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Full text of "Nostromo, a tale of the seaboard"

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NOSTROMO 

A Tale of the Seaboard 



By 
Joseph Conrad 



"So foul a sky clean not without a storm" 

Shakespeare 




New York and London 

Harper & Brothers Publishers 




BOOKS BY 
JOSEPH CONRAD 

NOSTROMO. Post 8vo 
THE MIRROR OF THE SEA. Post 8vo 
THE SECRET AGENT. Post 8vo 
UNDER WESTERN EYES. Post 8vo 
A PERSONAL RECORD. Crown 8vo 



HARPER & BROTHERS, NEW YORK 



ft 

(ot) 




1 109 



Copyright, 1904, by HARPER & BKOTHBRS. 
Published November, 1904. 



1-0 






To 



John Galsworthy 






Contents 

. 
PART FIRST 

MMM 

THB SILVER OP Tint MINE ........ J 

PART SECOND 



THE ISABELS 



PART THIRD 
THE LIGHT-HOUSE ........... 339 



PART I 
The Silver of the Mine 



Nostromo: A Tale of the 
Seaboard 



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 harbors 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 semicircular and unroofed temple open 
to the ocean, with its walls of lofty mountains hung 
with the mourning draperies of cloud. 

3 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

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

On the other side, what seems to be an isolated 
patch of blue mist floats lightly on the glare of the 
horizon. This is the peninsula of Azuera, a wild chaos 
of sharp rocks and stony levels cut about by vertical 
ravines. It lies far out to sea like a rough head of 
stone stretched from a green-clad coast at the end of 
a slender neck of sand covered with thickets of thorny 
scrub. Utterly waterless, for the rainfall runs off at 
once on all sides into the sea, it has not soil enough, 
it is said, to grow a single blade of grass as if it were 
blighted by a curse. The poor, associating by an ob- 
scure 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 neigh- 
borhood, peons of the estancias, vaqueros of the sea- 
board 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 shin- 
ing gold lie in the gloom of the deep precipices cleav- 
ing the stony levels of Azuera. Tradition has it that 
many adventurers of olden time had perished in the 
search. The story goes also that within men's memory 
two wandering sailors Americanos, perhaps, but 
gringos of some sort for certain talked over a gam- 
bling, good-for-nothing mozo, and the three stole a 

4 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

donkey to carry for them a bundle of dry sticks, a 
watcT -skin, and provisions enough to last a few days. 
Thus accompanied, and with revolvers at their belts, 
they had started to chop their way with machetes 
through the thorny scrub on the neck of the peninsula. 

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

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

These, then, are the legendary inhabitants of Azuera, 

5 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

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 be- 
come 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 forests rising from the very 
edge of the shore. Among them the white head of 
Higuerota rises majestically upon the blue. Bare 
clusters of enormous rocks sprinkle with tiny black 
dots the smooth dome of snow. 

Then, as the mid-day sun withdraws from the gulf 
the shadow of the mountains, the clouds begin to roll 
out of the lower valleys. They swathe in sombre tat- 
ters 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 gray 
and black vapors 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 

6 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

: 1-bank always strives for, but seldom wins, the 
mil Idle of the gulf. The sun as the sailors say is 
eating it up. Unless perchance a sombre thunder- 
1 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 sinister 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 fall- 
ing showers can be heard beginning and ceasing 
abruptly now here, now there. Indeed, these cloudy 
nights are proverbial with the seamen along the whole 
west coast of a great continent. Sky, land, and sea 
disappear together out of the world when the Placido 
as the saying is goes to sleep under its black poncho. 
The few stars left below the seaward frown of the 
vault shine feebly as into the mouth of a black cavern. 
In its vastness your ship floats unseen under your feet, 
her sails flutter invisible above your head. The eye 
of God Himself they add with grim profanity could 
not find out what work a man's hand is doing in there; 
and you would be free to call the devil to your aid with 
impunity if even his malice were not defeated by such 
a blind darkness. 

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

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

7 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

That last is no more than a foot high, and about 
seven paces across, a mere flat top of a gray rock 
which smokes like a hot cinder after a shower, and 
where no man would care to venture a naked sole be- 
fore sunset. On the Little Isabel an old ragged palm, 
with a thick bulging trunk rough with spines, a very 
witch among 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 over- 
grown 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 ful.' 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 harbor 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 harbor and out of the 
direct line of sight from the sea. . 

8 



II 

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

Perhaps the very atmospheric conditions which had 
kept away the merchant fleets of by-gone ages induced 
the O.S.N. Company to violate the sanctuary of peace 
sheltering the calm existence ot Sulaco. The variable 
airs sporting lightly with the vast semicircle of waters 
within the head of Azuera could not baffle the steam 
power of their excellent fleet. Year after year the 
black hulls of their ships had gone up and down the 
coast, in and out, past Azuera, past the Isabels, past 
Punta Mala disregarding everything but the tyranny 
of time. Their names, the names of all mythology, 
became the household words of a coast that had never 
been ruled by the gods of Olympus. The Juno was 

9 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

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 Gany- 
mede 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 famil- 
iar 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 india-rubber bound in a wrapper of 
dry grass. 

And as they seldom failed to account for the small- 
est 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 '11 have no mistakes here, no matter what Smith may 
do at his end." 

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

10 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

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

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

"Our excellent Seflor Mitchell" for the business and 
official world of Sulaco; " Fussy Joe" for the command- 
ers of the Company's ships, Captain Joseph Mitchell, 
prided himself on his profound knowledge of men and 
things in the country cosas de Costaguana. Among 
these last he accounted as most unfavorable 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 gener- 
allv storm yjn 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 
th:it "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 memo- 
rable 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 Seflor Ribiera (such 
was the dictator's name) had come pelting eighty 
miles over mountain - tracks after the lost battle of 
Socorro, in the hope of out-distancing the fatal news 
which, of course, he could not manage to do on a 

a I i 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

lame mule. The animal, moreover, expired under him 
at the end of the Alameda, where the military band 
plays sometimes in the evenings between the revolu- 
tions. "Sir," Captain Mitchell would pursue with 
portentous gravity, "the ill-timed end of that mule 
attracted attention to the unfortunate rider. His feat- 
ures were recognized by several deserters from the 
Dictatorial army among the rascally mob already en- 
gaged in smashing the windows of the Intendencia." 

