress.
You have seen him pass by after his labours on his famous horse to
dazzle the girls in some ballroom with an earthen floor. He is a
fortunate fellow! His work is an exercise of personal powers; his
leisure is spent in receiving the marks of extraordinary adulation.
And he likes it, too. Can anybody be more fortunate? To be feared and
admired is--"

"And are these your highest aspirations, Don Martin?" interrupted
Antonia.

"I was speaking of a man of that sort," said Decoud, curtly. "The heroes
of the world have been feared and admired. What more could he want?"

Decoud had often felt his familiar habit of ironic thought fall
shattered against Antonia's gravity. She irritated him as if she, too,
had suffered from that inexplicable feminine obtuseness which stands
so often between a man and a woman of the more ordinary sort. But he
overcame his vexation at once. He was very far from thinking Antonia
ordinary, whatever verdict his scepticism might have pronounced upon
himself. With a touch of penetrating tenderness in his voice he assured
her that his only aspiration was to a felicity so high that it seemed
almost unrealizable on this earth.

She coloured invisibly, with a warmth against which the breeze from the
sierra seemed to have lost its cooling power in the sudden melting of
the snows. His whisper could not have carried so far, though there was
enough ardour in his tone to melt a heart of ice. Antonia turned away
abruptly, as if to carry his whispered assurance into the room behind,
full of light, noisy with voices.

The tide of political speculation was beating high within the four walls
of the great sala, as if driven beyond the marks by a great gust of
hope. Don Juste's fan-shaped beard was still the centre of loud and
animated discussions. There was a self-confident ring in all the
voices. Even the few Europeans around Charles Gould--a Dane, a couple
of Frenchmen, a discreet fat German, smiling, with down-cast eyes, the
representatives of those material interests that had got a footing in
Sulaco under the protecting might of the San Tome mine--had infused a
lot of good humour into their deference. Charles Gould, to whom they
were paying their court, was the visible sign of the stability that
could be achieved on the shifting ground of revolutions. They felt
hopeful about their various undertakings. One of the two Frenchmen,
small, black, with glittering eyes lost in an immense growth of bushy
beard, waved his tiny brown hands and delicate wrists. He had been
travelling in the interior of the province for a syndicate of European
capitalists. His forcible "_Monsieur l'Administrateur_" returning every
minute shrilled above the steady hum of conversations. He was relating
his discoveries. He was ecstatic. Charles Gould glanced down at him
courteously.

At a given moment of these necessary receptions it was Mrs. Gould's
habit to withdraw quietly into a little drawing-room, especially her
own, next to the great sala. She had risen, and, waiting for Antonia,
listened with a slightly worried graciousness to the engineer-in-chief
of the railway, who stooped over her, relating slowly, without the
slightest gesture, something apparently amusing, for his eyes had a
humorous twinkle. Antonia, before she advanced into the room to join
Mrs. Gould, turned her head over her shoulder towards Decoud, only for a
moment.

"Why should any one of us think his aspirations unrealizable?" she said,
rapidly.

"I am going to cling to mine to the end, Antonia," he answered, through
clenched teeth, then bowed very low, a little distantly.

The engineer-in-chief had not finished telling his amusing story.
The humours of railway building in South America appealed to his keen
appreciation of the absurd, and he told his instances of ignorant
prejudice and as ignorant cunning very well. Now, Mrs. Gould gave him
all her attention as he walked by her side escorting the ladies out of
the room. Finally all three passed unnoticed through the glass doors in
the gallery. Only a tall priest stalking silently in the noise of the
sala checked himself to look after them. Father Corbelan, whom Decoud
had seen from the balcony turning into the gateway of the Casa
Gould, had addressed no one since coming in. The long, skimpy soutane
accentuated the tallness of his stature; he carried his powerful torso
thrown forward; and the straight, black bar of his joined eyebrows, the
pugnacious outline of the bony face, the white spot of a scar on the
bluish shaven cheeks (a testimonial to his apostolic zeal from a
party of unconverted Indians), suggested something unlawful behind his
priesthood, the idea of a chaplain of bandits.

He separated his bony, knotted hands clasped behind his back, to shake
his finger at Martin.

Decoud had stepped into the room after Antonia. But he did not go far.
He had remained just within, against the curtain, with an expression of
not quite genuine gravity, like a grown-up person taking part in a game
of children. He gazed quietly at the threatening finger.

"I have watched your reverence converting General Barrios by a special
sermon on the Plaza," he said, without making the slightest movement.

"What miserable nonsense!" Father Corbelan's deep voice resounded all
over the room, making all the heads turn on the shoulders. "The man is a
drunkard. Senores, the God of your General is a bottle!"

His contemptuous, arbitrary voice caused an uneasy suspension of every
sound, as if the self-confidence of the gathering had been staggered by
a blow. But nobody took up Father Corbelan's declaration.

It was known that Father Corbelan had come out of the wilds to advocate
the sacred rights of the Church with the same fanatical fearlessness
with which he had gone preaching to bloodthirsty savages, devoid
of human compassion or worship of any kind. Rumours of legendary
proportions told of his successes as a missionary beyond the eye of
Christian men. He had baptized whole nations of Indians, living with
them like a savage himself. It was related that the padre used to ride
with his Indians for days, half naked, carrying a bullock-hide shield,
and, no doubt, a long lance, too--who knows? That he had wandered
clothed in skins, seeking for proselytes somewhere near the snow line of
the Cordillera. Of these exploits Padre Corbelan himself was never known
to talk. But he made no secret of his opinion that the politicians of
Sta. Marta had harder hearts and more corrupt minds than the heathen
to whom he had carried the word of God. His injudicious zeal for the
temporal welfare of the Church was damaging the Ribierist cause. It was
common knowledge that he had refused to be made titular bishop of the
Occidental diocese till justice was done to a despoiled Church. The
political Gefe of Sulaco (the same dignitary whom Captain Mitchell saved
from the mob afterwards) hinted with naive cynicism that doubtless their
Excellencies the Ministers sent the padre over the mountains to Sulaco
in the worst season of the year in the hope that he would be frozen
to death by the icy blasts of the high paramos. Every year a few hardy
muleteers--men inured to exposure--were known to perish in that way. But
what would you have? Their Excellencies possibly had not realized what
a tough priest he was. Meantime, the ignorant were beginning to murmur
that the Ribierist reforms meant simply the taking away of the land
from the people. Some of it was to be given to foreigners who made the
railway; the greater part was to go to the padres.

These were the results of the Grand Vicar's zeal. Even from the short
allocution to the troops on the Plaza (which only the first ranks
could have heard) he had not been able to keep out his fixed idea of
an outraged Church waiting for reparation from a penitent country. The
political Gefe had been exasperated. But he could not very well throw
the brother-in-law of Don Jose into the prison of the Cabildo. The chief
magistrate, an easy-going and popular official, visited the Casa
Gould, walking over after sunset from the Intendencia, unattended,
acknowledging with dignified courtesy the salutations of high and low
alike. That evening he had walked up straight to Charles Gould and had
hissed out to him that he would have liked to deport the Grand Vicar
out of Sulaco, anywhere, to some desert island, to the Isabels, for
instance. "The one without water preferably--eh, Don Carlos?" he had
added in a tone between jest and earnest. This uncontrollable priest,
who had rejected his offer of the episcopal palace for a residence and
preferred to hang his shabby hammock amongst the rubble and spiders of
the sequestrated Dominican Convent, had taken into his head to advocate
an unconditional pardon for Hernandez the Robber! And this was not
enough; he seemed to have entered into communication with the most
audacious criminal the country had known for years. The Sulaco police
knew, of course, what was going on. Padre Corbelan had got hold of that
reckless Italian, the Capataz de Cargadores, the only man fit for such
an errand, and had sent a message through him. Father Corbelan had
studied in Rome, and could speak Italian. The Capataz was known to visit
the old Dominican Convent at night. An old woman who served the Grand
Vicar had heard the name of Hernandez pronounced; and only last Saturday
afternoon the Capataz had been observed galloping out of town. He did
not return for two days. The police would have laid the Italian by the
heels if it had not been for fear of the Cargadores, a turbulent body of
men, quite apt to raise a tumult. Nowadays it was not so easy to govern
Sulaco. Bad characters flocked into it, attracted by the money in the
pockets of the railway workmen. The populace was made restless by Father
Corbelan's discourses. And the first magistrate explained to Charles
Gould that now the province was stripped of troops any outbreak of
lawlessness would find the authorities with their boots off, as it were.

Then he went away moodily to sit in an armchair, smoking a long, thin
cigar, not very far from Don Jose, with whom, bending over sideways, he
exchanged a few words from time to time. He ignored the entrance of the
priest, and whenever Father Corbelan's voice was raised behind him, he
shrugged his shoulders impatiently.

Father Corbelan had remained quite motionless for a time with that
something vengeful in his immobility which seemed to characterize all
his attitudes. A lurid glow of strong convictions gave its peculiar
aspect to the black figure. But its fierceness became softened as the
padre, fixing his eyes upon Decoud, raised his long, black arm slowly,
impressively--

"And you--you are a perfect heathen," he said, in a subdued, deep voice.

He made a step nearer, pointing a forefinger at the young man's breast.
Decoud, very calm, felt the wall behind the curtain with the back of his
head. Then, with his chin tilted well up, he smiled.

"Very well," he agreed with the slightly weary nonchalance of a man well
used to these passages. "But is it perhaps that you have not discovered
yet what is the God of my worship? It was an easier task with our
Barrios."

The priest suppressed a gesture of discouragement. "You believe neither
in stick nor stone," he said.

"Nor bottle," added Decoud without stirring. "Neither does the other of
your reverence's confidants. I mean the Capataz of the Cargadores.
He does not drink. Your reading of my character does honour to your
perspicacity. But why call me a heathen?"

"True," retorted the priest. "You are ten times worse. A miracle could
not convert you."

"I certainly do not believe in miracles," said Decoud, quietly. Father
Corbelan shrugged his high, broad shoulders doubtfully.

"A sort of Frenchman--godless--a materialist," he pronounced slowly, as
if weighing the terms of a careful analysis. "Neither the son of his own
country nor of any other," he continued, thoughtfully.

"Scarcely human, in fact," Decoud commented under his breath, his head
at rest against the wall, his eyes gazing up at the ceiling.

"The victim of this faithless age," Father Corbelan resumed in a deep
but subdued voice.

"But of some use as a journalist." Decoud changed his pose and spoke
in a more animated tone. "Has your worship neglected to read the last
number of the Porvenir? I assure you it is just like the others. On
the general policy it continues to call Montero a gran' bestia, and
stigmatize his brother, the guerrillero, for a combination of lackey
and spy. What could be more effective? In local affairs it urges the
Provincial Government to enlist bodily into the national army the band
of Hernandez the Robber--who is apparently the protege of the Church--or
at least of the Grand Vicar. Nothing could be more sound."

The priest nodded and turned on the heels of his square-toed shoes with
big steel buckles. Again, with his hands clasped behind his back, he
paced to and fro, planting his feet firmly. When he swung about, the
skirt of his soutane was inflated slightly by the brusqueness of his
movements.

The great sala had been emptying itself slowly. When the Gefe Politico
rose to go, most of those still remaining stood up suddenly in sign of
respect, and Don Jose Avellanos stopped the rocking of his chair. But
the good-natured First Official made a deprecatory gesture, waved his
hand to Charles Gould, and went out discreetly.

In the comparative peace of the room the screaming "Monsieur
l'Administrateur" of the frail, hairy Frenchman seemed to acquire a
preternatural shrillness. The explorer of the Capitalist syndicate was
still enthusiastic. "Ten million dollars' worth of copper practically in
sight, Monsieur l'Administrateur. Ten millions in sight! And a railway
coming--a railway! They will never believe my report. C'est trop beau."
He fell a prey to a screaming ecstasy, in the midst of sagely nodding
heads, before Charles Gould's imperturbable calm.

And only the priest continued his pacing, flinging round the skirt of
his soutane at each end of his beat. Decoud murmured to him ironically:
"Those gentlemen talk about their gods."

Father Corbelan stopped short, looked at the journalist of Sulaco
fixedly for a moment, shrugged his shoulders slightly, and resumed his
plodding walk of an obstinate traveller.

And now the Europeans were dropping off from the group around Charles
Gould till the Administrador of the Great Silver Mine could be seen in
his whole lank length, from head to foot, left stranded by the
ebbing tide of his guests on the great square of carpet, as it were a
multi-coloured shoal of flowers and arabesques under his brown boots.
Father Corbelan approached the rocking-chair of Don Jose Avellanos.

"Come, brother," he said, with kindly brusqueness and a touch of
relieved impatience a man may feel at the end of a perfectly useless
ceremony. "A la Casa! A la Casa! This has been all talk. Let us now go
and think and pray for guidance from Heaven."

He rolled his black eyes upwards. By the side of the frail
diplomatist--the life and soul of the party--he seemed gigantic, with
a gleam of fanaticism in the glance. But the voice of the party, or,
rather, its mouthpiece, the "son Decoud" from Paris, turned journalist
for the sake of Antonia's eyes, knew very well that it was not so, that
he was only a strenuous priest with one idea, feared by the women and
execrated by the men of the people. Martin Decoud, the dilettante in
life, imagined himself to derive an artistic pleasure from watching
the picturesque extreme of wrongheadedness into which an honest,
almost sacred, conviction may drive a man. "It is like madness. It must
be--because it's self-destructive," Decoud had said to himself often.
It seemed to him that every conviction, as soon as it became effective,
turned into that form of dementia the gods send upon those they wish to
destroy. But he enjoyed the bitter flavour of that example with the zest
of a connoisseur in the art of his choice. Those two men got on well
together, as if each had felt respectively that a masterful conviction,
as well as utter scepticism, may lead a man very far on the by-paths of
political action.

Don Jose obeyed the touch of the big hairy hand. Decoud followed out the
brothers-in-law. And there remained only one visitor in the vast empty
sala, bluishly hazy with tobacco smoke, a heavy-eyed, round-cheeked man,
with a drooping moustache, a hide merchant from Esmeralda, who had come
overland to Sulaco, riding with a few peons across the coast range.
He was very full of his journey, undertaken mostly for the purpose
of seeing the Senor Administrador of San Tome in relation to some
assistance he required in his hide-exporting business. He hoped to
enlarge it greatly now that the country was going to be settled. It was
going to be settled, he repeated several times, degrading by a strange,
anxious whine the sonority of the Spanish language, which he pattered
rapidly, like some sort of cringing jargon. A plain man could carry
on his little business now in the country, and even think of enlarging
it--with safety. Was it not so? He seemed to beg Charles Gould for a
confirmatory word, a grunt of assent, a simple nod even.

He could get nothing. His alarm increased, and in the pauses he would
dart his eyes here and there; then, loth to give up, he would branch
off into feeling allusion to the dangers of his journey. The audacious
Hernandez, leaving his usual haunts, had crossed the Campo of Sulaco,
and was known to be lurking in the ravines of the coast range.
Yesterday, when distant only a few hours from Sulaco, the hide merchant
and his servants had seen three men on the road arrested suspiciously,
with their horses' heads together. Two of these rode off at once and
disappeared in a shallow quebrada to the left. "We stopped," continued
the man from Esmeralda, "and I tried to hide behind a small bush. But
none of my mozos would go forward to find out what it meant, and the
third horseman seemed to be waiting for us to come up. It was no use. We
had been seen. So we rode slowly on, trembling. He let us pass--a man on
a grey horse with his hat down on his eyes--without a word of greeting;
but by-and-by we heard him galloping after us. We faced about, but that
did not seem to intimidate him. He rode up at speed, and touching
my foot with the toe of his boot, asked me for a cigar, with a
blood-curdling laugh. He did not seem armed, but when he put his hand
back to reach for the matches I saw an enormous revolver strapped to his
waist. I shuddered. He had very fierce whiskers, Don Carlos, and as he
did not offer to go on we dared not move. At last, blowing the smoke of
my cigar into the air through his nostrils, he said, 'Senor, it would be
perhaps better for you if I rode behind your party. You are not very far
from Sulaco now. Go you with God.' What would you? We went on. There
was no resisting him. He might have been Hernandez himself; though my
servant, who has been many times to Sulaco by sea, assured me that he
had recognized him very well for the Capataz of the Steamship Company's
Cargadores. Later, that same evening, I saw that very man at the corner
of the Plaza talking to a girl, a Morenita, who stood by the stirrup
with her hand on the grey horse's mane."

"I assure you, Senor Hirsch," murmured Charles Gould, "that you ran no
risk on this occasion."

"That may be, senor, though I tremble yet. A most fierce man--to look
at. And what does it mean? A person employed by the Steamship Company
talking with salteadores--no less, senor; the other horsemen were
salteadores--in a lonely place, and behaving like a robber himself! A
cigar is nothing, but what was there to prevent him asking me for my
purse?"

"No, no, Senor Hirsch," Charles Gould murmured, letting his glance
stray away a little vacantly from the round face, with its hooked beak
upturned towards him in an almost childlike appeal. "If it was the
Capataz de Cargadores you met--and there is no doubt, is there?--you
were perfectly safe."

"Thank you. You are very good. A very fierce-looking man, Don Carlos. He
asked me for a cigar in a most familiar manner. What would have happened
if I had not had a cigar? I shudder yet. What business had he to be
talking with robbers in a lonely place?"

But Charles Gould, openly preoccupied now, gave not a sign, made no
sound. The impenetrability of the embodied Gould Concession had its
surface shades. To be dumb is merely a fatal affliction; but the King
of Sulaco had words enough to give him all the mysterious weight of a
taciturn force. His silences, backed by the power of speech, had as many
shades of significance as uttered words in the way of assent, of doubt,
of negation--even of simple comment. Some seemed to say plainly, "Think
it over"; others meant clearly, "Go ahead"; a simple, low "I see," with
an affirmative nod, at the end of a patient listening half-hour was
the equivalent of a verbal contract, which men had learned to trust
implicitly, since behind it all there was the great San Tome mine, the
head and front of the material interests, so strong that it depended
on no man's goodwill in the whole length and breadth of the Occidental
Province--that is, on no goodwill which it could not buy ten times
over. But to the little hook-nosed man from Esmeralda, anxious about
the export of hides, the silence of Charles Gould portended a failure.
Evidently this was no time for extending a modest man's business. He
enveloped in a swift mental malediction the whole country, with all
its inhabitants, partisans of Ribiera and Montero alike; and there were
incipient tears in his mute anger at the thought of the innumerable
ox-hides going to waste upon the dreamy expanse of the Campo, with its
single palms rising like ships at sea within the perfect circle of the
horizon, its clumps of heavy timber motionless like solid islands
of leaves above the running waves of grass. There were hides there,
rotting, with no profit to anybody--rotting where they had been dropped
by men called away to attend the urgent necessities of political
revolutions. The practical, mercantile soul of Senor Hirsch rebelled
against all that foolishness, while he was taking a respectful but
disconcerted leave of the might and majesty of the San Tome mine in the
person of Charles Gould. He could not restrain a heart-broken murmur,
wrung out of his very aching heart, as it were.

"It is a great, great foolishness, Don Carlos, all this. The price of
hides in Hamburg is gone up--up. Of course the Ribierist Government will
do away with all that--when it gets established firmly. Meantime--"

He sighed.

"Yes, meantime," repeated Charles Gould, inscrutably.

The other shrugged his shoulders. But he was not ready to go yet. There
was a little matter he would like to mention very much if permitted. It
appeared he had some good friends in Hamburg (he murmured the name
of the firm) who were very anxious to do business, in dynamite, he
explained. A contract for dynamite with the San Tome mine, and then,
perhaps, later on, other mines, which were sure to--The little man from
Esmeralda was ready to enlarge, but Charles interrupted him. It seemed
as though the patience of the Senor Administrador was giving way at
last.

"Senor Hirsch," he said, "I have enough dynamite stored up at the
mountain to send it down crashing into the valley"--his voice rose a
little--"to send half Sulaco into the air if I liked."

Charles Gould smiled at the round, startled eyes of the dealer in hides,
who was murmuring hastily, "Just so. Just so." And now he was going.
It was impossible to do business in explosives with an Administrador so
well provided and so discouraging. He had suffered agonies in the saddle
and had exposed himself to the atrocities of the bandit Hernandez for
nothing at all. Neither hides nor dynamite--and the very shoulders of
the enterprising Israelite expressed dejection. At the door he bowed low
to the engineer-in-chief. But at the bottom of the stairs in the patio
he stopped short, with his podgy hand over his lips in an attitude of
meditative astonishment.

"What does he want to keep so much dynamite for?" he muttered. "And why
does he talk like this to me?"

The engineer-in-chief, looking in at the door of the empty sala, whence
the political tide had ebbed out to the last insignificant drop, nodded
familiarly to the master of the house, standing motionless like a tall
beacon amongst the deserted shoals of furniture.

"Good-night, I am going. Got my bike downstairs. The railway will know
where to go for dynamite should we get short at any time. We have done
cutting and chopping for a while now. We shall begin soon to blast our
way through."

"Don't come to me," said Charles Gould, with perfect serenity. "I
shan't have an ounce to spare for anybody. Not an ounce. Not for my own
brother, if I had a brother, and he were the engineer-in-chief of the
most promising railway in the world."

"What's that?" asked the engineer-in-chief, with equanimity.
"Unkindness?"

"No," said Charles Gould, stolidly. "Policy."

"Radical, I should think," the engineer-in-chief observed from the
doorway.

"Is that the right name?" Charles Gould said, from the middle of the
room.

"I mean, going to the roots, you know," the engineer explained, with an
air of enjoyment.

"Why, yes," Charles pronounced, slowly. "The Gould Concession has struck
such deep roots in this country, in this province, in that gorge of the
mountains, that nothing but dynamite shall be allowed to dislodge it
from there. It's my choice. It's my last card to play."

The engineer-in-chief whistled low. "A pretty game," he said, with a
shade of discretion. "And have you told Holroyd of that extraordinary
trump card you hold in your hand?"

"Card only when it's played; when it falls at the end of the game. Till
then you may call it a--a--"

"Weapon," suggested the railway man.

"No. You may call it rather an argument," corrected Charles Gould,
gently. "And that's how I've presented it to Mr. Holroyd."

"And what did he say to it?" asked the engineer, with undisguised
interest.

"He"--Charles Gould spoke after a slight pause--"he said something
about holding on like grim death and putting our trust in God. I should
imagine he must have been rather startled. But then"--pursued the
Administrador of the San Tome mine--"but then, he is very far away, you
know, and, as they say in this country, God is very high above."

The engineer's appreciative laugh died away down the stairs, where the
Madonna with the Child on her arm seemed to look after his shaking broad
back from her shallow niche.



CHAPTER SIX

A profound stillness reigned in the Casa Gould. The master of the house,
walking along the corredor, opened the door of his room, and saw his
wife sitting in a big armchair--his own smoking armchair--thoughtful,
contemplating her little shoes. And she did not raise her eyes when he
walked in.

"Tired?" asked Charles Gould.

"A little," said Mrs. Gould. Still without looking up, she added with
feeling, "There is an awful sense of unreality about all this."

Charles Gould, before the long table strewn with papers, on which lay a
hunting crop and a pair of spurs, stood looking at his wife: "The heat
and dust must have been awful this afternoon by the waterside," he
murmured, sympathetically. "The glare on the water must have been simply
terrible."

"One could close one's eyes to the glare," said Mrs. Gould. "But, my
dear Charley, it is impossible for me to close my eyes to our position;
to this awful . . ."

She raised her eyes and looked at her husband's face, from which all
sign of sympathy or any other feeling had disappeared. "Why don't you
tell me something?" she almost wailed.

"I thought you had understood me perfectly from the first," Charles
Gould said, slowly. "I thought we had said all there was to say a long
time ago. There is nothing to say now. There were things to be done. We
have done them; we have gone on doing them. There is no going back now.
I don't suppose that, even from the first, there was really any possible
way back. And, what's more, we can't even afford to stand still."

"Ah, if one only knew how far you mean to go," said his wife inwardly
trembling, but in an almost playful tone.

"Any distance, any length, of course," was the answer, in a
matter-of-fact tone, which caused Mrs. Gould to make another effort to
repress a shudder.

She stood up, smiling graciously, and her little figure seemed to be
diminished still more by the heavy mass of her hair and the long train
of her gown.

"But always to success," she said, persuasively.

Charles Gould, enveloping her in the steely blue glance of his attentive
eyes, answered without hesitation--

"Oh, there is no alternative."

He put an immense assurance into his tone. As to the words, this was all
that his conscience would allow him to say.

Mrs. Gould's smile remained a shade too long upon her lips. She
murmured--

"I will leave you; I've a slight headache. The heat, the dust, were
indeed--I suppose you are going back to the mine before the morning?"

"At midnight," said Charles Gould. "We are bringing down the silver
to-morrow. Then I shall take three whole days off in town with you."

"Ah, you are going to meet the escort. I shall be on the balcony at five
o'clock to see you pass. Till then, good-bye."

Charles Gould walked rapidly round the table, and, seizing her hands,
bent down, pressing them both to his lips. Before he straightened
himself up again to his full height she had disengaged one to smooth his
cheek with a light touch, as if he were a little boy.

"Try to get some rest for a couple of hours," she murmured, with a
glance at a hammock stretched in a distant part of the room. Her long
train swished softly after her on the red tiles. At the door she looked
back.

Two big lamps with unpolished glass globes bathed in a soft and abundant
light the four white walls of the room, with a glass case of arms, the
brass hilt of Henry Gould's cavalry sabre on its square of velvet, and
the water-colour sketch of the San Tome gorge. And Mrs. Gould, gazing at
the last in its black wooden frame, sighed out--

"Ah, if we had left it alone, Charley!"

"No," Charles Gould said, moodily; "it was impossible to leave it
alone."

"Perhaps it was impossible," Mrs. Gould admitted, slowly. Her lips
quivered a little, but she smiled with an air of dainty bravado. "We
have disturbed a good many snakes in that Paradise, Charley, haven't
we?"

"Yes, I remember," said Charles Gould, "it was Don Pepe who called the
gorge the Paradise of snakes. No doubt we have disturbed a great many.
But remember, my dear, that it is not now as it was when you made that
sketch." He waved his hand towards the small water-colour hanging alone
upon the great bare wall. "It is no longer a Paradise of snakes. We have
brought mankind into it, and we cannot turn our backs upon them to go
and begin a new life elsewhere."

He confronted his wife with a firm, concentrated gaze, which Mrs. Gould
returned with a brave assumption of fearlessness before she went out,
closing the door gently after her.

In contrast with the white glaring room the dimly lit corredor had a
restful mysteriousness of a forest glade, suggested by the stems and the
leaves of the plants ranged along the balustrade of the open side.
In the streaks of light falling through the open doors of the
reception-rooms, the blossoms, white and red and pale lilac, came out
vivid with the brilliance of flowers in a stream of sunshine; and Mrs.
Gould, passing on, had the vividness of a figure seen in the clear
patches of sun that chequer the gloom of open glades in the woods. The
stones in the rings upon her hand pressed to her forehead glittered in
the lamplight abreast of the door of the sala.

"Who's there?" she asked, in a startled voice. "Is that you, Basilio?"
She looked in, and saw Martin Decoud walking about, with an air of
having lost something, amongst the chairs and tables.

"Antonia has forgotten her fan in here," said Decoud, with a strange air
of distraction; "so I entered to see."

But, even as he said this, he had obviously given up his search, and
walked straight towards Mrs. Gould, who looked at him with doubtful
surprise.

"Senora," he began, in a low voice.

"What is it, Don Martin?" asked Mrs. Gould. And then she added, with a
slight laugh, "I am so nervous to-day," as if to explain the eagerness
of the question.

"Nothing immediately dangerous," said Decoud, who now could not conceal
his agitation. "Pray don't distress yourself. No, really, you must not
distress yourself."

Mrs. Gould, with her candid eyes very wide open, her lips composed into
a smile, was steadying herself with a little bejewelled hand against the
side of the door.

"Perhaps you don't know how alarming you are, appearing like this
unexpectedly--"

"I! Alarming!" he protested, sincerely vexed and surprised. "I assure
you that I am not in the least alarmed myself. A fan is lost; well,
it will be found again. But I don't think it is here. It is a fan I am
looking for. I cannot understand how Antonia could--Well! Have you found
it, amigo?"

"No, senor," said behind Mrs. Gould the soft voice of Basilio, the head
servant of the Casa. "I don't think the senorita could have left it in
this house at all."

"Go and look for it in the patio again. Go now, my friend; look for it
on the steps, under the gate; examine every flagstone; search for it
till I come down again. . . . That fellow"--he addressed himself in
English to Mrs. Gould--"is always stealing up behind one's back on his
bare feet. I set him to look for that fan directly I came in to justify
my reappearance, my sudden return."

He paused and Mrs. Gould said, amiably, "You are always welcome." She
paused for a second, too. "But I am waiting to learn the cause of your
return."

Decoud affected suddenly the utmost nonchalance.

"I can't bear to be spied upon. Oh, the cause? Yes, there is a cause;
there is something else that is lost besides Antonia's favourite fan. As
I was walking home after seeing Don Jose and Antonia to their house, the
Capataz de Cargadores, riding down the street, spoke to me."

"Has anything happened to the Violas?" inquired Mrs. Gould.

"The Violas? You mean the old Garibaldino who keeps the hotel where
the engineers live? Nothing happened there. The Capataz said nothing
of them; he only told me that the telegraphist of the Cable Company was
walking on the Plaza, bareheaded, looking out for me. There is news from
the interior, Mrs. Gould. I should rather say rumours of news."

"Good news?" said Mrs. Gould in a low voice.

"Worthless, I should think. But if I must define them, I would say bad.
They are to the effect that a two days' battle had been fought near Sta.
Marta, and that the Ribierists are defeated. It must have happened a few
days ago--perhaps a week. The rumour has just reached Cayta, and the
man in charge of the cable station there has telegraphed the news to his
colleague here. We might just as well have kept Barrios in Sulaco."

"What's to be done now?" murmured Mrs. Gould.

"Nothing. He's at sea with the troops. He will get to Cayta in a couple
of days' time and learn the news there. What he will do then, who can
say? Hold Cayta? Offer his submission to Montero? Disband his army--this
last most likely, and go himself in one of the O.S.N. Company's
steamers, north or south--to Valparaiso or to San Francisco, no matter
where. Our Barrios has a great practice in exiles and repatriations,
which mark the points in the political game."

Decoud, exchanging a steady stare with Mrs. Gould, added, tentatively,
as it were, "And yet, if we had could have been done."

"Montero victorious, completely victorious!" Mrs. Gould breathed out in
a tone of unbelief.

"A canard, probably. That sort of bird is hatched in great numbers in
such times as these. And even if it were true? Well, let us put things
at their worst, let us say it is true."

"Then everything is lost," said Mrs. Gould, with the calmness of
despair.

Suddenly she seemed to divine, she seemed to see Decoud's tremendous
excitement under its cloak of studied carelessness. It was, indeed,
becoming visible in his audacious and watchful stare, in the curve,
half-reckless, half-contemptuous, of his lips. And a French phrase came
upon them as if, for this Costaguanero of the Boulevard, that had been
the only forcible language--

"_Non, Madame. Rien n'est perdu_."

It electrified Mrs. Gould out of her benumbed attitude, and she said,
vivaciously--

"What would you think of doing?"

But already there was something of mockery in Decoud's suppressed
excitement.

"What would you expect a true Costaguanero to do? Another revolution, of
course. On my word of honour, Mrs. Gould, I believe I am a true _hijo del
pays_, a true son of the country, whatever Father Corbelan may say. And
I'm not so much of an unbeliever as not to have faith in my own ideas,
in my own remedies, in my own desires."

"Yes," said Mrs. Gould, doubtfully.

"You don't seem convinced," Decoud went on again in French. "Say, then,
in my passions."

Mrs. Gould received this addition unflinchingly. To understand it
thoroughly she did not require to hear his muttered assurance--

"There is nothing I would not do for the sake of Antonia. There is
nothing I am not prepared to undertake. There is no risk I am not ready
to run."

Decoud seemed to find a fresh audacity in this voicing of his thoughts.
"You would not believe me if I were to say that it is the love of the
country which--"

She made a sort of discouraged protest with her arm, as if to express
that she had given up expecting that motive from any one.

"A Sulaco revolution," Decoud pursued in a forcible undertone. "The
Great Cause may be served here, on the very spot of its inception, in
the place of its birth, Mrs. Gould."

Frowning, and biting her lower lip thoughtfully, she made a step away
from the door.

"You are not going to speak to your husband?" Decoud arrested her
anxiously.

"But you will need his help?"

"No doubt," Decoud admitted without hesitation. "Everything turns upon
the San Tome mine, but I would rather he didn't know anything as yet of
my--my hopes."

A puzzled look came upon Mrs. Gould's face, and Decoud, approaching,
explained confidentially--

"Don't you see, he's such an idealist."

Mrs. Gould flushed pink, and her eyes grew darker at the same time.

"Charley an idealist!" she said, as if to herself, wonderingly. "What on
earth do you mean?"

"Yes," conceded Decoud, "it's a wonderful thing to say with the sight
of the San Tome mine, the greatest fact in the whole of South America,
perhaps, before our very eyes. But look even at that, he has idealized
this fact to a point--" He paused. "Mrs. Gould, are you aware to what
point he has idealized the existence, the worth, the meaning of the San
Tome mine? Are you aware of it?"

He must have known what he was talking about.

The effect he expected was produced. Mrs. Gould, ready to take fire,
gave it up suddenly with a low little sound that resembled a moan.

"What do you know?" she asked in a feeble voice.

"Nothing," answered Decoud, firmly. "But, then, don't you see, he's an
Englishman?"

"Well, what of that?" asked Mrs. Gould.

"Simply that he cannot act or exist without idealizing every simple
feeling, desire, or achievement. He could not believe his own motives if
he did not make them first a part of some fairy tale. The earth is not
quite good enough for him, I fear. Do you excuse my frankness? Besides,
whether you excuse it or not, it is part of the truth of things which
hurts the--what do you call them?--the Anglo-Saxon's susceptibilities,
and at the present moment I don't feel as if I could treat seriously
either his conception of things or--if you allow me to say so--or yet
yours."

Mrs. Gould gave no sign of being offended. "I suppose Antonia
understands you thoroughly?"

"Understands? Well, yes. But I am not sure that she approves. That,
however, makes no difference. I am honest enough to tell you that, Mrs.
Gould."

"Your idea, of course, is separation," she said.

"Separation, of course," declared Martin. "Yes; separation of the whole
Occidental Province from the rest of the unquiet body. But my true idea,
the only one I care for, is not to be separated from Antonia."

"And that is all?" asked Mrs. Gould, without severity.

"Absolutely. I am not deceiving myself about my motives. She won't leave
Sulaco for my sake, therefore Sulaco must leave the rest of the Republic
to its fate. Nothing could be clearer than that. I like a clearly
defined situation. I cannot part with Antonia, therefore the one and
indivisible Republic of Costaguana must be made to part with its western
province. Fortunately it happens to be also a sound policy. The
richest, the most fertile part of this land may be saved from anarchy.
Personally, I care little, very little; but it's a fact that the
establishment of Montero in power would mean death to me. In all the
proclamations of general pardon which I have seen, my name, with a few
others, is specially excepted. The brothers hate me, as you know very
well, Mrs. Gould; and behold, here is the rumour of them having won a
battle. You say that supposing it is true, I have plenty of time to run
away."

The slight, protesting murmur on the part of Mrs. Gould made him pause
for a moment, while he looked at her with a sombre and resolute glance.

"Ah, but I would, Mrs. Gould. I would run away if it served that which
at present is my only desire. I am courageous enough to say that, and to
do it, too. But women, even our women, are idealists. It is Antonia that
won't run away. A novel sort of vanity."

"You call it vanity," said Mrs. Gould, in a shocked voice.

"Say pride, then, which. Father Corbelan would tell you, is a mortal
sin. But I am not proud. I am simply too much in love to run away. At
the same time I want to live. There is no love for a dead man. Therefore
it is necessary that Sulaco should not recognize the victorious
Montero."

"And you think my husband will give you his support?"

"I think he can be drawn into it, like all idealists, when he once sees
a sentimental basis for his action. But I wouldn't talk to him. Mere
clear facts won't appeal to his sentiment. It is much better for him
to convince himself in his own way. And, frankly, I could not, perhaps,
just now pay sufficient respect to either his motives or even, perhaps,
to yours, Mrs. Gould."

It was evident that Mrs. Gould was very determined not to be offended.
She smiled vaguely, while she seemed to think the matter over. As far
as she could judge from the girl's half-confidences, Antonia understood
that young man. Obviously there was promise of safety in his plan, or
rather in his idea. Moreover, right or wrong, the idea could do no harm.
And it was quite possible, also, that the rumour was false.

"You have some sort of a plan," she said.

"Simplicity itself. Barrios has started, let him go on then; he will
hold Cayta, which is the door of the sea route to Sulaco. They cannot
send a sufficient force over the mountains. No; not even to cope with
the band of Hernandez. Meantime we shall organize our resistance here.
And for that, this very Hernandez will be useful. He has defeated troops
as a bandit; he will no doubt accomplish the same thing if he is made
a colonel or even a general. You know the country well enough not to
be shocked by what I say, Mrs. Gould. I have heard you assert that this
poor bandit was the living, breathing example of cruelty, injustice,
stupidity, and oppression, that ruin men's souls as well as their
fortunes in this country. Well, there would be some poetical retribution
in that man arising to crush the evils which had driven an honest
ranchero into a life of crime. A fine idea of retribution in that, isn't
there?"

Decoud had dropped easily into English, which he spoke with precision,
very correctly, but with too many z sounds.

"Think also of your hospitals, of your schools, of your ailing mothers
and feeble old men, of all that population which you and your husband
have brought into the rocky gorge of San Tome. Are you not responsible
to your conscience for all these people? Is it not worth while to make
another effort, which is not at all so desperate as it looks, rather
than--"

Decoud finished his thought with an upward toss of the arm, suggesting
annihilation; and Mrs. Gould turned away her head with a look of horror.

"Why don't you say all this to my husband?" she asked, without looking
at Decoud, who stood watching the effect of his words.

"Ah! But Don Carlos is so English," he began. Mrs. Gould interrupted--

"Leave that alone, Don Martin. He's as much a Costaguanero--No! He's
more of a Costaguanero than yourself."

"Sentimentalist, sentimentalist," Decoud almost cooed, in a tone of
gentle and soothing deference. "Sentimentalist, after the amazing manner
of your people. I have been watching El Rey de Sulaco since I came here
on a fool's errand, and perhaps impelled by some treason of fate lurking
behind the unaccountable turns of a man's life. But I don't matter, I am
not a sentimentalist, I cannot endow my personal desires with a shining
robe of silk and jewels. Life is not for me a moral romance derived from
the tradition of a pretty fairy tale. No, Mrs. Gould; I am practical. I
am not afraid of my motives. But, pardon me, I have been rather carried
away. What I wish to say is that I have been observing. I won't tell you
what I have discovered--"

"No. That is unnecessary," whispered Mrs. Gould, once more averting her
head.

"It is. Except one little fact, that your husband does not like me.
It's a small matter, which, in the circumstances, seems to acquire a
perfectly ridiculous importance. Ridiculous and immense; for, clearly,
money is required for my plan," he reflected; then added, meaningly,
"and we have two sentimentalists to deal with."

"I don't know that I understand you, Don Martin," said Mrs. Gould,
coldly, preserving the low key of their conversation. "But, speaking as
if I did, who is the other?"

"The great Holroyd in San Francisco, of course," Decoud whispered,
lightly. "I think you understand me very well. Women are idealists; but
then they are so perspicacious."

But whatever was the reason of that remark, disparaging and
complimentary at the same time, Mrs. Gould seemed not to pay attention
to it. The name of Holroyd had given a new tone to her anxiety.

"The silver escort is coming down to the harbour tomorrow; a whole six
months' working, Don Martin!" she cried in dismay.

"Let it come down, then," breathed out Decoud, earnestly, almost into
her ear.

"But if the rumour should get about, and especially if it turned out
true, troubles might break out in the town," objected Mrs. Gould.

Decoud admitted that it was possible. He knew well the town children
of the Sulaco Campo: sullen, thievish, vindictive, and bloodthirsty,
whatever great qualities their brothers of the plain might have had.
But then there was that other sentimentalist, who attached a strangely
idealistic meaning to concrete facts. This stream of silver must be kept
flowing north to return in the form of financial backing from the great
house of Holroyd. Up at the mountain in the strong room of the mine
the silver bars were worth less for his purpose than so much lead, from
which at least bullets may be run. Let it come down to the harbour,
ready for shipment.

The next north-going steamer would carry it off for the very salvation
of the San Tome mine, which had produced so much treasure. And,
moreover, the rumour was probably false, he remarked, with much
conviction in his hurried tone.

"Besides, senora," concluded Decoud, "we may suppress it for many days.
I have been talking with the telegraphist in the middle of the Plaza
Mayor; thus I am certain that we could not have been overheard. There
was not even a bird in the air near us. And also let me tell you
something more. I have been making friends with this man called
Nostromo, the Capataz. We had a conversation this very evening, I
walking by the side of his horse as he rode slowly out of the town just
now. He promised me that if a riot took place for any reason--even
for the most political of reasons, you understand--his Cargadores, an
important part of the populace, you will admit, should be found on the
side of the Europeans."

"He has promised you that?" Mrs. Gould inquired, with interest. "What
made him make that promise to you?"

"Upon my word, I don't know," declared Decoud, in a slightly surprised
tone. "He certainly promised me that, but now you ask me why, I could
not tell you his reasons. He talked with his usual carelessness, which,
if he had been anything else but a common sailor, I would call a pose or
an affectation."

Decoud, interrupting himself, looked at Mrs. Gould curiously.

"Upon the whole," he continued, "I suppose he expects something to his
advantage from it. You mustn't forget that he does not exercise his
extraordinary power over the lower classes without a certain amount of
personal risk and without a great profusion in spending his money.
One must pay in some way or other for such a solid thing as individual
prestige. He told me after we made friends at a dance, in a Posada kept
by a Mexican just outside the walls, that he had come here to make his
fortune. I suppose he looks upon his prestige as a sort of investment."

"Perhaps he prizes it for its own sake," Mrs. Gould said in a tone as
if she were repelling an undeserved aspersion. "Viola, the Garibaldino,
with whom he has lived for some years, calls him the Incorruptible."

"Ah! he belongs to the group of your proteges out there towards the
harbour, Mrs. Gould. Muy bien. And Captain Mitchell calls him wonderful.
I have heard no end of tales of his strength, his audacity, his
fidelity. No end of fine things. H'm! incorruptible! It is indeed a name
of honour for the Capataz of the Cargadores of Sulaco. Incorruptible!
Fine, but vague. However, I suppose he's sensible, too. And I talked to
him upon that sane and practical assumption."

"I prefer to think him disinterested, and therefore trustworthy," Mrs.
Gould said, with the nearest approach to curtness it was in her nature
to assume.

"Well, if so, then the silver will be still more safe. Let it come down,
senora. Let it come down, so that it may go north and return to us in
the shape of credit."

Mrs. Gould glanced along the corredor towards the door of her husband's
room. Decoud, watching her as if she had his fate in her hands, detected
an almost imperceptible nod of assent. He bowed with a smile, and,
putting his hand into the breast pocket of his coat, pulled out a fan of
light feathers set upon painted leaves of sandal-wood. "I had it in my
pocket," he murmured, triumphantly, "for a plausible pretext." He bowed
again. "Good-night, senora."

Mrs. Gould continued along the corredor away from her husband's room.
The fate of the San Tome mine was lying heavy upon her heart. It was a
long time now since she had begun to fear it. It had been an idea. She
had watched it with misgivings turning into a fetish, and now the
fetish had grown into a monstrous and crushing weight. It was as if the
inspiration of their early years had left her heart to turn into a wall
of silver-bricks, erected by the silent work of evil spirits, between
her and her husband. He seemed to dwell alone within a circumvallation
of precious metal, leaving her outside with her school, her hospital,
the sick mothers and the feeble old men, mere insignificant vestiges of
the initial inspiration. "Those poor people!" she murmured to herself.

Below she heard the voice of Martin Decoud in the patio speaking loudly:

"I have found Dona Antonia's fan, Basilio. Look, here it is!"



CHAPTER SEVEN

It was part of what Decoud would have called his sane materialism that
he did not believe in the possibility of friendship between man and
woman.

The one exception he allowed confirmed, he maintained, that absolute
rule. Friendship was possible between brother and sister, meaning
by friendship the frank unreserve, as before another human being, of
thoughts and sensations; all the objectless and necessary sincerity of
one's innermost life trying to re-act upon the profound sympathies of
another existence.

His favourite sister, the handsome, slightly arbitrary and resolute
angel, ruling the father and mother Decoud in the first-floor apartments
of a very fine Parisian house, was the recipient of Martin Decoud's
confidences as to his thoughts, actions, purposes, doubts, and even
failures. . . .

"Prepare our little circle in Paris for the birth of another South
American Republic. One more or less, what does it matter? They may come
into the world like evil flowers on a hotbed of rotten institutions; but
the seed of this one has germinated in your brother's brain, and that
will be enough for your devoted assent. I am writing this to you by the
light of a single candle, in a sort of inn, near the harbour, kept by
an Italian called Viola, a protege of Mrs. Gould. The whole building,
which, for all I know, may have been contrived by a Conquistador farmer
of the pearl fishery three hundred years ago, is perfectly silent. So is
the plain between the town and the harbour; silent, but not so dark as
the house, because the pickets of Italian workmen guarding the railway
have lighted little fires all along the line. It was not so quiet around
here yesterday. We had an awful riot--a sudden outbreak of the populace,
which was not suppressed till late today. Its object, no doubt, was
loot, and that was defeated, as you may have learned already from the
cablegram sent via San Francisco and New York last night, when the
cables were still open. You have read already there that the energetic
action of the Europeans of the railway has saved the town from
destruction, and you may believe that. I wrote out the cable myself. We
have no Reuter's agency man here. I have also fired at the mob from the
windows of the club, in company with some other young men of position.
Our object was to keep the Calle de la Constitucion clear for the exodus
of the ladies and children, who have taken refuge on board a couple of
cargo ships now in the harbour here. That was yesterday. You should also
have learned from the cable that the missing President, Ribiera, who had
disappeared after the battle of Sta. Marta, has turned up here in Sulaco
by one of those strange coincidences that are almost incredible, riding
on a lame mule into the very midst of the street fighting. It appears
that he had fled, in company of a muleteer called Bonifacio, across the
mountains from the threats of Montero into the arms of an enraged mob.

"The Capataz of Cargadores, that Italian sailor of whom I have written
to you before, has saved him from an ignoble death. That man seems
to have a particular talent for being on the spot whenever there is
something picturesque to be done.

"He was with me at four o'clock in the morning at the offices of the
Porvenir, where he had turned up so early in order to warn me of the
coming trouble, and also to assure me that he would keep his Cargadores
on the side of order. When the full daylight came we were looking
together at the crowd on foot and on horseback, demonstrating on the
Plaza and shying stones at the windows of the Intendencia. Nostromo
(that is the name they call him by here) was pointing out to me his
Cargadores interspersed in the mob.

"The sun shines late upon Sulaco, for it has first to climb above the
mountains. In that clear morning light, brighter than twilight, Nostromo
saw right across the vast Plaza, at the end of the street beyond the
cathedral, a mounted man apparently in difficulties with a yelling knot
of leperos. At once he said to me, 'That's a stranger. What is it they
are doing to him?' Then he took out the silver whistle he is in the
habit of using on the wharf (this man seems to disdain the use of any
metal less precious than silver) and blew into it twice, evidently a
preconcerted signal for his Cargadores. He ran out immediately, and they
rallied round him. I ran out, too, but was too late to follow them and
help in the rescue of the stranger, whose animal had fallen. I was set
upon at once as a hated aristocrat, and was only too glad to get into
the club, where Don Jaime Berges (you may remember him visiting at
our house in Paris some three years ago) thrust a sporting gun into
my hands. They were already firing from the windows. There were little
heaps of cartridges lying about on the open card-tables. I remember a
couple of overturned chairs, some bottles rolling on the floor amongst
the packs of cards scattered suddenly as the caballeros rose from their
game to open fire upon the mob. Most of the young men had spent the
night at the club in the expectation of some such disturbance. In two of
the candelabra, on the consoles, the candles were burning down in their
sockets. A large iron nut, probably stolen from the railway workshops,
flew in from the street as I entered, and broke one of the large mirrors
set in the wall. I noticed also one of the club servants tied up hand
and foot with the cords of the curtain and flung in a corner. I have a
vague recollection of Don Jaime assuring me hastily that the fellow had
been detected putting poison into the dishes at supper. But I remember
distinctly he was shrieking for mercy, without stopping at all,
continuously, and so absolutely disregarded that nobody even took the
trouble to gag him. The noise he made was so disagreeable that I had
half a mind to do it myself. But there was no time to waste on such
trifles. I took my place at one of the windows and began firing.

"I didn't learn till later in the afternoon whom it was that Nostromo,
with his Cargadores and some Italian workmen as well, had managed to
save from those drunken rascals. That man has a peculiar talent when
anything striking to the imagination has to be done. I made that remark
to him afterwards when we met after some sort of order had been restored
in the town, and the answer he made rather surprised me. He said quite
moodily, 'And how much do I get for that, senor?' Then it dawned upon me
that perhaps this man's vanity has been satiated by the adulation of the
common people and the confidence of his superiors!"

Decoud paused to light a cigarette, then, with his head still over his
writing, he blew a cloud of smoke, which seemed to rebound from the
paper. He took up the pencil again.

"That was yesterday evening on the Plaza, while he sat on the steps of
the cathedral, his hands between his knees, holding the bridle of his
famous silver-grey mare. He had led his body of Cargadores splendidly
all day long. He looked fatigued. I don't know how I looked. Very
dirty, I suppose. But I suppose I also looked pleased. From the time the
fugitive President had been got off to the S. S. Minerva, the tide
of success had turned against the mob. They had been driven off the
harbour, and out of the better streets of the town, into their own
maze of ruins and tolderias. You must understand that this riot, whose
primary object was undoubtedly the getting hold of the San Tome silver
stored in the lower rooms of the Custom House (besides the general
looting of the Ricos), had acquired a political colouring from the fact
of two Deputies to the Provincial Assembly, Senores Gamacho and Fuentes,
both from Bolson, putting themselves at the head of it--late in the
afternoon, it is true, when the mob, disappointed in their hopes of
loot, made a stand in the narrow streets to the cries of 'Viva la
Libertad! Down with Feudalism!' (I wonder what they imagine feudalism to
be?) 'Down with the Goths and Paralytics.' I suppose the Senores Gamacho
and Fuentes knew what they were doing. They are prudent gentlemen.
In the Assembly they called themselves Moderates, and opposed every
energetic measure with philanthropic pensiveness. At the first rumours
of Montero's victory, they showed a subtle change of the pensive temper,
and began to defy poor Don Juste Lopez in his Presidential tribune
with an effrontery to which the poor man could only respond by a dazed
smoothing of his beard and the ringing of the presidential bell. Then,
when the downfall of the Ribierist cause became confirmed beyond the
shadow of a doubt, they have blossomed into convinced Liberals, acting
together as if they were Siamese twins, and ultimately taking charge, as
it were, of the riot in the name of Monterist principles.

"Their last move of eight o'clock last night was to organize themselves
into a Monterist Committee which sits, as far as I know, in a posada
kept by a retired Mexican bull-fighter, a great politician, too, whose
name I have forgotten. Thence they have issued a communication to
us, the Goths and Paralytics of the Amarilla Club (who have our own
committee), inviting us to come to some provisional understanding for a
truce, in order, they have the impudence to say, that the noble cause of
Liberty 'should not be stained by the criminal excesses of Conservative
selfishness!' As I came out to sit with Nostromo on the cathedral steps
the club was busy considering a proper reply in the principal room,
littered with exploded cartridges, with a lot of broken glass, blood
smears, candlesticks, and all sorts of wreckage on the floor. But all
this is nonsense. Nobody in the town has any real power except the
railway engineers, whose men occupy the dismantled houses acquired
by the Company for their town station on one side of the Plaza, and
Nostromo, whose Cargadores were sleeping under the arcades along
the front of Anzani's shops. A fire of broken furniture out of the
Intendencia saloons, mostly gilt, was burning on the Plaza, in a high
flame swaying right upon the statue of Charles IV. The dead body of a
man was lying on the steps of the pedestal, his arms thrown wide open,
and his sombrero covering his face--the attention of some friend,
perhaps. The light of the flames touched the foliage of the first trees
on the Alameda, and played on the end of a side street near by, blocked
up by a jumble of ox-carts and dead bullocks. Sitting on one of the
carcasses, a lepero, muffled up, smoked a cigarette. It was a truce, you
understand. The only other living being on the Plaza besides ourselves
was a Cargador walking to and fro, with a long, bare knife in his hand,
like a sentry before the Arcades, where his friends were sleeping. And
the only other spot of light in the dark town were the lighted windows
of the club, at the corner of the Calle."

After having written so far, Don Martin Decoud, the exotic dandy of the
Parisian boulevard, got up and walked across the sanded floor of the
cafe at one end of the Albergo of United Italy, kept by Giorgio Viola,
the old companion of Garibaldi. The highly coloured lithograph of the
Faithful Hero seemed to look dimly, in the light of one candle, at the
man with no faith in anything except the truth of his own sensations.
Looking out of the window, Decoud was met by a darkness so impenetrable
that he could see neither the mountains nor the town, nor yet the
buildings near the harbour; and there was not a sound, as if the
tremendous obscurity of the Placid Gulf, spreading from the waters over
the land, had made it dumb as well as blind. Presently Decoud felt a
light tremor of the floor and a distant clank of iron. A bright white
light appeared, deep in the darkness, growing bigger with a thundering
noise. The rolling stock usually kept on the sidings in Rincon was being
run back to the yards for safe keeping. Like a mysterious stirring of
the darkness behind the headlight of the engine, the train passed in a
gust of hollow uproar, by the end of the house, which seemed to vibrate
all over in response. And nothing was clearly visible but, on the end
of the last flat car, a negro, in white trousers and naked to the waist,
swinging a blazing torch basket incessantly with a circular movement of
his bare arm. Decoud did not stir.

Behind him, on the back of the chair from which he had risen, hung his
elegant Parisian overcoat, with a pearl-grey silk lining. But when he
turned back to come to the table the candlelight fell upon a face that
was grimy and scratched. His rosy lips were blackened with heat, the
smoke of gun-powder. Dirt and rust tarnished the lustre of his short
beard. His shirt collar and cuffs were crumpled; the blue silken tie
hung down his breast like a rag; a greasy smudge crossed his white brow.
He had not taken off his clothing nor used water, except to snatch a
hasty drink greedily, for some forty hours. An awful restlessness had
made him its own, had marked him with all the signs of desperate strife,
and put a dry, sleepless stare into his eyes. He murmured to himself
in a hoarse voice, "I wonder if there's any bread here," looked vaguely
about him, then dropped into the chair and took the pencil up again. He
became aware he had not eaten anything for many hours.

It occurred to him that no one could understand him so well as his
sister. In the most sceptical heart there lurks at such moments, when
the chances of existence are involved, a desire to leave a correct
impression of the feelings, like a light by which the action may be seen
when personality is gone, gone where no light of investigation can ever
reach the truth which every death takes out of the world. Therefore,
instead of looking for something to eat, or trying to snatch an hour or
so of sleep, Decoud was filling the pages of a large pocket-book with a
letter to his sister.

In the intimacy of that intercourse he could not keep out his weariness,
his great fatigue, the close touch of his bodily sensations. He began
again as if he were talking to her. With almost an illusion of her
presence, he wrote the phrase, "I am very hungry."

"I have the feeling of a great solitude around me," he continued. "Is
it, perhaps, because I am the only man with a definite idea in his head,
in the complete collapse of every resolve, intention, and hope about me?
But the solitude is also very real. All the engineers are out, and have
been for two days, looking after the property of the National Central
Railway, of that great Costaguana undertaking which is to put money into
the pockets of Englishmen, Frenchmen, Americans, Germans, and God knows
who else. The silence about me is ominous. There is above the middle
part of this house a sort of first floor, with narrow openings like
loopholes for windows, probably used in old times for the better
defence against the savages, when the persistent barbarism of our native
continent did not wear the black coats of politicians, but went about
yelling, half-naked, with bows and arrows in its hands. The woman of
the house is dying up there, I believe, all alone with her old husband.
There is a narrow staircase, the sort of staircase one man could easily
defend against a mob, leading up there, and I have just heard, through
the thickness of the wall, the old fellow going down into their kitchen
for something or other. It was a sort of noise a mouse might make behind
the plaster of a wall. All the servants they had ran away yesterday and
have not returned yet, if ever they do. For the rest, there are only two
children here, two girls. The father has sent them downstairs, and
they have crept into this cafe, perhaps because I am here. They huddle
together in a corner, in each other's arms; I just noticed them a few
minutes ago, and I feel more lonely than ever."

Decoud turned half round in his chair, and asked, "Is there any bread
here?"

Linda's dark head was shaken negatively in response, above the fair head
of her sister nestling on her breast.

"You couldn't get me some bread?" insisted Decoud. The child did not
move; he saw her large eyes stare at him very dark from the corner.
"You're not afraid of me?" he said.

"No," said Linda, "we are not afraid of you. You came here with Gian'
Battista."

"You mean Nostromo?" said Decoud.

"The English call him so, but that is no name either for man or beast,"
said the girl, passing her hand gently over her sister's hair.

"But he lets people call him so," remarked Decoud.

"Not in this house," retorted the child.

"Ah! well, I shall call him the Capataz then."

Decoud gave up the point, and after writing steadily for a while turned
round again.

"When do you expect him back?" he asked.

"After he brought you here he rode off to fetch the Senor Doctor from
the town for mother. He will be back soon."

"He stands a good chance of getting shot somewhere on the road," Decoud
murmured to himself audibly; and Linda declared in her high-pitched
voice--

"Nobody would dare to fire a shot at Gian' Battista."

"You believe that," asked Decoud, "do you?"

"I know it," said the child, with conviction. "There is no one in this
place brave enough to attack Gian' Battista."

"It doesn't require much bravery to pull a trigger behind a bush,"
muttered Decoud to himself. "Fortunately, the night is dark, or there
would be but little chance of saving the silver of the mine."

He turned again to his pocket-book, glanced back through the pages, and
again started his pencil.

"That was the position yesterday, after the Minerva with the fugitive
President had gone out of harbour, and the rioters had been driven back
into the side lanes of the town. I sat on the steps of the cathedral
with Nostromo, after sending out the cable message for the information
of a more or less attentive world. Strangely enough, though the offices
of the Cable Company are in the same building as the Porvenir, the mob,
which has thrown my presses out of the window and scattered the type all
over the Plaza, has been kept from interfering with the instruments
on the other side of the courtyard. As I sat talking with Nostromo,
Bernhardt, the telegraphist, came out from under the Arcades with a
piece of paper in his hand. The little man had tied himself up to an
enormous sword and was hung all over with revolvers. He is ridiculous,
but the bravest German of his size that ever tapped the key of a Morse
transmitter. He had received the message from Cayta reporting the
transports with Barrios's army just entering the port, and ending with
the words, 'The greatest enthusiasm prevails.' I walked off to drink
some water at the fountain, and I was shot at from the Alameda by
somebody hiding behind a tree. But I drank, and didn't care; with
Barrios in Cayta and the great Cordillera between us and Montero's
victorious army I seemed, notwithstanding Messrs. Gamacho and Fuentes,
to hold my new State in the hollow of my hand. I was ready to sleep, but
when I got as far as the Casa Gould I found the patio full of wounded
laid out on straw. Lights were burning, and in that enclosed courtyard
on that hot night a faint odour of chloroform and blood hung about.
At one end Doctor Monygham, the doctor of the mine, was dressing the
wounds; at the other, near the stairs, Father Corbelan, kneeling,
listened to the confession of a dying Cargador. Mrs. Gould was walking
about through these shambles with a large bottle in one hand and a
lot of cotton wool in the other. She just looked at me and never even
winked. Her camerista was following her, also holding a bottle, and
sobbing gently to herself.

"I busied myself for some time in fetching water from the cistern for
the wounded. Afterwards I wandered upstairs, meeting some of the first
ladies of Sulaco, paler than I had ever seen them before, with bandages
over their arms. Not all of them had fled to the ships. A good many had
taken refuge for the day in the Casa Gould. On the landing a girl, with
her hair half down, was kneeling against the wall under the niche where
stands a Madonna in blue robes and a gilt crown on her head. I think
it was the eldest Miss Lopez; I couldn't see her face, but I remember
looking at the high French heel of her little shoe. She did not make
a sound, she did not stir, she was not sobbing; she remained there,
perfectly still, all black against the white wall, a silent figure of
passionate piety. I am sure she was no more frightened than the other
white-faced ladies I met carrying bandages. One was sitting on the top
step tearing a piece of linen hastily into strips--the young wife of an
elderly man of fortune here. She interrupted herself to wave her hand to
my bow, as though she were in her carriage on the Alameda. The women
of our country are worth looking at during a revolution. The rouge and
pearl powder fall off, together with that passive attitude towards the
outer world which education, tradition, custom impose upon them from the
earliest infancy. I thought of your face, which from your infancy had
the stamp of intelligence instead of that patient and resigned cast
which appears when some political commotion tears down the veil of
cosmetics and usage.

"In the great sala upstairs a sort of Junta of Notables was sitting,
the remnant of the vanished Provincial Assembly. Don Juste Lopez had had
half his beard singed off at the muzzle of a trabuco loaded with slugs,
of which every one missed him, providentially. And as he turned his head
from side to side it was exactly as if there had been two men inside his
frock-coat, one nobly whiskered and solemn, the other untidy and scared.

"They raised a cry of 'Decoud! Don Martin!' at my entrance. I asked
them, 'What are you deliberating upon, gentlemen?' There did not seem
to be any president, though Don Jose Avellanos sat at the head of the
table. They all answered together, 'On the preservation of life and
property.' 'Till the new officials arrive,' Don Juste explained to me,
with the solemn side of his face offered to my view. It was as if a
stream of water had been poured upon my glowing idea of a new State.
There was a hissing sound in my ears, and the room grew dim, as if
suddenly filled with vapour.

"I walked up to the table blindly, as though I had been drunk. 'You are
deliberating upon surrender,' I said. They all sat still, with their
noses over the sheet of paper each had before him, God only knows why.
Only Don Jose hid his face in his hands, muttering, 'Never, never!' But
as I looked at him, it seemed to me that I could have blown him away
with my breath, he looked so frail, so weak, so worn out. Whatever
happens, he will not survive. The deception is too great for a man of
his age; and hasn't he seen the sheets of 'Fifty Years of Misrule,'
which we have begun printing on the presses of the Porvenir, littering
the Plaza, floating in the gutters, fired out as wads for trabucos
loaded with handfuls of type, blown in the wind, trampled in the mud? I
have seen pages floating upon the very waters of the harbour. It would
be unreasonable to expect him to survive. It would be cruel.

"'Do you know,' I cried, 'what surrender means to you, to your women, to
your children, to your property?'

"I declaimed for five minutes without drawing breath, it seems to me,
harping on our best chances, on the ferocity of Montero, whom I made out
to be as great a beast as I have no doubt he would like to be if he had
intelligence enough to conceive a systematic reign of terror. And then
for another five minutes or more I poured out an impassioned appeal
to their courage and manliness, with all the passion of my love for
Antonia. For if ever man spoke well, it would be from a personal
feeling, denouncing an enemy, defending himself, or pleading for what
really may be dearer than life. My dear girl, I absolutely thundered at
them. It seemed as if my voice would burst the walls asunder, and when
I stopped I saw all their scared eyes looking at me dubiously. And that
was all the effect I had produced! Only Don Jose's head had sunk lower
and lower on his breast. I bent my ear to his withered lips, and made
out his whisper, something like, 'In God's name, then, Martin, my son!'
I don't know exactly. There was the name of God in it, I am certain. It
seems to me I have caught his last breath--the breath of his departing
soul on his lips.

"He lives yet, it is true. I have seen him since; but it was only a
senile body, lying on its back, covered to the chin, with open eyes, and
so still that you might have said it was breathing no longer. I left him
thus, with Antonia kneeling by the side of the bed, just before I came
to this Italian's posada, where the ubiquitous death is also waiting.
But I know that Don Jose has really died there, in the Casa Gould, with
that whisper urging me to attempt what no doubt his soul, wrapped up in
the sanctity of diplomatic treaties and solemn declarations, must
have abhorred. I had exclaimed very loud, 'There is never any God in a
country where men will not help themselves.'

"Meanwhile, Don Juste had begun a pondered oration whose solemn effect
was spoiled by the ridiculous disaster to his beard. I did not wait
to make it out. He seemed to argue that Montero's (he called him The
General) intentions were probably not evil, though, he went on, 'that
distinguished man' (only a week ago we used to call him a gran' bestia)
'was perhaps mistaken as to the true means.' As you may imagine,
I didn't stay to hear the rest. I know the intentions of Montero's
brother, Pedrito, the guerrillero, whom I exposed in Paris, some years
ago, in a cafe frequented by South American students, where he tried
to pass himself off for a Secretary of Legation. He used to come in
and talk for hours, twisting his felt hat in his hairy paws, and his
ambition seemed to become a sort of Duc de Morny to a sort of Napoleon.
Already, then, he used to talk of his brother in inflated terms. He
seemed fairly safe from being found out, because the students, all of
the Blanco families, did not, as you may imagine, frequent the Legation.
It was only Decoud, a man without faith and principles, as they used to
say, that went in there sometimes for the sake of the fun, as it were to
an assembly of trained monkeys. I know his intentions. I have seen him
change the plates at table. Whoever is allowed to live on in terror, I
must die the death.

"No, I didn't stay to the end to hear Don Juste Lopez trying to persuade
himself in a grave oration of the clemency and justice, and honesty, and
purity of the brothers Montero. I went out abruptly to seek Antonia.
I saw her in the gallery. As I opened the door, she extended to me her
clasped hands.

"'What are they doing in there?' she asked.

"'Talking,' I said, with my eyes looking into hers.

