PART SECOND THE ISABELS
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;
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,
with the traffic in railway material,
and with the movements of troops along the coast.
Company found much occupation for its fleet.
Costaguana had no navy,
apart from a few coastguard cutters,
there were no national ships except a couple of old merchant steamers used as transports.
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,
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,
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.
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.
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,
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,
were the supreme sinners,
objects of hate,
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 raw wounds,
all men of position,
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,
and cruel torture a human body can stand without parting with the last spark of life.
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,
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,
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.
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.
it may have been a simple caprice.
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,
an only child,
was old enough to devote herself to "poor papa."
born in Europe and educated partly in England,
was a tall,
with a self-possessed manner,
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,
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,
(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,
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.
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.
he had burst out,
"let me embrace you!
Let me --"
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,
you two patriots!
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,
loved his country.
He had given it twelve years of peace;
absolute master of lives and fortunes as he was,
he died poor.
His worst fault,
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,
from the conviction of practical necessity,
stronger than any abstract political doctrine,
Henry Gould had drawn the sword,
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,
manifested rather than concealed by the forms of stony courtesy which did away with much of the ignominy of the situation.
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,
my dear Carlos,
I shall not have believed in vain."
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.
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,
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.
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,
from the other Montero,
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.
better news succeeded at first.
The revolt in the capital had been suppressed after a night of fighting in the streets.
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,
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.
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.
found their way into the province,
and also Monterist emissaries preaching death to aristocrats in the villages and towns of the Campo.
at the beginning of the trouble,
(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.
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,
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
baring his curly iron-grey head to Mrs. Gould in her landau --"and then,
we shall convert our swords into plough-shares and grow rich.
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.
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.
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,
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.
the beautiful Antonia,
as Miss Avellanos was called in Sulaco,
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.
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,
she married a foreigner from Europe or North America,
now that Sulaco seemed on the point of being invaded by all the world.
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,
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,
golden beard did not conceal his lips,
almost pouting in expression.
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.
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,
all their farcical stealing,
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.
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.
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.
you had better write up Senor Ribiera all you can in kindness to your own bondholders.
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,
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!"
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.
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,
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.
whose position was very difficult,
was alone in the secret.
commented Martin's sister and confidante;
to which the brother,
with an air of best Parisian blague,
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.
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,
"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.
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,
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."
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,
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.
he told himself,
like a ridiculous fatality.
in the news the Decouds received regularly from Costaguana,
the name of their friends,
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.
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.
our worst fears have been realized,"
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),
"I am glad to see you here,
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.
continued his praises.
Every accession added to public confidence,
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,
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."
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,
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.
Decoud continued imperturbably,
he felt no longer an idle cumberer of the earth.
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.
confronting with a sort of urbane effrontery Mrs. Gould's gaze,
now turned sympathetically upon himself,
he breathed out the words,
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,
tiny silver arms,
(for ex-voto offerings),
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.
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,
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.
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.
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,
and a black silk patch over one eye.
His other eye,
small and deep-set,
twinkled erratically in all directions,
The few European spectators,
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
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,
and declared her conviction that still more glory awaited the general in the near future.
with great feeling,
"in the name of God,
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)
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,
to the very epaulettes,
playing monte with his colonels the night before the battle.
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,
when his only remark,
as he rose calmly,
"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,
but most of all undoubtedly his established political honesty.
No one questioned the personal bravery of the Tiger-killer,
as the populace called him.
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,
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,
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
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."
turning to the small knot of silent Europeans looking on within earshot,
he raised his voice protectingly --
have no apprehension.
Go on quietly making your Ferro Carril --your railways,
Your --There's enough wealth in Costaguana to pay for everything --or else you would not be here.
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.
develop the country,
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.
To put Montero in a cage is my work;
and when that insignificant piece of business is done,
as Don Jose wishes us,
we shall grow rich,
one and all,
like so many Englishmen,
because it is money that saves a country,
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;
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.
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,
and grotesque in the working out of their purposes had to be accepted as normal in this country.
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,
then said nervously to Decoud,
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.