Early on the morning of that day the local authori- 
ties of Sulaco had fled for refuge to the O.S.N. Com- 
pany's offices, a strong building near the shore end of 
the jetty, leaving the town to the mercies of a revolu- 
tionary rabble; and as the Dictator was execrated by 
the populace on account of the severe recruitment law 
his necessities had compelled him to enforce during 
the struggle, he stood a good chance of being torn to 
pieces. Providentially, Nostromo invaluable fellow 
with some Italian workmen, imported to work upon 
the National Central Railway, was at hand, and man- 
aged to snatch him away, for the time, at least. Ul- 
timately, Captain Mitchell succeeded in taking every- 
body 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 harbor. 

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 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

in :t thousand, who, at the head, this time, of the 
j'.my's body of lightermen, held the jetty against 
the rushes of the rabble, thus giving the fugitives time 
> ach the gig lying ready for them at the other end 
with the Company's flag at the stern. Sticks, stones. 
slmts Hew; knives too were thrown. Captain Mitchell 
exhibited willingly a long cicatrice of a cut over his 
left ear and temple, made by a razor-blade fastened to 
a stick a weapon, he explained, very much in favor 
with the "worst kind of nigger out here." 

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

"These gentlemen," he would say, staring with great 
solemnity, "had to run like rabbits, sir. I ran like a 
rabbit myself. Certain forms of death are er dis- 
tasteful to a a er respectable man. They would 
have pounded me to death, too. A crazy mob, sir, 
does not discriminate. Under Providence we owed our 
preservation to my capataz de cargadores, as they 
called him in the town, a man who, when I discovered 
his value, sir, was just the bos'n of an Italian ship, a 
big Genoese ship, one of the few European ships that 
ever came to Sulaco with a general cargo before the 
building of the National Central. He left her on ac- 
count of some very respectable friends he made here, 
his own countrymen, but also, I suppose, to better 
himself. Sir, I am a pretty good judge of character. 
I engaged him to be the captain of our lightermen and 
caretaker of our jetty. That's all that he was. But 
without him Sefior Ribiera would have been a dead 

'3 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

man. This Nostromo, sir, a man absolutely above 
reproach, became the terror of all the thieves in the 
town. We were infested infested, overrun, sir here 
at that time by ladrones and matreros, thieves and 
murderers from the whole province. On this occasion 
they had been flocking into Sulaco for a week past. 
They had scented the end, sir. Fifty per cent, of that 
murdering mob were professional bandits from the 
Campo, sir, but there wasn't one that hadn't heard of 
Nostromo. As to the town leperos, sir, the sight of 
his black whiskers and white teeth was enough for 
them. They quailed before him, sir. That's what 
the force of character will do for you." 

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

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

The Minerva never let go her anchor that call. The 
superintendent ordered her out of the harbor at once. 
No cargo could be landed, of course, and the passen- 
gers 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 de- 
voted its energies to an attack upon the custom-house, 
a dreary, unfinished-looking structure with many win- 
dows, two hundred yards away from the O.S.N. offices, 
and the only other building near the harbor. Captain 

14 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

Mitchell, after directing the commander of the Minerva 
t<> lainl "these gentlemen" in the first port of call out- 
side of 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 
rved by the European residents; that is, by Cap- 
tain Mitchell himself and the staff of engineers building 
the road, aided by the Italian and Basque workmen 
who rallied faithfully round their English chiefs. The 
Company's lightermen, too, natives of the republic, 
behaved very well under their capataz. An outcast 
lot of very mixed blood, mainly negroes, everlastingly 
at feud with the other customers of low grog-shops in 
the town, they embraced with delight this opportunity 
to settle their personal scores under such favora"ble 
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 other- 
wise daunted by Nostromo's resolution. He was 
"much of a man," their capataz was, they said, too 
scornful in his temper ever to utter abuse, a tireless 
taskmaster, and the more to be feared because of his 
aloofness. And, behold! there he was that day, at 
their head, condescending to make jocular remarks to 
this man or the other. 

Such leadership was inspiriting, and in truth all the 
harm the mob managed to achieve was to set fire to 
one only one stack of railway-sleepers, which, being 
creosoted, burned well. The main attack on the rail- 
way yards, on the O.S.N. offices, and especially on the 
custom-house, whose strong-room, it was well known, 
contained a large treasure in silver ingots, failed com- 

'5 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

pletely. Even the little hotel kept by old Giorgio, 
standing alone half-way between the harbor and the 
town, escaped looting and destruction, not by a mir- 
acle, but because with safes in view they had neglected 
it at first, and afterwards found no leisure to stop. 
Nostromo, with his cargadores, was pressing them too 
hard then. 



Ill 

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

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

The old republican did not believe in saints, or in 
'7 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

prayers, or in what he called "priests' religion." Lib- 
erty and Garibaldi were his divinities; but he tolerated 
superstition in women, preserving in these matters a 
lofty and silent attitude. 

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Viola was an Italian, too, a native of Spezzia, 
an<l though considerably younger than her husband, 
already middle-aged. She had a handsome face, whose 
complexion had turned yellow because the climate of 

18 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

Sulaco did not suit her at all. Her voice was a rich 
contralto. When, with her arms folded tight under 
her ample bosom, she scolded the squat, thick-legged 
China girls handling linen, plucking fowls, pounding 
corn in wooden mortars among the mud out-buildings 
at the back of the house, she could bring out such an 
impassioned, vibrating, sepulchral note that the chain- 
ed watch-dog bolted into his kennel with a great rattle. 
Luis, a cinnamon-colored mulatto with a sprouting 
mustache and thick, dark lips, would stop sweeping 
the cafe" with a broom of palm leaves to let a gentle 
shudder run down his spine. His languishing almond 
eyes would remain closed for a long time. 

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

Bursts of great shouting rose and died away, like 
wild gusts of wind on the plain round the barricaded 
house; the fitful gfippjng of shots grew louder above 
the yelling. Sometimes there were intervals of un- 
accountable stillness outside, and nothing could have 
been more gayly peaceful than the narrow bright lines 
of sunlight from the cracks in the shutters, ruled 
straight across the cafe" over the disarranged chairs and 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

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 harbor 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 fig- 
ure of the woman sitting by his side. A sudden out- 
break 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 sun- 
shine 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 con- 
vulsive pressure. 

The mob, driven away from the custom-house, had 
broken up into several bands, retreating across the 
plain in the direction of the town. The subdued 
crash of the irregular volleys fired in the distance was 
answered by faint yells far away. In the intervals 
the single shots rang feebly, and the low, long, white 
building blinded in every window seemed to be the 
centre of a turmoil widening in a great circle about its 
closed-up silence. But the cautious movements and 
whispers of a routed party seeking a momentary shel- 
ter behind the wall made the darkness of the room, 
striped by threads of quiet sunlight, alight with evil, 

90 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

stealthy sounds. The Violas had them in their ears 
as though invisible ghosts hovering about their chairs 
hal consulted in mutters as to the advisability of set- 
ting fire to this foreigner's casa. 