"'Yes, yes, but--'

"'Empty speeches,' I interrupted her. 'Hiding their fears behind
imbecile hopes. They are all great Parliamentarians there--on the
English model, as you know.' I was so furious that I could hardly speak.
She made a gesture of despair.

"Through the door I held a little ajar behind me, we heard Dun Juste's
measured mouthing monotone go on from phrase to phrase, like a sort of
awful and solemn madness.

"'After all, the Democratic aspirations have, perhaps, their legitimacy.
The ways of human progress are inscrutable, and if the fate of the
country is in the hand of Montero, we ought--'

"I crashed the door to on that; it was enough; it was too much. There
was never a beautiful face expressing more horror and despair than the
face of Antonia. I couldn't bear it; I seized her wrists.

"'Have they killed my father in there?' she asked.

"Her eyes blazed with indignation, but as I looked on, fascinated, the
light in them went out.

"'It is a surrender,' I said. And I remember I was shaking her wrists I
held apart in my hands. 'But it's more than talk. Your father told me to
go on in God's name.'

"My dear girl, there is that in Antonia which would make me believe in
the feasibility of anything. One look at her face is enough to set
my brain on fire. And yet I love her as any other man would--with the
heart, and with that alone. She is more to me than his Church to Father
Corbelan (the Grand Vicar disappeared last night from the town; perhaps
gone to join the band of Hernandez). She is more to me than his precious
mine to that sentimental Englishman. I won't speak of his wife. She may
have been sentimental once. The San Tome mine stands now between those
two people. 'Your father himself, Antonia,' I repeated; 'your father, do
you understand? has told me to go on.'

"She averted her face, and in a pained voice--

"'He has?' she cried. 'Then, indeed, I fear he will never speak again.'

"She freed her wrists from my clutch and began to cry in her
handkerchief. I disregarded her sorrow; I would rather see her miserable
than not see her at all, never any more; for whether I escaped or stayed
to die, there was for us no coming together, no future. And that being
so, I had no pity to waste upon the passing moments of her sorrow. I
sent her off in tears to fetch Dona Emilia and Don Carlos, too. Their
sentiment was necessary to the very life of my plan; the sentimentalism
of the people that will never do anything for the sake of their
passionate desire, unless it comes to them clothed in the fair robes of
an idea.

"Late at night we formed a small junta of four--the two women, Don
Carlos, and myself--in Mrs. Gould's blue-and-white boudoir.

"El Rey de Sulaco thinks himself, no doubt, a very honest man. And so
he is, if one could look behind his taciturnity. Perhaps he thinks
that this alone makes his honesty unstained. Those Englishmen live on
illusions which somehow or other help them to get a firm hold of the
substance. When he speaks it is by a rare 'yes' or 'no' that seems as
impersonal as the words of an oracle. But he could not impose on me by
his dumb reserve. I knew what he had in his head; he has his mine in
his head; and his wife had nothing in her head but his precious person,
which he has bound up with the Gould Concession and tied up to that
little woman's neck. No matter. The thing was to make him present the
affair to Holroyd (the Steel and Silver King) in such a manner as to
secure his financial support. At that time last night, just twenty-four
hours ago, we thought the silver of the mine safe in the Custom House
vaults till the north-bound steamer came to take it away. And as long as
the treasure flowed north, without a break, that utter sentimentalist,
Holroyd, would not drop his idea of introducing, not only justice,
industry, peace, to the benighted continents, but also that pet dream
of his of a purer form of Christianity. Later on, the principal European
really in Sulaco, the engineer-in-chief of the railway, came riding up
the Calle, from the harbour, and was admitted to our conclave. Meantime,
the Junta of the Notables in the great sala was still deliberating;
only, one of them had run out in the corredor to ask the servant
whether something to eat couldn't be sent in. The first words the
engineer-in-chief said as he came into the boudoir were, 'What is
your house, dear Mrs. Gould? A war hospital below, and apparently a
restaurant above. I saw them carrying trays full of good things into the
sala.'

"'And here, in this boudoir,' I said, 'you behold the inner cabinet of
the Occidental Republic that is to be.'

"He was so preoccupied that he didn't smile at that, he didn't even look
surprised.

"He told us that he was attending to the general dispositions for the
defence of the railway property at the railway yards when he was
sent for to go into the railway telegraph office. The engineer of the
railhead, at the foot of the mountains, wanted to talk to him from his
end of the wire. There was nobody in the office but himself and the
operator of the railway telegraph, who read off the clicks aloud as the
tape coiled its length upon the floor. And the purport of that talk,
clicked nervously from a wooden shed in the depths of the forests,
had informed the chief that President Ribiera had been, or was being,
pursued. This was news, indeed, to all of us in Sulaco. Ribiera himself,
when rescued, revived, and soothed by us, had been inclined to think
that he had not been pursued.

"Ribiera had yielded to the urgent solicitations of his friends, and had
left the headquarters of his discomfited army alone, under the
guidance of Bonifacio, the muleteer, who had been willing to take the
responsibility with the risk. He had departed at daybreak of the third
day. His remaining forces had melted away during the night. Bonifacio
and he rode hard on horses towards the Cordillera; then they obtained
mules, entered the passes, and crossed the Paramo of Ivie just before a
freezing blast swept over that stony plateau, burying in a drift of
snow the little shelter-hut of stones in which they had spent the night.
Afterwards poor Ribiera had many adventures, got separated from his
guide, lost his mount, struggled down to the Campo on foot, and if he
had not thrown himself on the mercy of a ranchero would have perished a
long way from Sulaco. That man, who, as a matter of fact, recognized
him at once, let him have a fresh mule, which the fugitive, heavy and
unskilful, had ridden to death. And it was true he had been pursued by
a party commanded by no less a person than Pedro Montero, the brother of
the general. The cold wind of the Paramo luckily caught the pursuers on
the top of the pass. Some few men, and all the animals, perished in the
icy blast. The stragglers died, but the main body kept on. They
found poor Bonifacio lying half-dead at the foot of a snow slope, and
bayoneted him promptly in the true Civil War style. They would have had
Ribiera, too, if they had not, for some reason or other, turned off the
track of the old Camino Real, only to lose their way in the forests
at the foot of the lower slopes. And there they were at last, having
stumbled in unexpectedly upon the construction camp. The engineer at
the railhead told his chief by wire that he had Pedro Montero absolutely
there, in the very office, listening to the clicks. He was going to
take possession of Sulaco in the name of the Democracy. He was very
overbearing. His men slaughtered some of the Railway Company's cattle
without asking leave, and went to work broiling the meat on the embers.
Pedrito made many pointed inquiries as to the silver mine, and what
had become of the product of the last six months' working. He had said
peremptorily, 'Ask your chief up there by wire, he ought to know; tell
him that Don Pedro Montero, Chief of the Campo and Minister of the
Interior of the new Government, desires to be correctly informed.'

"He had his feet wrapped up in blood-stained rags, a lean, haggard face,
ragged beard and hair, and had walked in limping, with a crooked branch
of a tree for a staff. His followers were perhaps in a worse plight, but
apparently they had not thrown away their arms, and, at any rate, not
all their ammunition. Their lean faces filled the door and the windows
of the telegraph hut. As it was at the same time the bedroom of the
engineer-in-charge there, Montero had thrown himself on his clean
blankets and lay there shivering and dictating requisitions to be
transmitted by wire to Sulaco. He demanded a train of cars to be sent
down at once to transport his men up.

"'To this I answered from my end,' the engineer-in-chief related to us,
'that I dared not risk the rolling-stock in the interior, as there had
been attempts to wreck trains all along the line several times. I did
that for your sake, Gould,' said the chief engineer. 'The answer to this
was, in the words of my subordinate, "The filthy brute on my bed said,
'Suppose I were to have you shot?'" To which my subordinate, who, it
appears, was himself operating, remarked that it would not bring the
cars up. Upon that, the other, yawning, said, "Never mind, there is
no lack of horses on the Campo." And, turning over, went to sleep on
Harris's bed.'

"This is why, my dear girl, I am a fugitive to-night. The last wire from
railhead says that Pedro Montero and his men left at daybreak, after
feeding on asado beef all night. They took all the horses; they will
find more on the road; they'll be here in less than thirty hours, and
thus Sulaco is no place either for me or the great store of silver
belonging to the Gould Concession.

"But that is not the worst. The garrison of Esmeralda has gone over to
the victorious party. We have heard this by means of the telegraphist of
the Cable Company, who came to the Casa Gould in the early morning with
the news. In fact, it was so early that the day had not yet quite broken
over Sulaco. His colleague in Esmeralda had called him up to say
that the garrison, after shooting some of their officers, had taken
possession of a Government steamer laid up in the harbour. It is really
a heavy blow for me. I thought I could depend on every man in this
province. It was a mistake. It was a Monterist Revolution in Esmeralda,
just such as was attempted in Sulaco, only that that one came off. The
telegraphist was signalling to Bernhardt all the time, and his last
transmitted words were, 'They are bursting in the door, and taking
possession of the cable office. You are cut off. Can do no more.'

"But, as a matter of fact, he managed somehow to escape the vigilance
of his captors, who had tried to stop the communication with the outer
world. He did manage it. How it was done I don't know, but a few
hours afterwards he called up Sulaco again, and what he said was, 'The
insurgent army has taken possession of the Government transport in the
bay and are filling her with troops, with the intention of going round
the coast to Sulaco. Therefore look out for yourselves. They will be
ready to start in a few hours, and may be upon you before daybreak.'

"This is all he could say. They drove him away from his instrument this
time for good, because Bernhardt has been calling up Esmeralda ever
since without getting an answer."

After setting these words down in the pocket-book which he was filling
up for the benefit of his sister, Decoud lifted his head to listen. But
there were no sounds, neither in the room nor in the house, except the
drip of the water from the filter into the vast earthenware jar under
the wooden stand. And outside the house there was a great silence.
Decoud lowered his head again over the pocket-book.

"I am not running away, you understand," he wrote on. "I am simply
going away with that great treasure of silver which must be saved at
all costs. Pedro Montero from the Campo and the revolted garrison of
Esmeralda from the sea are converging upon it. That it is there lying
ready for them is only an accident. The real objective is the San Tome
mine itself, as you may well imagine; otherwise the Occidental Province
would have been, no doubt, left alone for many weeks, to be gathered
at leisure into the arms of the victorious party. Don Carlos Gould
will have enough to do to save his mine, with its organization and its
people; this 'Imperium in Imperio,' this wealth-producing thing, to
which his sentimentalism attaches a strange idea of justice. He holds
to it as some men hold to the idea of love or revenge. Unless I am much
mistaken in the man, it must remain inviolate or perish by an act of
his will alone. A passion has crept into his cold and idealistic life.
A passion which I can only comprehend intellectually. A passion that
is not like the passions we know, we men of another blood. But it is as
dangerous as any of ours.

"His wife has understood it, too. That is why she is such a good ally
of mine. She seizes upon all my suggestions with a sure instinct that in
the end they make for the safety of the Gould Concession. And he defers
to her because he trusts her perhaps, but I fancy rather as if he wished
to make up for some subtle wrong, for that sentimental unfaithfulness
which surrenders her happiness, her life, to the seduction of an idea.
The little woman has discovered that he lives for the mine rather
than for her. But let them be. To each his fate, shaped by passion or
sentiment. The principal thing is that she has backed up my advice to
get the silver out of the town, out of the country, at once, at any
cost, at any risk. Don Carlos' mission is to preserve unstained the fair
fame of his mine; Mrs. Gould's mission is to save him from the effects
of that cold and overmastering passion, which she dreads more than if it
were an infatuation for another woman. Nostromo's mission is to save
the silver. The plan is to load it into the largest of the Company's
lighters, and send it across the gulf to a small port out of Costaguana
territory just on the other side the Azuera, where the first northbound
steamer will get orders to pick it up. The waters here are calm. We
shall slip away into the darkness of the gulf before the Esmeralda
rebels arrive; and by the time the day breaks over the ocean we shall be
out of sight, invisible, hidden by Azuera, which itself looks from the
Sulaco shore like a faint blue cloud on the horizon.

"The incorruptible Capataz de Cargadores is the man for that work;
and I, the man with a passion, but without a mission, I go with him to
return--to play my part in the farce to the end, and, if successful, to
receive my reward, which no one but Antonia can give me.

"I shall not see her again now before I depart. I left her, as I have
said, by Don Jose's bedside. The street was dark, the houses shut up,
and I walked out of the town in the night. Not a single street-lamp had
been lit for two days, and the archway of the gate was only a mass of
darkness in the vague form of a tower, in which I heard low, dismal
groans, that seemed to answer the murmurs of a man's voice.

"I recognized something impassive and careless in its tone,
characteristic of that Genoese sailor who, like me, has come casually
here to be drawn into the events for which his scepticism as well as
mine seems to entertain a sort of passive contempt. The only thing he
seems to care for, as far as I have been able to discover, is to be well
spoken of. An ambition fit for noble souls, but also a profitable one
for an exceptionally intelligent scoundrel. Yes. His very words, 'To
be well spoken of. Si, senor.' He does not seem to make any difference
between speaking and thinking. Is it sheer naiveness or the practical
point of view, I wonder? Exceptional individualities always interest me,
because they are true to the general formula expressing the moral state
of humanity.

"He joined me on the harbour road after I had passed them under the dark
archway without stopping. It was a woman in trouble he had been talking
to. Through discretion I kept silent while he walked by my side. After
a time he began to talk himself. It was not what I expected. It was
only an old woman, an old lace-maker, in search of her son, one of the
street-sweepers employed by the municipality. Friends had come the day
before at daybreak to the door of their hovel calling him out. He had
gone with them, and she had not seen him since; so she had left the food
she had been preparing half-cooked on the extinct embers and had crawled
out as far as the harbour, where she had heard that some town mozos had
been killed on the morning of the riot. One of the Cargadores guarding
the Custom House had brought out a lantern, and had helped her to look
at the few dead left lying about there. Now she was creeping back,
having failed in her search. So she sat down on the stone seat under the
arch, moaning, because she was very tired. The Capataz had questioned
her, and after hearing her broken and groaning tale had advised her to
go and look amongst the wounded in the patio of the Casa Gould. He had
also given her a quarter dollar, he mentioned carelessly."

"'Why did you do that?' I asked. 'Do you know her?'

"'No, senor. I don't suppose I have ever seen her before. How should I?
She has not probably been out in the streets for years. She is one
of those old women that you find in this country at the back of huts,
crouching over fireplaces, with a stick on the ground by their side, and
almost too feeble to drive away the stray dogs from their cooking-pots.
Caramba! I could tell by her voice that death had forgotten her. But,
old or young, they like money, and will speak well of the man who gives
it to them.' He laughed a little. 'Senor, you should have felt the
clutch of her paw as I put the piece in her palm.' He paused. 'My last,
too,' he added.

"I made no comment. He's known for his liberality and his bad luck at
the game of monte, which keeps him as poor as when he first came here.

"'I suppose, Don Martin,' he began, in a thoughtful, speculative tone,
'that the Senor Administrador of San Tome will reward me some day if I
save his silver?'

"I said that it could not be otherwise, surely. He walked on, muttering
to himself. 'Si, si, without doubt, without doubt; and, look you, Senor
Martin, what it is to be well spoken of! There is not another man that
could have been even thought of for such a thing. I shall get something
great for it some day. And let it come soon,' he mumbled. 'Time passes
in this country as quick as anywhere else.'

"This, _soeur cherie_, is my companion in the great escape for the sake
of the great cause. He is more naive than shrewd, more masterful than
crafty, more generous with his personality than the people who make use
of him are with their money. At least, that is what he thinks himself
with more pride than sentiment. I am glad I have made friends with him.
As a companion he acquires more importance than he ever had as a sort of
minor genius in his way--as an original Italian sailor whom I allowed
to come in in the small hours and talk familiarly to the editor of the
Porvenir while the paper was going through the press. And it is curious
to have met a man for whom the value of life seems to consist in
personal prestige.

"I am waiting for him here now. On arriving at the posada kept by Viola
we found the children alone down below, and the old Genoese shouted to
his countryman to go and fetch the doctor. Otherwise we would have gone
on to the wharf, where it appears Captain Mitchell with some volunteer
Europeans and a few picked Cargadores are loading the lighter with the
silver that must be saved from Montero's clutches in order to be used
for Montero's defeat. Nostromo galloped furiously back towards the town.
He has been long gone already. This delay gives me time to talk to you.
By the time this pocket-book reaches your hands much will have happened.
But now it is a pause under the hovering wing of death in this silent
house buried in the black night, with this dying woman, the two children
crouching without a sound, and that old man whom I can hear through the
thickness of the wall passing up and down with a light rubbing noise no
louder than a mouse. And I, the only other with them, don't really know
whether to count myself with the living or with the dead. 'Quien sabe?'
as the people here are prone to say in answer to every question. But no!
feeling for you is certainly not dead, and the whole thing, the house,
the dark night, the silent children in this dim room, my very presence
here--all this is life, must be life, since it is so much like a dream."

With the writing of the last line there came upon Decoud a moment of
sudden and complete oblivion. He swayed over the table as if struck by
a bullet. The next moment he sat up, confused, with the idea that he had
heard his pencil roll on the floor. The low door of the cafe, wide open,
was filled with the glare of a torch in which was visible half of a
horse, switching its tail against the leg of a rider with a long iron
spur strapped to the naked heel. The two girls were gone, and Nostromo,
standing in the middle of the room, looked at him from under the round
brim of the sombrero low down over his brow.

"I have brought that sour-faced English doctor in Senora Gould's
carriage," said Nostromo. "I doubt if, with all his wisdom, he can
save the Padrona this time. They have sent for the children. A bad sign
that."

He sat down on the end of a bench. "She wants to give them her blessing,
I suppose."

Dazedly Decoud observed that he must have fallen sound asleep, and
Nostromo said, with a vague smile, that he had looked in at the window
and had seen him lying still across the table with his head on his arms.
The English senora had also come in the carriage, and went upstairs at
once with the doctor. She had told him not to wake up Don Martin yet;
but when they sent for the children he had come into the cafe.

The half of the horse with its half of the rider swung round outside the
door; the torch of tow and resin in the iron basket which was carried on
a stick at the saddle-bow flared right into the room for a moment, and
Mrs. Gould entered hastily with a very white, tired face. The hood of
her dark, blue cloak had fallen back. Both men rose.

"Teresa wants to see you, Nostromo," she said. The Capataz did not move.
Decoud, with his back to the table, began to button up his coat.

"The silver, Mrs. Gould, the silver," he murmured in English. "Don't
forget that the Esmeralda garrison have got a steamer. They may appear
at any moment at the harbour entrance."

"The doctor says there is no hope," Mrs. Gould spoke rapidly, also in
English. "I shall take you down to the wharf in my carriage and then
come back to fetch away the girls." She changed swiftly into Spanish to
address Nostromo. "Why are you wasting time? Old Giorgio's wife wishes
to see you."

"I am going to her, senora," muttered the Capataz. Dr. Monygham now
showed himself, bringing back the children. To Mrs. Gould's inquiring
glance he only shook his head and went outside at once, followed by
Nostromo.

The horse of the torch-bearer, motionless, hung his head low, and the
rider had dropped the reins to light a cigarette. The glare of the torch
played on the front of the house crossed by the big black letters of its
inscription in which only the word _Italia_ was lighted fully. The patch
of wavering glare reached as far as Mrs. Gould's carriage waiting on
the road, with the yellow-faced, portly Ignacio apparently dozing on the
box. By his side Basilio, dark and skinny, held a Winchester carbine in
front of him, with both hands, and peered fearfully into the darkness.
Nostromo touched lightly the doctor's shoulder.

"Is she really dying, senor doctor?"

"Yes," said the doctor, with a strange twitch of his scarred cheek. "And
why she wants to see you I cannot imagine."

"She has been like that before," suggested Nostromo, looking away.

"Well, Capataz, I can assure you she will never be like that again,"
snarled Dr. Monygham. "You may go to her or stay away. There is very
little to be got from talking to the dying. But she told Dona Emilia in
my hearing that she has been like a mother to you ever since you first
set foot ashore here."

"Si! And she never had a good word to say for me to anybody. It is more
as if she could not forgive me for being alive, and such a man, too, as
she would have liked her son to be."

"Maybe!" exclaimed a mournful deep voice near them. "Women have their
own ways of tormenting themselves." Giorgio Viola had come out of the
house. He threw a heavy black shadow in the torchlight, and the glare
fell on his big face, on the great bushy head of white hair. He motioned
the Capataz indoors with his extended arm.

Dr. Monygham, after busying himself with a little medicament box of
polished wood on the seat of the landau, turned to old Giorgio and
thrust into his big, trembling hand one of the glass-stoppered bottles
out of the case.

"Give her a spoonful of this now and then, in water," he said. "It will
make her easier."

"And there is nothing more for her?" asked the old man, patiently.

"No. Not on earth," said the doctor, with his back to him, clicking the
lock of the medicine case.

Nostromo slowly crossed the large kitchen, all dark but for the glow of
a heap of charcoal under the heavy mantel of the cooking-range, where
water was boiling in an iron pot with a loud bubbling sound. Between
the two walls of a narrow staircase a bright light streamed from the
sick-room above; and the magnificent Capataz de Cargadores stepping
noiselessly in soft leather sandals, bushy whiskered, his muscular
neck and bronzed chest bare in the open check shirt, resembled a
Mediterranean sailor just come ashore from some wine or fruit-laden
felucca. At the top he paused, broad shouldered, narrow hipped and
supple, looking at the large bed, like a white couch of state, with a
profusion of snowy linen, amongst which the Padrona sat unpropped and
bowed, her handsome, black-browed face bent over her chest. A mass of
raven hair with only a few white threads in it covered her shoulders;
one thick strand fallen forward half veiled her cheek. Perfectly
motionless in that pose, expressing physical anxiety and unrest, she
turned her eyes alone towards Nostromo.

The Capataz had a red sash wound many times round his waist, and a heavy
silver ring on the forefinger of the hand he raised to give a twist to
his moustache.

"Their revolutions, their revolutions," gasped Senora Teresa. "Look,
Gian' Battista, it has killed me at last!"

Nostromo said nothing, and the sick woman with an upward glance
insisted. "Look, this one has killed me, while you were away fighting
for what did not concern you, foolish man."

"Why talk like this?" mumbled the Capataz between his teeth. "Will you
never believe in my good sense? It concerns me to keep on being what I
am: every day alike."

"You never change, indeed," she said, bitterly. "Always thinking of
yourself and taking your pay out in fine words from those who care
nothing for you."

There was between them an intimacy of antagonism as close in its way as
the intimacy of accord and affection. He had not walked along the way
of Teresa's expectations. It was she who had encouraged him to leave his
ship, in the hope of securing a friend and defender for the girls. The
wife of old Giorgio was aware of her precarious health, and was haunted
by the fear of her aged husband's loneliness and the unprotected state
of the children. She had wanted to annex that apparently quiet and
steady young man, affectionate and pliable, an orphan from his tenderest
age, as he had told her, with no ties in Italy except an uncle, owner
and master of a felucca, from whose ill-usage he had run away before he
was fourteen. He had seemed to her courageous, a hard worker, determined
to make his way in the world. From gratitude and the ties of habit he
would become like a son to herself and Giorgio; and then, who knows,
when Linda had grown up. . . . Ten years' difference between husband and
wife was not so much. Her own great man was nearly twenty years older
than herself. Gian' Battista was an attractive young fellow, besides;
attractive to men, women, and children, just by that profound quietness
of personality which, like a serene twilight, rendered more seductive
the promise of his vigorous form and the resolution of his conduct.

Old Giorgio, in profound ignorance of his wife's views and hopes, had a
great regard for his young countryman. "A man ought not to be tame," he
used to tell her, quoting the Spanish proverb in defence of the splendid
Capataz. She was growing jealous of his success. He was escaping from
her, she feared. She was practical, and he seemed to her to be an absurd
spendthrift of these qualities which made him so valuable. He got too
little for them. He scattered them with both hands amongst too many
people, she thought. He laid no money by. She railed at his poverty, his
exploits, his adventures, his loves and his reputation; but in her heart
she had never given him up, as though, indeed, he had been her son.

Even now, ill as she was, ill enough to feel the chill, black breath of
the approaching end, she had wished to see him. It was like putting out
her benumbed hand to regain her hold. But she had presumed too much on
her strength. She could not command her thoughts; they had become dim,
like her vision. The words faltered on her lips, and only the paramount
anxiety and desire of her life seemed to be too strong for death.

The Capataz said, "I have heard these things many times. You are unjust,
but it does not hurt me. Only now you do not seem to have much strength
to talk, and I have but little time to listen. I am engaged in a work of
very great moment."

She made an effort to ask him whether it was true that he had found time
to go and fetch a doctor for her. Nostromo nodded affirmatively.

She was pleased: it relieved her sufferings to know that the man had
condescended to do so much for those who really wanted his help. It was
a proof of his friendship. Her voice become stronger.

"I want a priest more than a doctor," she said, pathetically. She did
not move her head; only her eyes ran into the corners to watch the
Capataz standing by the side of her bed. "Would you go to fetch a priest
for me now? Think! A dying woman asks you!"

Nostromo shook his head resolutely. He did not believe in priests in
their sacerdotal character. A doctor was an efficacious person; but a
priest, as priest, was nothing, incapable of doing either good or harm.
Nostromo did not even dislike the sight of them as old Giorgio did. The
utter uselessness of the errand was what struck him most.

"Padrona," he said, "you have been like this before, and got better
after a few days. I have given you already the very last moments I can
spare. Ask Senora Gould to send you one."

He was feeling uneasy at the impiety of this refusal. The Padrona
believed in priests, and confessed herself to them. But all women
did that. It could not be of much consequence. And yet his heart felt
oppressed for a moment--at the thought what absolution would mean to her
if she believed in it only ever so little. No matter. It was quite true
that he had given her already the very last moment he could spare.

"You refuse to go?" she gasped. "Ah! you are always yourself, indeed."

"Listen to reason, Padrona," he said. "I am needed to save the silver of
the mine. Do you hear? A greater treasure than the one which they say
is guarded by ghosts and devils on Azuera. It is true. I am resolved to
make this the most desperate affair I was ever engaged on in my whole
life."

She felt a despairing indignation. The supreme test had failed. Standing
above her, Nostromo did not see the distorted features of her face,
distorted by a paroxysm of pain and anger. Only she began to tremble all
over. Her bowed head shook. The broad shoulders quivered.

"Then God, perhaps, will have mercy upon me! But do you look to it, man,
that you get something for yourself out of it, besides the remorse that
shall overtake you some day."

She laughed feebly. "Get riches at least for once, you indispensable,
admired Gian' Battista, to whom the peace of a dying woman is less
than the praise of people who have given you a silly name--and nothing
besides--in exchange for your soul and body."

The Capataz de Cargadores swore to himself under his breath.

"Leave my soul alone, Padrona, and I shall know how to take care of
my body. Where is the harm of people having need of me? What are you
envying me that I have robbed you and the children of? Those very people
you are throwing in my teeth have done more for old Giorgio than they
ever thought of doing for me."

He struck his breast with his open palm; his voice had remained low
though he had spoken in a forcible tone. He twisted his moustaches one
after another, and his eyes wandered a little about the room.

"Is it my fault that I am the only man for their purposes? What angry
nonsense are you talking, mother? Would you rather have me timid and
foolish, selling water-melons on the market-place or rowing a boat for
passengers along the harbour, like a soft Neapolitan without courage
or reputation? Would you have a young man live like a monk? I do not
believe it. Would you want a monk for your eldest girl? Let her grow.
What are you afraid of? You have been angry with me for everything I did
for years; ever since you first spoke to me, in secret from old Giorgio,
about your Linda. Husband to one and brother to the other, did you say?
Well, why not! I like the little ones, and a man must marry some time.
But ever since that time you have been making little of me to everyone.
Why? Did you think you could put a collar and chain on me as if I were
one of the watch-dogs they keep over there in the railway yards? Look
here, Padrona, I am the same man who came ashore one evening and sat
down in the thatched ranche you lived in at that time on the other side
of the town and told you all about himself. You were not unjust to me
then. What has happened since? I am no longer an insignificant youth. A
good name, Giorgio says, is a treasure, Padrona."

"They have turned your head with their praises," gasped the sick woman.
"They have been paying you with words. Your folly shall betray you into
poverty, misery, starvation. The very leperos shall laugh at you--the
great Capataz."

Nostromo stood for a time as if struck dumb. She never looked at him. A
self-confident, mirthless smile passed quickly from his lips, and then
he backed away. His disregarded figure sank down beyond the doorway.
He descended the stairs backwards, with the usual sense of having been
somehow baffled by this woman's disparagement of this reputation he had
obtained and desired to keep.

Downstairs in the big kitchen a candle was burning, surrounded by the
shadows of the walls, of the ceiling, but no ruddy glare filled the open
square of the outer door. The carriage with Mrs. Gould and Don Martin,
preceded by the horseman bearing the torch, had gone on to the jetty.
Dr. Monygham, who had remained, sat on the corner of a hard wood table
near the candlestick, his seamed, shaven face inclined sideways, his
arms crossed on his breast, his lips pursed up, and his prominent eyes
glaring stonily upon the floor of black earth. Near the overhanging
mantel of the fireplace, where the pot of water was still boiling
violently, old Giorgio held his chin in his hand, one foot advanced, as
if arrested by a sudden thought.

"Adios, viejo," said Nostromo, feeling the handle of his revolver in the
belt and loosening his knife in its sheath. He picked up a blue poncho
lined with red from the table, and put it over his head. "Adios, look
after the things in my sleeping-room, and if you hear from me no more,
give up the box to Paquita. There is not much of value there, except my
new serape from Mexico, and a few silver buttons on my best jacket. No
matter! The things will look well enough on the next lover she gets, and
the man need not be afraid I shall linger on earth after I am dead, like
those Gringos that haunt the Azuera."

Dr. Monygham twisted his lips into a bitter smile. After old Giorgio,
with an almost imperceptible nod and without a word, had gone up the
narrow stairs, he said--

"Why, Capataz! I thought you could never fail in anything."

Nostromo, glancing contemptuously at the doctor, lingered in the doorway
rolling a cigarette, then struck a match, and, after lighting it, held
the burning piece of wood above his head till the flame nearly touched
his fingers.

"No wind!" he muttered to himself. "Look here, senor--do you know the
nature of my undertaking?"

Dr. Monygham nodded sourly.

"It is as if I were taking up a curse upon me, senor doctor. A man with
a treasure on this coast will have every knife raised against him in
every place upon the shore. You see that, senor doctor? I shall float
along with a spell upon my life till I meet somewhere the north-bound
steamer of the Company, and then indeed they will talk about the Capataz
of the Sulaco Cargadores from one end of America to another."

Dr. Monygham laughed his short, throaty laugh. Nostromo turned round in
the doorway.

"But if your worship can find any other man ready and fit for such
business I will stand back. I am not exactly tired of my life, though I
am so poor that I can carry all I have with myself on my horse's back."

"You gamble too much, and never say 'no' to a pretty face, Capataz,"
said Dr. Monygham, with sly simplicity. "That's not the way to make a
fortune. But nobody that I know ever suspected you of being poor. I
hope you have made a good bargain in case you come back safe from this
adventure."

"What bargain would your worship have made?" asked Nostromo, blowing the
smoke out of his lips through the doorway.

Dr. Monygham listened up the staircase for a moment before he answered,
with another of his short, abrupt laughs--

"Illustrious Capataz, for taking the curse of death upon my back, as you
call it, nothing else but the whole treasure would do."

Nostromo vanished out of the doorway with a grunt of discontent at
this jeering answer. Dr. Monygham heard him gallop away. Nostromo rode
furiously in the dark. There were lights in the buildings of the
O.S.N. Company near the wharf, but before he got there he met the Gould
carriage. The horseman preceded it with the torch, whose light showed
the white mules trotting, the portly Ignacio driving, and Basilio with
the carbine on the box. From the dark body of the landau Mrs. Gould's
voice cried, "They are waiting for you, Capataz!" She was returning,
chilly and excited, with Decoud's pocket-book still held in her hand. He
had confided it to her to send to his sister. "Perhaps my last words to
her," he had said, pressing Mrs. Gould's hand.

The Capataz never checked his speed. At the head of the wharf vague
figures with rifles leapt to the head of his horse; others closed upon
him--cargadores of the company posted by Captain Mitchell on the watch.
At a word from him they fell back with subservient murmurs, recognizing
his voice. At the other end of the jetty, near a cargo crane, in a dark
group with glowing cigars, his name was pronounced in a tone of relief.
Most of the Europeans in Sulaco were there, rallied round Charles Gould,
as if the silver of the mine had been the emblem of a common cause, the
symbol of the supreme importance of material interests. They had loaded
it into the lighter with their own hands. Nostromo recognized Don Carlos
Gould, a thin, tall shape standing a little apart and silent, to whom
another tall shape, the engineer-in-chief, said aloud, "If it must be
lost, it is a million times better that it should go to the bottom of
the sea."

Martin Decoud called out from the lighter, "_Au revoir_, messieurs, till
we clasp hands again over the new-born Occidental Republic." Only a
subdued murmur responded to his clear, ringing tones; and then it seemed
to him that the wharf was floating away into the night; but it was
Nostromo, who was already pushing against a pile with one of the heavy
sweeps. Decoud did not move; the effect was that of being launched
into space. After a splash or two there was not a sound but the thud
of Nostromo's feet leaping about the boat. He hoisted the big sail; a
breath of wind fanned Decoud's cheek. Everything had vanished but the
light of the lantern Captain Mitchell had hoisted upon the post at the
end of the jetty to guide Nostromo out of the harbour.

The two men, unable to see each other, kept silent till the lighter,
slipping before the fitful breeze, passed out between almost invisible
headlands into the still deeper darkness of the gulf. For a time the
lantern on the jetty shone after them. The wind failed, then fanned up
again, but so faintly that the big, half-decked boat slipped along with
no more noise than if she had been suspended in the air.

"We are out in the gulf now," said the calm voice of Nostromo. A moment
after he added, "Senor Mitchell has lowered the light."

"Yes," said Decoud; "nobody can find us now."

A great recrudescence of obscurity embraced the boat. The sea in the
gulf was as black as the clouds above. Nostromo, after striking a couple
of matches to get a glimpse of the boat-compass he had with him in the
lighter, steered by the feel of the wind on his cheek.

It was a new experience for Decoud, this mysteriousness of the great
waters spread out strangely smooth, as if their restlessness had been
crushed by the weight of that dense night. The Placido was sleeping
profoundly under its black poncho.

The main thing now for success was to get away from the coast and gain
the middle of the gulf before day broke. The Isabels were somewhere
at hand. "On your left as you look forward, senor," said Nostromo,
suddenly. When his voice ceased, the enormous stillness, without light
or sound, seemed to affect Decoud's senses like a powerful drug. He
didn't even know at times whether he were asleep or awake. Like a man
lost in slumber, he heard nothing, he saw nothing. Even his hand
held before his face did not exist for his eyes. The change from the
agitation, the passions and the dangers, from the sights and sounds of
the shore, was so complete that it would have resembled death had it
not been for the survival of his thoughts. In this foretaste of eternal
peace they floated vivid and light, like unearthly clear dreams of
earthly things that may haunt the souls freed by death from the misty
atmosphere of regrets and hopes. Decoud shook himself, shuddered a bit,
though the air that drifted past him was warm. He had the strangest
sensation of his soul having just returned into his body from the
circumambient darkness in which land, sea, sky, the mountains, and the
rocks were as if they had not been.

Nostromo's voice was speaking, though he, at the tiller, was also as
if he were not. "Have you been asleep, Don Martin? Caramba! If it were
possible I would think that I, too, have dozed off. I have a strange
notion somehow of having dreamt that there was a sound of blubbering,
a sound a sorrowing man could make, somewhere near this boat. Something
between a sigh and a sob."

"Strange!" muttered Decoud, stretched upon the pile of treasure boxes
covered by many tarpaulins. "Could it be that there is another boat near
us in the gulf? We could not see it, you know."

Nostromo laughed a little at the absurdity of the idea. They dismissed
it from their minds. The solitude could almost be felt. And when the
breeze ceased, the blackness seemed to weigh upon Decoud like a stone.

"This is overpowering," he muttered. "Do we move at all, Capataz?"

"Not so fast as a crawling beetle tangled in the grass," answered
Nostromo, and his voice seemed deadened by the thick veil of obscurity
that felt warm and hopeless all about them. There were long periods
when he made no sound, invisible and inaudible as if he had mysteriously
stepped out of the lighter.

In the featureless night Nostromo was not even certain which way the
lighter headed after the wind had completely died out. He peered for the
islands. There was not a hint of them to be seen, as if they had sunk to
the bottom of the gulf. He threw himself down by the side of Decoud at
last, and whispered into his ear that if daylight caught them near the
Sulaco shore through want of wind, it would be possible to sweep the
lighter behind the cliff at the high end of the Great Isabel, where
she would lie concealed. Decoud was surprised at the grimness of his
anxiety. To him the removal of the treasure was a political move. It was
necessary for several reasons that it should not fall into the hands of
Montero, but here was a man who took another view of this enterprise.
The Caballeros over there did not seem to have the slightest idea of
what they had given him to do. Nostromo, as if affected by the gloom
around, seemed nervously resentful. Decoud was surprised. The Capataz,
indifferent to those dangers that seemed obvious to his companion,
allowed himself to become scornfully exasperated by the deadly nature
of the trust put, as a matter of course, into his hands. It was more
dangerous, Nostromo said, with a laugh and a curse, than sending a man
to get the treasure that people said was guarded by devils and ghosts in
the deep ravines of Azuera. "Senor," he said, "we must catch the steamer
at sea. We must keep out in the open looking for her till we have eaten
and drunk all that has been put on board here. And if we miss her by
some mischance, we must keep away from the land till we grow weak,
and perhaps mad, and die, and drift dead, until one or another of the
steamers of the Compania comes upon the boat with the two dead men who
have saved the treasure. That, senor, is the only way to save it; for,
don't you see? for us to come to the land anywhere in a hundred miles
along this coast with this silver in our possession is to run the naked
breast against the point of a knife. This thing has been given to me
like a deadly disease. If men discover it I am dead, and you, too,
senor, since you would come with me. There is enough silver to make a
whole province rich, let alone a seaboard pueblo inhabited by thieves
and vagabonds. Senor, they would think that heaven itself sent these
riches into their hands, and would cut our throats without hesitation.
I would trust no fair words from the best man around the shores of this
wild gulf. Reflect that, even by giving up the treasure at the first
demand, we would not be able to save our lives. Do you understand this,
or must I explain?"

"No, you needn't explain," said Decoud, a little listlessly. "I can see
it well enough myself, that the possession of this treasure is very
much like a deadly disease for men situated as we are. But it had to be
removed from Sulaco, and you were the man for the task."

"I was; but I cannot believe," said Nostromo, "that its loss would have
impoverished Don Carlos Gould very much. There is more wealth in the
mountain. I have heard it rolling down the shoots on quiet nights when
I used to ride to Rincon to see a certain girl, after my work at the
harbour was done. For years the rich rocks have been pouring down with a
noise like thunder, and the miners say that there is enough at the heart
of the mountain to thunder on for years and years to come. And yet, the
day before yesterday, we have been fighting to save it from the mob,
and to-night I am sent out with it into this darkness, where there is no
wind to get away with; as if it were the last lot of silver on earth to
get bread for the hungry with. Ha! ha! Well, I am going to make it the
most famous and desperate affair of my life--wind or no wind. It shall
be talked about when the little children are grown up and the grown
men are old. Aha! the Monterists must not get hold of it, I am told,
whatever happens to Nostromo the Capataz; and they shall not have it, I
tell you, since it has been tied for safety round Nostromo's neck."

"I see it," murmured Decoud. He saw, indeed, that his companion had his
own peculiar view of this enterprise.

Nostromo interrupted his reflections upon the way men's qualities are
made use of, without any fundamental knowledge of their nature, by the
proposal they should slip the long oars out and sweep the lighter in
the direction of the Isabels. It wouldn't do for daylight to reveal
the treasure floating within a mile or so of the harbour entrance. The
denser the darkness generally, the smarter were the puffs of wind on
which he had reckoned to make his way; but tonight the gulf, under its
poncho of clouds, remained breathless, as if dead rather than asleep.

Don Martin's soft hands suffered cruelly, tugging at the thick handle of
the enormous oar. He stuck to it manfully, setting his teeth. He, too,
was in the toils of an imaginative existence, and that strange work of
pulling a lighter seemed to belong naturally to the inception of a new
state, acquired an ideal meaning from his love for Antonia. For all
their efforts, the heavily laden lighter hardly moved. Nostromo could
be heard swearing to himself between the regular splashes of the sweeps.
"We are making a crooked path," he muttered to himself. "I wish I could
see the islands."

In his unskilfulness Don Martin over-exerted himself. Now and then a
sort of muscular faintness would run from the tips of his aching fingers
through every fibre of his body, and pass off in a flush of heat. He had
fought, talked, suffered mentally and physically, exerting his mind and
body for the last forty-eight hours without intermission. He had had no
rest, very little food, no pause in the stress of his thoughts and his
feelings. Even his love for Antonia, whence he drew his strength and
his inspiration, had reached the point of tragic tension during their
hurried interview by Don Jose's bedside. And now, suddenly, he was
thrown out of all this into a dark gulf, whose very gloom, silence, and
breathless peace added a torment to the necessity for physical exertion.
He imagined the lighter sinking to the bottom with an extraordinary
shudder of delight. "I am on the verge of delirium," he thought. He
mastered the trembling of all his limbs, of his breast, the inward
trembling of all his body exhausted of its nervous force.

"Shall we rest, Capataz?" he proposed in a careless tone. "There are
many hours of night yet before us."

"True. It is but a mile or so, I suppose. Rest your arms, senor, if that
is what you mean. You will find no other sort of rest, I can promise
you, since you let yourself be bound to this treasure whose loss would
make no poor man poorer. No, senor; there is no rest till we find a
north-bound steamer, or else some ship finds us drifting about stretched
out dead upon the Englishman's silver. Or rather--no; por Dios! I shall
cut down the gunwale with the axe right to the water's edge before
thirst and hunger rob me of my strength. By all the saints and devils
I shall let the sea have the treasure rather than give it up to any
stranger. Since it was the good pleasure of the Caballeros to send me
off on such an errand, they shall learn I am just the man they take me
for."

Decoud lay on the silver boxes panting. All his active sensations and
feelings from as far back as he could remember seemed to him the maddest
of dreams. Even his passionate devotion to Antonia into which he had
worked himself up out of the depths of his scepticism had lost all
appearance of reality. For a moment he was the prey of an extremely
languid but not unpleasant indifference.

"I am sure they didn't mean you to take such a desperate view of this
affair," he said.

"What was it, then? A joke?" snarled the man, who on the pay-sheets of
the O.S.N. Company's establishment in Sulaco was described as "Foreman
of the wharf" against the figure of his wages. "Was it for a joke they
woke me up from my sleep after two days of street fighting to make me
stake my life upon a bad card? Everybody knows, too, that I am not a
lucky gambler."

"Yes, everybody knows of your good luck with women, Capataz," Decoud
propitiated his companion in a weary drawl.

"Look here, senor," Nostromo went on. "I never even remonstrated about
this affair. Directly I heard what was wanted I saw what a desperate
affair it must be, and I made up my mind to see it out. Every minute was
of importance. I had to wait for you first. Then, when we arrived at
the Italia Una, old Giorgio shouted to me to go for the English doctor.
Later on, that poor dying woman wanted to see me, as you know. Senor,
I was reluctant to go. I felt already this cursed silver growing heavy
upon my back, and I was afraid that, knowing herself to be dying, she
would ask me to ride off again for a priest. Father Corbelan, who is
fearless, would have come at a word; but Father Corbelan is far away,
safe with the band of Hernandez, and the populace, that would have liked
to tear him to pieces, are much incensed against the priests. Not
a single fat padre would have consented to put his head out of his
hiding-place to-night to save a Christian soul, except, perhaps, under
my protection. That was in her mind. I pretended I did not believe she
was going to die. Senor, I refused to fetch a priest for a dying
woman. . . ."

Decoud was heard to stir.

"You did, Capataz!" he exclaimed. His tone changed. "Well, you know--it
was rather fine."

"You do not believe in priests, Don Martin? Neither do I. What was the
use of wasting time? But she--she believes in them. The thing sticks in
my throat. She may be dead already, and here we are floating helpless
with no wind at all. Curse on all superstition. She died thinking I
deprived her of Paradise, I suppose. It shall be the most desperate
affair of my life."

Decoud remained lost in reflection. He tried to analyze the sensations
awaked by what he had been told. The voice of the Capataz was heard
again:

"Now, Don Martin, let us take up the sweeps and try to find the Isabels.
It is either that or sinking the lighter if the day overtakes us. We
must not forget that the steamer from Esmeralda with the soldiers may be
coming along. We will pull straight on now. I have discovered a bit of a
candle here, and we must take the risk of a small light to make a course
by the boat compass. There is not enough wind to blow it out--may the
curse of Heaven fall upon this blind gulf!"

A small flame appeared burning quite straight. It showed fragmentarily
the stout ribs and planking in the hollow, empty part of the lighter.
Decoud could see Nostromo standing up to pull. He saw him as high as the
red sash on his waist, with a gleam of a white-handled revolver and the
wooden haft of a long knife protruding on his left side. Decoud nerved
himself for the effort of rowing. Certainly there was not enough wind to
blow the candle out, but its flame swayed a little to the slow movement
of the heavy boat. It was so big that with their utmost efforts
they could not move it quicker than about a mile an hour. This was
sufficient, however, to sweep them amongst the Isabels long before
daylight came. There was a good six hours of darkness before them, and
the distance from the harbour to the Great Isabel did not exceed two
miles. Decoud put this heavy toil to the account of the Capataz's
impatience. Sometimes they paused, and then strained their ears to hear
the boat from Esmeralda. In this perfect quietness a steamer moving
would have been heard from far off. As to seeing anything it was out of
the question. They could not see each other. Even the lighter's sail,
which remained set, was invisible. Very often they rested.

"Caramba!" said Nostromo, suddenly, during one of those intervals when
they lolled idly against the heavy handles of the sweeps. "What is it?
Are you distressed, Don Martin?"

Decoud assured him that he was not distressed in the least. Nostromo
for a time kept perfectly still, and then in a whisper invited Martin to
come aft.

With his lips touching Decoud's ear he declared his belief that there
was somebody else besides themselves upon the lighter. Twice now he had
heard the sound of stifled sobbing.

"Senor," he whispered with awed wonder, "I am certain that there is
somebody weeping in this lighter."

Decoud had heard nothing. He expressed his incredulity. However, it was
easy to ascertain the truth of the matter.

"It is most amazing," muttered Nostromo. "Could anybody have concealed
himself on board while the lighter was lying alongside the wharf?"

"And you say it was like sobbing?" asked Decoud, lowering his voice,
too. "If he is weeping, whoever he is he cannot be very dangerous."

Clambering over the precious pile in the middle, they crouched low on
the foreside of the mast and groped under the half-deck. Right forward,
in the narrowest part, their hands came upon the limbs of a man, who
remained as silent as death. Too startled themselves to make a sound,
they dragged him aft by one arm and the collar of his coat. He was
limp--lifeless.

The light of the bit of candle fell upon a round, hook-nosed face with
black moustaches and little side-whiskers. He was extremely dirty. A
greasy growth of beard was sprouting on the shaven parts of the cheeks.
The thick lips were slightly parted, but the eyes remained closed.
Decoud, to his immense astonishment, recognized Senor Hirsch, the hide
merchant from Esmeralda. Nostromo, too, had recognized him. And they
gazed at each other across the body, lying with its naked feet higher
than its head, in an absurd pretence of sleep, faintness, or death.



CHAPTER EIGHT

For a moment, before this extraordinary find, they forgot their own
concerns and sensations. Senor Hirsch's sensations as he lay there must
have been those of extreme terror. For a long time he refused to give
a sign of life, till at last Decoud's objurgations, and, perhaps more,
Nostromo's impatient suggestion that he should be thrown overboard, as
he seemed to be dead, induced him to raise one eyelid first, and then
the other.

It appeared that he had never found a safe opportunity to leave Sulaco.
He lodged with Anzani, the universal storekeeper, on the Plaza Mayor.
But when the riot broke out he had made his escape from his host's house
before daylight, and in such a hurry that he had forgotten to put on his
shoes. He had run out impulsively in his socks, and with his hat in his
hand, into the garden of Anzani's house. Fear gave him the necessary
agility to climb over several low walls, and afterwards he blundered
into the overgrown cloisters of the ruined Franciscan convent in one of
the by-streets. He forced himself into the midst of matted bushes with
the recklessness of desperation, and this accounted for his scratched
body and his torn clothing. He lay hidden there all day, his tongue
cleaving to the roof of his mouth with all the intensity of thirst
engendered by heat and fear. Three times different bands of men invaded
the place with shouts and imprecations, looking for Father Corbelan; but
towards the evening, still lying on his face in the bushes, he thought
he would die from the fear of silence. He was not very clear as to what
had induced him to leave the place, but evidently he had got out
and slunk successfully out of town along the deserted back lanes. He
wandered in the darkness near the railway, so maddened by apprehension
that he dared not even approach the fires of the pickets of Italian
workmen guarding the line. He had a vague idea evidently of finding
refuge in the railway yards, but the dogs rushed upon him, barking; men
began to shout; a shot was fired at random. He fled away from the gates.
By the merest accident, as it happened, he took the direction of the
O.S.N. Company's offices. Twice he stumbled upon the bodies of men
killed during the day. But everything living frightened him much more.
He crouched, crept, crawled, made dashes, guided by a sort of animal
instinct, keeping away from every light and from every sound of voices.
His idea was to throw himself at the feet of Captain Mitchell and
beg for shelter in the Company's offices. It was all dark there as
he approached on his hands and knees, but suddenly someone on guard
challenged loudly, "Quien vive?" There were more dead men lying about,
and he flattened himself down at once by the side of a cold corpse. He
heard a voice saying, "Here is one of those wounded rascals crawling
about. Shall I go and finish him?" And another voice objected that it
was not safe to go out without a lantern upon such an errand; perhaps it
was only some negro Liberal looking for a chance to stick a knife into
the stomach of an honest man. Hirsch didn't stay to hear any more, but
crawling away to the end of the wharf, hid himself amongst a lot of
empty casks. After a while some people came along, talking, and with
glowing cigarettes. He did not stop to ask himself whether they would be
likely to do him any harm, but bolted incontinently along the jetty,
saw a lighter lying moored at the end, and threw himself into it. In his
desire to find cover he crept right forward under the half-deck, and he
had remained there more dead than alive, suffering agonies of hunger
and thirst, and almost fainting with terror, when he heard numerous
footsteps and the voices of the Europeans who came in a body escorting
the wagonload of treasure, pushed along the rails by a squad of
Cargadores. He understood perfectly what was being done from the talk,
but did not disclose his presence from the fear that he would not
be allowed to remain. His only idea at the time, overpowering and
masterful, was to get away from this terrible Sulaco. And now he
regretted it very much. He had heard Nostromo talk to Decoud, and wished
himself back on shore. He did not desire to be involved in any desperate
affair--in a situation where one could not run away. The involuntary
groans of his anguished spirit had betrayed him to the sharp ears of the
Capataz.

They had propped him up in a sitting posture against the side of the
lighter, and he went on with the moaning account of his adventures till
his voice broke, his head fell forward. "Water," he whispered, with
difficulty. Decoud held one of the cans to his lips. He revived after
an extraordinarily short time, and scrambled up to his feet wildly.
Nostromo, in an angry and threatening voice, ordered him forward. Hirsch
was one of those men whom fear lashes like a whip, and he must have
had an appalling idea of the Capataz's ferocity. He displayed an
extraordinary agility in disappearing forward into the darkness. They
heard him getting over the tarpaulin; then there was the sound of a
heavy fall, followed by a weary sigh. Afterwards all was still in
the fore-part of the lighter, as though he had killed himself in his
headlong tumble. Nostromo shouted in a menacing voice--

"Lie still there! Do not move a limb. If I hear as much as a loud breath
from you I shall come over there and put a bullet through your head."

The mere presence of a coward, however passive, brings an element of
treachery into a dangerous situation. Nostromo's nervous impatience
passed into gloomy thoughtfulness. Decoud, in an undertone, as if
speaking to himself, remarked that, after all, this bizarre event made
no great difference. He could not conceive what harm the man could
do. At most he would be in the way, like an inanimate and useless
object--like a block of wood, for instance.

"I would think twice before getting rid of a piece of wood," said
Nostromo, calmly. "Something may happen unexpectedly where you could
make use of it. But in an affair like ours a man like this ought to be
thrown overboard. Even if he were as brave as a lion we would not want
him here. We are not running away for our lives. Senor, there is no harm
in a brave man trying to save himself with ingenuity and courage; but
you have heard his tale, Don Martin. His being here is a miracle of
fear--" Nostromo paused. "There is no room for fear in this lighter," he
added through his teeth.

Decoud had no answer to make. It was not a position for argument, for a
display of scruples or feelings. There were a thousand ways in which
a panic-stricken man could make himself dangerous. It was evident
that Hirsch could not be spoken to, reasoned with, or persuaded into a
rational line of conduct. The story of his own escape demonstrated that
clearly enough. Decoud thought that it was a thousand pities the wretch
had not died of fright. Nature, who had made him what he was, seemed to
have calculated cruelly how much he could bear in the way of atrocious
anguish without actually expiring. Some compassion was due to so much
terror. Decoud, though imaginative enough for sympathy, resolved not
to interfere with any action that Nostromo would take. But Nostromo did
nothing. And the fate of Senor Hirsch remained suspended in the darkness
of the gulf at the mercy of events which could not be foreseen.

The Capataz, extending his hand, put out the candle suddenly. It was to
Decoud as if his companion had destroyed, by a single touch, the world
of affairs, of loves, of revolution, where his complacent superiority
analyzed fearlessly all motives and all passions, including his own.

He gasped a little. Decoud was affected by the novelty of his position.
Intellectually self-confident, he suffered from being deprived of the
only weapon he could use with effect. No intelligence could penetrate
the darkness of the Placid Gulf. There remained only one thing he was
certain of, and that was the overweening vanity of his companion. It was
direct, uncomplicated, naive, and effectual. Decoud, who had been
making use of him, had tried to understand his man thoroughly. He
had discovered a complete singleness of motive behind the varied
manifestations of a consistent character. This was why the man remained
so astonishingly simple in the jealous greatness of his conceit. And now
there was a complication. It was evident that he resented having been
given a task in which there were so many chances of failure. "I wonder,"
thought Decoud, "how he would behave if I were not here."

He heard Nostromo mutter again, "No! there is no room for fear on this
lighter. Courage itself does not seem good enough. I have a good eye and
a steady hand; no man can say he ever saw me tired or uncertain what to
do; but por Dios, Don Martin, I have been sent out into this black calm
on a business where neither a good eye, nor a steady hand, nor judgment
are any use. . . ." He swore a string of oaths in Spanish and Italian
under his breath. "Nothing but sheer desperation will do for this
affair."

These words were in strange contrast to the prevailing peace--to
this almost solid stillness of the gulf. A shower fell with an abrupt
whispering sound all round the boat, and Decoud took off his hat, and,
letting his head get wet, felt greatly refreshed. Presently a steady
little draught of air caressed his cheek. The lighter began to move,
but the shower distanced it. The drops ceased to fall upon his head and
hands, the whispering died out in the distance. Nostromo emitted a grunt
of satisfaction, and grasping the tiller, chirruped softly, as sailors
do, to encourage the wind. Never for the last three days had Decoud felt
less the need for what the Capataz would call desperation.

"I fancy I hear another shower on the water," he observed in a tone of
quiet content. "I hope it will catch us up."

Nostromo ceased chirruping at once. "You hear another shower?" he said,
doubtfully. A sort of thinning of the darkness seemed to have taken
place, and Decoud could see now the outline of his companion's figure,
and even the sail came out of the night like a square block of dense
snow.

The sound which Decoud had detected came along the water harshly.
Nostromo recognized that noise partaking of a hiss and a rustle which
spreads out on all sides of a steamer making her way through a smooth
water on a quiet night. It could be nothing else but the captured
transport with troops from Esmeralda. She carried no lights. The noise
of her steaming, growing louder every minute, would stop at times
altogether, and then begin again abruptly, and sound startlingly nearer;
as if that invisible vessel, whose position could not be precisely
guessed, were making straight for the lighter. Meantime, that last kept
on sailing slowly and noiselessly before a breeze so faint that it was
only by leaning over the side and feeling the water slip through his
fingers that Decoud convinced himself they were moving at all. His
drowsy feeling had departed. He was glad to know that the lighter
was moving. After so much stillness the noise of the steamer seemed
uproarious and distracting. There was a weirdness in not being able to
see her. Suddenly all was still. She had stopped, but so close to them
that the steam, blowing off, sent its rumbling vibration right over
their heads.

"They are trying to make out where they are," said Decoud in a whisper.
Again he leaned over and put his fingers into the water. "We are moving
quite smartly," he informed Nostromo.

"We seem to be crossing her bows," said the Capataz in a cautious tone.
"But this is a blind game with death. Moving on is of no use. We mustn't
be seen or heard."

His whisper was hoarse with excitement. Of all his face there was
nothing visible but a gleam of white eyeballs. His fingers gripped
Decoud's shoulder. "That is the only way to save this treasure from this
steamer full of soldiers. Any other would have carried lights. But you
observe there is not a gleam to show us where she is."

Decoud stood as if paralyzed; only his thoughts were wildly active. In
the space of a second he remembered the desolate glance of Antonia as he
left her at the bedside of her father in the gloomy house of Avellanos,
with shuttered windows, but all the doors standing open, and deserted by
all the servants except an old negro at the gate. He remembered the
Casa Gould on his last visit, the arguments, the tones of his voice,
the impenetrable attitude of Charles, Mrs. Gould's face so blanched
with anxiety and fatigue that her eyes seemed to have changed colour,
appearing nearly black by contrast. Even whole sentences of the
proclamation which he meant to make Barrios issue from his headquarters
at Cayta as soon as he got there passed through his mind; the very germ
of the new State, the Separationist proclamation which he had tried
before he left to read hurriedly to Don Jose, stretched out on his
bed under the fixed gaze of his daughter. God knows whether the
old statesman had understood it; he was unable to speak, but he had
certainly lifted his arm off the coverlet; his hand had moved as if
to make the sign of the cross in the air, a gesture of blessing, of
consent. Decoud had that very draft in his pocket, written in pencil
on several loose sheets of paper, with the heavily-printed heading,
"Administration of the San Tome Silver Mine. Sulaco. Republic of
Costaguana." He had written it furiously, snatching page after page
on Charles Gould's table. Mrs. Gould had looked several times over
his shoulder as he wrote; but the Senor Administrador, standing
straddle-legged, would not even glance at it when it was finished. He
had waved it away firmly. It must have been scorn, and not caution,
since he never made a remark about the use of the Administration's paper
for such a compromising document. And that showed his disdain, the true
English disdain of common prudence, as if everything outside the range
of their own thoughts and feelings were unworthy of serious recognition.
Decoud had the time in a second or two to become furiously angry with
Charles Gould, and even resentful against Mrs. Gould, in whose care,
tacitly it is true, he had left the safety of Antonia. Better perish a
thousand times than owe your preservation to such people, he exclaimed
mentally. The grip of Nostromo's fingers never removed from his
shoulder, tightening fiercely, recalled him to himself.

"The darkness is our friend," the Capataz murmured into his ear. "I am
going to lower the sail, and trust our escape to this black gulf. No
eyes could make us out lying silent with a naked mast. I will do it
now, before this steamer closes still more upon us. The faint creak of a
block would betray us and the San Tome treasure into the hands of those
thieves."

He moved about as warily as a cat. Decoud heard no sound; and it was
only by the disappearance of the square blotch of darkness that he knew
the yard had come down, lowered as carefully as if it had been made of
glass. Next moment he heard Nostromo's quiet breathing by his side.

"You had better not move at all from where you are, Don Martin," advised
the Capataz, earnestly. "You might stumble or displace something which
would make a noise. The sweeps and the punting poles are lying about.
Move not for your life. Por Dios, Don Martin," he went on in a keen but
friendly whisper, "I am so desperate that if I didn't know your worship
to be a man of courage, capable of standing stock still whatever
happens, I would drive my knife into your heart."

A deathlike stillness surrounded the lighter. It was difficult to
believe that there was near a steamer full of men with many pairs of
eyes peering from her bridge for some hint of land in the night. Her
steam had ceased blowing off, and she remained stopped too far off
apparently for any other sound to reach the lighter.

"Perhaps you would, Capataz," Decoud began in a whisper. "However, you
need not trouble. There are other things than the fear of your knife
to keep my heart steady. It shall not betray you. Only, have you
forgotten--"

"I spoke to you openly as to a man as desperate as myself," explained
the Capataz. "The silver must be saved from the Monterists. I told
Captain Mitchell three times that I preferred to go alone. I told Don
Carlos Gould, too. It was in the Casa Gould. They had sent for me. The
ladies were there; and when I tried to explain why I did not wish to
have you with me, they promised me, both of them, great rewards for your
safety. A strange way to talk to a man you are sending out to an almost
certain death. Those gentlefolk do not seem to have sense enough to
understand what they are giving one to do. I told them I could do
nothing for you. You would have been safer with the bandit Hernandez.
It would have been possible to ride out of the town with no greater risk
than a chance shot sent after you in the dark. But it was as if they had
been deaf. I had to promise I would wait for you under the harbour gate.
I did wait. And now because you are a brave man you are as safe as the
silver. Neither more nor less."

At that moment, as if by way of comment upon Nostromo's words, the
invisible steamer went ahead at half speed only, as could be judged
by the leisurely beat of her propeller. The sound shifted its place
markedly, but without coming nearer. It even grew a little more distant
right abeam of the lighter, and then ceased again.

"They are trying for a sight of the Isabels," muttered Nostromo, "in
order to make for the harbour in a straight line and seize the Custom
House with the treasure in it. Have you ever seen the Commandant of
Esmeralda, Sotillo? A handsome fellow, with a soft voice. When I first
came here I used to see him in the Calle talking to the senoritas at the
windows of the houses, and showing his white teeth all the time. But
one of my Cargadores, who had been a soldier, told me that he had once
ordered a man to be flayed alive in the remote Campo, where he was sent
recruiting amongst the people of the Estancias. It has never entered his
head that the Compania had a man capable of baffling his game."

The murmuring loquacity of the Capataz disturbed Decoud like a hint
of weakness. And yet, talkative resolution may be as genuine as grim
silence.

"Sotillo is not baffled so far," he said. "Have you forgotten that crazy
man forward?"

Nostromo had not forgotten Senor Hirsch. He reproached himself bitterly
for not having visited the lighter carefully before leaving the wharf.
He reproached himself for not having stabbed and flung Hirsch overboard
at the very moment of discovery without even looking at his face. That
would have been consistent with the desperate character of the affair.
Whatever happened, Sotillo was already baffled. Even if that wretch, now
as silent as death, did anything to betray the nearness of the lighter,
Sotillo--if Sotillo it was in command of the troops on board--would be
still baffled of his plunder.

"I have an axe in my hand," Nostromo whispered, wrathfully, "that in
three strokes would cut through the side down to the water's edge.
Moreover, each lighter has a plug in the stern, and I know exactly where
it is. I feel it under the sole of my foot."

Decoud recognized the ring of genuine determination in the nervous
murmurs, the vindictive excitement of the famous Capataz. Before the
steamer, guided by a shriek or two (for there could be no more than
that, Nostromo said, gnashing his teeth audibly), could find the lighter
there would be plenty of time to sink this treasure tied up round his
neck.

The last words he hissed into Decoud's ear. Decoud said nothing. He was
perfectly convinced. The usual characteristic quietness of the man was
gone. It was not equal to the situation as he conceived it. Something
deeper, something unsuspected by everyone, had come to the surface.
Decoud, with careful movements, slipped off his overcoat and divested
himself of his boots; he did not consider himself bound in honour to
sink with the treasure. His object was to get down to Barrios, in Cayta,
as the Capataz knew very well; and he, too, meant, in his own way,
to put into that attempt all the desperation of which he was capable.
Nostromo muttered, "True, true! You are a politician, senor. Rejoin the
army, and start another revolution." He pointed out, however, that there
was a little boat belonging to every lighter fit to carry two men, if
not more. Theirs was towing behind.

Of that Decoud had not been aware. Of course, it was too dark to see,
and it was only when Nostromo put his hand upon its painter fastened to
a cleat in the stern that he experienced a full measure of relief. The
prospect of finding himself in the water and swimming, overwhelmed
by ignorance and darkness, probably in a circle, till he sank from
exhaustion, was revolting. The barren and cruel futility of such an end
intimidated his affectation of careless pessimism. In comparison to it,
the chance of being left floating in a boat, exposed to thirst, hunger,
discovery, imprisonment, execution, presented itself with an aspect of
amenity worth securing even at the cost of some self-contempt. He did
not accept Nostromo's proposal that he should get into the boat at
once. "Something sudden may overwhelm us, senor," the Capataz remarked
promising faithfully, at the same time, to let go the painter at the
moment when the necessity became manifest.

But Decoud assured him lightly that he did not mean to take to the boat
till the very last moment, and that then he meant the Capataz to come
along, too. The darkness of the gulf was no longer for him the end of
all things. It was part of a living world since, pervading it, failure
and death could be felt at your elbow. And at the same time it was a
shelter. He exulted in its impenetrable obscurity. "Like a wall, like a
wall," he muttered to himself.

The only thing which checked his confidence was the thought of Senor
Hirsch. Not to have bound and gagged him seemed to Decoud now the height
of improvident folly. As long as the miserable creature had the power to
raise a yell he was a constant danger. His abject terror was mute now,
but there was no saying from what cause it might suddenly find vent in
shrieks.

This very madness of fear which both Decoud and Nostromo had seen in
the wild and irrational glances, and in the continuous twitchings of
his mouth, protected Senor Hirsch from the cruel necessities of this
desperate affair. The moment of silencing him for ever had passed. As
Nostromo remarked, in answer to Decoud's regrets, it was too late! It
could not be done without noise, especially in the ignorance of the
man's exact position. Wherever he had elected to crouch and tremble, it
was too hazardous to go near him. He would begin probably to yell for
mercy. It was much better to leave him quite alone since he was keeping
so still. But to trust to his silence became every moment a greater
strain upon Decoud's composure.