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,
she cried at the motionless broad back of the coachman,
who gathered the reins without haste,
mumbling to himself under his breath,
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,
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;
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.
ensconced in the corner of his seat,
observed gloomily Mrs. Gould's old revolutionist,
and what do you think of it all,
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.
only caught the other day,
had gone swinging past in double quick time,
they looked well fed,
and had whole uniforms.
he repeated with a half-smile of pity.
A look of grim retrospect stole over his piercing,
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,
with often only a knife tied to a stick for a weapon.
"And yet we used to prevail against the oppressor,"
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 --
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."
lolling back moodily,
contemplated old Viola.
A man of experience.
But who are you for,
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,
"We are all for the people --in the end."
muttered old Viola,
"And meantime they fight for you.
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,
I've just come down.
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,
"You haven't met before,"
Mrs. Gould intervened.
"Mr. Decoud --Mr. Scarfe."
But we are not going to Pharsalia,"
protested Don Jose,
with nervous haste,
also in English.
"You should not jest like this,
Antonia's breast rose and fell with a deeper breath.
The young engineer was utterly in the dark.
Montero is not a Caesar,"
"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,
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.
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.
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,
"Therefore --down with Montero!
His artless grin disappeared slowly before the unanimous gravity of the faces turned upon him from the carriage;
only that "old chap,"
presenting a motionless,
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?
and gave him a slow inclination of the head.
He heard a short laugh from that round-faced,
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.
There are plenty of horses,"
murmured the Garibaldino,
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,"
"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;
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,
"And so very wise for his age,"
"But here we have the naked truth from the mouth of that child.
You are right,
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!
--becomes a deadly danger,
and an ignorant,
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.
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,
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.
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,
mingled with the clanking of chain-couplings,
made a tumult of blows and shaken fetters under the vault of the gate.
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,
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,
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,
had a big pair of ears,
whose thick rims stood well away from his cropped head.
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 --
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.
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'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.
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,"
after a pause --"exploited!"
Mrs. Gould said,
this is unjust!"
And Antonia interjected,
"Don't answer him,
He is attacking me."
"You surely do not think I was attacking Don Carlos!"
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."
we must comfort our friends,
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.
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,
The reality of the political action,
such as it was,
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.
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,
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.
You must forgive me.
One must be serious sometimes."
She turned her head a little;
her blue eyes glided slowly towards him,
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.
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,
but you never see the aim.
Men must be used as they are.
I suppose nobody is really disinterested,
It's the last thing I should like you to believe of me."
He spoke lightly,
She began to fan herself with a slow movement without raising her hand.
After a time he whispered passionately --
and extended her hand after the English manner towards Charles Gould,
who was bowing before her;
with his elbows spread on the back of the sofa,
dropped his eyes and murmured,
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.
Decoud began in a murmur.
"This is sheer calumny,"
not very severely.
"You just ask him to throw his mine into the melting-pot for the great cause,"
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.
very tall and thin before his chair,
but nothing could be discovered in his face except a kind and deferential attention.
Antonia had risen,
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,
Her second son,
had just gone off on the Staff of Barrios.
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.
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!
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,
marked with decay,
and with iron bars like a prison.
"And it would be so easy of attainment,"
"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,
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,"
changing suddenly to a tone of bitter levity,
"you would have sent me to stab him without compunction."
par exemple!_" she murmured in a shocked tone.
"you do keep me here writing deadly nonsense.
Deadly to me!
It has already killed my self-respect.
And you may imagine,"
his tone passing into light banter,
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!"
"You seem satisfied to see my life hang on a thread,"
with a broad smile.
"And the other Montero,
'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.
Opposite the door with the inscription,
_Intrada de la Sombra_.'
That's where the uncle of our host gave up his Anglo-South-American soul.
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,"
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,
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 --
you will make me cry."
He remained silent for a minute,
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.
'Fifty Years of Misrule.'"
"Leave poor papa alone,
He believes --"
"I have the greatest tenderness for your father,"
"But I love you,
And Moraga has miserably mismanaged this business.
Perhaps your father did,
I don't know.
Montero was bribeable.
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,
He would have taken five years' salary in advance,
and gone on loafing in Paris,
and very calm before this outburst,
"was intoxicated with vanity.
We had all the information,
not from Moraga only;
There was his brother intriguing,
"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!
their work is honest!
But what if you cannot work honestly till the thieves are satisfied?
Could he not,
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,
She shook her head slightly.