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

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

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

" He think of the casa ? He ?" gasped Signora Viola, 

21 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

crazily. She struck her breast with her open hands. 
" I know him. He thinks of nobody but himselL" 

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

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

He grounded his old gun, and, turning his head, 
glanced at the colored lithograph of Garibaldi in a 
black frame on the white wall ; a thread of strong sun- 
shine cut it perpendicularly. His eyes, accustomed 
to the luminous twilight, made out the high coloring 
of the face, the red of the shirt, the outlines of the 
square shoulders, the black patch of the Bersagliere 
hat with cocks' 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 in 
diminution. In the moment of relief from the appre- 
hension of the greatest danger, perhaps, his family had 

2? 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

been exposed t<> in all their wanderings, he had turned 
to the pu-ture 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 
4iad awakenod her from a very deep and dreamless 
slumber. Before he had time in his deliberate way to 
say a reassuring word she jumped up, with the children 
clinging to her, one on each side, gasped for breath 
and let out a hoarse shriek. 

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



IV 






AAj 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 direc- 
tion, which, indeed, was the shortest line towards the 
town. That part of the rabble he was pursuing seem- 
ed to think of making a stand under the house; a vol- 
ley fired by his followers from behind an aloe hedge 
made the rascals fly. In a gap chopped out for the 
rails of the harbor branch line Nostromo appeared, 
mounted on his silver-gray mare. He shouted, sent 
after them one shot from his revolver, and he had 
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 breath- 
lessly hurried, "Hola! Vecchio! Oh, Vecchio! Is it 
all well with you in there?" 

"You see " murmured old Viola to his wife. 

Signora Teresa was silent now. Outside Nostromo 
laughed. 

" I can hear the padrona is not dead." 

"You have done your best to kill me with fear," 
24 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

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 shut- 
ters. The party he led were babbling excitedly in 
Italian and Spanish, inciting one another to the pur- 
suit. He put himself at their head, crying, " Avanti!" 

"He has not stopped very long with us. There is 
no praise from strangers to be got here," Signora 
Teresa said, tragically. "Avanti! Yes! That is all 
he cares for. To be first somewhere somehow to 
be first with these English. They will be showing him 
to everybody. 'This is our Nostromo!" 1 She laugh- 
ed ominously. " What a name! What is that ? Nos- 
tromo? He would take a name that is properly no 
word from them." 

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

Old Viola, at the door, moved his arm upward as if 
referring all his quick, fleeting thoughts to the picture 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

of his old chief on the wall. Even when he was cook- 
ing for the "Signori Inglesi" the engineers (he was 
a famous cook, though the kitchen was a dark place), 
he was, as it were, under the eye of the great man 
who had led him in a glorious struggle where, under 
the walls of Gaeta, tyranny would have expired for 
ever had it not been for that accursed Piedmontese 
race of kings and ministers. When sometimes a fry- 
ing-pan caught fire during a delicate operation with 
some shredded onions, and the old man was seen back- 
ing out of the doorway, swearing and coughing vio- 
lently 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 an- 
other door, advanced, portly and anxious, inclining 
her fine black-browed head, opening her arms and cry- 
ing in a profound tone: 

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

At her feet the hens made off in all directions, with 
immense strides; if there were any engineers from up 
the line staying in Sulaco, a young English face or 
two would appear at the billiard-room occupying one 
end of the house; but at the other end, in the cafe", 
Luis, the mulatto, took good care not to show himself. 
The Indian girls, with hair like flowing black manes, 
and dressed only in a shift and short petticoat, stared 
dully from under the square-cut fringes on their fore- 

26 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

hearls; the noisy frizzling of fat had stopped, the 
fumes floated upward in sunshine, a strong smell of 
burned onions hung In the drowsy heat, enveloping the 
house; and the eye lost itself in a vast flat expanse of 
grass to the west, as if the plain between the Sierra 
overtopping Sulaco and the coast range away there 
towards Esmeralda had been as big as half the 
world. 

Signora Teresa, after an impressive pause, remon- 
strated : 

"Eh, Giorgio! Leave Cavour alone and take care 
of yourself, now we are lost in this country all alone 
with 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 eye- 
brows like a flicker of angry pain or an angry thought 
on her handsome, regular features. 

It was pain; she suppressed the twinge. It had 
come to IKT 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 
-prise 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 em- 
bracing the glitter of the harbor under the wooded 
spurs of the range; and the sunshine itself was heavy 
and dull heavy with pain not like sunshine of her 
girlhood, in which middle-aged Giorgio had woed her 
a '7 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

gravely and passionately on the shores of the gulf of 
Spezzia. 

"You go in at once, Giorgio," she directed. "One 
would think you do not wish to have any pity on me 
with four Signori Inglesi staying in the house." 

"Va bene, va bene," Giorgio would mutter. 

He obeyed. The Signori Inglesi would require their 
mid-day 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 among the traitors 
who had imprisoned Garibaldi, his hero. 

There were three doors in the front of the house, 
and each afternoon the Garibaldino could be seen at 
one or another of them with his big bush of white hair, 
his arms folded, his legs crossed, leaning back his leo- 
nine head against the lintel, and looking up the wooded 
slopes of the foot-hills 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 harbor branch railway, laid out tempo- 
rarily on the level of the plain, curved away its shining 
parallel ribbons in a belt of scorched and withered 
grass within sixty yards of the end of the house. In 
the evening the empty material trains of flat-cars 
circled round the dark-green grove of Sulaco, and ran, 
undulating slightly with white jets of steam, over 
the plain towards the Casa Viola, on their way to the 
railway-yards by the harbor. The Italian drivers 

a8 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

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 un- 
folding 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 head- 
long; others made a stand; and the irregular rattle of 
fire-arms came rippling to his ears in the fiery, still air. 
Single figures on foot raced desperately. Horsemen 
galloped towards each other, wheeled round together, 
separated at speed. Giorgio saw one fall, rider and 
horse disappearing as if they had galloped into a 
chasm, and the movements of the animated scene were 
like the peripeties of a violent game played upon the 
plain by dwarfs mounted and on foot, yelling with 
tiny throats, under the mountain that seemed a co- 
lossal embodiment of silence. Never before had Gior- 
gio 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 pad- 
dock of the railway company. They came on like a 
whirlwind, and dashed over the line, snorting, kicking. 