"I wish, Capataz, you had not let the right moment pass," he murmured.

"What! To silence him for ever? I thought it good to hear first how he
came to be here. It was too strange. Who could imagine that it was
all an accident? Afterwards, senor, when I saw you giving him water to
drink, I could not do it. Not after I had seen you holding up the can to
his lips as though he were your brother. Senor, that sort of necessity
must not be thought of too long. And yet it would have been no cruelty
to take away from him his wretched life. It is nothing but fear. Your
compassion saved him then, Don Martin, and now it is too late. It
couldn't be done without noise."

In the steamer they were keeping a perfect silence, and the stillness
was so profound that Decoud felt as if the slightest sound conceivable
must travel unchecked and audible to the end of the world. What if
Hirsch coughed or sneezed? To feel himself at the mercy of such an
idiotic contingency was too exasperating to be looked upon with irony.
Nostromo, too, seemed to be getting restless. Was it possible, he
asked himself, that the steamer, finding the night too dark altogether,
intended to remain stopped where she was till daylight? He began to
think that this, after all, was the real danger. He was afraid that
the darkness, which was his protection, would, in the end, cause his
undoing.

Sotillo, as Nostromo had surmised, was in command on board the
transport. The events of the last forty-eight hours in Sulaco were not
known to him; neither was he aware that the telegraphist in Esmeralda
had managed to warn his colleague in Sulaco. Like a good many officers
of the troops garrisoning the province, Sotillo had been influenced
in his adoption of the Ribierist cause by the belief that it had the
enormous wealth of the Gould Concession on its side. He had been one
of the frequenters of the Casa Gould, where he had aired his Blanco
convictions and his ardour for reform before Don Jose Avellanos, casting
frank, honest glances towards Mrs. Gould and Antonia the while. He was
known to belong to a good family persecuted and impoverished during the
tyranny of Guzman Bento. The opinions he expressed appeared eminently
natural and proper in a man of his parentage and antecedents. And he
was not a deceiver; it was perfectly natural for him to express elevated
sentiments while his whole faculties were taken up with what seemed then
a solid and practical notion--the notion that the husband of Antonia
Avellanos would be, naturally, the intimate friend of the Gould
Concession. He even pointed this out to Anzani once, when negotiating
the sixth or seventh small loan in the gloomy, damp apartment with
enormous iron bars, behind the principal shop in the whole row under the
Arcades. He hinted to the universal shopkeeper at the excellent terms
he was on with the emancipated senorita, who was like a sister to the
Englishwoman. He would advance one leg and put his arms akimbo, posing
for Anzani's inspection, and fixing him with a haughty stare.

"Look, miserable shopkeeper! How can a man like me fail with any woman,
let alone an emancipated girl living in scandalous freedom?" he seemed
to say.

His manner in the Casa Gould was, of course, very different--devoid of
all truculence, and even slightly mournful. Like most of his countrymen,
he was carried away by the sound of fine words, especially if uttered
by himself. He had no convictions of any sort upon anything except as to
the irresistible power of his personal advantages. But that was so
firm that even Decoud's appearance in Sulaco, and his intimacy with
the Goulds and the Avellanos, did not disquiet him. On the contrary,
he tried to make friends with that rich Costaguanero from Europe in the
hope of borrowing a large sum by-and-by. The only guiding motive of
his life was to get money for the satisfaction of his expensive tastes,
which he indulged recklessly, having no self-control. He imagined
himself a master of intrigue, but his corruption was as simple as an
animal instinct. At times, in solitude, he had his moments of ferocity,
and also on such occasions as, for instance, when alone in a room with
Anzani trying to get a loan.

He had talked himself into the command of the Esmeralda garrison. That
small seaport had its importance as the station of the main submarine
cable connecting the Occidental Provinces with the outer world, and the
junction with it of the Sulaco branch. Don Jose Avellanos proposed him,
and Barrios, with a rude and jeering guffaw, had said, "Oh, let Sotillo
go. He is a very good man to keep guard over the cable, and the ladies
of Esmeralda ought to have their turn." Barrios, an indubitably brave
man, had no great opinion of Sotillo.

It was through the Esmeralda cable alone that the San Tome mine could
be kept in constant touch with the great financier, whose tacit approval
made the strength of the Ribierist movement. This movement had its
adversaries even there. Sotillo governed Esmeralda with repressive
severity till the adverse course of events upon the distant theatre
of civil war forced upon him the reflection that, after all, the great
silver mine was fated to become the spoil of the victors. But caution
was necessary. He began by assuming a dark and mysterious attitude
towards the faithful Ribierist municipality of Esmeralda. Later on, the
information that the commandant was holding assemblies of officers in
the dead of night (which had leaked out somehow) caused those gentlemen
to neglect their civil duties altogether, and remain shut up in their
houses. Suddenly one day all the letters from Sulaco by the overland
courier were carried off by a file of soldiers from the post office to
the Commandancia, without disguise, concealment, or apology. Sotillo had
heard through Cayta of the final defeat of Ribiera.

This was the first open sign of the change in his convictions. Presently
notorious democrats, who had been living till then in constant fear of
arrest, leg irons, and even floggings, could be observed going in and
out at the great door of the Commandancia, where the horses of the
orderlies doze under their heavy saddles, while the men, in ragged
uniforms and pointed straw hats, lounge on a bench, with their naked
feet stuck out beyond the strip of shade; and a sentry, in a red baize
coat with holes at the elbows, stands at the top of the steps glaring
haughtily at the common people, who uncover their heads to him as they
pass.

Sotillo's ideas did not soar above the care for his personal safety and
the chance of plundering the town in his charge, but he feared that such
a late adhesion would earn but scant gratitude from the victors. He had
believed just a little too long in the power of the San Tome mine. The
seized correspondence had confirmed his previous information of a
large amount of silver ingots lying in the Sulaco Custom House. To gain
possession of it would be a clear Monterist move; a sort of service that
would have to be rewarded. With the silver in his hands he could make
terms for himself and his soldiers. He was aware neither of the riots,
nor of the President's escape to Sulaco and the close pursuit led by
Montero's brother, the guerrillero. The game seemed in his own hands.
The initial moves were the seizure of the cable telegraph office and the
securing of the Government steamer lying in the narrow creek which is
the harbour of Esmeralda. The last was effected without difficulty by
a company of soldiers swarming with a rush over the gangways as she
lay alongside the quay; but the lieutenant charged with the duty of
arresting the telegraphist halted on the way before the only cafe in
Esmeralda, where he distributed some brandy to his men, and refreshed
himself at the expense of the owner, a known Ribierist. The whole party
became intoxicated, and proceeded on their mission up the street yelling
and firing random shots at the windows. This little festivity, which
might have turned out dangerous to the telegraphist's life, enabled him
in the end to send his warning to Sulaco. The lieutenant, staggering
upstairs with a drawn sabre, was before long kissing him on both
cheeks in one of those swift changes of mood peculiar to a state of
drunkenness. He clasped the telegraphist close round the neck, assuring
him that all the officers of the Esmeralda garrison were going to be
made colonels, while tears of happiness streamed down his sodden face.
Thus it came about that the town major, coming along later, found the
whole party sleeping on the stairs and in passages, and the telegraphist
(who scorned this chance of escape) very busy clicking the key of the
transmitter. The major led him away bareheaded, with his hands tied
behind his back, but concealed the truth from Sotillo, who remained in
ignorance of the warning despatched to Sulaco.

The colonel was not the man to let any sort of darkness stand in the way
of the planned surprise. It appeared to him a dead certainty; his heart
was set upon his object with an ungovernable, childlike impatience. Ever
since the steamer had rounded Punta Mala, to enter the deeper shadow
of the gulf, he had remained on the bridge in a group of officers as
excited as himself. Distracted between the coaxings and menaces of
Sotillo and his Staff, the miserable commander of the steamer kept her
moving with as much prudence as they would let him exercise. Some of
them had been drinking heavily, no doubt; but the prospect of laying
hands on so much wealth made them absurdly foolhardy, and, at the same
time, extremely anxious. The old major of the battalion, a stupid,
suspicious man, who had never been afloat in his life, distinguished
himself by putting out suddenly the binnacle light, the only one allowed
on board for the necessities of navigation. He could not understand of
what use it could be for finding the way. To the vehement protestations
of the ship's captain, he stamped his foot and tapped the handle of
his sword. "Aha! I have unmasked you," he cried, triumphantly. "You are
tearing your hair from despair at my acuteness. Am I a child to believe
that a light in that brass box can show you where the harbour is? I am
an old soldier, I am. I can smell a traitor a league off. You wanted
that gleam to betray our approach to your friend the Englishman. A thing
like that show you the way! What a miserable lie! Que picardia! You
Sulaco people are all in the pay of those foreigners. You deserve to
be run through the body with my sword." Other officers, crowding round,
tried to calm his indignation, repeating persuasively, "No, no! This is
an appliance of the mariners, major. This is no treachery." The captain
of the transport flung himself face downwards on the bridge, and refused
to rise. "Put an end to me at once," he repeated in a stifled voice.
Sotillo had to interfere.

The uproar and confusion on the bridge became so great that the helmsman
fled from the wheel. He took refuge in the engine-room, and alarmed the
engineers, who, disregarding the threats of the soldiers set on guard
over them, stopped the engines, protesting that they would rather be
shot than run the risk of being drowned down below.

This was the first time Nostromo and Decoud heard the steamer stop.
After order had been restored, and the binnacle lamp relighted, she went
ahead again, passing wide of the lighter in her search for the Isabels.
The group could not be made out, and, at the pitiful entreaties of the
captain, Sotillo allowed the engines to be stopped again to wait for one
of those periodical lightenings of darkness caused by the shifting of
the cloud canopy spread above the waters of the gulf.

Sotillo, on the bridge, muttered from time to time angrily to the
captain. The other, in an apologetic and cringing tone, begged su merced
the colonel to take into consideration the limitations put upon human
faculties by the darkness of the night. Sotillo swelled with rage and
impatience. It was the chance of a lifetime.

"If your eyes are of no more use to you than this, I shall have them put
out," he yelled.

The captain of the steamer made no answer, for just then the mass of the
Great Isabel loomed up darkly after a passing shower, then vanished, as
if swept away by a wave of greater obscurity preceding another downpour.
This was enough for him. In the voice of a man come back to life again,
he informed Sotillo that in an hour he would be alongside the Sulaco
wharf. The ship was put then full speed on the course, and a great
bustle of preparation for landing arose among the soldiers on her deck.

It was heard distinctly by Decoud and Nostromo. The Capataz understood
its meaning. They had made out the Isabels, and were going on now in
a straight line for Sulaco. He judged that they would pass close; but
believed that lying still like this, with the sail lowered, the lighter
could not be seen. "No, not even if they rubbed sides with us," he
muttered.

The rain began to fall again; first like a wet mist, then with a heavier
touch, thickening into a smart, perpendicular downpour; and the hiss and
thump of the approaching steamer was coming extremely near. Decoud,
with his eyes full of water, and lowered head, asked himself how long
it would be before she drew past, when unexpectedly he felt a lurch.
An inrush of foam broke swishing over the stern, simultaneously with
a crack of timbers and a staggering shock. He had the impression of
an angry hand laying hold of the lighter and dragging it along to
destruction. The shock, of course, had knocked him down, and he found
himself rolling in a lot of water at the bottom of the lighter. A
violent churning went on alongside; a strange and amazed voice cried out
something above him in the night. He heard a piercing shriek for help
from Senor Hirsch. He kept his teeth hard set all the time. It was a
collision!

The steamer had struck the lighter obliquely, heeling her over till she
was half swamped, starting some of her timbers, and swinging her head
parallel to her own course with the force of the blow. The shock of
it on board of her was hardly perceptible. All the violence of that
collision was, as usual, felt only on board the smaller craft. Even
Nostromo himself thought that this was perhaps the end of his desperate
adventure. He, too, had been flung away from the long tiller, which
took charge in the lurch. Next moment the steamer would have passed on,
leaving the lighter to sink or swim after having shouldered her thus out
of her way, and without even getting a glimpse of her form, had it not
been that, being deeply laden with stores and the great number of people
on board, her anchor was low enough to hook itself into one of the wire
shrouds of the lighter's mast. For the space of two or three gasping
breaths that new rope held against the sudden strain. It was this that
gave Decoud the sensation of the snatching pull, dragging the lighter
away to destruction. The cause of it, of course, was inexplicable to
him. The whole thing was so sudden that he had no time to think. But all
his sensations were perfectly clear; he had kept complete possession of
himself; in fact, he was even pleasantly aware of that calmness at the
very moment of being pitched head first over the transom, to struggle
on his back in a lot of water. Senor Hirsch's shriek he had heard and
recognized while he was regaining his feet, always with that mysterious
sensation of being dragged headlong through the darkness. Not a word,
not a cry escaped him; he had no time to see anything; and following
upon the despairing screams for help, the dragging motion ceased so
suddenly that he staggered forward with open arms and fell against the
pile of the treasure boxes. He clung to them instinctively, in the
vague apprehension of being flung about again; and immediately he heard
another lot of shrieks for help, prolonged and despairing, not near
him at all, but unaccountably in the distance, away from the lighter
altogether, as if some spirit in the night were mocking at Senor
Hirsch's terror and despair.

Then all was still--as still as when you wake up in your bed in a dark
room from a bizarre and agitated dream. The lighter rocked slightly; the
rain was still falling. Two groping hands took hold of his bruised sides
from behind, and the Capataz's voice whispered, in his ear, "Silence,
for your life! Silence! The steamer has stopped."

Decoud listened. The gulf was dumb. He felt the water nearly up to his
knees. "Are we sinking?" he asked in a faint breath.

"I don't know," Nostromo breathed back to him. "Senor, make not the
slightest sound."

Hirsch, when ordered forward by Nostromo, had not returned into his
first hiding-place. He had fallen near the mast, and had no strength to
rise; moreover, he feared to move. He had given himself up for dead,
but not on any rational grounds. It was simply a cruel and terrifying
feeling. Whenever he tried to think what would become of him his teeth
would start chattering violently. He was too absorbed in the utter
misery of his fear to take notice of anything.

Though he was stifling under the lighter's sail which Nostromo had
unwittingly lowered on top of him, he did not even dare to put out his
head till the very moment of the steamer striking. Then, indeed, he
leaped right out, spurred on to new miracles of bodily vigour by this
new shape of danger. The inrush of water when the lighter heeled over
unsealed his lips. His shriek, "Save me!" was the first distinct warning
of the collision for the people on board the steamer. Next moment the
wire shroud parted, and the released anchor swept over the lighter's
forecastle. It came against the breast of Senor Hirsch, who simply
seized hold of it, without in the least knowing what it was, but curling
his arms and legs upon the part above the fluke with an invincible,
unreasonable tenacity. The lighter yawed off wide, and the steamer,
moving on, carried him away, clinging hard, and shouting for help. It
was some time, however, after the steamer had stopped that his position
was discovered. His sustained yelping for help seemed to come from
somebody swimming in the water. At last a couple of men went over the
bows and hauled him on board. He was carried straight off to Sotillo on
the bridge. His examination confirmed the impression that some craft had
been run over and sunk, but it was impracticable on such a dark night
to look for the positive proof of floating wreckage. Sotillo was more
anxious than ever now to enter the harbour without loss of time; the
idea that he had destroyed the principal object of his expedition was
too intolerable to be accepted. This feeling made the story he had heard
appear the more incredible. Senor Hirsch, after being beaten a little
for telling lies, was thrust into the chartroom. But he was beaten only
a little. His tale had taken the heart out of Sotillo's Staff, though
they all repeated round their chief, "Impossible! impossible!" with the
exception of the old major, who triumphed gloomily.

"I told you; I told you," he mumbled. "I could smell some treachery,
some diableria a league off."

Meantime, the steamer had kept on her way towards Sulaco, where only the
truth of that matter could be ascertained. Decoud and Nostromo heard the
loud churning of her propeller diminish and die out; and then, with no
useless words, busied themselves in making for the Isabels. The last
shower had brought with it a gentle but steady breeze. The danger was
not over yet, and there was no time for talk. The lighter was leaking
like a sieve. They splashed in the water at every step. The Capataz put
into Decoud's hands the handle of the pump which was fitted at the side
aft, and at once, without question or remark, Decoud began to pump in
utter forgetfulness of every desire but that of keeping the treasure
afloat. Nostromo hoisted the sail, flew back to the tiller, pulled at
the sheet like mad. The short flare of a match (they had been kept
dry in a tight tin box, though the man himself was completely wet),
disclosed to the toiling Decoud the eagerness of his face, bent low over
the box of the compass, and the attentive stare of his eyes. He knew
now where he was, and he hoped to run the sinking lighter ashore in
the shallow cove where the high, cliff-like end of the Great Isabel is
divided in two equal parts by a deep and overgrown ravine.

Decoud pumped without intermission. Nostromo steered without relaxing
for a second the intense, peering effort of his stare. Each of them was
as if utterly alone with his task. It did not occur to them to speak.
There was nothing in common between them but the knowledge that the
damaged lighter must be slowly but surely sinking. In that knowledge,
which was like the crucial test of their desires, they seemed to have
become completely estranged, as if they had discovered in the very shock
of the collision that the loss of the lighter would not mean the same
thing to them both. This common danger brought their differences in aim,
in view, in character, and in position, into absolute prominence in the
private vision of each. There was no bond of conviction, of common
idea; they were merely two adventurers pursuing each his own adventure,
involved in the same imminence of deadly peril. Therefore they had
nothing to say to each other. But this peril, this only incontrovertible
truth in which they shared, seemed to act as an inspiration to their
mental and bodily powers.

There was certainly something almost miraculous in the way the Capataz
made the cove with nothing but the shadowy hint of the island's shape
and the vague gleam of a small sandy strip for a guide. Where the ravine
opens between the cliffs, and a slender, shallow rivulet meanders out
of the bushes to lose itself in the sea, the lighter was run ashore; and
the two men, with a taciturn, undaunted energy, began to discharge her
precious freight, carrying each ox-hide box up the bed of the rivulet
beyond the bushes to a hollow place which the caving in of the soil had
made below the roots of a large tree. Its big smooth trunk leaned like
a falling column far over the trickle of water running amongst the loose
stones.

A couple of years before Nostromo had spent a whole Sunday, all alone,
exploring the island. He explained this to Decoud after their task was
done, and they sat, weary in every limb, with their legs hanging down
the low bank, and their backs against the tree, like a pair of blind
men aware of each other and their surroundings by some indefinable sixth
sense.

"Yes," Nostromo repeated, "I never forget a place I have carefully
looked at once." He spoke slowly, almost lazily, as if there had been a
whole leisurely life before him, instead of the scanty two hours before
daylight. The existence of the treasure, barely concealed in this
improbable spot, laid a burden of secrecy upon every contemplated step,
upon every intention and plan of future conduct. He felt the partial
failure of this desperate affair entrusted to the great reputation
he had known how to make for himself. However, it was also a partial
success. His vanity was half appeased. His nervous irritation had
subsided.

"You never know what may be of use," he pursued with his usual quietness
of tone and manner. "I spent a whole miserable Sunday in exploring this
crumb of land."

"A misanthropic sort of occupation," muttered Decoud, viciously. "You
had no money, I suppose, to gamble with, and to fling about amongst the
girls in your usual haunts, Capataz."

"_E vero!_" exclaimed the Capataz, surprised into the use of his native
tongue by so much perspicacity. "I had not! Therefore I did not want
to go amongst those beggarly people accustomed to my generosity. It is
looked for from the Capataz of the Cargadores, who are the rich men,
and, as it were, the Caballeros amongst the common people. I don't care
for cards but as a pastime; and as to those girls that boast of having
opened their doors to my knock, you know I wouldn't look at any one of
them twice except for what the people would say. They are queer, the
good people of Sulaco, and I have got much useful information simply by
listening patiently to the talk of the women that everybody believed
I was in love with. Poor Teresa could never understand that. On that
particular Sunday, senor, she scolded so that I went out of the house
swearing that I would never darken their door again unless to fetch
away my hammock and my chest of clothes. Senor, there is nothing more
exasperating than to hear a woman you respect rail against your good
reputation when you have not a single brass coin in your pocket. I
untied one of the small boats and pulled myself out of the harbour with
nothing but three cigars in my pocket to help me spend the day on this
island. But the water of this rivulet you hear under your feet is cool
and sweet and good, senor, both before and after a smoke." He was silent
for a while, then added reflectively, "That was the first Sunday after
I brought down the white-whiskered English rico all the way down the
mountains from the Paramo on the top of the Entrada Pass--and in the
coach, too! No coach had gone up or down that mountain road within the
memory of man, senor, till I brought this one down in charge of fifty
peons working like one man with ropes, pickaxes, and poles under my
direction. That was the rich Englishman who, as people say, pays for the
making of this railway. He was very pleased with me. But my wages were
not due till the end of the month."

He slid down the bank suddenly. Decoud heard the splash of his feet in
the brook and followed his footsteps down the ravine. His form was lost
among the bushes till he had reached the strip of sand under the cliff.
As often happens in the gulf when the showers during the first part
of the night had been frequent and heavy, the darkness had thinned
considerably towards the morning though there were no signs of daylight
as yet.

The cargo-lighter, relieved of its precious burden, rocked feebly,
half-afloat, with her fore-foot on the sand. A long rope stretched
away like a black cotton thread across the strip of white beach to
the grapnel Nostromo had carried ashore and hooked to the stem of a
tree-like shrub in the very opening of the ravine.

There was nothing for Decoud but to remain on the island. He received
from Nostromo's hands whatever food the foresight of Captain Mitchell
had put on board the lighter and deposited it temporarily in the little
dinghy which on their arrival they had hauled up out of sight amongst
the bushes. It was to be left with him. The island was to be a
hiding-place, not a prison; he could pull out to a passing ship. The
O.S.N. Company's mail boats passed close to the islands when going into
Sulaco from the north. But the Minerva, carrying off the ex-president,
had taken the news up north of the disturbances in Sulaco. It was
possible that the next steamer down would get instructions to miss the
port altogether since the town, as far as the Minerva's officers knew,
was for the time being in the hands of the rabble. This would mean that
there would be no steamer for a month, as far as the mail service went;
but Decoud had to take his chance of that. The island was his only
shelter from the proscription hanging over his head. The Capataz was,
of course, going back. The unloaded lighter leaked much less, and he
thought that she would keep afloat as far as the harbour.

He passed to Decoud, standing knee-deep alongside, one of the two spades
which belonged to the equipment of each lighter for use when ballasting
ships. By working with it carefully as soon as there was daylight enough
to see, Decoud could loosen a mass of earth and stones overhanging the
cavity in which they had deposited the treasure, so that it would look
as if it had fallen naturally. It would cover up not only the cavity,
but even all traces of their work, the footsteps, the displaced stones,
and even the broken bushes.

"Besides, who would think of looking either for you or the treasure
here?" Nostromo continued, as if he could not tear himself away from the
spot. "Nobody is ever likely to come here. What could any man want
with this piece of earth as long as there is room for his feet on the
mainland! The people in this country are not curious. There are even
no fishermen here to intrude upon your worship. All the fishing that
is done in the gulf goes on near Zapiga, over there. Senor, if you are
forced to leave this island before anything can be arranged for you, do
not try to make for Zapiga. It is a settlement of thieves and matreros,
where they would cut your throat promptly for the sake of your gold
watch and chain. And, senor, think twice before confiding in any one
whatever; even in the officers of the Company's steamers, if you ever
get on board one. Honesty alone is not enough for security. You must
look to discretion and prudence in a man. And always remember, senor,
before you open your lips for a confidence, that this treasure may be
left safely here for hundreds of years. Time is on its side, senor. And
silver is an incorruptible metal that can be trusted to keep its value
for ever. . . . An incorruptible metal," he repeated, as if the idea had
given him a profound pleasure.

"As some men are said to be," Decoud pronounced, inscrutably, while
the Capataz, who busied himself in baling out the lighter with a wooden
bucket, went on throwing the water over the side with a regular splash.
Decoud, incorrigible in his scepticism, reflected, not cynically, but
with general satisfaction, that this man was made incorruptible by his
enormous vanity, that finest form of egoism which can take on the aspect
of every virtue.

Nostromo ceased baling, and, as if struck with a sudden thought, dropped
the bucket with a clatter into the lighter.

"Have you any message?" he asked in a lowered voice. "Remember, I shall
be asked questions."

"You must find the hopeful words that ought to be spoken to the people
in town. I trust for that your intelligence and your experience,
Capataz. You understand?"

"Si, senor. . . . For the ladies."

"Yes, yes," said Decoud, hastily. "Your wonderful reputation will make
them attach great value to your words; therefore be careful what you
say. I am looking forward," he continued, feeling the fatal touch of
contempt for himself to which his complex nature was subject, "I am
looking forward to a glorious and successful ending to my mission. Do
you hear, Capataz? Use the words glorious and successful when you
speak to the senorita. Your own mission is accomplished gloriously and
successfully. You have indubitably saved the silver of the mine. Not
only this silver, but probably all the silver that shall ever come out
of it."

Nostromo detected the ironic tone. "I dare say, Senor Don Martin," he
said, moodily. "There are very few things that I am not equal to.
Ask the foreign signori. I, a man of the people, who cannot always
understand what you mean. But as to this lot which I must leave here,
let me tell you that I would believe it in greater safety if you had not
been with me at all."

An exclamation escaped Decoud, and a short pause followed. "Shall I go
back with you to Sulaco?" he asked in an angry tone.

"Shall I strike you dead with my knife where you stand?" retorted
Nostromo, contemptuously. "It would be the same thing as taking you to
Sulaco. Come, senor. Your reputation is in your politics, and mine is
bound up with the fate of this silver. Do you wonder I wish there
had been no other man to share my knowledge? I wanted no one with me,
senor."

"You could not have kept the lighter afloat without me," Decoud almost
shouted. "You would have gone to the bottom with her."

"Yes," uttered Nostromo, slowly; "alone."

Here was a man, Decoud reflected, that seemed as though he would have
preferred to die rather than deface the perfect form of his egoism. Such
a man was safe. In silence he helped the Capataz to get the grapnel on
board. Nostromo cleared the shelving shore with one push of the heavy
oar, and Decoud found himself solitary on the beach like a man in a
dream. A sudden desire to hear a human voice once more seized upon his
heart. The lighter was hardly distinguishable from the black water upon
which she floated.

"What do you think has become of Hirsch?" he shouted.

"Knocked overboard and drowned," cried Nostromo's voice confidently out
of the black wastes of sky and sea around the islet. "Keep close in the
ravine, senor. I shall try to come out to you in a night or two."

A slight swishing rustle showed that Nostromo was setting the sail. It
filled all at once with a sound as of a single loud drum-tap. Decoud
went back to the ravine. Nostromo, at the tiller, looked back from time
to time at the vanishing mass of the Great Isabel, which, little by
little, merged into the uniform texture of the night. At last, when
he turned his head again, he saw nothing but a smooth darkness, like a
solid wall.

Then he, too, experienced that feeling of solitude which had weighed
heavily on Decoud after the lighter had slipped off the shore. But while
the man on the island was oppressed by a bizarre sense of unreality
affecting the very ground upon which he walked, the mind of the Capataz
of the Cargadores turned alertly to the problem of future conduct.
Nostromo's faculties, working on parallel lines, enabled him to steer
straight, to keep a look-out for Hermosa, near which he had to pass, and
to try to imagine what would happen tomorrow in Sulaco. To-morrow, or,
as a matter of fact, to-day, since the dawn was not very far, Sotillo
would find out in what way the treasure had gone. A gang of Cargadores
had been employed in loading it into a railway truck from the Custom
House store-rooms, and running the truck on to the wharf. There would
be arrests made, and certainly before noon Sotillo would know in what
manner the silver had left Sulaco, and who it was that took it out.

Nostromo's intention had been to sail right into the harbour; but at
this thought by a sudden touch of the tiller he threw the lighter into
the wind and checked her rapid way. His re-appearance with the very
boat would raise suspicions, would cause surmises, would absolutely
put Sotillo on the track. He himself would be arrested; and once in
the Calabozo there was no saying what they would do to him to make
him speak. He trusted himself, but he stood up to look round. Near by,
Hermosa showed low its white surface as flat as a table, with the slight
run of the sea raised by the breeze washing over its edges noisily. The
lighter must be sunk at once.

He allowed her to drift with her sail aback. There was already a good
deal of water in her. He allowed her to drift towards the harbour
entrance, and, letting the tiller swing about, squatted down and
busied himself in loosening the plug. With that out she would fill very
quickly, and every lighter carried a little iron ballast--enough to make
her go down when full of water. When he stood up again the noisy wash
about the Hermosa sounded far away, almost inaudible; and already he
could make out the shape of land about the harbour entrance. This was a
desperate affair, and he was a good swimmer. A mile was nothing to him,
and he knew of an easy place for landing just below the earthworks of
the old abandoned fort. It occurred to him with a peculiar fascination
that this fort was a good place in which to sleep the day through after
so many sleepless nights.

With one blow of the tiller he unshipped for the purpose, he knocked the
plug out, but did not take the trouble to lower the sail. He felt the
water welling up heavily about his legs before he leaped on to the
taffrail. There, upright and motionless, in his shirt and trousers only,
he stood waiting. When he had felt her settle he sprang far away with a
mighty splash.

At once he turned his head. The gloomy, clouded dawn from behind the
mountains showed him on the smooth waters the upper corner of the sail,
a dark wet triangle of canvas waving slightly to and fro. He saw it
vanish, as if jerked under, and then struck out for the shore.





PART THIRD THE LIGHTHOUSE


CHAPTER ONE

Directly the cargo boat had slipped away from the wharf and got lost
in the darkness of the harbour the Europeans of Sulaco separated, to
prepare for the coming of the Monterist regime, which was approaching
Sulaco from the mountains, as well as from the sea.

This bit of manual work in loading the silver was their last concerted
action. It ended the three days of danger, during which, according to
the newspaper press of Europe, their energy had preserved the town
from the calamities of popular disorder. At the shore end of the jetty,
Captain Mitchell said good-night and turned back. His intention was to
walk the planks of the wharf till the steamer from Esmeralda turned up.
The engineers of the railway staff, collecting their Basque and Italian
workmen, marched them away to the railway yards, leaving the Custom
House, so well defended on the first day of the riot, standing open to
the four winds of heaven. Their men had conducted themselves bravely
and faithfully during the famous "three days" of Sulaco. In a great part
this faithfulness and that courage had been exercised in self-defence
rather than in the cause of those material interests to which Charles
Gould had pinned his faith. Amongst the cries of the mob not the least
loud had been the cry of death to foreigners. It was, indeed, a lucky
circumstance for Sulaco that the relations of those imported workmen
with the people of the country had been uniformly bad from the first.

Doctor Monygham, going to the door of Viola's kitchen, observed this
retreat marking the end of the foreign interference, this withdrawal of
the army of material progress from the field of Costaguana revolutions.

Algarrobe torches carried on the outskirts of the moving body sent their
penetrating aroma into his nostrils. Their light, sweeping along the
front of the house, made the letters of the inscription, "Albergo
d'ltalia Una," leap out black from end to end of the long wall. His eyes
blinked in the clear blaze. Several young men, mostly fair and tall,
shepherding this mob of dark bronzed heads, surmounted by the glint of
slanting rifle barrels, nodded to him familiarly as they went by. The
doctor was a well-known character. Some of them wondered what he was
doing there. Then, on the flank of their workmen they tramped on,
following the line of rails.

"Withdrawing your people from the harbour?" said the doctor, addressing
himself to the chief engineer of the railway, who had accompanied
Charles Gould so far on his way to the town, walking by the side of the
horse, with his hand on the saddle-bow. They had stopped just outside
the open door to let the workmen cross the road.

"As quick as I can. We are not a political faction," answered the
engineer, meaningly. "And we are not going to give our new rulers a
handle against the railway. You approve me, Gould?"

"Absolutely," said Charles Gould's impassive voice, high up and outside
the dim parallelogram of light falling on the road through the open
door.

With Sotillo expected from one side, and Pedro Montero from the other,
the engineer-in-chief's only anxiety now was to avoid a collision with
either. Sulaco, for him, was a railway station, a terminus, workshops,
a great accumulation of stores. As against the mob the railway defended
its property, but politically the railway was neutral. He was a brave
man; and in that spirit of neutrality he had carried proposals of truce
to the self-appointed chiefs of the popular party, the deputies Fuentes
and Gamacho. Bullets were still flying about when he had crossed the
Plaza on that mission, waving above his head a white napkin belonging to
the table linen of the Amarilla Club.

He was rather proud of this exploit; and reflecting that the doctor,
busy all day with the wounded in the patio of the Casa Gould, had
not had time to hear the news, he began a succinct narrative. He had
communicated to them the intelligence from the Construction Camp as to
Pedro Montero. The brother of the victorious general, he had assured
them, could be expected at Sulaco at any time now. This news (as he
anticipated), when shouted out of the window by Senor Gamacho, induced
a rush of the mob along the Campo Road towards Rincon. The two deputies
also, after shaking hands with him effusively, mounted and galloped off
to meet the great man. "I have misled them a little as to the time," the
chief engineer confessed. "However hard he rides, he can scarcely get
here before the morning. But my object is attained. I've secured several
hours' peace for the losing party. But I did not tell them anything
about Sotillo, for fear they would take it into their heads to try
to get hold of the harbour again, either to oppose him or welcome
him--there's no saying which. There was Gould's silver, on which rests
the remnant of our hopes. Decoud's retreat had to be thought of, too.
I think the railway has done pretty well by its friends without
compromising itself hopelessly. Now the parties must be left to
themselves."

"Costaguana for the Costaguaneros," interjected the doctor,
sardonically. "It is a fine country, and they have raised a fine crop of
hates, vengeance, murder, and rapine--those sons of the country."

"Well, I am one of them," Charles Gould's voice sounded, calmly, "and
I must be going on to see to my own crop of trouble. My wife has driven
straight on, doctor?"

"Yes. All was quiet on this side. Mrs. Gould has taken the two girls
with her."

Charles Gould rode on, and the engineer-in-chief followed the doctor
indoors.

"That man is calmness personified," he said, appreciatively, dropping on
a bench, and stretching his well-shaped legs in cycling stockings nearly
across the doorway. "He must be extremely sure of himself."

"If that's all he is sure of, then he is sure of nothing," said the
doctor. He had perched himself again on the end of the table. He nursed
his cheek in the palm of one hand, while the other sustained the
elbow. "It is the last thing a man ought to be sure of." The candle,
half-consumed and burning dimly with a long wick, lighted up from below
his inclined face, whose expression affected by the drawn-in cicatrices
in the cheeks, had something vaguely unnatural, an exaggerated
remorseful bitterness. As he sat there he had the air of meditating upon
sinister things. The engineer-in-chief gazed at him for a time before he
protested.

"I really don't see that. For me there seems to be nothing else.
However----"

He was a wise man, but he could not quite conceal his contempt for that
sort of paradox; in fact. Dr. Monygham was not liked by the Europeans
of Sulaco. His outward aspect of an outcast, which he preserved even in
Mrs. Gould's drawing-room, provoked unfavourable criticism. There could
be no doubt of his intelligence; and as he had lived for over twenty
years in the country, the pessimism of his outlook could not be
altogether ignored. But instinctively, in self-defence of their
activities and hopes, his hearers put it to the account of some hidden
imperfection in the man's character. It was known that many years
before, when quite young, he had been made by Guzman Bento chief medical
officer of the army. Not one of the Europeans then in the service
of Costaguana had been so much liked and trusted by the fierce old
Dictator.

Afterwards his story was not so clear. It lost itself amongst the
innumerable tales of conspiracies and plots against the tyrant as a
stream is lost in an arid belt of sandy country before it emerges,
diminished and troubled, perhaps, on the other side. The doctor made
no secret of it that he had lived for years in the wildest parts of
the Republic, wandering with almost unknown Indian tribes in the great
forests of the far interior where the great rivers have their sources.
But it was mere aimless wandering; he had written nothing, collected
nothing, brought nothing for science out of the twilight of the forests,
which seemed to cling to his battered personality limping about Sulaco,
where it had drifted in casually, only to get stranded on the shores of
the sea.

It was also known that he had lived in a state of destitution till the
arrival of the Goulds from Europe. Don Carlos and Dona Emilia had taken
up the mad English doctor, when it became apparent that for all his
savage independence he could be tamed by kindness. Perhaps it was
only hunger that had tamed him. In years gone by he had certainly been
acquainted with Charles Gould's father in Sta. Marta; and now, no matter
what were the dark passages of his history, as the medical officer of
the San Tome mine he became a recognized personality. He was recognized,
but not unreservedly accepted. So much defiant eccentricity and such
an outspoken scorn for mankind seemed to point to mere recklessness of
judgment, the bravado of guilt. Besides, since he had become again of
some account, vague whispers had been heard that years ago, when fallen
into disgrace and thrown into prison by Guzman Bento at the time of the
so-called Great Conspiracy, he had betrayed some of his best friends
amongst the conspirators. Nobody pretended to believe that whisper; the
whole story of the Great Conspiracy was hopelessly involved and obscure;
it is admitted in Costaguana that there never had been a conspiracy
except in the diseased imagination of the Tyrant; and, therefore,
nothing and no one to betray; though the most distinguished
Costaguaneros had been imprisoned and executed upon that accusation. The
procedure had dragged on for years, decimating the better class like
a pestilence. The mere expression of sorrow for the fate of executed
kinsmen had been punished with death. Don Jose Avellanos was perhaps the
only one living who knew the whole story of those unspeakable cruelties.
He had suffered from them himself, and he, with a shrug of the shoulders
and a nervous, jerky gesture of the arm, was wont to put away from him,
as it were, every allusion to it. But whatever the reason, Dr. Monygham,
a personage in the administration of the Gould Concession, treated with
reverent awe by the miners, and indulged in his peculiarities by Mrs.
Gould, remained somehow outside the pale.

It was not from any liking for the doctor that the engineer-in-chief had
lingered in the inn upon the plain. He liked old Viola much better. He
had come to look upon the Albergo d'ltalia Una as a dependence of the
railway. Many of his subordinates had their quarters there. Mrs. Gould's
interest in the family conferred upon it a sort of distinction. The
engineer-in-chief, with an army of workers under his orders, appreciated
the moral influence of the old Garibaldino upon his countrymen. His
austere, old-world Republicanism had a severe, soldier-like standard of
faithfulness and duty, as if the world were a battlefield where men had
to fight for the sake of universal love and brotherhood, instead of a
more or less large share of booty.

"Poor old chap!" he said, after he had heard the doctor's account of
Teresa. "He'll never be able to keep the place going by himself. I shall
be sorry."

"He's quite alone up there," grunted Doctor Monygham, with a toss of his
heavy head towards the narrow staircase. "Every living soul has cleared
out, and Mrs. Gould took the girls away just now. It might not be
over-safe for them out here before very long. Of course, as a doctor I
can do nothing more here; but she has asked me to stay with old Viola,
and as I have no horse to get back to the mine, where I ought to be, I
made no difficulty to stay. They can do without me in the town."

"I have a good mind to remain with you, doctor, till we see
whether anything happens to-night at the harbour," declared the
engineer-in-chief. "He must not be molested by Sotillo's soldiery, who
may push on as far as this at once. Sotillo used to be very cordial to
me at the Goulds' and at the club. How that man'll ever dare to look any
of his friends here in the face I can't imagine."

"He'll no doubt begin by shooting some of them to get over the first
awkwardness," said the doctor. "Nothing in this country serves better
your military man who has changed sides than a few summary executions."
He spoke with a gloomy positiveness that left no room for protest. The
engineer-in-chief did not attempt any. He simply nodded several times
regretfully, then said--

"I think we shall be able to mount you in the morning, doctor. Our peons
have recovered some of our stampeded horses. By riding hard and taking
a wide circuit by Los Hatos and along the edge of the forest, clear of
Rincon altogether, you may hope to reach the San Tome bridge without
being interfered with. The mine is just now, to my mind, the safest
place for anybody at all compromised. I only wish the railway was as
difficult to touch."

"Am I compromised?" Doctor Monygham brought out slowly after a short
silence.

"The whole Gould Concession is compromised. It could not have remained
for ever outside the political life of the country--if those convulsions
may be called life. The thing is--can it be touched? The moment was
bound to come when neutrality would become impossible, and Charles Gould
understood this well. I believe he is prepared for every extremity. A
man of his sort has never contemplated remaining indefinitely at the
mercy of ignorance and corruption. It was like being a prisoner in a
cavern of banditti with the price of your ransom in your pocket, and
buying your life from day to day. Your mere safety, not your liberty,
mind, doctor. I know what I am talking about. The image at which you
shrug your shoulders is perfectly correct, especially if you conceive
such a prisoner endowed with the power of replenishing his pocket by
means as remote from the faculties of his captors as if they were magic.
You must have understood that as well as I do, doctor. He was in the
position of the goose with the golden eggs. I broached this matter to
him as far back as Sir John's visit here. The prisoner of stupid and
greedy banditti is always at the mercy of the first imbecile ruffian,
who may blow out his brains in a fit of temper or for some prospect of
an immediate big haul. The tale of killing the goose with the golden
eggs has not been evolved for nothing out of the wisdom of mankind. It
is a story that will never grow old. That is why Charles Gould in his
deep, dumb way has countenanced the Ribierist Mandate, the first public
act that promised him safety on other than venal grounds. Ribierism has
failed, as everything merely rational fails in this country. But Gould
remains logical in wishing to save this big lot of silver. Decoud's plan
of a counter-revolution may be practicable or not, it may have a
chance, or it may not have a chance. With all my experience of this
revolutionary continent, I can hardly yet look at their methods
seriously. Decoud has been reading to us his draft of a proclamation,
and talking very well for two hours about his plan of action. He had
arguments which should have appeared solid enough if we, members of old,
stable political and national organizations, were not startled by the
mere idea of a new State evolved like this out of the head of a scoffing
young man fleeing for his life, with a proclamation in his pocket, to a
rough, jeering, half-bred swashbuckler, who in this part of the world is
called a general. It sounds like a comic fairy tale--and behold, it may
come off; because it is true to the very spirit of the country."

"Is the silver gone off, then?" asked the doctor, moodily.

The chief engineer pulled out his watch. "By Captain Mitchell's
reckoning--and he ought to know--it has been gone long enough now to
be some three or four miles outside the harbour; and, as Mitchell says,
Nostromo is the sort of seaman to make the best of his opportunities."
Here the doctor grunted so heavily that the other changed his tone.

"You have a poor opinion of that move, doctor? But why? Charles Gould
has got to play his game out, though he is not the man to formulate his
conduct even to himself, perhaps, let alone to others. It may be that
the game has been partly suggested to him by Holroyd; but it accords
with his character, too; and that is why it has been so successful.
Haven't they come to calling him 'El Rey de Sulaco' in Sta. Marta? A
nickname may be the best record of a success. That's what I call putting
the face of a joke upon the body of a truth. My dear sir, when I first
arrived in Sta. Marta I was struck by the way all those journalists,
demagogues, members of Congress, and all those generals and judges
cringed before a sleepy-eyed advocate without practice simply because he
was the plenipotentiary of the Gould Concession. Sir John when he came
out was impressed, too."

"A new State, with that plump dandy, Decoud, for the first President,"
mused Dr. Monygham, nursing his cheek and swinging his legs all the
time.

"Upon my word, and why not?" the chief engineer retorted in an
unexpectedly earnest and confidential voice. It was as if something
subtle in the air of Costaguana had inoculated him with the local faith
in "pronunciamientos." All at once he began to talk, like an expert
revolutionist, of the instrument ready to hand in the intact army at
Cayta, which could be brought back in a few days to Sulaco if only
Decoud managed to make his way at once down the coast. For the military
chief there was Barrios, who had nothing but a bullet to expect from
Montero, his former professional rival and bitter enemy. Barrios's
concurrence was assured. As to his army, it had nothing to expect from
Montero either; not even a month's pay. From that point of view the
existence of the treasure was of enormous importance. The mere knowledge
that it had been saved from the Monterists would be a strong inducement
for the Cayta troops to embrace the cause of the new State.

The doctor turned round and contemplated his companion for some time.

"This Decoud, I see, is a persuasive young beggar," he remarked at last.
"And pray is it for this, then, that Charles Gould has let the whole lot
of ingots go out to sea in charge of that Nostromo?"

"Charles Gould," said the engineer-in-chief, "has said no more about his
motive than usual. You know, he doesn't talk. But we all here know his
motive, and he has only one--the safety of the San Tome mine with the
preservation of the Gould Concession in the spirit of his compact with
Holroyd. Holroyd is another uncommon man. They understand each other's
imaginative side. One is thirty, the other nearly sixty, and they have
been made for each other. To be a millionaire, and such a millionaire
as Holroyd, is like being eternally young. The audacity of youth
reckons upon what it fancies an unlimited time at its disposal; but a
millionaire has unlimited means in his hand--which is better. One's time
on earth is an uncertain quantity, but about the long reach of millions
there is no doubt. The introduction of a pure form of Christianity into
this continent is a dream for a youthful enthusiast, and I have been
trying to explain to you why Holroyd at fifty-eight is like a man on the
threshold of life, and better, too. He's not a missionary, but the San
Tome mine holds just that for him. I assure you, in sober truth, that he
could not manage to keep this out of a strictly business conference upon
the finances of Costaguana he had with Sir John a couple of years ago.
Sir John mentioned it with amazement in a letter he wrote to me here,
from San Francisco, when on his way home. Upon my word, doctor, things
seem to be worth nothing by what they are in themselves. I begin to
believe that the only solid thing about them is the spiritual value
which everyone discovers in his own form of activity----"

"Bah!" interrupted the doctor, without stopping for an instant the idle
swinging movement of his legs. "Self-flattery. Food for that vanity
which makes the world go round. Meantime, what do you think is going to
happen to the treasure floating about the gulf with the great Capataz
and the great politician?"

"Why are you uneasy about it, doctor?"

"I uneasy! And what the devil is it to me? I put no spiritual value into
my desires, or my opinions, or my actions. They have not enough
vastness to give me room for self-flattery. Look, for instance, I should
certainly have liked to ease the last moments of that poor woman. And
I can't. It's impossible. Have you met the impossible face to face--or
have you, the Napoleon of railways, no such word in your dictionary?"

"Is she bound to have a very bad time of it?" asked the chief engineer,
with humane concern.

Slow, heavy footsteps moved across the planks above the heavy hard wood
beams of the kitchen. Then down the narrow opening of the staircase made
in the thickness of the wall, and narrow enough to be defended by one
man against twenty enemies, came the murmur of two voices, one faint and
broken, the other deep and gentle answering it, and in its graver tone
covering the weaker sound.

The two men remained still and silent till the murmurs ceased, then the
doctor shrugged his shoulders and muttered--

"Yes, she's bound to. And I could do nothing if I went up now."

A long period of silence above and below ensued.

"I fancy," began the engineer, in a subdued voice, "that you mistrust
Captain Mitchell's Capataz."

"Mistrust him!" muttered the doctor through his teeth. "I believe him
capable of anything--even of the most absurd fidelity. I am the last
person he spoke to before he left the wharf, you know. The poor woman up
there wanted to see him, and I let him go up to her. The dying must not
be contradicted, you know. She seemed then fairly calm and resigned,
but the scoundrel in those ten minutes or so has done or said something
which seems to have driven her into despair. You know," went on
the doctor, hesitatingly, "women are so very unaccountable in every
position, and at all times of life, that I thought sometimes she was in
a way, don't you see? in love with him--the Capataz. The rascal has his
own charm indubitably, or he would not have made the conquest of all the
populace of the town. No, no, I am not absurd. I may have given a wrong
name to some strong sentiment for him on her part, to an unreasonable
and simple attitude a woman is apt to take up emotionally towards a
man. She used to abuse him to me frequently, which, of course, is not
inconsistent with my idea. Not at all. It looked to me as if she were
always thinking of him. He was something important in her life. You
know, I have seen a lot of those people. Whenever I came down from
the mine Mrs. Gould used to ask me to keep my eye on them. She likes
Italians; she has lived a long time in Italy, I believe, and she took
a special fancy to that old Garibaldino. A remarkable chap enough. A
rugged and dreamy character, living in the republicanism of his
young days as if in a cloud. He has encouraged much of the Capataz's
confounded nonsense--the high-strung, exalted old beggar!"

"What sort of nonsense?" wondered the chief engineer. "I found the
Capataz always a very shrewd and sensible fellow, absolutely fearless,
and remarkably useful. A perfect handy man. Sir John was greatly
impressed by his resourcefulness and attention when he made that
overland journey from Sta. Marta. Later on, as you might have heard,
he rendered us a service by disclosing to the then chief of police
the presence in the town of some professional thieves, who came from
a distance to wreck and rob our monthly pay train. He has certainly
organized the lighterage service of the harbour for the O.S.N. Company
with great ability. He knows how to make himself obeyed, foreigner
though he is. It is true that the Cargadores are strangers here, too,
for the most part--immigrants, Islenos."

"His prestige is his fortune," muttered the doctor, sourly.

"The man has proved his trustworthiness up to the hilt on innumerable
occasions and in all sorts of ways," argued the engineer. "When this
question of the silver arose, Captain Mitchell naturally was very warmly
of the opinion that his Capataz was the only man fit for the trust. As
a sailor, of course, I suppose so. But as a man, don't you know, Gould,
Decoud, and myself judged that it didn't matter in the least who went.
Any boatman would have done just as well. Pray, what could a thief do
with such a lot of ingots? If he ran off with them he would have in
the end to land somewhere, and how could he conceal his cargo from the
knowledge of the people ashore? We dismissed that consideration from our
minds. Moreover, Decoud was going. There have been occasions when the
Capataz has been more implicitly trusted."

"He took a slightly different view," the doctor said. "I heard him
declare in this very room that it would be the most desperate affair of
his life. He made a sort of verbal will here in my hearing, appointing
old Viola his executor; and, by Jove! do you know, he--he's not grown
rich by his fidelity to you good people of the railway and the harbour.
I suppose he obtains some--how do you say that?--some spiritual value
for his labours, or else I don't know why the devil he should be
faithful to you, Gould, Mitchell, or anybody else. He knows this country
well. He knows, for instance, that Gamacho, the Deputy from Javira, has
been nothing else but a 'tramposo' of the commonest sort, a petty pedlar
of the Campo, till he managed to get enough goods on credit from Anzani
to open a little store in the wilds, and got himself elected by the
drunken mozos that hang about the Estancias and the poorest sort of
rancheros who were in his debt. And Gamacho, who to-morrow will be
probably one of our high officials, is a stranger, too--an Isleno.
He might have been a Cargador on the O. S. N. wharf had he not (the
posadero of Rincon is ready to swear it) murdered a pedlar in the woods
and stolen his pack to begin life on. And do you think that Gamacho,
then, would have ever become a hero with the democracy of this place,
like our Capataz? Of course not. He isn't half the man. No; decidedly, I
think that Nostromo is a fool."

The doctor's talk was distasteful to the builder of railways. "It is
impossible to argue that point," he said, philosophically. "Each man has
his gifts. You should have heard Gamacho haranguing his friends in the
street. He has a howling voice, and he shouted like mad, lifting his
clenched fist right above his head, and throwing his body half out
of the window. At every pause the rabble below yelled, 'Down with the
Oligarchs! Viva la Libertad!' Fuentes inside looked extremely miserable.
You know, he is the brother of Jorge Fuentes, who has been Minister of
the Interior for six months or so, some few years back. Of course, he
has no conscience; but he is a man of birth and education--at one time
the director of the Customs of Cayta. That idiot-brute Gamacho fastened
himself upon him with his following of the lowest rabble. His sickly
fear of that ruffian was the most rejoicing sight imaginable."

He got up and went to the door to look out towards the harbour. "All
quiet," he said; "I wonder if Sotillo really means to turn up here?"



CHAPTER TWO

Captain Mitchell, pacing the wharf, was asking himself the same
question. There was always the doubt whether the warning of the
Esmeralda telegraphist--a fragmentary and interrupted message--had been
properly understood. However, the good man had made up his mind not
to go to bed till daylight, if even then. He imagined himself to have
rendered an enormous service to Charles Gould. When he thought of the
saved silver he rubbed his hands together with satisfaction. In his
simple way he was proud at being a party to this extremely clever
expedient. It was he who had given it a practical shape by suggesting
the possibility of intercepting at sea the north-bound steamer. And it
was advantageous to his Company, too, which would have lost a valuable
freight if the treasure had been left ashore to be confiscated.
The pleasure of disappointing the Monterists was also very great.
Authoritative by temperament and the long habit of command, Captain
Mitchell was no democrat. He even went so far as to profess a contempt
for parliamentarism itself. "His Excellency Don Vincente Ribiera," he
used to say, "whom I and that fellow of mine, Nostromo, had the honour,
sir, and the pleasure of saving from a cruel death, deferred too much to
his Congress. It was a mistake--a distinct mistake, sir."

The guileless old seaman superintending the O.S.N. service imagined that
the last three days had exhausted every startling surprise the political
life of Costaguana could offer. He used to confess afterwards that the
events which followed surpassed his imagination. To begin with, Sulaco
(because of the seizure of the cables and the disorganization of the
steam service) remained for a whole fortnight cut off from the rest of
the world like a besieged city.

"One would not have believed it possible; but so it was, sir. A full
fortnight."

The account of the extraordinary things that happened during that
time, and the powerful emotions he experienced, acquired a comic
impressiveness from the pompous manner of his personal narrative. He
opened it always by assuring his hearer that he was "in the thick
of things from first to last." Then he would begin by describing the
getting away of the silver, and his natural anxiety lest "his fellow" in
charge of the lighter should make some mistake. Apart from the loss of
so much precious metal, the life of Senor Martin Decoud, an agreeable,
wealthy, and well-informed young gentleman, would have been jeopardized
through his falling into the hands of his political enemies. Captain
Mitchell also admitted that in his solitary vigil on the wharf he had
felt a certain measure of concern for the future of the whole country.

"A feeling, sir," he explained, "perfectly comprehensible in a man
properly grateful for the many kindnesses received from the best
families of merchants and other native gentlemen of independent means,
who, barely saved by us from the excesses of the mob, seemed, to my
mind's eye, destined to become the prey in person and fortune of the
native soldiery, which, as is well known, behave with regrettable
barbarity to the inhabitants during their civil commotions. And then,
sir, there were the Goulds, for both of whom, man and wife, I could not
but entertain the warmest feelings deserved by their hospitality and
kindness. I felt, too, the dangers of the gentlemen of the Amarilla
Club, who had made me honorary member, and had treated me with uniform
regard and civility, both in my capacity of Consular Agent and as
Superintendent of an important Steam Service. Miss Antonia Avellanos,
the most beautiful and accomplished young lady whom it had ever been my
privilege to speak to, was not a little in my mind, I confess. How the
interests of my Company would be affected by the impending change of
officials claimed a large share of my attention, too. In short, sir,
I was extremely anxious and very tired, as you may suppose, by the
exciting and memorable events in which I had taken my little part. The
Company's building containing my residence was within five minutes'
walk, with the attraction of some supper and of my hammock (I always
take my nightly rest in a hammock, as the most suitable to the climate);
but somehow, sir, though evidently I could do nothing for any one by
remaining about, I could not tear myself away from that wharf, where the
fatigue made me stumble painfully at times. The night was excessively
dark--the darkest I remember in my life; so that I began to think that
the arrival of the transport from Esmeralda could not possibly take
place before daylight, owing to the difficulty of navigating the gulf.
The mosquitoes bit like fury. We have been infested here with mosquitoes
before the late improvements; a peculiar harbour brand, sir, renowned
for its ferocity. They were like a cloud about my head, and I shouldn't
wonder that but for their attacks I would have dozed off as I walked
up and down, and got a heavy fall. I kept on smoking cigar after cigar,
more to protect myself from being eaten up alive than from any real
relish for the weed. Then, sir, when perhaps for the twentieth time I
was approaching my watch to the lighted end in order to see the time,
and observing with surprise that it wanted yet ten minutes to midnight,
I heard the splash of a ship's propeller--an unmistakable sound to a
sailor's ear on such a calm night. It was faint indeed, because they
were advancing with precaution and dead slow, both on account of the
darkness and from their desire of not revealing too soon their presence:
a very unnecessary care, because, I verily believe, in all the enormous
extent of this harbour I was the only living soul about. Even the
usual staff of watchmen and others had been absent from their posts for
several nights owing to the disturbances. I stood stock still, after
dropping and stamping out my cigar--a circumstance highly agreeable,
I should think, to the mosquitoes, if I may judge from the state of my
face next morning. But that was a trifling inconvenience in comparison
with the brutal proceedings I became victim of on the part of Sotillo.
Something utterly inconceivable, sir; more like the proceedings of
a maniac than the action of a sane man, however lost to all sense
of honour and decency. But Sotillo was furious at the failure of his
thievish scheme."

In this Captain Mitchell was right. Sotillo was indeed infuriated.
Captain Mitchell, however, had not been arrested at once; a vivid
curiosity induced him to remain on the wharf (which is nearly four
hundred feet long) to see, or rather hear, the whole process of
disembarkation. Concealed by the railway truck used for the silver,
which had been run back afterwards to the shore end of the jetty,
Captain Mitchell saw the small detachment thrown forward, pass by,
taking different directions upon the plain. Meantime, the troops were
being landed and formed into a column, whose head crept up gradually so
close to him that he made it out, barring nearly the whole width of
the wharf, only a very few yards from him. Then the low, shuffling,
murmuring, clinking sounds ceased, and the whole mass remained for about
an hour motionless and silent, awaiting the return of the scouts. On
land nothing was to be heard except the deep baying of the mastiffs at
the railway yards, answered by the faint barking of the curs infesting
the outer limits of the town. A detached knot of dark shapes stood in
front of the head of the column.

Presently the picket at the end of the wharf began to challenge in
undertones single figures approaching from the plain. Those messengers
sent back from the scouting parties flung to their comrades brief
sentences and passed on rapidly, becoming lost in the great motionless
mass, to make their report to the Staff. It occurred to Captain Mitchell
that his position could become disagreeable and perhaps dangerous, when
suddenly, at the head of the jetty, there was a shout of command, a
bugle call, followed by a stir and a rattling of arms, and a murmuring
noise that ran right up the column. Near by a loud voice directed
hurriedly, "Push that railway car out of the way!" At the rush of bare
feet to execute the order Captain Mitchell skipped back a pace or two;
the car, suddenly impelled by many hands, flew away from him along the
rails, and before he knew what had happened he found himself surrounded
and seized by his arms and the collar of his coat.

"We have caught a man hiding here, mi teniente!" cried one of his
captors.

"Hold him on one side till the rearguard comes along," answered the
voice. The whole column streamed past Captain Mitchell at a run, the
thundering noise of their feet dying away suddenly on the shore. His
captors held him tightly, disregarding his declaration that he was
an Englishman and his loud demands to be taken at once before their
commanding officer. Finally he lapsed into dignified silence. With a
hollow rumble of wheels on the planks a couple of field guns, dragged
by hand, rolled by. Then, after a small body of men had marched past
escorting four or five figures which walked in advance, with a jingle
of steel scabbards, he felt a tug at his arms, and was ordered to come
along. During the passage from the wharf to the Custom House it is to be
feared that Captain Mitchell was subjected to certain indignities at
the hands of the soldiers--such as jerks, thumps on the neck, forcible
application of the butt of a rifle to the small of his back. Their ideas
of speed were not in accord with his notion of his dignity. He became
flustered, flushed, and helpless. It was as if the world were coming to
an end.

The long building was surrounded by troops, which were already piling
arms by companies and preparing to pass the night lying on the ground in
their ponchos with their sacks under their heads. Corporals moved with
swinging lanterns posting sentries all round the walls wherever there
was a door or an opening. Sotillo was taking his measures to protect his
conquest as if it had indeed contained the treasure. His desire to
make his fortune at one audacious stroke of genius had overmastered his
reasoning faculties. He would not believe in the possibility of failure;
the mere hint of such a thing made his brain reel with rage. Every
circumstance pointing to it appeared incredible. The statement of
Hirsch, which was so absolutely fatal to his hopes, could by no means
be admitted. It is true, too, that Hirsch's story had been told so
incoherently, with such excessive signs of distraction, that it really
looked improbable. It was extremely difficult, as the saying is, to make
head or tail of it. On the bridge of the steamer, directly after his
rescue, Sotillo and his officers, in their impatience and excitement,
would not give the wretched man time to collect such few wits as
remained to him. He ought to have been quieted, soothed, and reassured,
whereas he had been roughly handled, cuffed, shaken, and addressed in
menacing tones. His struggles, his wriggles, his attempts to get down on
his knees, followed by the most violent efforts to break away, as if he
meant incontinently to jump overboard, his shrieks and shrinkings and
cowering wild glances had filled them first with amazement, then with
a doubt of his genuineness, as men are wont to suspect the sincerity of
every great passion. His Spanish, too, became so mixed up with German
that the better half of his statements remained incomprehensible. He
tried to propitiate them by calling them hochwohlgeboren herren, which
in itself sounded suspicious. When admonished sternly not to trifle he
repeated his entreaties and protestations of loyalty and innocence again
in German, obstinately, because he was not aware in what language he was
speaking. His identity, of course, was perfectly known as an inhabitant
of Esmeralda, but this made the matter no clearer. As he kept on
forgetting Decoud's name, mixing him up with several other people he had
seen in the Casa Gould, it looked as if they all had been in the lighter
together; and for a moment Sotillo thought that he had drowned every
prominent Ribierist of Sulaco. The improbability of such a thing threw
a doubt upon the whole statement. Hirsch was either mad or playing a
part--pretending fear and distraction on the spur of the moment to
cover the truth. Sotillo's rapacity, excited to the highest pitch by the
prospect of an immense booty, could believe in nothing adverse. This Jew
might have been very much frightened by the accident, but he knew where
the silver was concealed, and had invented this story, with his Jewish
cunning, to put him entirely off the track as to what had been done.

Sotillo had taken up his quarters on the upper floor in a vast apartment
with heavy black beams. But there was no ceiling, and the eye lost
itself in the darkness under the high pitch of the roof. The thick
shutters stood open. On a long table could be seen a large inkstand,
some stumpy, inky quill pens, and two square wooden boxes, each holding
half a hundred-weight of sand. Sheets of grey coarse official paper
bestrewed the floor. It must have been a room occupied by some higher
official of the Customs, because a large leathern armchair stood behind
the table, with other high-backed chairs scattered about. A net hammock
was swung under one of the beams--for the official's afternoon siesta,
no doubt. A couple of candles stuck into tall iron candlesticks gave a
dim reddish light. The colonel's hat, sword, and revolver lay between
them, and a couple of his more trusty officers lounged gloomily against
the table. The colonel threw himself into the armchair, and a big negro
with a sergeant's stripes on his ragged sleeve, kneeling down, pulled
off his boots. Sotillo's ebony moustache contrasted violently with the
livid colouring of his cheeks. His eyes were sombre and as if sunk very
far into his head. He seemed exhausted by his perplexities, languid with
disappointment; but when the sentry on the landing thrust his head in to
announce the arrival of a prisoner, he revived at once.

"Let him be brought in," he shouted, fiercely.

The door flew open, and Captain Mitchell, bareheaded, his waistcoat
open, the bow of his tie under his ear, was hustled into the room.

Sotillo recognized him at once. He could not have hoped for a more
precious capture; here was a man who could tell him, if he chose,
everything he wished to know--and directly the problem of how best to
make him talk to the point presented itself to his mind. The resentment
of a foreign nation had no terrors for Sotillo. The might of the whole
armed Europe would not have protected Captain Mitchell from insults and
ill-usage, so well as the quick reflection of Sotillo that this was an
Englishman who would most likely turn obstinate under bad treatment, and
become quite unmanageable. At all events, the colonel smoothed the scowl
on his brow.

"What! The excellent Senor Mitchell!" he cried, in affected dismay.
The pretended anger of his swift advance and of his shout, "Release
the caballero at once," was so effective that the astounded soldiers
positively sprang away from their prisoner. Thus suddenly deprived
of forcible support, Captain Mitchell reeled as though about to fall.
Sotillo took him familiarly under the arm, led him to a chair, waved his
hand at the room. "Go out, all of you," he commanded.

When they had been left alone he stood looking down, irresolute and
silent, watching till Captain Mitchell had recovered his power of
speech.

Here in his very grasp was one of the men concerned in the removal of
the silver. Sotillo's temperament was of that sort that he experienced
an ardent desire to beat him; just as formerly when negotiating with
difficulty a loan from the cautious Anzani, his fingers always itched
to take the shopkeeper by the throat. As to Captain Mitchell, the
suddenness, unexpectedness, and general inconceivableness of this
experience had confused his thoughts. Moreover, he was physically out of
breath.

"I've been knocked down three times between this and the wharf," he
gasped out at last. "Somebody shall be made to pay for this." He had
certainly stumbled more than once, and had been dragged along for some
distance before he could regain his stride. With his recovered breath
his indignation seemed to madden him. He jumped up, crimson, all his
white hair bristling, his eyes glaring vengefully, and shook violently
the flaps of his ruined waistcoat before the disconcerted Sotillo.
"Look! Those uniformed thieves of yours downstairs have robbed me of my
watch."

The old sailor's aspect was very threatening. Sotillo saw himself cut
off from the table on which his sabre and revolver were lying.

"I demand restitution and apologies," Mitchell thundered at him, quite
beside himself. "From you! Yes, from you!"

For the space of a second or so the colonel stood with a perfectly stony
expression of face; then, as Captain Mitchell flung out an arm towards
the table as if to snatch up the revolver, Sotillo, with a yell of
alarm, bounded to the door and was gone in a flash, slamming it after
him. Surprise calmed Captain Mitchell's fury. Behind the closed door
Sotillo shouted on the landing, and there was a great tumult of feet on
the wooden staircase.

"Disarm him! Bind him!" the colonel could be heard vociferating.

