A TALE OF THE SEABOARD
By Joseph Conrad
"So foul a sky clears not without a storm."
TO JOHN GALSWORTHY
"_Nostromo_" is the most anxiously meditated of the longer novels which belong to the period following upon the publication of the "Typhoon" volume of short stories.
I don't mean to say that I became then conscious of any impending change in my mentality and in my attitude towards the tasks of my writing life.
And perhaps there was never any change,
except in that mysterious,
extraneous thing which has nothing to do with the theories of art;
a subtle change in the nature of the inspiration;
a phenomenon for which I can not in any way be held responsible.
did cause me some concern was that after finishing the last story of the "Typhoon" volume it seemed somehow that there was nothing more in the world to write about.
This so strangely negative but disturbing mood lasted some little time;
as with many of my longer stories,
the first hint for "Nostromo" came to me in the shape of a vagrant anecdote completely destitute of valuable details.
As a matter of fact in 1875 or
when very young,
in the West Indies or rather in the Gulf of Mexico,
for my contacts with land were short,
I heard the story of some man who was supposed to have stolen single-handed a whole lighter-full of silver,
somewhere on the Tierra Firme seaboard during the troubles of a revolution.
On the face of it this was something of a feat.
But I heard no details,
and having no particular interest in crime qua crime I was not likely to keep that one in my mind.
And I forgot it till twenty-six or seven years afterwards I came upon the very thing in a shabby volume picked up outside a second-hand book-shop.
It was the life story of an American seaman written by himself with the assistance of a journalist.
In the course of his wanderings that American sailor worked for some months on board a schooner,
the master and owner of which was the thief of whom I had heard in my very young days.
I have no doubt of that because there could hardly have been two exploits of that peculiar kind in the same part of the world and both connected with a South American revolution.
The fellow had actually managed to steal a lighter with silver,
only because he was implicitly trusted by his employers,
who must have been singularly poor judges of character.
In the sailor's story he is represented as an unmitigated rascal,
a small cheat,
of mean appearance,
and altogether unworthy of the greatness this opportunity had thrust upon him.
What was interesting was that he would boast of it openly.
He used to say:
"People think I make a lot of money in this schooner of mine.
But that is nothing.
I don't care for that.
Now and then I go away quietly and lift a bar of silver.
I must get rich slowly --you understand."
There was also another curious point about the man.
Once in the course of some quarrel the sailor threatened him:
"What's to prevent me reporting ashore what you have told me about that silver?"
The cynical ruffian was not alarmed in the least.
He actually laughed.
if you dare talk like that on shore about me you will get a knife stuck in your back.
and child in that port is my friend.
And who's to prove the lighter wasn't sunk?
I didn't show you where the silver is hidden.
So you know nothing.
And suppose I lied?
Ultimately the sailor,
disgusted with the sordid meanness of that impenitent thief,
deserted from the schooner.
The whole episode takes about three pages of his autobiography.
Nothing to speak of;
but as I looked them over,
the curious confirmation of the few casual words heard in my early youth evoked the memories of that distant time when everything was so fresh,
bits of strange coasts under the stars,
shadows of hills in the sunshine,
men's passions in the dusk,
faces grown dim.
there still was in the world something to write about.
Yet I did not see anything at first in the mere story.
A rascal steals a large parcel of a valuable commodity --so people say.
It's either true or untrue;
and in any case it has no value in itself.
To invent a circumstantial account of the robbery did not appeal to me,
because my talents not running that way I did not think that the game was worth the candle.
It was only when it dawned upon me that the purloiner of the treasure need not necessarily be a confirmed rogue,
that he could be even a man of character,
an actor and possibly a victim in the changing scenes of a revolution,
it was only then that I had the first vision of a twilight country which was to become the province of Sulaco,
with its high shadowy Sierra and its misty Campo for mute witnesses of events flowing from the passions of men short-sighted in good and evil.
Such are in very truth the obscure origins of "Nostromo" --the book.
From that moment,
it had to be.
Yet even then I hesitated,
as if warned by the instinct of self-preservation from venturing on a distant and toilsome journey into a land full of intrigues and revolutions.
But it had to be done.
It took the best part of the years 1903-4 to do;
with many intervals of renewed hesitation,
lest I should lose myself in the ever-enlarging vistas opening before me as I progressed deeper in my knowledge of the country.
when I had thought myself to a standstill over the tangled-up affairs of the Republic,
pack my bag,
rush away from Sulaco for a change of air and write a few pages of the "Mirror of the Sea."
as I've said before,
my sojourn on the Continent of Latin America,
famed for its hospitality,
lasted for about two years.
On my return I found
(speaking somewhat in the style of Captain Gulliver)
my family all well,
my wife heartily glad to learn that the fuss was all over,
and our small boy considerably grown during my absence.
My principal authority for the history of Costaguana is,
my venerated friend,
the late Don Jose Avellanos,
Minister to the Courts of England and Spain,
in his impartial and eloquent "History of Fifty Years of Misrule."
That work was never published --the reader will discover why --and I am in fact the only person in the world possessed of its contents.
I have mastered them in not a few hours of earnest meditation,
and I hope that my accuracy will be trusted.
In justice to myself,
and to allay the fears of prospective readers,
I beg to point out that the few historical allusions are never dragged in for the sake of parading my unique erudition,
but that each of them is closely related to actuality;
either throwing a light on the nature of current events or affecting directly the fortunes of the people of whom I speak.
As to their own histories I have tried to set them down,
Aristocracy and People,
men and women,
Latin and Anglo-Saxon,
bandit and politician,
with as cool a hand as was possible in the heat and clash of my own conflicting emotions.
And after all this is also the story of their conflicts.
It is for the reader to say how far they are deserving of interest in their actions and in the secret purposes of their hearts revealed in the bitter necessities of the time.
I confess that,
that time is the time of firm friendships and unforgotten hospitalities.
And in my gratitude I must mention here Mrs. Gould,
"the first lady of Sulaco,"
whom we may safely leave to the secret devotion of Dr. Monygham,
and Charles Gould,
the Idealist-creator of Material Interests whom we must leave to his Mine --from which there is no escape in this world.
the second of the two racially and socially contrasted men,
both captured by the silver of the San Tome Mine,
I feel bound to say something more.
I did not hesitate to make that central figure an Italian.
First of all the thing is perfectly credible: Italians were swarming into the Occidental Province at the time,
as anybody who will read further can see;
there was no one who could stand so well by the side of Giorgio Viola the Garibaldino,
the Idealist of the old,
For myself I needed there a Man of the People as free as possible from his class-conventions and all settled modes of thinking.
This is not a side snarl at conventions.
My reasons were not moral but artistic.
Had he been an Anglo-Saxon he would have tried to get into local politics.
But Nostromo does not aspire to be a leader in a personal game.
He does not want to raise himself above the mass.
He is content to feel himself a power --within the People.
But mainly Nostromo is what he is because I received the inspiration for him in my early days from a Mediterranean sailor.
Those who have read certain pages of mine will see at once what I mean when I say that Dominic,
the padrone of the Tremolino,
might under given circumstances have been a Nostromo.
At any rate Dominic would have understood the younger man perfectly --if scornfully.
He and I were engaged together in a rather absurd adventure,
but the absurdity does not matter.
It is a real satisfaction to think that in my very young days there must,
have been something in me worthy to command that man's half-bitter fidelity,
his half-ironic devotion.
Many of Nostromo's speeches I have heard first in Dominic's voice.
His hand on the tiller and his fearless eyes roaming the horizon from within the monkish hood shadowing his face,
he would utter the usual exordium of his remorseless wisdom:
"_Vous autres gentilhommes!_" in a caustic tone that hangs on my ear yet.
"You _hombres finos!_" Very much like Nostromo.
But Dominic the Corsican nursed a certain pride of ancestry from which my Nostromo is free;
for Nostromo's lineage had to be more ancient still.
He is a man with the weight of countless generations behind him and no parentage to boast of.
...Like the People.
In his firm grip on the earth he inherits,
in his improvidence and generosity,
in his lavishness with his gifts,
in his manly vanity,
in the obscure sense of his greatness and in his faithful devotion with something despairing as well as desperate in its impulses,
he is a Man of the People,
their very own unenvious force,
disdaining to lead but ruling from within.
grown older as the famous Captain Fidanza,
with a stake in the country,
going about his many affairs followed by respectful glances in the modernized streets of Sulaco,
calling on the widow of the cargador,
attending the Lodge,
listening in unmoved silence to anarchist speeches at the meeting,
the enigmatical patron of the new revolutionary agitation,
the wealthy comrade Fidanza with the knowledge of his moral ruin locked up in his breast,
he remains essentially a Man of the People.
In his mingled love and scorn of life and in the bewildered conviction of having been betrayed,
of dying betrayed he hardly knows by what or by whom,
he is still of the People,
their undoubted Great Man --with a private history of his own.
One more figure of those stirring times I would like to mention: and that is Antonia Avellanos --the "beautiful Antonia."
Whether she is a possible variation of Latin-American girlhood I wouldn't dare to affirm.
Always a little in the background by the side of her father
(my venerated friend)
I hope she has yet relief enough to make intelligible what I am going to say.
Of all the people who had seen with me the birth of the Occidental Republic,
she is the only one who has kept in my memory the aspect of continued life.
Antonia the Aristocrat and Nostromo the Man of the People are the artisans of the New Era,
the true creators of the New State;
he by his legendary and daring feat,
like a woman,
simply by the force of what she is: the only being capable of inspiring a sincere passion in the heart of a trifler.
If anything could induce me to revisit Sulaco
(I should hate to see all these changes)
it would be Antonia.
And the true reason for that --why not be frank about it?
--the true reason is that I have modelled her on my first love.
a band of tallish schoolboys,
the chums of her two brothers,
how we used to look up to that girl just out of the schoolroom herself,
as the standard-bearer of a faith to which we all were born but which she alone knew how to hold aloft with an unflinching hope!
She had perhaps more glow and less serenity in her soul than Antonia,
but she was an uncompromising Puritan of patriotism with no taint of the slightest worldliness in her thoughts.
I was not the only one in love with her;
but it was I who had to hear oftenest her scathing criticism of my levities --very much like poor Decoud --or stand the brunt of her austere,
She did not quite understand --but never mind.
That afternoon when I came in,
a shrinking yet defiant sinner,
to say the final good-bye I received a hand-squeeze that made my heart leap and saw a tear that took my breath away.
She was softened at the last as though she had suddenly perceived
(we were such children still!)
that I was really going away for good,
going very far away --even as far as Sulaco,
hidden from our eyes in the darkness of the Placid Gulf.
That's why I long sometimes for another glimpse of the "beautiful Antonia"
(or can it be the Other?)
moving in the dimness of the great cathedral,
saying a short prayer at the tomb of the first and last Cardinal-Archbishop of Sulaco,
standing absorbed in filial devotion before the monument of Don Jose Avellanos,
with a lingering,
faithful glance at the medallion-memorial to Martin Decoud,
going out serenely into the sunshine of the Plaza with her upright carriage and her white head;
a relic of the past disregarded by men awaiting impatiently the Dawns of other New Eras,
the coming of more Revolutions.
But this is the idlest of dreams;
for I did understand perfectly well at the time that the moment the breath left the body of the Magnificent Capataz,
the Man of the People,
freed at last from the toils of love and wealth,
there was nothing more for me to do in Sulaco.
J. C. October,
PART FIRST THE SILVER OF THE MINE
PART SECOND THE ISABELS
PART THIRD THE LIGHTHOUSE
PART FIRST THE SILVER OF THE MINE
In the time of Spanish rule,
and for many years afterwards,
the town of Sulaco --the luxuriant beauty of the orange gardens bears witness to its antiquity --had never been commercially anything more important than a coasting port with a fairly large local trade in ox-hides and indigo.
The clumsy deep-sea galleons of the conquerors that,
needing a brisk gale to move at all,
would lie becalmed,
where your modern ship built on clipper lines forges ahead by the mere flapping of her sails,
had been barred out of Sulaco by the prevailing calms of its vast gulf.
Some harbours of the earth are made difficult of access by the treachery of sunken rocks and the tempests of their shores.
Sulaco had found an inviolable sanctuary from the temptations of a trading world in the solemn hush of the deep Golfo Placido as if within an enormous semi-circular and unroofed temple open to the ocean,
with its walls of lofty mountains hung with the mourning draperies of cloud.
On one side of this broad curve in the straight seaboard of the Republic of Costaguana,
the last spur of the coast range forms an insignificant cape whose name is Punta Mala.
From the middle of the gulf the point of the land itself is not visible at all;
but the shoulder of a steep hill at the back can be made out faintly like a shadow on the sky.
On the other side,
what seems to be an isolated patch of blue mist floats lightly on the glare of the horizon.
This is the peninsula of Azuera,
a wild chaos of sharp rocks and stony levels cut about by vertical ravines.
It lies far out to sea like a rough head of stone stretched from a green-clad coast at the end of a slender neck of sand covered with thickets of thorny scrub.
for the rainfall runs off at once on all sides into the sea,
it has not soil enough --it is said --to grow a single blade of grass,
as if it were blighted by a curse.
associating by an obscure instinct of consolation the ideas of evil and wealth,
will tell you that it is deadly because of its forbidden treasures.
The common folk of the neighbourhood,
peons of the estancias,
vaqueros of the seaboard plains,
tame Indians coming miles to market with a bundle of sugar-cane or a basket of maize worth about threepence,
are well aware that heaps of shining gold lie in the gloom of the deep precipices cleaving the stony levels of Azuera.
Tradition has it that many adventurers of olden time had perished in the search.
The story goes also that within men's memory two wandering sailors --Americanos,
but gringos of some sort for certain --talked over a gambling,
and the three stole a donkey to carry for them a bundle of dry sticks,
and provisions enough to last a few days.
and with revolvers at their belts,
they had started to chop their way with machetes through the thorny scrub on the neck of the peninsula.
On the second evening an upright spiral of smoke
(it could only have been from their camp-fire)
was seen for the first time within memory of man standing up faintly upon the sky above a razor-backed ridge on the stony head.
The crew of a coasting schooner,
lying becalmed three miles off the shore,
stared at it with amazement till dark.
A negro fisherman,
living in a lonely hut in a little bay near by,
had seen the start and was on the lookout for some sign.
He called to his wife just as the sun was about to set.
They had watched the strange portent with envy,
The impious adventurers gave no other sign.
and the stolen burro were never seen again.
As to the mozo,
a Sulaco man --his wife paid for some masses,
and the poor four-footed beast,
being without sin,
had been probably permitted to die;
but the two gringos,
spectral and alive,
are believed to be dwelling to this day amongst the rocks,
under the fatal spell of their success.
Their souls cannot tear themselves away from their bodies mounting guard over the discovered treasure.
They are now rich and hungry and thirsty --a strange theory of tenacious gringo ghosts suffering in their starved and parched flesh of defiant heretics,
where a Christian would have renounced and been released.
are the legendary inhabitants of Azuera guarding its forbidden wealth;
and the shadow on the sky on one side with the round patch of blue haze blurring the bright skirt of the horizon on the other,
mark the two outermost points of the bend which bears the name of Golfo Placido,
because never a strong wind had been known to blow upon its waters.
On crossing the imaginary line drawn from Punta Mala to Azuera the ships from Europe bound to Sulaco lose at once the strong breezes of the ocean.
They become the prey of capricious airs that play with them for thirty hours at a stretch sometimes.
Before them the head of the calm gulf is filled on most days of the year by a great body of motionless and opaque clouds.
On the rare clear mornings another shadow is cast upon the sweep of the gulf.
The dawn breaks high behind the towering and serrated wall of the Cordillera,
a clear-cut vision of dark peaks rearing their steep slopes on a lofty pedestal of forest rising from the very edge of the shore.
Amongst them the white head of Higuerota rises majestically upon the blue.
Bare clusters of enormous rocks sprinkle with tiny black dots the smooth dome of snow.
as the midday sun withdraws from the gulf the shadow of the mountains,
the clouds begin to roll out of the lower valleys.
They swathe in sombre tatters the naked crags of precipices above the wooded slopes,
hide the peaks,
smoke in stormy trails across the snows of Higuerota.
The Cordillera is gone from you as if it had dissolved itself into great piles of grey and black vapours that travel out slowly to seaward and vanish into thin air all along the front before the blazing heat of the day.
The wasting edge of the cloud-bank always strives for,
but seldom wins,
the middle of the gulf.
The sun --as the sailors say --is eating it up.
Unless perchance a sombre thunder-head breaks away from the main body to career all over the gulf till it escapes into the offing beyond Azuera,
where it bursts suddenly into flame and crashes like a sinster pirate-ship of the air,
hove-to above the horizon,
engaging the sea.
At night the body of clouds advancing higher up the sky smothers the whole quiet gulf below with an impenetrable darkness,
in which the sound of the falling showers can be heard beginning and ceasing abruptly --now here,
these cloudy nights are proverbial with the seamen along the whole west coast of a great continent.
and sea disappear together out of the world when the Placido --as the saying is --goes to sleep under its black poncho.
The few stars left below the seaward frown of the vault shine feebly as into the mouth of a black cavern.
In its vastness your ship floats unseen under your feet,
her sails flutter invisible above your head.
The eye of God Himself --they add with grim profanity --could not find out what work a man's hand is doing in there;
and you would be free to call the devil to your aid with impunity if even his malice were not defeated by such a blind darkness.
The shores on the gulf are steep-to all round;
three uninhabited islets basking in the sunshine just outside the cloud veil,
and opposite the entrance to the harbour of Sulaco,
bear the name of "The Isabels."
There is the Great Isabel;
the Little Isabel,
which is round;
which is the smallest.
That last is no more than a foot high,
and about seven paces across,
a mere flat top of a grey rock which smokes like a hot cinder after a shower,
and where no man would care to venture a naked sole before sunset.
On the Little Isabel an old ragged palm,
with a thick bulging trunk rough with spines,
a very witch amongst palm trees,
rustles a dismal bunch of dead leaves above the coarse sand.
The Great Isabel has a spring of fresh water issuing from the overgrown side of a ravine.
Resembling an emerald green wedge of land a mile long,
and laid flat upon the sea,
it bears two forest trees standing close together,
with a wide spread of shade at the foot of their smooth trunks.
A ravine extending the whole length of the island is full of bushes;
and presenting a deep tangled cleft on the high side spreads itself out on the other into a shallow depression abutting on a small strip of sandy shore.
From that low end of the Great Isabel the eye plunges through an opening two miles away,
as abrupt as if chopped with an axe out of the regular sweep of the coast,
right into the harbour of Sulaco.
It is an oblong,
lake-like piece of water.
On one side the short wooded spurs and valleys of the Cordillera come down at right angles to the very strand;
on the other the open view of the great Sulaco plain passes into the opal mystery of great distances overhung by dry haze.
The town of Sulaco itself --tops of walls,
a great cupola,
gleams of white miradors in a vast grove of orange trees --lies between the mountains and the plain,
at some little distance from its harbour and out of the direct line of sight from the sea.
The only sign of commercial activity within the harbour,
visible from the beach of the Great Isabel,
is the square blunt end of the wooden jetty which the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company
of familiar speech)
had thrown over the shallow part of the bay soon after they had resolved to make of Sulaco one of their ports of call for the Republic of Costaguana.
The State possesses several harbours on its long seaboard,
but except Cayta,
an important place,
all are either small and inconvenient inlets in an iron-bound coast --like Esmeralda,
sixty miles to the south --or else mere open roadsteads exposed to the winds and fretted by the surf.
Perhaps the very atmospheric conditions which had kept away the merchant fleets of bygone ages induced the O.S.N.
Company to violate the sanctuary of peace sheltering the calm existence of Sulaco.
The variable airs sporting lightly with the vast semicircle of waters within the head of Azuera could not baffle the steam power of their excellent fleet.
Year after year the black hulls of their ships had gone up and down the coast,
in and out,
past the Isabels,
past Punta Mala --disregarding everything but the tyranny of time.
the names of all mythology,
became the household words of a coast that had never been ruled by the gods of Olympus.
The Juno was known only for her comfortable cabins amidships,
the Saturn for the geniality of her captain and the painted and gilt luxuriousness of her saloon,
whereas the Ganymede was fitted out mainly for cattle transport,
and to be avoided by coastwise passengers.
The humblest Indian in the obscurest village on the coast was familiar with the Cerberus,
a little black puffer without charm or living accommodation to speak of,
whose mission was to creep inshore along the wooded beaches close to mighty ugly rocks,
stopping obligingly before every cluster of huts to collect produce,
down to three-pound parcels of indiarubber bound in a wrapper of dry grass.
And as they seldom failed to account for the smallest package,
rarely lost a bullock,
and had never drowned a single passenger,
the name of the O.S.N.
stood very high for trustworthiness.
People declared that under the Company's care their lives and property were safer on the water than in their own houses on shore.
The O.S.N.'s superintendent in Sulaco for the whole Costaguana section of the service was very proud of his Company's standing.
He resumed it in a saying which was very often on his lips,
"We never make mistakes."
To the Company's officers it took the form of a severe injunction,
"We must make no mistakes.
I'll have no mistakes here,
no matter what Smith may do at his end."
on whom he had never set eyes in his life,
was the other superintendent of the service,
quartered some fifteen hundred miles away from Sulaco.
"Don't talk to me of your Smith."
calming down suddenly,
he would dismiss the subject with studied negligence.
"Smith knows no more of this continent than a baby."
"Our excellent Senor Mitchell" for the business and official world of Sulaco;
"Fussy Joe" for the commanders of the Company's ships,
Captain Joseph Mitchell prided himself on his profound knowledge of men and things in the country --cosas de Costaguana.
Amongst these last he accounted as most unfavourable to the orderly working of his Company the frequent changes of government brought about by revolutions of the military type.
The political atmosphere of the Republic was generally stormy in these days.
The fugitive patriots of the defeated party had the knack of turning up again on the coast with half a steamer's load of small arms and ammunition.
Such resourcefulness Captain Mitchell considered as perfectly wonderful in view of their utter destitution at the time of flight.
He had observed that "they never seemed to have enough change about them to pay for their passage ticket out of the country."
And he could speak with knowledge;
for on a memorable occasion he had been called upon to save the life of a dictator,
together with the lives of a few Sulaco officials --the political chief,
the director of the customs,
and the head of police --belonging to an overturned government.
Poor Senor Ribiera
(such was the dictator's name)
had come pelting eighty miles over mountain tracks after the lost battle of Socorro,
in the hope of out-distancing the fatal news --which,
he could not manage to do on a lame mule.
expired under him at the end of the Alameda,
where the military band plays sometimes in the evenings between the revolutions.
Captain Mitchell would pursue with portentous gravity,
"the ill-timed end of that mule attracted attention to the unfortunate rider.
His features were recognized by several deserters from the Dictatorial army amongst the rascally mob already engaged in smashing the windows of the Intendencia."
Early on the morning of that day the local authorities of Sulaco had fled for refuge to the O.S.N.
a strong building near the shore end of the jetty,
leaving the town to the mercies of a revolutionary rabble;
and as the Dictator was execrated by the populace on account of the severe recruitment law his necessities had compelled him to enforce during the struggle,
he stood a good chance of being torn to pieces.