"It was impossible,"
"He wanted the whole lot?
She was facing him now in the deep recess of the window,
very close and motionless.
Her lips moved rapidly.
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,
They did not want to know,
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.
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;
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,
She made an energetic gesture of negation.
A silence fell.
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.
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,"
She did not answer.
She seemed tired.
They leaned side by side on the rail of the little balcony,
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,"
"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."
"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."
"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,
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,
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,
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;
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 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,"
"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,
"Ploughing the sea,"
There was below the sound of hasty and ponderous footsteps.
the grand-vicar of the cathedral,
has just turned under the gate,"
"He said Mass for the troops in the Plaza this morning.
They had built for him an altar of drums,
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,
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.
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,
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,
And perhaps he understands me,
But I know him,
our Padre Corbelan.
The idea of political honour,
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?
with his English impenetrability,
nobody can tell what he thinks.
Probably he thinks of nothing apart from his mine;
'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.
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,
I have no patriotic illusions.
I have only the supreme illusion of a lover."
then muttered almost inaudibly,
"That can lead one very far,
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.
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.
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.
This was true!
A great truth!
Sulaco was in the forefront,
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.
It was impossible that Montero should succeed!
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,
leaning his back on the balustrade,
shouted into the room with all the strength of his lungs,
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,
Can anybody be more fortunate?
To be feared and admired is --"
"And are these your highest aspirations,
"I was speaking of a man of that sort,"
"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,
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,
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.
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,
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,
waiting for Antonia,
listened with a slightly worried graciousness to the engineer-in-chief of the railway,
who stooped over her,
without the slightest gesture,
something apparently amusing,
for his eyes had a humorous twinkle.
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?"
"I am going to cling to mine to the end,
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.
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.
whom Decoud had seen from the balcony turning into the gateway of the Casa Gould,
had addressed no one since coming in.
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,"
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.
the God of your General is a bottle!"
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,
carrying a bullock-hide shield,
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.
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,
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,
to some desert island,
to the Isabels,
"The one without water preferably --eh,
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,
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,
not very far from Don Jose,
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,
"And you --you are a perfect heathen,"
in a subdued,
He made a step nearer,
pointing a forefinger at the young man's breast.
felt the wall behind the curtain with the back of his head.
with his chin tilted well up,
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,"
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?"
retorted the priest.
"You are ten times worse.
A miracle could not convert you."
"I certainly do not believe in miracles,"
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,"
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,
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.
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,
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.
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,
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.
the dilettante in life,
imagined himself to derive an artistic pleasure from watching the picturesque extreme of wrongheadedness into which an honest,
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,
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;
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.
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.
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,
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.
He had very fierce whiskers,
and as he did not offer to go on we dared not move.
blowing the smoke of my cigar into the air through his nostrils,
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.
that same evening,
I saw that very man at the corner of the Plaza talking to a girl,
who stood by the stirrup with her hand on the grey horse's mane."
"I assure you,
murmured Charles Gould,
"that you ran no risk on this occasion."
"That may be,
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,
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?"
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,
--you were perfectly safe."
You are very good.
A very fierce-looking man,
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.
backed by the power of speech,
had as many shades of significance as uttered words in the way of assent,
of negation --even of simple comment.
Some seemed to say plainly,
"Think it over";
others meant clearly,
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,
with no profit to anybody --rotting where they had been dropped by men called away to attend the urgent necessities of political revolutions.
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,
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.
repeated Charles Gould,
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,
A contract for dynamite with the San Tome mine,
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.
"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,
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?"
"And why does he talk like this to me?"
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.
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."
asked the engineer-in-chief,
said Charles Gould,
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.
going to the roots,
the engineer explained,
with an air of enjoyment.
"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,"
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 --"
suggested the railway man.
"No. You may call it rather an argument,"
corrected Charles Gould,
"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,
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.
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.
asked Charles Gould.
said Mrs. Gould.
Still without looking up,
she added with feeling,
"There is an awful sense of unreality about all this."
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,"
"The glare on the water must have been simply terrible."
"One could close one's eyes to the glare,"
said Mrs. Gould.
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,
"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.
we can't even afford to stand still."
if one only knew how far you mean to go,"
said his wife inwardly trembling,
but in an almost playful tone.
was the answer,
in a matter-of-fact tone,
which caused Mrs. Gould to make another effort to repress a shudder.