29 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

squealing in a compact piebald tossing mob of bay, 
brown, gray backs, eyes staring, necks extended, nos- 
trils red, long tails streaming. As soon as they had 
leaped upon the road the thick dust flew upward at 
once from under their hoofs, and within six yards of 
Giorgio only a brown cloud with vague forms of necks 
and cruppers rolled by, making the soil tremble on its 
passage. 

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

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

In the square of sunlight falling through the door 
Signora Teresa, kneeling before the chair, had bowed 
her head, heavy with a twisted mass of ebony hair 
streaked with silver, into the palm of her hands. The 
black lace shawl she used to drape about her face had 
dropped to the ground by her side. The two girls had 
got up, hand-in-hand, in short skirts, their loose hair 
falling in disorder. The younger had thrown her arm 
across her eyes, as if afraid to face the light. Linda, 
with her hand on the other's shoulder, stared fear- 
lessly. Viola looked at his children. 

The sun brought out the deep lines on his face, 
and, energetic in expression, it had the immobility 
of a carving. It was impossible to discover what 
he thought. Bushy gray eyebrows shaded his dark 
glance. 

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

Linda pouted, advancing her red lips, which were 
almost too red; but she had admirable eyes, brown, 
with a sparkle of gold in the irises, full of intelligence 

30 



Nostroino : A Tale of the Seaboard 

and meaning, and so clear that they seemed to throw 
a glow upon her thin, colorless face. There were 
bronze glints in the sombre clusters of her hair, and 
the eyelashes, long and coal black, made her com- 
plexion appear still more pale. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

She tossed back all her dark hair. 

" Nobody calls out after me." 

Old Giorgio contemplated his children thoughtfully. 
There was two years difference between them. They 
had been born to him late, years after the boy had 
died. Had he lived he would have been nearly as old 
as jian' Battista he whom the English called No- 
trotno; but as to his daughters, the severity of his 
teni|>rr, his advancing age, his absorption in his mem- 
ories, had prevented his taking much notice of them. 

3 1 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

He loved his children, but girls belong to the mother 
more, 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 Monte- 
video, then under the command of Garibaldi. After- 
wards, 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 among men who had de- 
claimed 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 strug- 
gle, 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 Aspro- 
monte, when the treachery of kings, emperors, and 
ministers had been revealed to the world in the wound 
and imprisonment of his hero a catastrophe that had 
instilled into him a gloomy doubt of ever being able 
to understand the ways of Divine justice. 

He did not deny it, however. It required patience, 
he would say. Though he disliked priests, and would 
not put his foot inside a church for anything, he be- 
lieved in God. Were not the proclamations against 
tyrants addressed to the peoples in the name of God 
and liberty? "God for men religions for women," 
he muttered sometimes. In Sicily, an Englishman 

3 2 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

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, Gior- 
gio earned his living with the first work that came to 
hand as sailor, as dock - laborer 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 
Seflora 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 Eng- 
lish. This feeling, born on the battle-fields of Uru- 
guay, was forty years old at the very least. Several 
of them had poured their blood for the cause of free- 
dom 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 the Montevideo, and died heroically with his 
negroes at the fording of the Boyana. He, Giorgio, 
had reached the rank of ensign alferez and cooked 
for the general. Later on, in Italy, he, with the rank 
of lieutenant, rode with the staff and still cooked for 
the general. He had cooked for him in Lombardy 
through the whole campaign; on the march to Rome 

33 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

he had lassoed his beef in the Campagna after the 
American manner; he had been wounded in the de- 
fence 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 farm-house where she died, exhausted by the hard- 
ships 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 Gari- 
baldi. Their very countesses and princesses had kiss- 
ed the general's hands in London, it was said. He 
could well believe it; for the nation was noble, and the 
man was a saint. It was enough to look once at his 
face to see the divine force of faith in him and his 
great pity for all that was poor, suffering, and op- 
pressed in this world. 

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

34 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

carelessness of a condottiere, it was a puritanism of 
conduct born of stern enthusiasm, like the puritanism 
of religion. 

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

35 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

reserved for the English engineers); to the select 
clientele of engine-drivers and foremen of the railway 
shops. 

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



IN this way only was the power of the local authori- 
ties vindicated among 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 Seflor don Vincente Ri- 
biera, the dictator of Costaguana, had described the 
National Central Railway in his great speech at the 
turning of the first sod. 

He had come on purpose to Sulaco, and there was 
a one -o'clock dinner-party, a convite offered by the 
O.S.N. Company on board the Juno after the function 
on shore. Captain Mitchell had himself steered the 
cargo lighter, all draped with flags, which, in tow of 
the Juno's steam-launch, took the Excellentisimo from 
the jetty to the ship. Everybody of note in Sulaco 
had been invited the one or two foreign merchants, 
all the representatives of the old Spanish families then 
in town, the great owners of estates on the plain, 
grave, courteous, simple men, caballeros of pure de- 
scent, with small hands and feet, conservative, hos- 
pitable, and kind. The Occidental province was their 
stronghold; their Blanco party had triumphed now; 
it was their President-Dictator, a Blanco of the Blan- 
cos, who sat smiling urbanely between the representa- 
tives of two friendly foreign powers. They had come 

37 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

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 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 harbor, 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 nutter of 
gay flags, in the place of honor by the side of Captain 
Mitchell, who steered, and her clear dress gave the 
only truly festive note to the sombre gathering in the 
long, gorgeous saloon of the Juno. 

The head of the chairman of the railway board 
(from London), handsome and pale in a silvery mist 
of white hair and clipped beard, hovered near her 
shoulder, attentive, smiling and fatigued. The jour- 
ney from London to Sta. Marta in mail-boats and the 
special carriages of the Sta. Marta coast-line (the only 
railway existing 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 

38 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

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 harbor, too! Astonishing!" 

" Ah, but we are very proud of it. It used to be his- 
torically important. The highest ecclesiastical court 
for two viceroy alties 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. Per- 
haps you don't know what an old resident I am." 