Nostromo --invaluable fellow --with some Italian workmen,
imported to work upon the National Central Railway,
was at hand,
and managed to snatch him away --for the time at least.
Captain Mitchell succeeded in taking everybody off in his own gig to one of the Company's steamers --it was the Minerva --just then,
as luck would have it,
entering the harbour.
He had to lower these gentlemen at the end of a rope out of a hole in the wall at the back,
while the mob which,
pouring out of the town,
had spread itself all along the shore,
howled and foamed at the foot of the building in front.
He had to hurry them then the whole length of the jetty;
it had been a desperate dash,
neck or nothing --and again it was Nostromo,
a fellow in a thousand,
at the head,
of the Company's body of lightermen,
held the jetty against the rushes of the rabble,
thus giving the fugitives time to reach the gig lying ready for them at the other end with the Company's flag at the stern.
Captain Mitchell exhibited willingly the long cicatrice of a cut over his left ear and temple,
made by a razor-blade fastened to a stick --a weapon,
very much in favour with the "worst kind of nigger out here."
Captain Mitchell was a thick,
pointed collars and short side-whiskers,
partial to white waistcoats,
and really very communicative under his air of pompous reserve.
he would say,
staring with great solemnity,
"had to run like rabbits,
I ran like a rabbit myself.
Certain forms of death are --er --distasteful to a --a --er --respectable man.
They would have pounded me to death,
A crazy mob,
does not discriminate.
Under providence we owed our preservation to my Capataz de Cargadores,
as they called him in the town,
a man who,
when I discovered his value,
was just the bos'n of an Italian ship,
a big Genoese ship,
one of the few European ships that ever came to Sulaco with a general cargo before the building of the National Central.
He left her on account of some very respectable friends he made here,
his own countrymen,
to better himself.
I am a pretty good judge of character.
I engaged him to be the foreman of our lightermen,
and caretaker of our jetty.
That's all that he was.
But without him Senor Ribiera would have been a dead man.
a man absolutely above reproach,
became the terror of all the thieves in the town.
We were infested,
here at that time by ladrones and matreros,
thieves and murderers from the whole province.
On this occasion they had been flocking into Sulaco for a week past.
They had scented the end,
Fifty per cent.
of that murdering mob were professional bandits from the Campo,
but there wasn't one that hadn't heard of Nostromo.
As to the town leperos,
the sight of his black whiskers and white teeth was enough for them.
They quailed before him,
That's what the force of character will do for you."
It could very well be said that it was Nostromo alone who saved the lives of these gentlemen.
on his part,
never left them till he had seen them collapse,
on the luxuriant velvet sofas in the first-class saloon of the Minerva.
To the very last he had been careful to address the ex-Dictator as "Your Excellency."
I could do no other.
The man was down --ghastly,
one mass of scratches."
The Minerva never let go her anchor that call.
The superintendent ordered her out of the harbour at once.
No cargo could be landed,
and the passengers for Sulaco naturally refused to go ashore.
They could hear the firing and see plainly the fight going on at the edge of the water.
The repulsed mob devoted its energies to an attack upon the Custom House,
unfinished-looking structure with many windows two hundred yards away from the O.S.N.
and the only other building near the harbour.
after directing the commander of the Minerva to land "these gentlemen" in the first port of call outside Costaguana,
went back in his gig to see what could be done for the protection of the Company's property.
That and the property of the railway were preserved by the European residents;
by Captain Mitchell himself and the staff of engineers building the road,
aided by the Italian and Basque workmen who rallied faithfully round their English chiefs.
The Company's lightermen,
natives of the Republic,
behaved very well under their Capataz.
An outcast lot of very mixed blood,
everlastingly at feud with the other customers of low grog shops in the town,
they embraced with delight this opportunity to settle their personal scores under such favourable auspices.
There was not one of them that had not,
at some time or other,
looked with terror at Nostromo's revolver poked very close at his face,
or been otherwise daunted by Nostromo's resolution.
He was "much of a man,"
their Capataz was,
too scornful in his temper ever to utter abuse,
a tireless taskmaster,
and the more to be feared because of his aloofness.
there he was that day,
at their head,
condescending to make jocular remarks to this man or the other.
Such leadership was inspiriting,
and in truth all the harm the mob managed to achieve was to set fire to one --only one --stack of railway-sleepers,
The main attack on the railway yards,
on the O.S.N.
and especially on the Custom House,
whose strong room,
it was well known,
contained a large treasure in silver ingots,
Even the little hotel kept by old Giorgio,
standing alone halfway between the harbour and the town,
escaped looting and destruction,
not by a miracle,
but because with the safes in view they had neglected it at first,
and afterwards found no leisure to stop.
with his Cargadores,
was pressing them too hard then.
It might have been said that there he was only protecting his own.
From the first he had been admitted to live in the intimacy of the family of the hotel-keeper who was a countryman of his.
Old Giorgio Viola,
a Genoese with a shaggy white leonine head --often called simply "the Garibaldino"
(as Mohammedans are called after their prophet)
to use Captain Mitchell's own words,
the "respectable married friend" by whose advice Nostromo had left his ship to try for a run of shore luck in Costaguana.
The old man,
full of scorn for the populace,
as your austere republican so often is,
had disregarded the preliminary sounds of trouble.
He went on that day as usual pottering about the "casa" in his slippers,
muttering angrily to himself his contempt of the non-political nature of the riot,
and shrugging his shoulders.
In the end he was taken unawares by the out-rush of the rabble.
It was too late then to remove his family,
where could he have run to with the portly Signora Teresa and two little girls on that great plain?
barricading every opening,
the old man sat down sternly in the middle of the darkened cafe with an old shot-gun on his knees.
His wife sat on another chair by his side,
muttering pious invocations to all the saints of the calendar.
The old republican did not believe in saints,
or in prayers,
or in what he called "priest's religion."
Liberty and Garibaldi were his divinities;
but he tolerated "superstition" in women,
preserving in these matters a lofty and silent attitude.
His two girls,
the eldest fourteen,
and the other two years younger,
crouched on the sanded floor,
on each side of the Signora Teresa,
with their heads on their mother's lap,
but each in her own way,
the dark-haired Linda indignant and angry,
the fair Giselle,
bewildered and resigned.
The Patrona removed her arms,
which embraced her daughters,
for a moment to cross herself and wring her hands hurriedly.
She moaned a little louder.
why art thou not here?
why art thou not here?"
She was not then invoking the saint himself,
but calling upon Nostromo,
whose patron he was.
motionless on the chair by her side,
would be provoked by these reproachful and distracted appeals.
Where's the sense of it?
There's his duty,"
he murmured in the dark;
and she would retort,
I have no patience.
What of the woman who has been like a mother to him?
I bent my knee to him this morning;
don't you go out,
Gian' Battista --stop in the house,
Battistino --look at those two little innocent children!"
Mrs. Viola was an Italian,
a native of Spezzia,
and though considerably younger than her husband,
She had a handsome face,
whose complexion had turned yellow because the climate of Sulaco did not suit her at all.
Her voice was a rich contralto.
with her arms folded tight under her ample bosom,
she scolded the squat,
thick-legged China girls handling linen,
pounding corn in wooden mortars amongst the mud outbuildings at the back of the house,
she could bring out such an impassioned,
sepulchral note that the chained watch-dog bolted into his kennel with a great rattle.
a cinnamon-coloured mulatto with a sprouting moustache and thick,
would stop sweeping the cafe with a broom of palm-leaves to let a gentle shudder run down his spine.
His languishing almond eyes would remain closed for a long time.
This was the staff of the Casa Viola,
but all these people had fled early that morning at the first sounds of the riot,
preferring to hide on the plain rather than trust themselves in the house;
a preference for which they were in no way to blame,
whether true or not,
it was generally believed in the town that the Garibaldino had some money buried under the clay floor of the kitchen.
barked violently and whined plaintively in turns at the back,
running in and out of his kennel as rage or fear prompted him.
Bursts of great shouting rose and died away,
like wild gusts of wind on the plain round the barricaded house;
the fitful popping of shots grew louder above the yelling.
Sometimes there were intervals of unaccountable stillness outside,
and nothing could have been more gaily peaceful than the narrow bright lines of sunlight from the cracks in the shutters,
ruled straight across the cafe over the disarranged chairs and tables to the wall opposite.
Old Giorgio had chosen that bare,
whitewashed room for a retreat.
It had only one window,
and its only door swung out upon the track of thick dust fenced by aloe hedges between the harbour and the town,
where clumsy carts used to creak along behind slow yokes of oxen guided by boys on horseback.
In a pause of stillness Giorgio cocked his gun.
The ominous sound wrung a low moan from the rigid figure of the woman sitting by his side.
A sudden outbreak of defiant yelling quite near the house sank all at once to a confused murmur of growls.
Somebody ran along;
the loud catching of his breath was heard for an instant passing the door;
there were hoarse mutters and footsteps near the wall;
a shoulder rubbed against the shutter,
effacing the bright lines of sunshine pencilled across the whole breadth of the room.
Signora Teresa's arms thrown about the kneeling forms of her daughters embraced them closer with a convulsive pressure.
driven away from the Custom House,
had broken up into several bands,
retreating across the plain in the direction of the town.
The subdued crash of irregular volleys fired in the distance was answered by faint yells far away.
In the intervals the single shots rang feebly,
and the low,
white building blinded in every window seemed to be the centre of a turmoil widening in a great circle about its closed-up silence.
But the cautious movements and whispers of a routed party seeking a momentary shelter behind the wall made the darkness of the room,
striped by threads of quiet sunlight,
alight with evil,
The Violas had them in their ears as though invisible ghosts hovering about their chairs had consulted in mutters as to the advisability of setting fire to this foreigner's casa.
It was trying to the nerves.
Old Viola had risen slowly,
gun in hand,
for he did not see how he could prevent them.
Already voices could be heard talking at the back.
Signora Teresa was beside herself with terror.
"Now we are going to be burnt;
and I bent my knee to him.
he must run at the heels of his English."
She seemed to think that Nostromo's mere presence in the house would have made it perfectly safe.
was under the spell of that reputation the Capataz de Cargadores had made for himself by the waterside,
along the railway line,
with the English and with the populace of Sulaco.
To his face,
and even against her husband,
she invariably affected to laugh it to scorn,
more often with a curious bitterness.
But then women are unreasonable in their opinions,
as Giorgio used to remark calmly on fitting occasions.
On this occasion,
with his gun held at ready before him,
he stooped down to his wife's head,
keeping his eyes steadfastly on the barricaded door,
he breathed out into her ear that Nostromo would have been powerless to help.
What could two men shut up in a house do against twenty or more bent upon setting fire to the roof?
Gian' Battista was thinking of the casa all the time,
he was sure.
"He think of the casa!
gasped Signora Viola,
She struck her breast with her open hands.
"I know him.
He thinks of nobody but himself."
A discharge of firearms near by made her throw her head back and close her eyes.
Old Giorgio set his teeth hard under his white moustache,
and his eyes began to roll fiercely.
Several bullets struck the end of the wall together;
pieces of plaster could be heard falling outside;
a voice screamed "Here they come!"
and after a moment of uneasy silence there was a rush of running feet along the front.
Then the tension of old Giorgio's attitude relaxed,
and a smile of contemptuous relief came upon his lips of an old fighter with a leonine face.
These were not a people striving for justice,
Even to defend his life against them was a sort of degradation for a man who had been one of Garibaldi's immortal thousand in the conquest of Sicily.
He had an immense scorn for this outbreak of scoundrels and leperos,
who did not know the meaning of the word "liberty."
He grounded his old gun,
turning his head,
glanced at the coloured lithograph of Garibaldi in a black frame on the white wall;
a thread of strong sunshine cut it perpendicularly.
accustomed to the luminous twilight,
made out the high colouring of the face,
the red of the shirt,
the outlines of the square shoulders,
the black patch of the Bersagliere hat with cock's feathers curling over the crown.
An immortal hero!
This was your liberty;
it gave you not only life,
but immortality as well!
For that one man his fanaticism had suffered no diminution.
In the moment of relief from the apprehension of the greatest danger,
his family had been exposed to in all their wanderings,
he had turned to the picture of his old chief,
first and only,
then laid his hand on his wife's shoulder.
The children kneeling on the floor had not moved.
Signora Teresa opened her eyes a little,
as though he had awakened her from a very deep and dreamless slumber.
Before he had time in his deliberate way to say a reassuring word she jumped up,
with the children clinging to her,
one on each side,
gasped for breath,
and let out a hoarse shriek.
It was simultaneous with the bang of a violent blow struck on the outside of the shutter.
They could hear suddenly the snorting of a horse,
the restive tramping of hoofs on the narrow,
hard path in front of the house;
the toe of a boot struck at the shutter again;
a spur jingled at every blow,
and an excited voice shouted,
All the morning Nostromo had kept his eye from afar on the Casa Viola,
even in the thick of the hottest scrimmage near the Custom House.
"If I see smoke rising over there,"
he thought to himself,
"they are lost."
Directly the mob had broken he pressed with a small band of Italian workmen in that direction,
was the shortest line towards the town.
That part of the rabble he was pursuing seemed to think of making a stand under the house;
a volley fired by his followers from behind an aloe hedge made the rascals fly.
In a gap chopped out for the rails of the harbour branch line Nostromo appeared,
mounted on his silver-grey mare.
sent after them one shot from his revolver,
and galloped up to the cafe window.
He had an idea that old Giorgio would choose that part of the house for a refuge.
His voice had penetrated to them,
sounding breathlessly hurried:
Is it all well with you in there?"
"You see --" murmured old Viola to his wife.
Signora Teresa was silent now.
Outside Nostromo laughed.
"I can hear the padrona is not dead."
"You have done your best to kill me with fear,"
cried Signora Teresa.
She wanted to say something more,
but her voice failed her.
Linda raised her eyes to her face for a moment,
but old Giorgio shouted apologetically --
"She is a little upset."
Outside Nostromo shouted back with another laugh --
"She cannot upset me."
Signora Teresa found her voice.
"It is what I say.
You have no heart --and you have no conscience,
Gian' Battista --"
They heard him wheel his horse away from the shutters.
The party he led were babbling excitedly in Italian and Spanish,
inciting each other to the pursuit.
He put himself at their head,
"He has not stopped very long with us.
There is no praise from strangers to be got here,"
Signora Teresa said tragically.
That is all he cares for.
To be first somewhere --somehow --to be first with these English.
They will be showing him to everybody.
'This is our Nostromo!'" She laughed ominously.
"What a name!
What is that?
He would take a name that is properly no word from them."
with tranquil movements,
had been unfastening the door;
the flood of light fell on Signora Teresa,
with her two girls gathered to her side,
a picturesque woman in a pose of maternal exaltation.
Behind her the wall was dazzlingly white,
and the crude colours of the Garibaldi lithograph paled in the sunshine.
at the door,
moved his arm upwards as if referring all his quick,
fleeting thoughts to the picture of his old chief on the wall.
Even when he was cooking for the "Signori Inglesi" --the engineers
(he was a famous cook,
though the kitchen was a dark place)
as it were,
under the eye of the great man who had led him in a glorious struggle where,
under the walls of Gaeta,
tyranny would have expired for ever had it not been for that accursed Piedmontese race of kings and ministers.
When sometimes a frying-pan caught fire during a delicate operation with some shredded onions,
and the old man was seen backing out of the doorway,
swearing and coughing violently in an acrid cloud of smoke,
the name of Cavour --the arch intriguer sold to kings and tyrants --could be heard involved in imprecations against the China girls,
cooking in general,
and the brute of a country where he was reduced to live for the love of liberty that traitor had strangled.
Then Signora Teresa,
all in black,
issuing from another door,
portly and anxious,
inclining her fine,
opening her arms,
and crying in a profound tone --
thou passionate man!
In the sun like this!
He will make himself ill."
At her feet the hens made off in all directions,
with immense strides;
if there were any engineers from up the line staying in Sulaco,
a young English face or two would appear at the billiard-room occupying one end of the house;
but at the other end,
in the cafe,
took good care not to show himself.
The Indian girls,
with hair like flowing black manes,
and dressed only in a shift and short petticoat,
stared dully from under the square-cut fringes on their foreheads;
the noisy frizzling of fat had stopped,
the fumes floated upwards in sunshine,
a strong smell of burnt onions hung in the drowsy heat,
enveloping the house;
and the eye lost itself in a vast flat expanse of grass to the west,
as if the plain between the Sierra overtopping Sulaco and the coast range away there towards Esmeralda had been as big as half the world.
after an impressive pause,
Leave Cavour alone and take care of yourself now we are lost in this country all alone with the two children,
because you cannot live under a king."
And while she looked at him she would sometimes put her hand hastily to her side with a short twitch of her fine lips and a knitting of her black,
straight eyebrows like a flicker of angry pain or an angry thought on her handsome,
It was pain;
she suppressed the twinge.
It had come to her first a few years after they had left Italy to emigrate to America and settle at last in Sulaco after wandering from town to town,
trying shopkeeping in a small way here and there;
and once an organized enterprise of fishing --in Maldonado --for Giorgio,
like the great Garibaldi,
had been a sailor in his time.
Sometimes she had no patience with pain.
For years its gnawing had been part of the landscape embracing the glitter of the harbour under the wooded spurs of the range;
and the sunshine itself was heavy and dull --heavy with pain --not like the sunshine of her girlhood,
in which middle-aged Giorgio had wooed her gravely and passionately on the shores of the gulf of Spezzia.
"You go in at once,
"One would think you do not wish to have any pity on me --with four Signori Inglesi staying in the house."
Giorgio would mutter.
The Signori Inglesi would require their midday meal presently.
He had been one of the immortal and invincible band of liberators who had made the mercenaries of tyranny fly like chaff before a hurricane,
"_un uragano terribile_."
But that was before he was married and had children;
and before tyranny had reared its head again amongst the traitors who had imprisoned Garibaldi,
There were three doors in the front of the house,
and each afternoon the Garibaldino could be seen at one or another of them with his big bush of white hair,
his arms folded,
his legs crossed,
leaning back his leonine head against the side,
and looking up the wooded slopes of the foothills at the snowy dome of Higuerota.
The front of his house threw off a black long rectangle of shade,
broadening slowly over the soft ox-cart track.
Through the gaps,
chopped out in the oleander hedges,
the harbour branch railway,
laid out temporarily on the level of the plain,
curved away its shining parallel ribbons on a belt of scorched and withered grass within sixty yards of the end of the house.
In the evening the empty material trains of flat cars circled round the dark green grove of Sulaco,
undulating slightly with white jets of steam,
over the plain towards the Casa Viola,
on their way to the railway yards by the harbour.
The Italian drivers saluted him from the foot-plate with raised hand,
while the negro brakesmen sat carelessly on the brakes,
looking straight forward,
with the rims of their big hats flapping in the wind.
In return Giorgio would give a slight sideways jerk of the head,
without unfolding his arms.
On this memorable day of the riot his arms were not folded on his chest.
His hand grasped the barrel of the gun grounded on the threshold;
he did not look up once at the white dome of Higuerota,
whose cool purity seemed to hold itself aloof from a hot earth.
His eyes examined the plain curiously.
Tall trails of dust subsided here and there.
In a speckless sky the sun hung clear and blinding.
Knots of men ran headlong;
others made a stand;
and the irregular rattle of firearms came rippling to his ears in the fiery,
Single figures on foot raced desperately.
Horsemen galloped towards each other,
wheeled round together,
separated at speed.
Giorgio saw one fall,
rider and horse disappearing as if they had galloped into a chasm,
and the movements of the animated scene were like the passages of a violent game played upon the plain by dwarfs mounted and on foot,
yelling with tiny throats,
under the mountain that seemed a colossal embodiment of silence.
Never before had Giorgio seen this bit of plain so full of active life;
his gaze could not take in all its details at once;
he shaded his eyes with his hand,
till suddenly the thundering of many hoofs near by startled him.
A troop of horses had broken out of the fenced paddock of the Railway Company.
They came on like a whirlwind,
and dashed over the line snorting,
squealing in a compact,
tossing mob of bay,
long tails streaming.
As soon as they had leaped upon the road the thick dust flew upwards from under their hoofs,
and within six yards of Giorgio only a brown cloud with vague forms of necks and cruppers rolled by,
making the soil tremble on its passage.
turning his face away from the dust,
and shaking his head slightly.
"There will be some horse-catching to be done before to-night,"
In the square of sunlight falling through the door Signora Teresa,
kneeling before the chair,
had bowed her head,
heavy with a twisted mass of ebony hair streaked with silver,
into the palm of her hands.
The black lace shawl she used to drape about her face had dropped to the ground by her side.
The two girls had got up,
in short skirts,
their loose hair falling in disorder.
The younger had thrown her arm across her eyes,
as if afraid to face the light.
with her hand on the other's shoulder,
Viola looked at his children.
The sun brought out the deep lines on his face,
energetic in expression,
it had the immobility of a carving.
It was impossible to discover what he thought.
Bushy grey eyebrows shaded his dark glance.
And do you not pray like your mother?"
advancing her red lips,
which were almost too red;
but she had admirable eyes,
with a sparkle of gold in the irises,
full of intelligence and meaning,
and so clear that they seemed to throw a glow upon her thin,
There were bronze glints in the sombre clusters of her hair,
and the eyelashes,
long and coal black,
made her complexion appear still more pale.
"Mother is going to offer up a lot of candles in the church.
She always does when Nostromo has been away fighting.
I shall have some to carry up to the Chapel of the Madonna in the Cathedral."
She said all this quickly,
with great assurance,
in an animated,
giving her sister's shoulder a slight shake,
she added --
"And she will be made to carry one,
"Does she not want to?"
"She is timid,"
with a little burst of laughter.
"People notice her fair hair as she goes along with us.
They call out after her,
'Look at the Rubia!
Look at the Rubiacita!'
They call out in the streets.
She is timid."
You are not timid --eh?"
the father pronounced,
She tossed back all her dark hair.
"Nobody calls out after me."
Old Giorgio contemplated his children thoughtfully.
There was two years difference between them.
They had been born to him late,
years after the boy had died.
Had he lived he would have been nearly as old as Gian' Battista --he whom the English called Nostromo;
but as to his daughters,
the severity of his temper,
his advancing age,
his absorption in his memories,
had prevented his taking much notice of them.
He loved his children,
but girls belong more to the mother,
and much of his affection had been expended in the worship and service of liberty.
When quite a youth he had deserted from a ship trading to La Plata,
to enlist in the navy of Montevideo,
then under the command of Garibaldi.
in the Italian legion of the Republic struggling against the encroaching tyranny of Rosas,
he had taken part,
on great plains,
on the banks of immense rivers,
in the fiercest fighting perhaps the world had ever known.
He had lived amongst men who had declaimed about liberty,
suffered for liberty,
died for liberty,
with a desperate exaltation,
and with their eyes turned towards an oppressed Italy.
His own enthusiasm had been fed on scenes of carnage,
on the examples of lofty devotion,
on the din of armed struggle,
on the inflamed language of proclamations.
He had never parted from the chief of his choice --the fiery apostle of independence --keeping by his side in America and in Italy till after the fatal day of Aspromonte,
when the treachery of kings,
and ministers had been revealed to the world in the wounding and imprisonment of his hero --a catastrophe that had instilled into him a gloomy doubt of ever being able to understand the ways of Divine justice.