She stood up,
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,"
enveloping her in the steely blue glance of his attentive eyes,
answered without hesitation --
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.
were indeed --I suppose you are going back to the mine before the morning?"
said Charles Gould.
"We are bringing down the silver to-morrow.
Then I shall take three whole days off in town with you."
you are going to meet the escort.
I shall be on the balcony at five o'clock to see you pass.
Charles Gould walked rapidly round the table,
seizing her hands,
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,"
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 --
if we had left it alone,
Charles Gould said,
"it was impossible to leave it alone."
"Perhaps it was impossible,"
Mrs. Gould admitted,
Her lips quivered a little,
but she smiled with an air of dainty bravado.
"We have disturbed a good many snakes in that Paradise,
said Charles Gould,
"it was Don Pepe who called the gorge the Paradise of snakes.
No doubt we have disturbed a great many.
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,
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,
white and red and pale lilac,
came out vivid with the brilliance of flowers in a stream of sunshine;
and Mrs. Gould,
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.
in a startled voice.
"Is that you,
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,"
with a strange air of distraction;
"so I entered to see."
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.
in a low voice.
"What is it,
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,"
who now could not conceal his agitation.
"Pray don't distress yourself.
you must not distress yourself."
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 --"
sincerely vexed and surprised.
"I assure you that I am not in the least alarmed myself.
A fan is lost;
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,
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.
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,
"You are always welcome."
She paused for a second,
"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.
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.
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,
looking out for me.
There is news from the interior,
I should rather say rumours of news."
said Mrs. Gould in a low voice.
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.
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?
Offer his submission to Montero?
Disband his army --this last most likely,
and go himself in one of the O.S.N.
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."
exchanging a steady stare with Mrs. Gould,
as it were,
if we had could have been done."
Mrs. Gould breathed out in a tone of unbelief.
That sort of bird is hatched in great numbers in such times as these.
And even if it were true?
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.
becoming visible in his audacious and watchful stare,
in the curve,
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 --
Rien n'est perdu_."
It electrified Mrs. Gould out of her benumbed attitude,
and she said,
"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?
On my word of honour,
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."
said Mrs. Gould,
"You don't seem convinced,"
Decoud went on again in French.
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,
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?"
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,
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!"
as if to herself,
"What on earth do you mean?"
"it's a wonderful thing to say with the sight of the San Tome mine,
the greatest fact in the whole of South America,
before our very eyes.
But look even at that,
he has idealized this fact to a point --" He paused.
are you aware to what point he has idealized the existence,
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.
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.
don't you see,
he's an Englishman?"
what of that?"
asked Mrs. Gould.
"Simply that he cannot act or exist without idealizing every simple feeling,
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,
Do you excuse my frankness?
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?"
But I am not sure that she approves.
makes no difference.
I am honest enough to tell you that,
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,
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 most fertile part of this land may be saved from anarchy.
I care 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,
with a few others,
is specially excepted.
The brothers hate me,
as you know very well,
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."
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.
but I would,
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,
even our women,
It is Antonia that won't run away.
A novel sort of vanity."
"You call it vanity,"
said Mrs. Gould,
in a shocked voice.
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.
I could not,
just now pay sufficient respect to either his motives or even,
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.
right or wrong,
the idea could do no harm.
And it was quite possible,
that the rumour was false.
"You have some sort of a plan,"
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.
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,
I have heard you assert that this poor bandit was the living,
breathing example of cruelty,
that ruin men's souls as well as their fortunes in this country.
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,
Decoud had dropped easily into English,
which he spoke with precision,
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,
and Mrs. Gould turned away her head with a look of horror.
"Why don't you say all this to my husband?"
without looking at Decoud,
who stood watching the effect of his words.
But Don Carlos is so English,"
Mrs. Gould interrupted --
"Leave that alone,
He's as much a Costaguanero --No!
He's more of a Costaguanero than yourself."
Decoud almost cooed,
in a tone of gentle and soothing deference.
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.
I am practical.
I am not afraid of my motives.
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.
Except one little fact,
that your husband does not like me.
It's a small matter,
in the circumstances,
seems to acquire a perfectly ridiculous importance.