" How old, I wonder," he murmured, looking at 
her with a slight smile. Mrs. Gould's appearance 
was made youthful by the mobile intelligence of her 
face. "We can't give you your ecclesiastical court 
back again; but you shall have more steamers, a rail- 
way, a telegraph-cable a future in the great world 
whii-h 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 re- 
main so isolated from the world. If it had been a 
thousand miles inland now most remarkable! Has 
anything ever happened here t<>r a hundred years l>c- 

v White r tie talked in a slow, humorous tone, she kept 
her little smile. Abounding ironically in his sense, 
she assured him that certainly not nothing ever 
happened in Sulaco. Ry-cti ^he revnflyfrjpna, nf 



. 
there b,ad been two in her time, hft ^ ngfw**^ *h*^ 

"repose of the_j>]ace! Their course ran in the more 

39 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

populous southern parts of the republic, and in the 
great valley of Sta. Marta, which was like one great 
battle-field of the parties, with the possession of the 
capital for a prize and an outlet to another ocean. 
They were more advanced over there. Here in Sulaco 
they heard only the echoes of these great questions, 
and, of course, their official world changed each time, 
coming to them over their rampart of mountains 
which he himself had traversed in an old diligencia, 
with such a risk to life and limb. 

The chairman of the railway had been enjoying her 
hospitality for several days, and he was really grate- 
ful for it. It was only since he had left Sta. Marta 
,that he had utterly lost touch with the feeling of 
lEuropean life in the background of his exotic sur- 
roundings. 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 civil- 
ized business were not unknown. 

What concerned him most at the time was the ac- 
quisition 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 de- 
velopmenr i the railway ^Qg~intended there had been 
trouble. It had been lying for ages ensconced be- 
hind its natural barriers, repelling modern enterprise 
by the precipices of its mountain range, by its shallop 

49 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

harbor 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 farming all those Don Ambrosios this and 
Don Fernandos that, who seemed actually to dislike 
and distrust the coming of the railway over their 
lands, ft had happened that some of the surveying 
"patties scattered all over the province had been warn- 
ed off with threats of violence. In other cases out- 
rageous pretensions as to price had been raised. But 
the man of railways prided himself on being equal to 
every emergency. Since he was met by the inimical 
sentiment of blind conservatism in Sulaco he would 
meet it by sentiment, too, before taking his stand on 
his right alone. The government was bound to carry 
out its part of the contract with the board of the new 
railway company, even if it had to use force for the 
purpose. But he desired nothing less than an armed 
disturbance in the smooth working of his plans. They 
were much too vast and far-reaching and too prom- 
ising 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 func- 
tion at the turning of the first sod by the harbor shore. 
After all he was their own creature that Don Vin- 
cente. He was the embodied triumph of the best 
elements in the state. These were facts, and, unless 
facts meant nothing, Sir John argued to himself, such 
a man's influence must be real, and his personal action 
would produce the conciliatory effect he required. He 
had succeeded in arranging the trip with the help of 
a very clever advocate, who was known in Sta. Mart a 

4' 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

as the agent of the Gould silver-mine, the biggest thing 
in Sulaco, and even in the whole republic. It was 
indeed a fabulously rich mine. Its so-called agent, 
evidently a man of culture and ability, seemed, with- 
out official position, to possess an extraordinary in- 
fluence in the highest government spheres. He was 
able to assure Sir John that the President-Dictator 
would make the journey. He regretted, however, in 
the course of the same conversation, that General 
Montero insisted upon going too. 

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

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 

42 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

exploit of modern times." About the same time, too, 
his brother had turned up from Europe, where he had 
gone apparently as secretary to a consul. Having, 
however, collected a small band of outlaws, he showed 
some talent as guerilla chief, and had been rewarded 
at the pacification by the post of military command- 
ant of the capital. 

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

For all the indifference of a man of affairs to nature, 
whose hostility can be always overcome by the re- 
sources 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 trans- 
parent air of the high altitudes everything seemed very 
near, steeped in a clear stillness as in an imponderable 
4 43 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

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 deli- 
cacy of shaded expression and a stupendous magnifi- 
cence of effect. 

Sir John arrived too late to hear the magnificent 
and inaudible strain sung by the sunset among 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 
bowlder, with no door or windows in its two openings; 
a bright fire of sticks (brought on mule-back from the 
first valley below) burning outside, sent in a wavering 
glare; and two candles in tin candlesticks lighted, it 
was explained to him, in his honor 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 sur- 
veying of the railway-track had the glamour of the first 
steps on the path of life, sat there too, listening modest- 
ly, with their smooth faces tanned by the weather, and 
very pleased to witness so much affability in so great 
a man. 

Afterwards, late at night, pacing to and fro outside, 
he had a long talk with his chief engineer. He knew 
him well of old. This was not the first undertaking 
jn which their gifts, as elementally different as fire and 

44 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

water, had worked in conjunction. From the contact 
of these two personalities, who had not the same vision 
of the world, there was generated a power for the 
world's service; a subtle force that could set in motion 
mighty machines, men's muscles, and awaken also in 
human breasts an unbounded devotion to the task. 
Of the young fellows at the table, to whom the survey 
of the track was like the tracing of the path of life, 
more than one wo"l| 1** rnll^H tr> m>t r1*ath i*>forf 
the ^ .-<>rk was done. Hut the work would be done: 
the force would be almost as strong as a faith. Not 
quite, however. In the silence of the sleeping camp 
upon the moonlit plateau forming the top of the pass 
like the floor of a vast arena surrounded by the basalt 
walls of precipices, two strolling figures in thick ulsters 
stood still, and the voice of the engineer pronounced 
distinctly the words 

" We can't in- > vejnjojjfitaiflgj^' O 

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

The engineer-in-chief had used the phrase in answer 
to the chairman's tentative suggestion that the tracing 
of the line could, perhaps, be altered in deference to the 
prejudices of the Sulaco land-owners. The chief en- 
gineer believed that the obstinacy of men was the 
obstacle^. Moreover, to combat that they had 
45 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

the great influence of Charles Gould, whereas tunnelling 
under Higuerota would have been a colossal under- 
taking. 

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

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

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

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

"I shall see Holroyd himself on my way back 
46 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

through the States," said Sir John. " I've ascertained 
that he, too, wants the railway." 

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

"That's our camp-master, whom I must send back 
to Sulaco now we are going to carry our survey into 
the Sta. Marta Valley," said the engineer. "A most 
useful fellow, lent me by Captain Mitchell of the O.S.N. 
Company. It was very good of Mitchell. Charles 
Gould told me I couldn't do better than take advan- 
tage 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 dili- 
gencia 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 Nps- 
_rpmo. And indeed, taciturn and ready, he did take 
excellent care of his charge at the bad parts of the 
road, as Sir John himself acknowledged to Mrs. Gould 
afterwards. 