He did not deny it,
It required patience,
he would say.
Though he disliked priests,
and would not put his foot inside a church for anything,
he believed in God.
Were not the proclamations against tyrants addressed to the peoples in the name of God and liberty?
"God for men --religions for women,"
he muttered sometimes.
an Englishman who had turned up in Palermo after its evacuation by the army of the king,
had given him a Bible in Italian --the publication of the British and Foreign Bible Society,
bound in a dark leather cover.
In periods of political adversity,
in the pauses of silence when the revolutionists issued no proclamations,
Giorgio earned his living with the first work that came to hand --as sailor,
as dock labourer on the quays of Genoa,
once as a hand on a farm in the hills above Spezzia --and in his spare time he studied the thick volume.
He carried it with him into battles.
Now it was his only reading,
and in order not to be deprived of it
(the print was small)
he had consented to accept the present of a pair of silver-mounted spectacles from Senora Emilia Gould,
the wife of the Englishman who managed the silver mine in the mountains three leagues from the town.
She was the only Englishwoman in Sulaco.
Giorgio Viola had a great consideration for the English.
born on the battlefields of Uruguay,
was forty years old at the very least.
Several of them had poured their blood for the cause of freedom in America,
and the first he had ever known he remembered by the name of Samuel;
he commanded a negro company under Garibaldi,
during the famous siege of Montevideo,
and died heroically with his negroes at the fording of the Boyana.
had reached the rank of ensign-alferez-and cooked for the general.
with the rank of lieutenant,
rode with the staff and still cooked for the general.
He had cooked for him in Lombardy through the whole campaign;
on the march to Rome he had lassoed his beef in the Campagna after the American manner;
he had been wounded in the defence of the Roman Republic;
he was one of the four fugitives who,
with the general,
carried out of the woods the inanimate body of the general's wife into the farmhouse where she died,
exhausted by the hardships of that terrible retreat.
He had survived that disastrous time to attend his general in Palermo when the Neapolitan shells from the castle crashed upon the town.
He had cooked for him on the field of Volturno after fighting all day.
And everywhere he had seen Englishmen in the front rank of the army of freedom.
He respected their nation because they loved Garibaldi.
Their very countesses and princesses had kissed the general's hands in London,
it was said.
He could well believe it;
for the nation was noble,
and the man was a saint.
It was enough to look once at his face to see the divine force of faith in him and his great pity for all that was poor,
and oppressed in this world.
The spirit of self-forgetfulness,
the simple devotion to a vast humanitarian idea which inspired the thought and stress of that revolutionary time,
had left its mark upon Giorgio in a sort of austere contempt for all personal advantage.
whom the lowest class in Sulaco suspected of having a buried hoard in his kitchen,
had all his life despised money.
The leaders of his youth had lived poor,
had died poor.
It had been a habit of his mind to disregard to-morrow.
It was engendered partly by an existence of excitement,
and wild warfare.
But mostly it was a matter of principle.
It did not resemble the carelessness of a condottiere,
it was a puritanism of conduct,
born of stern enthusiasm like the puritanism of religion.
This stern devotion to a cause had cast a gloom upon Giorgio's old age.
It cast a gloom because the cause seemed lost.
Too many kings and emperors flourished yet in the world which God had meant for the people.
He was sad because of his simplicity.
Though always ready to help his countrymen,
and greatly respected by the Italian emigrants wherever he lived
(in his exile he called it),
he could not conceal from himself that they cared nothing for the wrongs of down-trodden nations.
They listened to his tales of war readily,
but seemed to ask themselves what he had got out of it after all.
There was nothing that they could see.
"We wanted nothing,
we suffered for the love of all humanity!"
he cried out furiously sometimes,
and the powerful voice,
the blazing eyes,
the shaking of the white mane,
sinewy hand pointing upwards as if to call heaven to witness,
impressed his hearers.
After the old man had broken off abruptly with a jerk of the head and a movement of the arm,
"But what's the good of talking to you?"
they nudged each other.
There was in old Giorgio an energy of feeling,
a personal quality of conviction,
something they called "terribilita" --"an old lion,"
they used to say of him.
Some slight incident,
a chance word would set him off talking on the beach to the Italian fishermen of Maldonado,
in the little shop he kept afterwards
to his countrymen customers;
of an evening,
in the cafe at one end of the Casa Viola
(the other was reserved for the English engineers)
to the select clientele of engine-drivers and foremen of the railway shops.
With their handsome,
shiny black ringlets,
sometimes a tiny gold ring in the lobe of the ear,
the aristocracy of the railway works listened to him,
turning away from their cards or dominoes.
Here and there a fair-haired Basque studied his hand meantime,
waiting without protest.
No native of Costaguana intruded there.
This was the Italian stronghold.
Even the Sulaco policemen on a night patrol let their horses pace softly by,
bending low in the saddle to glance through the window at the heads in a fog of smoke;
and the drone of old Giorgio's declamatory narrative seemed to sink behind them into the plain.
Only now and then the assistant of the chief of police,
brown little gentleman,
with a great deal of Indian in him,
would put in an appearance.
Leaving his man outside with the horses he advanced with a confident,
and without a word up to the long trestle table.
He pointed to one of the bottles on the shelf;
thrusting his pipe into his mouth abruptly,
served him in person.
Nothing would be heard but the slight jingle of the spurs.
His glass emptied,
he would take a leisurely,
scrutinizing look all round the room,
and ride away slowly,
circling towards the town.
In this way only was the power of the local authorities vindicated amongst the great body of strong-limbed foreigners who dug the earth,
blasted the rocks,
drove the engines for the "progressive and patriotic undertaking."
In these very words eighteen months before the Excellentissimo Senor don Vincente Ribiera,
the Dictator of Costaguana,
had described the National Central Railway in his great speech at the turning of the first sod.
He had come on purpose to Sulaco,
and there was a one-o'clock dinner-party,
a convite offered by the O.S.N.
Company on board the Juno after the function on shore.
Captain Mitchell had himself steered the cargo lighter,
all draped with flags,
in tow of the Juno's steam launch,
took the Excellentissimo from the jetty to the ship.
Everybody of note in Sulaco had been invited --the one or two foreign merchants,
all the representatives of the old Spanish families then in town,
the great owners of estates on the plain,
caballeros of pure descent,
with small hands and feet,
The Occidental Province was their stronghold;
their Blanco party had triumphed now;
it was their President-Dictator,
a Blanco of the Blancos,
who sat smiling urbanely between the representatives of two friendly foreign powers.
They had come with him from Sta. Marta to countenance by their presence the enterprise in which the capital of their countries was engaged.
The only lady of that company was Mrs. Gould,
the wife of Don Carlos,
the administrator of the San Tome silver mine.
The ladies of Sulaco were not advanced enough to take part in the public life to that extent.
They had come out strongly at the great ball at the Intendencia the evening before,
but Mrs. Gould alone had appeared,
a bright spot in the group of black coats behind the President-Dictator,
on the crimson cloth-covered stage erected under a shady tree on the shore of the harbour,
where the ceremony of turning the first sod had taken place.
She had come off in the cargo lighter,
full of notabilities,
sitting under the flutter of gay flags,
in the place of honour by the side of Captain Mitchell,
and her clear dress gave the only truly festive note to the sombre gathering in the long,
gorgeous saloon of the Juno.
The head of the chairman of the railway board
handsome and pale in a silvery mist of white hair and clipped beard,
hovered near her shoulder attentive,
The journey from London to Sta. Marta in mail boats and the special carriages of the Sta. Marta coast-line
(the only railway so far)
had been tolerable --even pleasant --quite tolerable.
But the trip over the mountains to Sulaco was another sort of experience,
in an old diligencia over impassable roads skirting awful precipices.
"We have been upset twice in one day on the brink of very deep ravines,"
he was telling Mrs. Gould in an undertone.
"And when we arrived here at last I don't know what we should have done without your hospitality.
What an out-of-the-way place Sulaco is!
--and for a harbour,
but we are very proud of it.
It used to be historically important.
The highest ecclesiastical court for two viceroyalties,
sat here in the olden time,"
she instructed him with animation.
"I am impressed.
I didn't mean to be disparaging.
You seem very patriotic."
"The place is lovable,
if only by its situation.
Perhaps you don't know what an old resident I am."
looking at her with a slight smile.
Mrs. Gould's appearance was made youthful by the mobile intelligence of her face.
"We can't give you your ecclesiastical court back again;
but you shall have more steamers,
a telegraph-cable --a future in the great world which is worth infinitely more than any amount of ecclesiastical past.
You shall be brought in touch with something greater than two viceroyalties.
But I had no notion that a place on a sea-coast could remain so isolated from the world.
If it had been a thousand miles inland now --most remarkable!
Has anything ever happened here for a hundred years before to-day?"
While he talked in a slow,
she kept her little smile.
she assured him that certainly not --nothing ever happened in Sulaco.
Even the revolutions,
of which there had been two in her time,
had respected the repose of the place.
Their course ran in the more populous southern parts of the Republic,
and the great valley of Sta. Marta,
which was like one great battlefield of the parties,
with the possession of the capital for a prize and an outlet to another ocean.
They were more advanced over there.
Here in Sulaco they heard only the echoes of these great questions,
their official world changed each time,
coming to them over their rampart of mountains which he himself had traversed in an old diligencia,
with such a risk to life and limb.
The chairman of the railway had been enjoying her hospitality for several days,
and he was really grateful for it.
It was only since he had left Sta. Marta that he had utterly lost touch with the feeling of European life on the background of his exotic surroundings.
In the capital he had been the guest of the Legation,
and had been kept busy negotiating with the members of Don Vincente's Government --cultured men,
men to whom the conditions of civilized business were not unknown.
What concerned him most at the time was the acquisition of land for the railway.
In the Sta. Marta Valley,
where there was already one line in existence,
the people were tractable,
and it was only a matter of price.
A commission had been nominated to fix the values,
and the difficulty resolved itself into the judicious influencing of the Commissioners.
But in Sulaco --the Occidental Province for whose very development the railway was intended --there had been trouble.
It had been lying for ages ensconced behind its natural barriers,
repelling modern enterprise by the precipices of its mountain range,
by its shallow harbour opening into the everlasting calms of a gulf full of clouds,
by the benighted state of mind of the owners of its fertile territory --all these aristocratic old Spanish families,
all those Don Ambrosios this and Don Fernandos that,
who seemed actually to dislike and distrust the coming of the railway over their lands.
It had happened that some of the surveying parties scattered all over the province had been warned off with threats of violence.
In other cases outrageous pretensions as to price had been raised.
But the man of railways prided himself on being equal to every emergency.
Since he was met by the inimical sentiment of blind conservatism in Sulaco he would meet it by sentiment,
before taking his stand on his right alone.
The Government was bound to carry out its part of the contract with the board of the new railway company,
even if it had to use force for the purpose.
But he desired nothing less than an armed disturbance in the smooth working of his plans.
They were much too vast and far-reaching,
and too promising to leave a stone unturned;
and so he imagined to get the President-Dictator over there on a tour of ceremonies and speeches,
culminating in a great function at the turning of the first sod by the harbour shore.
After all he was their own creature --that Don Vincente.
He was the embodied triumph of the best elements in the State.
These were facts,
unless facts meant nothing,
Sir John argued to himself,
such a man's influence must be real,
and his personal action would produce the conciliatory effect he required.
He had succeeded in arranging the trip with the help of a very clever advocate,
who was known in Sta. Marta as the agent of the Gould silver mine,
the biggest thing in Sulaco,
and even in the whole Republic.
It was indeed a fabulously rich mine.
Its so-called agent,
evidently a man of culture and ability,
without official position,
to possess an extraordinary influence in the highest Government spheres.
He was able to assure Sir John that the President-Dictator would make the journey.
in the course of the same conversation,
that General Montero insisted upon going,
whom the beginning of the struggle had found an obscure army captain employed on the wild eastern frontier of the State,
had thrown in his lot with the Ribiera party at a moment when special circumstances had given that small adhesion a fortuitous importance.
The fortunes of war served him marvellously,
and the victory of Rio Seco
(after a day of desperate fighting)
put a seal to his success.
At the end he emerged General,
Minister of War,
and the military head of the Blanco party,
although there was nothing aristocratic in his descent.
it was said that he and his brother,
had been brought up by the munificence of a famous European traveller,
in whose service their father had lost his life.
Another story was that their father had been nothing but a charcoal burner in the woods,
and their mother a baptised Indian woman from the far interior.
However that might be,
the Costaguana Press was in the habit of styling Montero's forest march from his commandancia to join the Blanco forces at the beginning of the troubles,
the "most heroic military exploit of modern times."
About the same time,
his brother had turned up from Europe,
where he had gone apparently as secretary to a consul.
collected a small band of outlaws,
he showed some talent as guerilla chief and had been rewarded at the pacification by the post of Military Commandant of the capital.
The Minister of War,
accompanied the Dictator.
The board of the O.S.N.
working hand-in-hand with the railway people for the good of the Republic,
had on this important occasion instructed Captain Mitchell to put the mail-boat Juno at the disposal of the distinguished party.
journeying south from Sta. Marta,
had embarked at Cayta,
the principal port of Costaguana,
and came to Sulaco by sea.
But the chairman of the railway company had courageously crossed the mountains in a ramshackle diligencia,
mainly for the purpose of meeting his engineer-in-chief engaged in the final survey of the road.
For all the indifference of a man of affairs to nature,
whose hostility can always be overcome by the resources of finance,
he could not help being impressed by his surroundings during his halt at the surveying camp established at the highest point his railway was to reach.
He spent the night there,
arriving just too late to see the last dying glow of sunlight upon the snowy flank of Higuerota.
Pillared masses of black basalt framed like an open portal a portion of the white field lying aslant against the west.
In the transparent air of the high altitudes everything seemed very near,
steeped in a clear stillness as in an imponderable liquid;
and with his ear ready to catch the first sound of the expected diligencia the engineer-in-chief,
at the door of a hut of rough stones,
had contemplated the changing hues on the enormous side of the mountain,
thinking that in this sight,
as in a piece of inspired music,
there could be found together the utmost delicacy of shaded expression and a stupendous magnificence of effect.
Sir John arrived too late to hear the magnificent and inaudible strain sung by the sunset amongst the high peaks of the Sierra.
It had sung itself out into the breathless pause of deep dusk before,
climbing down the fore wheel of the diligencia with stiff limbs,
he shook hands with the engineer.
They gave him his dinner in a stone hut like a cubical boulder,
with no door or windows in its two openings;
a bright fire of sticks
(brought on muleback from the first valley below)
sent in a wavering glare;
and two candles in tin candlesticks --lighted,
it was explained to him,
in his honour --stood on a sort of rough camp table,
at which he sat on the right hand of the chief.
He knew how to be amiable;
and the young men of the engineering staff,
for whom the surveying of the railway track had the glamour of the first steps on the path of life,
with their smooth faces tanned by the weather,
and very pleased to witness so much affability in so great a man.
late at night,
pacing to and fro outside,
he had a long talk with his chief engineer.
He knew him well of old.
This was not the first undertaking in which their gifts,
as elementally different as fire and water,
had worked in conjunction.
From the contact of these two personalities,
who had not the same vision of the world,
there was generated a power for the world's service --a subtle force that could set in motion mighty machines,
and awaken also in human breasts an unbounded devotion to the task.
Of the young fellows at the table,
to whom the survey of the track was like the tracing of the path of life,
more than one would be called to meet death before the work was done.
But the work would be done: the force would be almost as strong as a faith.
In the silence of the sleeping camp upon the moonlit plateau forming the top of the pass like the floor of a vast arena surrounded by the basalt walls of precipices,
two strolling figures in thick ulsters stood still,
and the voice of the engineer pronounced distinctly the words --
"We can't move mountains!"
raising his head to follow the pointing gesture,
felt the full force of the words.
The white Higuerota soared out of the shadows of rock and earth like a frozen bubble under the moon.
All was still,
till near by,
behind the wall of a corral for the camp animals,
built roughly of loose stones in the form of a circle,
a pack mule stamped his forefoot and blew heavily twice.
The engineer-in-chief had used the phrase in answer to the chairman's tentative suggestion that the tracing of the line could,
be altered in deference to the prejudices of the Sulaco landowners.
The chief engineer believed that the obstinacy of men was the lesser obstacle.
to combat that they had the great influence of Charles Gould,
whereas tunnelling under Higuerota would have been a colossal undertaking.
What sort of a man is he?"
Sir John had heard much of Charles Gould in Sta. Marta,
and wanted to know more.
The engineer-in-chief assured him that the administrator of the San Tome silver mine had an immense influence over all these Spanish Dons.
He had also one of the best houses in Sulaco,
and the Gould hospitality was beyond all praise.
"They received me as if they had known me for years,"
"The little lady is kindness personified.
I stayed with them for a month.
He helped me to organize the surveying parties.
His practical ownership of the San Tome silver mine gives him a special position.
He seems to have the ear of every provincial authority apparently,
as I said,
he can wind all the hidalgos of the province round his little finger.
If you follow his advice the difficulties will fall away,
because he wants the railway.
you must be careful in what you say.
and besides he must be immensely wealthy.
The Holroyd house is in with him in that mine,
so you may imagine --"
He interrupted himself as,
from before one of the little fires burning outside the low wall of the corral,
arose the figure of a man wrapped in a poncho up to the neck.
The saddle which he had been using for a pillow made a dark patch on the ground against the red glow of embers.
"I shall see Holroyd himself on my way back through the States,"
said Sir John.
"I've ascertained that he,
wants the railway."
The man who,
perhaps disturbed by the proximity of the voices,
had arisen from the ground,
struck a match to light a cigarette.
The flame showed a bronzed,
a pair of eyes gazing straight;
rearranging his wrappings,
he sank full length and laid his head again on the saddle.
"That's our camp-master,
whom I must send back to Sulaco now we are going to carry our survey into the Sta. Marta Valley,"
said the engineer.
"A most useful fellow,
lent me by Captain Mitchell of the O.S.N.
It was very good of Mitchell.
Charles Gould told me I couldn't do better than take advantage of the offer.
He seems to know how to rule all these muleteers and peons.
We had not the slightest trouble with our people.
He shall escort your diligencia right into Sulaco with some of our railway peons.
The road is bad.
To have him at hand may save you an upset or two.
He promised me to take care of your person all the way down as if you were his father."
This camp-master was the Italian sailor whom all the Europeans in Sulaco,
following Captain Mitchell's mispronunciation,
were in the habit of calling Nostromo.
taciturn and ready,
he did take excellent care of his charge at the bad parts of the road,
as Sir John himself acknowledged to Mrs. Gould afterwards.
At that time Nostromo had been already long enough in the country to raise to the highest pitch Captain Mitchell's opinion of the extraordinary value of his discovery.
Clearly he was one of those invaluable subordinates whom to possess is a legitimate cause of boasting.
Captain Mitchell plumed himself upon his eye for men --but he was not selfish --and in the innocence of his pride was already developing that mania for "lending you my Capataz de Cargadores" which was to bring Nostromo into personal contact,
sooner or later,
with every European in Sulaco,
as a sort of universal factotum --a prodigy of efficiency in his own sphere of life.
"The fellow is devoted to me,
body and soul!"
Captain Mitchell was given to affirm;
and though nobody,
could have explained why it should be so,
it was impossible on a survey of their relation to throw doubt on that statement,
one were a bitter,
eccentric character like Dr. Monygham --for instance --whose short,
hopeless laugh expressed somehow an immense mistrust of mankind.
Not that Dr. Monygham was a prodigal either of laughter or of words.
He was bitterly taciturn when at his best.
At his worst people feared the open scornfulness of his tongue.
Only Mrs. Gould could keep his unbelief in men's motives within due bounds;
but even to her
(on an occasion not connected with Nostromo,
and in a tone which for him was gentle),
even to her,
he had said once,
it is most unreasonable to demand that a man should think of other people so much better than he is able to think of himself."
And Mrs. Gould had hastened to drop the subject.
There were strange rumours of the English doctor.
in the time of Guzman Bento,
he had been mixed up,
it was whispered,
in a conspiracy which was betrayed and,
as people expressed it,
drowned in blood.
His hair had turned grey,
seamed face was of a brick-dust colour;
the large check pattern of his flannel shirt and his old stained Panama hat were an established defiance to the conventionalities of Sulaco.
Had it not been for the immaculate cleanliness of his apparel he might have been taken for one of those shiftless Europeans that are a moral eyesore to the respectability of a foreign colony in almost every exotic part of the world.
The young ladies of Sulaco,
adorning with clusters of pretty faces the balconies along the Street of the Constitution,
when they saw him pass,
with his limping gait and bowed head,
a short linen jacket drawn on carelessly over the flannel check shirt,
would remark to each other,
"Here is the Senor doctor going to call on Dona Emilia.
He has got his little coat on."
The inference was true.
Its deeper meaning was hidden from their simple intelligence.
they expended no store of thought on the doctor.
He was old,
learned --and a little "loco" --mad,
if not a bit of a sorcerer,
as the common people suspected him of being.
The little white jacket was in reality a concession to Mrs. Gould's humanizing influence.
with his habit of sceptical,
had no other means of showing his profound respect for the character of the woman who was known in the country as the English Senora.
He presented this tribute very seriously indeed;
it was no trifle for a man of his habits.
Mrs. Gould felt that,
She would never have thought of imposing upon him this marked show of deference.
She kept her old Spanish house
(one of the finest specimens in Sulaco)
open for the dispensation of the small graces of existence.
She dispensed them with simplicity and charm because she was guided by an alert perception of values.
She was highly gifted in the art of human intercourse which consists in delicate shades of self-forgetfulness and in the suggestion of universal comprehension.
(the Gould family,
established in Costaguana for three generations,
always went to England for their education and for their wives)
imagined that he had fallen in love with a girl's sound common sense like any other man,
but these were not exactly the reasons why,
the whole surveying camp,
from the youngest of the young men to their mature chief,
should have found occasion to allude to Mrs. Gould's house so frequently amongst the high peaks of the Sierra.
She would have protested that she had done nothing for them,
with a low laugh and a surprised widening of her grey eyes,
had anybody told her how convincingly she was remembered on the edge of the snow-line above Sulaco.
with a little capable air of setting her wits to work,
she would have found an explanation.
it was such a surprise for these boys to find any sort of welcome here.
And I suppose they are homesick.
I suppose everybody must be always just a little homesick."
She was always sorry for homesick people.
Born in the country,
as his father before him,
spare and tall,
with a flaming moustache,
a neat chin,
clear blue eyes,
and a thin,
Charles Gould looked like a new arrival from over the sea.
His grandfather had fought in the cause of independence under Bolivar,
in that famous English legion which on the battlefield of Carabobo had been saluted by the great Liberator as Saviours of his country.
One of Charles Gould's uncles had been the elected President of that very province of Sulaco
(then called a State)
in the days of Federation,
and afterwards had been put up against the wall of a church and shot by the order of the barbarous Unionist general,
It was the same Guzman Bento who,
becoming later Perpetual President,
famed for his ruthless and cruel tyranny,
readied his apotheosis in the popular legend of a sanguinary land-haunting spectre whose body had been carried off by the devil in person from the brick mausoleum in the nave of the Church of Assumption in Sta. Marta.
the priests explained its disappearance to the barefooted multitude that streamed in,
to gaze at the hole in the side of the ugly box of bricks before the great altar.