Ridiculous and immense;
money is required for my plan,"
"and we have two sentimentalists to deal with."
"I don't know that I understand you,
said Mrs. Gould,
preserving the low key of their conversation.
speaking as if I did,
who is the other?"
"The great Holroyd in San Francisco,
"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,
she cried in dismay.
"Let it come down,
breathed out Decoud,
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,
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.
the rumour was probably false,
with much conviction in his hurried tone.
"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,
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,
"What made him make that promise to you?"
"Upon my word,
I don't know,"
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,
if he had been anything else but a common sailor,
I would call a pose or an affectation."
looked at Mrs. Gould curiously.
"Upon the whole,"
"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.
with whom he has lived for some years,
calls him the Incorruptible."
he belongs to the group of your proteges out there towards the harbour,
And Captain Mitchell calls him wonderful.
I have heard no end of tales of his strength,
No end of fine things.
It is indeed a name of honour for the Capataz of the Cargadores of Sulaco.
I suppose he's sensible,
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.
then the silver will be still more safe.
Let it come down,
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.
watching her as if she had his fate in her hands,
detected an almost imperceptible nod of assent.
He bowed with a smile,
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,"
"for a plausible pretext."
He bowed again.
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,
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,
here it is!"
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,
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,
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,
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,
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;
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.
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,
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.
(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,
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,
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,
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,
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.
But I suppose I also looked pleased.
From the time the fugitive President had been got off to the S. S.
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.
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,
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,
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,
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,
whose Cargadores were sleeping under the arcades along the front of Anzani's shops.
A fire of broken furniture out of the Intendencia saloons,
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,
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,
smoked a cigarette.
It was a truce,
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,
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.
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.
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,"
because I am the only man with a definite idea in his head,
in the complete collapse of every resolve,
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,
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,
with bows and arrows in its hands.
The woman of the house is dying up there,
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,
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,
"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?"
The child did not move;
he saw her large eyes stare at him very dark from the corner.
"You're not afraid of me?"
"we are not afraid of you.
You came here with Gian' Battista."
"You mean Nostromo?"
"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,"
"Not in this house,"
retorted the child.
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?"
"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,"
"I know it,"
said the child,
"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.
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.
though the offices of the Cable Company are in the same building as the Porvenir,
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,
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,
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,
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,
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,
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,
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
at my entrance.
I asked them,
'What are you deliberating upon,
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,'
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,
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 worn out.
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,'
'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,
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,
'In God's name,
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.'
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,
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,
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.
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,
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.
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 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?'
with my eyes looking into hers.
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.
the Democratic aspirations have,
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?'
"Her eyes blazed with indignation,
but as I looked on,
the light in them went out.
"'It is a surrender,'
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,
do you understand?
has told me to go on.'
"She averted her face,
and in a pained voice --
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,
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,
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,
and myself --in Mrs. Gould's blue-and-white boudoir.
"El Rey de Sulaco thinks himself,
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
'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.
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,
would not drop his idea of introducing,
not only justice,
to the benighted continents,
but also that pet dream of his of a purer form of Christianity.
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.
the Junta of the Notables in the great sala was still deliberating;
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.'
in this boudoir,'
'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,
This was news,
to all of us in Sulaco.
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,
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.
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,
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,
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,
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,
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,
was himself operating,
remarked that it would not bring the cars up.
there is no lack of horses on the Campo."
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.
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.'
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,
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,
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;
'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,
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,
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 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,
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;
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,
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,
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,
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.
His very words,
'To be well spoken of.
He does not seem to make any difference between speaking and thinking.
Is it sheer naiveness or the practical point of view,
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,
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?'
'Do you know her?'
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.
I could tell by her voice that death had forgotten her.
old or young,
they like money,
and will speak well of the man who gives it to them.'
He laughed a little.
you should have felt the clutch of her paw as I put the piece in her palm.'
"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.
in a thoughtful,
'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,
He walked on,
muttering to himself.
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,'
'Time passes in this country as quick as anywhere else.'
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.
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.
the only other with them,
don't really know whether to count myself with the living or with the dead.
as the people here are prone to say in answer to every question.
feeling for you is certainly not dead,
and the whole thing,
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,
with the idea that he had heard his pencil roll on the floor.