Captain Mitchell had just the time to glance once at the windows, with
three perpendicular bars of iron each and some twenty feet from the
ground, as he well knew, before the door flew open and the rush upon him
took place. In an incredibly short time he found himself bound with
many turns of a hide rope to a high-backed chair, so that his head alone
remained free. Not till then did Sotillo, who had been leaning in the
doorway trembling visibly, venture again within. The soldiers, picking
up from the floor the rifles they had dropped to grapple with the
prisoner, filed out of the room. The officers remained leaning on their
swords and looking on.

"The watch! the watch!" raved the colonel, pacing to and fro like a
tiger in a cage. "Give me that man's watch."

It was true, that when searched for arms in the hall downstairs, before
being taken into Sotillo's presence, Captain Mitchell had been relieved
of his watch and chain; but at the colonel's clamour it was produced
quickly enough, a corporal bringing it up, carried carefully in the
palms of his joined hands. Sotillo snatched it, and pushed the clenched
fist from which it dangled close to Captain Mitchell's face.

"Now then! You arrogant Englishman! You dare to call the soldiers of the
army thieves! Behold your watch."

He flourished his fist as if aiming blows at the prisoner's nose.
Captain Mitchell, helpless as a swathed infant, looked anxiously at
the sixty-guinea gold half-chronometer, presented to him years ago by
a Committee of Underwriters for saving a ship from total loss by fire.
Sotillo, too, seemed to perceive its valuable appearance. He became
silent suddenly, stepped aside to the table, and began a careful
examination in the light of the candles. He had never seen anything so
fine. His officers closed in and craned their necks behind his back.

He became so interested that for an instant he forgot his precious
prisoner. There is always something childish in the rapacity of the
passionate, clear-minded, Southern races, wanting in the misty idealism
of the Northerners, who at the smallest encouragement dream of nothing
less than the conquest of the earth. Sotillo was fond of jewels, gold
trinkets, of personal adornment. After a moment he turned about, and
with a commanding gesture made all his officers fall back. He laid down
the watch on the table, then, negligently, pushed his hat over it.

"Ha!" he began, going up very close to the chair. "You dare call my
valiant soldiers of the Esmeralda regiment, thieves. You dare! What
impudence! You foreigners come here to rob our country of its wealth.
You never have enough! Your audacity knows no bounds."

He looked towards the officers, amongst whom there was an approving
murmur. The older major was moved to declare--

"Si, mi colonel. They are all traitors."

"I shall say nothing," continued Sotillo, fixing the motionless and
powerless Mitchell with an angry but uneasy stare. "I shall say nothing
of your treacherous attempt to get possession of my revolver to shoot me
while I was trying to treat you with consideration you did not deserve.
You have forfeited your life. Your only hope is in my clemency."

He watched for the effect of his words, but there was no obvious sign of
fear on Captain Mitchell's face. His white hair was full of dust,
which covered also the rest of his helpless person. As if he had heard
nothing, he twitched an eyebrow to get rid of a bit of straw which hung
amongst the hairs.

Sotillo advanced one leg and put his arms akimbo. "It is you, Mitchell,"
he said, emphatically, "who are the thief, not my soldiers!" He pointed
at his prisoner a forefinger with a long, almond-shaped nail. "Where
is the silver of the San Tome mine? I ask you, Mitchell, where is the
silver that was deposited in this Custom House? Answer me that! You
stole it. You were a party to stealing it. It was stolen from the
Government. Aha! you think I do not know what I say; but I am up to your
foreign tricks. It is gone, the silver! No? Gone in one of your lanchas,
you miserable man! How dared you?"

This time he produced his effect. "How on earth could Sotillo know
that?" thought Mitchell. His head, the only part of his body that could
move, betrayed his surprise by a sudden jerk.

"Ha! you tremble," Sotillo shouted, suddenly. "It is a conspiracy. It is
a crime against the State. Did you not know that the silver belongs
to the Republic till the Government claims are satisfied? Where is it?
Where have you hidden it, you miserable thief?"

At this question Captain Mitchell's sinking spirits revived. In whatever
incomprehensible manner Sotillo had already got his information about
the lighter, he had not captured it. That was clear. In his outraged
heart, Captain Mitchell had resolved that nothing would induce him to
say a word while he remained so disgracefully bound, but his desire to
help the escape of the silver made him depart from this resolution. His
wits were very much at work. He detected in Sotillo a certain air of
doubt, of irresolution.

"That man," he said to himself, "is not certain of what he advances."
For all his pomposity in social intercourse, Captain Mitchell could meet
the realities of life in a resolute and ready spirit. Now he had
got over the first shock of the abominable treatment he was cool and
collected enough. The immense contempt he felt for Sotillo steadied him,
and he said oracularly, "No doubt it is well concealed by this time."

Sotillo, too, had time to cool down. "Muy bien, Mitchell," he said in a
cold and threatening manner. "But can you produce the Government receipt
for the royalty and the Custom House permit of embarkation, hey? Can
you? No. Then the silver has been removed illegally, and the guilty
shall be made to suffer, unless it is produced within five days from
this." He gave orders for the prisoner to be unbound and locked up in
one of the smaller rooms downstairs. He walked about the room, moody and
silent, till Captain Mitchell, with each of his arms held by a couple of
men, stood up, shook himself, and stamped his feet.

"How did you like to be tied up, Mitchell?" he asked, derisively.

"It is the most incredible, abominable use of power!" Captain Mitchell
declared in a loud voice. "And whatever your purpose, you shall gain
nothing from it, I can promise you."

The tall colonel, livid, with his coal-black ringlets and moustache,
crouched, as it were, to look into the eyes of the short, thick-set,
red-faced prisoner with rumpled white hair.

"That we shall see. You shall know my power a little better when I tie
you up to a potalon outside in the sun for a whole day." He drew himself
up haughtily, and made a sign for Captain Mitchell to be led away.

"What about my watch?" cried Captain Mitchell, hanging back from the
efforts of the men pulling him towards the door.

Sotillo turned to his officers. "No! But only listen to this picaro,
caballeros," he pronounced with affected scorn, and was answered by a
chorus of derisive laughter. "He demands his watch!" . . . He ran up
again to Captain Mitchell, for the desire to relieve his feelings by
inflicting blows and pain upon this Englishman was very strong within
him. "Your watch! You are a prisoner in war time, Mitchell! In war time!
You have no rights and no property! Caramba! The very breath in your
body belongs to me. Remember that."

"Bosh!" said Captain Mitchell, concealing a disagreeable impression.

Down below, in a great hall, with the earthen floor and with a tall
mound thrown up by white ants in a corner, the soldiers had kindled
a small fire with broken chairs and tables near the arched gateway,
through which the faint murmur of the harbour waters on the beach could
be heard. While Captain Mitchell was being led down the staircase, an
officer passed him, running up to report to Sotillo the capture of more
prisoners. A lot of smoke hung about in the vast gloomy place, the
fire crackled, and, as if through a haze, Captain Mitchell made out,
surrounded by short soldiers with fixed bayonets, the heads of three
tall prisoners--the doctor, the engineer-in-chief, and the white leonine
mane of old Viola, who stood half-turned away from the others with his
chin on his breast and his arms crossed. Mitchell's astonishment knew no
bounds. He cried out; the other two exclaimed also. But he hurried on,
diagonally, across the big cavern-like hall. Lots of thoughts, surmises,
hints of caution, and so on, crowded his head to distraction.

"Is he actually keeping you?" shouted the chief engineer, whose single
eyeglass glittered in the firelight.

An officer from the top of the stairs was shouting urgently, "Bring them
all up--all three."

In the clamour of voices and the rattle of arms, Captain Mitchell made
himself heard imperfectly: "By heavens! the fellow has stolen my watch."

The engineer-in-chief on the staircase resisted the pressure long enough
to shout, "What? What did you say?"

"My chronometer!" Captain Mitchell yelled violently at the very moment
of being thrust head foremost through a small door into a sort of cell,
perfectly black, and so narrow that he fetched up against the opposite
wall. The door had been instantly slammed. He knew where they had put
him. This was the strong room of the Custom House, whence the silver
had been removed only a few hours earlier. It was almost as narrow as
a corridor, with a small square aperture, barred by a heavy grating, at
the distant end. Captain Mitchell staggered for a few steps, then sat
down on the earthen floor with his back to the wall. Nothing, not even
a gleam of light from anywhere, interfered with Captain Mitchell's
meditation. He did some hard but not very extensive thinking. It was
not of a gloomy cast. The old sailor, with all his small weaknesses
and absurdities, was constitutionally incapable of entertaining for
any length of time a fear of his personal safety. It was not so much
firmness of soul as the lack of a certain kind of imagination--the kind
whose undue development caused intense suffering to Senor Hirsch; that
sort of imagination which adds the blind terror of bodily suffering and
of death, envisaged as an accident to the body alone, strictly--to all
the other apprehensions on which the sense of one's existence is based.
Unfortunately, Captain Mitchell had not much penetration of any kind;
characteristic, illuminating trifles of expression, action, or movement,
escaped him completely. He was too pompously and innocently aware of
his own existence to observe that of others. For instance, he could
not believe that Sotillo had been really afraid of him, and this simply
because it would never have entered into his head to shoot any one
except in the most pressing case of self-defence. Anybody could see he
was not a murdering kind of man, he reflected quite gravely. Then
why this preposterous and insulting charge? he asked himself. But his
thoughts mainly clung around the astounding and unanswerable question:
How the devil the fellow got to know that the silver had gone off in the
lighter? It was obvious that he had not captured it. And, obviously, he
could not have captured it! In this last conclusion Captain Mitchell
was misled by the assumption drawn from his observation of the weather
during his long vigil on the wharf. He thought that there had been much
more wind than usual that night in the gulf; whereas, as a matter of
fact, the reverse was the case.

"How in the name of all that's marvellous did that confounded fellow get
wind of the affair?" was the first question he asked directly after the
bang, clatter, and flash of the open door (which was closed again
almost before he could lift his dropped head) informed him that he had a
companion of captivity. Dr. Monygham's voice stopped muttering curses in
English and Spanish.

"Is that you, Mitchell?" he made answer, surlily. "I struck my forehead
against this confounded wall with enough force to fell an ox. Where are
you?"

Captain Mitchell, accustomed to the darkness, could make out the doctor
stretching out his hands blindly.

"I am sitting here on the floor. Don't fall over my legs," Captain
Mitchell's voice announced with great dignity of tone. The doctor,
entreated not to walk about in the dark, sank down to the ground, too.
The two prisoners of Sotillo, with their heads nearly touching, began to
exchange confidences.

"Yes," the doctor related in a low tone to Captain Mitchell's vehement
curiosity, "we have been nabbed in old Viola's place. It seems that one
of their pickets, commanded by an officer, pushed as far as the town
gate. They had orders not to enter, but to bring along every soul they
could find on the plain. We had been talking in there with the door
open, and no doubt they saw the glimmer of our light. They must have
been making their approaches for some time. The engineer laid himself
on a bench in a recess by the fire-place, and I went upstairs to have a
look. I hadn't heard any sound from there for a long time. Old Viola,
as soon as he saw me come up, lifted his arm for silence. I stole in
on tiptoe. By Jove, his wife was lying down and had gone to sleep. The
woman had actually dropped off to sleep! 'Senor Doctor,' Viola whispers
to me, 'it looks as if her oppression was going to get better.' 'Yes,'
I said, very much surprised; 'your wife is a wonderful woman, Giorgio.'
Just then a shot was fired in the kitchen, which made us jump and cower
as if at a thunder-clap. It seems that the party of soldiers had stolen
quite close up, and one of them had crept up to the door. He looked in,
thought there was no one there, and, holding his rifle ready, entered
quietly. The chief told me that he had just closed his eyes for a
moment. When he opened them, he saw the man already in the middle of
the room peering into the dark corners. The chief was so startled that,
without thinking, he made one leap from the recess right out in front
of the fireplace. The soldier, no less startled, up with his rifle
and pulls the trigger, deafening and singeing the engineer, but in his
flurry missing him completely. But, look what happens! At the noise of
the report the sleeping woman sat up, as if moved by a spring, with a
shriek, 'The children, Gian' Battista! Save the children!' I have it in
my ears now. It was the truest cry of distress I ever heard. I stood as
if paralyzed, but the old husband ran across to the bedside, stretching
out his hands. She clung to them! I could see her eyes go glazed; the
old fellow lowered her down on the pillows and then looked round at me.
She was dead! All this took less than five minutes, and then I ran down
to see what was the matter. It was no use thinking of any resistance.
Nothing we two could say availed with the officer, so I volunteered to
go up with a couple of soldiers and fetch down old Viola. He was sitting
at the foot of the bed, looking at his wife's face, and did not seem to
hear what I said; but after I had pulled the sheet over her head, he got
up and followed us downstairs quietly, in a sort of thoughtful way.
They marched us off along the road, leaving the door open and the candle
burning. The chief engineer strode on without a word, but I looked back
once or twice at the feeble gleam. After we had gone some considerable
distance, the Garibaldino, who was walking by my side, suddenly said, 'I
have buried many men on battlefields on this continent. The priests talk
of consecrated ground! Bah! All the earth made by God is holy; but
the sea, which knows nothing of kings and priests and tyrants, is
the holiest of all. Doctor! I should like to bury her in the sea. No
mummeries, candles, incense, no holy water mumbled over by priests. The
spirit of liberty is upon the waters.' . . . Amazing old man. He was
saying all this in an undertone as if talking to himself."

"Yes, yes," interrupted Captain Mitchell, impatiently. "Poor old chap!
But have you any idea how that ruffian Sotillo obtained his information?
He did not get hold of any of our Cargadores who helped with the truck,
did he? But no, it is impossible! These were picked men we've had in
our boats for these five years, and I paid them myself specially for the
job, with instructions to keep out of the way for twenty-four hours at
least. I saw them with my own eyes march on with the Italians to the
railway yards. The chief promised to give them rations as long as they
wanted to remain there."

"Well," said the doctor, slowly, "I can tell you that you may
say good-bye for ever to your best lighter, and to the Capataz of
Cargadores."

At this, Captain Mitchell scrambled up to his feet in the excess of
his excitement. The doctor, without giving him time to exclaim, stated
briefly the part played by Hirsch during the night.

Captain Mitchell was overcome. "Drowned!" he muttered, in a bewildered
and appalled whisper. "Drowned!" Afterwards he kept still, apparently
listening, but too absorbed in the news of the catastrophe to follow the
doctor's narrative with attention.

The doctor had taken up an attitude of perfect ignorance, till at last
Sotillo was induced to have Hirsch brought in to repeat the whole story,
which was got out of him again with the greatest difficulty, because
every moment he would break out into lamentations. At last, Hirsch
was led away, looking more dead than alive, and shut up in one of the
upstairs rooms to be close at hand. Then the doctor, keeping up his
character of a man not admitted to the inner councils of the San Tome
Administration, remarked that the story sounded incredible. Of course,
he said, he couldn't tell what had been the action of the Europeans, as
he had been exclusively occupied with his own work in looking after the
wounded, and also in attending Don Jose Avellanos. He had succeeded in
assuming so well a tone of impartial indifference, that Sotillo seemed
to be completely deceived. Till then a show of regular inquiry had
been kept up; one of the officers sitting at the table wrote down the
questions and the answers, the others, lounging about the room, listened
attentively, puffing at their long cigars and keeping their eyes on the
doctor. But at that point Sotillo ordered everybody out.



CHAPTER THREE

Directly they were alone, the colonel's severe official manner changed.
He rose and approached the doctor. His eyes shone with rapacity and
hope; he became confidential. "The silver might have been indeed put on
board the lighter, but it was not conceivable that it should have been
taken out to sea." The doctor, watching every word, nodded slightly,
smoking with apparent relish the cigar which Sotillo had offered him
as a sign of his friendly intentions. The doctor's manner of cold
detachment from the rest of the Europeans led Sotillo on, till, from
conjecture to conjecture, he arrived at hinting that in his opinion this
was a putup job on the part of Charles Gould, in order to get hold
of that immense treasure all to himself. The doctor, observant and
self-possessed, muttered, "He is very capable of that."

Here Captain Mitchell exclaimed with amazement, amusement, and
indignation, "You said that of Charles Gould!" Disgust, and even some
suspicion, crept into his tone, for to him, too, as to other Europeans,
there appeared to be something dubious about the doctor's personality.

"What on earth made you say that to this watch-stealing scoundrel?"
he asked. "What's the object of an infernal lie of that sort? That
confounded pick-pocket was quite capable of believing you."

He snorted. For a time the doctor remained silent in the dark.

"Yes, that is exactly what I did say," he uttered at last, in a tone
which would have made it clear enough to a third party that the pause
was not of a reluctant but of a reflective character. Captain Mitchell
thought that he had never heard anything so brazenly impudent in his
life.

"Well, well!" he muttered to himself, but he had not the heart to voice
his thoughts. They were swept away by others full of astonishment and
regret. A heavy sense of discomfiture crushed him: the loss of the
silver, the death of Nostromo, which was really quite a blow to his
sensibilities, because he had become attached to his Capataz as people
get attached to their inferiors from love of ease and almost unconscious
gratitude. And when he thought of Decoud being drowned, too, his
sensibility was almost overcome by this miserable end. What a heavy
blow for that poor young woman! Captain Mitchell did not belong to the
species of crabbed old bachelors; on the contrary, he liked to see young
men paying attentions to young women. It seemed to him a natural and
proper thing. Proper especially. As to sailors, it was different; it was
not their place to marry, he maintained, but it was on moral grounds as
a matter of self-denial, for, he explained, life on board ship is not
fit for a woman even at best, and if you leave her on shore, first of
all it is not fair, and next she either suffers from it or doesn't care
a bit, which, in both cases, is bad. He couldn't have told what upset
him most--Charles Gould's immense material loss, the death of Nostromo,
which was a heavy loss to himself, or the idea of that beautiful and
accomplished young woman being plunged into mourning.

"Yes," the doctor, who had been apparently reflecting, began again, "he
believed me right enough. I thought he would have hugged me. 'Si, si,'
he said, 'he will write to that partner of his, the rich Americano in
San Francisco, that it is all lost. Why not? There is enough to share
with many people.'"

"But this is perfectly imbecile!" cried Captain Mitchell.

The doctor remarked that Sotillo was imbecile, and that his imbecility
was ingenious enough to lead him completely astray. He had helped him
only but a little way.

"I mentioned," the doctor said, "in a sort of casual way, that treasure
is generally buried in the earth rather than set afloat upon the sea.
At this my Sotillo slapped his forehead. 'Por Dios, yes,' he said; 'they
must have buried it on the shores of this harbour somewhere before they
sailed out.'"

"Heavens and earth!" muttered Captain Mitchell, "I should not have
believed that anybody could be ass enough--" He paused, then went on
mournfully: "But what's the good of all this? It would have been a
clever enough lie if the lighter had been still afloat. It would have
kept that inconceivable idiot perhaps from sending out the steamer to
cruise in the gulf. That was the danger that worried me no end." Captain
Mitchell sighed profoundly.

"I had an object," the doctor pronounced, slowly.

"Had you?" muttered Captain Mitchell. "Well, that's lucky, or else
I would have thought that you went on fooling him for the fun of the
thing. And perhaps that was your object. Well, I must say I personally
wouldn't condescend to that sort of thing. It is not to my taste. No,
no. Blackening a friend's character is not my idea of fun, if it were to
fool the greatest blackguard on earth."

Had it not been for Captain Mitchell's depression, caused by the fatal
news, his disgust of Dr. Monygham would have taken a more outspoken
shape; but he thought to himself that now it really did not matter what
that man, whom he had never liked, would say and do.

"I wonder," he grumbled, "why they have shut us up together, or why
Sotillo should have shut you up at all, since it seems to me you have
been fairly chummy up there?"

"Yes, I wonder," said the doctor grimly.

Captain Mitchell's heart was so heavy that he would have preferred
for the time being a complete solitude to the best of company. But
any company would have been preferable to the doctor's, at whom he had
always looked askance as a sort of beachcomber of superior intelligence
partly reclaimed from his abased state. That feeling led him to ask--

"What has that ruffian done with the other two?"

"The chief engineer he would have let go in any case," said the doctor.
"He wouldn't like to have a quarrel with the railway upon his hands.
Not just yet, at any rate. I don't think, Captain Mitchell, that you
understand exactly what Sotillo's position is--"

"I don't see why I should bother my head about it," snarled Captain
Mitchell.

"No," assented the doctor, with the same grim composure. "I don't see
why you should. It wouldn't help a single human being in the world if
you thought ever so hard upon any subject whatever."

"No," said Captain Mitchell, simply, and with evident depression. "A man
locked up in a confounded dark hole is not much use to anybody."

"As to old Viola," the doctor continued, as though he had not heard,
"Sotillo released him for the same reason he is presently going to
release you."

"Eh? What?" exclaimed Captain Mitchell, staring like an owl in the
darkness. "What is there in common between me and old Viola? More likely
because the old chap has no watch and chain for the pickpocket to steal.
And I tell you what, Dr. Monygham," he went on with rising choler, "he
will find it more difficult than he thinks to get rid of me. He will
burn his fingers over that job yet, I can tell you. To begin with, I
won't go without my watch, and as to the rest--we shall see. I dare say
it is no great matter for you to be locked up. But Joe Mitchell is a
different kind of man, sir. I don't mean to submit tamely to insult and
robbery. I am a public character, sir."

And then Captain Mitchell became aware that the bars of the opening had
become visible, a black grating upon a square of grey. The coming of the
day silenced Captain Mitchell as if by the reflection that now in all
the future days he would be deprived of the invaluable services of his
Capataz. He leaned against the wall with his arms folded on his breast,
and the doctor walked up and down the whole length of the place with his
peculiar hobbling gait, as if slinking about on damaged feet. At the end
furthest from the grating he would be lost altogether in the darkness.
Only the slight limping shuffle could be heard. There was an air of
moody detachment in that painful prowl kept up without a pause. When the
door of the prison was suddenly flung open and his name shouted out he
showed no surprise. He swerved sharply in his walk, and passed out
at once, as though much depended upon his speed; but Captain Mitchell
remained for some time with his shoulders against the wall, quite
undecided in the bitterness of his spirit whether it wouldn't be better
to refuse to stir a limb in the way of protest. He had half a mind to
get himself carried out, but after the officer at the door had
shouted three or four times in tones of remonstrance and surprise he
condescended to walk out.

Sotillo's manner had changed. The colonel's off-hand civility was
slightly irresolute, as though he were in doubt if civility were the
proper course in this case. He observed Captain Mitchell attentively
before he spoke from the big armchair behind the table in a
condescending voice--

"I have concluded not to detain you, Senor Mitchell. I am of a forgiving
disposition. I make allowances. Let this be a lesson to you, however."

The peculiar dawn of Sulaco, which seems to break far away to the
westward and creep back into the shade of the mountains, mingled with
the reddish light of the candles. Captain Mitchell, in sign of contempt
and indifference, let his eyes roam all over the room, and he gave a
hard stare to the doctor, perched already on the casement of one of the
windows, with his eyelids lowered, careless and thoughtful--or perhaps
ashamed.

Sotillo, ensconced in the vast armchair, remarked, "I should have
thought that the feelings of a caballero would have dictated to you an
appropriate reply."

He waited for it, but Captain Mitchell remaining mute, more from extreme
resentment than from reasoned intention, Sotillo hesitated, glanced
towards the doctor, who looked up and nodded, then went on with a slight
effort--

"Here, Senor Mitchell, is your watch. Learn how hasty and unjust has
been your judgment of my patriotic soldiers."

Lying back in his seat, he extended his arm over the table and pushed
the watch away slightly. Captain Mitchell walked up with undisguised
eagerness, put it to his ear, then slipped it into his pocket coolly.

Sotillo seemed to overcome an immense reluctance. Again he looked aside
at the doctor, who stared at him unwinkingly.

But as Captain Mitchell was turning away, without as much as a nod or a
glance, he hastened to say--

"You may go and wait downstairs for the senor doctor, whom I am going to
liberate, too. You foreigners are insignificant, to my mind."

He forced a slight, discordant laugh out of himself, while Captain
Mitchell, for the first time, looked at him with some interest.

"The law shall take note later on of your transgressions," Sotillo
hurried on. "But as for me, you can live free, unguarded, unobserved.
Do you hear, Senor Mitchell? You may depart to your affairs. You are
beneath my notice. My attention is claimed by matters of the very
highest importance."

Captain Mitchell was very nearly provoked to an answer. It displeased
him to be liberated insultingly; but want of sleep, prolonged anxieties,
a profound disappointment with the fatal ending of the silver-saving
business weighed upon his spirits. It was as much as he could do to
conceal his uneasiness, not about himself perhaps, but about things
in general. It occurred to him distinctly that something underhand was
going on. As he went out he ignored the doctor pointedly.

"A brute!" said Sotillo, as the door shut.

Dr. Monygham slipped off the window-sill, and, thrusting his hands into
the pockets of the long, grey dust coat he was wearing, made a few steps
into the room.

Sotillo got up, too, and, putting himself in the way, examined him from
head to foot.

"So your countrymen do not confide in you very much, senor doctor. They
do not love you, eh? Why is that, I wonder?"

The doctor, lifting his head, answered by a long, lifeless stare and the
words, "Perhaps because I have lived too long in Costaguana."

Sotillo had a gleam of white teeth under the black moustache.

"Aha! But you love yourself," he said, encouragingly.

"If you leave them alone," the doctor said, looking with the same
lifeless stare at Sotillo's handsome face, "they will betray themselves
very soon. Meantime, I may try to make Don Carlos speak?"

"Ah! senor doctor," said Sotillo, wagging his head, "you are a man of
quick intelligence. We were made to understand each other." He turned
away. He could bear no longer that expressionless and motionless stare,
which seemed to have a sort of impenetrable emptiness like the black
depth of an abyss.

Even in a man utterly devoid of moral sense there remains an
appreciation of rascality which, being conventional, is perfectly clear.
Sotillo thought that Dr. Monygham, so different from all Europeans, was
ready to sell his countrymen and Charles Gould, his employer, for some
share of the San Tome silver. Sotillo did not despise him for that. The
colonel's want of moral sense was of a profound and innocent character.
It bordered upon stupidity, moral stupidity. Nothing that served his
ends could appear to him really reprehensible. Nevertheless, he despised
Dr. Monygham. He had for him an immense and satisfactory contempt.
He despised him with all his heart because he did not mean to let the
doctor have any reward at all. He despised him, not as a man without
faith and honour, but as a fool. Dr. Monygham's insight into his
character had deceived Sotillo completely. Therefore he thought the
doctor a fool.

Since his arrival in Sulaco the colonel's ideas had undergone some
modification.

He no longer wished for a political career in Montero's administration.
He had always doubted the safety of that course. Since he had learned
from the chief engineer that at daylight most likely he would
be confronted by Pedro Montero his misgivings on that point had
considerably increased. The guerrillero brother of the general--the
Pedrito of popular speech--had a reputation of his own. He wasn't safe
to deal with. Sotillo had vaguely planned seizing not only the treasure
but the town itself, and then negotiating at leisure. But in the face of
facts learned from the chief engineer (who had frankly disclosed to him
the whole situation) his audacity, never of a very dashing kind, had
been replaced by a most cautious hesitation.

"An army--an army crossed the mountains under Pedrito already," he had
repeated, unable to hide his consternation. "If it had not been that I
am given the news by a man of your position I would never have believed
it. Astonishing!"

"An armed force," corrected the engineer, suavely. His aim was attained.
It was to keep Sulaco clear of any armed occupation for a few hours
longer, to let those whom fear impelled leave the town. In the general
dismay there were families hopeful enough to fly upon the road towards
Los Hatos, which was left open by the withdrawal of the armed rabble
under Senores Fuentes and Gamacho, to Rincon, with their enthusiastic
welcome for Pedro Montero. It was a hasty and risky exodus, and it was
said that Hernandez, occupying with his band the woods about Los Hatos,
was receiving the fugitives. That a good many people he knew were
contemplating such a flight had been well known to the chief engineer.

Father Corbelan's efforts in the cause of that most pious robber had not
been altogether fruitless. The political chief of Sulaco had yielded
at the last moment to the urgent entreaties of the priest, had signed a
provisional nomination appointing Hernandez a general, and calling upon
him officially in this new capacity to preserve order in the town. The
fact is that the political chief, seeing the situation desperate, did
not care what he signed. It was the last official document he signed
before he left the palace of the Intendencia for the refuge of the
O.S.N. Company's office. But even had he meant his act to be effective
it was already too late. The riot which he feared and expected broke out
in less than an hour after Father Corbelan had left him. Indeed, Father
Corbelan, who had appointed a meeting with Nostromo in the Dominican
Convent, where he had his residence in one of the cells, never managed
to reach the place. From the Intendencia he had gone straight on to the
Avellanos's house to tell his brother-in-law, and though he stayed there
no more than half an hour he had found himself cut off from his ascetic
abode. Nostromo, after waiting there for some time, watching uneasily
the increasing uproar in the street, had made his way to the offices of
the Porvenir, and stayed there till daylight, as Decoud had mentioned
in the letter to his sister. Thus the Capataz, instead of riding towards
the Los Hatos woods as bearer of Hernandez's nomination, had remained in
town to save the life of the President Dictator, to assist in repressing
the outbreak of the mob, and at last to sail out with the silver of the
mine.

But Father Corbelan, escaping to Hernandez, had the document in his
pocket, a piece of official writing turning a bandit into a general in
a memorable last official act of the Ribierist party, whose watchwords
were honesty, peace, and progress. Probably neither the priest nor the
bandit saw the irony of it. Father Corbelan must have found messengers
to send into the town, for early on the second day of the disturbances
there were rumours of Hernandez being on the road to Los Hatos ready
to receive those who would put themselves under his protection. A
strange-looking horseman, elderly and audacious, had appeared in the
town, riding slowly while his eyes examined the fronts of the houses,
as though he had never seen such high buildings before. Before the
cathedral he had dismounted, and, kneeling in the middle of the Plaza,
his bridle over his arm and his hat lying in front of him on the ground,
had bowed his head, crossing himself and beating his breast for some
little time. Remounting his horse, with a fearless but not unfriendly
look round the little gathering formed about his public devotions, he
had asked for the Casa Avellanos. A score of hands were extended in
answer, with fingers pointing up the Calle de la Constitucion.

The horseman had gone on with only a glance of casual curiosity upwards
to the windows of the Amarilla Club at the corner. His stentorian voice
shouted periodically in the empty street, "Which is the Casa Avellanos?"
till an answer came from the scared porter, and he disappeared under
the gate. The letter he was bringing, written by Father Corbelan with
a pencil by the camp-fire of Hernandez, was addressed to Don Jose, of
whose critical state the priest was not aware. Antonia read it, and,
after consulting Charles Gould, sent it on for the information of the
gentlemen garrisoning the Amarilla Club. For herself, her mind was made
up; she would rejoin her uncle; she would entrust the last day--the last
hours perhaps--of her father's life to the keeping of the bandit, whose
existence was a protest against the irresponsible tyranny of all parties
alike, against the moral darkness of the land. The gloom of Los Hatos
woods was preferable; a life of hardships in the train of a robber band
less debasing. Antonia embraced with all her soul her uncle's obstinate
defiance of misfortune. It was grounded in the belief in the man whom
she loved.

In his message the Vicar-General answered upon his head for Hernandez's
fidelity. As to his power, he pointed out that he had remained unsubdued
for so many years. In that letter Decoud's idea of the new Occidental
State (whose flourishing and stable condition is a matter of common
knowledge now) was for the first time made public and used as an
argument. Hernandez, ex-bandit and the last general of Ribierist
creation, was confident of being able to hold the tract of country
between the woods of Los Hatos and the coast range till that devoted
patriot, Don Martin Decoud, could bring General Barrios back to Sulaco
for the reconquest of the town.

"Heaven itself wills it. Providence is on our side," wrote Father
Corbelan; there was no time to reflect upon or to controvert his
statement; and if the discussion started upon the reading of that letter
in the Amarilla Club was violent, it was also shortlived. In the
general bewilderment of the collapse some jumped at the idea with joyful
astonishment as upon the amazing discovery of a new hope. Others became
fascinated by the prospect of immediate personal safety for their women
and children. The majority caught at it as a drowning man catches at
a straw. Father Corbelan was unexpectedly offering them a refuge from
Pedrito Montero with his llaneros allied to Senores Fuentes and Gamacho
with their armed rabble.

All the latter part of the afternoon an animated discussion went on in
the big rooms of the Amarilla Club. Even those members posted at the
windows with rifles and carbines to guard the end of the street in
case of an offensive return of the populace shouted their opinions and
arguments over their shoulders. As dusk fell Don Juste Lopez, inviting
those caballeros who were of his way of thinking to follow him, withdrew
into the corredor, where at a little table in the light of two
candles he busied himself in composing an address, or rather a solemn
declaration to be presented to Pedrito Montero by a deputation of such
members of Assembly as had elected to remain in town. His idea was
to propitiate him in order to save the form at least of parliamentary
institutions. Seated before a blank sheet of paper, a goose-quill pen in
his hand and surged upon from all sides, he turned to the right and to
the left, repeating with solemn insistence--

"Caballeros, a moment of silence! A moment of silence! We ought to make
it clear that we bow in all good faith to the accomplished facts."

The utterance of that phrase seemed to give him a melancholy
satisfaction. The hubbub of voices round him was growing strained and
hoarse. In the sudden pauses the excited grimacing of the faces would
sink all at once into the stillness of profound dejection.

Meantime, the exodus had begun. Carretas full of ladies and children
rolled swaying across the Plaza, with men walking or riding by their
side; mounted parties followed on mules and horses; the poorest were
setting out on foot, men and women carrying bundles, clasping babies in
their arms, leading old people, dragging along the bigger children. When
Charles Gould, after leaving the doctor and the engineer at the Casa
Viola, entered the town by the harbour gate, all those that had meant to
go were gone, and the others had barricaded themselves in their houses.
In the whole dark street there was only one spot of flickering lights
and moving figures, where the Senor Administrador recognized his wife's
carriage waiting at the door of the Avellanos's house. He rode up,
almost unnoticed, and looked on without a word while some of his own
servants came out of the gate carrying Don Jose Avellanos, who, with
closed eyes and motionless features, appeared perfectly lifeless. His
wife and Antonia walked on each side of the improvised stretcher, which
was put at once into the carriage. The two women embraced; while from
the other side of the landau Father Corbelan's emissary, with his ragged
beard all streaked with grey, and high, bronzed cheek-bones, stared,
sitting upright in the saddle. Then Antonia, dry-eyed, got in by the
side of the stretcher, and, after making the sign of the cross rapidly,
lowered a thick veil upon her face. The servants and the three or four
neighbours who had come to assist, stood back, uncovering their heads.
On the box, Ignacio, resigned now to driving all night (and to having
perhaps his throat cut before daylight) looked back surlily over his
shoulder.

"Drive carefully," cried Mrs. Gould in a tremulous voice.

"Si, carefully; si nina," he mumbled, chewing his lips, his round
leathery cheeks quivering. And the landau rolled slowly out of the
light.

"I will see them as far as the ford," said Charles Gould to his wife.
She stood on the edge of the sidewalk with her hands clasped lightly,
and nodded to him as he followed after the carriage. And now the windows
of the Amarilla Club were dark. The last spark of resistance had died
out. Turning his head at the corner, Charles Gould saw his wife crossing
over to their own gate in the lighted patch of the street. One of
their neighbours, a well-known merchant and landowner of the province,
followed at her elbow, talking with great gestures. As she passed in all
the lights went out in the street, which remained dark and empty from
end to end.

The houses of the vast Plaza were lost in the night. High up, like a
star, there was a small gleam in one of the towers of the cathedral;
and the equestrian statue gleamed pale against the black trees of the
Alameda, like a ghost of royalty haunting the scenes of revolution. The
rare prowlers they met ranged themselves against the wall. Beyond the
last houses the carriage rolled noiselessly on the soft cushion of dust,
and with a greater obscurity a feeling of freshness seemed to fall from
the foliage of the trees bordering the country road. The emissary from
Hernandez's camp pushed his horse close to Charles Gould.

"Caballero," he said in an interested voice, "you are he whom they call
the King of Sulaco, the master of the mine? Is it not so?"

"Yes, I am the master of the mine," answered Charles Gould.

The man cantered for a time in silence, then said, "I have a brother, a
sereno in your service in the San Tome valley. You have proved yourself
a just man. There has been no wrong done to any one since you called
upon the people to work in the mountains. My brother says that no
official of the Government, no oppressor of the Campo, has been seen on
your side of the stream. Your own officials do not oppress the people
in the gorge. Doubtless they are afraid of your severity. You are a just
man and a powerful one," he added.

He spoke in an abrupt, independent tone, but evidently he was
communicative with a purpose. He told Charles Gould that he had been
a ranchero in one of the lower valleys, far south, a neighbour of
Hernandez in the old days, and godfather to his eldest boy; one of those
who joined him in his resistance to the recruiting raid which was the
beginning of all their misfortunes. It was he that, when his compadre
had been carried off, had buried his wife and children, murdered by the
soldiers.

"Si, senor," he muttered, hoarsely, "I and two or three others, the
lucky ones left at liberty, buried them all in one grave near the ashes
of their ranch, under the tree that had shaded its roof."

It was to him, too, that Hernandez came after he had deserted, three
years afterwards. He had still his uniform on with the sergeant's
stripes on the sleeve, and the blood of his colonel upon his hands and
breast. Three troopers followed him, of those who had started in pursuit
but had ridden on for liberty. And he told Charles Gould how he and
a few friends, seeing those soldiers, lay in ambush behind some rocks
ready to pull the trigger on them, when he recognized his compadre and
jumped up from cover, shouting his name, because he knew that
Hernandez could not have been coming back on an errand of injustice and
oppression. Those three soldiers, together with the party who lay
behind the rocks, had formed the nucleus of the famous band, and he, the
narrator, had been the favourite lieutenant of Hernandez for many, many
years. He mentioned proudly that the officials had put a price upon his
head, too; but it did not prevent it getting sprinkled with grey upon
his shoulders. And now he had lived long enough to see his compadre made
a general.

He had a burst of muffled laughter. "And now from robbers we have become
soldiers. But look, Caballero, at those who made us soldiers and him a
general! Look at these people!"

Ignacio shouted. The light of the carriage lamps, running along the
nopal hedges that crowned the bank on each side, flashed upon the scared
faces of people standing aside in the road, sunk deep, like an English
country lane, into the soft soil of the Campo. They cowered; their eyes
glistened very big for a second; and then the light, running on, fell
upon the half-denuded roots of a big tree, on another stretch of nopal
hedge, caught up another bunch of faces glaring back apprehensively.
Three women--of whom one was carrying a child--and a couple of men in
civilian dress--one armed with a sabre and another with a gun--were
grouped about a donkey carrying two bundles tied up in blankets. Further
on Ignacio shouted again to pass a carreta, a long wooden box on two
high wheels, with the door at the back swinging open. Some ladies in it
must have recognized the white mules, because they screamed out, "Is it
you, Dona Emilia?"

At the turn of the road the glare of a big fire filled the short stretch
vaulted over by the branches meeting overhead. Near the ford of a
shallow stream a roadside rancho of woven rushes and a roof of grass had
been set on fire by accident, and the flames, roaring viciously, lit
up an open space blocked with horses, mules, and a distracted, shouting
crowd of people. When Ignacio pulled up, several ladies on foot assailed
the carriage, begging Antonia for a seat. To their clamour she answered
by pointing silently to her father.

"I must leave you here," said Charles Gould, in the uproar. The flames
leaped up sky-high, and in the recoil from the scorching heat across the
road the stream of fugitives pressed against the carriage. A middle-aged
lady dressed in black silk, but with a coarse manta over her head and a
rough branch for a stick in her hand, staggered against the front wheel.
Two young girls, frightened and silent, were clinging to her arms.
Charles Gould knew her very well.

"Misericordia! We are getting terribly bruised in this crowd!" she
exclaimed, smiling up courageously to him. "We have started on foot. All
our servants ran away yesterday to join the democrats. We are going to
put ourselves under the protection of Father Corbelan, of your sainted
uncle, Antonia. He has wrought a miracle in the heart of a most
merciless robber. A miracle!"

She raised her voice gradually up to a scream as she was borne along by
the pressure of people getting out of the way of some carts coming up
out of the ford at a gallop, with loud yells and cracking of whips.
Great masses of sparks mingled with black smoke flew over the road;
the bamboos of the walls detonated in the fire with the sound of an
irregular fusillade. And then the bright blaze sank suddenly, leaving
only a red dusk crowded with aimless dark shadows drifting in contrary
directions; the noise of voices seemed to die away with the flame;
and the tumult of heads, arms, quarrelling, and imprecations passed on
fleeing into the darkness.

"I must leave you now," repeated Charles Gould to Antonia. She turned
her head slowly and uncovered her face. The emissary and compadre of
Hernandez spurred his horse close up.

"Has not the master of the mine any message to send to Hernandez, the
master of the Campo?"

The truth of the comparison struck Charles Gould heavily. In his
determined purpose he held the mine, and the indomitable bandit held
the Campo by the same precarious tenure. They were equals before the
lawlessness of the land. It was impossible to disentangle one's activity
from its debasing contacts. A close-meshed net of crime and corruption
lay upon the whole country. An immense and weary discouragement sealed
his lips for a time.

"You are a just man," urged the emissary of Hernandez. "Look at those
people who made my compadre a general and have turned us all into
soldiers. Look at those oligarchs fleeing for life, with only the
clothes on their backs. My compadre does not think of that, but our
followers may be wondering greatly, and I would speak for them to you.
Listen, senor! For many months now the Campo has been our own. We
need ask no man for anything; but soldiers must have their pay to live
honestly when the wars are over. It is believed that your soul is so
just that a prayer from you would cure the sickness of every beast, like
the orison of the upright judge. Let me have some words from your lips
that would act like a charm upon the doubts of our partida, where all
are men."

"Do you hear what he says?" Charles Gould said in English to Antonia.

"Forgive us our misery!" she exclaimed, hurriedly. "It is your character
that is the inexhaustible treasure which may save us all yet; your
character, Carlos, not your wealth. I entreat you to give this man your
word that you will accept any arrangement my uncle may make with their
chief. One word. He will want no more."

On the site of the roadside hut there remained nothing but an enormous
heap of embers, throwing afar a darkening red glow, in which Antonia's
face appeared deeply flushed with excitement. Charles Gould, with only a
short hesitation, pronounced the required pledge. He was like a man who
had ventured on a precipitous path with no room to turn, where the only
chance of safety is to press forward. At that moment he understood
it thoroughly as he looked down at Don Jose stretched out, hardly
breathing, by the side of the erect Antonia, vanquished in a lifelong
struggle with the powers of moral darkness, whose stagnant depths breed
monstrous crimes and monstrous illusions. In a few words the emissary
from Hernandez expressed his complete satisfaction. Stoically Antonia
lowered her veil, resisting the longing to inquire about Decoud's
escape. But Ignacio leered morosely over his shoulder.

"Take a good look at the mules, mi amo," he grumbled. "You shall never
see them again!"



CHAPTER FOUR

Charles Gould turned towards the town. Before him the jagged peaks
of the Sierra came out all black in the clear dawn. Here and there a
muffled lepero whisked round the corner of a grass-grown street before
the ringing hoofs of his horse. Dogs barked behind the walls of the
gardens; and with the colourless light the chill of the snows seemed to
fall from the mountains upon the disjointed pavements and the shuttered
houses with broken cornices and the plaster peeling in patches between
the flat pilasters of the fronts. The daybreak struggled with the
gloom under the arcades on the Plaza, with no signs of country people
disposing their goods for the day's market, piles of fruit, bundles of
vegetables ornamented with flowers, on low benches under enormous mat
umbrellas; with no cheery early morning bustle of villagers,
women, children, and loaded donkeys. Only a few scattered knots of
revolutionists stood in the vast space, all looking one way from under
their slouched hats for some sign of news from Rincon. The largest of
those groups turned about like one man as Charles Gould passed, and
shouted, "Viva la libertad!" after him in a menacing tone.

Charles Gould rode on, and turned into the archway of his house. In the
patio littered with straw, a practicante, one of Dr. Monygham's native
assistants, sat on the ground with his back against the rim of the
fountain, fingering a guitar discreetly, while two girls of the lower
class, standing up before him, shuffled their feet a little and waved
their arms, humming a popular dance tune.

Most of the wounded during the two days of rioting had been taken away
already by their friends and relations, but several figures could be
seen sitting up balancing their bandaged heads in time to the music.
Charles Gould dismounted. A sleepy mozo coming out of the bakery door
took hold of the horse's bridle; the practicante endeavoured to conceal
his guitar hastily; the girls, unabashed, stepped back smiling; and
Charles Gould, on his way to the staircase, glanced into a dark corner
of the patio at another group, a mortally wounded Cargador with a woman
kneeling by his side; she mumbled prayers rapidly, trying at the same
time to force a piece of orange between the stiffening lips of the dying
man.

The cruel futility of things stood unveiled in the levity and sufferings
of that incorrigible people; the cruel futility of lives and of deaths
thrown away in the vain endeavour to attain an enduring solution of the
problem. Unlike Decoud, Charles Gould could not play lightly a part in
a tragic farce. It was tragic enough for him in all conscience, but he
could see no farcical element. He suffered too much under a conviction
of irremediable folly. He was too severely practical and too idealistic
to look upon its terrible humours with amusement, as Martin Decoud,
the imaginative materialist, was able to do in the dry light of his
scepticism. To him, as to all of us, the compromises with his conscience
appeared uglier than ever in the light of failure. His taciturnity,
assumed with a purpose, had prevented him from tampering openly with
his thoughts; but the Gould Concession had insidiously corrupted his
judgment. He might have known, he said to himself, leaning over the
balustrade of the corredor, that Ribierism could never come to anything.
The mine had corrupted his judgment by making him sick of bribing and
intriguing merely to have his work left alone from day to day. Like
his father, he did not like to be robbed. It exasperated him. He had
persuaded himself that, apart from higher considerations, the backing up
of Don Jose's hopes of reform was good business. He had gone forth into
the senseless fray as his poor uncle, whose sword hung on the wall of
his study, had gone forth--in the defence of the commonest decencies
of organized society. Only his weapon was the wealth of the mine, more
far-reaching and subtle than an honest blade of steel fitted into a
simple brass guard.

More dangerous to the wielder, too, this weapon of wealth, double-edged
with the cupidity and misery of mankind, steeped in all the vices of
self-indulgence as in a concoction of poisonous roots, tainting the very
cause for which it is drawn, always ready to turn awkwardly in the hand.
There was nothing for it now but to go on using it. But he promised
himself to see it shattered into small bits before he let it be wrenched
from his grasp.

After all, with his English parentage and English upbringing, he
perceived that he was an adventurer in Costaguana, the descendant of
adventurers enlisted in a foreign legion, of men who had sought fortune
in a revolutionary war, who had planned revolutions, who had believed in
revolutions. For all the uprightness of his character, he had something
of an adventurer's easy morality which takes count of personal risk in
the ethical appraising of his action. He was prepared, if need be, to
blow up the whole San Tome mountain sky high out of the territory of the
Republic. This resolution expressed the tenacity of his character, the
remorse of that subtle conjugal infidelity through which his wife was
no longer the sole mistress of his thoughts, something of his father's
imaginative weakness, and something, too, of the spirit of a buccaneer
throwing a lighted match into the magazine rather than surrender his
ship.

Down below in the patio the wounded Cargador had breathed his last. The
woman cried out once, and her cry, unexpected and shrill, made all the
wounded sit up. The practicante scrambled to his feet, and, guitar in
hand, gazed steadily in her direction with elevated eyebrows. The two
girls--sitting now one on each side of their wounded relative, with
their knees drawn up and long cigars between their lips--nodded at each
other significantly.

Charles Gould, looking down over the balustrade, saw three men dressed
ceremoniously in black frock-coats with white shirts, and wearing
European round hats, enter the patio from the street. One of them, head
and shoulders taller than the two others, advanced with marked gravity,
leading the way. This was Don Juste Lopez, accompanied by two of his
friends, members of Assembly, coming to call upon the Administrador of
the San Tome mine at this early hour. They saw him, too, waved their
hands to him urgently, walking up the stairs as if in procession.

Don Juste, astonishingly changed by having shaved off altogether his
damaged beard, had lost with it nine-tenths of his outward dignity. Even
at that time of serious pre-occupation Charles Gould could not help
noting the revealed ineptitude in the aspect of the man. His companions
looked crestfallen and sleepy. One kept on passing the tip of his tongue
over his parched lips; the other's eyes strayed dully over the tiled
floor of the corredor, while Don Juste, standing a little in advance,
harangued the Senor Administrador of the San Tome mine. It was his firm
opinion that forms had to be observed. A new governor is always visited
by deputations from the Cabildo, which is the Municipal Council,
from the Consulado, the commercial Board, and it was proper that the
Provincial Assembly should send a deputation, too, if only to assert
the existence of parliamentary institutions. Don Juste proposed that Don
Carlos Gould, as the most prominent citizen of the province, should join
the Assembly's deputation. His position was exceptional, his personality
known through the length and breadth of the whole Republic. Official
courtesies must not be neglected, if they are gone through with a
bleeding heart. The acceptance of accomplished facts may save yet the
precious vestiges of parliamentary institutions. Don Juste's eyes glowed
dully; he believed in parliamentary institutions--and the convinced
drone of his voice lost itself in the stillness of the house like the
deep buzzing of some ponderous insect.

Charles Gould had turned round to listen patiently, leaning his elbow on
the balustrade. He shook his head a little, refusing, almost touched by
the anxious gaze of the President of the Provincial Assembly. It was not
Charles Gould's policy to make the San Tome mine a party to any formal
proceedings.

"My advice, senores, is that you should wait for your fate in your
houses. There is no necessity for you to give yourselves up formally
into Montero's hands. Submission to the inevitable, as Don Juste calls
it, is all very well, but when the inevitable is called Pedrito
Montero there is no need to exhibit pointedly the whole extent of your
surrender. The fault of this country is the want of measure in
political life. Flat acquiescence in illegality, followed by sanguinary
reaction--that, senores, is not the way to a stable and prosperous
future."

Charles Gould stopped before the sad bewilderment of the faces, the
wondering, anxious glances of the eyes. The feeling of pity for those
men, putting all their trust into words of some sort, while murder and
rapine stalked over the land, had betrayed him into what seemed empty
loquacity. Don Juste murmured--

"You are abandoning us, Don Carlos. . . . And yet, parliamentary
institutions--"

He could not finish from grief. For a moment he put his hand over his
eyes. Charles Gould, in his fear of empty loquacity, made no answer
to the charge. He returned in silence their ceremonious bows. His
taciturnity was his refuge. He understood that what they sought was to
get the influence of the San Tome mine on their side. They wanted to
go on a conciliating errand to the victor under the wing of the Gould
Concession. Other public bodies--the Cabildo, the Consulado--would be
coming, too, presently, seeking the support of the most stable, the most
effective force they had ever known to exist in their province.

The doctor, arriving with his sharp, jerky walk, found that the master
had retired into his own room with orders not to be disturbed on any
account. But Dr. Monygham was not anxious to see Charles Gould at once.
He spent some time in a rapid examination of his wounded. He gazed down
upon each in turn, rubbing his chin between his thumb and forefinger;
his steady stare met without expression their silently inquisitive look.
All these cases were doing well; but when he came to the dead Cargador
he stopped a little longer, surveying not the man who had ceased to
suffer, but the woman kneeling in silent contemplation of the rigid
face, with its pinched nostrils and a white gleam in the imperfectly
closed eyes. She lifted her head slowly, and said in a dull voice--

"It is not long since he had become a Cargador--only a few weeks. His
worship the Capataz had accepted him after many entreaties."

"I am not responsible for the great Capataz," muttered the doctor,
moving off.

Directing his course upstairs towards the door of Charles Gould's room,
the doctor at the last moment hesitated; then, turning away from the
handle with a shrug of his uneven shoulders, slunk off hastily along the
corredor in search of Mrs. Gould's camerista.

Leonardo told him that the senora had not risen yet. The senora had
given into her charge the girls belonging to that Italian posadero. She,
Leonarda, had put them to bed in her own room. The fair girl had cried
herself to sleep, but the dark one--the bigger--had not closed her eyes
yet. She sat up in bed clutching the sheets right up under her chin and
staring before her like a little witch. Leonarda did not approve of the
Viola children being admitted to the house. She made this feeling clear
by the indifferent tone in which she inquired whether their mother was
dead yet. As to the senora, she must be asleep. Ever since she had gone
into her room after seeing the departure of Dona Antonia with her dying
father, there had been no sound behind her door.

The doctor, rousing himself out of profound reflection, told her
abruptly to call her mistress at once. He hobbled off to wait for Mrs.
Gould in the sala. He was very tired, but too excited to sit down. In
this great drawing-room, now empty, in which his withered soul had been
refreshed after many arid years and his outcast spirit had accepted
silently the toleration of many side-glances, he wandered haphazard
amongst the chairs and tables till Mrs. Gould, enveloped in a morning
wrapper, came in rapidly.

"You know that I never approved of the silver being sent away," the
doctor began at once, as a preliminary to the narrative of his night's
adventures in association with Captain Mitchell, the engineer-in-chief,
and old Viola, at Sotillo's headquarters. To the doctor, with his
special conception of this political crisis, the removal of the silver
had seemed an irrational and ill-omened measure. It was as if a general
were sending the best part of his troops away on the eve of battle
upon some recondite pretext. The whole lot of ingots might have been
concealed somewhere where they could have been got at for the purpose
of staving off the dangers which were menacing the security of the Gould
Concession. The Administrador had acted as if the immense and powerful
prosperity of the mine had been founded on methods of probity, on the
sense of usefulness. And it was nothing of the kind. The method followed
had been the only one possible. The Gould Concession had ransomed
its way through all those years. It was a nauseous process. He quite
understood that Charles Gould had got sick of it and had left the old
path to back up that hopeless attempt at reform. The doctor did not
believe in the reform of Costaguana. And now the mine was back again in
its old path, with the disadvantage that henceforth it had to deal not
only with the greed provoked by its wealth, but with the resentment
awakened by the attempt to free itself from its bondage to moral
corruption. That was the penalty of failure. What made him uneasy was
that Charles Gould seemed to him to have weakened at the decisive moment
when a frank return to the old methods was the only chance. Listening to
Decoud's wild scheme had been a weakness.

The doctor flung up his arms, exclaiming, "Decoud! Decoud!" He hobbled
about the room with slight, angry laughs. Many years ago both his ankles
had been seriously damaged in the course of a certain investigation
conducted in the castle of Sta. Marta by a commission composed of
military men. Their nomination had been signified to them unexpectedly
at the dead of night, with scowling brow, flashing eyes, and in a
tempestuous voice, by Guzman Bento. The old tyrant, maddened by one of
his sudden accesses of suspicion, mingled spluttering appeals to their
fidelity with imprecations and horrible menaces. The cells and casements
of the castle on the hill had been already filled with prisoners. The
commission was charged now with the task of discovering the iniquitous
conspiracy against the Citizen-Saviour of his country.

Their dread of the raving tyrant translated itself into a hasty
ferocity of procedure. The Citizen-Saviour was not accustomed to wait. A
conspiracy had to be discovered. The courtyards of the castle resounded
with the clanking of leg-irons, sounds of blows, yells of pain; and
the commission of high officers laboured feverishly, concealing their
distress and apprehensions from each other, and especially from their
secretary, Father Beron, an army chaplain, at that time very much in
the confidence of the Citizen-Saviour. That priest was a big
round-shouldered man, with an unclean-looking, overgrown tonsure on the
top of his flat head, of a dingy, yellow complexion, softly fat, with
greasy stains all down the front of his lieutenant's uniform, and a
small cross embroidered in white cotton on his left breast. He had a
heavy nose and a pendant lip. Dr. Monygham remembered him still. He
remembered him against all the force of his will striving its utmost to
forget. Father Beron had been adjoined to the commission by Guzman Bento
expressly for the purpose that his enlightened zeal should assist them
in their labours. Dr. Monygham could by no manner of means forget the
zeal of Father Beron, or his face, or the pitiless, monotonous voice in
which he pronounced the words, "Will you confess now?"

This memory did not make him shudder, but it had made of him what he was
in the eyes of respectable people, a man careless of common decencies,
something between a clever vagabond and a disreputable doctor. But
not all respectable people would have had the necessary delicacy of
sentiment to understand with what trouble of mind and accuracy of vision
Dr. Monygham, medical officer of the San Tome mine, remembered Father
Beron, army chaplain, and once a secretary of a military commission.
After all these years Dr. Monygham, in his rooms at the end of the
hospital building in the San Tome gorge, remembered Father Beron as
distinctly as ever. He remembered that priest at night, sometimes, in
his sleep. On such nights the doctor waited for daylight with a candle
lighted, and walking the whole length of his rooms to and fro, staring
down at his bare feet, his arms hugging his sides tightly. He would
dream of Father Beron sitting at the end of a long black table, behind
which, in a row, appeared the heads, shoulders, and epaulettes of the
military members, nibbling the feather of a quill pen, and listening
with weary and impatient scorn to the protestations of some prisoner
calling heaven to witness of his innocence, till he burst out, "What's
the use of wasting time over that miserable nonsense! Let me take
him outside for a while." And Father Beron would go outside after
the clanking prisoner, led away between two soldiers. Such interludes
happened on many days, many times, with many prisoners. When the
prisoner returned he was ready to make a full confession, Father Beron
would declare, leaning forward with that dull, surfeited look which can
be seen in the eyes of gluttonous persons after a heavy meal.

The priest's inquisitorial instincts suffered but little from the want
of classical apparatus of the Inquisition At no time of the world's
history have men been at a loss how to inflict mental and bodily anguish
upon their fellow-creatures. This aptitude came to them in the
growing complexity of their passions and the early refinement of their
ingenuity. But it may safely be said that primeval man did not go to
the trouble of inventing tortures. He was indolent and pure of heart.
He brained his neighbour ferociously with a stone axe from necessity and
without malice. The stupidest mind may invent a rankling phrase or brand
the innocent with a cruel aspersion. A piece of string and a ramrod; a
few muskets in combination with a length of hide rope; or even a simple
mallet of heavy, hard wood applied with a swing to human fingers or
to the joints of a human body is enough for the infliction of the most
exquisite torture. The doctor had been a very stubborn prisoner, and, as
a natural consequence of that "bad disposition" (so Father Beron called
it), his subjugation had been very crushing and very complete. That is
why the limp in his walk, the twist of his shoulders, the scars on his
cheeks were so pronounced. His confessions, when they came at last, were
very complete, too. Sometimes on the nights when he walked the floor,
he wondered, grinding his teeth with shame and rage, at the fertility
of his imagination when stimulated by a sort of pain which makes truth,
honour, selfrespect, and life itself matters of little moment.

And he could not forget Father Beron with his monotonous phrase, "Will
you confess now?" reaching him in an awful iteration and lucidity of
meaning through the delirious incoherence of unbearable pain. He could
not forget. But that was not the worst. Had he met Father Beron in the
street after all these years Dr. Monygham was sure he would have quailed
before him. This contingency was not to be feared now. Father Beron was
dead; but the sickening certitude prevented Dr. Monygham from looking
anybody in the face.

Dr. Monygham had become, in a manner, the slave of a ghost. It was
obviously impossible to take his knowledge of Father Beron home to
Europe. When making his extorted confessions to the Military Board,
Dr. Monygham was not seeking to avoid death. He longed for it. Sitting
half-naked for hours on the wet earth of his prison, and so motionless
that the spiders, his companions, attached their webs to his matted
hair, he consoled the misery of his soul with acute reasonings that he
had confessed to crimes enough for a sentence of death--that they had
gone too far with him to let him live to tell the tale.

But, as if by a refinement of cruelty, Dr. Monygham was left for months
to decay slowly in the darkness of his grave-like prison. It was no
doubt hoped that it would finish him off without the trouble of an
execution; but Dr. Monygham had an iron constitution. It was Guzman
Bento who died, not by the knife thrust of a conspirator, but from a
stroke of apoplexy, and Dr. Monygham was liberated hastily. His fetters
were struck off by the light of a candle, which, after months of gloom,
hurt his eyes so much that he had to cover his face with his hands. He
was raised up. His heart was beating violently with the fear of this
liberty. When he tried to walk the extraordinary lightness of his feet
made him giddy, and he fell down. Two sticks were thrust into his hands,
and he was pushed out of the passage. It was dusk; candles glimmered
already in the windows of the officers' quarters round the courtyard;
but the twilight sky dazed him by its enormous and overwhelming
brilliance. A thin poncho hung over his naked, bony shoulders; the rags
of his trousers came down no lower than his knees; an eighteen months'
growth of hair fell in dirty grey locks on each side of his sharp
cheek-bones. As he dragged himself past the guard-room door, one of the
soldiers, lolling outside, moved by some obscure impulse, leaped forward
with a strange laugh and rammed a broken old straw hat on his head. And
Dr. Monygham, after having tottered, continued on his way. He advanced
one stick, then one maimed foot, then the other stick; the other foot
followed only a very short distance along the ground, toilfully, as
though it were almost too heavy to be moved at all; and yet his legs
under the hanging angles of the poncho appeared no thicker than the two
sticks in his hands. A ceaseless trembling agitated his bent body,
all his wasted limbs, his bony head, the conical, ragged crown of the
sombrero, whose ample flat rim rested on his shoulders.

In such conditions of manner and attire did Dr. Monygham go forth to
take possession of his liberty. And these conditions seemed to bind
him indissolubly to the land of Costaguana like an awful procedure of
naturalization, involving him deep in the national life, far deeper than
any amount of success and honour could have done. They did away with his
Europeanism; for Dr. Monygham had made himself an ideal conception
of his disgrace. It was a conception eminently fit and proper for an
officer and a gentleman. Dr. Monygham, before he went out to Costaguana,
had been surgeon in one of Her Majesty's regiments of foot. It was a
conception which took no account of physiological facts or reasonable
arguments; but it was not stupid for all that. It was simple. A rule of
conduct resting mainly on severe rejections is necessarily simple. Dr.
Monygham's view of what it behoved him to do was severe; it was an ideal
view, in so much that it was the imaginative exaggeration of a correct
feeling. It was also, in its force, influence, and persistency, the view
of an eminently loyal nature.

There was a great fund of loyalty in Dr. Monygham's nature. He had
settled it all on Mrs. Gould's head. He believed her worthy of every
devotion. At the bottom of his heart he felt an angry uneasiness before
the prosperity of the San Tome mine, because its growth was robbing her
of all peace of mind. Costaguana was no place for a woman of that kind.
What could Charles Gould have been thinking of when he brought her
out there! It was outrageous! And the doctor had watched the course
of events with a grim and distant reserve which, he imagined, his
lamentable history imposed upon him.

Loyalty to Mrs. Gould could not, however, leave out of account the
safety of her husband. The doctor had contrived to be in town at the
critical time because he mistrusted Charles Gould. He considered him
hopelessly infected with the madness of revolutions. That is why he
hobbled in distress in the drawing-room of the Casa Gould on that
morning, exclaiming, "Decoud, Decoud!" in a tone of mournful irritation.

Mrs. Gould, her colour heightened, and with glistening eyes, looked
straight before her at the sudden enormity of that disaster. The
finger-tips on one hand rested lightly on a low little table by her
side, and the arm trembled right up to the shoulder. The sun, which
looks late upon Sulaco, issuing in all the fulness of its power high
up on the sky from behind the dazzling snow-edge of Higuerota, had
precipitated the delicate, smooth, pearly greyness of light, in which
the town lies steeped during the early hours, into sharp-cut masses of
black shade and spaces of hot, blinding glare. Three long rectangles
of sunshine fell through the windows of the sala; while just across the
street the front of the Avellanos's house appeared very sombre in its
own shadow seen through the flood of light.

A voice said at the door, "What of Decoud?"

It was Charles Gould. They had not heard him coming along the corredor.
His glance just glided over his wife and struck full at the doctor.

"You have brought some news, doctor?"

Dr. Monygham blurted it all out at once, in the rough. For some time
after he had done, the Administrador of the San Tome mine remained
looking at him without a word. Mrs. Gould sank into a low chair with her
hands lying on her lap. A silence reigned between those three motionless
persons. Then Charles Gould spoke--

"You must want some breakfast."

He stood aside to let his wife pass first. She caught up her husband's
hand and pressed it as she went out, raising her handkerchief to her
eyes. The sight of her husband had brought Antonia's position to her
mind, and she could not contain her tears at the thought of the poor
girl. When she rejoined the two men in the diningroom after having
bathed her face, Charles Gould was saying to the doctor across the
table--

"No, there does not seem any room for doubt."

And the doctor assented.

"No, I don't see myself how we could question that wretched Hirsch's
tale. It's only too true, I fear."

She sat down desolately at the head of the table and looked from one
to the other. The two men, without absolutely turning their heads away,
tried to avoid her glance. The doctor even made a show of being hungry;
he seized his knife and fork, and began to eat with emphasis, as if on
the stage. Charles Gould made no pretence of the sort; with his elbows
raised squarely, he twisted both ends of his flaming moustaches--they
were so long that his hands were quite away from his face.

"I am not surprised," he muttered, abandoning his moustaches and
throwing one arm over the back of his chair. His face was calm with
that immobility of expression which betrays the intensity of a mental
struggle. He felt that this accident had brought to a point all the
consequences involved in his line of conduct, with its conscious
and subconscious intentions. There must be an end now of this silent
reserve, of that air of impenetrability behind which he had been
safeguarding his dignity. It was the least ignoble form of dissembling
forced upon him by that parody of civilized institutions which offended
his intelligence, his uprightness, and his sense of right. He was like
his father. He had no ironic eye. He was not amused at the absurdities
that prevail in this world. They hurt him in his innate gravity. He
felt that the miserable death of that poor Decoud took from him his
inaccessible position of a force in the background. It committed him
openly unless he wished to throw up the game--and that was impossible.
The material interests required from him the sacrifice of his
aloofness--perhaps his own safety too. And he reflected that Decoud's
separationist plan had not gone to the bottom with the lost silver.