Guzman Bento of cruel memory had put to death great numbers of people besides Charles Gould's uncle;
but with a relative martyred in the cause of aristocracy,
the Sulaco Oligarchs
(this was the phraseology of Guzman Bento's time;
now they were called Blancos,
and had given up the federal idea),
which meant the families of pure Spanish descent,
considered Charles as one of themselves.
With such a family record,
no one could be more of a Costaguanero than Don Carlos Gould;
but his aspect was so characteristic that in the talk of common people he was just the Inglez --the Englishman of Sulaco.
He looked more English than a casual tourist,
a sort of heretic pilgrim,
quite unknown in Sulaco.
He looked more English than the last arrived batch of young railway engineers,
than anybody out of the hunting-field pictures in the numbers of Punch reaching his wife's drawing-room two months or so after date.
It astonished you to hear him talk Spanish
as the natives say)
or the Indian dialect of the country-people so naturally.
His accent had never been English;
but there was something so indelible in all these ancestral Goulds --liberators,
revolutionists --of Costaguana,
the only representative of the third generation in a continent possessing its own style of horsemanship,
went on looking thoroughly English even on horseback.
This is not said of him in the mocking spirit of the Llaneros --men of the great plains --who think that no one in the world knows how to sit a horse but themselves.
to use the suitably lofty phrase,
rode like a centaur.
Riding for him was not a special form of exercise;
it was a natural faculty,
as walking straight is to all men sound of mind and limb;
all the same,
when cantering beside the rutty ox-cart track to the mine he looked in his English clothes and with his imported saddlery as though he had come this moment to Costaguana at his easy swift pasotrote,
straight out of some green meadow at the other side of the world.
His way would lie along the old Spanish road --the Camino Real of popular speech --the only remaining vestige of a fact and name left by that royalty old Giorgio Viola hated,
and whose very shadow had departed from the land;
for the big equestrian statue of Charles IV.
at the entrance of the Alameda,
towering white against the trees,
was only known to the folk from the country and to the beggars of the town that slept on the steps around the pedestal,
as the Horse of Stone.
The other Carlos,
turning off to the left with a rapid clatter of hoofs on the disjointed pavement --Don Carlos Gould,
in his English clothes,
looked as incongruous,
but much more at home than the kingly cavalier reining in his steed on the pedestal above the sleeping leperos,
with his marble arm raised towards the marble rim of a plumed hat.
The weather-stained effigy of the mounted king,
with its vague suggestion of a saluting gesture,
seemed to present an inscrutable breast to the political changes which had robbed it of its very name;
but neither did the other horseman,
well known to the people,
keen and alive on his well-shaped,
slate-coloured beast with a white eye,
wear his heart on the sleeve of his English coat.
His mind preserved its steady poise as if sheltered in the passionless stability of private and public decencies at home in Europe.
He accepted with a like calm the shocking manner in which the Sulaco ladies smothered their faces with pearl powder till they looked like white plaster casts with beautiful living eyes,
the peculiar gossip of the town,
and the continuous political changes,
the constant "saving of the country,"
which to his wife seemed a puerile and bloodthirsty game of murder and rapine played with terrible earnestness by depraved children.
In the early days of her Costaguana life,
the little lady used to clench her hands with exasperation at not being able to take the public affairs of the country as seriously as the incidental atrocity of methods deserved.
She saw in them a comedy of naive pretences,
but hardly anything genuine except her own appalled indignation.
very quiet and twisting his long moustaches,
would decline to discuss them at all.
he observed to her gently --
you seem to forget that I was born here."
These few words made her pause as if they had been a sudden revelation.
Perhaps the mere fact of being born in the country did make a difference.
She had a great confidence in her husband;
it had always been very great.
He had struck her imagination from the first by his unsentimentalism,
by that very quietude of mind which she had erected in her thought for a sign of perfect competency in the business of living.
Don Jose Avellanos,
their neighbour across the street,
a man of culture,
who had represented his country at several European Courts
(and had suffered untold indignities as a state prisoner in the time of the tyrant Guzman Bento),
used to declare in Dona Emilia's drawing-room that Carlos had all the English qualities of character with a truly patriotic heart.
raising her eyes to her husband's thin,
red and tan face,
could not detect the slightest quiver of a feature at what he must have heard said of his patriotism.
Perhaps he had just dismounted on his return from the mine;
he was English enough to disregard the hottest hours of the day.
in a livery of white linen and a red sash,
had squatted for a moment behind his heels to unstrap the heavy,
blunt spurs in the patio;
and then the Senor Administrator would go up the staircase into the gallery.
Rows of plants in pots,
ranged on the balustrade between the pilasters of the arches,
screened the corredor with their leaves and flowers from the quadrangle below,
whose paved space is the true hearthstone of a South American house,
where the quiet hours of domestic life are marked by the shifting of light and shadow on the flagstones.
Senor Avellanos was in the habit of crossing the patio at five o'clock almost every day.
Don Jose chose to come over at tea-time because the English rite at Dona Emilia's house reminded him of the time he lived in London as Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of St. James.
He did not like tea;
rocking his American chair,
his neat little shiny boots crossed on the foot-rest,
he would talk on and on with a sort of complacent virtuosity wonderful in a man of his age,
while he held the cup in his hands for a long time.
His close-cropped head was perfectly white;
his eyes coalblack.
On seeing Charles Gould step into the sala he would nod provisionally and go on to the end of the oratorial period.
Only then he would say --
you have ridden from San Tome in the heat of the day.
Always the true English activity.
He drank up all the tea at once in one draught.
This performance was invariably followed by a slight shudder and a low,
which was not covered by the hasty exclamation,
Then giving up the empty cup into his young friend's hand,
extended with a smile,
he continued to expatiate upon the patriotic nature of the San Tome mine for the simple pleasure of talking fluently,
while his reclining body jerked backwards and forwards in a rocking-chair of the sort exported from the United States.
The ceiling of the largest drawing-room of the Casa Gould extended its white level far above his head.
The loftiness dwarfed the mixture of heavy,
straight-backed Spanish chairs of brown wood with leathern seats,
and European furniture,
and cushioned all over,
like squat little monsters gorged to bursting with steel springs and horsehair.
There were knick-knacks on little tables,
mirrors let into the wall above marble consoles,
square spaces of carpet under the two groups of armchairs,
each presided over by a deep sofa;
smaller rugs scattered all over the floor of red tiles;
three windows from the ceiling down to the ground,
opening on a balcony,
and flanked by the perpendicular folds of the dark hangings.
The stateliness of ancient days lingered between the four high,
tinted a delicate primrose-colour;
and Mrs. Gould,
with her little head and shining coils of hair,
sitting in a cloud of muslin and lace before a slender mahogany table,
resembled a fairy posed lightly before dainty philtres dispensed out of vessels of silver and porcelain.
Mrs. Gould knew the history of the San Tome mine.
Worked in the early days mostly by means of lashes on the backs of slaves,
its yield had been paid for in its own weight of human bones.
Whole tribes of Indians had perished in the exploitation;
and then the mine was abandoned,
since with this primitive method it had ceased to make a profitable return,
no matter how many corpses were thrown into its maw.
Then it became forgotten.
It was rediscovered after the War of Independence.
An English company obtained the right to work it,
and found so rich a vein that neither the exactions of successive governments,
nor the periodical raids of recruiting officers upon the population of paid miners they had created,
could discourage their perseverance.
But in the end,
during the long turmoil of pronunciamentos that followed the death of the famous Guzman Bento,
the native miners,
incited to revolt by the emissaries sent out from the capital,
had risen upon their English chiefs and murdered them to a man.
The decree of confiscation which appeared immediately afterwards in the Diario Official,
published in Sta. Marta,
began with the words:
"Justly incensed at the grinding oppression of foreigners,
actuated by sordid motives of gain rather than by love for a country where they come impoverished to seek their fortunes,
the mining population of San Tome,
and ended with the declaration:
"The chief of the State has resolved to exercise to the full his power of clemency.
which by every law,
reverts now to the Government as national property,
shall remain closed till the sword drawn for the sacred defence of liberal principles has accomplished its mission of securing the happiness of our beloved country."
And for many years this was the last of the San Tome mine.
What advantage that Government had expected from the spoliation,
it is impossible to tell now.
Costaguana was made with difficulty to pay a beggarly money compensation to the families of the victims,
and then the matter dropped out of diplomatic despatches.
But afterwards another Government bethought itself of that valuable asset.
It was an ordinary Costaguana Government --the fourth in six years --but it judged of its opportunities sanely.
It remembered the San Tome mine with a secret conviction of its worthlessness in their own hands,
but with an ingenious insight into the various uses a silver mine can be put to,
apart from the sordid process of extracting the metal from under the ground.
The father of Charles Gould,
for a long time one of the most wealthy merchants of Costaguana,
had already lost a considerable part of his fortune in forced loans to the successive Governments.
He was a man of calm judgment,
who never dreamed of pressing his claims;
the perpetual concession of the San Tome mine was offered to him in full settlement,
his alarm became extreme.
He was versed in the ways of Governments.
the intention of this affair,
though no doubt deeply meditated in the closet,
lay open on the surface of the document presented urgently for his signature.
The third and most important clause stipulated that the concession-holder should pay at once to the Government five years' royalties on the estimated output of the mine.
defended himself from this fatal favour with many arguments and entreaties,
but without success.
He knew nothing of mining;
he had no means to put his concession on the European market;
the mine as a working concern did not exist.
The buildings had been burnt down,
the mining plant had been destroyed,
the mining population had disappeared from the neighbourhood years and years ago;
the very road had vanished under a flood of tropical vegetation as effectually as if swallowed by the sea;
and the main gallery had fallen in within a hundred yards from the entrance.
It was no longer an abandoned mine;
it was a wild,
and rocky gorge of the Sierra,
where vestiges of charred timber,
some heaps of smashed bricks,
and a few shapeless pieces of rusty iron could have been found under the matted mass of thorny creepers covering the ground.
did not desire the perpetual possession of that desolate locality;
the mere vision of it arising before his mind in the still watches of the night had the power to exasperate him into hours of hot and agitated insomnia.
It so happened,
that the Finance Minister of the time was a man to whom,
in years gone by,
Mr. Gould had,
declined to grant some small pecuniary assistance,
basing his refusal on the ground that the applicant was a notorious gambler and cheat,
besides being more than half suspected of a robbery with violence on a wealthy ranchero in a remote country district,
where he was actually exercising the function of a judge.
after reaching his exalted position,
that politician had proclaimed his intention to repay evil with good to Senor Gould --the poor man.
He affirmed and reaffirmed this resolution in the drawing-rooms of Sta. Marta,
in a soft and implacable voice,
and with such malicious glances that Mr. Gould's best friends advised him earnestly to attempt no bribery to get the matter dropped.
It would have been useless.
it would not have been a very safe proceeding.
Such was also the opinion of a stout,
loud-voiced lady of French extraction,
of an officer of high rank
(_officier superieur de l'armee_),
who was accommodated with lodgings within the walls of a secularized convent next door to the Ministry of Finance.
That florid person,
when approached on behalf of Mr. Gould in a proper manner,
and with a suitable present,
shook her head despondently.
She was good-natured,
and her despondency was genuine.
She imagined she could not take money in consideration of something she could not accomplish.
The friend of Mr. Gould,
charged with the delicate mission,
used to say afterwards that she was the only honest person closely or remotely connected with the Government he had ever met.
she had said with a cavalier,
husky intonation which was natural to her,
and using turns of expression more suitable to a child of parents unknown than to the orphaned daughter of a general officer.
it's no go.
tout de meme.
Je ne vole pas mon monde.
Je ne suis pas ministre --moi!
Vous pouvez emporter votre petit sac_."
For a moment,
biting her carmine lip,
she deplored inwardly the tyranny of the rigid principles governing the sale of her influence in high places.
and with a touch of impatience,
"_et dites bien a votre bonhomme --entendez-vous?
--qu'il faut avaler la pilule_."
After such a warning there was nothing for it but to sign and pay.
Mr. Gould had swallowed the pill,
and it was as though it had been compounded of some subtle poison that acted directly on his brain.
He became at once mine-ridden,
and as he was well read in light literature it took to his mind the form of the Old Man of the Sea fastened upon his shoulders.
He also began to dream of vampires.
Mr. Gould exaggerated to himself the disadvantages of his new position,
because he viewed it emotionally.
His position in Costaguana was no worse than before.
But man is a desperately conservative creature,
and the extravagant novelty of this outrage upon his purse distressed his sensibilities.
Everybody around him was being robbed by the grotesque and murderous bands that played their game of governments and revolutions after the death of Guzman Bento.
His experience had taught him that,
however short the plunder might fall of their legitimate expectations,
no gang in possession of the Presidential Palace would be so incompetent as to suffer itself to be baffled by the want of a pretext.
The first casual colonel of the barefooted army of scarecrows that came along was able to expose with force and precision to any mere civilian his titles to a sum of 10,000 dollars;
the while his hope would be immutably fixed upon a gratuity,
at any rate,
of no less than a thousand.
Mr. Gould knew that very well,
armed with resignation,
had waited for better times.
But to be robbed under the forms of legality and business was intolerable to his imagination.
had one fault in his sagacious and honourable character: he attached too much importance to form.
It is a failing common to mankind,
whose views are tinged by prejudices.
There was for him in that affair a malignancy of perverted justice which,
by means of a moral shock,
attacked his vigorous physique.
"It will end by killing me,"
he used to affirm many times a day.
since that time he began to suffer from fever,
from liver pains,
and mostly from a worrying inability to think of anything else.
The Finance Minister could have formed no conception of the profound subtlety of his revenge.
Even Mr. Gould's letters to his fourteen-year-old boy Charles,
then away in England for his education,
came at last to talk of practically nothing but the mine.
He groaned over the injustice,
the outrage of that mine;
he occupied whole pages in the exposition of the fatal consequences attaching to the possession of that mine from every point of view,
with every dismal inference,
with words of horror at the apparently eternal character of that curse.
For the Concession had been granted to him and his descendants for ever.
He implored his son never to return to Costaguana,
never to claim any part of his inheritance there,
because it was tainted by the infamous Concession;
never to touch it,
never to approach it,
to forget that America existed,
and pursue a mercantile career in Europe.
And each letter ended with bitter self-reproaches for having stayed too long in that cavern of thieves,
To be told repeatedly that one's future is blighted because of the possession of a silver mine is not,
at the age of fourteen,
a matter of prime importance as to its main statement;
but in its form it is calculated to excite a certain amount of wonder and attention.
In course of time the boy,
at first only puzzled by the angry jeremiads,
but rather sorry for his dad,
began to turn the matter over in his mind in such moments as he could spare from play and study.
In about a year he had evolved from the lecture of the letters a definite conviction that there was a silver mine in the Sulaco province of the Republic of Costaguana,
where poor Uncle Harry had been shot by soldiers a great many years before.
There was also connected closely with that mine a thing called the "iniquitous Gould Concession,"
apparently written on a paper which his father desired ardently to "tear and fling into the faces" of presidents,
members of judicature,
and ministers of State.
And this desire persisted,
though the names of these people,
seldom remained the same for a whole year together.
(since the thing was iniquitous)
seemed quite natural to the boy,
though why the affair was iniquitous he did not know.
with advancing wisdom,
he managed to clear the plain truth of the business from the fantastic intrusions of the Old Man of the Sea,
which had lent to his father's correspondence the flavour of a gruesome Arabian Nights tale.
In the end,
the growing youth attained to as close an intimacy with the San Tome mine as the old man who wrote these plaintive and enraged letters on the other side of the sea.
He had been made several times already to pay heavy fines for neglecting to work the mine,
besides other sums extracted from him on account of future royalties,
on the ground that a man with such a valuable concession in his pocket could not refuse his financial assistance to the Government of the Republic.
The last of his fortune was passing away from him against worthless receipts,
in a rage,
whilst he was being pointed out as an individual who had known how to secure enormous advantages from the necessities of his country.
And the young man in Europe grew more and more interested in that thing which could provoke such a tumult of words and passion.
He thought of it every day;
but he thought of it without bitterness.
It might have been an unfortunate affair for his poor dad,
and the whole story threw a queer light upon the social and political life of Costaguana.
The view he took of it was sympathetic to his father,
yet calm and reflective.
His personal feelings had not been outraged,
and it is difficult to resent with proper and durable indignation the physical or mental anguish of another organism,
even if that other organism is one's own father.
By the time he was twenty Charles Gould had,
in his turn,
fallen under the spell of the San Tome mine.
But it was another form of enchantment,
more suitable to his youth,
into whose magic formula there entered hope,
instead of weary indignation and despair.
Left after he was twenty to his own guidance
(except for the severe injunction not to return to Costaguana),
he had pursued his studies in Belgium and France with the idea of qualifying for a mining engineer.
But this scientific aspect of his labours remained vague and imperfect in his mind.
Mines had acquired for him a dramatic interest.
He studied their peculiarities from a personal point of view,
as one would study the varied characters of men.
He visited them as one goes with curiosity to call upon remarkable persons.
He visited mines in Germany,
Abandoned workings had for him strong fascination.
Their desolation appealed to him like the sight of human misery,
whose causes are varied and profound.
They might have been worthless,
but also they might have been misunderstood.
His future wife was the first,
and perhaps the only person to detect this secret mood which governed the profoundly sensible,
almost voiceless attitude of this man towards the world of material things.
And at once her delight in him,
lingering with half-open wings like those birds that cannot rise easily from a flat level,
found a pinnacle from which to soar up into the skies.
They had become acquainted in Italy,
where the future Mrs. Gould was staying with an old and pale aunt who,
had married a middle-aged,
impoverished Italian marquis.
She now mourned that man,
who had known how to give up his life to the independence and unity of his country,
who had known how to be as enthusiastic in his generosity as the youngest of those who fell for that very cause of which old Giorgio Viola was a drifting relic,
as a broken spar is suffered to float away disregarded after a naval victory.
The Marchesa led a still,
nun-like in her black robes and a white band over the forehead,
in a corner of the first floor of an ancient and ruinous palace,
empty halls downstairs sheltered under their painted ceilings the harvests,
and even the cattle,
together with the whole family of the tenant farmer.
The two young people had met in Lucca.
After that meeting Charles Gould visited no mines,
though they went together in a carriage,
to see some marble quarries,
where the work resembled mining in so far that it also was the tearing of the raw material of treasure from the earth.
Charles Gould did not open his heart to her in any set speeches.
He simply went on acting and thinking in her sight.
This is the true method of sincerity.
One of his frequent remarks was,
"I think sometimes that poor father takes a wrong view of that San Tome business."
And they discussed that opinion long and earnestly,
as if they could influence a mind across half the globe;
but in reality they discussed it because the sentiment of love can enter into any subject and live ardently in remote phrases.
For this natural reason these discussions were precious to Mrs. Gould in her engaged state.
Charles feared that Mr. Gould,
was wasting his strength and making himself ill by his efforts to get rid of the Concession.
"I fancy that this is not the kind of handling it requires,"
he mused aloud,
as if to himself.
And when she wondered frankly that a man of character should devote his energies to plotting and intrigues,
Charles would remark,
with a gentle concern that understood her wonder,
"You must not forget that he was born there."
She would set her quick mind to work upon that,
and then make the inconsequent retort,
which he accepted as perfectly sagacious,
it was so --
You were born there,
He knew his answer.
I've been away ten years.
Dad never had such a long spell;
and it was more than thirty years ago."
She was the first person to whom he opened his lips after receiving the news of his father's death.
"It has killed him!"
He had walked straight out of town with the news,
straight out before him in the noonday sun on the white road,
and his feet had brought him face to face with her in the hall of the ruined palazzo,
a room magnificent and naked,
with here and there a long strip of damask,
black with damp and age,
hanging down on a bare panel of the wall.
It was furnished with exactly one gilt armchair,
with a broken back,
and an octagon columnar stand bearing a heavy marble vase ornamented with sculptured masks and garlands of flowers,
and cracked from top to bottom.
Charles Gould was dusty with the white dust of the road lying on his boots,
on his shoulders,
on his cap with two peaks.
Water dripped from under it all over his face,
and he grasped a thick oaken cudgel in his bare right hand.
She went very pale under the roses of her big straw hat,
swinging a clear sunshade,
caught just as she was going out to meet him at the bottom of the hill,
where three poplars stand near the wall of a vineyard.
"It has killed him!"
"He ought to have had many years yet.
We are a long-lived family."
She was too startled to say anything;
he was contemplating with a penetrating and motionless stare the cracked marble urn as though he had resolved to fix its shape for ever in his memory.
It was only when,
turning suddenly to her,
he blurted out twice,
"I've come to you --I've come straight to you --,"
without being able to finish his phrase,
that the great pitifulness of that lonely and tormented death in Costaguana came to her with the full force of its misery.
He caught hold of her hand,
raised it to his lips,
and at that she dropped her parasol to pat him on the cheek,
murmured "Poor boy,"
and began to dry her eyes under the downward curve of her hat-brim,
very small in her simple,
almost like a lost child crying in the degraded grandeur of the noble hall,
while he stood by her,
again perfectly motionless in the contemplation of the marble urn.
Afterwards they went out for a long walk,
which was silent till he exclaimed suddenly --
But if he had only grappled with it in a proper way!"
And then they stopped.
Everywhere there were long shadows lying on the hills,
on the roads,
on the enclosed fields of olive trees;
the shadows of poplars,
of wide chestnuts,
of farm buildings,
of stone walls;
and in mid-air the sound of a bell,
thin and alert,
was like the throbbing pulse of the sunset glow.
Her lips were slightly parted as though in surprise that he should not be looking at her with his usual expression.
His usual expression was unconditionally approving and attentive.
He was in his talks with her the most anxious and deferential of dictators,
an attitude that pleased her immensely.
It affirmed her power without detracting from his dignity.
That slight girl,
with her little feet,
little face attractively overweighted by great coils of hair;
with a rather large mouth,
whose mere parting seemed to breathe upon you the fragrance of frankness and generosity,
had the fastidious soul of an experienced woman.
before all things and all flatteries,
careful of her pride in the object of her choice.
But now he was actually not looking at her at all;
and his expression was tense and irrational,
as is natural in a man who elects to stare at nothing past a young girl's head.
It was iniquitous.
They corrupted him thoroughly,
the poor old boy.
why wouldn't he let me go back to him?
But now I shall know how to grapple with this."
After pronouncing these words with immense assurance,
he glanced down at her,
and at once fell a prey to distress,
The only thing he wanted to know now,
was whether she did love him enough --whether she would have the courage to go with him so far away?
He put these questions to her in a voice that trembled with anxiety --for he was a determined man.
And immediately the future hostess of all the Europeans in Sulaco had the physical experience of the earth falling away from under her.
It vanished completely,
even to the very sound of the bell.
When her feet touched the ground again,
the bell was still ringing in the valley;
she put her hands up to her hair,
and glanced up and down the stony lane.