The low door of the cafe,
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,
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,"
"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,
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,
The hood of her dark,
blue cloak had fallen back.
Both men rose.
"Teresa wants to see you,
The Capataz did not move.
with his back to the table,
began to button up his coat.
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,
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,
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,
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,"
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."
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,
as she would have liked her son to be."
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.
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,
"It will make her easier."
"And there is nothing more for her?"
asked the old man,
"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,
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,
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,
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.
gasped Senora Teresa.
it has killed me at last!"
Nostromo said nothing,
and the sick woman with an upward glance insisted.
this one has killed me,
while you were away fighting for what did not concern you,
"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,
"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;
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,
attractive to men,
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.
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 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,
He laid no money by.
She railed at his poverty,
his loves and his reputation;
but in her heart she had never given him up,
he had been her son.
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 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?
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,
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.
"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.
It was quite true that he had given her already the very last moment he could spare.
"You refuse to go?"
you are always yourself,
"Listen to reason,
"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.
will have mercy upon me!
But do you look to it,
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,
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,
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,
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?
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.
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?
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,
is a treasure,
"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,
The very leperos shall laugh at you --the great Capataz."
Nostromo stood for a time as if struck dumb.
She never looked at him.
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.
who had remained,
sat on the corner of a hard wood table near the candlestick,
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.
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.
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.
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 --
I thought you could never fail in anything."
glancing contemptuously at the doctor,
lingered in the doorway rolling a cigarette,
then struck a match,
after lighting it,
held the burning piece of wood above his head till the flame nearly touched his fingers.
he muttered to himself.
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,
A man with a treasure on this coast will have every knife raised against him in every place upon the shore.
You see that,
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,
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,
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?"
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 --
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,
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,
tall shape standing a little apart and silent,
to whom another tall shape,
"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,
till we clasp hands again over the new-born Occidental Republic."
Only a subdued murmur responded to his clear,
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."
"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.
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,
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,
and the rocks were as if they had not been.
Nostromo's voice was speaking,
at the tiller,
was also as if he were not.
"Have you been asleep,
If it were possible I would think that I,
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."
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,
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,"
"Do we move at all,
"Not so fast as a crawling beetle tangled in the grass,"
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.
as if affected by the gloom around,
seemed nervously resentful.
Decoud was surprised.
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,
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.
"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 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.
is the only way to save it;
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,
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.
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.
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?"
you needn't explain,"
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."
but I cannot believe,"
"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.
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.
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.
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,"
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,
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.
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,
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.
he was thrown out of all this into a dark gulf,
whose very gloom,
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 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,
he proposed in a careless tone.
"There are many hours of night yet before us."
It is but a mile or so,
Rest your arms,
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.
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;
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,"
"What was it,
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?
that I am not a lucky gambler."
everybody knows of your good luck with women,
Decoud propitiated his companion in a weary drawl.
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.
when we arrived at the Italia Una,
old Giorgio shouted to me to go for the English doctor.
that poor dying woman wanted to see me,
as you know.
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.
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,
under my protection.
That was in her mind.
I pretended I did not believe she was going to die.
I refused to fetch a priest for a dying woman.
Decoud was heard to stir.
His tone changed.
you know --it was rather fine."
"You do not believe in priests,
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,
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:
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,
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,
Very often they rested.
during one of those intervals when they lolled idly against the heavy handles of the sweeps.
"What is it?
Are you distressed,
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.
he whispered with awed wonder,
"I am certain that there is somebody weeping in this lighter."
Decoud had heard nothing.
He expressed his incredulity.
it was easy to ascertain the truth of the matter.
"It is most amazing,"
"Could anybody have concealed himself on board while the lighter was lying alongside the wharf?"
"And you say it was like sobbing?"
lowering his voice,
"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.
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.
to his immense astonishment,
recognized Senor Hirsch,
the hide merchant from Esmeralda.
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,
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,
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,
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.
Twice he stumbled upon the bodies of men killed during the day.
But everything living frightened him much more.
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,
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,
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.
Decoud held one of the cans to his lips.
He revived after an extraordinarily short time,
and scrambled up to his feet wildly.
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,
brings an element of treachery into a dangerous situation.