The only thing that was not changed was his position towards Mr.
Holroyd. The head of silver and steel interests had entered into
Costaguana affairs with a sort of passion. Costaguana had become
necessary to his existence; in the San Tome mine he had found the
imaginative satisfaction which other minds would get from drama, from
art, or from a risky and fascinating sport. It was a special form of the
great man's extravagance, sanctioned by a moral intention, big enough to
flatter his vanity. Even in this aberration of his genius he served the
progress of the world. Charles Gould felt sure of being understood
with precision and judged with the indulgence of their common passion.
Nothing now could surprise or startle this great man. And Charles Gould
imagined himself writing a letter to San Francisco in some such words:
". . . . The men at the head of the movement are dead or have fled; the
civil organization of the province is at an end for the present;
the Blanco party in Sulaco has collapsed inexcusably, but in the
characteristic manner of this country. But Barrios, untouched in Cayta,
remains still available. I am forced to take up openly the plan of a
provincial revolution as the only way of placing the enormous material
interests involved in the prosperity and peace of Sulaco in a position
of permanent safety. . . ." That was clear. He saw these words as
if written in letters of fire upon the wall at which he was gazing
abstractedly.

Mrs Gould watched his abstraction with dread. It was a domestic and
frightful phenomenon that darkened and chilled the house for her like a
thundercloud passing over the sun. Charles Gould's fits of abstraction
depicted the energetic concentration of a will haunted by a fixed idea.
A man haunted by a fixed idea is insane. He is dangerous even if
that idea is an idea of justice; for may he not bring the heaven down
pitilessly upon a loved head? The eyes of Mrs. Gould, watching her
husband's profile, filled with tears again. And again she seemed to see
the despair of the unfortunate Antonia.

"What would I have done if Charley had been drowned while we were
engaged?" she exclaimed, mentally, with horror. Her heart turned to ice,
while her cheeks flamed up as if scorched by the blaze of a funeral pyre
consuming all her earthly affections. The tears burst out of her eyes.

"Antonia will kill herself!" she cried out.

This cry fell into the silence of the room with strangely little effect.
Only the doctor, crumbling up a piece of bread, with his head inclined
on one side, raised his face, and the few long hairs sticking out of his
shaggy eyebrows stirred in a slight frown. Dr. Monygham thought quite
sincerely that Decoud was a singularly unworthy object for any woman's
affection. Then he lowered his head again, with a curl of his lip, and
his heart full of tender admiration for Mrs. Gould.

"She thinks of that girl," he said to himself; "she thinks of the Viola
children; she thinks of me; of the wounded; of the miners; she always
thinks of everybody who is poor and miserable! But what will she do if
Charles gets the worst of it in this infernal scrimmage those confounded
Avellanos have drawn him into? No one seems to be thinking of her."

Charles Gould, staring at the wall, pursued his reflections subtly.

"I shall write to Holroyd that the San Tome mine is big enough to take
in hand the making of a new State. It'll please him. It'll reconcile him
to the risk."

But was Barrios really available? Perhaps. But he was inaccessible.
To send off a boat to Cayta was no longer possible, since Sotillo was
master of the harbour, and had a steamer at his disposal. And now, with
all the democrats in the province up, and every Campo township in a
state of disturbance, where could he find a man who would make his
way successfully overland to Cayta with a message, a ten days' ride
at least; a man of courage and resolution, who would avoid arrest or
murder, and if arrested would faithfully eat the paper? The Capataz
de Cargadores would have been just such a man. But the Capataz of the
Cargadores was no more.

And Charles Gould, withdrawing his eyes from the wall, said gently,
"That Hirsch! What an extraordinary thing! Saved himself by clinging to
the anchor, did he? I had no idea that he was still in Sulaco. I thought
he had gone back overland to Esmeralda more than a week ago. He came
here once to talk to me about his hide business and some other things. I
made it clear to him that nothing could be done."

"He was afraid to start back on account of Hernandez being about,"
remarked the doctor.

"And but for him we might not have known anything of what has happened,"
marvelled Charles Gould.

Mrs. Gould cried out--

"Antonia must not know! She must not be told. Not now."

"Nobody's likely to carry the news," remarked the doctor. "It's no one's
interest. Moreover, the people here are afraid of Hernandez as if he
were the devil." He turned to Charles Gould. "It's even awkward,
because if you wanted to communicate with the refugees you could find no
messenger. When Hernandez was ranging hundreds of miles away from here
the Sulaco populace used to shudder at the tales of him roasting his
prisoners alive."

"Yes," murmured Charles Gould; "Captain Mitchell's Capataz was the
only man in the town who had seen Hernandez eye to eye. Father Corbelan
employed him. He opened the communications first. It is a pity that--"

His voice was covered by the booming of the great bell of the cathedral.
Three single strokes, one after another, burst out explosively, dying
away in deep and mellow vibrations. And then all the bells in the
tower of every church, convent, or chapel in town, even those that had
remained shut up for years, pealed out together with a crash. In this
furious flood of metallic uproar there was a power of suggesting images
of strife and violence which blanched Mrs. Gould's cheek. Basilio,
who had been waiting at table, shrinking within himself, clung to the
sideboard with chattering teeth. It was impossible to hear yourself
speak.

"Shut these windows!" Charles Gould yelled at him, angrily. All the
other servants, terrified at what they took for the signal of a general
massacre, had rushed upstairs, tumbling over each other, men and women,
the obscure and generally invisible population of the ground floor on
the four sides of the patio. The women, screaming "Misericordia!" ran
right into the room, and, falling on their knees against the walls,
began to cross themselves convulsively. The staring heads of men blocked
the doorway in an instant--mozos from the stable, gardeners, nondescript
helpers living on the crumbs of the munificent house--and Charles
Gould beheld all the extent of his domestic establishment, even to the
gatekeeper. This was a half-paralyzed old man, whose long white locks
fell down to his shoulders: an heirloom taken up by Charles Gould's
familial piety. He could remember Henry Gould, an Englishman and a
Costaguanero of the second generation, chief of the Sulaco province;
he had been his personal mozo years and years ago in peace and war; had
been allowed to attend his master in prison; had, on the fatal morning,
followed the firing squad; and, peeping from behind one of the cypresses
growing along the wall of the Franciscan Convent, had seen, with his
eyes starting out of his head, Don Enrique throw up his hands and fall
with his face in the dust. Charles Gould noted particularly the big
patriarchal head of that witness in the rear of the other servants. But
he was surprised to see a shrivelled old hag or two, of whose existence
within the walls of his house he had not been aware. They must have been
the mothers, or even the grandmothers of some of his people. There were
a few children, too, more or less naked, crying and clinging to the legs
of their elders. He had never before noticed any sign of a child in his
patio. Even Leonarda, the camerista, came in a fright, pushing through,
with her spoiled, pouting face of a favourite maid, leading the Viola
girls by the hand. The crockery rattled on table and sideboard, and the
whole house seemed to sway in the deafening wave of sound.



CHAPTER FIVE

During the night the expectant populace had taken possession of all the
belfries in the town in order to welcome Pedrito Montero, who was
making his entry after having slept the night in Rincon. And first
came straggling in through the land gate the armed mob of all colours,
complexions, types, and states of raggedness, calling themselves the
Sulaco National Guard, and commanded by Senor Gamacho. Through the
middle of the street streamed, like a torrent of rubbish, a mass of
straw hats, ponchos, gun-barrels, with an enormous green and yellow flag
flapping in their midst, in a cloud of dust, to the furious beating of
drums. The spectators recoiled against the walls of the houses shouting
their Vivas! Behind the rabble could be seen the lances of the cavalry,
the "army" of Pedro Montero. He advanced between Senores Fuentes and
Gamacho at the head of his llaneros, who had accomplished the feat of
crossing the Paramos of the Higuerota in a snow-storm. They rode four
abreast, mounted on confiscated Campo horses, clad in the heterogeneous
stock of roadside stores they had looted hurriedly in their rapid ride
through the northern part of the province; for Pedro Montero had been in
a great hurry to occupy Sulaco. The handkerchiefs knotted loosely around
their bare throats were glaringly new, and all the right sleeves of
their cotton shirts had been cut off close to the shoulder for greater
freedom in throwing the lazo. Emaciated greybeards rode by the side
of lean dark youths, marked by all the hardships of campaigning, with
strips of raw beef twined round the crowns of their hats, and huge iron
spurs fastened to their naked heels. Those that in the passes of the
mountain had lost their lances had provided themselves with the goads
used by the Campo cattlemen: slender shafts of palm fully ten feet long,
with a lot of loose rings jingling under the ironshod point. They were
armed with knives and revolvers. A haggard fearlessness characterized
the expression of all these sun-blacked countenances; they glared down
haughtily with their scorched eyes at the crowd, or, blinking upwards
insolently, pointed out to each other some particular head amongst the
women at the windows. When they had ridden into the Plaza and caught
sight of the equestrian statue of the King dazzlingly white in the
sunshine, towering enormous and motionless above the surges of the
crowd, with its eternal gesture of saluting, a murmur of surprise ran
through their ranks. "What is that saint in the big hat?" they asked
each other.

They were a good sample of the cavalry of the plains with which Pedro
Montero had helped so much the victorious career of his brother the
general. The influence which that man, brought up in coast towns,
acquired in a short time over the plainsmen of the Republic can be
ascribed only to a genius for treachery of so effective a kind that it
must have appeared to those violent men but little removed from a state
of utter savagery, as the perfection of sagacity and virtue. The popular
lore of all nations testifies that duplicity and cunning, together with
bodily strength, were looked upon, even more than courage, as heroic
virtues by primitive mankind. To overcome your adversary was the
great affair of life. Courage was taken for granted. But the use of
intelligence awakened wonder and respect. Stratagems, providing they did
not fail, were honourable; the easy massacre of an unsuspecting enemy
evoked no feelings but those of gladness, pride, and admiration. Not
perhaps that primitive men were more faithless than their descendants
of to-day, but that they went straighter to their aim, and were
more artless in their recognition of success as the only standard of
morality.

We have changed since. The use of intelligence awakens little wonder and
less respect. But the ignorant and barbarous plainsmen engaging in civil
strife followed willingly a leader who often managed to deliver their
enemies bound, as it were, into their hands. Pedro Montero had a talent
for lulling his adversaries into a sense of security. And as men learn
wisdom with extreme slowness, and are always ready to believe promises
that flatter their secret hopes, Pedro Montero was successful time after
time. Whether only a servant or some inferior official in the Costaguana
Legation in Paris, he had rushed back to his country directly he
heard that his brother had emerged from the obscurity of his frontier
commandancia. He had managed to deceive by his gift of plausibility
the chiefs of the Ribierist movement in the capital, and even the acute
agent of the San Tome mine had failed to understand him thoroughly. At
once he had obtained an enormous influence over his brother. They were
very much alike in appearance, both bald, with bunches of crisp hair
above their ears, arguing the presence of some negro blood. Only Pedro
was smaller than the general, more delicate altogether, with an
ape-like faculty for imitating all the outward signs of refinement and
distinction, and with a parrot-like talent for languages. Both brothers
had received some elementary instruction by the munificence of a great
European traveller, to whom their father had been a body-servant during
his journeys in the interior of the country. In General Montero's
case it enabled him to rise from the ranks. Pedrito, the younger,
incorrigibly lazy and slovenly, had drifted aimlessly from one coast
town to another, hanging about counting-houses, attaching himself
to strangers as a sort of valet-de-place, picking up an easy and
disreputable living. His ability to read did nothing for him but fill
his head with absurd visions. His actions were usually determined by
motives so improbable in themselves as to escape the penetration of a
rational person.

Thus at first sight the agent of the Gould Concession in Sta. Marta
had credited him with the possession of sane views, and even with a
restraining power over the general's everlastingly discontented vanity.
It could never have entered his head that Pedrito Montero, lackey or
inferior scribe, lodged in the garrets of the various Parisian hotels
where the Costaguana Legation used to shelter its diplomatic dignity,
had been devouring the lighter sort of historical works in the French
language, such, for instance as the books of Imbert de Saint Amand upon
the Second Empire. But Pedrito had been struck by the splendour of a
brilliant court, and had conceived the idea of an existence for himself
where, like the Duc de Morny, he would associate the command of every
pleasure with the conduct of political affairs and enjoy power supremely
in every way. Nobody could have guessed that. And yet this was one of
the immediate causes of the Monterist Revolution. This will appear less
incredible by the reflection that the fundamental causes were the
same as ever, rooted in the political immaturity of the people, in the
indolence of the upper classes and the mental darkness of the lower.

Pedrito Montero saw in the elevation of his brother the road wide
open to his wildest imaginings. This was what made the Monterist
pronunciamiento so unpreventable. The general himself probably could
have been bought off, pacified with flatteries, despatched on a
diplomatic mission to Europe. It was his brother who had egged him on
from first to last. He wanted to become the most brilliant statesman
of South America. He did not desire supreme power. He would have been
afraid of its labour and risk, in fact. Before all, Pedrito Montero,
taught by his European experience, meant to acquire a serious fortune
for himself. With this object in view he obtained from his brother, on
the very morrow of the successful battle, the permission to push on
over the mountains and take possession of Sulaco. Sulaco was the land
of future prosperity, the chosen land of material progress, the only
province in the Republic of interest to European capitalists. Pedrito
Montero, following the example of the Duc de Morny, meant to have his
share of this prosperity. This is what he meant literally. Now his
brother was master of the country, whether as President, Dictator, or
even as Emperor--why not as an Emperor?--he meant to demand a share in
every enterprise--in railways, in mines, in sugar estates, in cotton
mills, in land companies, in each and every undertaking--as the price of
his protection. The desire to be on the spot early was the real cause of
the celebrated ride over the mountains with some two hundred llaneros,
an enterprise of which the dangers had not appeared at first clearly to
his impatience. Coming from a series of victories, it seemed to him
that a Montero had only to appear to be master of the situation. This
illusion had betrayed him into a rashness of which he was becoming
aware. As he rode at the head of his llaneros he regretted that there
were so few of them. The enthusiasm of the populace reassured him. They
yelled "Viva Montero! Viva Pedrito!" In order to make them still more
enthusiastic, and from the natural pleasure he had in dissembling, he
dropped the reins on his horse's neck, and with a tremendous effect of
familiarity and confidence slipped his hands under the arms of Senores
Fuentes and Gamacho. In that posture, with a ragged town mozo holding
his horse by the bridle, he rode triumphantly across the Plaza to the
door of the Intendencia. Its old gloomy walls seemed to shake in the
acclamations that rent the air and covered the crashing peals of the
cathedral bells.

Pedro Montero, the brother of the general, dismounted into a shouting
and perspiring throng of enthusiasts whom the ragged Nationals were
pushing back fiercely. Ascending a few steps he surveyed the large crowd
gaping at him and the bullet-speckled walls of the houses opposite
lightly veiled by a sunny haze of dust. The word "_Pourvenir_" in
immense black capitals, alternating with broken windows, stared at
him across the vast space; and he thought with delight of the hour of
vengeance, because he was very sure of laying his hands upon Decoud.
On his left hand, Gamacho, big and hot, wiping his hairy wet face,
uncovered a set of yellow fangs in a grin of stupid hilarity. On his
right, Senor Fuentes, small and lean, looked on with compressed lips.
The crowd stared literally open-mouthed, lost in eager stillness, as
though they had expected the great guerrillero, the famous Pedrito, to
begin scattering at once some sort of visible largesse. What he began
was a speech. He began it with the shouted word "Citizens!" which
reached even those in the middle of the Plaza. Afterwards the greater
part of the citizens remained fascinated by the orator's action alone,
his tip-toeing, the arms flung above his head with the fists clenched,
a hand laid flat upon the heart, the silver gleam of rolling eyes,
the sweeping, pointing, embracing gestures, a hand laid familiarly
on Gamacho's shoulder; a hand waved formally towards the little
black-coated person of Senor Fuentes, advocate and politician and a true
friend of the people. The vivas of those nearest to the orator bursting
out suddenly propagated themselves irregularly to the confines of the
crowd, like flames running over dry grass, and expired in the opening of
the streets. In the intervals, over the swarming Plaza brooded a heavy
silence, in which the mouth of the orator went on opening and shutting,
and detached phrases--"The happiness of the people," "Sons of the
country," "The entire world, el mundo entiero"--reached even the packed
steps of the cathedral with a feeble clear ring, thin as the buzzing
of a mosquito. But the orator struck his breast; he seemed to prance
between his two supporters. It was the supreme effort of his peroration.
Then the two smaller figures disappeared from the public gaze and the
enormous Gamacho, left alone, advanced, raising his hat high above his
head. Then he covered himself proudly and yelled out, "Ciudadanos!" A
dull roar greeted Senor Gamacho, ex-pedlar of the Campo, Commandante of
the National Guards.

Upstairs Pedrito Montero walked about rapidly from one wrecked room of
the Intendencia to another, snarling incessantly--

"What stupidity! What destruction!"

Senor Fuentes, following, would relax his taciturn disposition to
murmur--

"It is all the work of Gamacho and his Nationals;" and then, inclining
his head on his left shoulder, would press together his lips so firmly
that a little hollow would appear at each corner. He had his nomination
for Political Chief of the town in his pocket, and was all impatience to
enter upon his functions.

In the long audience room, with its tall mirrors all starred by stones,
the hangings torn down and the canopy over the platform at the upper end
pulled to pieces, the vast, deep muttering of the crowd and the howling
voice of Gamacho speaking just below reached them through the shutters
as they stood idly in dimness and desolation.

"The brute!" observed his Excellency Don Pedro Montero through clenched
teeth. "We must contrive as quickly as possible to send him and his
Nationals out there to fight Hernandez."

The new Gefe Politico only jerked his head sideways, and took a puff at
his cigarette in sign of his agreement with this method for ridding the
town of Gamacho and his inconvenient rabble.

Pedrito Montero looked with disgust at the absolutely bare floor, and
at the belt of heavy gilt picture-frames running round the room, out
of which the remnants of torn and slashed canvases fluttered like dingy
rags.

"We are not barbarians," he said.

This was what said his Excellency, the popular Pedrito, the guerrillero
skilled in the art of laying ambushes, charged by his brother at his
own demand with the organization of Sulaco on democratic principles. The
night before, during the consultation with his partisans, who had
come out to meet him in Rincon, he had opened his intentions to Senor
Fuentes--

"We shall organize a popular vote, by yes or no, confiding the destinies
of our beloved country to the wisdom and valiance of my heroic brother,
the invincible general. A plebiscite. Do you understand?"

And Senor Fuentes, puffing out his leathery cheeks, had inclined his
head slightly to the left, letting a thin, bluish jet of smoke escape
through his pursed lips. He had understood.

His Excellency was exasperated at the devastation. Not a single chair,
table, sofa, etagere or console had been left in the state rooms of the
Intendencia. His Excellency, though twitching all over with rage, was
restrained from bursting into violence by a sense of his remoteness and
isolation. His heroic brother was very far away. Meantime, how was he
going to take his siesta? He had expected to find comfort and luxury
in the Intendencia after a year of hard camp life, ending with the
hardships and privations of the daring dash upon Sulaco--upon the
province which was worth more in wealth and influence than all the rest
of the Republic's territory. He would get even with Gamacho by-and-by.
And Senor Gamacho's oration, delectable to popular ears, went on in the
heat and glare of the Plaza like the uncouth howlings of an inferior
sort of devil cast into a white-hot furnace. Every moment he had to wipe
his streaming face with his bare fore-arm; he had flung off his coat,
and had turned up the sleeves of his shirt high above the elbows; but
he kept on his head the large cocked hat with white plumes. His
ingenuousness cherished this sign of his rank as Commandante of the
National Guards. Approving and grave murmurs greeted his periods. His
opinion was that war should be declared at once against France, England,
Germany, and the United States, who, by introducing railways, mining
enterprises, colonization, and under such other shallow pretences, aimed
at robbing poor people of their lands, and with the help of these Goths
and paralytics, the aristocrats would convert them into toiling and
miserable slaves. And the leperos, flinging about the corners of their
dirty white mantas, yelled their approbation. General Montero, Gamacho
howled with conviction, was the only man equal to the patriotic task.
They assented to that, too.

The morning was wearing on; there were already signs of disruption,
currents and eddies in the crowd. Some were seeking the shade of the
walls and under the trees of the Alameda. Horsemen spurred through,
shouting; groups of sombreros set level on heads against the vertical
sun were drifting away into the streets, where the open doors of
pulperias revealed an enticing gloom resounding with the gentle tinkling
of guitars. The National Guards were thinking of siesta, and the
eloquence of Gamacho, their chief, was exhausted. Later on, when, in the
cooler hours of the afternoon, they tried to assemble again for further
consideration of public affairs, detachments of Montero's cavalry camped
on the Alameda charged them without parley, at speed, with long lances
levelled at their flying backs as far as the ends of the streets. The
National Guards of Sulaco were surprised by this proceeding. But they
were not indignant. No Costaguanero had ever learned to question the
eccentricities of a military force. They were part of the natural order
of things. This must be, they concluded, some kind of administrative
measure, no doubt. But the motive of it escaped their unaided
intelligence, and their chief and orator, Gamacho, Commandante of the
National Guard, was lying drunk and asleep in the bosom of his family.
His bare feet were upturned in the shadows repulsively, in the manner
of a corpse. His eloquent mouth had dropped open. His youngest daughter,
scratching her head with one hand, with the other waved a green bough
over his scorched and peeling face.



CHAPTER SIX

The declining sun had shifted the shadows from west to east amongst the
houses of the town. It had shifted them upon the whole extent of the
immense Campo, with the white walls of its haciendas on the knolls
dominating the green distances; with its grass-thatched ranches
crouching in the folds of ground by the banks of streams; with the dark
islands of clustered trees on a clear sea of grass, and the precipitous
range of the Cordillera, immense and motionless, emerging from the
billows of the lower forests like the barren coast of a land of giants.
The sunset rays striking the snow-slope of Higuerota from afar gave it
an air of rosy youth, while the serrated mass of distant peaks remained
black, as if calcined in the fiery radiance. The undulating surface of
the forests seemed powdered with pale gold dust; and away there, beyond
Rincon, hidden from the town by two wooded spurs, the rocks of the
San Tome gorge, with the flat wall of the mountain itself crowned by
gigantic ferns, took on warm tones of brown and yellow, with red rusty
streaks, and the dark green clumps of bushes rooted in crevices. From
the plain the stamp sheds and the houses of the mine appeared dark and
small, high up, like the nests of birds clustered on the ledges of a
cliff. The zigzag paths resembled faint tracings scratched on the wall
of a cyclopean blockhouse. To the two serenos of the mine on patrol
duty, strolling, carbine in hand, and watchful eyes, in the shade of the
trees lining the stream near the bridge, Don Pepe, descending the path
from the upper plateau, appeared no bigger than a large beetle.

With his air of aimless, insect-like going to and fro upon the face of
the rock, Don Pepe's figure kept on descending steadily, and, when near
the bottom, sank at last behind the roofs of store-houses, forges, and
workshops. For a time the pair of serenos strolled back and forth before
the bridge, on which they had stopped a horseman holding a large white
envelope in his hand. Then Don Pepe, emerging in the village street
from amongst the houses, not a stone's throw from the frontier bridge,
approached, striding in wide dark trousers tucked into boots, a white
linen jacket, sabre at his side, and revolver at his belt. In this
disturbed time nothing could find the Senor Gobernador with his boots
off, as the saying is.

At a slight nod from one of the serenos, the man, a messenger from
the town, dismounted, and crossed the bridge, leading his horse by the
bridle.

Don Pepe received the letter from his other hand, slapped his left
side and his hips in succession, feeling for his spectacle case. After
settling the heavy silvermounted affair astride his nose, and adjusting
it carefully behind his ears, he opened the envelope, holding it up at
about a foot in front of his eyes. The paper he pulled out contained
some three lines of writing. He looked at them for a long time. His grey
moustache moved slightly up and down, and the wrinkles, radiating at the
corners of his eyes, ran together. He nodded serenely. "Bueno," he said.
"There is no answer."

Then, in his quiet, kindly way, he engaged in a cautious conversation
with the man, who was willing to talk cheerily, as if something lucky
had happened to him recently. He had seen from a distance Sotillo's
infantry camped along the shore of the harbour on each side of the
Custom House. They had done no damage to the buildings. The foreigners
of the railway remained shut up within the yards. They were no longer
anxious to shoot poor people. He cursed the foreigners; then he reported
Montero's entry and the rumours of the town. The poor were going to be
made rich now. That was very good. More he did not know, and, breaking
into propitiatory smiles, he intimated that he was hungry and thirsty.
The old major directed him to go to the alcalde of the first village.
The man rode off, and Don Pepe, striding slowly in the direction of a
little wooden belfry, looked over a hedge into a little garden, and saw
Father Roman sitting in a white hammock slung between two orange trees
in front of the presbytery.

An enormous tamarind shaded with its dark foliage the whole white
framehouse. A young Indian girl with long hair, big eyes, and small
hands and feet, carried out a wooden chair, while a thin old woman,
crabbed and vigilant, watched her all the time from the verandah.

Don Pepe sat down in the chair and lighted a cigar; the priest drew
in an immense quantity of snuff out of the hollow of his palm. On his
reddish-brown face, worn, hollowed as if crumbled, the eyes, fresh and
candid, sparkled like two black diamonds.

Don Pepe, in a mild and humorous voice, informed Father Roman that
Pedrito Montero, by the hand of Senor Fuentes, had asked him on what
terms he would surrender the mine in proper working order to a legally
constituted commission of patriotic citizens, escorted by a small
military force. The priest cast his eyes up to heaven. However, Don Pepe
continued, the mozo who brought the letter said that Don Carlos Gould
was alive, and so far unmolested.

Father Roman expressed in a few words his thankfulness at hearing of the
Senor Administrador's safety.

The hour of oration had gone by in the silvery ringing of a bell in the
little belfry. The belt of forest closing the entrance of the valley
stood like a screen between the low sun and the street of the village.
At the other end of the rocky gorge, between the walls of basalt and
granite, a forest-clad mountain, hiding all the range from the San Tome
dwellers, rose steeply, lighted up and leafy to the very top. Three
small rosy clouds hung motionless overhead in the great depth of blue.
Knots of people sat in the street between the wattled huts. Before the
casa of the alcalde, the foremen of the night-shift, already assembled
to lead their men, squatted on the ground in a circle of leather
skull-caps, and, bowing their bronze backs, were passing round the gourd
of mate. The mozo from the town, having fastened his horse to a wooden
post before the door, was telling them the news of Sulaco as the
blackened gourd of the decoction passed from hand to hand. The grave
alcalde himself, in a white waistcloth and a flowered chintz gown with
sleeves, open wide upon his naked stout person with an effect of a gaudy
bathing robe, stood by, wearing a rough beaver hat at the back of his
head, and grasping a tall staff with a silver knob in his hand.
These insignia of his dignity had been conferred upon him by the
Administration of the mine, the fountain of honour, of prosperity, and
peace. He had been one of the first immigrants into this valley; his
sons and sons-in-law worked within the mountain which seemed with its
treasures to pour down the thundering ore shoots of the upper mesa, the
gifts of well-being, security, and justice upon the toilers. He listened
to the news from the town with curiosity and indifference, as if
concerning another world than his own. And it was true that they
appeared to him so. In a very few years the sense of belonging to a
powerful organization had been developed in these harassed, half-wild
Indians. They were proud of, and attached to, the mine. It had secured
their confidence and belief. They invested it with a protecting and
invincible virtue as though it were a fetish made by their own hands,
for they were ignorant, and in other respects did not differ appreciably
from the rest of mankind which puts infinite trust in its own creations.
It never entered the alcalde's head that the mine could fail in its
protection and force. Politics were good enough for the people of the
town and the Campo. His yellow, round face, with wide nostrils, and
motionless in expression, resembled a fierce full moon. He listened to
the excited vapourings of the mozo without misgivings, without surprise,
without any active sentiment whatever.

Padre Roman sat dejectedly balancing himself, his feet just touching
the ground, his hands gripping the edge of the hammock. With less
confidence, but as ignorant as his flock, he asked the major what did he
think was going to happen now.

Don Pepe, bolt upright in the chair, folded his hands peacefully on
the hilt of his sword, standing perpendicular between his thighs, and
answered that he did not know. The mine could be defended against any
force likely to be sent to take possession. On the other hand, from the
arid character of the valley, when the regular supplies from the Campo
had been cut off, the population of the three villages could be starved
into submission. Don Pepe exposed these contingencies with serenity
to Father Roman, who, as an old campaigner, was able to understand the
reasoning of a military man. They talked with simplicity and directness.
Father Roman was saddened at the idea of his flock being scattered
or else enslaved. He had no illusions as to their fate, not from
penetration, but from long experience of political atrocities, which
seemed to him fatal and unavoidable in the life of a State. The working
of the usual public institutions presented itself to him most distinctly
as a series of calamities overtaking private individuals and flowing
logically from each other through hate, revenge, folly, and rapacity,
as though they had been part of a divine dispensation. Father Roman's
clear-sightedness was served by an uninformed intelligence; but his
heart, preserving its tenderness amongst scenes of carnage, spoliation,
and violence, abhorred these calamities the more as his association with
the victims was closer. He entertained towards the Indians of the valley
feelings of paternal scorn. He had been marrying, baptizing, confessing,
absolving, and burying the workers of the San Tome mine with dignity
and unction for five years or more; and he believed in the sacredness of
these ministrations, which made them his own in a spiritual sense. They
were dear to his sacerdotal supremacy. Mrs. Gould's earnest interest in
the concerns of these people enhanced their importance in the priest's
eyes, because it really augmented his own. When talking over with her
the innumerable Marias and Brigidas of the villages, he felt his own
humanity expand. Padre Roman was incapable of fanaticism to an almost
reprehensible degree. The English senora was evidently a heretic; but
at the same time she seemed to him wonderful and angelic. Whenever that
confused state of his feelings occurred to him, while strolling, for
instance, his breviary under his arm, in the wide shade of the tamarind,
he would stop short to inhale with a strong snuffling noise a large
quantity of snuff, and shake his head profoundly. At the thought of
what might befall the illustrious senora presently, he became gradually
overcome with dismay. He voiced it in an agitated murmur. Even Don Pepe
lost his serenity for a moment. He leaned forward stiffly.

"Listen, Padre. The very fact that those thieving macaques in Sulaco are
trying to find out the price of my honour proves that Senor Don Carlos
and all in the Casa Gould are safe. As to my honour, that also is safe,
as every man, woman, and child knows. But the negro Liberals who have
snatched the town by surprise do not know that. Bueno. Let them sit and
wait. While they wait they can do no harm."

And he regained his composure. He regained it easily, because whatever
happened his honour of an old officer of Paez was safe. He had promised
Charles Gould that at the approach of an armed force he would defend the
gorge just long enough to give himself time to destroy scientifically
the whole plant, buildings, and workshops of the mine with heavy charges
of dynamite; block with ruins the main tunnel, break down the pathways,
blow up the dam of the water-power, shatter the famous Gould Concession
into fragments, flying sky high out of a horrified world. The mine had
got hold of Charles Gould with a grip as deadly as ever it had laid upon
his father. But this extreme resolution had seemed to Don Pepe the most
natural thing in the world. His measures had been taken with judgment.
Everything was prepared with a careful completeness. And Don Pepe folded
his hands pacifically on his sword hilt, and nodded at the priest. In
his excitement, Father Roman had flung snuff in handfuls at his face,
and, all besmeared with tobacco, round-eyed, and beside himself, had got
out of the hammock to walk about, uttering exclamations.

Don Pepe stroked his grey and pendant moustache, whose fine ends hung
far below the clean-cut line of his jaw, and spoke with a conscious
pride in his reputation.

"So, Padre, I don't know what will happen. But I know that as long as
I am here Don Carlos can speak to that macaque, Pedrito Montero, and
threaten the destruction of the mine with perfect assurance that he will
be taken seriously. For people know me."

He began to turn the cigar in his lips a little nervously, and went on--

"But that is talk--good for the politicos. I am a military man. I do not
know what may happen. But I know what ought to be done--the mine should
march upon the town with guns, axes, knives tied up to sticks--por Dios.
That is what should be done. Only--"

His folded hands twitched on the hilt. The cigar turned faster in the
corner of his lips.

"And who should lead but I? Unfortunately--observe--I have given my word
of honour to Don Carlos not to let the mine fall into the hands of these
thieves. In war--you know this, Padre--the fate of battles is uncertain,
and whom could I leave here to act for me in case of defeat? The
explosives are ready. But it would require a man of high honour,
of intelligence, of judgment, of courage, to carry out the prepared
destruction. Somebody I can trust with my honour as I can trust myself.
Another old officer of Paez, for instance. Or--or--perhaps one of Paez's
old chaplains would do."

He got up, long, lank, upright, hard, with his martial moustache and
the bony structure of his face, from which the glance of the sunken
eyes seemed to transfix the priest, who stood still, an empty wooden
snuff-box held upside down in his hand, and glared back, speechless, at
the governor of the mine.



CHAPTER SEVEN

At about that time, in the Intendencia of Sulaco, Charles Gould was
assuring Pedrito Montero, who had sent a request for his presence there,
that he would never let the mine pass out of his hands for the profit of
a Government who had robbed him of it. The Gould Concession could not
be resumed. His father had not desired it. The son would never surrender
it. He would never surrender it alive. And once dead, where was the
power capable of resuscitating such an enterprise in all its vigour and
wealth out of the ashes and ruin of destruction? There was no such power
in the country. And where was the skill and capital abroad that would
condescend to touch such an ill-omened corpse? Charles Gould talked in
the impassive tone which had for many years served to conceal his anger
and contempt. He suffered. He was disgusted with what he had to say. It
was too much like heroics. In him the strictly practical instinct was in
profound discord with the almost mystic view he took of his right. The
Gould Concession was symbolic of abstract justice. Let the heavens
fall. But since the San Tome mine had developed into world-wide fame
his threat had enough force and effectiveness to reach the rudimentary
intelligence of Pedro Montero, wrapped up as it was in the futilities
of historical anecdotes. The Gould Concession was a serious asset in the
country's finance, and, what was more, in the private budgets of many
officials as well. It was traditional. It was known. It was said. It
was credible. Every Minister of Interior drew a salary from the San
Tome mine. It was natural. And Pedrito intended to be Minister of the
Interior and President of the Council in his brother's Government. The
Duc de Morny had occupied those high posts during the Second French
Empire with conspicuous advantage to himself.

A table, a chair, a wooden bedstead had been procured for His
Excellency, who, after a short siesta, rendered absolutely necessary
by the labours and the pomps of his entry into Sulaco, had been getting
hold of the administrative machine by making appointments, giving
orders, and signing proclamations. Alone with Charles Gould in the
audience room, His Excellency managed with his well-known skill to
conceal his annoyance and consternation. He had begun at first to talk
loftily of confiscation, but the want of all proper feeling and mobility
in the Senor Administrador's features ended by affecting adversely
his power of masterful expression. Charles Gould had repeated: "The
Government can certainly bring about the destruction of the San Tome
mine if it likes; but without me it can do nothing else." It was an
alarming pronouncement, and well calculated to hurt the sensibilities of
a politician whose mind is bent upon the spoils of victory. And Charles
Gould said also that the destruction of the San Tome mine would cause
the ruin of other undertakings, the withdrawal of European capital, the
withholding, most probably, of the last instalment of the foreign loan.
That stony fiend of a man said all these things (which were accessible
to His Excellency's intelligence) in a coldblooded manner which made one
shudder.

A long course of reading historical works, light and gossipy in tone,
carried out in garrets of Parisian hotels, sprawling on an untidy bed,
to the neglect of his duties, menial or otherwise, had affected the
manners of Pedro Montero. Had he seen around him the splendour of the
old Intendencia, the magnificent hangings, the gilt furniture ranged
along the walls; had he stood upon a dais on a noble square of red
carpet, he would have probably been very dangerous from a sense of
success and elevation. But in this sacked and devastated residence, with
the three pieces of common furniture huddled up in the middle of the
vast apartment, Pedrito's imagination was subdued by a feeling of
insecurity and impermanence. That feeling and the firm attitude
of Charles Gould who had not once, so far, pronounced the word
"Excellency," diminished him in his own eyes. He assumed the tone of an
enlightened man of the world, and begged Charles Gould to dismiss from
his mind every cause for alarm. He was now conversing, he reminded
him, with the brother of the master of the country, charged with a
reorganizing mission. The trusted brother of the master of the country,
he repeated. Nothing was further from the thoughts of that wise and
patriotic hero than ideas of destruction. "I entreat you, Don Carlos,
not to give way to your anti-democratic prejudices," he cried, in a
burst of condescending effusion.

Pedrito Montero surprised one at first sight by the vast development of
his bald forehead, a shiny yellow expanse between the crinkly coal-black
tufts of hair without any lustre, the engaging form of his mouth, and
an unexpectedly cultivated voice. But his eyes, very glistening as if
freshly painted on each side of his hooked nose, had a round, hopeless,
birdlike stare when opened fully. Now, however, he narrowed them
agreeably, throwing his square chin up and speaking with closed teeth
slightly through the nose, with what he imagined to be the manner of a
grand seigneur.

In that attitude, he declared suddenly that the highest expression of
democracy was Caesarism: the imperial rule based upon the direct popular
vote. Caesarism was conservative. It was strong. It recognized the
legitimate needs of democracy which requires orders, titles, and
distinctions. They would be showered upon deserving men. Caesarism
was peace. It was progressive. It secured the prosperity of a country.
Pedrito Montero was carried away. Look at what the Second Empire had
done for France. It was a regime which delighted to honour men of Don
Carlos's stamp. The Second Empire fell, but that was because its chief
was devoid of that military genius which had raised General Montero to
the pinnacle of fame and glory. Pedrito elevated his hand jerkily to
help the idea of pinnacle, of fame. "We shall have many talks yet. We
shall understand each other thoroughly, Don Carlos!" he cried in a tone
of fellowship. Republicanism had done its work. Imperial democracy was
the power of the future. Pedrito, the guerrillero, showing his hand,
lowered his voice forcibly. A man singled out by his fellow-citizens for
the honourable nickname of El Rey de Sulaco could not but receive a full
recognition from an imperial democracy as a great captain of industry
and a person of weighty counsel, whose popular designation would be soon
replaced by a more solid title. "Eh, Don Carlos? No! What do you say?
Conde de Sulaco--Eh?--or marquis . . ."

He ceased. The air was cool on the Plaza, where a patrol of cavalry rode
round and round without penetrating into the streets, which resounded
with shouts and the strumming of guitars issuing from the open doors of
pulperias. The orders were not to interfere with the enjoyments of the
people. And above the roofs, next to the perpendicular lines of the
cathedral towers the snowy curve of Higuerota blocked a large space of
darkening blue sky before the windows of the Intendencia. After a time
Pedrito Montero, thrusting his hand in the bosom of his coat, bowed his
head with slow dignity. The audience was over.

Charles Gould on going out passed his hand over his forehead as if to
disperse the mists of an oppressive dream, whose grotesque extravagance
leaves behind a subtle sense of bodily danger and intellectual decay. In
the passages and on the staircases of the old palace Montero's troopers
lounged about insolently, smoking and making way for no one; the
clanking of sabres and spurs resounded all over the building. Three
silent groups of civilians in severe black waited in the main gallery,
formal and helpless, a little huddled up, each keeping apart from the
others, as if in the exercise of a public duty they had been overcome
by a desire to shun the notice of every eye. These were the deputations
waiting for their audience. The one from the Provincial Assembly, more
restless and uneasy in its corporate expression, was overtopped by the
big face of Don Juste Lopez, soft and white, with prominent eyelids and
wreathed in impenetrable solemnity as if in a dense cloud. The President
of the Provincial Assembly, coming bravely to save the last shred of
parliamentary institutions (on the English model), averted his eyes
from the Administrador of the San Tome mine as a dignified rebuke of his
little faith in that only saving principle.

The mournful severity of that reproof did not affect Charles Gould, but
he was sensible to the glances of the others directed upon him without
reproach, as if only to read their own fate upon his face. All of them
had talked, shouted, and declaimed in the great sala of the Casa Gould.
The feeling of compassion for those men, struck with a strange impotence
in the toils of moral degradation, did not induce him to make a sign. He
suffered from his fellowship in evil with them too much. He crossed the
Plaza unmolested. The Amarilla Club was full of festive ragamuffins.
Their frowsy heads protruded from every window, and from within came
drunken shouts, the thumping of feet, and the twanging of harps. Broken
bottles strewed the pavement below. Charles Gould found the doctor still
in his house.

Dr. Monygham came away from the crack in the shutter through which he
had been watching the street.

"Ah! You are back at last!" he said in a tone of relief. "I have been
telling Mrs. Gould that you were perfectly safe, but I was not by any
means certain that the fellow would have let you go."

"Neither was I," confessed Charles Gould, laying his hat on the table.

"You will have to take action."

The silence of Charles Gould seemed to admit that this was the only
course. This was as far as Charles Gould was accustomed to go towards
expressing his intentions.

"I hope you did not warn Montero of what you mean to do," the doctor
said, anxiously.

"I tried to make him see that the existence of the mine was bound up
with my personal safety," continued Charles Gould, looking away from the
doctor, and fixing his eyes upon the water-colour sketch upon the wall.

"He believed you?" the doctor asked, eagerly.

"God knows!" said Charles Gould. "I owed it to my wife to say that much.
He is well enough informed. He knows that I have Don Pepe there. Fuentes
must have told him. They know that the old major is perfectly capable of
blowing up the San Tome mine without hesitation or compunction. Had it
not been for that I don't think I'd have left the Intendencia a free
man. He would blow everything up from loyalty and from hate--from hate
of these Liberals, as they call themselves. Liberals! The words one
knows so well have a nightmarish meaning in this country. Liberty,
democracy, patriotism, government--all of them have a flavour of folly
and murder. Haven't they, doctor? . . . I alone can restrain Don Pepe.
If they were to--to do away with me, nothing could prevent him."

"They will try to tamper with him," the doctor suggested, thoughtfully.

"It is very possible," Charles Gould said very low, as if speaking to
himself, and still gazing at the sketch of the San Tome gorge upon the
wall. "Yes, I expect they will try that." Charles Gould looked for the
first time at the doctor. "It would give me time," he added.

"Exactly," said Dr. Monygham, suppressing his excitement. "Especially if
Don Pepe behaves diplomatically. Why shouldn't he give them some hope
of success? Eh? Otherwise you wouldn't gain so much time. Couldn't he be
instructed to--"

Charles Gould, looking at the doctor steadily, shook his head, but the
doctor continued with a certain amount of fire--

"Yes, to enter into negotiations for the surrender of the mine. It is a
good notion. You would mature your plan. Of course, I don't ask what it
is. I don't want to know. I would refuse to listen to you if you tried
to tell me. I am not fit for confidences."

"What nonsense!" muttered Charles Gould, with displeasure.

He disapproved of the doctor's sensitiveness about that far-off
episode of his life. So much memory shocked Charles Gould. It was like
morbidness. And again he shook his head. He refused to tamper with the
open rectitude of Don Pepe's conduct, both from taste and from policy.
Instructions would have to be either verbal or in writing. In either
case they ran the risk of being intercepted. It was by no means certain
that a messenger could reach the mine; and, besides, there was no one
to send. It was on the tip of Charles's tongue to say that only the
late Capataz de Cargadores could have been employed with some chance
of success and the certitude of discretion. But he did not say that. He
pointed out to the doctor that it would have been bad policy.
Directly Don Pepe let it be supposed that he could be bought over, the
Administrador's personal safety and the safety of his friends would
become endangered. For there would be then no reason for moderation. The
incorruptibility of Don Pepe was the essential and restraining fact. The
doctor hung his head and admitted that in a way it was so.

He couldn't deny to himself that the reasoning was sound enough. Don
Pepe's usefulness consisted in his unstained character. As to his own
usefulness, he reflected bitterly it was also his own character. He
declared to Charles Gould that he had the means of keeping Sotillo from
joining his forces with Montero, at least for the present.

"If you had had all this silver here," the doctor said, "or even if it
had been known to be at the mine, you could have bribed Sotillo to throw
off his recent Monterism. You could have induced him either to go away
in his steamer or even to join you."

"Certainly not that last," Charles Gould declared, firmly. "What could
one do with a man like that, afterwards--tell me, doctor? The silver is
gone, and I am glad of it. It would have been an immediate and
strong temptation. The scramble for that visible plunder would have
precipitated a disastrous ending. I would have had to defend it, too.
I am glad we've removed it--even if it is lost. It would have been a
danger and a curse."

"Perhaps he is right," the doctor, an hour later, said hurriedly to Mrs.
Gould, whom he met in the corridor. "The thing is done, and the shadow
of the treasure may do just as well as the substance. Let me try to
serve you to the whole extent of my evil reputation. I am off now to
play my game of betrayal with Sotillo, and keep him off the town."

She put out both her hands impulsively. "Dr. Monygham, you are running a
terrible risk," she whispered, averting from his face her eyes, full of
tears, for a short glance at the door of her husband's room. She pressed
both his hands, and the doctor stood as if rooted to the spot, looking
down at her, and trying to twist his lips into a smile.

"Oh, I know you will defend my memory," he uttered at last, and ran
tottering down the stairs across the patio, and out of the house. In the
street he kept up a great pace with his smart hobbling walk, a case
of instruments under his arm. He was known for being loco. Nobody
interfered with him. From under the seaward gate, across the dusty, arid
plain, interspersed with low bushes, he saw, more than a mile away, the
ugly enormity of the Custom House, and the two or three other buildings
which at that time constituted the seaport of Sulaco. Far away to the
south groves of palm trees edged the curve of the harbour shore. The
distant peaks of the Cordillera had lost their identity of clearcut
shapes in the steadily deepening blue of the eastern sky. The doctor
walked briskly. A darkling shadow seemed to fall upon him from the
zenith. The sun had set. For a time the snows of Higuerota continued
to glow with the reflected glory of the west. The doctor, holding a
straight course for the Custom House, appeared lonely, hopping amongst
the dark bushes like a tall bird with a broken wing.

Tints of purple, gold, and crimson were mirrored in the clear water
of the harbour. A long tongue of land, straight as a wall, with the
grass-grown ruins of the fort making a sort of rounded green mound,
plainly visible from the inner shore, closed its circuit; while beyond
the Placid Gulf repeated those splendours of colouring on a greater
scale and with a more sombre magnificence. The great mass of cloud
filling the head of the gulf had long red smears amongst its convoluted
folds of grey and black, as of a floating mantle stained with blood.
The three Isabels, overshadowed and clear cut in a great smoothness
confounding the sea and sky, appeared suspended, purple-black, in the
air. The little wavelets seemed to be tossing tiny red sparks upon the
sandy beaches. The glassy bands of water along the horizon gave out a
fiery red glow, as if fire and water had been mingled together in the
vast bed of the ocean.

At last the conflagration of sea and sky, lying embraced and still in a
flaming contact upon the edge of the world, went out. The red sparks in
the water vanished together with the stains of blood in the black mantle
draping the sombre head of the Placid Gulf; a sudden breeze sprang up
and died out after rustling heavily the growth of bushes on the ruined
earthwork of the fort. Nostromo woke up from a fourteen hours' sleep,
and arose full length from his lair in the long grass. He stood knee
deep amongst the whispering undulations of the green blades with the
lost air of a man just born into the world. Handsome, robust, and
supple, he threw back his head, flung his arms open, and stretched
himself with a slow twist of the waist and a leisurely growling yawn of
white teeth, as natural and free from evil in the moment of waking as a
magnificent and unconscious wild beast. Then, in the suddenly steadied
glance fixed upon nothing from under a thoughtful frown, appeared the
man.



CHAPTER EIGHT

After landing from his swim Nostromo had scrambled up, all dripping,
into the main quadrangle of the old fort; and there, amongst ruined bits
of walls and rotting remnants of roofs and sheds, he had slept the day
through. He had slept in the shadow of the mountains, in the white blaze
of noon, in the stillness and solitude of that overgrown piece of land
between the oval of the harbour and the spacious semi-circle of the
gulf. He lay as if dead. A rey-zamuro, appearing like a tiny black speck
in the blue, stooped, circling prudently with a stealthiness of flight
startling in a bird of that great size. The shadow of his pearly-white
body, of his black-tipped wings, fell on the grass no more silently than
he alighted himself on a hillock of rubbish within three yards of that
man, lying as still as a corpse. The bird stretched his bare neck,
craned his bald head, loathsome in the brilliance of varied colouring,
with an air of voracious anxiety towards the promising stillness of that
prostrate body. Then, sinking his head deeply into his soft plumage, he
settled himself to wait. The first thing upon which Nostromo's eyes
fell on waking was this patient watcher for the signs of death and
corruption. When the man got up the vulture hopped away in great,
side-long, fluttering jumps. He lingered for a while, morose and
reluctant, before he rose, circling noiselessly with a sinister droop of
beak and claws.

Long after he had vanished, Nostromo, lifting his eyes up to the sky,
muttered, "I am not dead yet."

The Capataz of the Sulaco Cargadores had lived in splendour and
publicity up to the very moment, as it were, when he took charge of the
lighter containing the treasure of silver ingots.

The last act he had performed in Sulaco was in complete harmony with his
vanity, and as such perfectly genuine. He had given his last dollar to
an old woman moaning with the grief and fatigue of a dismal search
under the arch of the ancient gate. Performed in obscurity and without
witnesses, it had still the characteristics of splendour and publicity,
and was in strict keeping with his reputation. But this awakening in
solitude, except for the watchful vulture, amongst the ruins of the
fort, had no such characteristics. His first confused feeling was
exactly this--that it was not in keeping. It was more like the end of
things. The necessity of living concealed somehow, for God knows how
long, which assailed him on his return to consciousness, made everything
that had gone before for years appear vain and foolish, like a
flattering dream come suddenly to an end.

He climbed the crumbling slope of the rampart, and, putting aside the
bushes, looked upon the harbour. He saw a couple of ships at anchor upon
the sheet of water reflecting the last gleams of light, and Sotillo's
steamer moored to the jetty. And behind the pale long front of the
Custom House, there appeared the extent of the town like a grove of
thick timber on the plain with a gateway in front, and the cupolas,
towers, and miradors rising above the trees, all dark, as if surrendered
already to the night. The thought that it was no longer open to him to
ride through the streets, recognized by everyone, great and little, as
he used to do every evening on his way to play monte in the posada of
the Mexican Domingo; or to sit in the place of honour, listening to
songs and looking at dances, made it appear to him as a town that had no
existence.

For a long time he gazed on, then let the parted bushes spring back,
and, crossing over to the other side of the fort, surveyed the vaster
emptiness of the great gulf. The Isabels stood out heavily upon the
narrowing long band of red in the west, which gleamed low between their
black shapes, and the Capataz thought of Decoud alone there with the
treasure. That man was the only one who cared whether he fell into the
hands of the Monterists or not, the Capataz reflected bitterly. And
that merely would be an anxiety for his own sake. As to the rest, they
neither knew nor cared. What he had heard Giorgio Viola say once was
very true. Kings, ministers, aristocrats, the rich in general, kept the
people in poverty and subjection; they kept them as they kept dogs, to
fight and hunt for their service.

The darkness of the sky had descended to the line of the horizon,
enveloping the whole gulf, the islets, and the lover of Antonia alone
with the treasure on the Great Isabel. The Capataz, turning his back on
these things invisible and existing, sat down and took his face between
his fists. He felt the pinch of poverty for the first time in his life.
To find himself without money after a run of bad luck at monte in the
low, smoky room of Domingo's posada, where the fraternity of Cargadores
gambled, sang, and danced of an evening; to remain with empty pockets
after a burst of public generosity to some peyne d'oro girl or other
(for whom he did not care), had none of the humiliation of destitution.
He remained rich in glory and reputation. But since it was no longer
possible for him to parade the streets of the town, and be hailed with
respect in the usual haunts of his leisure, this sailor felt himself
destitute indeed.

His mouth was dry. It was dry with heavy sleep and extremely anxious
thinking, as it had never been dry before. It may be said that Nostromo
tasted the dust and ashes of the fruit of life into which he had bitten
deeply in his hunger for praise. Without removing his head from between
his fists, he tried to spit before him--"Tfui"--and muttered a curse
upon the selfishness of all the rich people.

Since everything seemed lost in Sulaco (and that was the feeling of his
waking), the idea of leaving the country altogether had presented itself
to Nostromo. At that thought he had seen, like the beginning of another
dream, a vision of steep and tideless shores, with dark pines on the
heights and white houses low down near a very blue sea. He saw the quays
of a big port, where the coasting feluccas, with their lateen sails
outspread like motionless wings, enter gliding silently between the
end of long moles of squared blocks that project angularly towards
each other, hugging a cluster of shipping to the superb bosom of a hill
covered with palaces. He remembered these sights not without some filial
emotion, though he had been habitually and severely beaten as a boy
on one of these feluccas by a short-necked, shaven Genoese, with a
deliberate and distrustful manner, who (he firmly believed) had cheated
him out of his orphan's inheritance. But it is mercifully decreed that
the evils of the past should appear but faintly in retrospect. Under
the sense of loneliness, abandonment, and failure, the idea of return to
these things appeared tolerable. But, what? Return? With bare feet
and head, with one check shirt and a pair of cotton calzoneros for all
worldly possessions?

The renowned Capataz, his elbows on his knees and a fist dug into each
cheek, laughed with self-derision, as he had spat with disgust, straight
out before him into the night. The confused and intimate impressions
of universal dissolution which beset a subjective nature at any strong
check to its ruling passion had a bitterness approaching that of death
itself. He was simple. He was as ready to become the prey of any belief,
superstition, or desire as a child.

The facts of his situation he could appreciate like a man with a
distinct experience of the country. He saw them clearly. He was as if
sobered after a long bout of intoxication. His fidelity had been taken
advantage of. He had persuaded the body of Cargadores to side with the
Blancos against the rest of the people; he had had interviews with Don
Jose; he had been made use of by Father Corbelan for negotiating with
Hernandez; it was known that Don Martin Decoud had admitted him to
a sort of intimacy, so that he had been free of the offices of the
Porvenir. All these things had flattered him in the usual way. What
did he care about their politics? Nothing at all. And at the end of it
all--Nostromo here and Nostromo there--where is Nostromo? Nostromo can
do this and that--work all day and ride all night--behold! he found
himself a marked Ribierist for any sort of vengeance Gamacho, for
instance, would choose to take, now the Montero party, had, after all,
mastered the town. The Europeans had given up; the Caballeros had given
up. Don Martin had indeed explained it was only temporary--that he
was going to bring Barrios to the rescue. Where was that now--with Don
Martin (whose ironic manner of talk had always made the Capataz feel
vaguely uneasy) stranded on the Great Isabel? Everybody had given up.
Even Don Carlos had given up. The hurried removal of the treasure out
to sea meant nothing else than that. The Capataz de Cargadores, on a
revulsion of subjectiveness, exasperated almost to insanity, beheld all
his world without faith and courage. He had been betrayed!

With the boundless shadows of the sea behind him, out of his silence and
immobility, facing the lofty shapes of the lower peaks crowded around
the white, misty sheen of Higuerota, Nostromo laughed aloud again,
sprang abruptly to his feet, and stood still. He must go. But where?

"There is no mistake. They keep us and encourage us as if we were dogs
born to fight and hunt for them. The vecchio is right," he said, slowly
and scathingly. He remembered old Giorgio taking his pipe out of his
mouth to throw these words over his shoulder at the cafe, full of
engine-drivers and fitters from the railway workshops. This image fixed
his wavering purpose. He would try to find old Giorgio if he could. God
knows what might have happened to him! He made a few steps, then stopped
again and shook his head. To the left and right, in front and behind
him, the scrubby bush rustled mysteriously in the darkness.

"Teresa was right, too," he added in a low tone touched with awe. He
wondered whether she was dead in her anger with him or still alive. As
if in answer to this thought, half of remorse and half of hope, with
a soft flutter and oblique flight, a big owl, whose appalling cry:
"Ya-acabo! Ya-acabo!--it is finished; it is finished"--announces
calamity and death in the popular belief, drifted vaguely like a large
dark ball across his path. In the downfall of all the realities that
made his force, he was affected by the superstition, and shuddered
slightly. Signora Teresa must have died, then. It could mean nothing
else. The cry of the ill-omened bird, the first sound he was to hear on
his return, was a fitting welcome for his betrayed individuality. The
unseen powers which he had offended by refusing to bring a priest to a
dying woman were lifting up their voice against him. She was dead. With
admirable and human consistency he referred everything to himself. She
had been a woman of good counsel always. And the bereaved old Giorgio
remained stunned by his loss just as he was likely to require the advice
of his sagacity. The blow would render the dreamy old man quite stupid
for a time.

As to Captain Mitchell, Nostromo, after the manner of trusted
subordinates, considered him as a person fitted by education perhaps
to sign papers in an office and to give orders, but otherwise of no use
whatever, and something of a fool. The necessity of winding round his
little finger, almost daily, the pompous and testy self-importance of
the old seaman had grown irksome with use to Nostromo. At first it had
given him an inward satisfaction. But the necessity of overcoming small
obstacles becomes wearisome to a self-confident personality as much by
the certitude of success as by the monotony of effort. He mistrusted
his superior's proneness to fussy action. That old Englishman had no
judgment, he said to himself. It was useless to suppose that, acquainted
with the true state of the case, he would keep it to himself. He would
talk of doing impracticable things. Nostromo feared him as one
would fear saddling one's self with some persistent worry. He had no
discretion. He would betray the treasure. And Nostromo had made up his
mind that the treasure should not be betrayed.

The word had fixed itself tenaciously in his intelligence. His
imagination had seized upon the clear and simple notion of betrayal to
account for the dazed feeling of enlightenment as to being done for, of
having inadvertently gone out of his existence on an issue in which his
personality had not been taken into account. A man betrayed is a man
destroyed. Signora Teresa (may God have her soul!) had been right. He
had never been taken into account. Destroyed! Her white form sitting
up bowed in bed, the falling black hair, the wide-browed suffering
face raised to him, the anger of her denunciations appeared to him now
majestic with the awfulness of inspiration and of death. For it was not
for nothing that the evil bird had uttered its lamentable shriek over
his head. She was dead--may God have her soul!

Sharing in the anti-priestly freethought of the masses, his mind used
the pious formula from the superficial force of habit, but with a
deep-seated sincerity. The popular mind is incapable of scepticism;
and that incapacity delivers their helpless strength to the wiles of
swindlers and to the pitiless enthusiasms of leaders inspired by visions
of a high destiny. She was dead. But would God consent to receive her
soul? She had died without confession or absolution, because he had
not been willing to spare her another moment of his time. His scorn of
priests as priests remained; but after all, it was impossible to know
whether what they affirmed was not true. Power, punishment, pardon,
are simple and credible notions. The magnificent Capataz de Cargadores,
deprived of certain simple realities, such as the admiration of women,
the adulation of men, the admired publicity of his life, was ready to
feel the burden of sacrilegious guilt descend upon his shoulders.

Bareheaded, in a thin shirt and drawers, he felt the lingering warmth of
the fine sand under the soles of his feet. The narrow strand gleamed
far ahead in a long curve, defining the outline of this wild side of the
harbour. He flitted along the shore like a pursued shadow between the
sombre palm-groves and the sheet of water lying as still as death on his
right hand. He strode with headlong haste in the silence and solitude
as though he had forgotten all prudence and caution. But he knew that on
this side of the water he ran no risk of discovery. The only inhabitant
was a lonely, silent, apathetic Indian in charge of the palmarias, who
brought sometimes a load of cocoanuts to the town for sale. He lived
without a woman in an open shed, with a perpetual fire of dry sticks
smouldering near an old canoe lying bottom up on the beach. He could be
easily avoided.

The barking of the dogs about that man's ranche was the first thing that
checked his speed. He had forgotten the dogs. He swerved sharply, and
plunged into the palm-grove, as into a wilderness of columns in an
immense hall, whose dense obscurity seemed to whisper and rustle faintly
high above his head. He traversed it, entered a ravine, and climbed to
the top of a steep ridge free of trees and bushes.

From there, open and vague in the starlight, he saw the plain between
the town and the harbour. In the woods above some night-bird made a
strange drumming noise. Below beyond the palmaria on the beach, the
Indian's dogs continued to bark uproariously. He wondered what had upset
them so much, and, peering down from his elevation, was surprised to
detect unaccountable movements of the ground below, as if several oblong
pieces of the plain had been in motion. Those dark, shifting patches,
alternately catching and eluding the eye, altered their place always
away from the harbour, with a suggestion of consecutive order and
purpose. A light dawned upon him. It was a column of infantry on a night
march towards the higher broken country at the foot of the hills. But he
was too much in the dark about everything for wonder and speculation.

The plain had resumed its shadowy immobility. He descended the ridge and
found himself in the open solitude, between the harbour and the town.
Its spaciousness, extended indefinitely by an effect of obscurity,
rendered more sensible his profound isolation. His pace became slower.
No one waited for him; no one thought of him; no one expected or wished
his return. "Betrayed! Betrayed!" he muttered to himself. No one
cared. He might have been drowned by this time. No one would have
cared--unless, perhaps, the children, he thought to himself. But they
were with the English signora, and not thinking of him at all.

He wavered in his purpose of making straight for the Casa Viola. To what
end? What could he expect there? His life seemed to fail him in all
its details, even to the scornful reproaches of Teresa. He was
aware painfully of his reluctance. Was it that remorse which she had
prophesied with, what he saw now, was her last breath?

Meantime, he had deviated from the straight course, inclining by a sort
of instinct to the right, towards the jetty and the harbour, the scene
of his daily labours. The great length of the Custom House loomed up all
at once like the wall of a factory. Not a soul challenged his approach,
and his curiosity became excited as he passed cautiously towards the
front by the unexpected sight of two lighted windows.

They had the fascination of a lonely vigil kept by some mysterious
watcher up there, those two windows shining dimly upon the harbour in
the whole vast extent of the abandoned building. The solitude could
almost be felt. A strong smell of wood smoke hung about in a thin haze,
which was faintly perceptible to his raised eyes against the glitter
of the stars. As he advanced in the profound silence, the shrilling of
innumerable cicalas in the dry grass seemed positively deafening to his
strained ears. Slowly, step by step, he found himself in the great hall,
sombre and full of acrid smoke.

A fire built against the staircase had burnt down impotently to a low
heap of embers. The hard wood had failed to catch; only a few steps at
the bottom smouldered, with a creeping glow of sparks defining their
charred edges. At the top he saw a streak of light from an open door. It
fell upon the vast landing, all foggy with a slow drift of smoke. That
was the room. He climbed the stairs, then checked himself, because he
had seen within the shadow of a man cast upon one of the walls. It was
a shapeless, high-shouldered shadow of somebody standing still, with
lowered head, out of his line of sight. The Capataz, remembering that he
was totally unarmed, stepped aside, and, effacing himself upright in a
dark corner, waited with his eyes fixed on the door.

The whole enormous ruined barrack of a place, unfinished, without
ceilings under its lofty roof, was pervaded by the smoke swaying to and
fro in the faint cross draughts playing in the obscurity of many lofty
rooms and barnlike passages. Once one of the swinging shutters came
against the wall with a single sharp crack, as if pushed by an impatient
hand. A piece of paper scurried out from somewhere, rustling along the
landing. The man, whoever he was, did not darken the lighted doorway.
Twice the Capataz, advancing a couple of steps out of his corner,
craned his neck in the hope of catching sight of what he could be at,
so quietly, in there. But every time he saw only the distorted shadow
of broad shoulders and bowed head. He was doing apparently nothing, and
stirred not from the spot, as though he were meditating--or, perhaps,
reading a paper. And not a sound issued from the room.

Once more the Capataz stepped back. He wondered who it was--some
Monterist? But he dreaded to show himself. To discover his presence
on shore, unless after many days, would, he believed, endanger the
treasure. With his own knowledge possessing his whole soul, it seemed
impossible that anybody in Sulaco should fail to jump at the right
surmise. After a couple of weeks or so it would be different. Who could
tell he had not returned overland from some port beyond the limits of
the Republic? The existence of the treasure confused his thoughts with
a peculiar sort of anxiety, as though his life had become bound up with
it. It rendered him timorous for a moment before that enigmatic, lighted
door. Devil take the fellow! He did not want to see him. There would be
nothing to learn from his face, known or unknown. He was a fool to waste
his time there in waiting.

Less than five minutes after entering the place the Capataz began his
retreat. He got away down the stairs with perfect success, gave one
upward look over his shoulder at the light on the landing, and ran
stealthily across the hall. But at the very moment he was turning out of
the great door, with his mind fixed upon escaping the notice of the man
upstairs, somebody he had not heard coming briskly along the front ran
full into him. Both muttered a stifled exclamation of surprise, and
leaped back and stood still, each indistinct to the other. Nostromo was
silent. The other man spoke first, in an amazed and deadened tone.

"Who are you?"

Already Nostromo had seemed to recognize Dr. Monygham. He had no doubt
now. He hesitated the space of a second. The idea of bolting without a
word presented itself to his mind. No use! An inexplicable repugnance
to pronounce the name by which he was known kept him silent a little
longer. At last he said in a low voice--

"A Cargador."

He walked up to the other. Dr. Monygham had received a shock. He flung
his arms up and cried out his wonder aloud, forgetting himself before
the marvel of this meeting. Nostromo angrily warned him to moderate
his voice. The Custom House was not so deserted as it looked. There was
somebody in the lighted room above.

There is no more evanescent quality in an accomplished fact than its
wonderfulness. Solicited incessantly by the considerations affecting
its fears and desires, the human mind turns naturally away from the
marvellous side of events. And it was in the most natural way possible
that the doctor asked this man whom only two minutes before he believed
to have been drowned in the gulf--

"You have seen somebody up there? Have you?"

"No, I have not seen him."

"Then how do you know?"

"I was running away from his shadow when we met."

"His shadow?"

"Yes. His shadow in the lighted room," said Nostromo, in a contemptuous
tone. Leaning back with folded arms at the foot of the immense building,
he dropped his head, biting his lips slightly, and not looking at the
doctor. "Now," he thought to himself, "he will begin asking me about the
treasure."

But the doctor's thoughts were concerned with an event not as marvellous
as Nostromo's appearance, but in itself much less clear. Why had Sotillo
taken himself off with his whole command with this suddenness and
secrecy? What did this move portend? However, it dawned upon the
doctor that the man upstairs was one of the officers left behind by the
disappointed colonel to communicate with him.

"I believe he is waiting for me," he said.

"It is possible."

"I must see. Do not go away yet, Capataz."

"Go away where?" muttered Nostromo.