It was reassuringly empty.
stepping with one foot into a dry and dusty ditch,
picked up the open parasol,
which had bounded away from them with a martial sound of drum taps.
He handed it to her soberly,
a little crestfallen.
They turned back,
and after she had slipped her hand on his arm,
the first words he pronounced were --
"It's lucky that we shall be able to settle in a coast town.
You've heard its name.
It is Sulaco.
I am so glad poor father did get that house.
He bought a big house there years ago,
in order that there should always be a Casa Gould in the principal town of what used to be called the Occidental Province.
I lived there once,
as a small boy,
with my dear mother,
for a whole year,
while poor father was away in the United States on business.
You shall be the new mistress of the Casa Gould."
in the inhabited corner of the Palazzo above the vineyards,
the marble hills,
the pines and olives of Lucca,
he also said --
"The name of Gould has been always highly respected in Sulaco.
My uncle Harry was chief of the State for some time,
and has left a great name amongst the first families.
By this I mean the pure Creole families,
who take no part in the miserable farce of governments.
Uncle Harry was no adventurer.
In Costaguana we Goulds are no adventurers.
He was of the country,
and he loved it,
but he remained essentially an Englishman in his ideas.
He made use of the political cry of his time.
It was Federation.
But he was no politician.
He simply stood up for social order out of pure love for rational liberty and from his hate of oppression.
There was no nonsense about him.
He went to work in his own way because it seemed right,
just as I feel I must lay hold of that mine."
In such words he talked to her because his memory was very full of the country of his childhood,
his heart of his life with that girl,
and his mind of the San Tome Concession.
He added that he would have to leave her for a few days to find an American,
a man from San Francisco,
who was still somewhere in Europe.
A few months before he had made his acquaintance in an old historic German town,
situated in a mining district.
The American had his womankind with him,
but seemed lonely while they were sketching all day long the old doorways and the turreted corners of the mediaeval houses.
Charles Gould had with him the inseparable companionship of the mine.
The other man was interested in mining enterprises,
knew something of Costaguana,
and was no stranger to the name of Gould.
They had talked together with some intimacy which was made possible by the difference of their ages.
Charles wanted now to find that capitalist of shrewd mind and accessible character.
His father's fortune in Costaguana,
which he had supposed to be still considerable,
seemed to have melted in the rascally crucible of revolutions.
Apart from some ten thousand pounds deposited in England,
there appeared to be nothing left except the house in Sulaco,
a vague right of forest exploitation in a remote and savage district,
and the San Tome Concession,
which had attended his poor father to the very brink of the grave.
He explained those things.
It was late when they parted.
She had never before given him such a fascinating vision of herself.
All the eagerness of youth for a strange life,
for great distances,
for a future in which there was an air of adventure,
of combat --a subtle thought of redress and conquest,
had filled her with an intense excitement,
which she returned to the giver with a more open and exquisite display of tenderness.
He left her to walk down the hill,
and directly he found himself alone he became sober.
That irreparable change a death makes in the course of our daily thoughts can be felt in a vague and poignant discomfort of mind.
It hurt Charles Gould to feel that never more,
by no effort of will,
would he be able to think of his father in the same way he used to think of him when the poor man was alive.
His breathing image was no longer in his power.
closely affecting his own identity,
filled his breast with a mournful and angry desire for action.
In this his instinct was unerring.
Action is consolatory.
It is the enemy of thought and the friend of flattering illusions.
Only in the conduct of our action can we find the sense of mastery over the Fates.
For his action,
the mine was obviously the only field.
It was imperative sometimes to know how to disobey the solemn wishes of the dead.
He resolved firmly to make his disobedience as thorough
(by way of atonement)
as it well could be.
The mine had been the cause of an absurd moral disaster;
its working must be made a serious and moral success.
He owed it to the dead man's memory.
Such were the --properly speaking --emotions of Charles Gould.
His thoughts ran upon the means of raising a large amount of capital in San Francisco or elsewhere;
and incidentally there occurred to him also the general reflection that the counsel of the departed must be an unsound guide.
Not one of them could be aware beforehand what enormous changes the death of any given individual may produce in the very aspect of the world.
The latest phase in the history of the mine Mrs. Gould knew from personal experience.
It was in essence the history of her married life.
The mantle of the Goulds' hereditary position in Sulaco had descended amply upon her little person;
but she would not allow the peculiarities of the strange garment to weigh down the vivacity of her character,
which was the sign of no mere mechanical sprightliness,
but of an eager intelligence.
It must not be supposed that Mrs. Gould's mind was masculine.
A woman with a masculine mind is not a being of superior efficiency;
she is simply a phenomenon of imperfect differentiation --interestingly barren and without importance.
Dona Emilia's intelligence being feminine led her to achieve the conquest of Sulaco,
simply by lighting the way for her unselfishness and sympathy.
She could converse charmingly,
but she was not talkative.
The wisdom of the heart having no concern with the erection or demolition of theories any more than with the defence of prejudices,
has no random words at its command.
The words it pronounces have the value of acts of integrity,
A woman's true tenderness,
like the true virility of man,
is expressed in action of a conquering kind.
The ladies of Sulaco adored Mrs. Gould.
"They still look upon me as something of a monster,"
Mrs. Gould had said pleasantly to one of the three gentlemen from San Francisco she had to entertain in her new Sulaco house just about a year after her marriage.
They were her first visitors from abroad,
and they had come to look at the San Tome mine.
She jested most agreeably,
and Charles Gould,
besides knowing thoroughly what he was about,
had shown himself a real hustler.
These facts caused them to be well disposed towards his wife.
An unmistakable enthusiasm,
pointed by a slight flavour of irony,
made her talk of the mine absolutely fascinating to her visitors,
and provoked them to grave and indulgent smiles in which there was a good deal of deference.
Perhaps had they known how much she was inspired by an idealistic view of success they would have been amazed at the state of her mind as the Spanish-American ladies had been amazed at the tireless activity of her body.
She would --in her own words --have been for them "something of a monster."
the Goulds were in essentials a reticent couple,
and their guests departed without the suspicion of any other purpose but simple profit in the working of a silver mine.
Mrs. Gould had out her own carriage,
with two white mules,
to drive them down to the harbour,
whence the Ceres was to carry them off into the Olympus of plutocrats.
Captain Mitchell had snatched at the occasion of leave-taking to remark to Mrs. Gould,
in a low,
"This marks an epoch."
Mrs. Gould loved the patio of her Spanish house.
A broad flight of stone steps was overlooked silently from a niche in the wall by a Madonna in blue robes with the crowned child sitting on her arm.
Subdued voices ascended in the early mornings from the paved well of the quadrangle,
with the stamping of horses and mules led out in pairs to drink at the cistern.
A tangle of slender bamboo stems drooped its narrow,
blade-like leaves over the square pool of water,
and the fat coachman sat muffled up on the edge,
holding lazily the ends of halters in his hand.
Barefooted servants passed to and fro,
issuing from dark,
low doorways below;
two laundry girls with baskets of washed linen;
the baker with the tray of bread made for the day;
Leonarda --her own camerista --bearing high up,
swung from her hand raised above her raven black head,
a bunch of starched under-skirts dazzlingly white in the slant of sunshine.
Then the old porter would hobble in,
sweeping the flagstones,
and the house was ready for the day.
All the lofty rooms on three sides of the quadrangle opened into each other and into the corredor,
with its wrought-iron railings and a border of flowers,
like the lady of the mediaeval castle,
she could witness from above all the departures and arrivals of the Casa,
to which the sonorous arched gateway lent an air of stately importance.
She had watched her carriage roll away with the three guests from the north.
Their three arms went up simultaneously to their three hats.
had already begun a pompous discourse.
Then she lingered.
approaching her face to the clusters of flowers here and there as if to give time to her thoughts to catch up with her slow footsteps along the straight vista of the corredor.
A fringed Indian hammock from Aroa,
gay with coloured featherwork,
had been swung judiciously in a corner that caught the early sun;
for the mornings are cool in Sulaco.
The cluster of _flor de noche buena_ blazed in great masses before the open glass doors of the reception rooms.
A big green parrot,
brilliant like an emerald in a cage that flashed like gold,
screamed out ferociously,
"_Viva Costaguana!_" then called twice mellifluously,
in imitation of Mrs. Gould's voice,
and suddenly took refuge in immobility and silence.
Mrs. Gould reached the end of the gallery and put her head through the door of her husband's room.
with one foot on a low wooden stool,
was already strapping his spurs.
He wanted to hurry back to the mine.
without coming in,
glanced about the room.
with glass doors,
was full of books;
but in the other,
and lined with red baize,
were arranged firearms: Winchester carbines,
a couple of shot-guns,
and even two pairs of double-barrelled holster pistols.
upon a strip of scarlet velvet,
hung an old cavalry sabre,
once the property of Don Enrique Gould,
the hero of the Occidental Province,
presented by Don Jose Avellanos,
the hereditary friend of the family.
the plastered white walls were completely bare,
except for a water-colour sketch of the San Tome mountain --the work of Dona Emilia herself.
In the middle of the red-tiled floor stood two long tables littered with plans and papers,
a few chairs,
and a glass show-case containing specimens of ore from the mine.
looking at all these things in turn,
wondered aloud why the talk of these wealthy and enterprising men discussing the prospects,
and the safety of the mine rendered her so impatient and uneasy,
whereas she could talk of the mine by the hour with her husband with unwearied interest and satisfaction.
And dropping her eyelids expressively,
she added --
"What do you feel about it,
surprised at her husband's silence,
she raised her eyes,
as pretty as pale flowers.
He had done with the spurs,
twisting his moustache with both hands,
he contemplated her from the height of his long legs with a visible appreciation of her appearance.
The consciousness of being thus contemplated pleased Mrs. Gould.
"They are considerable men,"
But have you listened to their conversation?
They don't seem to have understood anything they have seen here."
"They have seen the mine.
They have understood that to some purpose,"
Charles Gould interjected,
in defence of the visitors;
and then his wife mentioned the name of the most considerable of the three.
He was considerable in finance and in industry.
His name was familiar to many millions of people.
He was so considerable that he would never have travelled so far away from the centre of his activity if the doctors had not insisted,
with veiled menaces,
on his taking a long holiday.
"Mr. Holroyd's sense of religion,"
Mrs. Gould pursued,
"was shocked and disgusted at the tawdriness of the dressed-up saints in the cathedral --the worship,
he called it,
of wood and tinsel.
But it seemed to me that he looked upon his own God as a sort of influential partner,
who gets his share of profits in the endowment of churches.
That's a sort of idolatry.
He told me he endowed churches every year,
"No end of them,"
said Mr. Gould,
marvelling inwardly at the mobility of her physiognomy.
"All over the country.
He's famous for that sort of munificence."
he didn't boast,"
Mrs. Gould declared,
"I believe he's really a good man,
but so stupid!
A poor Chulo who offers a little silver arm or leg to thank his god for a cure is as rational and more touching."
"He's at the head of immense silver and iron interests,"
Charles Gould observed.
The religion of silver and iron.
He's a very civil man,
though he looked awfully solemn when he first saw the Madonna on the staircase,
who's only wood and paint;
but he said nothing to me.
My dear Charley,
I heard those men talk among themselves.
Can it be that they really wish to become,
for an immense consideration,
drawers of water and hewers of wood to all the countries and nations of the earth?"
"A man must work to some end,"
Charles Gould said,
surveyed him from head to foot.
With his riding breeches,
(an article of apparel never before seen in Costaguana),
a Norfolk coat of grey flannel,
and those great flaming moustaches,
he suggested an officer of cavalry turned gentleman farmer.
This combination was gratifying to Mrs. Gould's tastes.
"How thin the poor boy is!"
"He overworks himself."
But there was no denying that his fine-drawn,
keen red face,
and his whole,
lank person had an air of breeding and distinction.
And Mrs. Gould relented.
"I only wondered what you felt,"
During the last few days,
as it happened,
Charles Gould had been kept too busy thinking twice before he spoke to have paid much attention to the state of his feelings.
But theirs was a successful match,
and he had no difficulty in finding his answer.
"The best of my feelings are in your keeping,
and there was so much truth in that obscure phrase that he experienced towards her at the moment a great increase of gratitude and tenderness.
did not seem to find this answer in the least obscure.
She brightened up delicately;
already he had changed his tone.
"But there are facts.
The worth of the mine --as a mine --is beyond doubt.
It shall make us very wealthy.
The mere working of it is a matter of technical knowledge,
which I have --which ten thousand other men in the world have.
But its safety,
its continued existence as an enterprise,
giving a return to men --to strangers,
comparative strangers --who invest money in it,
is left altogether in my hands.
I have inspired confidence in a man of wealth and position.
You seem to think this perfectly natural --do you?
I don't know.
I don't know why I have;
but it is a fact.
This fact makes everything possible,
because without it I would never have thought of disregarding my father's wishes.
I would never have disposed of the Concession as a speculator disposes of a valuable right to a company --for cash and shares,
to grow rich eventually if possible,
but at any rate to put some money at once in his pocket.
No. Even if it had been feasible --which I doubt --I would not have done so.
Poor father did not understand.
He was afraid I would hang on to the ruinous thing,
waiting for just some such chance,
and waste my life miserably.
That was the true sense of his prohibition,
which we have deliberately set aside."
They were walking up and down the corredor.
Her head just reached to his shoulder.
was about her waist.
His spurs jingled slightly.
"He had not seen me for ten years.
He did not know me.
He parted from me for my sake,
and he would never let me come back.
He was always talking in his letters of leaving Costaguana,
of abandoning everything and making his escape.
But he was too valuable a prey.
They would have thrown him into one of their prisons at the first suspicion."
His spurred feet clinked slowly.
He was bending over his wife as they walked.
The big parrot,
turning its head askew,
followed their pacing figures with a round,
"He was a lonely man.
Ever since I was ten years old he used to talk to me as if I had been grown up.
When I was in Europe he wrote to me every month.
twelve pages every month of my life for ten years.
he did not know me!
Just think of it --ten whole years away;
the years I was growing up into a man.
He could not know me.
Do you think he could?"
Mrs. Gould shook her head negatively;
which was just what her husband had expected from the strength of the argument.
But she shook her head negatively only because she thought that no one could know her Charles --really know him for what he was but herself.
The thing was obvious.
It could be felt.
It required no argument.
And poor Mr. Gould,
who had died too soon to ever hear of their engagement,
remained too shadowy a figure for her to be credited with knowledge of any sort whatever.
he did not understand.
In my view this mine could never have been a thing to sell.
After all his misery I simply could not have touched it for money alone,"
Charles Gould pursued: and she pressed her head to his shoulder approvingly.
These two young people remembered the life which had ended wretchedly just when their own lives had come together in that splendour of hopeful love,
which to the most sensible minds appears like a triumph of good over all the evils of the earth.
A vague idea of rehabilitation had entered the plan of their life.
That it was so vague as to elude the support of argument made it only the stronger.
It had presented itself to them at the instant when the woman's instinct of devotion and the man's instinct of activity receive from the strongest of illusions their most powerful impulse.
The very prohibition imposed the necessity of success.
It was as if they had been morally bound to make good their vigorous view of life against the unnatural error of weariness and despair.
If the idea of wealth was present to them it was only in so far as it was bound with that other success.
an orphan from early childhood and without fortune,
brought up in an atmosphere of intellectual interests,
had never considered the aspects of great wealth.
They were too remote,
and she had not learned that they were desirable.
On the other hand,
she had not known anything of absolute want.
Even the very poverty of her aunt,
had nothing intolerable to a refined mind;
it seemed in accord with a great grief: it had the austerity of a sacrifice offered to a noble ideal.
Thus even the most legitimate touch of materialism was wanting in Mrs. Gould's character.
The dead man of whom she thought with tenderness
(because he was Charley's father)
and with some impatience
(because he had been weak),
must be put completely in the wrong.
Nothing else would do to keep their prosperity without a stain on its only real,
on its immaterial side!
on his part,
had been obliged to keep the idea of wealth well to the fore;
but he brought it forward as a means,
not as an end.
Unless the mine was good business it could not be touched.
He had to insist on that aspect of the enterprise.
It was his lever to move men who had capital.
And Charles Gould believed in the mine.
He knew everything that could be known of it.
His faith in the mine was contagious,
though it was not served by a great eloquence;
but business men are frequently as sanguine and imaginative as lovers.
They are affected by a personality much oftener than people would suppose;
and Charles Gould,
in his unshaken assurance,
was absolutely convincing.
it was a matter of common knowledge to the men to whom he addressed himself that mining in Costaguana was a game that could be made considerably more than worth the candle.
The men of affairs knew that very well.
The real difficulty in touching it was elsewhere.
Against that there was an implication of calm and implacable resolution in Charles Gould's very voice.
Men of affairs venture sometimes on acts that the common judgment of the world would pronounce absurd;
they make their decisions on apparently impulsive and human grounds.
had said the considerable personage to whom Charles Gould on his way out through San Francisco had lucidly exposed his point of view.
"Let us suppose that the mining affairs of Sulaco are taken in hand.
There would then be in it: first,
the house of Holroyd,
which is all right;
Mr. Charles Gould,
a citizen of Costaguana,
who is also all right;
the Government of the Republic.
So far this resembles the first start of the Atacama nitrate fields,
where there was a financing house,
a gentleman of the name of Edwards,
and --a Government;
two Governments --two South American Governments.
And you know what came of it.
War came of it;
devastating and prolonged war came of it,
here we possess the advantage of having only one South American Government hanging around for plunder out of the deal.
It is an advantage;
but then there are degrees of badness,
and that Government is the Costaguana Government."
Thus spoke the considerable personage,
the millionaire endower of churches on a scale befitting the greatness of his native land --the same to whom the doctors used the language of horrid and veiled menaces.
He was a big-limbed,
whose quiet burliness lent to an ample silk-faced frock-coat a superfine dignity.
His hair was iron grey,
his eyebrows were still black,
and his massive profile was the profile of a Caesar's head on an old Roman coin.
But his parentage was German and Scotch and English,
with remote strains of Danish and French blood,
giving him the temperament of a Puritan and an insatiable imagination of conquest.
He was completely unbending to his visitor,
because of the warm introduction the visitor had brought from Europe,
and because of an irrational liking for earnestness and determination wherever met,
to whatever end directed.
"The Costaguana Government shall play its hand for all it's worth --and don't you forget it,
what is Costaguana?
It is the bottomless pit of 10 per cent.
loans and other fool investments.
European capital has been flung into it with both hands for years.
We in this country know just about enough to keep indoors when it rains.
We can sit and watch.
some day we shall step in.
We are bound to.
But there's no hurry.
Time itself has got to wait on the greatest country in the whole of God's Universe.
We shall be giving the word for everything: industry,
from Cape Horn clear over to Smith's Sound,
if anything worth taking hold of turns up at the North Pole.
And then we shall have the leisure to take in hand the outlying islands and continents of the earth.
We shall run the world's business whether the world likes it or not.
The world can't help it --and neither can we,
By this he meant to express his faith in destiny in words suitable to his intelligence,
which was unskilled in the presentation of general ideas.
His intelligence was nourished on facts;
and Charles Gould,
whose imagination had been permanently affected by the one great fact of a silver mine,
had no objection to this theory of the world's future.
If it had seemed distasteful for a moment it was because the sudden statement of such vast eventualities dwarfed almost to nothingness the actual matter in hand.
He and his plans and all the mineral wealth of the Occidental Province appeared suddenly robbed of every vestige of magnitude.
The sensation was disagreeable;
but Charles Gould was not dull.
Already he felt that he was producing a favourable impression;
the consciousness of that flattering fact helped him to a vague smile,
which his big interlocutor took for a smile of discreet and admiring assent.
He smiled quietly,
and immediately Charles Gould,
with that mental agility mankind will display in defence of a cherished hope,
reflected that the very apparent insignificance of his aim would help him to success.
His personality and his mine would be taken up because it was a matter of no great consequence,
one way or another,
to a man who referred his action to such a prodigious destiny.
And Charles Gould was not humiliated by this consideration,
because the thing remained as big as ever for him.
Nobody else's vast conceptions of destiny could diminish the aspect of his desire for the redemption of the San Tome mine.
In comparison to the correctness of his aim,
definite in space and absolutely attainable within a limited time,
the other man appeared for an instant as a dreamy idealist of no importance.
The great man,
massive and benignant,
had been looking at him thoughtfully;
when he broke the short silence it was to remark that concessions flew about thick in the air of Costaguana.
Any simple soul that just yearned to be taken in could bring down a concession at the first shot.
"Our consuls get their mouths stopped with them,"
with a twinkle of genial scorn in his eyes.
But in a moment he became grave.
that cares nothing for boodle,
and keeps clear of their intrigues,
soon gets his passports.
Persona non grata.
That's the reason our Government is never properly informed.
On the other hand,
Europe must be kept out of this continent,
and for proper interference on our part the time is not yet ripe,
I dare say.
But we here --we are not this country's Government,
neither are we simple souls.
Your affair is all right.
The main question for us is whether the second partner,
and that's you,
is the right sort to hold his own against the third and unwelcome partner,
which is one or another of the high and mighty robber gangs that run the Costaguana Government.
What do you think,
He bent forward to look steadily into the unflinching eyes of Charles Gould,
remembering the large box full of his father's letters,
put the accumulated scorn and bitterness of many years into the tone of his answer --
"As far as the knowledge of these men and their methods and their politics is concerned,
I can answer for myself.
I have been fed on that sort of knowledge since I was a boy.
I am not likely to fall into mistakes from excess of optimism."
That's all right.
Tact and a stiff upper lip is what you'll want;
and you could bluff a little on the strength of your backing.
Not too much,
We will go with you as long as the thing runs straight.
But we won't be drawn into any large trouble.
This is the experiment which I am willing to make.
There is some risk,
and we will take it;
but if you can't keep up your end,
we will stand our loss,
and then --we'll let the thing go.
This mine can wait;
it has been shut up before,
as you know.
You must understand that under no circumstances will we consent to throw good money after bad."
Thus the great personage had spoken then,
in his own private office,
in a great city where other men
(very considerable in the eyes of a vain populace)
waited with alacrity upon a wave of his hand.
And rather more than a year later,
during his unexpected appearance in Sulaco,
he had emphasized his uncompromising attitude with a freedom of sincerity permitted to his wealth and influence.
He did this with the less reserve,
because the inspection of what had been done,
and more still the way in which successive steps had been taken,
had impressed him with the conviction that Charles Gould was perfectly capable of keeping up his end.
"This young fellow,"
he thought to himself,
"may yet become a power in the land."
This thought flattered him,
for hitherto the only account of this young man he could give to his intimates was --
"My brother-in-law met him in one of these one-horse old German towns,
near some mines,
and sent him on to me with a letter.
He's one of the Costaguana Goulds,
but all born in the country.
His uncle went into politics,
was the last Provincial President of Sulaco,
and got shot after a battle.
His father was a prominent business man in Sta. Marta,
tried to keep clear of their politics,
and died ruined after a lot of revolutions.
And that's your Costaguana in a nutshell."
he was too great a man to be questioned as to his motives,
even by his intimates.
The outside world was at liberty to wonder respectfully at the hidden meaning of his actions.