VI 

A^ 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 legiti- 
mate 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 de- 
veloping that mania for "lending you my capataz de 
cargadores" which was to bring Nostromo into per- 
sonal 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 no- 
body, perhaps, could have explained why it should 
be so, it was impossible on a survey of their relation 
to throw doubt on that statement, unless, indeed, one 
were a bitter, eccentric character like Dr. Monygham 
for instance whose short, hopeless laugh expressed 
somehow an immense mistrust of mankind. Not that 
Dr. Monygham was a prodigal either of laughter or of 
words. He was bitterly taciturn when at his best. At 
his worst people feared the open scornfulness of his 
tongue. Only Mrs. Gould could keep his unbelief in 
men's motives within due bounds; but even to her (on 

48 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

an occasion not connected with Nostromo, and in a 
tone which for him was gentle), even to her, he had 
said once, " Really, it is most unreasonable to demand 
that a man should think of other people so much bet- 
ter than he is able to think of himself." 

And Mrs. Gould had hastened to drop the subject. 
There were strange rumors of the English doctor. Years 
ago, in the time of Guzman Bento, he had been mixed 
up, it was whispered, in a conspiracy which was be- 
trayed, and, as people expressed it, drowned in blood. 
His hair had turned gray, his hairless, seamed face 
was of a brick-dust color; 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 cleanli- 
ness 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 in 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 
sefior 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 intelli- 
gence. Moreover, they expended no store of thought 
on the doctor. He was old, ugly, learned and a little 
"loco" mad, if not a bit of a sorcerer, as the com- 
mon people suspected him of being. The little white 
jacket was in reality a concession to Mrs. Gould's hu- 

49 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

manizing influence. The doctor, with his habit of 
sceptical, bitter speech, had no other means of show- 
ing his profound respect for the character of the wom- 
an who was known in the country as the English 
senora. He presented this tribute very seriously in- 
deed; it was no trifle for a man of his habits. Mrs. 
Gould felt that, too, perfectly. She would never have 
thought of imposing upon him this marked show of 
deference. 

She kept her old Spanish house (one of the finest 
specimens in Sulaco) open for the dispensation of the 
small graces of existence. She dispensed them with 
simplicity and charm because she was guided by an 
alert perception of values. She was highly gifted in 
the art of human intercourse, which consists in deli- 
cate shades of self-forgetfulness and in the sugges- 
tion of universal comprehension. Charles Gould (the 
Gould family, established in Costaguana for three 
generations, always went to England for their educa- 
tion and for their wives) imagined that he had fallen 
in love with a girl's sound common -sense like any 
other man, but these were not exactly the reasons 
why, for instance, the whole surveying camp, from 
the youngest of the young men to their mature chief, 
should have found occasion to allude to Mrs. Gould's 
house so frequently among 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 gray eyes, had anybody told her how convinc- 
ingly she was remembered on the edge of the snow- 
line above Sulaco. But directly, with a little capable 
air of setting her wits to work, she would have found 

50 



i I Nostroino : A Tale of the Seaboard 

an explanation. "Of course, it was such a surprise 
for these boys to find any sort of welcome here. And 
I suppose they are home-sick. I suppose everybody 
must be always just a little home-sick." 

She was always sorry for home-sick people. 

Born in the country, as his father before him, spare 
and tall, with a flaming mustache, a neat chin, clear 
blue eyes, auburn hair, and a thin, fresh, red face, 
Charles Gould looked like a new arrival from over the 
sea. His grandfather had fought in the cause of in- 
dependence under Bolivar, in that famous English 
legion which on the battle-field of Carabobo had been 
saluted by the great Liberator as saviors of his coun- 
try. 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 after- 
wards had been put up against the wall of a church 
and shot by the order of the barbarous Unionist gen- 
eral, Guzman Bento. It was the same Guzman Bento 
who, becoming later on Perpetual President, famed for 
his ruthless and cruel tyranny, reached his apotheosis 
in the popular legend of a sanguinary land-haunting 
spectre whose body had been carried off by the devil 
in person from the brick mausoleum in the nave of 
the Church of Assumption in Sta. Marta. Thus, at 
least, the priests explained its disappearance to the 
barefooted multitude that streamed in, awe-struck, 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 prople besides Charles Gould's uncle; 
but with a relative martyred in the cause of aristocracy. 

5' 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

the Sulaco oligarchs (this was the phraseology of 
Guzman Bento's time; now they were called Blancos, 
and had given up the federal idea), which meant the 
families of pure Spanish descent, considered Charles 
as one of themselves. With such a family record, no 
one could be more of a Costaguanero than Don Carlos 
Gould; but his aspect was so characteristic that in 
the talk of common people he was just the Inglez the 
Englishman of Sulaco. He looked more English than 
a casual tourist, a sort of heretic pilgrim, however, 
quite unknown in Sulaco. He looked more English 
than the last-arrived batch of young railway-engineers, 
than anybody out of the hunting-field pictures in the 
numbers of Punch reaching his wife's drawing-room 
two months or so after date. It astonished you to 
hear him talk Spanish (Castilian, as the natives say) 
or the Indian dialect of the country - people so natu- 
rally. His accent had never been English; but there 
was something so indelible in all these ancestral Goulds 
liberators, explorers, coffee-planters, merchants, rev- 
olutionists of Costaguana, that he, the only repre- 
sentative of the third generation in a continent pos- 
sessing 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 th& 
world knows how to sit a horse but themselves. Don 
Ca'rlos Gould, to use the suitably lofty phrase, rode 
like a centaur. Riding for him was not a special form 
of exercise ; it was a natural faculty, as walking straight 
is to all men sound of mind and limb; but, all the same, 
when cantering beside the rutty ox-cart track to the 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

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 de- 
parted from the land; for the big equestrian statue of 
Charles IV. at the entrance to 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 ^s in- 
congruous, 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 heavy 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-colored beast with 
a white eye, wear his heart on the sleeve of his Eng- 
lish 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 

S3 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

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 
blood-thirsty 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 clinch her hands with exasperation at not being 
able to take the public affairs of the country as se- 
riously as the incidental atrocity of methods deserved. 
She saw in them a comedy of naive pretences, but 
hardly anything genuine except her own appalled in- 
dignation. Charles, very quiet and twisting his long 
mustaches, would decline to discuss them at all. 
Once, however, he observed to her very gently: 

" My dear, you seem to forget that I was born here." 
These few words made her pause as if they had been 
a sudden revelation. Perhaps the mere fact of being 
born in the country did make a difference. She had 
a great confidence in her husband ; it had always been 
very great. He had struck her imagination from the 
first by his unsentimentalism, by that very quietude 
of mind which she had erected in her thought for a sign 
of perfect competency in the business of living. Don 
Jose" Avellanos, their neighbor across the street, a 
statesman, a poet, a man of culture, who had repre- 
sented 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 de- 
clare in Dona Emilia's drawing-room that Carlos had 
all the English qualities of character with a truly pa- 
triotic heart. 