Already the doctor had left him. He remained leaning against the wall,
staring at the dark water of the harbour; the shrilling of cicalas
filled his ears. An invincible vagueness coming over his thoughts took
from them all power to determine his will.

"Capataz! Capataz!" the doctor's voice called urgently from above.

The sense of betrayal and ruin floated upon his sombre indifference as
upon a sluggish sea of pitch. But he stepped out from under the wall,
and, looking up, saw Dr. Monygham leaning out of a lighted window.

"Come up and see what Sotillo has done. You need not fear the man up
here."

He answered by a slight, bitter laugh. Fear a man! The Capataz of the
Sulaco Cargadores fear a man! It angered him that anybody should suggest
such a thing. It angered him to be disarmed and skulking and in danger
because of the accursed treasure, which was of so little account to the
people who had tied it round his neck. He could not shake off the worry
of it. To Nostromo the doctor represented all these people. . . . And
he had never even asked after it. Not a word of inquiry about the most
desperate undertaking of his life.

Thinking these thoughts, Nostromo passed again through the cavernous
hall, where the smoke was considerably thinned, and went up the stairs,
not so warm to his feet now, towards the streak of light at the top. The
doctor appeared in it for a moment, agitated and impatient.

"Come up! Come up!"

At the moment of crossing the doorway the Capataz experienced a shock of
surprise. The man had not moved. He saw his shadow in the same place.
He started, then stepped in with a feeling of being about to solve a
mystery.

It was very simple. For an infinitesimal fraction of a second, against
the light of two flaring and guttering candles, through a blue, pungent,
thin haze which made his eyes smart, he saw the man standing, as he
had imagined him, with his back to the door, casting an enormous and
distorted shadow upon the wall. Swifter than a flash of lightning
followed the impression of his constrained, toppling attitude--the
shoulders projecting forward, the head sunk low upon the breast. Then
he distinguished the arms behind his back, and wrenched so terribly that
the two clenched fists, lashed together, had been forced up higher than
the shoulder-blades. From there his eyes traced in one instantaneous
glance the hide rope going upwards from the tied wrists over a heavy
beam and down to a staple in the wall. He did not want to look at the
rigid legs, at the feet hanging down nervelessly, with their bare toes
some six inches above the floor, to know that the man had been given the
estrapade till he had swooned. His first impulse was to dash forward and
sever the rope at one blow. He felt for his knife. He had no knife--not
even a knife. He stood quivering, and the doctor, perched on the edge of
the table, facing thoughtfully the cruel and lamentable sight, his chin
in his hand, uttered, without stirring--

"Tortured--and shot dead through the breast--getting cold."

This information calmed the Capataz. One of the candles flickering in
the socket went out. "Who did this?" he asked.

"Sotillo, I tell you. Who else? Tortured--of course. But why shot?" The
doctor looked fixedly at Nostromo, who shrugged his shoulders slightly.
"And mark, shot suddenly, on impulse. It is evident. I wish I had his
secret."

Nostromo had advanced, and stooped slightly to look. "I seem to have
seen that face somewhere," he muttered. "Who is he?"

The doctor turned his eyes upon him again. "I may yet come to envying
his fate. What do you think of that, Capataz, eh?"

But Nostromo did not even hear these words. Seizing the remaining light,
he thrust it under the drooping head. The doctor sat oblivious, with
a lost gaze. Then the heavy iron candlestick, as if struck out of
Nostromo's hand, clattered on the floor.

"Hullo!" exclaimed the doctor, looking up with a start. He could hear
the Capataz stagger against the table and gasp. In the sudden extinction
of the light within, the dead blackness sealing the window-frames became
alive with stars to his sight.

"Of course, of course," the doctor muttered to himself in English.
"Enough to make him jump out of his skin."

Nostromo's heart seemed to force itself into his throat. His head swam.
Hirsch! The man was Hirsch! He held on tight to the edge of the table.

"But he was hiding in the lighter," he almost shouted His voice fell.
"In the lighter, and--and--"

"And Sotillo brought him in," said the doctor. "He is no more startling
to you than you were to me. What I want to know is how he induced some
compassionate soul to shoot him."

"So Sotillo knows--" began Nostromo, in a more equable voice.

"Everything!" interrupted the doctor.

The Capataz was heard striking the table with his fist. "Everything?
What are you saying, there? Everything? Know everything? It is
impossible! Everything?"

"Of course. What do you mean by impossible? I tell you I have heard
this Hirsch questioned last night, here, in this very room. He knew your
name, Decoud's name, and all about the loading of the silver. . . .
The lighter was cut in two. He was grovelling in abject terror before
Sotillo, but he remembered that much. What do you want more? He knew
least about himself. They found him clinging to their anchor. He must
have caught at it just as the lighter went to the bottom."

"Went to the bottom?" repeated Nostromo, slowly. "Sotillo believes that?
Bueno!"

The doctor, a little impatiently, was unable to imagine what else could
anybody believe. Yes, Sotillo believed that the lighter was sunk, and
the Capataz de Cargadores, together with Martin Decoud and perhaps one
or two other political fugitives, had been drowned.

"I told you well, senor doctor," remarked Nostromo at that point, "that
Sotillo did not know everything."

"Eh? What do you mean?"

"He did not know I was not dead."

"Neither did we."

"And you did not care--none of you caballeros on the wharf--once you got
off a man of flesh and blood like yourselves on a fool's business that
could not end well."

"You forget, Capataz, I was not on the wharf. And I did not think well
of the business. So you need not taunt me. I tell you what, man, we had
but little leisure to think of the dead. Death stands near behind us
all. You were gone."

"I went, indeed!" broke in Nostromo. "And for the sake of what--tell
me?"

"Ah! that is your own affair," the doctor said, roughly. "Do not ask
me."

Their flowing murmurs paused in the dark. Perched on the edge of the
table with slightly averted faces, they felt their shoulders touch, and
their eyes remained directed towards an upright shape nearly lost in the
obscurity of the inner part of the room, that with projecting head and
shoulders, in ghastly immobility, seemed intent on catching every word.

"Muy bien!" Nostromo muttered at last. "So be it. Teresa was right. It
is my own affair."

"Teresa is dead," remarked the doctor, absently, while his mind
followed a new line of thought suggested by what might have been called
Nostromo's return to life. "She died, the poor woman."

"Without a priest?" the Capataz asked, anxiously.

"What a question! Who could have got a priest for her last night?"

"May God keep her soul!" ejaculated Nostromo, with a gloomy and hopeless
fervour which had no time to surprise Dr. Monygham, before, reverting to
their previous conversation, he continued in a sinister tone, "Si,
senor doctor. As you were saying, it is my own affair. A very desperate
affair."

"There are no two men in this part of the world that could have saved
themselves by swimming as you have done," the doctor said, admiringly.

And again there was silence between those two men. They were both
reflecting, and the diversity of their natures made their thoughts born
from their meeting swing afar from each other. The doctor, impelled to
risky action by his loyalty to the Goulds, wondered with thankfulness at
the chain of accident which had brought that man back where he would be
of the greatest use in the work of saving the San Tome mine. The doctor
was loyal to the mine. It presented itself to his fifty-years' old eyes
in the shape of a little woman in a soft dress with a long train, with
a head attractively overweighted by a great mass of fair hair and the
delicate preciousness of her inner worth, partaking of a gem and
a flower, revealed in every attitude of her person. As the dangers
thickened round the San Tome mine this illusion acquired force,
permanency, and authority. It claimed him at last! This claim, exalted
by a spiritual detachment from the usual sanctions of hope and reward,
made Dr. Monygham's thinking, acting, individuality extremely dangerous
to himself and to others, all his scruples vanishing in the proud
feeling that his devotion was the only thing that stood between an
admirable woman and a frightful disaster.

It was a sort of intoxication which made him utterly indifferent to
Decoud's fate, but left his wits perfectly clear for the appreciation
of Decoud's political idea. It was a good idea--and Barrios was the only
instrument of its realization. The doctor's soul, withered and shrunk by
the shame of a moral disgrace, became implacable in the expansion of its
tenderness. Nostromo's return was providential. He did not think of him
humanely, as of a fellow-creature just escaped from the jaws of death.
The Capataz for him was the only possible messenger to Cayta. The very
man. The doctor's misanthropic mistrust of mankind (the bitterer because
based on personal failure) did not lift him sufficiently above common
weaknesses. He was under the spell of an established reputation.
Trumpeted by Captain Mitchell, grown in repetition, and fixed in
general assent, Nostromo's faithfulness had never been questioned by Dr.
Monygham as a fact. It was not likely to be questioned now he stood in
desperate need of it himself. Dr. Monygham was human; he accepted the
popular conception of the Capataz's incorruptibility simply because no
word or fact had ever contradicted a mere affirmation. It seemed to be
a part of the man, like his whiskers or his teeth. It was impossible to
conceive him otherwise. The question was whether he would consent to
go on such a dangerous and desperate errand. The doctor was observant
enough to have become aware from the first of something peculiar in the
man's temper. He was no doubt sore about the loss of the silver.

"It will be necessary to take him into my fullest confidence," he said
to himself, with a certain acuteness of insight into the nature he had
to deal with.

On Nostromo's side the silence had been full of black irresolution,
anger, and mistrust. He was the first to break it, however.

"The swimming was no great matter," he said. "It is what went
before--and what comes after that--"

He did not quite finish what he meant to say, breaking off short, as
though his thought had butted against a solid obstacle. The doctor's
mind pursued its own schemes with Machiavellian subtlety. He said as
sympathetically as he was able--

"It is unfortunate, Capataz. But no one would think of blaming you. Very
unfortunate. To begin with, the treasure ought never to have left the
mountain. But it was Decoud who--however, he is dead. There is no need
to talk of him."

"No," assented Nostromo, as the doctor paused, "there is no need to talk
of dead men. But I am not dead yet."

"You are all right. Only a man of your intrepidity could have saved
himself."

In this Dr. Monygham was sincere. He esteemed highly the intrepidity of
that man, whom he valued but little, being disillusioned as to mankind
in general, because of the particular instance in which his own manhood
had failed. Having had to encounter singlehanded during his period of
eclipse many physical dangers, he was well aware of the most dangerous
element common to them all: of the crushing, paralyzing sense of human
littleness, which is what really defeats a man struggling with natural
forces, alone, far from the eyes of his fellows. He was eminently fit
to appreciate the mental image he made for himself of the Capataz, after
hours of tension and anxiety, precipitated suddenly into an abyss of
waters and darkness, without earth or sky, and confronting it not only
with an undismayed mind, but with sensible success. Of course, the man
was an incomparable swimmer, that was known, but the doctor judged that
this instance testified to a still greater intrepidity of spirit. It was
pleasing to him; he augured well from it for the success of the arduous
mission with which he meant to entrust the Capataz so marvellously
restored to usefulness. And in a tone vaguely gratified, he observed--

"It must have been terribly dark!"

"It was the worst darkness of the Golfo," the Capataz assented, briefly.
He was mollified by what seemed a sign of some faint interest in such
things as had befallen him, and dropped a few descriptive phrases with
an affected and curt nonchalance. At that moment he felt communicative.
He expected the continuance of that interest which, whether accepted
or rejected, would have restored to him his personality--the only thing
lost in that desperate affair. But the doctor, engrossed by a desperate
adventure of his own, was terrible in the pursuit of his idea. He let an
exclamation of regret escape him.

"I could almost wish you had shouted and shown a light."

This unexpected utterance astounded the Capataz by its character of
cold-blooded atrocity. It was as much as to say, "I wish you had shown
yourself a coward; I wish you had had your throat cut for your pains."
Naturally he referred it to himself, whereas it related only to the
silver, being uttered simply and with many mental reservations. Surprise
and rage rendered him speechless, and the doctor pursued, practically
unheard by Nostromo, whose stirred blood was beating violently in his
ears.

"For I am convinced Sotillo in possession of the silver would have
turned short round and made for some small port abroad. Economically it
would have been wasteful, but still less wasteful than having it sunk.
It was the next best thing to having it at hand in some safe place, and
using part of it to buy up Sotillo. But I doubt whether Don Carlos would
have ever made up his mind to it. He is not fit for Costaguana, and that
is a fact, Capataz."

The Capataz had mastered the fury that was like a tempest in his ears in
time to hear the name of Don Carlos. He seemed to have come out of it a
changed man--a man who spoke thoughtfully in a soft and even voice.

"And would Don Carlos have been content if I had surrendered this
treasure?"

"I should not wonder if they were all of that way of thinking now," the
doctor said, grimly. "I was never consulted. Decoud had it his own way.
Their eyes are opened by this time, I should think. I for one know that
if that silver turned up this moment miraculously ashore I would give it
to Sotillo. And, as things stand, I would be approved."

"Turned up miraculously," repeated the Capataz very low; then raised
his voice. "That, senor, would be a greater miracle than any saint could
perform."

"I believe you, Capataz," said the doctor, drily.

He went on to develop his view of Sotillo's dangerous influence upon the
situation. And the Capataz, listening as if in a dream, felt himself of
as little account as the indistinct, motionless shape of the dead man
whom he saw upright under the beam, with his air of listening also,
disregarded, forgotten, like a terrible example of neglect.

"Was it for an unconsidered and foolish whim that they came to me,
then?" he interrupted suddenly. "Had I not done enough for them to be
of some account, por Dios? Is it that the hombres finos--the
gentlemen--need not think as long as there is a man of the people ready
to risk his body and soul? Or, perhaps, we have no souls--like dogs?"

"There was Decoud, too, with his plan," the doctor reminded him again.

"Si! And the rich man in San Francisco who had something to do with
that treasure, too--what do I know? No! I have heard too many things. It
seems to me that everything is permitted to the rich."

"I understand, Capataz," the doctor began.

"What Capataz?" broke in Nostromo, in a forcible but even voice. "The
Capataz is undone, destroyed. There is no Capataz. Oh, no! You will find
the Capataz no more."

"Come, this is childish!" remonstrated the doctor; and the other calmed
down suddenly.

"I have been indeed like a little child," he muttered.

And as his eyes met again the shape of the murdered man suspended in
his awful immobility, which seemed the uncomplaining immobility of
attention, he asked, wondering gently--

"Why did Sotillo give the estrapade to this pitiful wretch? Do you
know? No torture could have been worse than his fear. Killing I can
understand. His anguish was intolerable to behold. But why should he
torment him like this? He could tell no more."

"No; he could tell nothing more. Any sane man would have seen that. He
had told him everything. But I tell you what it is, Capataz. Sotillo
would not believe what he was told. Not everything."

"What is it he would not believe? I cannot understand."

"I can, because I have seen the man. He refuses to believe that the
treasure is lost."

"What?" the Capataz cried out in a discomposed tone.

"That startles you--eh?"

"Am I to understand, senor," Nostromo went on in a deliberate and, as it
were, watchful tone, "that Sotillo thinks the treasure has been saved by
some means?"

"No! no! That would be impossible," said the doctor, with conviction;
and Nostromo emitted a grunt in the dark. "That would be impossible. He
thinks that the silver was no longer in the lighter when she was sunk.
He has convinced himself that the whole show of getting it away to sea
is a mere sham got up to deceive Gamacho and his Nationals, Pedrito
Montero, Senor Fuentes, our new Gefe Politico, and himself, too. Only,
he says, he is no such fool."

"But he is devoid of sense. He is the greatest imbecile that ever called
himself a colonel in this country of evil," growled Nostromo.

"He is no more unreasonable than many sensible men," said the doctor.
"He has convinced himself that the treasure can be found because he
desires passionately to possess himself of it. And he is also afraid of
his officers turning upon him and going over to Pedrito, whom he has not
the courage either to fight or trust. Do you see that, Capataz? He need
fear no desertion as long as some hope remains of that enormous plunder
turning up. I have made it my business to keep this very hope up."

"You have?" the Capataz de Cargadores repeated cautiously. "Well, that
is wonderful. And how long do you think you are going to keep it up?"

"As long as I can."

"What does that mean?"

"I can tell you exactly. As long as I live," the doctor retorted in
a stubborn voice. Then, in a few words, he described the story of his
arrest and the circumstances of his release. "I was going back to that
silly scoundrel when we met," he concluded.

Nostromo had listened with profound attention. "You have made up your
mind, then, to a speedy death," he muttered through his clenched teeth.

"Perhaps, my illustrious Capataz," the doctor said, testily. "You are
not the only one here who can look an ugly death in the face."

"No doubt," mumbled Nostromo, loud enough to be overheard. "There may be
even more than two fools in this place. Who knows?"

"And that is my affair," said the doctor, curtly.

"As taking out the accursed silver to sea was my affair," retorted
Nostromo. "I see. Bueno! Each of us has his reasons. But you were the
last man I conversed with before I started, and you talked to me as if I
were a fool."

Nostromo had a great distaste for the doctor's sardonic treatment of his
great reputation. Decoud's faintly ironic recognition used to make him
uneasy; but the familiarity of a man like Don Martin was flattering,
whereas the doctor was a nobody. He could remember him a penniless
outcast, slinking about the streets of Sulaco, without a single friend
or acquaintance, till Don Carlos Gould took him into the service of the
mine.

"You may be very wise," he went on, thoughtfully, staring into the
obscurity of the room, pervaded by the gruesome enigma of the tortured
and murdered Hirsch. "But I am not such a fool as when I started. I have
learned one thing since, and that is that you are a dangerous man."

Dr. Monygham was too startled to do more than exclaim--

"What is it you say?"

"If he could speak he would say the same thing," pursued Nostromo, with
a nod of his shadowy head silhouetted against the starlit window.

"I do not understand you," said Dr. Monygham, faintly.

"No? Perhaps, if you had not confirmed Sotillo in his madness, he would
have been in no haste to give the estrapade to that miserable Hirsch."

The doctor started at the suggestion. But his devotion, absorbing all
his sensibilities, had left his heart steeled against remorse and pity.
Still, for complete relief, he felt the necessity of repelling it loudly
and contemptuously.

"Bah! You dare to tell me that, with a man like Sotillo. I confess I
did not give a thought to Hirsch. If I had it would have been useless.
Anybody can see that the luckless wretch was doomed from the moment he
caught hold of the anchor. He was doomed, I tell you! Just as I myself
am doomed--most probably."

This is what Dr. Monygham said in answer to Nostromo's remark, which was
plausible enough to prick his conscience. He was not a callous man. But
the necessity, the magnitude, the importance of the task he had taken
upon himself dwarfed all merely humane considerations. He had undertaken
it in a fanatical spirit. He did not like it. To lie, to deceive, to
circumvent even the basest of mankind was odious to him. It was odious
to him by training, instinct, and tradition. To do these things in the
character of a traitor was abhorrent to his nature and terrible to his
feelings. He had made that sacrifice in a spirit of abasement. He had
said to himself bitterly, "I am the only one fit for that dirty work."
And he believed this. He was not subtle. His simplicity was such that,
though he had no sort of heroic idea of seeking death, the risk, deadly
enough, to which he exposed himself, had a sustaining and comforting
effect. To that spiritual state the fate of Hirsch presented itself
as part of the general atrocity of things. He considered that episode
practically. What did it mean? Was it a sign of some dangerous change in
Sotillo's delusion? That the man should have been killed like this was
what the doctor could not understand.

"Yes. But why shot?" he murmured to himself.

Nostromo kept very still.



CHAPTER NINE

Distracted between doubts and hopes, dismayed by the sound of bells
pealing out the arrival of Pedrito Montero, Sotillo had spent the
morning in battling with his thoughts; a contest to which he was
unequal, from the vacuity of his mind and the violence of his passions.
Disappointment, greed, anger, and fear made a tumult, in the colonel's
breast louder than the din of bells in the town. Nothing he had planned
had come to pass. Neither Sulaco nor the silver of the mine had fallen
into his hands. He had performed no military exploit to secure his
position, and had obtained no enormous booty to make off with. Pedrito
Montero, either as friend or foe, filled him with dread. The sound of
bells maddened him.

Imagining at first that he might be attacked at once, he had made his
battalion stand to arms on the shore. He walked to and fro all the
length of the room, stopping sometimes to gnaw the finger-tips of his
right hand with a lurid sideways glare fixed on the floor; then, with
a sullen, repelling glance all round, he would resume his tramping in
savage aloofness. His hat, horsewhip, sword, and revolver were lying on
the table. His officers, crowding the window giving the view of the town
gate, disputed amongst themselves the use of his field-glass bought last
year on long credit from Anzani. It passed from hand to hand, and the
possessor for the time being was besieged by anxious inquiries.

"There is nothing; there is nothing to see!" he would repeat
impatiently.

There was nothing. And when the picket in the bushes near the Casa
Viola had been ordered to fall back upon the main body, no stir of life
appeared on the stretch of dusty and arid land between the town and the
waters of the port. But late in the afternoon a horseman issuing from
the gate was made out riding up fearlessly. It was an emissary from
Senor Fuentes. Being all alone he was allowed to come on. Dismounting at
the great door he greeted the silent bystanders with cheery impudence,
and begged to be taken up at once to the "muy valliente" colonel.

Senor Fuentes, on entering upon his functions of Gefe Politico, had
turned his diplomatic abilities to getting hold of the harbour as well
as of the mine. The man he pitched upon to negotiate with Sotillo was a
Notary Public, whom the revolution had found languishing in the common
jail on a charge of forging documents. Liberated by the mob along with
the other "victims of Blanco tyranny," he had hastened to offer his
services to the new Government.

He set out determined to display much zeal and eloquence in trying to
induce Sotillo to come into town alone for a conference with Pedrito
Montero. Nothing was further from the colonel's intentions. The mere
fleeting idea of trusting himself into the famous Pedrito's hands had
made him feel unwell several times. It was out of the question--it was
madness. And to put himself in open hostility was madness, too. It would
render impossible a systematic search for that treasure, for that wealth
of silver which he seemed to feel somewhere about, to scent somewhere
near.

But where? Where? Heavens! Where? Oh! why had he allowed that doctor
to go! Imbecile that he was. But no! It was the only right course, he
reflected distractedly, while the messenger waited downstairs chatting
agreeably to the officers. It was in that scoundrelly doctor's true
interest to return with positive information. But what if anything
stopped him? A general prohibition to leave the town, for instance!
There would be patrols!

The colonel, seizing his head in his hands, turned in his tracks as if
struck with vertigo. A flash of craven inspiration suggested to him an
expedient not unknown to European statesmen when they wish to delay a
difficult negotiation. Booted and spurred, he scrambled into the hammock
with undignified haste. His handsome face had turned yellow with the
strain of weighty cares. The ridge of his shapely nose had grown sharp;
the audacious nostrils appeared mean and pinched. The velvety, caressing
glance of his fine eyes seemed dead, and even decomposed; for these
almond-shaped, languishing orbs had become inappropriately bloodshot
with much sinister sleeplessness. He addressed the surprised envoy
of Senor Fuentes in a deadened, exhausted voice. It came pathetically
feeble from under a pile of ponchos, which buried his elegant person
right up to the black moustaches, uncurled, pendant, in sign of bodily
prostration and mental incapacity. Fever, fever--a heavy fever
had overtaken the "muy valliente" colonel. A wavering wildness of
expression, caused by the passing spasms of a slight colic which had
declared itself suddenly, and the rattling teeth of repressed panic, had
a genuineness which impressed the envoy. It was a cold fit. The colonel
explained that he was unable to think, to listen, to speak. With an
appearance of superhuman effort the colonel gasped out that he was
not in a state to return a suitable reply or to execute any of his
Excellency's orders. But to-morrow! To-morrow! Ah! to-morrow! Let his
Excellency Don Pedro be without uneasiness. The brave Esmeralda Regiment
held the harbour, held--And closing his eyes, he rolled his aching head
like a half-delirious invalid under the inquisitive stare of the envoy,
who was obliged to bend down over the hammock in order to catch the
painful and broken accents. Meantime, Colonel Sotillo trusted that his
Excellency's humanity would permit the doctor, the English doctor, to
come out of town with his case of foreign remedies to attend upon him.
He begged anxiously his worship the caballero now present for the grace
of looking in as he passed the Casa Gould, and informing the English
doctor, who was probably there, that his services were immediately
required by Colonel Sotillo, lying ill of fever in the Custom House.
Immediately. Most urgently required. Awaited with extreme impatience.
A thousand thanks. He closed his eyes wearily and would not open
them again, lying perfectly still, deaf, dumb, insensible, overcome,
vanquished, crushed, annihilated by the fell disease.

But as soon as the other had shut after him the door of the landing, the
colonel leaped out with a fling of both feet in an avalanche of woollen
coverings. His spurs having become entangled in a perfect welter of
ponchos he nearly pitched on his head, and did not recover his balance
till the middle of the room. Concealed behind the half-closed jalousies
he listened to what went on below.

The envoy had already mounted, and turning to the morose officers
occupying the great doorway, took off his hat formally.

"Caballeros," he said, in a very loud tone, "allow me to recommend
you to take great care of your colonel. It has done me much honour and
gratification to have seen you all, a fine body of men exercising the
soldierly virtue of patience in this exposed situation, where there
is much sun, and no water to speak of, while a town full of wine and
feminine charms is ready to embrace you for the brave men you are.
Caballeros, I have the honour to salute you. There will be much dancing
to-night in Sulaco. Good-bye!"

But he reined in his horse and inclined his head sideways on seeing
the old major step out, very tall and meagre, in a straight narrow
coat coming down to his ankles as it were the casing of the regimental
colours rolled round their staff.

The intelligent old warrior, after enunciating in a dogmatic tone the
general proposition that the "world was full of traitors," went on
pronouncing deliberately a panegyric upon Sotillo. He ascribed to him
with leisurely emphasis every virtue under heaven, summing it all up in
an absurd colloquialism current amongst the lower class of Occidentals
(especially about Esmeralda). "And," he concluded, with a sudden rise in
the voice, "a man of many teeth--'hombre de muchos dientes.' Si, senor.
As to us," he pursued, portentous and impressive, "your worship is
beholding the finest body of officers in the Republic, men unequalled
for valour and sagacity, 'y hombres de muchos dientes.'"

"What? All of them?" inquired the disreputable envoy of Senor Fuentes,
with a faint, derisive smile.

"Todos. Si, senor," the major affirmed, gravely, with conviction. "Men
of many teeth."

The other wheeled his horse to face the portal resembling the high gate
of a dismal barn. He raised himself in his stirrups, extended one arm.
He was a facetious scoundrel, entertaining for these stupid Occidentals
a feeling of great scorn natural in a native from the central provinces.
The folly of Esmeraldians especially aroused his amused contempt. He
began an oration upon Pedro Montero, keeping a solemn countenance. He
flourished his hand as if introducing him to their notice. And when he
saw every face set, all the eyes fixed upon his lips, he began to
shout a sort of catalogue of perfections: "Generous, valorous, affable,
profound"--(he snatched off his hat enthusiastically)--"a statesman, an
invincible chief of partisans--" He dropped his voice startlingly to a
deep, hollow note--"and a dentist."

He was off instantly at a smart walk; the rigid straddle of his legs,
the turned-out feet, the stiff back, the rakish slant of the sombrero
above the square, motionless set of the shoulders expressing an
infinite, awe-inspiring impudence.

Upstairs, behind the jalousies, Sotillo did not move for a long time.
The audacity of the fellow appalled him. What were his officers saying
below? They were saying nothing. Complete silence. He quaked. It was not
thus that he had imagined himself at that stage of the expedition. He
had seen himself triumphant, unquestioned, appeased, the idol of the
soldiers, weighing in secret complacency the agreeable alternatives of
power and wealth open to his choice. Alas! How different! Distracted,
restless, supine, burning with fury, or frozen with terror, he felt
a dread as fathomless as the sea creep upon him from every side. That
rogue of a doctor had to come out with his information. That was clear.
It would be of no use to him--alone. He could do nothing with it.
Malediction! The doctor would never come out. He was probably under
arrest already, shut up together with Don Carlos. He laughed aloud
insanely. Ha! ha! ha! ha! It was Pedrito Montero who would get the
information. Ha! ha! ha! ha!--and the silver. Ha!

All at once, in the midst of the laugh, he became motionless and silent
as if turned into stone. He too, had a prisoner. A prisoner who must,
must know the real truth. He would have to be made to speak. And
Sotillo, who all that time had not quite forgotten Hirsch, felt an
inexplicable reluctance at the notion of proceeding to extremities.

He felt a reluctance--part of that unfathomable dread that crept on all
sides upon him. He remembered reluctantly, too, the dilated eyes of the
hide merchant, his contortions, his loud sobs and protestations. It
was not compassion or even mere nervous sensibility. The fact was that
though Sotillo did never for a moment believe his story--he could not
believe it; nobody could believe such nonsense--yet those accents of
despairing truth impressed him disagreeably. They made him feel sick.
And he suspected also that the man might have gone mad with fear. A
lunatic is a hopeless subject. Bah! A pretence. Nothing but a pretence.
He would know how to deal with that.

He was working himself up to the right pitch of ferocity. His fine eyes
squinted slightly; he clapped his hands; a bare-footed orderly appeared
noiselessly, a corporal, with his bayonet hanging on his thigh and a
stick in his hand.

The colonel gave his orders, and presently the miserable Hirsch, pushed
in by several soldiers, found him frowning awfully in a broad armchair,
hat on head, knees wide apart, arms akimbo, masterful, imposing,
irresistible, haughty, sublime, terrible.

Hirsch, with his arms tied behind his back, had been bundled violently
into one of the smaller rooms. For many hours he remained apparently
forgotten, stretched lifelessly on the floor. From that solitude, full
of despair and terror, he was torn out brutally, with kicks and blows,
passive, sunk in hebetude. He listened to threats and admonitions, and
afterwards made his usual answers to questions, with his chin sunk on
his breast, his hands tied behind his back, swaying a little in front of
Sotillo, and never looking up. When he was forced to hold up his head,
by means of a bayonet-point prodding him under the chin, his eyes had a
vacant, trance-like stare, and drops of perspiration as big as peas were
seen hailing down the dirt, bruises, and scratches of his white face.
Then they stopped suddenly.

Sotillo looked at him in silence. "Will you depart from your obstinacy,
you rogue?" he asked. Already a rope, whose one end was fastened to
Senor Hirsch's wrists, had been thrown over a beam, and three soldiers
held the other end, waiting. He made no answer. His heavy lower lip hung
stupidly. Sotillo made a sign. Hirsch was jerked up off his feet, and a
yell of despair and agony burst out in the room, filled the passage of
the great buildings, rent the air outside, caused every soldier of the
camp along the shore to look up at the windows, started some of the
officers in the hall babbling excitedly, with shining eyes; others,
setting their lips, looked gloomily at the floor.

Sotillo, followed by the soldiers, had left the room. The sentry on the
landing presented arms. Hirsch went on screaming all alone behind the
half-closed jalousies while the sunshine, reflected from the water of
the harbour, made an ever-running ripple of light high up on the wall.
He screamed with uplifted eyebrows and a wide-open mouth--incredibly
wide, black, enormous, full of teeth--comical.

In the still burning air of the windless afternoon he made the waves
of his agony travel as far as the O. S. N. Company's offices. Captain
Mitchell on the balcony, trying to make out what went on generally, had
heard him faintly but distinctly, and the feeble and appalling sound
lingered in his ears after he had retreated indoors with blanched
cheeks. He had been driven off the balcony several times during that
afternoon.

Sotillo, irritable, moody, walked restlessly about, held consultations
with his officers, gave contradictory orders in this shrill clamour
pervading the whole empty edifice. Sometimes there would be long and
awful silences. Several times he had entered the torture-chamber where
his sword, horsewhip, revolver, and field-glass were lying on the table,
to ask with forced calmness, "Will you speak the truth now? No? I can
wait." But he could not afford to wait much longer. That was just it.
Every time he went in and came out with a slam of the door, the sentry
on the landing presented arms, and got in return a black, venomous,
unsteady glance, which, in reality, saw nothing at all, being merely the
reflection of the soul within--a soul of gloomy hatred, irresolution,
avarice, and fury.

The sun had set when he went in once more. A soldier carried in two
lighted candles and slunk out, shutting the door without noise.

"Speak, thou Jewish child of the devil! The silver! The silver, I say!
Where is it? Where have you foreign rogues hidden it? Confess or--"

A slight quiver passed up the taut rope from the racked limbs, but the
body of Senor Hirsch, enterprising business man from Esmeralda, hung
under the heavy beam perpendicular and silent, facing the colonel
awfully. The inflow of the night air, cooled by the snows of the Sierra,
spread gradually a delicious freshness through the close heat of the
room.

"Speak--thief--scoundrel--picaro--or--"

Sotillo had seized the riding-whip, and stood with his arm lifted up.
For a word, for one little word, he felt he would have knelt, cringed,
grovelled on the floor before the drowsy, conscious stare of those fixed
eyeballs starting out of the grimy, dishevelled head that drooped very
still with its mouth closed askew. The colonel ground his teeth with
rage and struck. The rope vibrated leisurely to the blow, like the long
string of a pendulum starting from a rest. But no swinging motion was
imparted to the body of Senor Hirsch, the well-known hide merchant on
the coast. With a convulsive effort of the twisted arms it leaped up a
few inches, curling upon itself like a fish on the end of a line. Senor
Hirsch's head was flung back on his straining throat; his chin trembled.
For a moment the rattle of his chattering teeth pervaded the vast,
shadowy room, where the candles made a patch of light round the two
flames burning side by side. And as Sotillo, staying his raised hand,
waited for him to speak, with the sudden flash of a grin and a straining
forward of the wrenched shoulders, he spat violently into his face.

The uplifted whip fell, and the colonel sprang back with a low cry of
dismay, as if aspersed by a jet of deadly venom. Quick as thought he
snatched up his revolver, and fired twice. The report and the concussion
of the shots seemed to throw him at once from ungovernable rage into
idiotic stupor. He stood with drooping jaw and stony eyes. What had he
done, Sangre de Dios! What had he done? He was basely appalled at his
impulsive act, sealing for ever these lips from which so much was to
be extorted. What could he say? How could he explain? Ideas of headlong
flight somewhere, anywhere, passed through his mind; even the craven and
absurd notion of hiding under the table occurred to his cowardice.
It was too late; his officers had rushed in tumultuously, in a great
clatter of scabbards, clamouring, with astonishment and wonder. But
since they did not immediately proceed to plunge their swords into his
breast, the brazen side of his character asserted itself. Passing the
sleeve of his uniform over his face he pulled himself together, His
truculent glance turned slowly here and there, checked the noise where
it fell; and the stiff body of the late Senor Hirsch, merchant, after
swaying imperceptibly, made a half turn, and came to a rest in the midst
of awed murmurs and uneasy shuffling.

A voice remarked loudly, "Behold a man who will never speak again." And
another, from the back row of faces, timid and pressing, cried out--

"Why did you kill him, mi colonel?"

"Because he has confessed everything," answered Sotillo, with the
hardihood of desperation. He felt himself cornered. He brazened it out
on the strength of his reputation with very fair success. His hearers
thought him very capable of such an act. They were disposed to believe
his flattering tale. There is no credulity so eager and blind as the
credulity of covetousness, which, in its universal extent, measures the
moral misery and the intellectual destitution of mankind. Ah! he had
confessed everything, this fractious Jew, this bribon. Good! Then he
was no longer wanted. A sudden dense guffaw was heard from the senior
captain--a big-headed man, with little round eyes and monstrously fat
cheeks which never moved. The old major, tall and fantastically ragged
like a scarecrow, walked round the body of the late Senor Hirsch,
muttering to himself with ineffable complacency that like this there was
no need to guard against any future treacheries of that scoundrel. The
others stared, shifting from foot to foot, and whispering short remarks
to each other.

Sotillo buckled on his sword and gave curt, peremptory orders to hasten
the retirement decided upon in the afternoon. Sinister, impressive, his
sombrero pulled right down upon his eyebrows, he marched first through
the door in such disorder of mind that he forgot utterly to provide for
Dr. Monygham's possible return. As the officers trooped out after him,
one or two looked back hastily at the late Senor Hirsch, merchant from
Esmeralda, left swinging rigidly at rest, alone with the two burning
candles. In the emptiness of the room the burly shadow of head and
shoulders on the wall had an air of life.

Below, the troops fell in silently and moved off by companies without
drum or trumpet. The old scarecrow major commanded the rearguard; but
the party he left behind with orders to fire the Custom House (and "burn
the carcass of the treacherous Jew where it hung") failed somehow in
their haste to set the staircase properly alight. The body of the
late Senor Hirsch dwelt alone for a time in the dismal solitude of the
unfinished building, resounding weirdly with sudden slams and clicks
of doors and latches, with rustling scurries of torn papers, and the
tremulous sighs that at each gust of wind passed under the high roof.
The light of the two candles burning before the perpendicular and
breathless immobility of the late Senor Hirsch threw a gleam afar over
land and water, like a signal in the night. He remained to startle
Nostromo by his presence, and to puzzle Dr. Monygham by the mystery of
his atrocious end.

"But why shot?" the doctor again asked himself, audibly. This time he
was answered by a dry laugh from Nostromo.

"You seem much concerned at a very natural thing, senor doctor. I wonder
why? It is very likely that before long we shall all get shot one after
another, if not by Sotillo, then by Pedrito, or Fuentes, or Gamacho.
And we may even get the estrapade, too, or worse--quien sabe?--with your
pretty tale of the silver you put into Sotillo's head."

"It was in his head already," the doctor protested. "I only--"

"Yes. And you only nailed it there so that the devil himself--"

"That is precisely what I meant to do," caught up the doctor.

"That is what you meant to do. Bueno. It is as I say. You are a
dangerous man."

Their voices, which without rising had been growing quarrelsome, ceased
suddenly. The late Senor Hirsch, erect and shadowy against the stars,
seemed to be waiting attentive, in impartial silence.

But Dr. Monygham had no mind to quarrel with Nostromo. At this supremely
critical point of Sulaco's fortunes it was borne upon him at last that
this man was really indispensable, more indispensable than ever the
infatuation of Captain Mitchell, his proud discoverer, could conceive;
far beyond what Decoud's best dry raillery about "my illustrious friend,
the unique Capataz de Cargadores," had ever intended. The fellow was
unique. He was not "one in a thousand." He was absolutely the only
one. The doctor surrendered. There was something in the genius of that
Genoese seaman which dominated the destinies of great enterprises and
of many people, the fortunes of Charles Gould, the fate of an admirable
woman. At this last thought the doctor had to clear his throat before he
could speak.

In a completely changed tone he pointed out to the Capataz that, to
begin with, he personally ran no great risk. As far as everybody knew he
was dead. It was an enormous advantage. He had only to keep out of sight
in the Casa Viola, where the old Garibaldino was known to be alone--with
his dead wife. The servants had all run away. No one would think of
searching for him there, or anywhere else on earth, for that matter.

"That would be very true," Nostromo spoke up, bitterly, "if I had not
met you."

For a time the doctor kept silent. "Do you mean to say that you think I
may give you away?" he asked in an unsteady voice. "Why? Why should I do
that?"

"What do I know? Why not? To gain a day perhaps. It would take Sotillo a
day to give me the estrapade, and try some other things perhaps, before
he puts a bullet through my heart--as he did to that poor wretch here.
Why not?"

The doctor swallowed with difficulty. His throat had gone dry in a
moment. It was not from indignation. The doctor, pathetically enough,
believed that he had forfeited the right to be indignant with any
one--for anything. It was simple dread. Had the fellow heard his story
by some chance? If so, there was an end of his usefulness in that
direction. The indispensable man escaped his influence, because of
that indelible blot which made him fit for dirty work. A feeling as of
sickness came upon the doctor. He would have given anything to know, but
he dared not clear up the point. The fanaticism of his devotion, fed on
the sense of his abasement, hardened his heart in sadness and scorn.

"Why not, indeed?" he reechoed, sardonically. "Then the safe thing for
you is to kill me on the spot. I would defend myself. But you may just
as well know I am going about unarmed."

"Por Dios!" said the Capataz, passionately. "You fine people are all
alike. All dangerous. All betrayers of the poor who are your dogs."

"You do not understand," began the doctor, slowly.

"I understand you all!" cried the other with a violent movement, as
shadowy to the doctor's eyes as the persistent immobility of the late
Senor Hirsch. "A poor man amongst you has got to look after himself. I
say that you do not care for those that serve you. Look at me! After all
these years, suddenly, here I find myself like one of these curs that
bark outside the walls--without a kennel or a dry bone for my teeth.
_Caramba!_" But he relented with a contemptuous fairness. "Of course," he
went on, quietly, "I do not suppose that you would hasten to give me
up to Sotillo, for example. It is not that. It is that I am nothing!
Suddenly--" He swung his arm downwards. "Nothing to any one," he
repeated.

The doctor breathed freely. "Listen, Capataz," he said, stretching out
his arm almost affectionately towards Nostromo's shoulder. "I am going
to tell you a very simple thing. You are safe because you are needed. I
would not give you away for any conceivable reason, because I want you."

In the dark Nostromo bit his lip. He had heard enough of that. He knew
what that meant. No more of that for him. But he had to look after
himself now, he thought. And he thought, too, that it would not be
prudent to part in anger from his companion. The doctor, admitted to be
a great healer, had, amongst the populace of Sulaco, the reputation
of being an evil sort of man. It was based solidly on his personal
appearance, which was strange, and on his rough ironic manner--proofs
visible, sensible, and incontrovertible of the doctor's malevolent
disposition. And Nostromo was of the people. So he only grunted
incredulously.

"You, to speak plainly, are the only man," the doctor pursued. "It is
in your power to save this town and . . . everybody from the destructive
rapacity of men who--"

"No, senor," said Nostromo, sullenly. "It is not in my power to get the
treasure back for you to give up to Sotillo, or Pedrito, or Gamacho.
What do I know?"

"Nobody expects the impossible," was the answer.

"You have said it yourself--nobody," muttered Nostromo, in a gloomy,
threatening tone.

But Dr. Monygham, full of hope, disregarded the enigmatic words and the
threatening tone. To their eyes, accustomed to obscurity, the late
Senor Hirsch, growing more distinct, seemed to have come nearer. And
the doctor lowered his voice in exposing his scheme as though afraid of
being overheard.

He was taking the indispensable man into his fullest confidence. Its
implied flattery and suggestion of great risks came with a familiar
sound to the Capataz. His mind, floating in irresolution and discontent,
recognized it with bitterness. He understood well that the doctor was
anxious to save the San Tome mine from annihilation. He would be nothing
without it. It was his interest. Just as it had been the interest of
Senor Decoud, of the Blancos, and of the Europeans to get his Cargadores
on their side. His thought became arrested upon Decoud. What would
happen to him?

Nostromo's prolonged silence made the doctor uneasy. He pointed out,
quite unnecessarily, that though for the present he was safe, he could
not live concealed for ever. The choice was between accepting the
mission to Barrios, with all its dangers and difficulties, and leaving
Sulaco by stealth, ingloriously, in poverty.

"None of your friends could reward you and protect you just now,
Capataz. Not even Don Carlos himself."

"I would have none of your protection and none of your rewards. I
only wish I could trust your courage and your sense. When I return in
triumph, as you say, with Barrios, I may find you all destroyed. You
have the knife at your throat now."

It was the doctor's turn to remain silent in the contemplation of
horrible contingencies.

"Well, we would trust your courage and your sense. And you, too, have a
knife at your throat."

"Ah! And whom am I to thank for that? What are your politics and your
mines to me--your silver and your constitutions--your Don Carlos this,
and Don Jose that--"

"I don't know," burst out the exasperated doctor. "There are innocent
people in danger whose little finger is worth more than you or I and all
the Ribierists together. I don't know. You should have asked yourself
before you allowed Decoud to lead you into all this. It was your place
to think like a man; but if you did not think then, try to act like a
man now. Did you imagine Decoud cared very much for what would happen to
you?"

"No more than you care for what will happen to me," muttered the other.

"No; I care for what will happen to you as little as I care for what
will happen to myself."

"And all this because you are such a devoted Ribierist?" Nostromo said
in an incredulous tone.

"All this because I am such a devoted Ribierist," repeated Dr. Monygham,
grimly.

Again Nostromo, gazing abstractedly at the body of the late Senor
Hirsch, remained silent, thinking that the doctor was a dangerous person
in more than one sense. It was impossible to trust him.

"Do you speak in the name of Don Carlos?" he asked at last.

"Yes. I do," the doctor said, loudly, without hesitation. "He must come
forward now. He must," he added in a mutter, which Nostromo did not
catch.

"What did you say, senor?"

The doctor started. "I say that you must be true to yourself, Capataz.
It would be worse than folly to fail now."

"True to myself," repeated Nostromo. "How do you know that I would
not be true to myself if I told you to go to the devil with your
propositions?"

"I do not know. Maybe you would," the doctor said, with a roughness of
tone intended to hide the sinking of his heart and the faltering of his
voice. "All I know is, that you had better get away from here. Some of
Sotillo's men may turn up here looking for me."

He slipped off the table, listening intently. The Capataz, too, stood
up.

"Suppose I went to Cayta, what would you do meantime?" he asked.

"I would go to Sotillo directly you had left--in the way I am thinking
of."

"A very good way--if only that engineer-in-chief consents. Remind him,
senor, that I looked after the old rich Englishman who pays for the
railway, and that I saved the lives of some of his people that time when
a gang of thieves came from the south to wreck one of his pay-trains.
It was I who discovered it all at the risk of my life, by pretending to
enter into their plans. Just as you are doing with Sotillo."

"Yes. Yes, of course. But I can offer him better arguments," the doctor
said, hastily. "Leave it to me."

"Ah, yes! True. I am nothing."

"Not at all. You are everything."

They moved a few paces towards the door. Behind them the late Senor
Hirsch preserved the immobility of a disregarded man.

"That will be all right. I know what to say to the engineer," pursued
the doctor, in a low tone. "My difficulty will be with Sotillo."

And Dr. Monygham stopped short in the doorway as if intimidated by the
difficulty. He had made the sacrifice of his life. He considered this
a fitting opportunity. But he did not want to throw his life away too
soon. In his quality of betrayer of Don Carlos' confidence, he would
have ultimately to indicate the hiding-place of the treasure. That would
be the end of his deception, and the end of himself as well, at the
hands of the infuriated colonel. He wanted to delay him to the very
last moment; and he had been racking his brains to invent some place of
concealment at once plausible and difficult of access.

He imparted his trouble to Nostromo, and concluded--

"Do you know what, Capataz? I think that when the time comes and some
information must be given, I shall indicate the Great Isabel. That is
the best place I can think of. What is the matter?"

A low exclamation had escaped Nostromo. The doctor waited, surprised,
and after a moment of profound silence, heard a thick voice stammer out,
"Utter folly," and stop with a gasp.

"Why folly?"

"Ah! You do not see it," began Nostromo, scathingly, gathering scorn as
he went on. "Three men in half an hour would see that no ground had been
disturbed anywhere on that island. Do you think that such a treasure can
be buried without leaving traces of the work--eh! senor doctor? Why! you
would not gain half a day more before having your throat cut by Sotillo.
The Isabel! What stupidity! What miserable invention! Ah! you are all
alike, you fine men of intelligence. All you are fit for is to betray
men of the people into undertaking deadly risks for objects that you are
not even sure about. If it comes off you get the benefit. If not, then
it does not matter. He is only a dog. Ah! Madre de Dios, I would--" He
shook his fists above his head.

The doctor was overwhelmed at first by this fierce, hissing vehemence.

"Well! It seems to me on your own showing that the men of the people
are no mean fools, too," he said, sullenly. "No, but come. You are so
clever. Have you a better place?"

Nostromo had calmed down as quickly as he had flared up.

"I am clever enough for that," he said, quietly, almost with
indifference. "You want to tell him of a hiding-place big enough to take
days in ransacking--a place where a treasure of silver ingots can be
buried without leaving a sign on the surface."

"And close at hand," the doctor put in.

"Just so, senor. Tell him it is sunk."

"This has the merit of being the truth," the doctor said,
contemptuously. "He will not believe it."

"You tell him that it is sunk where he may hope to lay his hands on it,
and he will believe you quick enough. Tell him it has been sunk in the
harbour in order to be recovered afterwards by divers. Tell him you
found out that I had orders from Don Carlos Gould to lower the cases
quietly overboard somewhere in a line between the end of the jetty and
the entrance. The depth is not too great there. He has no divers, but he
has a ship, boats, ropes, chains, sailors--of a sort. Let him fish for
the silver. Let him set his fools to drag backwards and forwards and
crossways while he sits and watches till his eyes drop out of his head."

"Really, this is an admirable idea," muttered the doctor.

"Si. You tell him that, and see whether he will not believe you! He will
spend days in rage and torment--and still he will believe. He will have
no thought for anything else. He will not give up till he is driven
off--why, he may even forget to kill you. He will neither eat nor sleep.
He--"

"The very thing! The very thing!" the doctor repeated in an excited
whisper. "Capataz, I begin to believe that you are a great genius in
your way."

Nostromo had paused; then began again in a changed tone, sombre,
speaking to himself as though he had forgotten the doctor's existence.

"There is something in a treasure that fastens upon a man's mind. He
will pray and blaspheme and still persevere, and will curse the day he
ever heard of it, and will let his last hour come upon him unawares,
still believing that he missed it only by a foot. He will see it every
time he closes his eyes. He will never forget it till he is dead--and
even then----Doctor, did you ever hear of the miserable gringos on
Azuera, that cannot die? Ha! ha! Sailors like myself. There is no
getting away from a treasure that once fastens upon your mind."

"You are a devil of a man, Capataz. It is the most plausible thing."

Nostromo pressed his arm.

"It will be worse for him than thirst at sea or hunger in a town full of
people. Do you know what that is? He shall suffer greater torments than
he inflicted upon that terrified wretch who had no invention. None!
none! Not like me. I could have told Sotillo a deadly tale for very
little pain."

He laughed wildly and turned in the doorway towards the body of the late
Senor Hirsch, an opaque long blotch in the semi-transparent obscurity
of the room between the two tall parallelograms of the windows full of
stars.

"You man of fear!" he cried. "You shall be avenged by me--Nostromo. Out
of my way, doctor! Stand aside--or, by the suffering soul of a woman
dead without confession, I will strangle you with my two hands."

He bounded downwards into the black, smoky hall. With a grunt of
astonishment, Dr. Monygham threw himself recklessly into the pursuit. At
the bottom of the charred stairs he had a fall, pitching forward on his
face with a force that would have stunned a spirit less intent upon a
task of love and devotion. He was up in a moment, jarred, shaken, with a
queer impression of the terrestrial globe having been flung at his head
in the dark. But it wanted more than that to stop Dr. Monygham's body,
possessed by the exaltation of self-sacrifice; a reasonable exaltation,
determined not to lose whatever advantage chance put into its way. He
ran with headlong, tottering swiftness, his arms going like a windmill
in his effort to keep his balance on his crippled feet. He lost his hat;
the tails of his open gaberdine flew behind him. He had no mind to lose
sight of the indispensable man. But it was a long time, and a long way
from the Custom House, before he managed to seize his arm from behind,
roughly, out of breath.

"Stop! Are you mad?"

Already Nostromo was walking slowly, his head dropping, as if checked in
his pace by the weariness of irresolution.

"What is that to you? Ah! I forgot you want me for something. Always.
Siempre Nostromo."

"What do you mean by talking of strangling me?" panted the doctor.

"What do I mean? I mean that the king of the devils himself has sent you
out of this town of cowards and talkers to meet me to-night of all the
nights of my life."

Under the starry sky the Albergo d'ltalia Una emerged, black and low,
breaking the dark level of the plain. Nostromo stopped altogether.

"The priests say he is a tempter, do they not?" he added, through his
clenched teeth.

"My good man, you drivel. The devil has nothing to do with this. Neither
has the town, which you may call by what name you please. But Don Carlos
Gould is neither a coward nor an empty talker. You will admit that?" He
waited. "Well?"

"Could I see Don Carlos?"

"Great heavens! No! Why? What for?" exclaimed the doctor in agitation.
"I tell you it is madness. I will not let you go into the town for
anything."

"I must."

"You must not!" hissed the doctor, fiercely, almost beside himself with
the fear of the man doing away with his usefulness for an imbecile whim
of some sort. "I tell you you shall not. I would rather----"

He stopped at loss for words, feeling fagged out, powerless, holding on
to Nostromo's sleeve, absolutely for support after his run.

"I am betrayed!" muttered the Capataz to himself; and the doctor, who
overheard the last word, made an effort to speak calmly.

"That is exactly what would happen to you. You would be betrayed."

He thought with a sickening dread that the man was so well known that he
could not escape recognition. The house of the Senor Administrador was
beset by spies, no doubt. And even the very servants of the casa were
not to be trusted. "Reflect, Capataz," he said, impressively. . . .
"What are you laughing at?"

"I am laughing to think that if somebody that did not approve of
my presence in town, for instance--you understand, senor doctor--if
somebody were to give me up to Pedrito, it would not be beyond my power
to make friends even with him. It is true. What do you think of that?"

"You are a man of infinite resource, Capataz," said Dr. Monygham,
dismally. "I recognize that. But the town is full of talk about you; and
those few Cargadores that are not in hiding with the railway people have
been shouting 'Viva Montero' on the Plaza all day."

"My poor Cargadores!" muttered Nostromo. "Betrayed! Betrayed!"

"I understand that on the wharf you were pretty free in laying about you
with a stick amongst your poor Cargadores," the doctor said in a grim
tone, which showed that he was recovering from his exertions. "Make no
mistake. Pedrito is furious at Senor Ribiera's rescue, and at having
lost the pleasure of shooting Decoud. Already there are rumours in the
town of the treasure having been spirited away. To have missed that does
not please Pedrito either; but let me tell you that if you had all that
silver in your hand for ransom it would not save you."

Turning swiftly, and catching the doctor by the shoulders, Nostromo
thrust his face close to his.

"Maladetta! You follow me speaking of the treasure. You have sworn my
ruin. You were the last man who looked upon me before I went out with
it. And Sidoni the engine-driver says you have an evil eye."

"He ought to know. I saved his broken leg for him last year," the doctor
said, stoically. He felt on his shoulders the weight of these hands
famed amongst the populace for snapping thick ropes and bending
horseshoes. "And to you I offer the best means of saving yourself--let
me go--and of retrieving your great reputation. You boasted of making
the Capataz de Cargadores famous from one end of America to the other
about this wretched silver. But I bring you a better opportunity--let me
go, hombre!"

Nostromo released him abruptly, and the doctor feared that the
indispensable man would run off again. But he did not. He walked on
slowly. The doctor hobbled by his side till, within a stone's throw from
the Casa Viola, Nostromo stopped again.

Silent in inhospitable darkness, the Casa Viola seemed to have changed
its nature; his home appeared to repel him with an air of hopeless and
inimical mystery. The doctor said--

"You will be safe there. Go in, Capataz."

"How can I go in?" Nostromo seemed to ask himself in a low, inward tone.
"She cannot unsay what she said, and I cannot undo what I have done."

"I tell you it is all right. Viola is all alone in there. I looked in
as I came out of the town. You will be perfectly safe in that house till
you leave it to make your name famous on the Campo. I am going now to
arrange for your departure with the engineer-in-chief, and I shall bring
you news here long before daybreak."

Dr. Monygham, disregarding, or perhaps fearing to penetrate the meaning
of Nostromo's silence, clapped him lightly on the shoulder, and starting
off with his smart, lame walk, vanished utterly at the third or fourth
hop in the direction of the railway track. Arrested between the two
wooden posts for people to fasten their horses to, Nostromo did not
move, as if he, too, had been planted solidly in the ground. At the end
of half an hour he lifted his head to the deep baying of the dogs at the
railway yards, which had burst out suddenly, tumultuous and deadened as
if coming from under the plain. That lame doctor with the evil eye had
got there pretty fast.

Step by step Nostromo approached the Albergo d'Italia Una, which he had
never known so lightless, so silent, before. The door, all black in the
pale wall, stood open as he had left it twenty-four hours before,
when he had nothing to hide from the world. He remained before it,
irresolute, like a fugitive, like a man betrayed. Poverty, misery,
starvation! Where had he heard these words? The anger of a dying woman
had prophesied that fate for his folly. It looked as if it would come
true very quickly. And the leperos would laugh--she had said. Yes, they
would laugh if they knew that the Capataz de Cargadores was at the mercy
of the mad doctor whom they could remember, only a few years ago, buying
cooked food from a stall on the Plaza for a copper coin--like one of
themselves.

At that moment the notion of seeking Captain Mitchell passed through his
mind. He glanced in the direction of the jetty and saw a small gleam of
light in the O.S.N. Company's building. The thought of lighted windows
was not attractive. Two lighted windows had decoyed him into the empty
Custom House, only to fall into the clutches of that doctor. No! He
would not go near lighted windows again on that night. Captain Mitchell
was there. And what could he be told? That doctor would worm it all out
of him as if he were a child.

On the threshold he called out "Giorgio!" in an undertone. Nobody
answered. He stepped in. "Ola! viejo! Are you there? . . ." In the
impenetrable darkness his head swam with the illusion that the obscurity
of the kitchen was as vast as the Placid Gulf, and that the floor dipped
forward like a sinking lighter. "Ola! viejo!" he repeated, falteringly,
swaying where he stood. His hand, extended to steady himself, fell
upon the table. Moving a step forward, he shifted it, and felt a box
of matches under his fingers. He fancied he had heard a quiet sigh. He
listened for a moment, holding his breath; then, with trembling hands,
tried to strike a light.

The tiny piece of wood flamed up quite blindingly at the end of his
fingers, raised above his blinking eyes. A concentrated glare fell
upon the leonine white head of old Giorgio against the black
fire-place--showed him leaning forward in a chair in staring immobility,
surrounded, overhung, by great masses of shadow, his legs crossed, his
cheek in his hand, an empty pipe in the corner of his mouth. It seemed
hours before he attempted to turn his face; at the very moment the match
went out, and he disappeared, overwhelmed by the shadows, as if the
walls and roof of the desolate house had collapsed upon his white head
in ghostly silence.

Nostromo heard him stir and utter dispassionately the words--

"It may have been a vision."

"No," he said, softly. "It is no vision, old man."

A strong chest voice asked in the dark--

"Is that you I hear, Giovann' Battista?"

"Si, viejo. Steady. Not so loud."

After his release by Sotillo, Giorgio Viola, attended to the very door
by the good-natured engineer-in-chief, had reentered his house, which
he had been made to leave almost at the very moment of his wife's death.
All was still. The lamp above was burning. He nearly called out to her
by name; and the thought that no call from him would ever again evoke
the answer of her voice, made him drop heavily into the chair with
a loud groan, wrung out by the pain as of a keen blade piercing his
breast.

The rest of the night he made no sound. The darkness turned to grey, and
on the colourless, clear, glassy dawn the jagged sierra stood out flat
and opaque, as if cut out of paper.

The enthusiastic and severe soul of Giorgio Viola, sailor, champion of
oppressed humanity, enemy of kings, and, by the grace of Mrs. Gould,
hotel-keeper of the Sulaco harbour, had descended into the open abyss of
desolation amongst the shattered vestiges of his past. He remembered
his wooing between two campaigns, a single short week in the season of
gathering olives. Nothing approached the grave passion of that time but
the deep, passionate sense of his bereavement. He discovered all the
extent of his dependence upon the silenced voice of that woman. It
was her voice that he missed. Abstracted, busy, lost in inward
contemplation, he seldom looked at his wife in those later years. The
thought of his girls was a matter of concern, not of consolation. It
was her voice that he would miss. And he remembered the other child--the
little boy who died at sea. Ah! a man would have been something to lean
upon. And, alas! even Gian' Battista--he of whom, and of Linda, his
wife had spoken to him so anxiously before she dropped off into her last
sleep on earth, he on whom she had called aloud to save the children,
just before she died--even he was dead!

And the old man, bent forward, his head in his hand, sat through the day
in immobility and solitude. He never heard the brazen roar of the bells
in town. When it ceased the earthenware filter in the corner of the
kitchen kept on its swift musical drip, drip into the great porous jar
below.

Towards sunset he got up, and with slow movements disappeared up the
narrow staircase. His bulk filled it; and the rubbing of his shoulders
made a small noise as of a mouse running behind the plaster of a wall.
While he remained up there the house was as dumb as a grave. Then,
with the same faint rubbing noise, he descended. He had to catch at the
chairs and tables to regain his seat. He seized his pipe off the
high mantel of the fire-place--but made no attempt to reach the
tobacco--thrust it empty into the corner of his mouth, and sat down
again in the same staring pose. The sun of Pedrito's entry into Sulaco,
the last sun of Senor Hirsch's life, the first of Decoud's solitude on
the Great Isabel, passed over the Albergo d'ltalia Una on its way to
the west. The tinkling drip, drip of the filter had ceased, the lamp
upstairs had burnt itself out, and the night beset Giorgio Viola and his
dead wife with its obscurity and silence that seemed invincible till the
Capataz de Cargadores, returning from the dead, put them to flight with
the splutter and flare of a match.

"Si, viejo. It is me. Wait."

Nostromo, after barricading the door and closing the shutters carefully,
groped upon a shelf for a candle, and lit it.

Old Viola had risen. He followed with his eyes in the dark the sounds
made by Nostromo. The light disclosed him standing without support, as
if the mere presence of that man who was loyal, brave, incorruptible,
who was all his son would have been, were enough for the support of his
decaying strength.

He extended his hand grasping the briar-wood pipe, whose bowl was
charred on the edge, and knitted his bushy eyebrows heavily at the
light.

"You have returned," he said, with shaky dignity. "Ah! Very well! I----"

He broke off. Nostromo, leaning back against the table, his arms folded
on his breast, nodded at him slightly.

"You thought I was drowned! No! The best dog of the rich, of the
aristocrats, of these fine men who can only talk and betray the people,
is not dead yet."

The Garibaldino, motionless, seemed to drink in the sound of the
well-known voice. His head moved slightly once as if in sign of
approval; but Nostromo saw clearly that the old man understood nothing
of the words. There was no one to understand; no one he could take into
the confidence of Decoud's fate, of his own, into the secret of the
silver. That doctor was an enemy of the people--a tempter. . . .

Old Giorgio's heavy frame shook from head to foot with the effort
to overcome his emotion at the sight of that man, who had shared the
intimacies of his domestic life as though he had been a grown-up son.

"She believed you would return," he said, solemnly.

Nostromo raised his head.

"She was a wise woman. How could I fail to come back----?"

He finished the thought mentally: "Since she has prophesied for me an
end of poverty, misery, and starvation." These words of Teresa's anger,
from the circumstances in which they had been uttered, like the cry of
a soul prevented from making its peace with God, stirred the obscure
superstition of personal fortune from which even the greatest genius
amongst men of adventure and action is seldom free. They reigned over
Nostromo's mind with the force of a potent malediction. And what a curse
it was that which her words had laid upon him! He had been orphaned
so young that he could remember no other woman whom he called mother.
Henceforth there would be no enterprise in which he would not fail. The
spell was working already. Death itself would elude him now. . . . He
said violently--

"Come, viejo! Get me something to eat. I am hungry! Sangre de Dios! The
emptiness of my belly makes me lightheaded."

With his chin dropped again upon his bare breast above his folded arms,
barefooted, watching from under a gloomy brow the movements of old Viola
foraging amongst the cupboards, he seemed as if indeed fallen under a
curse--a ruined and sinister Capataz.

Old Viola walked out of a dark corner, and, without a word, emptied upon
the table out of his hollowed palms a few dry crusts of bread and half a
raw onion.

While the Capataz began to devour this beggar's fare, taking up with
stony-eyed voracity piece after piece lying by his side, the Garibaldino
went off, and squatting down in another corner filled an earthenware mug
with red wine out of a wicker-covered demijohn. With a familiar gesture,
as when serving customers in the cafe, he had thrust his pipe between
his teeth to have his hands free.

The Capataz drank greedily. A slight flush deepened the bronze of his
cheek. Before him, Viola, with a turn of his white and massive head
towards the staircase, took his empty pipe out of his mouth, and
pronounced slowly--

"After the shot was fired down here, which killed her as surely as if
the bullet had struck her oppressed heart, she called upon you to save
the children. Upon you, Gian' Battista."

The Capataz looked up.

"Did she do that, Padrone? To save the children! They are with the
English senora, their rich benefactress. Hey! old man of the people. Thy
benefactress. . . ."

"I am old," muttered Giorgio Viola. "An Englishwoman was allowed to give
a bed to Garibaldi lying wounded in prison. The greatest man that ever
lived. A man of the people, too--a sailor. I may let another keep a
roof over my head. Si . . . I am old. I may let her. Life lasts too long
sometimes."

"And she herself may not have a roof over her head before many days are
out, unless I . . . What do you say? Am I to keep a roof over her head?
Am I to try--and save all the Blancos together with her?"

"You shall do it," said old Viola in a strong voice. "You shall do it as
my son would have. . . ."

"Thy son, viejo! .. .. There never has been a man like thy son. Ha, I
must try. . . . But what if it were only a part of the curse to lure me
on? . . . And so she called upon me to save--and then----?"

"She spoke no more." The heroic follower of Garibaldi, at the thought
of the eternal stillness and silence fallen upon the shrouded form
stretched out on the bed upstairs, averted his face and raised his hand
to his furrowed brow. "She was dead before I could seize her hands," he
stammered out, pitifully.

Before the wide eyes of the Capataz, staring at the doorway of the dark
staircase, floated the shape of the Great Isabel, like a strange ship in
distress, freighted with enormous wealth and the solitary life of a man.
It was impossible for him to do anything. He could only hold his
tongue, since there was no one to trust. The treasure would be lost,
probably--unless Decoud. . . . And his thought came abruptly to an end.
He perceived that he could not imagine in the least what Decoud was
likely to do.

Old Viola had not stirred. And the motionless Capataz dropped his
long, soft eyelashes, which gave to the upper part of his fierce,
black-whiskered face a touch of feminine ingenuousness. The silence had
lasted for a long time.

"God rest her soul!" he murmured, gloomily.



CHAPTER TEN

The next day was quiet in the morning, except for the faint sound of
firing to the northward, in the direction of Los Hatos. Captain Mitchell
had listened to it from his balcony anxiously. The phrase, "In
my delicate position as the only consular agent then in the port,
everything, sir, everything was a just cause for anxiety," had its place
in the more or less stereotyped relation of the "historical events"
which for the next few years was at the service of distinguished
strangers visiting Sulaco. The mention of the dignity and neutrality of
the flag, so difficult to preserve in his position, "right in the
thick of these events between the lawlessness of that piratical villain
Sotillo and the more regularly established but scarcely less atrocious
tyranny of his Excellency Don Pedro Montero," came next in order.
Captain Mitchell was not the man to enlarge upon mere dangers much. But
he insisted that it was a memorable day. On that day, towards dusk,
he had seen "that poor fellow of mine--Nostromo. The sailor whom I
discovered, and, I may say, made, sir. The man of the famous ride to
Cayta, sir. An historical event, sir!"