He was so great a man that his lavish patronage of the "purer forms of Christianity"
(which in its naive form of church-building amused Mrs. Gould)
was looked upon by his fellow-citizens as the manifestation of a pious and humble spirit.
But in his own circles of the financial world the taking up of such a thing as the San Tome mine was regarded with respect,
but rather as a subject for discreet jocularity.
It was a great man's caprice.
In the great Holroyd building
(an enormous pile of iron,
and blocks of stone at the corner of two streets,
cobwebbed aloft by the radiation of telegraph wires)
the heads of principal departments exchanged humorous glances,
which meant that they were not let into the secrets of the San Tome business.
The Costaguana mail
(it was never large --one fairly heavy envelope)
was taken unopened straight into the great man's room,
and no instructions dealing with it had ever been issued thence.
The office whispered that he answered personally --and not by dictation either,
but actually writing in his own hand,
with pen and ink,
it was to be supposed,
taking a copy in his own private press copy-book,
inaccessible to profane eyes.
Some scornful young men,
insignificant pieces of minor machinery in that eleven-storey-high workshop of great affairs,
expressed frankly their private opinion that the great chief had done at last something silly,
and was ashamed of his folly;
elderly and insignificant,
but full of romantic reverence for the business that had devoured their best years,
used to mutter darkly and knowingly that this was a portentous sign;
that the Holroyd connection meant by-and-by to get hold of the whole Republic of Costaguana,
the hobby theory was the right one.
It interested the great man to attend personally to the San Tome mine;
it interested him so much that he allowed this hobby to give a direction to the first complete holiday he had taken for quite a startling number of years.
He was not running a great enterprise there;
no mere railway board or industrial corporation.
He was running a man!
A success would have pleased him very much on refreshingly novel grounds;
on the other side of the same feeling,
it was incumbent upon him to cast it off utterly at the first sign of failure.
A man may be thrown off.
The papers had unfortunately trumpeted all over the land his journey to Costaguana.
If he was pleased at the way Charles Gould was going on,
he infused an added grimness into his assurances of support.
Even at the very last interview,
half an hour or so before he rolled out of the patio,
hat in hand,
behind Mrs. Gould's white mules,
he had said in Charles's room --
"You go ahead in your own way,
and I shall know how to help you as long as you hold your own.
But you may rest assured that in a given case we shall know how to drop you in time."
To this Charles Gould's only answer had been:
"You may begin sending out the machinery as soon as you like."
And the great man had liked this imperturbable assurance.
The secret of it was that to Charles Gould's mind these uncompromising terms were agreeable.
Like this the mine preserved its identity,
with which he had endowed it as a boy;
and it remained dependent on himself alone.
It was a serious affair,
took it grimly.
he said to his wife,
alluding to this last conversation with the departed guest,
while they walked slowly up and down the corredor,
followed by the irritated eye of the parrot --"of course,
a man of that sort can take up a thing or drop it when he likes.
He will suffer from no sense of defeat.
He may have to give in,
or he may have to die to-morrow,
but the great silver and iron interests will survive,
and some day will get hold of Costaguana along with the rest of the world."
They had stopped near the cage.
catching the sound of a word belonging to his vocabulary,
was moved to interfere.
Parrots are very human.
with intense self-assertion,
instantly ruffling up his feathers,
assumed an air of puffed-up somnolence behind the glittering wires.
"And do you believe that,
Mrs. Gould asked.
"This seems to me most awful materialism,
it's nothing to me,"
interrupted her husband,
in a reasonable tone.
"I make use of what I see.
What's it to me whether his talk is the voice of destiny or simply a bit of clap-trap eloquence?
There's a good deal of eloquence of one sort or another produced in both Americas.
The air of the New World seems favourable to the art of declamation.
Have you forgotten how dear Avellanos can hold forth for hours here --?"
but that's different,"
protested Mrs. Gould,
The allusion was not to the point.
Don Jose was a dear good man,
who talked very well,
and was enthusiastic about the greatness of the San Tome mine.
"How can you compare them,
"He has suffered --and yet he hopes."
The working competence of men --which she never questioned --was very surprising to Mrs. Gould,
because upon so many obvious issues they showed themselves strangely muddle-headed.
with a careworn calmness which secured for him at once his wife's anxious sympathy,
assured her that he was not comparing.
He was an American himself,
and perhaps he could understand both kinds of eloquence --"if it were worth while to try,"
But he had breathed the air of England longer than any of his people had done for three generations,
and really he begged to be excused.
His poor father could be eloquent,
And he asked his wife whether she remembered a passage in one of his father's last letters where Mr. Gould had expressed the conviction that "God looked wrathfully at these countries,
or else He would let some ray of hope fall through a rift in the appalling darkness of intrigue,
and crime that hung over the Queen of Continents."
Mrs. Gould had not forgotten.
"You read it to me,
"It was a striking pronouncement.
How deeply your father must have felt its terrible sadness!"
"He did not like to be robbed.
It exasperated him,"
said Charles Gould.
"But the image will serve well enough.
What is wanted here is law,
Any one can declaim about these things,
but I pin my faith to material interests.
Only let the material interests once get a firm footing,
and they are bound to impose the conditions on which alone they can continue to exist.
That's how your money-making is justified here in the face of lawlessness and disorder.
It is justified because the security which it demands must be shared with an oppressed people.
A better justice will come afterwards.
That's your ray of hope."
His arm pressed her slight form closer to his side for a moment.
"And who knows whether in that sense even the San Tome mine may not become that little rift in the darkness which poor father despaired of ever seeing?"
She glanced up at him with admiration.
He was competent;
he had given a vast shape to the vagueness of her unselfish ambitions.
"you are splendidly disobedient."
He left her suddenly in the corredor to go and get his hat,
an article of national costume which combined unexpectedly well with his English get-up.
He came back,
a riding-whip under his arm,
buttoning up a dogskin glove;
his face reflected the resolute nature of his thoughts.
His wife had waited for him at the head of the stairs,
and before he gave her the parting kiss he finished the conversation --
"What should be perfectly clear to us,"
"is the fact that there is no going back.
Where could we begin life afresh?
We are in now for all that there is in us."
He bent over her upturned face very tenderly and a little remorsefully.
Charles Gould was competent because he had no illusions.
The Gould Concession had to fight for life with such weapons as could be found at once in the mire of a corruption that was so universal as almost to lose its significance.
He was prepared to stoop for his weapons.
For a moment he felt as if the silver mine,
which had killed his father,
had decoyed him further than he meant to go;
and with the roundabout logic of emotions,
he felt that the worthiness of his life was bound up with success.
There was no going back.
Mrs. Gould was too intelligently sympathetic not to share that feeling.
It made life exciting,
and she was too much of a woman not to like excitement.
But it frightened her,
and when Don Jose Avellanos,
rocking in the American chair,
would go so far as to say,
my dear Carlos,
if you had failed;
even if some untoward event were yet to destroy your work --which God forbid!
--you would have deserved well of your country,"
Mrs. Gould would look up from the tea-table profoundly at her unmoved husband stirring the spoon in the cup as though he had not heard a word.
Not that Don Jose anticipated anything of the sort.
He could not praise enough dear Carlos's tact and courage.
rock-like quality of character was his best safeguard,
Don Jose affirmed;
turning to Mrs. Gould,
"As to you,
my soul" --he would address her with the familiarity of his age and old friendship --"you are as true a patriot as though you had been born in our midst."
This might have been less or more than the truth.
accompanying her husband all over the province in the search for labour,
had seen the land with a deeper glance than a trueborn Costaguanera could have done.
In her travel-worn riding habit,
her face powdered white like a plaster cast,
with a further protection of a small silk mask during the heat of the day,
she rode on a well-shaped,
light-footed pony in the centre of a little cavalcade.
Two mozos de campo,
picturesque in great hats,
with spurred bare heels,
in white embroidered calzoneras,
leather jackets and striped ponchos,
rode ahead with carbines across their shoulders,
swaying in unison to the pace of the horses.
A tropilla of pack mules brought up the rear in charge of a thin brown muleteer,
sitting his long-eared beast very near the tail,
legs thrust far forward,
the wide brim of his hat set far back,
making a sort of halo for his head.
An old Costaguana officer,
a retired senior major of humble origin,
but patronized by the first families on account of his Blanco opinions,
had been recommended by Don Jose for commissary and organizer of that expedition.
The points of his grey moustache hung far below his chin,
riding on Mrs. Gould's left hand,
he looked about with kindly eyes,
pointing out the features of the country,
telling the names of the little pueblos and of the estates,
of the smooth-walled haciendas like long fortresses crowning the knolls above the level of the Sulaco Valley.
It unrolled itself,
with green young crops,
and gleams of water,
from the blue vapour of the distant sierra to an immense quivering horizon of grass and sky,
where big white clouds seemed to fall slowly into the darkness of their own shadows.
Men ploughed with wooden ploughs and yoked oxen,
small on a boundless expanse,
as if attacking immensity itself.
The mounted figures of vaqueros galloped in the distance,
and the great herds fed with all their horned heads one way,
in one single wavering line as far as eye could reach across the broad potreros.
A spreading cotton-wool tree shaded a thatched ranche by the road;
the trudging files of burdened Indians taking off their hats,
would lift sad,
mute eyes to the cavalcade raising the dust of the crumbling camino real made by the hands of their enslaved forefathers.
And Mrs. Gould,
with each day's journey,
seemed to come nearer to the soul of the land in the tremendous disclosure of this interior unaffected by the slight European veneer of the coast towns,
a great land of plain and mountain and people,
suffering and mute,
waiting for the future in a pathetic immobility of patience.
She knew its sights and its hospitality,
dispensed with a sort of slumbrous dignity in those great houses presenting long,
blind walls and heavy portals to the wind-swept pastures.
She was given the head of the tables,
where masters and dependants sat in a simple and patriarchal state.
The ladies of the house would talk softly in the moonlight under the orange trees of the courtyards,
impressing upon her the sweetness of their voices and the something mysterious in the quietude of their lives.
In the morning the gentlemen,
well mounted in braided sombreros and embroidered riding suits,
with much silver on the trappings of their horses,
would ride forth to escort the departing guests before committing them,
with grave good-byes,
to the care of God at the boundary pillars of their estates.
In all these households she could hear stories of political outrage;
killed in the battles of senseless civil wars,
barbarously executed in ferocious proscriptions,
as though the government of the country had been a struggle of lust between bands of absurd devils let loose upon the land with sabres and uniforms and grandiloquent phrases.
And on all the lips she found a weary desire for peace,
the dread of officialdom with its nightmarish parody of administration without law,
and without justice.
She bore a whole two months of wandering very well;
she had that power of resistance to fatigue which one discovers here and there in some quite frail-looking women with surprise --like a state of possession by a remarkably stubborn spirit.
Don Pepe --the old Costaguana major --after much display of solicitude for the delicate lady,
had ended by conferring upon her the name of the "Never-tired Senora."
Mrs. Gould was indeed becoming a Costaguanera.
Having acquired in Southern Europe a knowledge of true peasantry,
she was able to appreciate the great worth of the people.
She saw the man under the silent,
sad-eyed beast of burden.
She saw them on the road carrying loads,
lonely figures upon the plain,
toiling under great straw hats,
with their white clothing flapping about their limbs in the wind;
she remembered the villages by some group of Indian women at the fountain impressed upon her memory,
by the face of some young Indian girl with a melancholy and sensual profile,
raising an earthenware vessel of cool water at the door of a dark hut with a wooden porch cumbered with great brown jars.
The solid wooden wheels of an ox-cart,
halted with its shafts in the dust,
showed the strokes of the axe;
and a party of charcoal carriers,
with each man's load resting above his head on the top of the low mud wall,
slept stretched in a row within the strip of shade.
The heavy stonework of bridges and churches left by the conquerors proclaimed the disregard of human labour,
the tribute-labour of vanished nations.
The power of king and church was gone,
but at the sight of some heavy ruinous pile overtopping from a knoll the low mud walls of a village,
Don Pepe would interrupt the tale of his campaigns to exclaim --
it was everything for the Padres,
nothing for the people;
and now it is everything for those great politicos in Sta. Marta,
for negroes and thieves."
Charles talked with the alcaldes,
with the fiscales,
with the principal people in towns,
and with the caballeros on the estates.
The commandantes of the districts offered him escorts --for he could show an authorization from the Sulaco political chief of the day.
How much the document had cost him in gold twenty-dollar pieces was a secret between himself,
a great man in the United States
(who condescended to answer the Sulaco mail with his own hand),
and a great man of another sort,
with a dark olive complexion and shifty eyes,
inhabiting then the Palace of the Intendencia in Sulaco,
and who piqued himself on his culture and Europeanism generally in a rather French style because he had lived in Europe for some years --in exile,
it was pretty well known that just before this exile he had incautiously gambled away all the cash in the Custom House of a small port where a friend in power had procured for him the post of subcollector.
That youthful indiscretion had,
amongst other inconveniences,
obliged him to earn his living for a time as a cafe waiter in Madrid;
but his talents must have been great,
since they had enabled him to retrieve his political fortunes so splendidly.
exposing his business with an imperturbable steadiness,
called him Excellency.
The provincial Excellency assumed a weary superiority,
tilting his chair far back near an open window in the true Costaguana manner.
The military band happened to be braying operatic selections on the plaza just then,
and twice he raised his hand imperatively for silence in order to listen to a favourite passage.
while Charles Gould waited,
standing by with inscrutable patience.
Lucia di Lammermoor!
I am passionate for music.
It transports me.
the divine --ha!
divine ...What is it you were saying?"
rumours had reached him already of the newcomer's intentions.
he had received an official warning from Sta. Marta.
His manner was intended simply to conceal his curiosity and impress his visitor.
But after he had locked up something valuable in the drawer of a large writing-desk in a distant part of the room,
he became very affable,
and walked back to his chair smartly.
"If you intend to build villages and assemble a population near the mine,
you shall require a decree of the Minister of the Interior for that,"
he suggested in a business-like manner.
"I have already sent a memorial,"
said Charles Gould,
"and I reckon now confidently upon your Excellency's favourable conclusions."
The Excellency was a man of many moods.
With the receipt of the money a great mellowness had descended upon his simple soul.
Unexpectedly he fetched a deep sigh.
What we want is advanced men like you in the province.
The lethargy --the lethargy of these aristocrats!
The want of public spirit!
The absence of all enterprise!
with my profound studies in Europe,
you understand --"
With one hand thrust into his swelling bosom,
he rose and fell on his toes,
and for ten minutes,
almost without drawing breath,
went on hurling himself intellectually to the assault of Charles Gould's polite silence;
he fell back into his chair,
it was as though he had been beaten off from a fortress.
To save his dignity he hastened to dismiss this silent man with a solemn inclination of the head and the words,
pronounced with moody,
fatigued condescension --
"You may depend upon my enlightened goodwill as long as your conduct as a good citizen deserves it."
He took up a paper fan and began to cool himself with a consequential air,
while Charles Gould bowed and withdrew.
Then he dropped the fan at once,
and stared with an appearance of wonder and perplexity at the closed door for quite a long time.
At last he shrugged his shoulders as if to assure himself of his disdain.
A true Englishman.
He despised him.
His face darkened.
What meant this unimpressed and frigid behaviour?
He was the first of the successive politicians sent out from the capital to rule the Occidental Province whom the manner of Charles Gould in official intercourse was to strike as offensively independent.
Charles Gould assumed that if the appearance of listening to deplorable balderdash must form part of the price he had to pay for being left unmolested,
the obligation of uttering balderdash personally was by no means included in the bargain.
He drew the line there.
To these provincial autocrats,
before whom the peaceable population of all classes had been accustomed to tremble,
the reserve of that English-looking engineer caused an uneasiness which swung to and fro between cringing and truculence.
Gradually all of them discovered that,
no matter what party was in power,
that man remained in most effective touch with the higher authorities in Sta. Marta.
This was a fact,
and it accounted perfectly for the Goulds being by no means so wealthy as the engineer-in-chief on the new railway could legitimately suppose.
Following the advice of Don Jose Avellanos,
who was a man of good counsel
(though rendered timid by his horrible experiences of Guzman Bento's time),
Charles Gould had kept clear of the capital;
but in the current gossip of the foreign residents there he was known
(with a good deal of seriousness underlying the irony)
by the nickname of "King of Sulaco."
An advocate of the Costaguana Bar,
a man of reputed ability and good character,
member of the distinguished Moraga family possessing extensive estates in the Sulaco Valley,
was pointed out to strangers,
with a shade of mystery and respect,
as the agent of the San Tome mine --"political,
He was tall,
It was known that he had easy access to ministers,
and that the numerous Costaguana generals were always anxious to dine at his house.
Presidents granted him audience with facility.
He corresponded actively with his maternal uncle,
Don Jose Avellanos;
but his letters --unless those expressing formally his dutiful affection --were seldom entrusted to the Costaguana Post Office.
There the envelopes are opened,
with the frankness of a brazen and childish impudence characteristic of some Spanish-American Governments.
But it must be noted that at about the time of the re-opening of the San Tome mine the muleteer who had been employed by Charles Gould in his preliminary travels on the Campo added his small train of animals to the thin stream of traffic carried over the mountain passes between the Sta. Marta upland and the Valley of Sulaco.
There are no travellers by that arduous and unsafe route unless under very exceptional circumstances,
and the state of inland trade did not visibly require additional transport facilities;
but the man seemed to find his account in it.
A few packages were always found for him whenever he took the road.
Very brown and wooden,
in goatskin breeches with the hair outside,
he sat near the tail of his own smart mule,
his great hat turned against the sun,
an expression of blissful vacancy on his long face,
humming day after day a love-song in a plaintive key,
without a change of expression,
letting out a yell at his small tropilla in front.
A round little guitar hung high up on his back;
and there was a place scooped out artistically in the wood of one of his pack-saddles where a tightly rolled piece of paper could be slipped in,
the wooden plug replaced,
and the coarse canvas nailed on again.
When in Sulaco it was his practice to smoke and doze all day long
(as though he had no care in the world)
on a stone bench outside the doorway of the Casa Gould and facing the windows of the Avellanos house.
Years and years ago his mother had been chief laundry-woman in that family --very accomplished in the matter of clear-starching.
He himself had been born on one of their haciendas.
His name was Bonifacio,
and Don Jose,
crossing the street about five o'clock to call on Dona Emilia,
always acknowledged his humble salute by some movement of hand or head.
The porters of both houses conversed lazily with him in tones of grave intimacy.
His evenings he devoted to gambling and to calls in a spirit of generous festivity upon the peyne d'oro girls in the more remote side-streets of the town.
was a discreet man.
Those of us whom business or curiosity took to Sulaco in these years before the first advent of the railway can remember the steadying effect of the San Tome mine upon the life of that remote province.
The outward appearances had not changed then as they have changed since,
as I am told,
with cable cars running along the streets of the Constitution,
and carriage roads far into the country,
to Rincon and other villages,
where the foreign merchants and the Ricos generally have their modern villas,
and a vast railway goods yard by the harbour,
which has a quay-side,
a long range of warehouses,
and quite serious,
organized labour troubles of its own.
Nobody had ever heard of labour troubles then.
The Cargadores of the port formed,
an unruly brotherhood of all sorts of scum,
with a patron saint of their own.
They went on strike regularly
(every bull-fight day),
a form of trouble that even Nostromo at the height of his prestige could never cope with efficiently;
but the morning after each fiesta,
before the Indian market-women had opened their mat parasols on the plaza,
when the snows of Higuerota gleamed pale over the town on a yet black sky,
the appearance of a phantom-like horseman mounted on a silver-grey mare solved the problem of labour without fail.
His steed paced the lanes of the slums and the weed-grown enclosures within the old ramparts,
between the black,
lightless cluster of huts,
The horseman hammered with the butt of a heavy revolver at the doors of low pulperias,
of obscene lean-to sheds sloping against the tumble-down piece of a noble wall,
at the wooden sides of dwellings so flimsy that the sound of snores and sleepy mutters within could be heard in the pauses of the thundering clatter of his blows.
He called out men's names menacingly from the saddle,
The drowsy answers --grumpy,
or deprecating --came out into the silent darkness in which the horseman sat still,
and presently a dark figure would flit out coughing in the still air.
Sometimes a low-toned woman cried through the window-hole softly,
"He's coming directly,
and the horseman waited silent on a motionless horse.
But if perchance he had to dismount,
after a while,
from the door of that hovel or of that pulperia,
with a ferocious scuffle and stifled imprecations,
a cargador would fly out head first and hands abroad,
to sprawl under the forelegs of the silver-grey mare,
who only pricked forward her sharp little ears.
She was used to that work;
and the man,
picking himself up,
would walk away hastily from Nostromo's revolver,
reeling a little along the street and snarling low curses.
At sunrise Captain Mitchell,
coming out anxiously in his night attire on to the wooden balcony running the whole length of the O.S.N.
Company's lonely building by the shore,
would see the lighters already under way,
figures moving busily about the cargo cranes,
perhaps hear the invaluable Nostromo,
now dismounted and in the checked shirt and red sash of a Mediterranean sailor,
bawling orders from the end of the jetty in a stentorian voice.
A fellow in a thousand!
The material apparatus of perfected civilization which obliterates the individuality of old towns under the stereotyped conveniences of modern life had not intruded as yet;
but over the worn-out antiquity of Sulaco,
so characteristic with its stuccoed houses and barred windows,
with the great yellowy-white walls of abandoned convents behind the rows of sombre green cypresses,
that fact --very modern in its spirit --the San Tome mine had already thrown its subtle influence.
It had altered,
the outward character of the crowds on feast days on the plaza before the open portal of the cathedral,
by the number of white ponchos with a green stripe affected as holiday wear by the San Tome miners.
They had also adopted white hats with green cord and braid --articles of good quality,
which could be obtained in the storehouse of the administration for very little money.
A peaceable Cholo wearing these colours
(unusual in Costaguana)
was somehow very seldom beaten to within an inch of his life on a charge of disrespect to the town police;
neither ran he much risk of being suddenly lassoed on the road by a recruiting party of lanceros --a method of voluntary enlistment looked upon as almost legal in the Republic.
Whole villages were known to have volunteered for the army in that way;
as Don Pepe would say with a hopeless shrug to Mrs. Gould,
"What would you!
But the State must have its soldiers."
Thus professionally spoke Don Pepe,
with pendent moustaches,
and a clean run of a cast-iron jaw,
suggesting the type of a cattle-herd horseman from the great Llanos of the South.
"If you will listen to an old officer of Paez,
was the exordium of all his speeches in the Aristocratic Club of Sulaco,
where he was admitted on account of his past services to the extinct cause of Federation.
dating from the days of the proclamation of Costaguana's independence,
boasted many names of liberators amongst its first founders.
Suppressed arbitrarily innumerable times by various Governments,
with memories of proscriptions and of at least one wholesale massacre of its members,
sadly assembled for a banquet by the order of a zealous military commandante
(their bodies were afterwards stripped naked and flung into the plaza out of the windows by the lowest scum of the populace),
it was again flourishing,
at that period,
It extended to strangers the large hospitality of the cool,
big rooms of its historic quarters in the front part of a house,
once the residence of a high official of the Holy Office.
The two wings,
crumbled behind the nailed doors,
and what may be described as a grove of young orange trees grown in the unpaved patio concealed the utter ruin of the back part facing the gate.