54 






Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

Mrs. Gould, raising her eyes to her husband's thin, 

ind-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 dis- 

d the hottest hours of the day. Basilio, in a 
livery of white linen and a red sash, had squatted for 
a moment behind his heels to unstrap the heavy, blunt 
spurs in the patio; and then the Seflor Administrador 
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 corrcdor with their 
leaves and flowers from the quadrangle below, whose 
paved space is the true hearth-stone of a South Ameri- 
can house, where the quiet hours of domestic life are 
marked by the shifting of light and shadow on the 

stones. 

nor 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 Dofla Emilia's house reminded him of the time 
when he lived in London as Minister Plenipotentiary 
to the Court of St. James. He did not like tea; and, 
usually, rocking his American chair, his neat little shiny 
boots crossed on the foot-rest, he would talk on and on 
with a sort of complacent virtuosity wonderful in a 
man of his age, while he held the cup in his hands for a 
long time. His close-cropped head was perfectly white ; 

yes coal-black. 
On seeing Charles Gould step into the sala he would 

provisionally and go on to the end of the oratorial 
period. Only then he would say: 

55 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

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

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

Then giving up the empty cup into his young friend's 
hand, extended with a smile, he continued to expatiate 
upon the patriotic nature of the San Tome" mine for 
the simple pleasure of talking fluently, it seemed, while 
his reclining body jerked backward and forward in 
a rocking-chair of the sort exported from the United 
States. The ceiling of the largest drawing-room of 
the Casa Gould extended its white level far above his 
head. The loftiness dwarfed the mixture of heavy, 
straight-backed Spanish chairs of brown wood with 
leathern seats, and European furniture, low, and cush- 
ioned all over, like squat little monsters gorged to 
bursting with steel springs and horse-hair. There 
were knick-knacks on little tables, mirrors let into the 
wall above marble consoles, square spaces of carpet 
under the two groups of arm-chairs, each presided over 
by a deep sofa; smaller rugs scattered all over the 
floor of red tiles; three windows from ceiling down to 
the ground, opening on a balcony, and flanked by the 
perpendicular folds of the dark hangings. The state- 
liness of ancient days lingered beween the four high, 
smooth walls, tinted a delicate primrose - color ; 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 light- 

56 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

ly before dainty philters 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 jiorislu-il in tin- (. i xi'l>itati<>n ; and then the ii:mr 
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 popula- 
tion 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 Ben to, the native jniners, incited 
to revolt by the emissaries sent out from itie capital, 
had risen upon their English chiefs andjnurdered them 
to a man. The decree Of Confiscation which appc 
immediately afterwards in the Diario Official, pub- 
lished in Sta. Marta, began with the words: "Justly 
incensed at thegrinding oppression 



r uEte<i by sordjdjjgotives^of gain rathjr_than hy 

untry^wnere they come impoverished to seek 
their fortunes, the mining population pf__San Tome", 
etc. ..." and ended with the declaration: "The chief of 
the state has resolved to exercise to the full his power of 
clemency. The mine, which by^very 



human, and divine, reverts now to the government ai 

57 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

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 diplo- 
matic despatches. But afterwards another govern- 
ment 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 con- 
viction of its worthlessness in their own hands, but 
with an ingenious insight into the various uses a silver- 
mine can be put to, apart from the sordid process of 
extracting the metal from under the ground. The 
father of Charles Gould, for a long time one of the 
most wealthy merchants of Costaguana, had already 
lost a considerable part of his fortune in forced loans 
to the successive governments. He was a man of 
calm judgment, who never dreamed of pressing his 
claims; and when, suddenly, the perpetual concession 
of the San Tome* mine was offered to him in full settle- 
ment, his alarm became extreme. He was versed in 
the ways of governments. Indeed, the intention of 
this affair, though no doubt deeply meditated in the 
closet, lay open on the surface of the document pre- 
sented urgently for his signature. The third and most 
important clause stipulated that the concession-holder 

58 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

should pay at once to the government five years' 
ties on the estimated output of the mine. 

Mr. Gould, senior, defended himself from this fatal 
favor with many arguments and entreaties, but with- 
out 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 burned down, the mining plant 
had been destroyed, the mining population had disap- 
peared from the neighborhood 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 aban- 
doned mine; it was a wild, inaccessible and rocky 
gorge of the Sierra, where vestiges of charred timber, 
some heaps of smashed bricks, and a few shapeless 
pieces of rusty iron could have been found under the 
matted mass of thorny creepers covering the ground. 
Mr. Gould, senior, did not desire the perpetual pos- 
session of that desolate locality; in fact, the mere 
vision of it arising before his mind in the still watches 
of the night had the power to exasperate him into 
hours of hot and agitated insomnia. 

It so happened, however, that the Finance Minister 
of the time was a man to whom, in years gone by, 
Mr. Gould had, unfortunately, declined to grant some 
small pecuniary assistance, basing his refusal on the 
ground that the applicant was a notorious gambler and 
cheat, besides being more than half suspected of a 
robbery with violence on a wealthy ranchero in a re- 
mote country district, where he was actually exercis- 
i 59 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

ing the function of a judge. Now, after reaching his 
exalted position, that politician had proclaimed his 
intention to repay evil with good to Senor Gould the 
poor man. He affirmed and reaffirmed this resolution 
in the drawing-rooms of Sta. Marta, in a soft and im- 
placable voice, and with such malicious glances that 
Mr. Gould's best friends advised him earnestly to at- 
tempt no bribery to get the matter dropped. It would 
have been useless. Indeed, it would not have been a 
very safe proceeding. Such was also the opinion of a 
stout, loud-voiced lady of French extraction, the 
daughter, she said, of an officer of high rank (officier 
suprieur de I'arm^e), 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 de- 
spondency was genuine. She imagined she could not 
take money in consideration of something she could 
not accomplish. The friend of Mr. Gould charged 
with the delicate mission used to say afterwards that 
she was the only honest person closely or remotely 
connected with the government he had ever met. 
"No go," she had said, with a cavalier, husky intona- 
tion which was natural to her, and using turns of ex- 
pression more suitable to a child of parents unknown 
than to the orphaned daughter of a general officer. 
"No; it's no go. Pas moyen, mon garfon. C'est 
dommage, tout de m8me. Ah! zut! Je ne vole pas 
mon monde. Je ne suis pas ministre moi ! Vous 
pouvez emporter votre petit sac." 