Regarded by the O. S. N. Company as an old and faithful servant, Captain
Mitchell was allowed to attain the term of his usefulness in ease and
dignity at the head of the enormously extended service. The augmentation
of the establishment, with its crowds of clerks, an office in town, the
old office in the harbour, the division into departments--passenger,
cargo, lighterage, and so on--secured a greater leisure for his last
years in the regenerated Sulaco, the capital of the Occidental Republic.
Liked by the natives for his good nature and the formality of his
manner, self-important and simple, known for years as a "friend of our
country," he felt himself a personality of mark in the town. Getting
up early for a turn in the market-place while the gigantic shadow of
Higuerota was still lying upon the fruit and flower stalls piled up
with masses of gorgeous colouring, attending easily to current affairs,
welcomed in houses, greeted by ladies on the Alameda, with his
entry into all the clubs and a footing in the Casa Gould, he led his
privileged old bachelor, man-about-town existence with great comfort and
solemnity. But on mail-boat days he was down at the Harbour Office at an
early hour, with his own gig, manned by a smart crew in white and
blue, ready to dash off and board the ship directly she showed her bows
between the harbour heads.

It would be into the Harbour Office that he would lead some privileged
passenger he had brought off in his own boat, and invite him to take a
seat for a moment while he signed a few papers. And Captain Mitchell,
seating himself at his desk, would keep on talking hospitably--

"There isn't much time if you are to see everything in a day. We shall
be off in a moment. We'll have lunch at the Amarilla Club--though I
belong also to the Anglo-American--mining engineers and business men,
don't you know--and to the Mirliflores as well, a new club--English,
French, Italians, all sorts--lively young fellows mostly, who wanted
to pay a compliment to an old resident, sir. But we'll lunch at the
Amarilla. Interest you, I fancy. Real thing of the country. Men of the
first families. The President of the Occidental Republic himself belongs
to it, sir. Fine old bishop with a broken nose in the patio. Remarkable
piece of statuary, I believe. Cavaliere Parrochetti--you know
Parrochetti, the famous Italian sculptor--was working here for two
years--thought very highly of our old bishop. . . . There! I am very
much at your service now."

Proud of his experience, penetrated by the sense of historical
importance of men, events, and buildings, he talked pompously in jerky
periods, with slight sweeps of his short, thick arm, letting nothing
"escape the attention" of his privileged captive.

"Lot of building going on, as you observe. Before the Separation it
was a plain of burnt grass smothered in clouds of dust, with an ox-cart
track to our Jetty. Nothing more. This is the Harbour Gate. Picturesque,
is it not? Formerly the town stopped short there. We enter now the Calle
de la Constitucion. Observe the old Spanish houses. Great dignity. Eh? I
suppose it's just as it was in the time of the Viceroys, except for the
pavement. Wood blocks now. Sulaco National Bank there, with the sentry
boxes each side of the gate. Casa Avellanos this side, with all the
ground-floor windows shuttered. A wonderful woman lives there--Miss
Avellanos--the beautiful Antonia. A character, sir! A historical woman!
Opposite--Casa Gould. Noble gateway. Yes, the Goulds of the original
Gould Concession, that all the world knows of now. I hold seventeen of
the thousand-dollar shares in the Consolidated San Tome mines. All the
poor savings of my lifetime, sir, and it will be enough to keep me in
comfort to the end of my days at home when I retire. I got in on the
ground-floor, you see. Don Carlos, great friend of mine. Seventeen
shares--quite a little fortune to leave behind one, too. I have a
niece--married a parson--most worthy man, incumbent of a small parish in
Sussex; no end of children. I was never married myself. A sailor should
exercise self-denial. Standing under that very gateway, sir, with some
young engineer-fellows, ready to defend that house where we had received
so much kindness and hospitality, I saw the first and last charge of
Pedrito's horsemen upon Barrios's troops, who had just taken the Harbour
Gate. They could not stand the new rifles brought out by that poor
Decoud. It was a murderous fire. In a moment the street became blocked
with a mass of dead men and horses. They never came on again."

And all day Captain Mitchell would talk like this to his more or less
willing victim--

"The Plaza. I call it magnificent. Twice the area of Trafalgar Square."

From the very centre, in the blazing sunshine, he pointed out the
buildings--

"The Intendencia, now President's Palace--Cabildo, where the Lower
Chamber of Parliament sits. You notice the new houses on that side
of the Plaza? Compania Anzani, a great general store, like those
cooperative things at home. Old Anzani was murdered by the National
Guards in front of his safe. It was even for that specific crime that
the deputy Gamacho, commanding the Nationals, a bloodthirsty and
savage brute, was executed publicly by garrotte upon the sentence of
a court-martial ordered by Barrios. Anzani's nephews converted the
business into a company. All that side of the Plaza had been burnt; used
to be colonnaded before. A terrible fire, by the light of which I saw
the last of the fighting, the llaneros flying, the Nationals throwing
their arms down, and the miners of San Tome, all Indians from the
Sierra, rolling by like a torrent to the sound of pipes and cymbals,
green flags flying, a wild mass of men in white ponchos and green hats,
on foot, on mules, on donkeys. Such a sight, sir, will never be seen
again. The miners, sir, had marched upon the town, Don Pepe leading on
his black horse, and their very wives in the rear on burros, screaming
encouragement, sir, and beating tambourines. I remember one of these
women had a green parrot seated on her shoulder, as calm as a bird
of stone. They had just saved their Senor Administrador; for Barrios,
though he ordered the assault at once, at night, too, would have been
too late. Pedrito Montero had Don Carlos led out to be shot--like his
uncle many years ago--and then, as Barrios said afterwards, 'Sulaco
would not have been worth fighting for.' Sulaco without the Concession
was nothing; and there were tons and tons of dynamite distributed all
over the mountain with detonators arranged, and an old priest, Father
Roman, standing by to annihilate the San Tome mine at the first news of
failure. Don Carlos had made up his mind not to leave it behind, and he
had the right men to see to it, too."

Thus Captain Mitchell would talk in the middle of the Plaza, holding
over his head a white umbrella with a green lining; but inside the
cathedral, in the dim light, with a faint scent of incense floating in
the cool atmosphere, and here and there a kneeling female figure, black
or all white, with a veiled head, his lowered voice became solemn and
impressive.

"Here," he would say, pointing to a niche in the wall of the dusky
aisle, "you see the bust of Don Jose Avellanos, 'Patriot and Statesman,'
as the inscription says, 'Minister to Courts of England and Spain, etc.,
etc., died in the woods of Los Hatos worn out with his lifelong struggle
for Right and Justice at the dawn of the New Era.' A fair likeness.
Parrochetti's work from some old photographs and a pencil sketch by Mrs.
Gould. I was well acquainted with that distinguished Spanish-American of
the old school, a true Hidalgo, beloved by everybody who knew him.
The marble medallion in the wall, in the antique style, representing
a veiled woman seated with her hands clasped loosely over her knees,
commemorates that unfortunate young gentleman who sailed out with
Nostromo on that fatal night, sir. See, 'To the memory of Martin Decoud,
his betrothed Antonia Avellanos.' Frank, simple, noble. There you have
that lady, sir, as she is. An exceptional woman. Those who thought she
would give way to despair were mistaken, sir. She has been blamed in
many quarters for not having taken the veil. It was expected of her. But
Dona Antonia is not the stuff they make nuns of. Bishop Corbelan, her
uncle, lives with her in the Corbelan town house. He is a fierce sort of
priest, everlastingly worrying the Government about the old Church lands
and convents. I believe they think a lot of him in Rome. Now let us go
to the Amarilla Club, just across the Plaza, to get some lunch."

Directly outside the cathedral on the very top of the noble flight
of steps, his voice rose pompously, his arm found again its sweeping
gesture.

"Porvenir, over there on that first floor, above those French
plate-glass shop-fronts; our biggest daily. Conservative, or, rather, I
should say, Parliamentary. We have the Parliamentary party here of which
the actual Chief of the State, Don Juste Lopez, is the head; a very
sagacious man, I think. A first-rate intellect, sir. The Democratic
party in opposition rests mostly, I am sorry to say, on these
socialistic Italians, sir, with their secret societies, camorras, and
such-like. There are lots of Italians settled here on the railway lands,
dismissed navvies, mechanics, and so on, all along the trunk line. There
are whole villages of Italians on the Campo. And the natives, too, are
being drawn into these ways . . . American bar? Yes. And over there you
can see another. New Yorkers mostly frequent that one----Here we are at
the Amarilla. Observe the bishop at the foot of the stairs to the right
as we go in."

And the lunch would begin and terminate its lavish and leisurely course
at a little table in the gallery, Captain Mitchell nodding, bowing,
getting up to speak for a moment to different officials in black
clothes, merchants in jackets, officers in uniform, middle-aged
caballeros from the Campo--sallow, little, nervous men, and fat, placid,
swarthy men, and Europeans or North Americans of superior standing,
whose faces looked very white amongst the majority of dark complexions
and black, glistening eyes.

Captain Mitchell would lie back in the chair, casting around looks of
satisfaction, and tender over the table a case full of thick cigars.

"Try a weed with your coffee. Local tobacco. The black coffee you get at
the Amarilla, sir, you don't meet anywhere in the world. We get the bean
from a famous cafeteria in the foot-hills, whose owner sends three sacks
every year as a present to his fellow members in remembrance of the
fight against Gamacho's Nationals, carried on from these very windows by
the caballeros. He was in town at the time, and took part, sir, to the
bitter end. It arrives on three mules--not in the common way, by rail;
no fear!--right into the patio, escorted by mounted peons, in charge of
the Mayoral of his estate, who walks upstairs, booted and spurred, and
delivers it to our committee formally with the words, 'For the sake of
those fallen on the third of May.' We call it Tres de Mayo coffee. Taste
it."

Captain Mitchell, with an expression as though making ready to hear a
sermon in a church, would lift the tiny cup to his lips. And the nectar
would be sipped to the bottom during a restful silence in a cloud of
cigar smoke.

"Look at this man in black just going out," he would begin, leaning
forward hastily. "This is the famous Hernandez, Minister of War. The
Times' special correspondent, who wrote that striking series of letters
calling the Occidental Republic the 'Treasure House of the World,' gave
a whole article to him and the force he has organized--the renowned
Carabineers of the Campo."

Captain Mitchell's guest, staring curiously, would see a figure in a
long-tailed black coat walking gravely, with downcast eyelids in a long,
composed face, a brow furrowed horizontally, a pointed head, whose grey
hair, thin at the top, combed down carefully on all sides and rolled at
the ends, fell low on the neck and shoulders. This, then, was the famous
bandit of whom Europe had heard with interest. He put on a high-crowned
sombrero with a wide flat brim; a rosary of wooden beads was twisted
about his right wrist. And Captain Mitchell would proceed--

"The protector of the Sulaco refugees from the rage of Pedrito. As
general of cavalry with Barrios he distinguished himself at the storming
of Tonoro, where Senor Fuentes was killed with the last remnant of the
Monterists. He is the friend and humble servant of Bishop Corbelan.
Hears three Masses every day. I bet you he will step into the cathedral
to say a prayer or two on his way home to his siesta."

He took several puffs at his cigar in silence; then, in his most
important manner, pronounced:

"The Spanish race, sir, is prolific of remarkable characters in every
rank of life. . . . I propose we go now into the billiard-room, which is
cool, for a quiet chat. There's never anybody there till after five.
I could tell you episodes of the Separationist revolution that would
astonish you. When the great heat's over, we'll take a turn on the
Alameda."

The programme went on relentless, like a law of Nature. The turn on the
Alameda was taken with slow steps and stately remarks.

"All the great world of Sulaco here, sir." Captain Mitchell bowed right
and left with no end of formality; then with animation, "Dona Emilia,
Mrs. Gould's carriage. Look. Always white mules. The kindest, most
gracious woman the sun ever shone upon. A great position, sir. A great
position. First lady in Sulaco--far before the President's wife. And
worthy of it." He took off his hat; then, with a studied change of tone,
added, negligently, that the man in black by her side, with a high white
collar and a scarred, snarly face, was Dr. Monygham, Inspector of State
Hospitals, chief medical officer of the Consolidated San Tome mines. "A
familiar of the house. Everlastingly there. No wonder. The Goulds made
him. Very clever man and all that, but I never liked him. Nobody does. I
can recollect him limping about the streets in a check shirt and native
sandals with a watermelon under his arm--all he would get to eat for the
day. A big-wig now, sir, and as nasty as ever. However . . . There's no
doubt he played his part fairly well at the time. He saved us all from
the deadly incubus of Sotillo, where a more particular man might have
failed----"

His arm went up.

"The equestrian statue that used to stand on the pedestal over there
has been removed. It was an anachronism," Captain Mitchell commented,
obscurely. "There is some talk of replacing it by a marble shaft
commemorative of Separation, with angels of peace at the four corners,
and bronze Justice holding an even balance, all gilt, on the top.
Cavaliere Parrochetti was asked to make a design, which you can see
framed under glass in the Municipal Sala. Names are to be engraved all
round the base. Well! They could do no better than begin with the name
of Nostromo. He has done for Separation as much as anybody else, and,"
added Captain Mitchell, "has got less than many others by it--when it
comes to that." He dropped on to a stone seat under a tree, and tapped
invitingly at the place by his side. "He carried to Barrios the letters
from Sulaco which decided the General to abandon Cayta for a time, and
come back to our help here by sea. The transports were still in harbour
fortunately. Sir, I did not even know that my Capataz de Cargadores was
alive. I had no idea. It was Dr. Monygham who came upon him, by chance,
in the Custom House, evacuated an hour or two before by the wretched
Sotillo. I was never told; never given a hint, nothing--as if I were
unworthy of confidence. Monygham arranged it all. He went to the railway
yards, and got admission to the engineer-in-chief, who, for the sake of
the Goulds as much as for anything else, consented to let an engine
make a dash down the line, one hundred and eighty miles, with Nostromo
aboard. It was the only way to get him off. In the Construction Camp
at the railhead, he obtained a horse, arms, some clothing, and started
alone on that marvellous ride--four hundred miles in six days, through
a disturbed country, ending by the feat of passing through the Monterist
lines outside Cayta. The history of that ride, sir, would make a
most exciting book. He carried all our lives in his pocket. Devotion,
courage, fidelity, intelligence were not enough. Of course, he was
perfectly fearless and incorruptible. But a man was wanted that would
know how to succeed. He was that man, sir. On the fifth of May, being
practically a prisoner in the Harbour Office of my Company, I suddenly
heard the whistle of an engine in the railway yards, a quarter of a mile
away. I could not believe my ears. I made one jump on to the balcony,
and beheld a locomotive under a great head of steam run out of the yard
gates, screeching like mad, enveloped in a white cloud, and then, just
abreast of old Viola's inn, check almost to a standstill. I made out,
sir, a man--I couldn't tell who--dash out of the Albergo d'ltalia Una,
climb into the cab, and then, sir, that engine seemed positively to leap
clear of the house, and was gone in the twinkling of an eye. As you blow
a candle out, sir! There was a first-rate driver on the foot-plate, sir,
I can tell you. They were fired heavily upon by the National Guards in
Rincon and one other place. Fortunately the line had not been torn
up. In four hours they reached the Construction Camp. Nostromo had his
start. . . . The rest you know. You've got only to look round you. There
are people on this Alameda that ride in their carriages, or even are
alive at all to-day, because years ago I engaged a runaway Italian
sailor for a foreman of our wharf simply on the strength of his looks.
And that's a fact. You can't get over it, sir. On the seventeenth of
May, just twelve days after I saw the man from the Casa Viola get on the
engine, and wondered what it meant, Barrios's transports were entering
this harbour, and the 'Treasure House of the World,' as The Times man
calls Sulaco in his book, was saved intact for civilization--for a
great future, sir. Pedrito, with Hernandez on the west, and the San Tome
miners pressing on the land gate, was not able to oppose the landing. He
had been sending messages to Sotillo for a week to join him. Had Sotillo
done so there would have been massacres and proscription that would have
left no man or woman of position alive. But that's where Dr. Monygham
comes in. Sotillo, blind and deaf to everything, stuck on board his
steamer watching the dragging for silver, which he believed to be sunk
at the bottom of the harbour. They say that for the last three days he
was out of his mind raving and foaming with disappointment at getting
nothing, flying about the deck, and yelling curses at the boats with the
drags, ordering them in, and then suddenly stamping his foot and crying
out, 'And yet it is there! I see it! I feel it!'

"He was preparing to hang Dr. Monygham (whom he had on board) at the end
of the after-derrick, when the first of Barrios's transports, one of our
own ships at that, steamed right in, and ranging close alongside opened
a small-arm fire without as much preliminaries as a hail. It was the
completest surprise in the world, sir. They were too astounded at first
to bolt below. Men were falling right and left like ninepins. It's a
miracle that Monygham, standing on the after-hatch with the rope already
round his neck, escaped being riddled through and through like a sieve.
He told me since that he had given himself up for lost, and kept on
yelling with all the strength of his lungs: 'Hoist a white flag! Hoist
a white flag!' Suddenly an old major of the Esmeralda regiment, standing
by, unsheathed his sword with a shriek: 'Die, perjured traitor!' and ran
Sotillo clean through the body, just before he fell himself shot through
the head."

Captain Mitchell stopped for a while.

"Begad, sir! I could spin you a yarn for hours. But it's time we started
off to Rincon. It would not do for you to pass through Sulaco and not
see the lights of the San Tome mine, a whole mountain ablaze like a
lighted palace above the dark Campo. It's a fashionable drive. . . . But
let me tell you one little anecdote, sir; just to show you. A fortnight
or more later, when Barrios, declared Generalissimo, was gone in pursuit
of Pedrito away south, when the Provisional Junta, with Don Juste Lopez
at its head, had promulgated the new Constitution, and our Don Carlos
Gould was packing up his trunks bound on a mission to San Francisco
and Washington (the United States, sir, were the first great power to
recognize the Occidental Republic)--a fortnight later, I say, when we
were beginning to feel that our heads were safe on our shoulders, if
I may express myself so, a prominent man, a large shipper by our line,
came to see me on business, and, says he, the first thing: 'I say,
Captain Mitchell, is that fellow' (meaning Nostromo) 'still the Capataz
of your Cargadores or not?' 'What's the matter?' says I. 'Because, if
he is, then I don't mind; I send and receive a good lot of cargo by your
ships; but I have observed him several days loafing about the wharf,
and just now he stopped me as cool as you please, with a request for a
cigar. Now, you know, my cigars are rather special, and I can't get them
so easily as all that.' 'I hope you stretched a point,' I said,
very gently. 'Why, yes. But it's a confounded nuisance. The fellow's
everlastingly cadging for smokes.' Sir, I turned my eyes away, and then
asked, 'Weren't you one of the prisoners in the Cabildo?' 'You know very
well I was, and in chains, too,' says he. 'And under a fine of fifteen
thousand dollars?' He coloured, sir, because it got about that he
fainted from fright when they came to arrest him, and then behaved
before Fuentes in a manner to make the very policianos, who had dragged
him there by the hair of his head, smile at his cringing. 'Yes,' he
says, in a sort of shy way. 'Why?' 'Oh, nothing. You stood to lose a
tidy bit,' says I, 'even if you saved your life. . . . But what can I do
for you?' He never even saw the point. Not he. And that's how the world
wags, sir."

He rose a little stiffly, and the drive to Rincon would be taken with
only one philosophical remark, uttered by the merciless cicerone, with
his eyes fixed upon the lights of San Tome, that seemed suspended in the
dark night between earth and heaven.

"A great power, this, for good and evil, sir. A great power."

And the dinner of the Mirliflores would be eaten, excellent as to
cooking, and leaving upon the traveller's mind an impression that there
were in Sulaco many pleasant, able young men with salaries apparently
too large for their discretion, and amongst them a few, mostly
Anglo-Saxon, skilled in the art of, as the saying is, "taking a rise"
out of his kind host.

With a rapid, jingling drive to the harbour in a two-wheeled machine
(which Captain Mitchell called a curricle) behind a fleet and scraggy
mule beaten all the time by an obviously Neapolitan driver, the cycle
would be nearly closed before the lighted-up offices of the O. S. N.
Company, remaining open so late because of the steamer. Nearly--but not
quite.

"Ten o'clock. Your ship won't be ready to leave till half-past twelve,
if by then. Come in for a brandy-and-soda and one more cigar."

And in the superintendent's private room the privileged passenger by the
Ceres, or Juno, or Pallas, stunned and as it were annihilated mentally
by a sudden surfeit of sights, sounds, names, facts, and complicated
information imperfectly apprehended, would listen like a tired child
to a fairy tale; would hear a voice, familiar and surprising in its
pompousness, tell him, as if from another world, how there was "in this
very harbour" an international naval demonstration, which put an end to
the Costaguana-Sulaco War. How the United States cruiser, Powhattan, was
the first to salute the Occidental flag--white, with a wreath of green
laurel in the middle encircling a yellow amarilla flower. Would hear how
General Montero, in less than a month after proclaiming himself Emperor
of Costaguana, was shot dead (during a solemn and public distribution
of orders and crosses) by a young artillery officer, the brother of his
then mistress.

"The abominable Pedrito, sir, fled the country," the voice would say.
And it would continue: "A captain of one of our ships told me lately
that he recognized Pedrito the Guerrillero, arrayed in purple slippers
and a velvet smoking-cap with a gold tassel, keeping a disorderly house
in one of the southern ports."

"Abominable Pedrito! Who the devil was he?" would wonder the
distinguished bird of passage hovering on the confines of waking and
sleep with resolutely open eyes and a faint but amiable curl upon his
lips, from between which stuck out the eighteenth or twentieth cigar of
that memorable day.

"He appeared to me in this very room like a haunting ghost,
sir"--Captain Mitchell was talking of his Nostromo with true warmth of
feeling and a touch of wistful pride. "You may imagine, sir, what an
effect it produced on me. He had come round by sea with Barrios, of
course. And the first thing he told me after I became fit to hear him
was that he had picked up the lighter's boat floating in the gulf!
He seemed quite overcome by the circumstance. And a remarkable enough
circumstance it was, when you remember that it was then sixteen days
since the sinking of the silver. At once I could see he was another man.
He stared at the wall, sir, as if there had been a spider or something
running about there. The loss of the silver preyed on his mind. The
first thing he asked me about was whether Dona Antonia had heard yet of
Decoud's death. His voice trembled. I had to tell him that Dona Antonia,
as a matter of fact, was not back in town yet. Poor girl! And just as I
was making ready to ask him a thousand questions, with a sudden, 'Pardon
me, senor,' he cleared out of the office altogether. I did not see him
again for three days. I was terribly busy, you know. It seems that he
wandered about in and out of the town, and on two nights turned up
to sleep in the baracoons of the railway people. He seemed absolutely
indifferent to what went on. I asked him on the wharf, 'When are you
going to take hold again, Nostromo? There will be plenty of work for the
Cargadores presently.'

"'Senor,' says he, looking at me in a slow, inquisitive manner, 'would
it surprise you to hear that I am too tired to work just yet? And what
work could I do now? How can I look my Cargadores in the face after
losing a lighter?'

"I begged him not to think any more about the silver, and he smiled. A
smile that went to my heart, sir. 'It was no mistake,' I told him. 'It
was a fatality. A thing that could not be helped.' 'Si, si!" he said,
and turned away. I thought it best to leave him alone for a bit to get
over it. Sir, it took him years really, to get over it. I was present
at his interview with Don Carlos. I must say that Gould is rather a cold
man. He had to keep a tight hand on his feelings, dealing with thieves
and rascals, in constant danger of ruin for himself and wife for so many
years, that it had become a second nature. They looked at each other for
a long time. Don Carlos asked what he could do for him, in his quiet,
reserved way.

"'My name is known from one end of Sulaco to the other,' he said, as
quiet as the other. 'What more can you do for me?' That was all that
passed on that occasion. Later, however, there was a very fine coasting
schooner for sale, and Mrs. Gould and I put our heads together to get
her bought and presented to him. It was done, but he paid all the price
back within the next three years. Business was booming all along this
seaboard, sir. Moreover, that man always succeeded in everything
except in saving the silver. Poor Dona Antonia, fresh from her terrible
experiences in the woods of Los Hatos, had an interview with him, too.
Wanted to hear about Decoud: what they said, what they did, what they
thought up to the last on that fatal night. Mrs. Gould told me his
manner was perfect for quietness and sympathy. Miss Avellanos burst into
tears only when he told her how Decoud had happened to say that his plan
would be a glorious success. . . . And there's no doubt, sir, that it
is. It is a success."

The cycle was about to close at last. And while the privileged
passenger, shivering with the pleasant anticipations of his berth,
forgot to ask himself, "What on earth Decoud's plan could be?" Captain
Mitchell was saying, "Sorry we must part so soon. Your intelligent
interest made this a pleasant day to me. I shall see you now on board.
You had a glimpse of the 'Treasure House of the World.' A very good name
that." And the coxswain's voice at the door, announcing that the gig was
ready, closed the cycle.

Nostromo had, indeed, found the lighter's boat, which he had left on
the Great Isabel with Decoud, floating empty far out in the gulf. He was
then on the bridge of the first of Barrios's transports, and within an
hour's steaming from Sulaco. Barrios, always delighted with a feat of
daring and a good judge of courage, had taken a great liking to the
Capataz. During the passage round the coast the General kept Nostromo
near his person, addressing him frequently in that abrupt and boisterous
manner which was the sign of his high favour.

Nostromo's eyes were the first to catch, broad on the bow, the tiny,
elusive dark speck, which, alone with the forms of the Three Isabels
right ahead, appeared on the flat, shimmering emptiness of the gulf.
There are times when no fact should be neglected as insignificant;
a small boat so far from the land might have had some meaning worth
finding out. At a nod of consent from Barrios the transport swept out
of her course, passing near enough to ascertain that no one manned the
little cockle-shell. It was merely a common small boat gone adrift with
her oars in her. But Nostromo, to whose mind Decoud had been insistently
present for days, had long before recognized with excitement the dinghy
of the lighter.

There could be no question of stopping to pick up that thing. Every
minute of time was momentous with the lives and futures of a whole town.
The head of the leading ship, with the General on board, fell off to her
course. Behind her, the fleet of transports, scattered haphazard over a
mile or so in the offing, like the finish of an ocean race, pressed on,
all black and smoking on the western sky.

"Mi General," Nostromo's voice rang out loud, but quiet, from behind a
group of officers, "I should like to save that little boat. Por Dios, I
know her. She belongs to my Company."

"And, por Dios," guffawed Barrios, in a noisy, good-humoured voice, "you
belong to me. I am going to make you a captain of cavalry directly we
get within sight of a horse again."

"I can swim far better than I can ride, mi General," cried Nostromo,
pushing through to the rail with a set stare in his eyes. "Let me----"

"Let you? What a conceited fellow that is," bantered the General,
jovially, without even looking at him. "Let him go! Ha! ha! ha! He wants
me to admit that we cannot take Sulaco without him! Ha! ha! ha! Would
you like to swim off to her, my son?"

A tremendous shout from one end of the ship to the other stopped his
guffaw. Nostromo had leaped overboard; and his black head bobbed up far
away already from the ship. The General muttered an appalled "Cielo!
Sinner that I am!" in a thunderstruck tone. One anxious glance was
enough to show him that Nostromo was swimming with perfect ease; and
then he thundered terribly, "No! no! We shall not stop to pick up this
impertinent fellow. Let him drown--that mad Capataz."

Nothing short of main force would have kept Nostromo from leaping
overboard. That empty boat, coming out to meet him mysteriously, as if
rowed by an invisible spectre, exercised the fascination of some sign,
of some warning, seemed to answer in a startling and enigmatic way the
persistent thought of a treasure and of a man's fate. He would have
leaped if there had been death in that half-mile of water. It was as
smooth as a pond, and for some reason sharks are unknown in the Placid
Gulf, though on the other side of the Punta Mala the coastline swarms
with them.

The Capataz seized hold of the stern and blew with force. A queer, faint
feeling had come over him while he swam. He had got rid of his boots and
coat in the water. He hung on for a time, regaining his breath. In
the distance the transports, more in a bunch now, held on straight for
Sulaco, with their air of friendly contest, of nautical sport, of
a regatta; and the united smoke of their funnels drove like a thin,
sulphurous fogbank right over his head. It was his daring, his courage,
his act that had set these ships in motion upon the sea, hurrying on
to save the lives and fortunes of the Blancos, the taskmasters of the
people; to save the San Tome mine; to save the children.

With a vigorous and skilful effort he clambered over the stern. The
very boat! No doubt of it; no doubt whatever. It was the dinghy of the
lighter No. 3--the dinghy left with Martin Decoud on the Great Isabel so
that he should have some means to help himself if nothing could be done
for him from the shore. And here she had come out to meet him empty
and inexplicable. What had become of Decoud? The Capataz made a minute
examination. He looked for some scratch, for some mark, for some sign.
All he discovered was a brown stain on the gunwale abreast of the
thwart. He bent his face over it and rubbed hard with his finger. Then
he sat down in the stern sheets, passive, with his knees close together
and legs aslant.

Streaming from head to foot, with his hair and whiskers hanging lank
and dripping and a lustreless stare fixed upon the bottom boards, the
Capataz of the Sulaco Cargadores resembled a drowned corpse come up from
the bottom to idle away the sunset hour in a small boat. The excitement
of his adventurous ride, the excitement of the return in time,
of achievement, of success, all this excitement centred round the
associated ideas of the great treasure and of the only other man who
knew of its existence, had departed from him. To the very last moment
he had been cudgelling his brains as to how he could manage to visit
the Great Isabel without loss of time and undetected. For the idea of
secrecy had come to be connected with the treasure so closely that even
to Barrios himself he had refrained from mentioning the existence of
Decoud and of the silver on the island. The letters he carried to the
General, however, made brief mention of the loss of the lighter, as
having its bearing upon the situation in Sulaco. In the circumstances,
the one-eyed tiger-slayer, scenting battle from afar, had not wasted his
time in making inquiries from the messenger. In fact, Barrios, talking
with Nostromo, assumed that both Don Martin Decoud and the ingots of San
Tome were lost together, and Nostromo, not questioned directly, had kept
silent, under the influence of some indefinable form of resentment and
distrust. Let Don Martin speak of everything with his own lips--was what
he told himself mentally.

And now, with the means of gaining the Great Isabel thrown thus in his
way at the earliest possible moment, his excitement had departed, as
when the soul takes flight leaving the body inert upon an earth it knows
no more. Nostromo did not seem to know the gulf. For a long time even
his eyelids did not flutter once upon the glazed emptiness of his stare.
Then slowly, without a limb having stirred, without a twitch of muscle
or quiver of an eyelash, an expression, a living expression came upon
the still features, deep thought crept into the empty stare--as if an
outcast soul, a quiet, brooding soul, finding that untenanted body in
its way, had come in stealthily to take possession.

The Capataz frowned: and in the immense stillness of sea, islands, and
coast, of cloud forms on the sky and trails of light upon the water, the
knitting of that brow had the emphasis of a powerful gesture. Nothing
else budged for a long time; then the Capataz shook his head and again
surrendered himself to the universal repose of all visible things.
Suddenly he seized the oars, and with one movement made the dinghy spin
round, head-on to the Great Isabel. But before he began to pull he bent
once more over the brown stain on the gunwale.

"I know that thing," he muttered to himself, with a sagacious jerk of
the head. "That's blood."

His stroke was long, vigorous, and steady. Now and then he looked
over his shoulder at the Great Isabel, presenting its low cliff to his
anxious gaze like an impenetrable face. At last the stem touched the
strand. He flung rather than dragged the boat up the little beach. At
once, turning his back upon the sunset, he plunged with long strides
into the ravine, making the water of the stream spurt and fly upwards at
every step, as if spurning its shallow, clear, murmuring spirit with his
feet. He wanted to save every moment of daylight.

A mass of earth, grass, and smashed bushes had fallen down very
naturally from above upon the cavity under the leaning tree. Decoud had
attended to the concealment of the silver as instructed, using the spade
with some intelligence. But Nostromo's half-smile of approval changed
into a scornful curl of the lip by the sight of the spade itself flung
there in full view, as if in utter carelessness or sudden panic, giving
away the whole thing. Ah! They were all alike in their folly, these
hombres finos that invented laws and governments and barren tasks for
the people.

The Capataz picked up the spade, and with the feel of the handle in his
palm the desire of having a look at the horse-hide boxes of treasure
came upon him suddenly. In a very few strokes he uncovered the edges and
corners of several; then, clearing away more earth, became aware that
one of them had been slashed with a knife.

He exclaimed at that discovery in a stifled voice, and dropped on his
knees with a look of irrational apprehension over one shoulder, then
over the other. The stiff hide had closed, and he hesitated before he
pushed his hand through the long slit and felt the ingots inside. There
they were. One, two, three. Yes, four gone. Taken away. Four ingots.
But who? Decoud? Nobody else. And why? For what purpose? For what cursed
fancy? Let him explain. Four ingots carried off in a boat, and--blood!

In the face of the open gulf, the sun, clear, unclouded, unaltered,
plunged into the waters in a grave and untroubled mystery of
self-immolation consummated far from all mortal eyes, with an infinite
majesty of silence and peace. Four ingots short!--and blood!

The Capataz got up slowly.

"He might simply have cut his hand," he muttered. "But, then----"

He sat down on the soft earth, unresisting, as if he had been chained
to the treasure, his drawn-up legs clasped in his hands with an air of
hopeless submission, like a slave set on guard. Once only he lifted his
head smartly: the rattle of hot musketry fire had reached his ears, like
pouring from on high a stream of dry peas upon a drum. After listening
for a while, he said, half aloud--

"He will never come back to explain."

And he lowered his head again.

"Impossible!" he muttered, gloomily.

The sounds of firing died out. The loom of a great conflagration in
Sulaco flashed up red above the coast, played on the clouds at the head
of the gulf, seemed to touch with a ruddy and sinister reflection the
forms of the Three Isabels. He never saw it, though he raised his head.

"But, then, I cannot know," he pronounced, distinctly, and remained
silent and staring for hours.

He could not know. Nobody was to know. As might have been supposed, the
end of Don Martin Decoud never became a subject of speculation for any
one except Nostromo. Had the truth of the facts been known, there would
always have remained the question. Why? Whereas the version of his death
at the sinking of the lighter had no uncertainty of motive. The young
apostle of Separation had died striving for his idea by an ever-lamented
accident. But the truth was that he died from solitude, the enemy known
but to few on this earth, and whom only the simplest of us are fit to
withstand. The brilliant Costaguanero of the boulevards had died from
solitude and want of faith in himself and others.

For some good and valid reasons beyond mere human comprehension, the
sea-birds of the gulf shun the Isabels. The rocky head of Azuera is
their haunt, whose stony levels and chasms resound with their wild
and tumultuous clamour as if they were for ever quarrelling over the
legendary treasure.

At the end of his first day on the Great Isabel, Decoud, turning in his
lair of coarse grass, under the shade of a tree, said to himself--

"I have not seen as much as one single bird all day."

And he had not heard a sound, either, all day but that one now of his
own muttering voice. It had been a day of absolute silence--the first
he had known in his life. And he had not slept a wink. Not for all these
wakeful nights and the days of fighting, planning, talking; not for all
that last night of danger and hard physical toil upon the gulf, had he
been able to close his eyes for a moment. And yet from sunrise to sunset
he had been lying prone on the ground, either on his back or on his
face.

He stretched himself, and with slow steps descended into the gully to
spend the night by the side of the silver. If Nostromo returned--as he
might have done at any moment--it was there that he would look first;
and night would, of course, be the proper time for an attempt to
communicate. He remembered with profound indifference that he had not
eaten anything yet since he had been left alone on the island.

He spent the night open-eyed, and when the day broke he ate something
with the same indifference. The brilliant "Son Decoud," the spoiled
darling of the family, the lover of Antonia and journalist of Sulaco,
was not fit to grapple with himself single-handed. Solitude from mere
outward condition of existence becomes very swiftly a state of soul in
which the affectations of irony and scepticism have no place. It takes
possession of the mind, and drives forth the thought into the exile of
utter unbelief. After three days of waiting for the sight of some
human face, Decoud caught himself entertaining a doubt of his own
individuality. It had merged into the world of cloud and water, of
natural forces and forms of nature. In our activity alone do we find
the sustaining illusion of an independent existence as against the
whole scheme of things of which we form a helpless part. Decoud lost all
belief in the reality of his action past and to come. On the fifth day
an immense melancholy descended upon him palpably. He resolved not to
give himself up to these people in Sulaco, who had beset him, unreal and
terrible, like jibbering and obscene spectres. He saw himself struggling
feebly in their midst, and Antonia, gigantic and lovely like an
allegorical statue, looking on with scornful eyes at his weakness.

Not a living being, not a speck of distant sail, appeared within
the range of his vision; and, as if to escape from this solitude,
he absorbed himself in his melancholy. The vague consciousness of a
misdirected life given up to impulses whose memory left a bitter taste
in his mouth was the first moral sentiment of his manhood. But at the
same time he felt no remorse. What should he regret? He had recognized
no other virtue than intelligence, and had erected passions into duties.
Both his intelligence and his passion were swallowed up easily in this
great unbroken solitude of waiting without faith. Sleeplessness had
robbed his will of all energy, for he had not slept seven hours in the
seven days. His sadness was the sadness of a sceptical mind. He beheld
the universe as a succession of incomprehensible images. Nostromo was
dead. Everything had failed ignominiously. He no longer dared to think
of Antonia. She had not survived. But if she survived he could not face
her. And all exertion seemed senseless.

On the tenth day, after a night spent without even dozing off once (it
had occurred to him that Antonia could not possibly have ever loved
a being so impalpable as himself), the solitude appeared like a great
void, and the silence of the gulf like a tense, thin cord to which he
hung suspended by both hands, without fear, without surprise, without
any sort of emotion whatever. Only towards the evening, in the
comparative relief of coolness, he began to wish that this cord would
snap. He imagined it snapping with a report as of a pistol--a sharp,
full crack. And that would be the end of him. He contemplated that
eventuality with pleasure, because he dreaded the sleepless nights in
which the silence, remaining unbroken in the shape of a cord to which he
hung with both hands, vibrated with senseless phrases, always the same
but utterly incomprehensible, about Nostromo, Antonia, Barrios, and
proclamations mingled into an ironical and senseless buzzing. In the
daytime he could look at the silence like a still cord stretched to
breaking-point, with his life, his vain life, suspended to it like a
weight.

"I wonder whether I would hear it snap before I fell," he asked himself.

The sun was two hours above the horizon when he got up, gaunt, dirty,
white-faced, and looked at it with his red-rimmed eyes. His limbs obeyed
him slowly, as if full of lead, yet without tremor; and the effect
of that physical condition gave to his movements an unhesitating,
deliberate dignity. He acted as if accomplishing some sort of rite. He
descended into the gully; for the fascination of all that silver, with
its potential power, survived alone outside of himself. He picked up the
belt with the revolver, that was lying there, and buckled it round his
waist. The cord of silence could never snap on the island. It must let
him fall and sink into the sea, he thought. And sink! He was looking at
the loose earth covering the treasure. In the sea! His aspect was that
of a somnambulist. He lowered himself down on his knees slowly and went
on grubbing with his fingers with industrious patience till he uncovered
one of the boxes. Without a pause, as if doing some work done many
times before, he slit it open and took four ingots, which he put in his
pockets. He covered up the exposed box again and step by step came out
of the gully. The bushes closed after him with a swish.

It was on the third day of his solitude that he had dragged the dinghy
near the water with an idea of rowing away somewhere, but had desisted
partly at the whisper of lingering hope that Nostromo would return,
partly from conviction of utter uselessness of all effort. Now she
wanted only a slight shove to be set afloat. He had eaten a little every
day after the first, and had some muscular strength left yet. Taking up
the oars slowly, he pulled away from the cliff of the Great Isabel, that
stood behind him warm with sunshine, as if with the heat of life, bathed
in a rich light from head to foot as if in a radiance of hope and joy.
He pulled straight towards the setting sun. When the gulf had grown
dark, he ceased rowing and flung the sculls in. The hollow clatter they
made in falling was the loudest noise he had ever heard in his life. It
was a revelation. It seemed to recall him from far away, Actually the
thought, "Perhaps I may sleep to-night," passed through his mind. But he
did not believe it. He believed in nothing; and he remained sitting on
the thwart.

The dawn from behind the mountains put a gleam into his unwinking eyes.
After a clear daybreak the sun appeared splendidly above the peaks of
the range. The great gulf burst into a glitter all around the boat; and
in this glory of merciless solitude the silence appeared again before
him, stretched taut like a dark, thin string.

His eyes looked at it while, without haste, he shifted his seat from
the thwart to the gunwale. They looked at it fixedly, while his hand,
feeling about his waist, unbuttoned the flap of the leather case, drew
the revolver, cocked it, brought it forward pointing at his breast,
pulled the trigger, and, with convulsive force, sent the still-smoking
weapon hurtling through the air. His eyes looked at it while he fell
forward and hung with his breast on the gunwale and the fingers of his
right hand hooked under the thwart. They looked----

"It is done," he stammered out, in a sudden flow of blood. His last
thought was: "I wonder how that Capataz died." The stiffness of the
fingers relaxed, and the lover of Antonia Avellanos rolled overboard
without having heard the cord of silence snap in the solitude of the
Placid Gulf, whose glittering surface remained untroubled by the fall of
his body.

A victim of the disillusioned weariness which is the retribution meted
out to intellectual audacity, the brilliant Don Martin Decoud, weighted
by the bars of San Tome silver, disappeared without a trace, swallowed
up in the immense indifference of things. His sleepless, crouching
figure was gone from the side of the San Tome silver; and for a time the
spirits of good and evil that hover near every concealed treasure of
the earth might have thought that this one had been forgotten by all
mankind. Then, after a few days, another form appeared striding away
from the setting sun to sit motionless and awake in the narrow black
gully all through the night, in nearly the same pose, in the same place
in which had sat that other sleepless man who had gone away for ever so
quietly in a small boat, about the time of sunset. And the spirits of
good and evil that hover about a forbidden treasure understood well that
the silver of San Tome was provided now with a faithful and lifelong
slave.

The magnificent Capataz de Cargadores, victim of the disenchanted vanity
which is the reward of audacious action, sat in the weary pose of a
hunted outcast through a night of sleeplessness as tormenting as any
known to Decoud, his companion in the most desperate affair of his life.
And he wondered how Decoud had died. But he knew the part he had
played himself. First a woman, then a man, abandoned both in their last
extremity, for the sake of this accursed treasure. It was paid for by
a soul lost and by a vanished life. The blank stillness of awe was
succeeded by a gust of immense pride. There was no one in the world but
Gian' Battista Fidanza, Capataz de Cargadores, the incorruptible and
faithful Nostromo, to pay such a price.

He had made up his mind that nothing should be allowed now to rob him of
his bargain. Nothing. Decoud had died. But how? That he was dead he had
not a shadow of a doubt. But four ingots? . . . What for? Did he mean to
come for more--some other time?

The treasure was putting forth its latent power. It troubled the clear
mind of the man who had paid the price. He was sure that Decoud was
dead. The island seemed full of that whisper. Dead! Gone! And he
caught himself listening for the swish of bushes and the splash of the
footfalls in the bed of the brook. Dead! The talker, the novio of Dona
Antonia!

"Ha!" he murmured, with his head on his knees, under the livid clouded
dawn breaking over the liberated Sulaco and upon the gulf as gray as
ashes. "It is to her that he will fly. To her that he will fly!"

And four ingots! Did he take them in revenge, to cast a spell, like the
angry woman who had prophesied remorse and failure, and yet had laid
upon him the task of saving the children? Well, he had saved the
children. He had defeated the spell of poverty and starvation. He had
done it all alone--or perhaps helped by the devil. Who cared? He had
done it, betrayed as he was, and saving by the same stroke the San Tome
mine, which appeared to him hateful and immense, lording it by its vast
wealth over the valour, the toil, the fidelity of the poor, over war and
peace, over the labours of the town, the sea, and the Campo.

The sun lit up the sky behind the peaks of the Cordillera. The Capataz
looked down for a time upon the fall of loose earth, stones, and smashed
bushes, concealing the hiding-place of the silver.

"I must grow rich very slowly," he meditated, aloud.



CHAPTER ELEVEN

Sulaco outstripped Nostromo's prudence, growing rich swiftly on the
hidden treasures of the earth, hovered over by the anxious spirits of
good and evil, torn out by the labouring hands of the people. It was
like a second youth, like a new life, full of promise, of unrest, of
toil, scattering lavishly its wealth to the four corners of an excited
world. Material changes swept along in the train of material interests.
And other changes more subtle, outwardly unmarked, affected the minds
and hearts of the workers. Captain Mitchell had gone home to live on his
savings invested in the San Tome mine; and Dr. Monygham had grown older,
with his head steel-grey and the unchanged expression of his face,
living on the inexhaustible treasure of his devotion drawn upon in the
secret of his heart like a store of unlawful wealth.

The Inspector-General of State Hospitals (whose maintenance is a charge
upon the Gould Concession), Official Adviser on Sanitation to the
Municipality, Chief Medical Officer of the San Tome Consolidated Mines
(whose territory, containing gold, silver, copper, lead, cobalt,
extends for miles along the foot-hills of the Cordillera), had felt
poverty-stricken, miserable, and starved during the prolonged, second
visit the Goulds paid to Europe and the United States of America.
Intimate of the casa, proved friend, a bachelor without ties and without
establishment (except of the professional sort), he had been asked to
take up his quarters in the Gould house. In the eleven months of their
absence the familiar rooms, recalling at every glance the woman to
whom he had given all his loyalty, had grown intolerable. As the day
approached for the arrival of the mail boat Hermes (the latest addition
to the O. S. N. Co.'s splendid fleet), the doctor hobbled about more
vivaciously, snapped more sardonically at simple and gentle out of sheer
nervousness.

He packed up his modest trunk with speed, with fury, with enthusiasm,
and saw it carried out past the old porter at the gate of the Casa Gould
with delight, with intoxication; then, as the hour approached, sitting
alone in the great landau behind the white mules, a little sideways, his
drawn-in face positively venomous with the effort of self-control, and
holding a pair of new gloves in his left hand, he drove to the harbour.

His heart dilated within him so, when he saw the Goulds on the deck of
the Hermes, that his greetings were reduced to a casual mutter. Driving
back to town, all three were silent. And in the patio the doctor, in a
more natural manner, said--

"I'll leave you now to yourselves. I'll call to-morrow if I may?"

"Come to lunch, dear Dr. Monygham, and come early," said Mrs. Gould, in
her travelling dress and her veil down, turning to look at him at the
foot of the stairs; while at the top of the flight the Madonna, in blue
robes and the Child on her arm, seemed to welcome her with an aspect of
pitying tenderness.

"Don't expect to find me at home," Charles Gould warned him. "I'll be
off early to the mine."

After lunch, Dona Emilia and the senor doctor came slowly through
the inner gateway of the patio. The large gardens of the Casa Gould,
surrounded by high walls, and the red-tile slopes of neighbouring roofs,
lay open before them, with masses of shade under the trees and level
surfaces of sunlight upon the lawns. A triple row of old orange trees
surrounded the whole. Barefooted, brown gardeners, in snowy white shirts
and wide calzoneras, dotted the grounds, squatting over flowerbeds,
passing between the trees, dragging slender India-rubber tubes across
the gravel of the paths; and the fine jets of water crossed each other
in graceful curves, sparkling in the sunshine with a slight pattering
noise upon the bushes, and an effect of showered diamonds upon the
grass.

Dona Emilia, holding up the train of a clear dress, walked by the side
of Dr. Monygham, in a longish black coat and severe black bow on
an immaculate shirtfront. Under a shady clump of trees, where stood
scattered little tables and wicker easy-chairs, Mrs. Gould sat down in a
low and ample seat.

"Don't go yet," she said to Dr. Monygham, who was unable to tear himself
away from the spot. His chin nestling within the points of his collar,
he devoured her stealthily with his eyes, which, luckily, were round and
hard like clouded marbles, and incapable of disclosing his sentiments.
His pitying emotion at the marks of time upon the face of that woman,
the air of frailty and weary fatigue that had settled upon the eyes and
temples of the "Never-tired Senora" (as Don Pepe years ago used to call
her with admiration), touched him almost to tears. "Don't go yet.
To-day is all my own," Mrs. Gould urged, gently. "We are not back yet
officially. No one will come. It's only to-morrow that the windows of
the Casa Gould are to be lit up for a reception."

The doctor dropped into a chair.

"Giving a tertulia?" he said, with a detached air.

"A simple greeting for all the kind friends who care to come."

"And only to-morrow?"

"Yes. Charles would be tired out after a day at the mine, and so I----It
would be good to have him to myself for one evening on our return to
this house I love. It has seen all my life."

"Ah, yes!" snarled the doctor, suddenly. "Women count time from the
marriage feast. Didn't you live a little before?"

"Yes; but what is there to remember? There were no cares."

Mrs. Gould sighed. And as two friends, after a long separation, will
revert to the most agitated period of their lives, they began to talk of
the Sulaco Revolution. It seemed strange to Mrs. Gould that people who
had taken part in it seemed to forget its memory and its lesson.

"And yet," struck in the doctor, "we who played our part in it had our
reward. Don Pepe, though superannuated, still can sit a horse. Barrios
is drinking himself to death in jovial company away somewhere on his
fundacion beyond the Bolson de Tonoro. And the heroic Father Roman--I
imagine the old padre blowing up systematically the San Tome mine,
uttering a pious exclamation at every bang, and taking handfuls of
snuff between the explosions--the heroic Padre Roman says that he is not
afraid of the harm Holroyd's missionaries can do to his flock, as long
as he is alive."

Mrs. Gould shuddered a little at the allusion to the destruction that
had come so near to the San Tome mine.

"Ah, but you, dear friend?"

"I did the work I was fit for."

"You faced the most cruel dangers of all. Something more than death."

"No, Mrs. Gould! Only death--by hanging. And I am rewarded beyond my
deserts."

Noticing Mrs. Gould's gaze fixed upon him, he dropped his eyes.

"I've made my career--as you see," said the Inspector-General of State
Hospitals, taking up lightly the lapels of his superfine black coat.
The doctor's self-respect marked inwardly by the almost complete
disappearance from his dreams of Father Beron appeared visibly in what,
by contrast with former carelessness, seemed an immoderate cult of
personal appearance. Carried out within severe limits of form and
colour, and in perpetual freshness, this change of apparel gave to Dr.
Monygham an air at the same time professional and festive; while his
gait and the unchanged crabbed character of his face acquired from it a
startling force of incongruity.

"Yes," he went on. "We all had our rewards--the engineer-in-chief,
Captain Mitchell----"

"We saw him," interrupted Mrs. Gould, in her charming voice. "The poor
dear man came up from the country on purpose to call on us in our hotel
in London. He comported himself with great dignity, but I fancy he
regrets Sulaco. He rambled feebly about 'historical events' till I felt
I could have a cry."

"H'm," grunted the doctor; "getting old, I suppose. Even Nostromo is
getting older--though he is not changed. And, speaking of that fellow, I
wanted to tell you something----"

For some time the house had been full of murmurs, of agitation. Suddenly
the two gardeners, busy with rose trees at the side of the garden
arch, fell upon their knees with bowed heads on the passage of Antonia
Avellanos, who appeared walking beside her uncle.

Invested with the red hat after a short visit to Rome, where he had
been invited by the Propaganda, Father Corbelan, missionary to the
wild Indians, conspirator, friend and patron of Hernandez the robber,
advanced with big, slow strides, gaunt and leaning forward, with his
powerful hands clasped behind his back. The first Cardinal-Archbishop
of Sulaco had preserved his fanatical and morose air; the aspect of a
chaplain of bandits. It was believed that his unexpected elevation
to the purple was a counter-move to the Protestant invasion of Sulaco
organized by the Holroyd Missionary Fund. Antonia, the beauty of her
face as if a little blurred, her figure slightly fuller, advanced with
her light walk and her high serenity, smiling from a distance at Mrs.
Gould. She had brought her uncle over to see dear Emilia, without
ceremony, just for a moment before the siesta.

When all were seated again, Dr. Monygham, who had come to dislike
heartily everybody who approached Mrs. Gould with any intimacy, kept
aside, pretending to be lost in profound meditation. A louder phrase of
Antonia made him lift his head.

"How can we abandon, groaning under oppression, those who have been
our countrymen only a few years ago, who are our countrymen now?" Miss
Avellanos was saying. "How can we remain blind, and deaf without pity to
the cruel wrongs suffered by our brothers? There is a remedy."

"Annex the rest of Costaguana to the order and prosperity of Sulaco,"
snapped the doctor. "There is no other remedy."

"I am convinced, senor doctor," Antonia said, with the earnest calm
of invincible resolution, "that this was from the first poor Martin's
intention."

"Yes, but the material interests will not let you jeopardize their
development for a mere idea of pity and justice," the doctor muttered
grumpily. "And it is just as well perhaps."

The Cardinal-Archbishop straightened up his gaunt, bony frame.

"We have worked for them; we have made them, these material interests
of the foreigners," the last of the Corbelans uttered in a deep,
denunciatory tone.

"And without them you are nothing," cried the doctor from the distance.
"They will not let you."

"Let them beware, then, lest the people, prevented from their
aspirations, should rise and claim their share of the wealth and their
share of the power," the popular Cardinal-Archbishop of Sulaco declared,
significantly, menacingly.

A silence ensued, during which his Eminence stared, frowning at the
ground, and Antonia, graceful and rigid in her chair, breathed calmly
in the strength of her convictions. Then the conversation took a
social turn, touching on the visit of the Goulds to Europe. The
Cardinal-Archbishop, when in Rome, had suffered from neuralgia in the
head all the time. It was the climate--the bad air.

When uncle and niece had gone away, with the servants again falling
on their knees, and the old porter, who had known Henry Gould, almost
totally blind and impotent now, creeping up to kiss his Eminence's
extended hand, Dr. Monygham, looking after them, pronounced the one
word--

"Incorrigible!"

Mrs. Gould, with a look upwards, dropped wearily on her lap her white
hands flashing with the gold and stones of many rings.

"Conspiring. Yes!" said the doctor. "The last of the Avellanos and the
last of the Corbelans are conspiring with the refugees from Sta. Marta
that flock here after every revolution. The Cafe Lambroso at the corner
of the Plaza is full of them; you can hear their chatter across the
street like the noise of a parrot-house. They are conspiring for the
invasion of Costaguana. And do you know where they go for strength,
for the necessary force? To the secret societies amongst immigrants and
natives, where Nostromo--I should say Captain Fidanza--is the great man.
What gives him that position? Who can say? Genius? He has genius. He is
greater with the populace than ever he was before. It is as if he had
some secret power; some mysterious means to keep up his influence. He
holds conferences with the Archbishop, as in those old days which you
and I remember. Barrios is useless. But for a military head they have
the pious Hernandez. And they may raise the country with the new cry of
the wealth for the people."

"Will there be never any peace? Will there be no rest?" Mrs. Gould
whispered. "I thought that we----"

"No!" interrupted the doctor. "There is no peace and no rest in the
development of material interests. They have their law, and their
justice. But it is founded on expediency, and is inhuman; it is without
rectitude, without the continuity and the force that can be found only
in a moral principle. Mrs. Gould, the time approaches when all that the
Gould Concession stands for shall weigh as heavily upon the people as
the barbarism, cruelty, and misrule of a few years back."

"How can you say that, Dr. Monygham?" she cried out, as if hurt in the
most sensitive place of her soul.

"I can say what is true," the doctor insisted, obstinately. "It'll weigh
as heavily, and provoke resentment, bloodshed, and vengeance, because
the men have grown different. Do you think that now the mine would march
upon the town to save their Senor Administrador? Do you think that?"

She pressed the backs of her entwined hands on her eyes and murmured
hopelessly--

"Is it this we have worked for, then?"

The doctor lowered his head. He could follow her silent thought. Was it
for this that her life had been robbed of all the intimate felicities of
daily affection which her tenderness needed as the human body needs air
to breathe? And the doctor, indignant with Charles Gould's blindness,
hastened to change the conversation.

"It is about Nostromo that I wanted to talk to you. Ah! that fellow has
some continuity and force. Nothing will put an end to him. But never
mind that. There's something inexplicable going on--or perhaps only too
easy to explain. You know, Linda is practically the lighthouse keeper of
the Great Isabel light. The Garibaldino is too old now. His part is to
clean the lamps and to cook in the house; but he can't get up the stairs
any longer. The black-eyed Linda sleeps all day and watches the light
all night. Not all day, though. She is up towards five in the afternoon,
when our Nostromo, whenever he is in harbour with his schooner, comes
out on his courting visit, pulling in a small boat."

"Aren't they married yet?" Mrs. Gould asked. "The mother wished it, as
far as I can understand, while Linda was yet quite a child. When I had
the girls with me for a year or so during the War of Separation, that
extraordinary Linda used to declare quite simply that she was going to
be Gian' Battista's wife."

"They are not married yet," said the doctor, curtly. "I have looked
after them a little."

"Thank you, dear Dr. Monygham," said Mrs. Gould; and under the shade
of the big trees her little, even teeth gleamed in a youthful smile of
gentle malice. "People don't know how really good you are. You will not
let them know, as if on purpose to annoy me, who have put my faith in
your good heart long ago."

The doctor, with a lifting up of his upper lip, as though he were
longing to bite, bowed stiffly in his chair. With the utter absorption
of a man to whom love comes late, not as the most splendid of illusions,
but like an enlightening and priceless misfortune, the sight of that
woman (of whom he had been deprived for nearly a year) suggested ideas
of adoration, of kissing the hem of her robe. And this excess of feeling
translated itself naturally into an augmented grimness of speech.

"I am afraid of being overwhelmed by too much gratitude. However, these
people interest me. I went out several times to the Great Isabel light
to look after old Giorgio."

He did not tell Mrs. Gould that it was because he found there, in her
absence, the relief of an atmosphere of congenial sentiment in
old Giorgio's austere admiration for the "English signora--the
benefactress"; in black-eyed Linda's voluble, torrential, passionate
affection for "our Dona Emilia--that angel"; in the white-throated, fair
Giselle's adoring upward turn of the eyes, which then glided towards him
with a sidelong, half-arch, half-candid glance, which made the doctor
exclaim to himself mentally, "If I weren't what I am, old and ugly, I
would think the minx is making eyes at me. And perhaps she is. I dare
say she would make eyes at anybody." Dr. Monygham said nothing of this
to Mrs. Gould, the providence of the Viola family, but reverted to what
he called "our great Nostromo."

"What I wanted to tell you is this: Our great Nostromo did not take much
notice of the old man and the children for some years. It's true, too,
that he was away on his coasting voyages certainly ten months out of the
twelve. He was making his fortune, as he told Captain Mitchell once. He
seems to have done uncommonly well. It was only to be expected. He is
a man full of resource, full of confidence in himself, ready to take
chances and risks of every sort. I remember being in Mitchell's office
one day, when he came in with that calm, grave air he always carries
everywhere. He had been away trading in the Gulf of California, he said,
looking straight past us at the wall, as his manner is, and was glad to
see on his return that a lighthouse was being built on the cliff of the
Great Isabel. Very glad, he repeated. Mitchell explained that it was
the O. S. N. Co. who was building it, for the convenience of the mail
service, on his own advice. Captain Fidanza was good enough to say that
it was excellent advice. I remember him twisting up his moustaches and
looking all round the cornice of the room before he proposed that old
Giorgio should be made the keeper of that light."

"I heard of this. I was consulted at the time," Mrs. Gould said. "I
doubted whether it would be good for these girls to be shut up on that
island as if in a prison."

"The proposal fell in with the old Garibaldino's humour. As to Linda,
any place was lovely and delightful enough for her as long as it was
Nostromo's suggestion. She could wait for her Gian' Battista's good
pleasure there as well as anywhere else. My opinion is that she was
always in love with that incorruptible Capataz. Moreover, both father
and sister were anxious to get Giselle away from the attentions of a
certain Ramirez."

"Ah!" said Mrs. Gould, interested. "Ramirez? What sort of man is that?"

"Just a mozo of the town. His father was a Cargador. As a lanky boy he
ran about the wharf in rags, till Nostromo took him up and made a man of
him. When he got a little older, he put him into a lighter and very soon
gave him charge of the No. 3 boat--the boat which took the silver away,
Mrs. Gould. Nostromo selected that lighter for the work because she
was the best sailing and the strongest boat of all the Company's fleet.
Young Ramirez was one of the five Cargadores entrusted with the removal
of the treasure from the Custom House on that famous night. As the boat
he had charge of was sunk, Nostromo, on leaving the Company's service,
recommended him to Captain Mitchell for his successor. He had trained
him in the routine of work perfectly, and thus Mr. Ramirez, from a
starving waif, becomes a man and the Capataz of the Sulaco Cargadores."

"Thanks to Nostromo," said Mrs. Gould, with warm approval.

"Thanks to Nostromo," repeated Dr. Monygham. "Upon my word, the fellow's
power frightens me when I think of it. That our poor old Mitchell was
only too glad to appoint somebody trained to the work, who saved him
trouble, is not surprising. What is wonderful is the fact that the
Sulaco Cargadores accepted Ramirez for their chief, simply because such
was Nostromo's good pleasure. Of course, he is not a second Nostromo,
as he fondly imagined he would be; but still, the position was brilliant
enough. It emboldened him to make up to Giselle Viola, who, you know, is
the recognized beauty of the town. The old Garibaldino, however, took a
violent dislike to him. I don't know why. Perhaps because he was not
a model of perfection like his Gian' Battista, the incarnation of the
courage, the fidelity, the honour of 'the people.' Signor Viola does
not think much of Sulaco natives. Both of them, the old Spartan and that
white-faced Linda, with her red mouth and coal-black eyes, were looking
rather fiercely after the fair one. Ramirez was warned off. Father
Viola, I am told, threatened him with his gun once."

"But what of Giselle herself?" asked Mrs. Gould.

"She's a bit of a flirt, I believe," said the doctor. "I don't think
she cared much one way or another. Of course she likes men's attentions.
Ramirez was not the only one, let me tell you, Mrs. Gould. There was one
engineer, at least, on the railway staff who got warned off with a gun,
too. Old Viola does not allow any trifling with his honour. He has grown
uneasy and suspicious since his wife died. He was very pleased to remove
his youngest girl away from the town. But look what happens, Mrs. Gould.
Ramirez, the honest, lovelorn swain, is forbidden the island. Very well.
He respects the prohibition, but naturally turns his eyes frequently
towards the Great Isabel. It seems as though he had been in the habit of
gazing late at night upon the light. And during these sentimental vigils
he discovers that Nostromo, Captain Fidanza that is, returns very late
from his visits to the Violas. As late as midnight at times."

The doctor paused and stared meaningly at Mrs. Gould.

"Yes. But I don't understand," she began, looking puzzled.

"Now comes the strange part," went on Dr. Monygham. "Viola, who is king
on his island, will allow no visitor on it after dark. Even Captain
Fidanza has got to leave after sunset, when Linda has gone up to
tend the light. And Nostromo goes away obediently. But what happens
afterwards? What does he do in the gulf between half-past six and
midnight? He has been seen more than once at that late hour pulling
quietly into the harbour. Ramirez is devoured by jealousy. He dared not
approach old Viola; but he plucked up courage to rail at Linda about it
on Sunday morning as she came on the mainland to hear mass and visit her
mother's grave. There was a scene on the wharf, which, as a matter of
fact, I witnessed. It was early morning. He must have been waiting for
her on purpose. I was there by the merest chance, having been called
to an urgent consultation by the doctor of the German gunboat in the
harbour. She poured wrath, scorn, and flame upon Ramirez, who seemed out
of his mind. It was a strange sight, Mrs. Gould: the long jetty, with
this raving Cargador in his crimson sash and the girl all in black, at
the end; the early Sunday morning quiet of the harbour in the shade of
the mountains; nothing but a canoe or two moving between the ships at
anchor, and the German gunboat's gig coming to take me off. Linda passed
me within a foot. I noticed her wild eyes. I called out to her. She
never heard me. She never saw me. But I looked at her face. It was awful
in its anger and wretchedness."

Mrs. Gould sat up, opening her eyes very wide.

"What do you mean, Dr. Monygham? Do you mean to say that you suspect the
younger sister?"

"Quien sabe! Who can tell?" said the doctor, shrugging his shoulders
like a born Costaguanero. "Ramirez came up to me on the wharf. He
reeled--he looked insane. He took his head into his hands. He had to
talk to someone--simply had to. Of course for all his mad state he
recognized me. People know me well here. I have lived too long amongst
them to be anything else but the evil-eyed doctor, who can cure all the
ills of the flesh, and bring bad luck by a glance. He came up to me. He
tried to be calm. He tried to make it out that he wanted merely to
warn me against Nostromo. It seems that Captain Fidanza at some secret
meeting or other had mentioned me as the worst despiser of all the
poor--of the people. It's very possible. He honours me with his undying
dislike. And a word from the great Fidanza may be quite enough to send
some fool's knife into my back. The Sanitary Commission I preside
over is not in favour with the populace. 'Beware of him, senor doctor.
Destroy him, senor doctor,' Ramirez hissed right into my face. And then
he broke out. 'That man,' he spluttered, 'has cast a spell upon both
these girls.' As to himself, he had said too much. He must run away
now--run away and hide somewhere. He moaned tenderly about Giselle, and
then called her names that cannot be repeated. If he thought she could
be made to love him by any means, he would carry her off from the
island. Off into the woods. But it was no good. . . . He strode away,
flourishing his arms above his head. Then I noticed an old negro, who
had been sitting behind a pile of cases, fishing from the wharf. He
wound up his lines and slunk away at once. But he must have heard
something, and must have talked, too, because some of the old
Garibaldino's railway friends, I suppose, warned him against Ramirez. At
any rate, the father has been warned. But Ramirez has disappeared from
the town."