You turned in from the street,
as if entering a secluded orchard,
where you came upon the foot of a disjointed staircase,
guarded by a moss-stained effigy of some saintly bishop,
mitred and staffed,
and bearing the indignity of a broken nose meekly,
with his fine stone hands crossed on his breast.
The chocolate-coloured faces of servants with mops of black hair peeped at you from above;
the click of billiard balls came to your ears,
and ascending the steps,
you would perhaps see in the first sala,
very stiff upon a straight-backed chair,
in a good light,
Don Pepe moving his long moustaches as he spelt his way,
at arm's length,
through an old Sta. Marta newspaper.
His horse --a stony-hearted but persevering black brute with a hammer head --you would have seen in the street dozing motionless under an immense saddle,
with its nose almost touching the curbstone of the sidewalk.
when "down from the mountain,"
as the phrase,
often heard in Sulaco,
could also be seen in the drawing-room of the Casa Gould.
He sat with modest assurance at some distance from the tea-table.
With his knees close together,
and a kindly twinkle of drollery in his deep-set eyes,
he would throw his small and ironic pleasantries into the current of conversation.
There was in that man a sort of sane,
and a vein of genuine humanity so often found in simple old soldiers of proved courage who have seen much desperate service.
Of course he knew nothing whatever of mining,
but his employment was of a special kind.
He was in charge of the whole population in the territory of the mine,
which extended from the head of the gorge to where the cart track from the foot of the mountain enters the plain,
crossing a stream over a little wooden bridge painted green --green,
the colour of hope,
being also the colour of the mine.
It was reported in Sulaco that up there "at the mountain" Don Pepe walked about precipitous paths,
girt with a great sword and in a shabby uniform with tarnished bullion epaulettes of a senior major.
Most miners being Indians,
with big wild eyes,
addressed him as Taita
as these barefooted people of Costaguana will address anybody who wears shoes;
but it was Basilio,
Mr. Gould's own mozo and the head servant of the Casa,
in all good faith and from a sense of propriety,
announced him once in the solemn words,
"El Senor Gobernador has arrived."
Don Jose Avellanos,
then in the drawing-room,
was delighted beyond measure at the aptness of the title,
with which he greeted the old major banteringly as soon as the latter's soldierly figure appeared in the doorway.
Don Pepe only smiled in his long moustaches,
as much as to say,
"You might have found a worse name for an old soldier."
And El Senor Gobernador he had remained,
with his small jokes upon his function and upon his domain,
where he affirmed with humorous exaggeration to Mrs. Gould --
"No two stones could come together anywhere without the Gobernador hearing the click,
And he would tap his ear with the tip of his forefinger knowingly.
Even when the number of the miners alone rose to over six hundred he seemed to know each of them individually,
all the innumerable Joses,
from the villages _primero --segundo --or tercero_
(there were three mining villages)
under his government.
He could distinguish them not only by their flat,
which to Mrs. Gould looked all alike,
as if run into the same ancestral mould of suffering and patience,
but apparently also by the infinitely graduated shades of reddish-brown,
of coppery-brown backs,
as the two shifts,
stripped to linen drawers and leather skull-caps,
mingled together with a confusion of naked limbs,
of shouldered picks,
in a great shuffle of sandalled feet on the open plateau before the entrance of the main tunnel.
It was a time of pause.
The Indian boys leaned idly against the long line of little cradle wagons standing empty;
the screeners and ore-breakers squatted on their heels smoking long cigars;
the great wooden shoots slanting over the edge of the tunnel plateau were silent;
and only the ceaseless,
violent rush of water in the open flumes could be heard,
with the splash and rumble of revolving turbine-wheels,
and the thudding march of the stamps pounding to powder the treasure rock on the plateau below.
The heads of gangs,
distinguished by brass medals hanging on their bare breasts,
marshalled their squads;
and at last the mountain would swallow one-half of the silent crowd,
while the other half would move off in long files down the zigzag paths leading to the bottom of the gorge.
It was deep;
a thread of vegetation winding between the blazing rock faces resembled a slender green cord,
in which three lumpy knots of banana patches,
and shady trees marked the Village One,
housing the miners of the Gould Concession.
Whole families had been moving from the first towards the spot in the Higuerota range,
whence the rumour of work and safety had spread over the pastoral Campo,
forcing its way also,
even as the waters of a high flood,
into the nooks and crannies of the distant blue walls of the Sierras.
in a pointed straw hat,
then the mother with the bigger children,
generally also a diminutive donkey,
all under burdens,
except the leader himself,
or perhaps some grown girl,
the pride of the family,
stepping barefooted and straight as an arrow,
with braids of raven hair,
and no load to carry but the small guitar of the country and a pair of soft leather sandals tied together on her back.
At the sight of such parties strung out on the cross trails between the pastures,
or camped by the side of the royal road,
travellers on horseback would remark to each other --
"More people going to the San Tome mine.
We shall see others to-morrow."
And spurring on in the dusk they would discuss the great news of the province,
the news of the San Tome mine.
A rich Englishman was going to work it --and perhaps not an Englishman,
A foreigner with much money.
it had begun.
A party of men who had been to Sulaco with a herd of black bulls for the next corrida had reported that from the porch of the posada in Rincon,
only a short league from the town,
the lights on the mountain were visible,
twinkling above the trees.
And there was a woman seen riding a horse sideways,
not in the chair seat,
but upon a sort of saddle,
and a man's hat on her head.
She walked about,
on foot up the mountain paths.
A woman engineer,
it seemed she was.
"What an absurdity!
Una Americana del Norte_."
if your worship is informed.
it need be something of that sort."
And they would laugh a little with astonishment and scorn,
keeping a wary eye on the shadows of the road,
for one is liable to meet bad men when travelling late on the Campo.
And it was not only the men that Don Pepe knew so well,
but he seemed able,
with one attentive,
to classify each woman,
or growing youth of his domain.
It was only the small fry that puzzled him sometimes.
He and the padre could be seen frequently side by side,
meditative and gazing across the street of a village at a lot of sedate brown children,
trying to sort them out,
as it were,
or else they would together put searching questions as to the parentage of some small,
staid urchin met wandering,
naked and grave,
along the road with a cigar in his baby mouth,
and perhaps his mother's rosary,
purloined for purposes of ornamentation,
hanging in a loop of beads low down on his rotund little stomach.
The spiritual and temporal pastors of the mine flock were very good friends.
With Dr. Monygham,
the medical pastor,
who had accepted the charge from Mrs. Gould,
and lived in the hospital building,
they were on not so intimate terms.
But no one could be on intimate terms with El Senor Doctor,
with his twisted shoulders,
and side-long bitter glance,
was mysterious and uncanny.
The other two authorities worked in harmony.
with big round eyes,
a sharp chin,
and a great snuff-taker,
was an old campaigner,
he had shriven many simple souls on the battlefields of the Republic,
kneeling by the dying on hillsides,
in the long grass,
in the gloom of the forests,
to hear the last confession with the smell of gunpowder smoke in his nostrils,
the rattle of muskets,
the hum and spatter of bullets in his ears.
And where was the harm if,
at the presbytery,
they had a game with a pack of greasy cards in the early evening,
before Don Pepe went his last rounds to see that all the watchmen of the mine --a body organized by himself --were at their posts?
For that last duty before he slept Don Pepe did actually gird his old sword on the verandah of an unmistakable American white frame house,
which Father Roman called the presbytery.
like a vast barn with a wooden cross over the gable,
was the miners' chapel.
There Father Roman said Mass every day before a sombre altar-piece representing the Resurrection,
the grey slab of the tombstone balanced on one corner,
a figure soaring upwards,
long-limbed and livid,
in an oval of pallid light,
and a helmeted brown legionary smitten down,
right across the bituminous foreground.
_muy linda e maravillosa_,"
Father Roman would say to some of his flock,
"which you behold here through the munificence of the wife of our Senor Administrador,
has been painted in Europe,
a country of saints and miracles,
and much greater than our Costaguana."
And he would take a pinch of snuff with unction.
But when once an inquisitive spirit desired to know in what direction this Europe was situated,
whether up or down the coast,
to conceal his perplexity,
became very reserved and severe.
"No doubt it is extremely far away.
But ignorant sinners like you of the San Tome mine should think earnestly of everlasting punishment instead of inquiring into the magnitude of the earth,
with its countries and populations altogether beyond your understanding."
With a "Good-night,
the Gobernador would go off,
holding up his sabre against his side,
his body bent forward,
with a long,
plodding stride in the dark.
The jocularity proper to an innocent card game for a few cigars or a bundle of yerba was replaced at once by the stern duty mood of an officer setting out to visit the outposts of an encamped army.
One loud blast of the whistle that hung from his neck provoked instantly a great shrilling of responding whistles,
mingled with the barking of dogs,
that would calm down slowly at last,
away up at the head of the gorge;
and in the stillness two serenos,
on guard by the bridge,
would appear walking noiselessly towards him.
On one side of the road a long frame building --the store --would be closed and barricaded from end to end;
facing it another white frame house,
and with a verandah --the hospital --would have lights in the two windows of Dr. Monygham's quarters.
Even the delicate foliage of a clump of pepper trees did not stir,
so breathless would be the darkness warmed by the radiation of the over-heated rocks.
Don Pepe would stand still for a moment with the two motionless serenos before him,
high up on the sheer face of the mountain,
dotted with single torches,
like drops of fire fallen from the two great blazing clusters of lights above,
the ore shoots would begin to rattle.
The great clattering,
gathering speed and weight,
would be caught up by the walls of the gorge,
and sent upon the plain in a growl of thunder.
The pasadero in Rincon swore that on calm nights,
by listening intently,
he could catch the sound in his doorway as of a storm in the mountains.
To Charles Gould's fancy it seemed that the sound must reach the uttermost limits of the province.
Riding at night towards the mine,
it would meet him at the edge of a little wood just beyond Rincon.
There was no mistaking the growling mutter of the mountain pouring its stream of treasure under the stamps;
and it came to his heart with the peculiar force of a proclamation thundered forth over the land and the marvellousness of an accomplished fact fulfilling an audacious desire.
He had heard this very sound in his imagination on that far-off evening when his wife and himself,
after a tortuous ride through a strip of forest,
had reined in their horses near the stream,
and had gazed for the first time upon the jungle-grown solitude of the gorge.
The head of a palm rose here and there.
In a high ravine round the corner of the San Tome mountain
(which is square like a blockhouse)
the thread of a slender waterfall flashed bright and glassy through the dark green of the heavy fronds of tree-ferns.
stretching his arm up the gorge,
had declared with mock solemnity,
"Behold the very paradise of snakes,
And then they had wheeled their horses and ridden back to sleep that night at Rincon.
The alcalde --an old,
a sergeant of Guzman Bento's time --had cleared respectfully out of his house with his three pretty daughters,
to make room for the foreign senora and their worships the Caballeros.
All he asked Charles Gould
(whom he took for a mysterious and official person)
to do for him was to remind the supreme Government --El Gobierno supreme --of a pension
(amounting to about a dollar a month)
to which he believed himself entitled.
It had been promised to him,
straightening his bent back martially,
"many years ago,
for my valour in the wars with the wild Indios when a young man,
The waterfall existed no longer.
The tree-ferns that had luxuriated in its spray had died around the dried-up pool,
and the high ravine was only a big trench half filled up with the refuse of excavations and tailings.
dammed up above,
sent its water rushing along the open flumes of scooped tree trunks striding on trestle-legs to the turbines working the stamps on the lower plateau --the mesa grande of the San Tome mountain.
Only the memory of the waterfall,
with its amazing fernery,
like a hanging garden above the rocks of the gorge,
was preserved in Mrs. Gould's water-colour sketch;
she had made it hastily one day from a cleared patch in the bushes,
sitting in the shade of a roof of straw erected for her on three rough poles under Don Pepe's direction.
Mrs. Gould had seen it all from the beginning: the clearing of the wilderness,
the making of the road,
the cutting of new paths up the cliff face of San Tome.
For weeks together she had lived on the spot with her husband;
and she was so little in Sulaco during that year that the appearance of the Gould carriage on the Alameda would cause a social excitement.
From the heavy family coaches full of stately senoras and black-eyed senoritas rolling solemnly in the shaded alley white hands were waved towards her with animation in a flutter of greetings.
Dona Emilia was "down from the mountain."
But not for long.
Dona Emilia would be gone "up to the mountain" in a day or two,
and her sleek carriage mules would have an easy time of it for another long spell.
She had watched the erection of the first frame-house put up on the lower mesa for an office and Don Pepe's quarters;
she heard with a thrill of thankful emotion the first wagon load of ore rattle down the then only shoot;
she had stood by her husband's side perfectly silent,
and gone cold all over with excitement at the instant when the first battery of only fifteen stamps was put in motion for the first time.
On the occasion when the fires under the first set of retorts in their shed had glowed far into the night she did not retire to rest on the rough cadre set up for her in the as yet bare frame-house till she had seen the first spongy lump of silver yielded to the hazards of the world by the dark depths of the Gould Concession;
she had laid her unmercenary hands,
with an eagerness that made them tremble,
upon the first silver ingot turned out still warm from the mould;
and by her imaginative estimate of its power she endowed that lump of metal with a justificative conception,
as though it were not a mere fact,
but something far-reaching and impalpable,
like the true expression of an emotion or the emergence of a principle.
looked over her shoulder with a smile that,
making longitudinal folds on his face,
caused it to resemble a leathern mask with a benignantly diabolic expression.
"Would not the muchachos of Hernandez like to get hold of this insignificant object,
very much like a piece of tin?"
had been an inoffensive,
kidnapped with circumstances of peculiar atrocity from his home during one of the civil wars,
and forced to serve in the army.
There his conduct as soldier was exemplary,
watching his chance,
he killed his colonel,
and managed to get clear away.
With a band of deserters,
who chose him for their chief,
he had taken refuge beyond the wild and waterless Bolson de Tonoro.
The haciendas paid him blackmail in cattle and horses;
extraordinary stories were told of his powers and of his wonderful escapes from capture.
He used to ride,
into the villages and the little towns on the Campo,
driving a pack mule before him,
with two revolvers in his belt,
go straight to the shop or store,
select what he wanted,
and ride away unopposed because of the terror his exploits and his audacity inspired.
Poor country people he usually left alone;
the upper class were often stopped on the roads and robbed;
but any unlucky official that fell into his hands was sure to get a severe flogging.
The army officers did not like his name to be mentioned in their presence.
mounted on stolen horses,
laughed at the pursuit of the regular cavalry sent to hunt them down,
and whom they took pleasure to ambush most scientifically in the broken ground of their own fastness.
Expeditions had been fitted out;
a price had been put upon his head;
even attempts had been made,
treacherously of course,
to open negotiations with him,
without in the slightest way affecting the even tenor of his career.
in true Costaguana fashion,
the Fiscal of Tonoro,
who was ambitious of the glory of having reduced the famous Hernandez,
offered him a sum of money and a safe conduct out of the country for the betrayal of his band.
But Hernandez evidently was not of the stuff of which the distinguished military politicians and conspirators of Costaguana are made.
This clever but common device
(which frequently works like a charm in putting down revolutions)
failed with the chief of vulgar Salteadores.
It promised well for the Fiscal at first,
but ended very badly for the squadron of lanceros posted
(by the Fiscal's directions)
in a fold of the ground into which Hernandez had promised to lead his unsuspecting followers They came,
at the appointed time,
but creeping on their hands and knees through the bush,
and only let their presence be known by a general discharge of firearms,
which emptied many saddles.
The troopers who escaped came riding very hard into Tonoro.
It is said that their commanding officer
being better mounted,
rode far ahead of the rest)
afterwards got into a state of despairing intoxication and beat the ambitious Fiscal severely with the flat of his sabre in the presence of his wife and daughters,
for bringing this disgrace upon the National Army.
The highest civil official of Tonoro,
falling to the ground in a swoon,
was further kicked all over the body and rowelled with sharp spurs about the neck and face because of the great sensitiveness of his military colleague.
This gossip of the inland Campo,
so characteristic of the rulers of the country with its story of oppression,
and savage brutality,
was perfectly known to Mrs. Gould.
That it should be accepted with no indignant comment by people of intelligence,
and character as something inherent in the nature of things was one of the symptoms of degradation that had the power to exasperate her almost to the verge of despair.
Still looking at the ingot of silver,
she shook her head at Don Pepe's remark --
"If it had not been for the lawless tyranny of your Government,
many an outlaw now with Hernandez would be living peaceably and happy by the honest work of his hands."
cried Don Pepe,
"it is true!
It is as if God had given you the power to look into the very breasts of people.
You have seen them working round you,
Dona Emilia --meek as lambs,
patient like their own burros,
brave like lions.
I have led them to the very muzzles of guns --I,
who stand here before you,
senora --in the time of Paez,
who was full of generosity,
and in courage only approached by the uncle of Don Carlos here,
as far as I know.
No wonder there are bandits in the Campo when there are none but thieves,
and sanguinary macaques to rule us in Sta. Marta.
all the same,
a bandit is a bandit,
and we shall have a dozen good straight Winchesters to ride with the silver down to Sulaco."
Mrs. Gould's ride with the first silver escort to Sulaco was the closing episode of what she called "my camp life" before she had settled in her town-house permanently,
as was proper and even necessary for the wife of the administrator of such an important institution as the San Tome mine.
For the San Tome mine was to become an institution,
a rallying point for everything in the province that needed order and stability to live.
Security seemed to flow upon this land from the mountain-gorge.
The authorities of Sulaco had learned that the San Tome mine could make it worth their while to leave things and people alone.
This was the nearest approach to the rule of common-sense and justice Charles Gould felt it possible to secure at first.
with its organization,
its population growing fiercely attached to their position of privileged safety,
with its armoury,
with its Don Pepe,
with its armed body of serenos
it was said,
many an outlaw and deserter --and even some members of Hernandez's band --had found a place),
the mine was a power in the land.
As a certain prominent man in Sta. Marta had exclaimed with a hollow laugh,
when discussing the line of action taken by the Sulaco authorities at a time of political crisis --
"You call these men Government officials?
They are officials of the mine --officials of the Concession --I tell you."
The prominent man
(who was then a person in power,
with a lemon-coloured face and a very short and curly,
not to say woolly,
head of hair)
went so far in his temporary discontent as to shake his yellow fist under the nose of his interlocutor,
and shriek --
I tell you!
The political Gefe,
the chief of the police,
the chief of the customs,
are the officials of that Gould."
Thereupon an intrepid but low and argumentative murmur would flow on for a space in the ministerial cabinet,
and the prominent man's passion would end in a cynical shrug of the shoulders.
he seemed to say,
what did it matter as long as the minister himself was not forgotten during his brief day of authority?
But all the same,
the unofficial agent of the San Tome mine,
working for a good cause,
had his moments of anxiety,
which were reflected in his letters to Don Jose Avellanos,
his maternal uncle.
"No sanguinary macaque from Sta. Marta shall set foot on that part of Costaguana which lies beyond the San Tome bridge,"
Don Pepe used to assure Mrs. Gould.
as an honoured guest --for our Senor Administrador is a deep politico."
But to Charles Gould,
in his own room,
the old Major would remark with a grim and soldierly cheeriness,
"We are all playing our heads at this game."
Don Jose Avellanos would mutter "Imperium in imperio,
with an air of profound self-satisfaction which,
in a curious way,
seemed to contain a queer admixture of bodily discomfort.
could only be visible to the initiated.
And for the initiated it was a wonderful place,
this drawing-room of the Casa Gould,
with its momentary glimpses of the master --El Senor Administrador --older,
with the lines deepened on his English,
flitting on his thin cavalryman's legs across the doorways,
either just "back from the mountain" or with jingling spurs and riding-whip under his arm,
on the point of starting "for the mountain."
Then Don Pepe,
modestly martial in his chair,
the llanero who seemed somehow to have found his martial jocularity,
his knowledge of the world,
and his manner perfect for his station,
in the midst of savage armed contests with his kind;
polished and familiar,
the diplomatist with his loquacity covering much caution and wisdom in delicate advice,
with his manuscript of a historical work on Costaguana,
entitled "Fifty Years of Misrule,"
he thought it was not prudent
(even if it were possible)
"to give to the world";
and also Dona Emilia amongst them,
before the glittering tea-set,
with one common master-thought in their heads,
with one common feeling of a tense situation,
with one ever-present aim to preserve the inviolable character of the mine at every cost.
And there was also to be seen Captain Mitchell,
a little apart,
near one of the long windows,
with an air of old-fashioned neat old bachelorhood about him,
in a white waistcoat,
a little disregarded and unconscious of it;
utterly in the dark,
and imagining himself to be in the thick of things.
The good man,
having spent a clear thirty years of his life on the high seas before getting what he called a "shore billet,"
was astonished at the importance of transactions
(other than relating to shipping)
which take place on dry land.
Almost every event out of the usual daily course "marked an epoch" for him or else was "history";
unless with his pomposity struggling with a discomfited droop of his rubicund,
rather handsome face,
set off by snow-white close hair and short whiskers,
he would mutter --
was a mistake."
The reception of the first consignment of San Tome silver for shipment to San Francisco in one of the O.S.N.
Co.'s mail-boats had,
"marked an epoch" for Captain Mitchell.
The ingots packed in boxes of stiff ox-hide with plaited handles,
small enough to be carried easily by two men,
were brought down by the serenos of the mine walking in careful couples along the half-mile or so of steep,
zigzag paths to the foot of the mountain.
There they would be loaded into a string of two-wheeled carts,
resembling roomy coffers with a door at the back,
and harnessed tandem with two mules each,
waiting under the guard of armed and mounted serenos.
Don Pepe padlocked each door in succession,
and at the signal of his whistle the string of carts would move off,
closely surrounded by the clank of spur and carbine,
with jolts and cracking of whips,
with a sudden deep rumble over the boundary bridge
("into the land of thieves and sanguinary macaques,"
Don Pepe defined that crossing);
hats bobbing in the first light of the dawn,
on the heads of cloaked figures;
Winchesters on hip;
bridle hands protruding lean and brown from under the falling folds of the ponchos.
The convoy skirting a little wood,
along the mine trail,
between the mud huts and low walls of Rincon,
increased its pace on the camino real,
mules urged to speed,
Don Carlos riding alone ahead of a dust storm affording a vague vision of long ears of mules,
of fluttering little green and white flags stuck upon each cart;
of raised arms in a mob of sombreros with the white gleam of ranging eyes;
and Don Pepe,
hardly visible in the rear of that rattling dust trail,
with a stiff seat and impassive face,
rising and falling rhythmically on an ewe-necked silver-bitted black brute with a hammer head.
The sleepy people in the little clusters of huts,
in the small ranches near the road,
recognized by the headlong sound the charge of the San Tome silver escort towards the crumbling wall of the city on the Campo side.
They came to the doors to see it dash by over ruts and stones,
with a clatter and clank and cracking of whips,
with the reckless rush and precise driving of a field battery hurrying into action,
and the solitary English figure of the Senor Administrador riding far ahead in the lead.