Nostromo's nervous impatience passed into gloomy thoughtfulness.
in an undertone,
as if speaking to himself,
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,
"I would think twice before getting rid of a piece of wood,"
"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.
there is no harm in a brave man trying to save himself with ingenuity and courage;
but you have heard his tale,
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,
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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,
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.
"how he would behave if I were not here."
He heard Nostromo mutter again,
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,
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,
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,
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?"
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.
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,
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 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,
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.
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,
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,
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,
advised the Capataz,
"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.
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,
Decoud began in a whisper.
you need not trouble.
There are other things than the fear of your knife to keep my heart steady.
It shall not betray you.
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,
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,"
"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,
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.
talkative resolution may be as genuine as grim silence.
"Sotillo is not baffled so far,"
"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.
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,"
"that in three strokes would cut through the side down to the water's edge.
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,
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 unsuspected by everyone,
had come to the surface.
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,
as the Capataz knew very well;
in his own way,
to put into that attempt all the desperation of which he was capable.
You are a politician,
Rejoin the army,
and start another revolution."
He pointed out,
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.
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,
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,
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,
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,
The darkness of the gulf was no longer for him the end of all things.
It was part of a living world since,
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.
you had not let the right moment pass,"
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?
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.
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,
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.
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,
was the real danger.
He was afraid that the darkness,
which was his protection,
in the end,
cause his undoing.
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,
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,
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.
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,
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.
he had his moments of ferocity,
and also on such occasions as,
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,
with a rude and jeering guffaw,
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."
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,
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.
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,
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,
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 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.
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,
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,
but the prospect of laying hands on so much wealth made them absurdly foolhardy,
at the same time,
The old major of the battalion,
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.
I have unmasked you,"
"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 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!
You Sulaco people are all in the pay of those foreigners.
You deserve to be run through the body with my sword."
tried to calm his indignation,
This is an appliance of the mariners,
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,
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,
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.
on the bridge,
muttered from time to time angrily to the captain.
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,"
The captain of the steamer made no answer,
for just then the mass of the Great Isabel loomed up darkly after a passing shower,
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.
not even if they rubbed sides with us,"
The rain began to fall again;
first like a wet mist,
then with a heavier touch,
thickening into a smart,
and the hiss and thump of the approaching steamer was coming extremely near.
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.
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,
felt only on board the smaller craft.
Even Nostromo himself thought that this was perhaps the end of his desperate adventure.
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,
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;
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,
for your life!
The steamer has stopped."
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.
make not the slightest sound."
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;
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.
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.
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,
The lighter yawed off wide,
and the steamer,
carried him away,
and shouting for help.
It was some time,
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.
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,
with the exception of the old major,
who triumphed gloomily.
"I told you;
I told you,"
"I could smell some treachery,
some diableria a league off."
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;
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,
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,
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,
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.
"I never forget a place I have carefully looked at once."
He spoke slowly,
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.
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,"
"You had no money,
to gamble with,
and to fling about amongst the girls in your usual haunts,
"_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,
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,
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.
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,
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,
No coach had gone up or down that mountain road within the memory of man,
till I brought this one down in charge of fifty peons working like one man with ropes,
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.
relieved of its precious burden,
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.
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,
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 displaced stones,
and even the broken bushes.
who would think of looking either for you or the treasure here?"
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,
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.
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,
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,
And silver is an incorruptible metal that can be trusted to keep its value for ever.
...An incorruptible metal,"
as if the idea had given him a profound pleasure.
"As some men are said to be,"
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.
incorrigible in his scepticism,
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,
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.
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,
...For the ladies."
"Your wonderful reputation will make them attach great value to your words;
therefore be careful what you say.
I am looking forward,"
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,
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,"
"There are very few things that I am not equal to.
Ask the foreign signori.
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?"
"It would be the same thing as taking you to Sulaco.
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,
"You could not have kept the lighter afloat without me,"
Decoud almost shouted.
"You would have gone to the bottom with her."
Here was a man,
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?"
"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,
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.
at the tiller,
looked back from time to time at the vanishing mass of the Great Isabel,
little by little,
merged into the uniform texture of the night.
when he turned his head again,
he saw nothing but a smooth darkness,
like a solid wall.
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.
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.
as a matter of fact,
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.
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,
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,
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.
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.
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.