"I feel I have a duty towards these girls," said Mrs. Gould, uneasily.
"Is Nostromo in Sulaco now?"

"He is, since last Sunday."

"He ought to be spoken to--at once."

"Who will dare speak to him? Even the love-mad Ramirez runs away from
the mere shadow of Captain Fidanza."

"I can. I will," Mrs. Gould declared. "A word will be enough for a man
like Nostromo."

The doctor smiled sourly.

"He must end this situation which lends itself to----I can't believe it
of that child," pursued Mrs. Gould.

"He's very attractive," muttered the doctor, gloomily.

"He'll see it, I am sure. He must put an end to all this by marrying
Linda at once," pronounced the first lady of Sulaco with immense
decision.

Through the garden gate emerged Basilio, grown fat and sleek, with an
elderly hairless face, wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, and his
jet-black, coarse hair plastered down smoothly. Stooping carefully
behind an ornamental clump of bushes, he put down with precaution a
small child he had been carrying on his shoulder--his own and Leonarda's
last born. The pouting, spoiled Camerista and the head mozo of the Casa
Gould had been married for some years now.

He remained squatting on his heels for a time, gazing fondly at his
offspring, which returned his stare with imperturbable gravity; then,
solemn and respectable, walked down the path.

"What is it, Basilio?" asked Mrs. Gould.

"A telephone came through from the office of the mine. The master
remains to sleep at the mountain to-night."

Dr. Monygham had got up and stood looking away. A profound silence
reigned for a time under the shade of the biggest trees in the lovely
gardens of the Casa Gould.

"Very well, Basilio," said Mrs. Gould. She watched him walk away along
the path, step aside behind the flowering bush, and reappear with the
child seated on his shoulder. He passed through the gateway between the
garden and the patio with measured steps, careful of his light burden.

The doctor, with his back to Mrs. Gould, contemplated a flower-bed away
in the sunshine. People believed him scornful and soured. The truth
of his nature consisted in his capacity for passion and in the
sensitiveness of his temperament. What he lacked was the polished
callousness of men of the world, the callousness from which springs
an easy tolerance for oneself and others; the tolerance wide as
poles asunder from true sympathy and human compassion. This want of
callousness accounted for his sardonic turn of mind and his biting
speeches.

In profound silence, and glaring viciously at the brilliant flower-bed,
Dr. Monygham poured mental imprecations on Charles Gould's head. Behind
him the immobility of Mrs. Gould added to the grace of her seated
figure the charm of art, of an attitude caught and interpreted for ever.
Turning abruptly, the doctor took his leave.

Mrs. Gould leaned back in the shade of the big trees planted in a
circle. She leaned back with her eyes closed and her white hands lying
idle on the arms of her seat. The half-light under the thick mass of
leaves brought out the youthful prettiness of her face; made the clear,
light fabrics and white lace of her dress appear luminous. Small and
dainty, as if radiating a light of her own in the deep shade of the
interlaced boughs, she resembled a good fairy, weary with a long career
of well-doing, touched by the withering suspicion of the uselessness of
her labours, the powerlessness of her magic.

Had anybody asked her of what she was thinking, alone in the garden
of the Casa, with her husband at the mine and the house closed to the
street like an empty dwelling, her frankness would have had to evade the
question. It had come into her mind that for life to be large and full,
it must contain the care of the past and of the future in every passing
moment of the present. Our daily work must be done to the glory of the
dead, and for the good of those who come after. She thought that, and
sighed without opening her eyes--without moving at all. Mrs. Gould's
face became set and rigid for a second, as if to receive, without
flinching, a great wave of loneliness that swept over her head. And it
came into her mind, too, that no one would ever ask her with solicitude
what she was thinking of. No one. No one, but perhaps the man who had
just gone away. No; no one who could be answered with careless sincerity
in the ideal perfection of confidence.

The word "incorrigible"--a word lately pronounced by Dr.
Monygham--floated into her still and sad immobility. Incorrigible in
his devotion to the great silver mine was the Senor Administrador!
Incorrigible in his hard, determined service of the material interests
to which he had pinned his faith in the triumph of order and justice.
Poor boy! She had a clear vision of the grey hairs on his temples.
He was perfect--perfect. What more could she have expected? It was
a colossal and lasting success; and love was only a short moment of
forgetfulness, a short intoxication, whose delight one remembered with
a sense of sadness, as if it had been a deep grief lived through. There
was something inherent in the necessities of successful action which
carried with it the moral degradation of the idea. She saw the San Tome
mountain hanging over the Campo, over the whole land, feared, hated,
wealthy; more soulless than any tyrant, more pitiless and autocratic
than the worst Government; ready to crush innumerable lives in the
expansion of its greatness. He did not see it. He could not see it. It
was not his fault. He was perfect, perfect; but she would never have him
to herself. Never; not for one short hour altogether to herself in
this old Spanish house she loved so well! Incorrigible, the last of the
Corbelans, the last of the Avellanos, the doctor had said; but she saw
clearly the San Tome mine possessing, consuming, burning up the life of
the last of the Costaguana Goulds; mastering the energetic spirit of the
son as it had mastered the lamentable weakness of the father. A terrible
success for the last of the Goulds. The last! She had hoped for a long,
long time, that perhaps----But no! There were to be no more. An immense
desolation, the dread of her own continued life, descended upon the
first lady of Sulaco. With a prophetic vision she saw herself surviving
alone the degradation of her young ideal of life, of love, of work--all
alone in the Treasure House of the World. The profound, blind, suffering
expression of a painful dream settled on her face with its closed eyes.
In the indistinct voice of an unlucky sleeper lying passive in the grip
of a merciless nightmare, she stammered out aimlessly the words--

"Material interest."



CHAPTER TWELVE

Nostromo had been growing rich very slowly. It was an effect of his
prudence. He could command himself even when thrown off his balance.
And to become the slave of a treasure with full self-knowledge is an
occurrence rare and mentally disturbing. But it was also in a great part
because of the difficulty of converting it into a form in which it
could become available. The mere act of getting it away from the island
piecemeal, little by little, was surrounded by difficulties, by the
dangers of imminent detection. He had to visit the Great Isabel in
secret, between his voyages along the coast, which were the ostensible
source of his fortune. The crew of his own schooner were to be feared as
if they had been spies upon their dreaded captain. He did not dare stay
too long in port. When his coaster was unloaded, he hurried away on
another trip, for he feared arousing suspicion even by a day's delay.
Sometimes during a week's stay, or more, he could only manage one visit
to the treasure. And that was all. A couple of ingots. He suffered
through his fears as much as through his prudence. To do things by
stealth humiliated him. And he suffered most from the concentration of
his thought upon the treasure.

A transgression, a crime, entering a man's existence, eats it up like a
malignant growth, consumes it like a fever. Nostromo had lost his peace;
the genuineness of all his qualities was destroyed. He felt it himself,
and often cursed the silver of San Tome. His courage, his magnificence,
his leisure, his work, everything was as before, only everything was a
sham. But the treasure was real. He clung to it with a more tenacious,
mental grip. But he hated the feel of the ingots. Sometimes, after
putting away a couple of them in his cabin--the fruit of a secret night
expedition to the Great Isabel--he would look fixedly at his fingers, as
if surprised they had left no stain on his skin.

He had found means of disposing of the silver bars in distant ports. The
necessity to go far afield made his coasting voyages long, and caused
his visits to the Viola household to be rare and far between. He was
fated to have his wife from there. He had said so once to Giorgio
himself. But the Garibaldino had put the subject aside with a majestic
wave of his hand, clutching a smouldering black briar-root pipe. There
was plenty of time; he was not the man to force his girls upon anybody.

As time went on, Nostromo discovered his preference for the younger of
the two. They had some profound similarities of nature, which must
exist for complete confidence and understanding, no matter what
outward differences of temperament there may be to exercise their own
fascination of contrast. His wife would have to know his secret or else
life would be impossible. He was attracted by Giselle, with her candid
gaze and white throat, pliable, silent, fond of excitement under her
quiet indolence; whereas Linda, with her intense, passionately pale
face, energetic, all fire and words, touched with gloom and scorn, a
chip of the old block, true daughter of the austere republican, but with
Teresa's voice, inspired him with a deep-seated mistrust. Moreover, the
poor girl could not conceal her love for Gian' Battista. He could see it
would be violent, exacting, suspicious, uncompromising--like her soul.
Giselle, by her fair but warm beauty, by the surface placidity of her
nature holding a promise of submissiveness, by the charm of her girlish
mysteriousness, excited his passion and allayed his fears as to the
future.

His absences from Sulaco were long. On returning from the longest of
them, he made out lighters loaded with blocks of stone lying under
the cliff of the Great Isabel; cranes and scaffolding above; workmen's
figures moving about, and a small lighthouse already rising from its
foundations on the edge of the cliff.

At this unexpected, undreamt-of, startling sight, he thought himself
lost irretrievably. What could save him from detection now? Nothing! He
was struck with amazed dread at this turn of chance, that would kindle
a far-reaching light upon the only secret spot of his life; that life
whose very essence, value, reality, consisted in its reflection from the
admiring eyes of men. All of it but that thing which was beyond common
comprehension; which stood between him and the power that hears and
gives effect to the evil intention of curses. It was dark. Not every man
had such a darkness. And they were going to put a light there. A light!
He saw it shining upon disgrace, poverty, contempt. Somebody was sure
to. . . . Perhaps somebody had already. . . .

The incomparable Nostromo, the Capataz, the respected and feared Captain
Fidanza, the unquestioned patron of secret societies, a republican like
old Giorgio, and a revolutionist at heart (but in another manner), was
on the point of jumping overboard from the deck of his own schooner.
That man, subjective almost to insanity, looked suicide deliberately in
the face. But he never lost his head. He was checked by the thought
that this was no escape. He imagined himself dead, and the disgrace,
the shame going on. Or, rather, properly speaking, he could not imagine
himself dead. He was possessed too strongly by the sense of his own
existence, a thing of infinite duration in its changes, to grasp the
notion of finality. The earth goes on for ever.

And he was courageous. It was a corrupt courage, but it was as good
for his purposes as the other kind. He sailed close to the cliff of the
Great Isabel, throwing a penetrating glance from the deck at the mouth
of the ravine, tangled in an undisturbed growth of bushes. He sailed
close enough to exchange hails with the workmen, shading their eyes on
the edge of the sheer drop of the cliff overhung by the jib-head of a
powerful crane. He perceived that none of them had any occasion even to
approach the ravine where the silver lay hidden; let alone to enter it.
In the harbour he learned that no one slept on the island. The labouring
gangs returned to port every evening, singing chorus songs in the empty
lighters towed by a harbour tug. For the moment he had nothing to fear.

But afterwards? he asked himself. Later, when a keeper came to live in
the cottage that was being built some hundred and fifty yards back from
the low lighttower, and four hundred or so from the dark, shaded, jungly
ravine, containing the secret of his safety, of his influence, of his
magnificence, of his power over the future, of his defiance of ill-luck,
of every possible betrayal from rich and poor alike--what then? He could
never shake off the treasure. His audacity, greater than that of other
men, had welded that vein of silver into his life. And the feeling
of fearful and ardent subjection, the feeling of his slavery--so
irremediable and profound that often, in his thoughts, he compared
himself to the legendary Gringos, neither dead nor alive, bound down
to their conquest of unlawful wealth on Azuera--weighed heavily on the
independent Captain Fidanza, owner and master of a coasting schooner,
whose smart appearance (and fabulous good-luck in trading) were so well
known along the western seaboard of a vast continent.

Fiercely whiskered and grave, a shade less supple in his walk, the
vigour and symmetry of his powerful limbs lost in the vulgarity of a
brown tweed suit, made by Jews in the slums of London, and sold by the
clothing department of the Compania Anzani, Captain Fidanza was seen in
the streets of Sulaco attending to his business, as usual, that trip.
And, as usual, he allowed it to get about that he had made a great
profit on his cargo. It was a cargo of salt fish, and Lent was
approaching. He was seen in tramcars going to and fro between the town
and the harbour; he talked with people in a cafe or two in his measured,
steady voice. Captain Fidanza was seen. The generation that would know
nothing of the famous ride to Cayta was not born yet.

Nostromo, the miscalled Capataz de Cargadores, had made for himself,
under his rightful name, another public existence, but modified by
the new conditions, less picturesque, more difficult to keep up in the
increased size and varied population of Sulaco, the progressive capital
of the Occidental Republic.

Captain Fidanza, unpicturesque, but always a little mysterious, was
recognized quite sufficiently under the lofty glass and iron roof of the
Sulaco railway station. He took a local train, and got out in Rincon,
where he visited the widow of the Cargador who had died of his wounds
(at the dawn of the New Era, like Don Jose Avellanos) in the patio
of the Casa Gould. He consented to sit down and drink a glass of cool
lemonade in the hut, while the woman, standing up, poured a perfect
torrent of words to which he did not listen. He left some money with
her, as usual. The orphaned children, growing up and well schooled,
calling him uncle, clamoured for his blessing. He gave that, too; and in
the doorway paused for a moment to look at the flat face of the San Tome
mountain with a faint frown. This slight contraction of his bronzed brow
casting a marked tinge of severity upon his usual unbending expression,
was observed at the Lodge which he attended--but went away before the
banquet. He wore it at the meeting of some good comrades, Italians
and Occidentals, assembled in his honour under the presidency of an
indigent, sickly, somewhat hunchbacked little photographer, with a white
face and a magnanimous soul dyed crimson by a bloodthirsty hate of
all capitalists, oppressors of the two hemispheres. The heroic Giorgio
Viola, old revolutionist, would have understood nothing of his opening
speech; and Captain Fidanza, lavishly generous as usual to some poor
comrades, made no speech at all. He had listened, frowning, with his
mind far away, and walked off unapproachable, silent, like a man full of
cares.

His frown deepened as, in the early morning, he watched the stone-masons
go off to the Great Isabel, in lighters loaded with squared blocks of
stone, enough to add another course to the squat light-tower. That was
the rate of the work. One course per day.

And Captain Fidanza meditated. The presence of strangers on the island
would cut him completely off the treasure. It had been difficult and
dangerous enough before. He was afraid, and he was angry. He thought
with the resolution of a master and the cunning of a cowed slave. Then
he went ashore.

He was a man of resource and ingenuity; and, as usual, the expedient he
found at a critical moment was effective enough to alter the situation
radically. He had the gift of evolving safety out of the very danger,
this incomparable Nostromo, this "fellow in a thousand." With Giorgio
established on the Great Isabel, there would be no need for concealment.
He would be able to go openly, in daylight, to see his daughters--one of
his daughters--and stay late talking to the old Garibaldino. Then in the
dark . . . Night after night . . . He would dare to grow rich quicker
now. He yearned to clasp, embrace, absorb, subjugate in unquestioned
possession this treasure, whose tyranny had weighed upon his mind, his
actions, his very sleep.

He went to see his friend Captain Mitchell--and the thing was done as
Dr. Monygham had related to Mrs. Gould. When the project was mooted to
the Garibaldino, something like the faint reflection, the dim ghost of a
very ancient smile, stole under the white and enormous moustaches of the
old hater of kings and ministers. His daughters were the object of his
anxious care. The younger, especially. Linda, with her mother's voice,
had taken more her mother's place. Her deep, vibrating "Eh, Padre?"
seemed, but for the change of the word, the very echo of the
impassioned, remonstrating "Eh, Giorgio?" of poor Signora Teresa. It was
his fixed opinion that the town was no proper place for his girls.
The infatuated but guileless Ramirez was the object of his profound
aversion, as resuming the sins of the country whose people were blind,
vile esclavos.

On his return from his next voyage, Captain Fidanza found the Violas
settled in the light-keeper's cottage. His knowledge of Giorgio's
idiosyncrasies had not played him false. The Garibaldino had refused
to entertain the idea of any companion whatever, except his girls.
And Captain Mitchell, anxious to please his poor Nostromo, with that
felicity of inspiration which only true affection can give, had formally
appointed Linda Viola as under-keeper of the Isabel's Light.

"The light is private property," he used to explain. "It belongs to my
Company. I've the power to nominate whom I like, and Viola it shall be.
It's about the only thing Nostromo--a man worth his weight in gold, mind
you--has ever asked me to do for him."

Directly his schooner was anchored opposite the New Custom House, with
its sham air of a Greek temple, flatroofed, with a colonnade, Captain
Fidanza went pulling his small boat out of the harbour, bound for the
Great Isabel, openly in the light of a declining day, before all men's
eyes, with a sense of having mastered the fates. He must establish a
regular position. He would ask him for his daughter now. He thought of
Giselle as he pulled. Linda loved him, perhaps, but the old man would be
glad to keep the elder, who had his wife's voice.

He did not pull for the narrow strand where he had landed with Decoud,
and afterwards alone on his first visit to the treasure. He made for the
beach at the other end, and walked up the regular and gentle slope of
the wedge-shaped island. Giorgio Viola, whom he saw from afar, sitting
on a bench under the front wall of the cottage, lifted his arm slightly
to his loud hail. He walked up. Neither of the girls appeared.

"It is good here," said the old man, in his austere, far-away manner.

Nostromo nodded; then, after a short silence--

"You saw my schooner pass in not two hours ago? Do you know why I am
here before, so to speak, my anchor has fairly bitten into the ground of
this port of Sulaco?"

"You are welcome like a son," the old man declared, quietly, staring
away upon the sea.

"Ah! thy son. I know. I am what thy son would have been. It is well,
viejo. It is a very good welcome. Listen, I have come to ask you
for----"

A sudden dread came upon the fearless and incorruptible Nostromo. He
dared not utter the name in his mind. The slight pause only imparted a
marked weight and solemnity to the changed end of the phrase.

"For my wife!" . . . His heart was beating fast. "It is time you----"

The Garibaldino arrested him with an extended arm. "That was left for
you to judge."

He got up slowly. His beard, unclipped since Teresa's death, thick,
snow-white, covered his powerful chest. He turned his head to the door,
and called out in his strong voice--

"Linda."

Her answer came sharp and faint from within; and the appalled Nostromo
stood up, too, but remained mute, gazing at the door. He was afraid. He
was not afraid of being refused the girl he loved--no mere refusal could
stand between him and a woman he desired--but the shining spectre of
the treasure rose before him, claiming his allegiance in a silence that
could not be gainsaid. He was afraid, because, neither dead nor
alive, like the Gringos on Azuera, he belonged body and soul to the
unlawfulness of his audacity. He was afraid of being forbidden the
island. He was afraid, and said nothing.

Seeing the two men standing up side by side to await her, Linda stopped
in the doorway. Nothing could alter the passionate dead whiteness of her
face; but her black eyes seemed to catch and concentrate all the light
of the low sun in a flaming spark within the black depths, covered at
once by the slow descent of heavy eyelids.

"Behold thy husband, master, and benefactor." Old Viola's voice
resounded with a force that seemed to fill the whole gulf.

She stepped forward with her eyes nearly closed, like a sleep-walker in
a beatific dream.

Nostromo made a superhuman effort. "It is time, Linda, we two were
betrothed," he said, steadily, in his level, careless, unbending tone.

She put her hand into his offered palm, lowering her head, dark with
bronze glints, upon which her father's hand rested for a moment.

"And so the soul of the dead is satisfied."

This came from Giorgio Viola, who went on talking for a while of his
dead wife; while the two, sitting side by side, never looked at each
other. Then the old man ceased; and Linda, motionless, began to speak.

"Ever since I felt I lived in the world, I have lived for you alone,
Gian' Battista. And that you knew! You knew it . . . Battistino."

She pronounced the name exactly with her mother's intonation. A gloom as
of the grave covered Nostromo's heart.

"Yes. I knew," he said.

The heroic Garibaldino sat on the same bench bowing his hoary head, his
old soul dwelling alone with its memories, tender and violent, terrible
and dreary--solitary on the earth full of men.

And Linda, his best-loved daughter, was saying, "I was yours ever since
I can remember. I had only to think of you for the earth to become empty
to my eyes. When you were there, I could see no one else. I was yours.
Nothing is changed. The world belongs to you, and you let me live in
it." . . . She dropped her low, vibrating voice to a still lower note,
and found other things to say--torturing for the man at her side. Her
murmur ran on ardent and voluble. She did not seem to see her sister,
who came out with an altar-cloth she was embroidering in her hands, and
passed in front of them, silent, fresh, fair, with a quick glance and a
faint smile, to sit a little away on the other side of Nostromo.

The evening was still. The sun sank almost to the edge of a purple
ocean; and the white lighthouse, livid against the background of clouds
filling the head of the gulf, bore the lantern red and glowing, like a
live ember kindled by the fire of the sky. Giselle, indolent and demure,
raised the altar-cloth from time to time to hide nervous yawns, as of a
young panther.

Suddenly Linda rushed at her sister, and seizing her head, covered her
face with kisses. Nostromo's brain reeled. When she left her, as if
stunned by the violent caresses, with her hands lying in her lap, the
slave of the treasure felt as if he could shoot that woman. Old Giorgio
lifted his leonine head.

"Where are you going, Linda?"

"To the light, padre mio."

"Si, si--to your duty."

He got up, too, looked after his eldest daughter; then, in a tone whose
festive note seemed the echo of a mood lost in the night of ages--

"I am going in to cook something. Aha! Son! The old man knows where to
find a bottle of wine, too."

He turned to Giselle, with a change to austere tenderness.

"And you, little one, pray not to the God of priests and slaves, but to
the God of orphans, of the oppressed, of the poor, of little children,
to give thee a man like this one for a husband."

His hand rested heavily for a moment on Nostromo's shoulder; then he
went in. The hopeless slave of the San Tome silver felt at these words
the venomous fangs of jealousy biting deep into his heart. He was
appalled by the novelty of the experience, by its force, by its physical
intimacy. A husband! A husband for her! And yet it was natural that
Giselle should have a husband at some time or other. He had never
realized that before. In discovering that her beauty could belong
to another he felt as though he could kill this one of old Giorgio's
daughters also. He muttered moodily--

"They say you love Ramirez."

She shook her head without looking at him. Coppery glints rippled to and
fro on the wealth of her gold hair. Her smooth forehead had the soft,
pure sheen of a priceless pearl in the splendour of the sunset, mingling
the gloom of starry spaces, the purple of the sea, and the crimson of
the sky in a magnificent stillness.

"No," she said, slowly. "I never loved him. I think I never . . . He
loves me--perhaps."

The seduction of her slow voice died out of the air, and her raised eyes
remained fixed on nothing, as if indifferent and without thought.

"Ramirez told you he loved you?" asked Nostromo, restraining himself.

"Ah! once--one evening . . ."

"The miserable . . . Ha!"

He had jumped up as if stung by a gad-fly, and stood before her mute
with anger.

"Misericordia Divina! You, too, Gian' Battista! Poor wretch that I am!"
she lamented in ingenuous tones. "I told Linda, and she scolded--she
scolded. Am I to live blind, dumb, and deaf in this world? And she told
father, who took down his gun and cleaned it. Poor Ramirez! Then you
came, and she told you."

He looked at her. He fastened his eyes upon the hollow of her white
throat, which had the invincible charm of things young, palpitating,
delicate, and alive. Was this the child he had known? Was it possible?
It dawned upon him that in these last years he had really seen very
little--nothing--of her. Nothing. She had come into the world like
a thing unknown. She had come upon him unawares. She was a danger. A
frightful danger. The instinctive mood of fierce determination that had
never failed him before the perils of this life added its steady force
to the violence of his passion. She, in a voice that recalled to him the
song of running water, the tinkling of a silver bell, continued--

"And between you three you have brought me here into this captivity to
the sky and water. Nothing else. Sky and water. Oh, Sanctissima Madre.
My hair shall turn grey on this tedious island. I could hate you, Gian'
Battista!"

He laughed loudly. Her voice enveloped him like a caress. She bemoaned
her fate, spreading unconsciously, like a flower its perfume in the
coolness of the evening, the indefinable seduction of her person. Was
it her fault that nobody ever had admired Linda? Even when they were
little, going out with their mother to Mass, she remembered that people
took no notice of Linda, who was fearless, and chose instead to frighten
her, who was timid, with their attention. It was her hair like gold, she
supposed.

He broke out--

"Your hair like gold, and your eyes like violets, and your lips like the
rose; your round arms, your white throat." . . .

Imperturbable in the indolence of her pose, she blushed deeply all
over to the roots of her hair. She was not conceited. She was no more
self-conscious than a flower. But she was pleased. And perhaps even
a flower loves to hear itself praised. He glanced down, and added,
impetuously--

"Your little feet!"

Leaning back against the rough stone wall of the cottage, she seemed to
bask languidly in the warmth of the rosy flush. Only her lowered eyes
glanced at her little feet.

"And so you are going at last to marry our Linda. She is terrible. Ah!
now she will understand better since you have told her you love her. She
will not be so fierce."

"Chica!" said Nostromo, "I have not told her anything."

"Then make haste. Come to-morrow. Come and tell her, so that I may have
some peace from her scolding and--perhaps--who knows . . ."

"Be allowed to listen to your Ramirez, eh? Is that it? You . . ."

"Mercy of God! How violent you are, Giovanni," she said, unmoved. "Who
is Ramirez . . . Ramirez . . . Who is he?" she repeated, dreamily, in
the dusk and gloom of the clouded gulf, with a low red streak in the
west like a hot bar of glowing iron laid across the entrance of a world
sombre as a cavern, where the magnificent Capataz de Cargadores had
hidden his conquests of love and wealth.

"Listen, Giselle," he said, in measured tones; "I will tell no word of
love to your sister. Do you want to know why?"

"Alas! I could not understand perhaps, Giovanni. Father says you are not
like other men; that no one had ever understood you properly; that the
rich will be surprised yet. . . . Oh! saints in heaven! I am weary."

She raised her embroidery to conceal the lower part of her face, then
let it fall on her lap. The lantern was shaded on the land side, but
slanting away from the dark column of the lighthouse they could see the
long shaft of light, kindled by Linda, go out to strike the expiring
glow in a horizon of purple and red.

Giselle Viola, with her head resting against the wall of the house,
her eyes half closed, and her little feet, in white stockings and black
slippers, crossed over each other, seemed to surrender herself, tranquil
and fatal, to the gathering dusk. The charm of her body, the promising
mysteriousness of her indolence, went out into the night of the Placid
Gulf like a fresh and intoxicating fragrance spreading out in the
shadows, impregnating the air. The incorruptible Nostromo breathed
her ambient seduction in the tumultuous heaving of his breast. Before
leaving the harbour he had thrown off the store clothing of Captain
Fidanza, for greater ease in the long pull out to the islands. He stood
before her in the red sash and check shirt as he used to appear on the
Company's wharf--a Mediterranean sailor come ashore to try his luck in
Costaguana. The dusk of purple and red enveloped him, too--close, soft,
profound, as no more than fifty yards from that spot it had gathered
evening after evening about the self-destructive passion of Don Martin
Decoud's utter scepticism, flaming up to death in solitude.

"You have got to hear," he began at last, with perfect self-control. "I
shall say no word of love to your sister, to whom I am betrothed from
this evening, because it is you that I love. It is you!" . . .

The dusk let him see yet the tender and voluptuous smile that came
instinctively upon her lips shaped for love and kisses, freeze hard in
the drawn, haggard lines of terror. He could not restrain himself any
longer. While she shrank from his approach, her arms went out to him,
abandoned and regal in the dignity of her languid surrender. He held her
head in his two hands, and showered rapid kisses upon the upturned face
that gleamed in the purple dusk. Masterful and tender, he was entering
slowly upon the fulness of his possession. And he perceived that she was
crying. Then the incomparable Capataz, the man of careless loves, became
gentle and caressing, like a woman to the grief of a child. He murmured
to her fondly. He sat down by her and nursed her fair head on his
breast. He called her his star and his little flower.

It had grown dark. From the living-room of the light-keeper's cottage,
where Giorgio, one of the Immortal Thousand, was bending his leonine and
heroic head over a charcoal fire, there came the sound of sizzling and
the aroma of an artistic frittura.

In the obscure disarray of that thing, happening like a cataclysm, it
was in her feminine head that some gleam of reason survived. He was lost
to the world in their embraced stillness. But she said, whispering into
his ear--

"God of mercy! What will become of me--here--now--between this sky and
this water I hate? Linda, Linda--I see her!" . . . She tried to get out
of his arms, suddenly relaxed at the sound of that name. But there was
no one approaching their black shapes, enlaced and struggling on the
white background of the wall. "Linda! Poor Linda! I tremble! I shall die
of fear before my poor sister Linda, betrothed to-day to Giovanni--my
lover! Giovanni, you must have been mad! I cannot understand you! You
are not like other men! I will not give you up--never--only to God
himself! But why have you done this blind, mad, cruel, frightful thing?"

Released, she hung her head, let fall her hands. The altar-cloth, as if
tossed by a great wind, lay far away from them, gleaming white on the
black ground.

"From fear of losing my hope of you," said Nostromo.

"You knew that you had my soul! You know everything! It was made for
you! But what could stand between you and me? What? Tell me!" she
repeated, without impatience, in superb assurance.

"Your dead mother," he said, very low.

"Ah! . . . Poor mother! She has always . . . She is a saint in heaven
now, and I cannot give you up to her. No, Giovanni. Only to God alone.
You were mad--but it is done. Oh! what have you done? Giovanni, my
beloved, my life, my master, do not leave me here in this grave of
clouds. You cannot leave me now. You must take me away--at once--this
instant--in the little boat. Giovanni, carry me off to-night, from my
fear of Linda's eyes, before I have to look at her again."

She nestled close to him. The slave of the San Tome silver felt the
weight as of chains upon his limbs, a pressure as of a cold hand upon
his lips. He struggled against the spell.

"I cannot," he said. "Not yet. There is something that stands between us
two and the freedom of the world."

She pressed her form closer to his side with a subtle and naive instinct
of seduction.

"You rave, Giovanni--my lover!" she whispered, engagingly. "What can
there be? Carry me off--in thy very hands--to Dona Emilia--away from
here. I am not very heavy."

It seemed as though she expected him to lift her up at once in his two
palms. She had lost the notion of all impossibility. Anything could
happen on this night of wonder. As he made no movement, she almost cried
aloud--

"I tell you I am afraid of Linda!" And still he did not move. She became
quiet and wily. "What can there be?" she asked, coaxingly.

He felt her warm, breathing, alive, quivering in the hollow of his
arm. In the exulting consciousness of his strength, and the triumphant
excitement of his mind, he struck out for his freedom.

"A treasure," he said. All was still. She did not understand. "A
treasure. A treasure of silver to buy a gold crown for thy brow."

"A treasure?" she repeated in a faint voice, as if from the depths of a
dream. "What is it you say?"

She disengaged herself gently. He got up and looked down at her, aware
of her face, of her hair, her lips, the dimples on her cheeks--seeing
the fascination of her person in the night of the gulf as if in the
blaze of noonday. Her nonchalant and seductive voice trembled with the
excitement of admiring awe and ungovernable curiosity.

"A treasure of silver!" she stammered out. Then pressed on faster:
"What? Where? How did you get it, Giovanni?"

He wrestled with the spell of captivity. It was as if striking a heroic
blow that he burst out--

"Like a thief!"

The densest blackness of the Placid Gulf seemed to fall upon his head.
He could not see her now. She had vanished into a long, obscure abysmal
silence, whence her voice came back to him after a time with a faint
glimmer, which was her face.

"I love you! I love you!"

These words gave him an unwonted sense of freedom; they cast a spell
stronger than the accursed spell of the treasure; they changed his weary
subjection to that dead thing into an exulting conviction of his power.
He would cherish her, he said, in a splendour as great as Dona Emilia's.
The rich lived on wealth stolen from the people, but he had taken from
the rich nothing--nothing that was not lost to them already by their
folly and their betrayal. For he had been betrayed--he said--deceived,
tempted. She believed him. . . . He had kept the treasure for purposes
of revenge; but now he cared nothing for it. He cared only for her. He
would put her beauty in a palace on a hill crowned with olive trees--a
white palace above a blue sea. He would keep her there like a jewel in
a casket. He would get land for her--her own land fertile with vines and
corn--to set her little feet upon. He kissed them. . . . He had already
paid for it all with the soul of a woman and the life of a man. . . .
The Capataz de Cargadores tasted the supreme intoxication of his
generosity. He flung the mastered treasure superbly at her feet in
the impenetrable darkness of the gulf, in the darkness defying--as men
said--the knowledge of God and the wit of the devil. But she must let
him grow rich first--he warned her.

She listened as if in a trance. Her fingers stirred in his hair. He got
up from his knees reeling, weak, empty, as though he had flung his soul
away.

"Make haste, then," she said. "Make haste, Giovanni, my lover, my
master, for I will give thee up to no one but God. And I am afraid of
Linda."

He guessed at her shudder, and swore to do his best. He trusted the
courage of her love. She promised to be brave in order to be loved
always--far away in a white palace upon a hill above a blue sea. Then
with a timid, tentative eagerness she murmured--

"Where is it? Where? Tell me that, Giovanni."

He opened his mouth and remained silent--thunderstruck.

"Not that! Not that!" he gasped out, appalled at the spell of secrecy
that had kept him dumb before so many people falling upon his lips again
with unimpaired force. Not even to her. Not even to her. It was too
dangerous. "I forbid thee to ask," he cried at her, deadening cautiously
the anger of his voice.

He had not regained his freedom. The spectre of the unlawful treasure
arose, standing by her side like a figure of silver, pitiless and
secret, with a finger on its pale lips. His soul died within him at the
vision of himself creeping in presently along the ravine, with the smell
of earth, of damp foliage in his nostrils--creeping in, determined in
a purpose that numbed his breast, and creeping out again loaded with
silver, with his ears alert to every sound. It must be done on this very
night--that work of a craven slave!

He stooped low, pressed the hem of her skirt to his lips, with a
muttered command--

"Tell him I would not stay," and was gone suddenly from her, silent,
without as much as a footfall in the dark night.

She sat still, her head resting indolently against the wall, and her
little feet in white stockings and black slippers crossed over each
other. Old Giorgio, coming out, did not seem to be surprised at the
intelligence as much as she had vaguely feared. For she was full of
inexplicable fear now--fear of everything and everybody except of her
Giovanni and his treasure. But that was incredible.

The heroic Garibaldino accepted Nostromo's abrupt departure with a
sagacious indulgence. He remembered his own feelings, and exhibited a
masculine penetration of the true state of the case.

"Va bene. Let him go. Ha! ha! No matter how fair the woman, it galls a
little. Liberty, liberty. There's more than one kind! He has said
the great word, and son Gian' Battista is not tame." He seemed to be
instructing the motionless and scared Giselle. . . . "A man should not
be tame," he added, dogmatically out of the doorway. Her stillness and
silence seemed to displease him. "Do not give way to the enviousness of
your sister's lot," he admonished her, very grave, in his deep voice.

Presently he had to come to the door again to call in his younger
daughter. It was late. He shouted her name three times before she
even moved her head. Left alone, she had become the helpless prey of
astonishment. She walked into the bedroom she shared with Linda like
a person profoundly asleep. That aspect was so marked that even old
Giorgio, spectacled, raising his eyes from the Bible, shook his head as
she shut the door behind her.

She walked right across the room without looking at anything, and sat
down at once by the open window. Linda, stealing down from the tower in
the exuberance of her happiness, found her with a lighted candle at her
back, facing the black night full of sighing gusts of wind and the sound
of distant showers--a true night of the gulf, too dense for the eye of
God and the wiles of the devil. She did not turn her head at the opening
of the door.

There was something in that immobility which reached Linda in the depths
of her paradise. The elder sister guessed angrily: the child is
thinking of that wretched Ramirez. Linda longed to talk. She said in
her arbitrary voice, "Giselle!" and was not answered by the slightest
movement.

The girl that was going to live in a palace and walk on ground of her
own was ready to die with terror. Not for anything in the world would
she have turned her head to face her sister. Her heart was beating
madly. She said with subdued haste--

"Do not speak to me. I am praying."

Linda, disappointed, went out quietly; and Giselle sat on unbelieving,
lost, dazed, patient, as if waiting for the confirmation of the
incredible. The hopeless blackness of the clouds seemed part of a dream,
too. She waited.

She did not wait in vain. The man whose soul was dead within him,
creeping out of the ravine, weighted with silver, had seen the gleam
of the lighted window, and could not help retracing his steps from the
beach.

On that impenetrable background, obliterating the lofty mountains by
the seaboard, she saw the slave of the San Tome silver, as if by
an extraordinary power of a miracle. She accepted his return as if
henceforth the world could hold no surprise for all eternity.

She rose, compelled and rigid, and began to speak long before the light
from within fell upon the face of the approaching man.

"You have come back to carry me off. It is well! Open thy arms,
Giovanni, my lover. I am coming."

His prudent footsteps stopped, and with his eyes glistening wildly, he
spoke in a harsh voice:

"Not yet. I must grow rich slowly." . . . A threatening note came into
his tone. "Do not forget that you have a thief for your lover."

"Yes! Yes!" she whispered, hastily. "Come nearer! Listen! Do not give me
up, Giovanni! Never, never! . . . I will be patient! . . ."

Her form drooped consolingly over the low casement towards the slave of
the unlawful treasure. The light in the room went out, and weighted with
silver, the magnificent Capataz clasped her round her white neck in the
darkness of the gulf as a drowning man clutches at a straw.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN

On the day Mrs. Gould was going, in Dr. Monygham's words, to "give a
tertulia," Captain Fidanza went down the side of his schooner lying in
Sulaco harbour, calm, unbending, deliberate in the way he sat down
in his dinghy and took up his sculls. He was later than usual. The
afternoon was well advanced before he landed on the beach of the Great
Isabel, and with a steady pace climbed the slope of the island.

From a distance he made out Giselle sitting in a chair tilted back
against the end of the house, under the window of the girl's room. She
had her embroidery in her hands, and held it well up to her eyes. The
tranquillity of that girlish figure exasperated the feeling of perpetual
struggle and strife he carried in his breast. He became angry. It seemed
to him that she ought to hear the clanking of his fetters--his silver
fetters, from afar. And while ashore that day, he had met the doctor
with the evil eye, who had looked at him very hard.

The raising of her eyes mollified him. They smiled in their flower-like
freshness straight upon his heart. Then she frowned. It was a warning to
be cautious. He stopped some distance away, and in a loud, indifferent
tone, said--

"Good day, Giselle. Is Linda up yet?"

"Yes. She is in the big room with father."

He approached then, and, looking through the window into the bedroom
for fear of being detected by Linda returning there for some reason, he
said, moving only his lips--

"You love me?"

"More than my life." She went on with her embroidery under his
contemplating gaze and continued to speak, looking at her work, "Or I
could not live. I could not, Giovanni. For this life is like death. Oh,
Giovanni, I shall perish if you do not take me away."

He smiled carelessly. "I will come to the window when it's dark," he
said.

"No, don't, Giovanni. Not-to-night. Linda and father have been talking
together for a long time today."

"What about?"

"Ramirez, I fancy I heard. I do not know. I am afraid. I am always
afraid. It is like dying a thousand times a day. Your love is to me like
your treasure to you. It is there, but I can never get enough of it."

He looked at her very still. She was beautiful. His desire had grown
within him. He had two masters now. But she was incapable of sustained
emotion. She was sincere in what she said, but she slept placidly at
night. When she saw him she flamed up always. Then only an increased
taciturnity marked the change in her. She was afraid of betraying
herself. She was afraid of pain, of bodily harm, of sharp words, of
facing anger, and witnessing violence. For her soul was light and tender
with a pagan sincerity in its impulses. She murmured--

"Give up the palazzo, Giovanni, and the vineyard on the hills, for which
we are starving our love."

She ceased, seeing Linda standing silent at the corner of the house.

Nostromo turned to his affianced wife with a greeting, and was amazed at
her sunken eyes, at her hollow cheeks, at the air of illness and anguish
in her face.

"Have you been ill?" he asked, trying to put some concern into this
question.

Her black eyes blazed at him. "Am I thinner?" she asked.

"Yes--perhaps--a little."

"And older?"

"Every day counts--for all of us."

"I shall go grey, I fear, before the ring is on my finger," she said,
slowly, keeping her gaze fastened upon him.

She waited for what he would say, rolling down her turned-up sleeves.

"No fear of that," he said, absently.

She turned away as if it had been something final, and busied herself
with household cares while Nostromo talked with her father. Conversation
with the old Garibaldino was not easy. Age had left his faculties
unimpaired, only they seemed to have withdrawn somewhere deep within
him. His answers were slow in coming, with an effect of august gravity.
But that day he was more animated, quicker; there seemed to be more
life in the old lion. He was uneasy for the integrity of his honour.
He believed Sidoni's warning as to Ramirez's designs upon his younger
daughter. And he did not trust her. She was flighty. He said nothing of
his cares to "Son Gian' Battista." It was a touch of senile vanity. He
wanted to show that he was equal yet to the task of guarding alone the
honour of his house.

Nostromo went away early. As soon as he had disappeared, walking towards
the beach, Linda stepped over the threshold and, with a haggard smile,
sat down by the side of her father.

Ever since that Sunday, when the infatuated and desperate Ramirez had
waited for her on the wharf, she had no doubts whatever. The jealous
ravings of that man were no revelation. They had only fixed with
precision, as with a nail driven into her heart, that sense of unreality
and deception which, instead of bliss and security, she had found in
her intercourse with her promised husband. She had passed on, pouring
indignation and scorn upon Ramirez; but, that Sunday, she nearly died
of wretchedness and shame, lying on the carved and lettered stone of
Teresa's grave, subscribed for by the engine-drivers and the fitters of
the railway workshops, in sign of their respect for the hero of Italian
Unity. Old Viola had not been able to carry out his desire of burying
his wife in the sea; and Linda wept upon the stone.

The gratuitous outrage appalled her. If he wished to break her
heart--well and good. Everything was permitted to Gian' Battista. But
why trample upon the pieces; why seek to humiliate her spirit? Aha! He
could not break that. She dried her tears. And Giselle! Giselle! The
little one that, ever since she could toddle, had always clung to
her skirt for protection. What duplicity! But she could not help it
probably. When there was a man in the case the poor featherheaded wretch
could not help herself.

Linda had a good share of the Viola stoicism. She resolved to say
nothing. But woman-like she put passion into her stoicism. Giselle's
short answers, prompted by fearful caution, drove her beside herself by
their curtness that resembled disdain. One day she flung herself upon
the chair in which her indolent sister was lying and impressed the mark
of her teeth at the base of the whitest neck in Sulaco. Giselle cried
out. But she had her share of the Viola heroism. Ready to faint with
terror, she only said, in a lazy voice, "Madre de Dios! Are you going to
eat me alive, Linda?" And this outburst passed off leaving no trace upon
the situation. "She knows nothing. She cannot know any thing," reflected
Giselle. "Perhaps it is not true. It cannot be true," Linda tried to
persuade herself.

But when she saw Captain Fidanza for the first time after her meeting
with the distracted Ramirez, the certitude of her misfortune returned.
She watched him from the doorway go away to his boat, asking herself
stoically, "Will they meet to-night?" She made up her mind not to leave
the tower for a second. When he had disappeared she came out and sat
down by her father.

The venerable Garibaldino felt, in his own words, "a young man yet." In
one way or another a good deal of talk about Ramirez had reached him
of late; and his contempt and dislike of that man who obviously was
not what his son would have been, had made him restless. He slept very
little now; but for several nights past instead of reading--or only
sitting, with Mrs. Gould's silver spectacles on his nose, before the
open Bible, he had been prowling actively all about the island with his
old gun, on watch over his honour.

Linda, laying her thin brown hand on his knee, tried to soothe his
excitement. Ramirez was not in Sulaco. Nobody knew where he was. He was
gone. His talk of what he would do meant nothing.

"No," the old man interrupted. "But son Gian' Battista told me--quite
of himself--that the cowardly esclavo was drinking and gambling with the
rascals of Zapiga, over there on the north side of the gulf. He may get
some of the worst scoundrels of that scoundrelly town of negroes to help
him in his attempt upon the little one. . . . But I am not so old. No!"

She argued earnestly against the probability of any attempt being made;
and at last the old man fell silent, chewing his white moustache. Women
had their obstinate notions which must be humoured--his poor wife was
like that, and Linda resembled her mother. It was not seemly for a man
to argue. "May be. May be," he mumbled.

She was by no means easy in her mind. She loved Nostromo. She turned
her eyes upon Giselle, sitting at a distance, with something of maternal
tenderness, and the jealous anguish of a rival outraged in her defeat.
Then she rose and walked over to her.

"Listen--you," she said, roughly.

The invincible candour of the gaze, raised up all violet and dew,
excited her rage and admiration. She had beautiful eyes--the Chica--this
vile thing of white flesh and black deception. She did not know whether
she wanted to tear them out with shouts of vengeance or cover up their
mysterious and shameless innocence with kisses of pity and love. And
suddenly they became empty, gazing blankly at her, except for a little
fear not quite buried deep enough with all the other emotions in
Giselle's heart.

Linda said, "Ramirez is boasting in town that he will carry you off from
the island."

"What folly!" answered the other, and in a perversity born of long
restraint, she added: "He is not the man," in a jesting tone with a
trembling audacity.

"No?" said Linda, through her clenched teeth. "Is he not? Well, then,
look to it; because father has been walking about with a loaded gun at
night."

"It is not good for him. You must tell him not to, Linda. He will not
listen to me."

"I shall say nothing--never any more--to anybody," cried Linda,
passionately.

This could not last, thought Giselle. Giovanni must take her away
soon--the very next time he came. She would not suffer these terrors for
ever so much silver. To speak with her sister made her ill. But she was
not uneasy at her father's watchfulness. She had begged Nostromo not
to come to the window that night. He had promised to keep away for this
once. And she did not know, could not guess or imagine, that he had
another reason for coming on the island.

Linda had gone straight to the tower. It was time to light up. She
unlocked the little door, and went heavily up the spiral staircase,
carrying her love for the magnificent Capataz de Cargadores like an
ever-increasing load of shameful fetters. No; she could not throw it
off. No; let Heaven dispose of these two. And moving about the lantern,
filled with twilight and the sheen of the moon, with careful movements
she lighted the lamp. Then her arms fell along her body.

"And with our mother looking on," she murmured. "My own sister--the
Chica!"

The whole refracting apparatus, with its brass fittings and rings of
prisms, glittered and sparkled like a domeshaped shrine of diamonds,
containing not a lamp, but some sacred flame, dominating the sea. And
Linda, the keeper, in black, with a pale face, drooped low in a wooden
chair, alone with her jealousy, far above the shames and passions of the
earth. A strange, dragging pain as if somebody were pulling her about
brutally by her dark hair with bronze glints, made her put her hands up
to her temples. They would meet. They would meet. And she knew where,
too. At the window. The sweat of torture fell in drops on her cheeks,
while the moonlight in the offing closed as if with a colossal bar of
silver the entrance of the Placid Gulf--the sombre cavern of clouds and
stillness in the surf-fretted seaboard.

Linda Viola stood up suddenly with a finger on her lip. He loved neither
her nor her sister. The whole thing seemed so objectless as to frighten
her, and also give her some hope. Why did he not carry her off? What
prevented him? He was incomprehensible. What were they waiting for? For
what end were these two lying and deceiving? Not for the ends of their
love. There was no such thing. The hope of regaining him for herself
made her break her vow of not leaving the tower that night. She must
talk at once to her father, who was wise, and would understand. She ran
down the spiral stairs. At the moment of opening the door at the bottom
she heard the sound of the first shot ever fired on the Great Isabel.

She felt a shock, as though the bullet had struck her breast. She ran on
without pausing. The cottage was dark. She cried at the door, "Giselle!
Giselle!" then dashed round the corner and screamed her sister's name
at the open window, without getting an answer; but as she was rushing,
distracted, round the house, Giselle came out of the door, and darted
past her, running silently, her hair loose, and her eyes staring
straight ahead. She seemed to skim along the grass as if on tiptoe, and
vanished.

Linda walked on slowly, with her arms stretched out before her. All
was still on the island; she did not know where she was going. The tree
under which Martin Decoud spent his last days, beholding life like a
succession of senseless images, threw a large blotch of black shade upon
the grass. Suddenly she saw her father, standing quietly all alone in
the moonlight.

The Garibaldino--big, erect, with his snow-white hair and beard--had a
monumental repose in his immobility, leaning upon a rifle. She put her
hand upon his arm lightly. He never stirred.

"What have you done?" she asked, in her ordinary voice.

"I have shot Ramirez--infame!" he answered, with his eyes directed to
where the shade was blackest. "Like a thief he came, and like a thief he
fell. The child had to be protected."

He did not offer to move an inch, to advance a single step. He stood
there, rugged and unstirring, like a statue of an old man guarding the
honour of his house. Linda removed her trembling hand from his arm,
firm and steady like an arm of stone, and, without a word, entered the
blackness of the shade. She saw a stir of formless shapes on the ground,
and stopped short. A murmur of despair and tears grew louder to her
strained hearing.

"I entreated you not to come to-night. Oh, my Giovanni! And you
promised. Oh! Why--why did you come, Giovanni?"

It was her sister's voice. It broke on a heartrending sob. And the voice
of the resourceful Capataz de Cargadores, master and slave of the
San Tome treasure, who had been caught unawares by old Giorgio while
stealing across the open towards the ravine to get some more silver,
answered careless and cool, but sounding startlingly weak from the
ground.

"It seemed as though I could not live through the night without seeing
thee once more--my star, my little flower."

* * * * *

The brilliant tertulia was just over, the last guests had departed, and
the Senor Administrador had gone to his room already, when Dr. Monygham,
who had been expected in the evening but had not turned up, arrived
driving along the wood-block pavement under the electric-lamps of the
deserted Calle de la Constitucion, and found the great gateway of the
Casa still open.

He limped in, stumped up the stairs, and found the fat and sleek Basilio
on the point of turning off the lights in the sala. The prosperous
majordomo remained open-mouthed at this late invasion.

"Don't put out the lights," commanded the doctor. "I want to see the
senora."

"The senora is in the Senor Adminstrador's cancillaria," said Basilio,
in an unctuous voice. "The Senor Administrador starts for the mountain
in an hour. There is some trouble with the workmen to be feared, it
appears. A shameless people without reason and decency. And idle, senor.
Idle."

"You are shamelessly lazy and imbecile yourself," said the doctor,
with that faculty for exasperation which made him so generally beloved.
"Don't put the lights out."

Basilio retired with dignity. Dr. Monygham, waiting in the brilliantly
lighted sala, heard presently a door close at the further end of the
house. A jingle of spurs died out. The Senor Administrador was off to
the mountain.

With a measured swish of her long train, flashing with jewels and the
shimmer of silk, her delicate head bowed as if under the weight of a
mass of fair hair, in which the silver threads were lost, the "first
lady of Sulaco," as Captain Mitchell used to describe her, moved along
the lighted corredor, wealthy beyond great dreams of wealth, considered,
loved, respected, honoured, and as solitary as any human being had ever
been, perhaps, on this earth.

The doctor's "Mrs. Gould! One minute!" stopped her with a start at the
door of the lighted and empty sala. From the similarity of mood and
circumstance, the sight of the doctor, standing there all alone amongst
the groups of furniture, recalled to her emotional memory her unexpected
meeting with Martin Decoud; she seemed to hear in the silence the voice
of that man, dead miserably so many years ago, pronounce the words,
"Antonia left her fan here." But it was the doctor's voice that spoke, a
little altered by his excitement. She remarked his shining eyes.

"Mrs. Gould, you are wanted. Do you know what has happened? You remember
what I told you yesterday about Nostromo. Well, it seems that a lancha,
a decked boat, coming from Zapiga, with four negroes in her, passing
close to the Great Isabel, was hailed from the cliff by a woman's
voice--Linda's, as a matter of fact--commanding them (it's a moonlight
night) to go round to the beach and take up a wounded man to the town.
The patron (from whom I've heard all this), of course, did so at once.
He told me that when they got round to the low side of the Great Isabel,
they found Linda Viola waiting for them. They followed her: she led them
under a tree not far from the cottage. There they found Nostromo lying
on the ground with his head in the younger girl's lap, and father Viola
standing some distance off leaning on his gun. Under Linda's direction
they got a table out of the cottage for a stretcher, after breaking off
the legs. They are here, Mrs. Gould. I mean Nostromo and--and Giselle.
The negroes brought him in to the first-aid hospital near the harbour.
He made the attendant send for me. But it was not me he wanted to
see--it was you, Mrs. Gould! It was you."

"Me?" whispered Mrs. Gould, shrinking a little.

"Yes, you!" the doctor burst out. "He begged me--his enemy, as he
thinks--to bring you to him at once. It seems he has something to say to
you alone."

"Impossible!" murmured Mrs. Gould.

"He said to me, 'Remind her that I have done something to keep a roof
over her head.' . . . Mrs. Gould," the doctor pursued, in the greatest
excitement. "Do you remember the silver? The silver in the lighter--that
was lost?"

Mrs. Gould remembered. But she did not say she hated the mere mention of
that silver. Frankness personified, she remembered with an exaggerated
horror that for the first and last time of her life she had concealed
the truth from her husband about that very silver. She had been
corrupted by her fears at that time, and she had never forgiven herself.
Moreover, that silver, which would never have come down if her husband
had been made acquainted with the news brought by Decoud, had been in
a roundabout way nearly the cause of Dr. Monygham's death. And these
things appeared to her very dreadful.

"Was it lost, though?" the doctor exclaimed. "I've always felt that
there was a mystery about our Nostromo ever since. I do believe he wants
now, at the point of death----"

"The point of death?" repeated Mrs. Gould.

"Yes. Yes. . . . He wants perhaps to tell you something concerning that
silver which----"

"Oh, no! No!" exclaimed Mrs. Gould, in a low voice. "Isn't it lost and
done with? Isn't there enough treasure without it to make everybody in
the world miserable?"

The doctor remained still, in a submissive, disappointed silence. At
last he ventured, very low--

"And there is that Viola girl, Giselle. What are we to do? It looks as
though father and sister had----"

Mrs. Gould admitted that she felt in duty bound to do her best for these
girls.

"I have a volante here," the doctor said. "If you don't mind getting
into that----"

He waited, all impatience, till Mrs. Gould reappeared, having thrown
over her dress a grey cloak with a deep hood.

It was thus that, cloaked and monastically hooded over her evening
costume, this woman, full of endurance and compassion, stood by the side
of the bed on which the splendid Capataz de Cargadores lay stretched
out motionless on his back. The whiteness of sheets and pillows gave a
sombre and energetic relief to his bronzed face, to the dark, nervous
hands, so good on a tiller, upon a bridle and on a trigger, lying open
and idle upon a white coverlet.

"She is innocent," the Capataz was saying in a deep and level voice, as
though afraid that a louder word would break the slender hold his
spirit still kept upon his body. "She is innocent. It is I alone. But no
matter. For these things I would answer to no man or woman alive."

He paused. Mrs. Gould's face, very white within the shadow of the hood,
bent over him with an invincible and dreary sadness. And the low sobs
of Giselle Viola, kneeling at the end of the bed, her gold hair with
coppery gleams loose and scattered over the Capataz's feet, hardly
troubled the silence of the room.

"Ha! Old Giorgio--the guardian of thine honour! Fancy the Vecchio coming
upon me so light of foot, so steady of aim. I myself could have done no
better. But the price of a charge of powder might have been saved. The
honour was safe. . . . Senora, she would have followed to the end of
the world Nostromo the thief. . . . I have said the word. The spell is
broken!"

A low moan from the girl made him cast his eyes down.

"I cannot see her. . . . No matter," he went on, with the shadow of the
old magnificent carelessness in his voice. "One kiss is enough, if
there is no time for more. An airy soul, senora! Bright and warm, like
sunshine--soon clouded, and soon serene. They would crush it there
between them. Senora, cast on her the eye of your compassion, as famed
from one end of the land to the other as the courage and daring of
the man who speaks to you. She will console herself in time. And even
Ramirez is not a bad fellow. I am not angry. No! It is not Ramirez
who overcame the Capataz of the Sulaco Cargadores." He paused, made an
effort, and in louder voice, a little wildly, declared--

"I die betrayed--betrayed by----"

But he did not say by whom or by what he was dying betrayed.

"She would not have betrayed me," he began again, opening his eyes very
wide. "She was faithful. We were going very far--very soon. I could have
torn myself away from that accursed treasure for her. For that child I
would have left boxes and boxes of it--full. And Decoud took four. Four
ingots. Why? Picardia! To betray me? How could I give back the treasure
with four ingots missing? They would have said I had purloined them. The
doctor would have said that. Alas! it holds me yet!"

Mrs. Gould bent low, fascinated--cold with apprehension.

"What became of Don Martin on that night, Nostromo?"

"Who knows? I wondered what would become of me. Now I know. Death was
to come upon me unawares. He went away! He betrayed me. And you think
I have killed him! You are all alike, you fine people. The silver has
killed me. It has held me. It holds me yet. Nobody knows where it is.
But you are the wife of Don Carlos, who put it into my hands and said,
'Save it on your life.' And when I returned, and you all thought it
was lost, what do I hear? 'It was nothing of importance. Let it go. Up,
Nostromo, the faithful, and ride away to save us, for dear life!'"

"Nostromo!" Mrs. Gould whispered, bending very low. "I, too, have hated
the idea of that silver from the bottom of my heart."

"Marvellous!--that one of you should hate the wealth that you know so
well how to take from the hands of the poor. The world rests upon the
poor, as old Giorgio says. You have been always good to the poor. But
there is something accursed in wealth. Senora, shall I tell you where
the treasure is? To you alone. . . . Shining! Incorruptible!"

A pained, involuntary reluctance lingered in his tone, in his eyes,
plain to the woman with the genius of sympathetic intuition. She averted
her glance from the miserable subjection of the dying man, appalled,
wishing to hear no more of the silver.

"No, Capataz," she said. "No one misses it now. Let it be lost for
ever."

After hearing these words, Nostromo closed his eyes, uttered no word,
made no movement. Outside the door of the sick-room Dr. Monygham,
excited to the highest pitch, his eyes shining with eagerness, came up
to the two women.

"Now, Mrs. Gould," he said, almost brutally in his impatience, "tell me,
was I right? There is a mystery. You have got the word of it, have you
not? He told you----"

"He told me nothing," said Mrs. Gould, steadily.

The light of his temperamental enmity to Nostromo went out of Dr.
Monygham's eyes. He stepped back submissively. He did not believe Mrs.
Gould. But her word was law. He accepted her denial like an inexplicable
fatality affirming the victory of Nostromo's genius over his own. Even
before that woman, whom he loved with secret devotion, he had been
defeated by the magnificent Capataz de Cargadores, the man who had lived
his own life on the assumption of unbroken fidelity, rectitude, and
courage!

"Pray send at once somebody for my carriage," spoke Mrs. Gould from
within her hood. Then, turning to Giselle Viola, "Come nearer me, child;
come closer. We will wait here."

Giselle Viola, heartbroken and childlike, her face veiled in her falling
hair, crept up to her side. Mrs. Gould slipped her hand through the arm
of the unworthy daughter of old Viola, the immaculate republican, the
hero without a stain. Slowly, gradually, as a withered flower droops,
the head of the girl, who would have followed a thief to the end of the
world, rested on the shoulder of Dona Emilia, the first lady of Sulaco,
the wife of the Senor Administrador of the San Tome mine. And Mrs.
Gould, feeling her suppressed sobbing, nervous and excited, had the
first and only moment of bitterness in her life. It was worthy of Dr.
Monygham himself.

"Console yourself, child. Very soon he would have forgotten you for his
treasure."

"Senora, he loved me. He loved me," Giselle whispered, despairingly. "He
loved me as no one had ever been loved before."

"I have been loved, too," Mrs. Gould said in a severe tone.

Giselle clung to her convulsively. "Oh, senora, but you shall live
adored to the end of your life," she sobbed out.

Mrs. Gould kept an unbroken silence till the carriage arrived. She
helped in the half-fainting girl. After the doctor had shut the door of
the landau, she leaned over to him.

"You can do nothing?" she whispered.

"No, Mrs. Gould. Moreover, he won't let us touch him. It does not
matter. I just had one look. . . . Useless."

But he promised to see old Viola and the other girl that very night. He
could get the police-boat to take him off to the island. He remained
in the street, looking after the landau rolling away slowly behind the
white mules.

The rumour of some accident--an accident to Captain Fidanza--had been
spreading along the new quays with their rows of lamps and the dark
shapes of towering cranes. A knot of night prowlers--the poorest of the
poor--hung about the door of the first-aid hospital, whispering in the
moonlight of the empty street.

There was no one with the wounded man but the pale photographer, small,
frail, bloodthirsty, the hater of capitalists, perched on a high stool
near the head of the bed with his knees up and his chin in his hands. He
had been fetched by a comrade who, working late on the wharf, had
heard from a negro belonging to a lancha, that Captain Fidanza had been
brought ashore mortally wounded.

"Have you any dispositions to make, comrade?" he asked, anxiously. "Do
not forget that we want money for our work. The rich must be fought with
their own weapons."

Nostromo made no answer. The other did not insist, remaining huddled
up on the stool, shock-headed, wildly hairy, like a hunchbacked monkey.
Then, after a long silence--

"Comrade Fidanza," he began, solemnly, "you have refused all aid from
that doctor. Is he really a dangerous enemy of the people?"

In the dimly lit room Nostromo rolled his head slowly on the pillow and
opened his eyes, directing at the weird figure perched by his bedside a
glance of enigmatic and profound inquiry. Then his head rolled back, his
eyelids fell, and the Capataz de Cargadores died without a word or moan
after an hour of immobility, broken by short shudders testifying to the
most atrocious sufferings.

Dr. Monygham, going out in the police-galley to the islands, beheld the
glitter of the moon upon the gulf and the high black shape of the Great
Isabel sending a shaft of light afar, from under the canopy of clouds.

"Pull easy," he said, wondering what he would find there. He tried to
imagine Linda and her father, and discovered a strange reluctance within
himself. "Pull easy," he repeated.

* * * * * *

From the moment he fired at the thief of his honour, Giorgio Viola had
not stirred from the spot. He stood, his old gun grounded, his hand
grasping the barrel near the muzzle. After the lancha carrying off
Nostromo for ever from her had left the shore, Linda, coming up, stopped
before him. He did not seem to be aware of her presence, but when,
losing her forced calmness, she cried out--

"Do you know whom you have killed?" he answered--

"Ramirez the vagabond."

White, and staring insanely at her father, Linda laughed in his face.
After a time he joined her faintly in a deep-toned and distant echo of
her peals. Then she stopped, and the old man spoke as if startled--

"He cried out in son Gian' Battista's voice."

The gun fell from his opened hand, but the arm remained extended for a
moment as if still supported. Linda seized it roughly.

"You are too old to understand. Come into the house."

He let her lead him. On the threshold he stumbled heavily, nearly coming
to the ground together with his daughter. His excitement, his activity
of the last few days, had been like the flare of a dying lamp. He caught
at the back of his chair.

"In son Gian' Battista's voice," he repeated in a severe tone. "I heard
him--Ramirez--the miserable----"

Linda helped him into the chair, and, bending low, hissed into his ear--

"You have killed Gian' Battista."

The old man smiled under his thick moustache. Women had strange fancies.

"Where is the child?" he asked, surprised at the penetrating chilliness
of the air and the unwonted dimness of the lamp by which he used to sit
up half the night with the open Bible before him.

Linda hesitated a moment, then averted her eyes.

"She is asleep," she said. "We shall talk of her tomorrow."

She could not bear to look at him. He filled her with terror and with an
almost unbearable feeling of pity. She had observed the change that came
over him. He would never understand what he had done; and even to her
the whole thing remained incomprehensible. He said with difficulty--

"Give me the book."

Linda laid on the table the closed volume in its worn leather cover, the
Bible given him ages ago by an Englishman in Palermo.

"The child had to be protected," he said, in a strange, mournful voice.

Behind his chair Linda wrung her hands, crying without noise. Suddenly
she started for the door. He heard her move.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"To the light," she answered, turning round to look at him balefully.

"The light! Si--duty."

Very upright, white-haired, leonine, heroic in his absorbed quietness,
he felt in the pocket of his red shirt for the spectacles given him by
Dona Emilia. He put them on. After a long period of immobility he opened
the book, and from on high looked through the glasses at the small print
in double columns. A rigid, stern expression settled upon his features
with a slight frown, as if in response to some gloomy thought or
unpleasant sensation. But he never detached his eyes from the book while
he swayed forward, gently, gradually, till his snow-white head
rested upon the open pages. A wooden clock ticked methodically on the
white-washed wall, and growing slowly cold the Garibaldino lay alone,
rugged, undecayed, like an old oak uprooted by a treacherous gust of
wind.

The light of the Great Isabel burned unfailing above the lost treasure
of the San Tome mine. Into the bluish sheen of a night without stars
the lantern sent out a yellow beam towards the far horizon. Like a black
speck upon the shining panes, Linda, crouching in the outer gallery,
rested her head on the rail. The moon, drooping in the western board,
looked at her radiantly.

Below, at the foot of the cliff, the regular splash of oars from a
passing boat ceased, and Dr. Monygham stood up in the stern sheets.

"Linda!" he shouted, throwing back his head. "Linda!"

Linda stood up. She had recognized the voice.

"Is he dead?" she cried, bending over.

"Yes, my poor girl. I am coming round," the doctor answered from below.
"Pull to the beach," he said to the rowers.

Linda's black figure detached itself upright on the light of the lantern
with her arms raised above her head as though she were going to throw
herself over.

"It is I who loved you," she whispered, with a face as set and white
as marble in the moonlight. "I! Only I! She will forget thee, killed
miserably for her pretty face. I cannot understand. I cannot understand.
But I shall never forget thee. Never!"

She stood silent and still, collecting her strength to throw all her
fidelity, her pain, bewilderment, and despair into one great cry.

"Never! Gian' Battista!"

Dr. Monygham, pulling round in the police-galley, heard the name pass
over his head. It was another of Nostromo's triumphs, the greatest, the
most enviable, the most sinister of all. In that true cry of undying
passion that seemed to ring aloud from Punta Mala to Azuera and away to
the bright line of the horizon, overhung by a big white cloud shining
like a mass of solid silver, the genius of the magnificent Capataz de
Cargadores dominated the dark gulf containing his conquests of treasure
and love.





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