In the fenced roadside paddocks loose horses galloped wildly for a while;
the heavy cattle stood up breast deep in the grass,
lowing mutteringly at the flying noise;
a meek Indian villager would glance back once and hasten to shove his loaded little donkey bodily against a wall,
out of the way of the San Tome silver escort going to the sea;
a small knot of chilly leperos under the Stone Horse of the Alameda would mutter:
on seeing it take a wide curve at a gallop and dart into the empty Street of the Constitution;
for it was considered the correct thing,
the only proper style by the mule-drivers of the San Tome mine to go through the waking town from end to end without a check in the speed as if chased by a devil.
The early sunshine glowed on the delicate primrose,
pale blue fronts of the big houses with all their gates shut yet,
and no face behind the iron bars of the windows.
In the whole sunlit range of empty balconies along the street only one white figure would be visible high up above the clear pavement --the wife of the Senor Administrador --leaning over to see the escort go by to the harbour,
a mass of heavy,
fair hair twisted up negligently on her little head,
and a lot of lace about the neck of her muslin wrapper.
With a smile to her husband's single,
she would watch the whole thing stream past below her feet with an orderly uproar,
till she answered by a friendly sign the salute of the galloping Don Pepe,
deferential inclination with a sweep of the hat below the knee.
The string of padlocked carts lengthened,
the size of the escort grew bigger as the years went on.
Every three months an increasing stream of treasure swept through the streets of Sulaco on its way to the strong room in the O.S.N.
Co.'s building by the harbour,
there to await shipment for the North.
Increasing in volume,
and of immense value also;
as Charles Gould told his wife once with some exultation,
there had never been seen anything in the world to approach the vein of the Gould Concession.
For them both,
each passing of the escort under the balconies of the Casa Gould was like another victory gained in the conquest of peace for Sulaco.
No doubt the initial action of Charles Gould had been helped at the beginning by a period of comparative peace which occurred just about that time;
and also by the general softening of manners as compared with the epoch of civil wars whence had emerged the iron tyranny of Guzman Bento of fearful memory.
In the contests that broke out at the end of his rule
(which had kept peace in the country for a whole fifteen years)
there was more fatuous imbecility,
plenty of cruelty and suffering still,
but much less of the old-time fierce and blindly ferocious political fanaticism.
It was all more vile,
and infinitely more manageable in the very outspoken cynicism of motives.
It was more clearly a brazen-faced scramble for a constantly diminishing quantity of booty;
since all enterprise had been stupidly killed in the land.
Thus it came to pass that the province of Sulaco,
once the field of cruel party vengeances,
had become in a way one of the considerable prizes of political career.
The great of the earth
(in Sta. Marta)
reserved the posts in the old Occidental State to those nearest and dearest to them: nephews,
husbands of favourite sisters,
trusty supporters --or prominent supporters of whom perhaps they were afraid.
It was the blessed province of great opportunities and of largest salaries;
for the San Tome mine had its own unofficial pay list,
whose items and amounts,
fixed in consultation by Charles Gould and Senor Avellanos,
were known to a prominent business man in the United States,
who for twenty minutes or so in every month gave his undivided attention to Sulaco affairs.
At the same time the material interests of all sorts,
backed up by the influence of the San Tome mine,
were quietly gathering substance in that part of the Republic.
the Sulaco Collectorship was generally understood,
in the political world of the capital,
to open the way to the Ministry of Finance,
and so on for every official post,
on the other hand,
the despondent business circles of the Republic had come to consider the Occidental Province as the promised land of safety,
especially if a man managed to get on good terms with the administration of the mine.
Absolutely necessary to make sure of him before taking a single step.
Get an introduction to him from Moraga if you can --the agent of the King of Sulaco,
don't you know."
that Sir John,
coming from Europe to smooth the path for his railway,
had been meeting the name
(and even the nickname)
of Charles Gould at every turn in Costaguana.
The agent of the San Tome Administration in Sta. Marta
Sir John thought him)
had certainly helped so greatly in bringing about the presidential tour that he began to think that there was something in the faint whispers hinting at the immense occult influence of the Gould Concession.
What was currently whispered was this --that the San Tome Administration had,
financed the last revolution,
which had brought into a five-year dictatorship Don Vincente Ribiera,
a man of culture and of unblemished character,
invested with a mandate of reform by the best elements of the State.
well-informed men seemed to believe the fact,
to hope for better things,
for the establishment of legality,
of good faith and order in public life.
So much the better,
thought Sir John.
He worked always on a great scale;
there was a loan to the State,
and a project for systematic colonization of the Occidental Province,
involved in one vast scheme with the construction of the National Central Railway.
were badly wanted for this great development of material interests.
Anybody on the side of these things,
and especially if able to help,
had an importance in Sir John's eyes.
He had not been disappointed in the "King of Sulaco."
The local difficulties had fallen away,
as the engineer-in-chief had foretold they would,
before Charles Gould's mediation.
Sir John had been extremely feted in Sulaco,
next to the President-Dictator,
a fact which might have accounted for the evident ill-humour General Montero displayed at lunch given on board the Juno just before she was to sail,
taking away from Sulaco the President-Dictator and the distinguished foreign guests in his train.
("the hope of honest men,"
as Don Jose had addressed him in a public speech delivered in the name of the Provincial Assembly of Sulaco)
sat at the head of the long table;
positively stony-eyed and purple in the face with the solemnity of this "historical event,"
occupied the foot as the representative of the O.S.N.
Company in Sulaco,
the hosts of that informal function,
with the captain of the ship and some minor officials from the shore around him.
swarthy little gentlemen cast jovial side-glances at the bottles of champagne beginning to pop behind the guests' backs in the hands of the ship's stewards.
The amber wine creamed up to the rims of the glasses.
Charles Gould had his place next to a foreign envoy,
in a listless undertone,
had been talking to him fitfully of hunting and shooting.
with an eyeglass and drooping yellow moustache,
made the Senor Administrador appear by contrast twice as sunbaked,
more flaming red,
a hundred times more intensely and silently alive.
Don Jose Avellanos touched elbows with the other foreign diplomat,
a dark man with a quiet,
and a touch of reserve.
All etiquette being laid aside on the occasion,
General Montero was the only one there in full uniform,
so stiff with embroideries in front that his broad chest seemed protected by a cuirass of gold.
Sir John at the beginning had got away from high places for the sake of sitting near Mrs. Gould.
The great financier was trying to express to her his grateful sense of her hospitality and of his obligation to her husband's "enormous influence in this part of the country,"
when she interrupted him by a low "Hush!"
The President was going to make an informal pronouncement.
The Excellentissimo was on his legs.
He said only a few words,
evidently deeply felt,
and meant perhaps mostly for Avellanos --his old friend --as to the necessity of unremitting effort to secure the lasting welfare of the country emerging after this last struggle,
into a period of peace and material prosperity.
listening to the mellow,
slightly mournful voice,
looking at this rotund,
at the short body,
obese to the point of infirmity,
thought that this man of delicate and melancholy mind,
physically almost a cripple,
coming out of his retirement into a dangerous strife at the call of his fellows,
had the right to speak with the authority of his self-sacrifice.
And yet she was made uneasy.
He was more pathetic than promising,
this first civilian Chief of the State Costaguana had ever known,
glass in hand,
his simple watchwords of honesty,
respect for law,
political good faith abroad and at home --the safeguards of national honour.
He sat down.
During the respectful,
appreciative buzz of voices that followed the speech,
General Montero raised a pair of heavy,
drooping eyelids and rolled his eyes with a sort of uneasy dullness from face to face.
The military backwoods hero of the party,
though secretly impressed by the sudden novelties and splendours of his position
(he had never been on board a ship before,
and had hardly ever seen the sea except from a distance),
understood by a sort of instinct the advantage his surly,
unpolished attitude of a savage fighter gave him amongst all these refined Blanco aristocrats.
But why was it that nobody was looking at him?
he wondered to himself angrily.
He was able to spell out the print of newspapers,
and knew that he had performed the "greatest military exploit of modern times."
"My husband wanted the railway,"
Mrs. Gould said to Sir John in the general murmur of resumed conversations.
"All this brings nearer the sort of future we desire for the country,
which has waited for it in sorrow long enough,
But I will confess that the other day,
during my afternoon drive when I suddenly saw an Indian boy ride out of a wood with the red flag of a surveying party in his hand,
I felt something of a shock.
The future means change --an utter change.
And yet even here there are simple and picturesque things that one would like to preserve."
Sir John listened,
But it was his turn now to hush Mrs. Gould.
"General Montero is going to speak,"
and almost immediately added,
in comic alarm,
he's going to propose my own health,
General Montero had risen with a jingle of steel scabbard and a ripple of glitter on his gold-embroidered breast;
a heavy sword-hilt appeared at his side above the edge of the table.
In this gorgeous uniform,
with his bull neck,
his hooked nose flattened on the tip upon a blue-black,
he looked like a disguised and sinister vaquero.
The drone of his voice had a strangely rasping,
through a few vague sentences;
then suddenly raising his big head and his voice together,
burst out harshly --
"The honour of the country is in the hands of the army.
I assure you I shall be faithful to it."
He hesitated till his roaming eyes met Sir John's face upon which he fixed a lurid,
and the figure of the lately negotiated loan came into his mind.
He lifted his glass.
"I drink to the health of the man who brings us a million and a half of pounds."
He tossed off his champagne,
and sat down heavily with a half-surprised,
half-bullying look all round the faces in the profound,
as if appalled,
silence which succeeded the felicitous toast.
Sir John did not move.
"I don't think I am called upon to rise,"
he murmured to Mrs. Gould.
"That sort of thing speaks for itself."
But Don Jose Avellanos came to the rescue with a short oration,
in which he alluded pointedly to England's goodwill towards Costaguana --"a goodwill,"
"of which I,
having been in my time accredited to the Court of St. James,
am able to speak with some knowledge."
Only then Sir John thought fit to respond,
which he did gracefully in bad French,
punctuated by bursts of applause and the "Hear!
of Captain Mitchell,
who was able to understand a word now and then.
Directly he had done,
the financier of railways turned to Mrs. Gould --
"You were good enough to say that you intended to ask me for something,"
he reminded her,
"What is it?
Be assured that any request from you would be considered in the light of a favour to myself."
She thanked him by a gracious smile.
Everybody was rising from the table.
"Let us go on deck,"
"where I'll be able to point out to you the very object of my request."
An enormous national flag of Costaguana,
diagonal red and yellow,
with two green palm trees in the middle,
floated lazily at the mainmast head of the Juno.
A multitude of fireworks being let off in their thousands at the water's edge in honour of the President kept up a mysterious crepitating noise half round the harbour.
Now and then a lot of rockets,
swishing upwards invisibly,
detonated overhead with only a puff of smoke in the bright sky.
Crowds of people could be seen between the town gate and the harbour,
under the bunches of multicoloured flags fluttering on tall poles.
Faint bursts of military music would be heard suddenly,
and the remote sound of shouting.
A knot of ragged negroes at the end of the wharf kept on loading and firing a small iron cannon time after time.
A greyish haze of dust hung thin and motionless against the sun.
Don Vincente Ribiera made a few steps under the deck-awning,
leaning on the arm of Senor Avellanos;
a wide circle was formed round him,
where the mirthless smile of his dark lips and the sightless glitter of his spectacles could be seen turning amiably from side to side.
The informal function arranged on purpose on board the Juno to give the President-Dictator an opportunity to meet intimately some of his most notable adherents in Sulaco was drawing to an end.
On one side,
his bald head covered now by a plumed cocked hat,
remained motionless on a skylight seat,
a pair of big gauntleted hands folded on the hilt of the sabre standing upright between his legs.
The white plume,
the coppery tint of his broad face,
the blue-black of the moustaches under the curved beak,
the mass of gold on sleeves and breast,
the high shining boots with enormous spurs,
the working nostrils,
the imbecile and domineering stare of the glorious victor of Rio Seco had in them something ominous and incredible;
the exaggeration of a cruel caricature,
the fatuity of solemn masquerading,
the atrocious grotesqueness of some military idol of Aztec conception and European bedecking,
awaiting the homage of worshippers.
Don Jose approached diplomatically this weird and inscrutable portent,
and Mrs. Gould turned her fascinated eyes away at last.
coming up to take leave of Sir John,
heard him say,
as he bent over his wife's hand,
my dear Mrs. Gould,
for a protege of yours!
Not the slightest difficulty.
Consider it done."
Going ashore in the same boat with the Goulds,
Don Jose Avellanos was very silent.
Even in the Gould carriage he did not open his lips for a long time.
The mules trotted slowly away from the wharf between the extended hands of the beggars,
who for that day seemed to have abandoned in a body the portals of churches.
Charles Gould sat on the back seat and looked away upon the plain.
A multitude of booths made of green boughs,
of odd pieces of plank eked out with bits of canvas had been erected all over it for the sale of cana,
Over little heaps of glowing charcoal Indian women,
squatting on mats,
cooked food in black earthen pots,
and boiled the water for the mate gourds,
which they offered in soft,
caressing voices to the country people.
A racecourse had been staked out for the vaqueros;
and away to the left,
from where the crowd was massed thickly about a huge temporary erection,
like a circus tent of wood with a conical grass roof,
came the resonant twanging of harp strings,
the sharp ping of guitars,
with the grave drumming throb of an Indian gombo pulsating steadily through the shrill choruses of the dancers.
Charles Gould said presently --
"All this piece of land belongs now to the Railway Company.
There will be no more popular feasts held here."
Mrs. Gould was rather sorry to think so.
She took this opportunity to mention how she had just obtained from Sir John the promise that the house occupied by Giorgio Viola should not be interfered with.
She declared she could never understand why the survey engineers ever talked of demolishing that old building.
It was not in the way of the projected harbour branch of the line in the least.
She stopped the carriage before the door to reassure at once the old Genoese,
who came out bare-headed and stood by the carriage step.
She talked to him in Italian,
and he thanked her with calm dignity.
An old Garibaldino was grateful to her from the bottom of his heart for keeping the roof over the heads of his wife and children.
He was too old to wander any more.
"And is it for ever,
"For as long as you like."
Then the place must be named,
It was not worth while before."
He smiled ruggedly,
with a running together of wrinkles at the corners of his eyes.
"I shall set about the painting of the name to-morrow."
"And what is it going to be,
"Albergo d'Italia Una,"
said the old Garibaldino,
looking away for a moment.
"More in memory of those who have died,"
"than for the country stolen from us soldiers of liberty by the craft of that accursed Piedmontese race of kings and ministers."
Mrs. Gould smiled slightly,
bending over a little,
began to inquire about his wife and children.
He had sent them into town on that day.
The padrona was better in health;
many thanks to the signora for inquiring.
People were passing in twos and threes,
in whole parties of men and women attended by trotting children.
A horseman mounted on a silver-grey mare drew rein quietly in the shade of the house after taking off his hat to the party in the carriage,
who returned smiles and familiar nods.
evidently very pleased with the news he had just heard,
interrupted himself for a moment to tell him rapidly that the house was secured,
by the kindness of the English signora,
for as long as he liked to keep it.
The other listened attentively,
but made no response.
When the carriage moved on he took off his hat again,
a grey sombrero with a silver cord and tassels.
The bright colours of a Mexican serape twisted on the cantle,
the enormous silver buttons on the embroidered leather jacket,
the row of tiny silver buttons down the seam of the trousers,
the snowy linen,
a silk sash with embroidered ends,
the silver plates on headstall and saddle,
proclaimed the unapproachable style of the famous Capataz de Cargadores --a Mediterranean sailor --got up with more finished splendour than any well-to-do young ranchero of the Campo had ever displayed on a high holiday.
"It is a great thing for me,"
murmured old Giorgio,
still thinking of the house,
for now he had grown weary of change.
"The signora just said a word to the Englishman."
"The old Englishman who has enough money to pay for a railway?
He is going off in an hour,"
I've guarded his bones all the way from the Entrada pass down to the plain and into Sulaco,
as though he had been my own father."
Old Giorgio only moved his head sideways absently.
Nostromo pointed after the Goulds' carriage,
nearing the grass-grown gate in the old town wall that was like a wall of matted jungle.
"And I have sat alone at night with my revolver in the Company's warehouse time and again by the side of that other Englishman's heap of silver,
guarding it as though it had been my own."
Viola seemed lost in thought.
"It is a great thing for me,"
he repeated again,
as if to himself.
agreed the magnificent Capataz de Cargadores,
Vecchio --go in and bring me,
out a cigar,
but don't look for it in my room.
There's nothing there."
Viola stepped into the cafe and came out directly,
still absorbed in his idea,
and tendered him a cigar,
mumbling thoughtfully in his moustache,
"Children growing up --and girls,
He sighed and fell silent.
looking down with a sort of comic inquisitiveness at the unconscious old man.
with lofty negligence;
"one is enough till another is wanted."
He lit it and let the match drop from his passive fingers.
Giorgio Viola looked up,
and said abruptly --
"My son would have been just such a fine young man as you,
if he had lived."
But you are right,
If he had been like me he would have been a man."
He turned his horse slowly,
and paced on between the booths,
checking the mare almost to a standstill now and then for children,
for the groups of people from the distant Campo,
who stared after him with admiration.
The Company's lightermen saluted him from afar;
and the greatly envied Capataz de Cargadores advanced,
amongst murmurs of recognition and obsequious greetings,
towards the huge circus-like erection.
The throng thickened;
the guitars tinkled louder;
other horsemen sat motionless,
smoking calmly above the heads of the crowd;
it eddied and pushed before the doors of the high-roofed building,
whence issued a shuffle and thumping of feet in time to the dance music vibrating and shrieking with a racking rhythm,
overhung by the tremendous,
hollow roar of the gombo.
The barbarous and imposing noise of the big drum,
that can madden a crowd,
and that even Europeans cannot hear without a strange emotion,
seemed to draw Nostromo on to its source,
while a man,
wrapped up in a faded,
walked by his stirrup,
buffeted right and left,
begged "his worship" insistently for employment on the wharf.
offering the Senor Capataz half his daily pay for the privilege of being admitted to the swaggering fraternity of Cargadores;
the other half would be enough for him,
But Captain Mitchell's right-hand man --"invaluable for our work --a perfectly incorruptible fellow" --after looking down critically at the ragged mozo,
shook his head without a word in the uproar going on around.
The man fell back;
and a little further on Nostromo had to pull up.
From the doors of the dance hall men and women emerged tottering,
streaming with sweat,
trembling in every limb,
with staring eyes and parted lips,
against the wall of the structure,
where the harps and guitars played on with mad speed in an incessant roll of thunder.
Hundreds of hands clapped in there;
and then all at once would sink low,
chanting in unison the refrain of a love song,
with a dying fall.
A red flower,
flung with a good aim from somewhere in the crowd,
struck the resplendent Capataz on the cheek.
He caught it as it fell,
but for some time did not turn his head.
When at last he condescended to look round,
the throng near him had parted to make way for a pretty Morenita,
her hair held up by a small golden comb,
who was walking towards him in the open space.
Her arms and neck emerged plump and bare from a snowy chemisette;
the blue woollen skirt,
with all the fullness gathered in front,
scanty on the hips and tight across the back,
disclosed the provoking action of her walk.
She came straight on and laid her hand on the mare's neck with a timid,
coquettish look upwards out of the corner of her eyes.
"why do you pretend not to see me when I pass?"
"Because I don't love thee any more,"
after a moment of reflective silence.
The hand on the mare's neck trembled suddenly.
She dropped her head before all the eyes in the wide circle formed round the generous,
the inconstant Capataz de Cargadores,
and his Morenita.
saw tears beginning to fall down her face.
"Has it come,
ever beloved of my heart?"
"Is it true?"
looking away carelessly.
"It was a lie.
I love thee as much as ever."
"Is that true?"
her cheeks still wet with tears.
"It is true."
"True on the life?"
"As true as that;
but thou must not ask me to swear it on the Madonna that stands in thy room."
And the Capataz laughed a little in response to the grins of the crowd.
She pouted --very pretty --a little uneasy.
I will not ask for that.
I can see love in your eyes."
She laid her hand on his knee.
"Why are you trembling like this?
while the cavernous thundering of the gombo went on without a pause.
"But if you love her as much as that,
you must give your Paquita a gold-mounted rosary of beads for the neck of her Madonna."
looking into her uplifted,
which suddenly turned stony with surprise.
Then what else will your worship give me on the day of the fiesta?"
"so as not to shame me before all these people."
"There is no shame for thee in getting nothing from thy lover for once."
The shame is your worship's --my poor lover's,"
she flared up,
Laughs were heard at her anger,
at her retort.
What an audacious spitfire she was!
The people aware of this scene were calling out urgently to others in the crowd.
The circle round the silver-grey mare narrowed slowly.
The girl went off a pace or two,
confronting the mocking curiosity of the eyes,
then flung back to the stirrup,
her enraged face turned up to Nostromo with a pair of blazing eyes.
He bent low to her in the saddle.
"I could stab thee to the heart!"
The dreaded Capataz de Cargadores,
magnificent and carelessly public in his amours,
flung his arm round her neck and kissed her spluttering lips.
A murmur went round.
he demanded at large,
holding her firmly by the shoulder.
Twenty blades flashed out together in the circle.
A young man in holiday attire,
thrust one in Nostromo's hand and bounded back into the ranks,
very proud of himself.
Nostromo had not even looked at him.
"Stand on my foot,"
he commanded the girl,
and when he had her up,
encircling her waist,
her face near to his,
he pressed the knife into her little hand.
You shall not put me to shame,"
"You shall have your present;
and so that everyone should know who is your lover to-day,
you may cut all the silver buttons off my coat."
There were shouts of laughter and applause at this witty freak,
while the girl passed the keen blade,
and the impassive rider jingled in his palm the increasing hoard of silver buttons.
He eased her to the ground with both her hands full.
After whispering for a while with a very strenuous face,
she walked away,
and vanished into the crowd.
The circle had broken up,
and the lordly Capataz de Cargadores,
the indispensable man,
the tried and trusty Nostromo,
the Mediterranean sailor come ashore casually to try his luck in Costaguana,
rode slowly towards the harbour.
The Juno was just then swinging round;
and even as Nostromo reined up again to look on,
a flag ran up on the improvised flagstaff erected in an ancient and dismantled little fort at the harbour entrance.
Half a battery of field guns had been hurried over there from the Sulaco barracks for the purpose of firing the regulation salutes for the President-Dictator and the War Minister.
As the mail-boat headed through the pass,
the badly timed reports announced the end of Don Vincente Ribiera's first official visit to Sulaco,
and for Captain Mitchell the end of another "historic occasion."
Next time when the "Hope of honest men" was to come that way,
a year and a half later,
it was unofficially,
over the mountain tracks,
fleeing after a defeat on a lame mule,
to be only just saved by Nostromo from an ignominious death at the hands of a mob.
It was a very different event,
of which Captain Mitchell used to say --
"It was history --history,
And that fellow of mine,
was right in it.
Absolutely making history,
But this event,
creditable to Nostromo,
was to lead immediately to another,
which could not be classed either as "history" or as "a mistake" in Captain Mitchell's phraseology.
He had another word for it.
"Sir" he used to say afterwards,
"that was no mistake.
It was a fatality.
pure and simple,
And that poor fellow of mine was right in it --right in the middle of it!
if ever there was one --and to my mind he has never been the same man since."