60 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

For a moment, biting her carmine lip, she deplored 
inwanlly the tyranny of the rigid principles governing 
the sale of her influence in high places. Then, signifi- 
cantly, and with a touch of impatience, "Allcz," she 
added, "et dites bicn d votre bonhomme cntcndez-vousf 
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 .exag- 
gerated to himself the disadvantages of his new posi- 
tion, because he viewed it emotionally. His position 
in Costaguana was no worse than before. But man 
is a desperately conservative creature, and the ex- 
travagant novelty of this outrage upon his purse dis- 
1 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 pos- 
session of the Presidential palace would be so incom- 
petent as to suffer itself to be baffled by the warn of 
a pretext. The first casual colonel of the barefooted 
army of scarecrows that came along was able to ex- 
pose with force and precision to any mere civilian his 
titles to a sum of ten thousand dollars; the while his 
hope would be immutably fixed upon a gratuity, at 

61 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

any rate, of no less than a thousand. Mr. Gould 
knew that very well, and, armed with resignation, had 
waited for better times. But to be robbed under the 
forms of legality and business was intolerable to his 
imagination. Mr. Gould, the father, had one fault in 
his sagacious and honorable 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 per- 
verted justice which, by means of a moral shock, at- 
tacked his vigorous physique. "It will end by killing 
me," he used to affirm many times a day. And, in 
fact, since that time he began to suffer from fever, 
from liver pains, and mostly from a worrying inability 
to think of anything else. The Finance Minister could 
have formed no conception of the profound subtlety 
of his revenge. Even Mr. Gould's letters to his four- 
teen-year-old boy Charles, then away in England for 
his education, came at last to talk of practically noth- 
ing but the mine. He groaned over the injustice, the 
persecution, the outrage of that mine; he occupied 
whole pages in the exposition of the fatal consequences 
attaching to the possession of that mine from every 
point of view, with every dismal inference, with words 
of horror at the apparently eternal character of that 
curse. For the Concession had been granted to him 
and his descendants forever. 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 

62 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

ended with Litter sflf-repro;idies lor having sta\ ri too 
long in t rn of thieves, intriguers, &nd brigand 

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 min- 
isters of state. And this desire persisted, though the 
names of these people, i; ( - notion!, seldom remained 
the same for a whole year together. This desire (since 
the thing was iniquitous) seemed quite natural to the 
boy, though why the affair was iniquitous he did not 
know. Afterwards, with advancing wisdom, he man- 
aged to clear the plain truth of the business from the 
fantastic intraskms of the Old Man of the Sea, vam- 
pires, and ghoul^, which had lent to his father's cor- 
respondefice the/flavor of a grewsome Arabian Night's 
tale. In thx^nd, the growing youth attained to as 
close an intimacy with the San Tome" mine as the old 

63 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

man who wrote these plaintive and enraged letters on 
the other side of the sea. He had been made several 
times already to pay heavy fines for neglecting to 
work the mine, he reported, besides other sums ex- 
tracted from him on account of future royalties, on 
the ground that a man with such a valuable concession 
in his pocket could not refuse his financial assistance 
to the government of the republic. The last of his 
fortune was passing away from him against worthless 
receipts, he wrote, in a rage, while he was being pointed 
out as an individual who had known how to secure enor- 
mous 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 unfortu- 
nate affair for his poor dad, and the whole story threw 
a queer light upon the social and political life of Cos- 
taguana. The view he took of it was sympathetic to 
his father, yet calm and reflective. His personal feel- 
ings 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, vigor, and 
self-confidence, instead of weary indignation and de- 
spair. Left after he was twenty to his own guidance 
(except for the severe injunction not to return to 

64 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

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 labors re- 
mained vague and imperfect in his mind. Mines had 
acquired for him a dramatic interest. He studied their 
peculiarities from a personal point of view, too, as one 
would study the varied characters of men He visited 
them as one goes with curiosity to call upon remark- 
able persons. He visited mines in Germany, in Spain, 
in Cornwall. Abandoned. .workings had for him strong 
fascination. Their desolation appealed to him hj^ 
the sight of human^ misery, whose causes are varied 
and profound" TM ey might have been worthless, but 
also they might have been misunderstood. His future 
wife was the first and perhaps the only person to de- 
tect 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 pin- 
nacle from which to soar up into the skies. 

They had become acquainted in Italy, where the 
future Mrs. Gould was staying with an old and pale 
aunt who, years before, had married a middle-aged, 
impoverished Italian marquis. She now mourned 
that man, who had known how to give up his life to 
the independence and unity of his country, who had 
known how to be as enthusiastic in his generosity as 
the youngest of those who fell for that very cause of 
which old Giorgio Viola was a drifting relic, as a broken 
spar is suffered to float away disregarded after a naval 
victory. The Marchesa led a still, whispering exist- 



* 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

ence, nunlike in her black robes and a white band 
over the forehead, in a corner of the first floor of an 
ancient and ruinous palace, whose big, empty halls 
down-stairs sheltered under their painted ceilings the 
harvests, the fowls, and even the cattle, together with 
the whole family of the tenant farmer. 

The two young people had met in Lucca. After that 
meeting Charles Gould visited no mines, though they 
went together in a carriage, once, to see some marble 
quarries, where the work resembled mining in so far 
that it also was the tearing of the raw material of 
treasure from the earth. Charles Gould did not open 
his heart to her in any set speeches. IJe_simp_ly_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 in- 
fluence a mind across half the globe ; but in reality they 
discussed because the sentiment of love can enter into 
any subject and live ardently in remote phrases. For 
this natural reason these discussions were precious to 
Mrs. Gould in her engaged state. Charles feared that 
Mr. Gould, senior, was wasting his strength and mak- 
ing himself ill by his efforts to get rid of the Concession. 
"I fancy that this is not the kind of handling it re- 
quires," 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." 

66 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

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

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

He knew his answer. 

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

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

"It has killed him," he said. 

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

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

67 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

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

She was too startled to say anything; he was con- 
templating with a penetrating and motionless stare 
the cracked marble urn as though he had resolved to 
fix its shape forever 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 Cos- 
taguana came to her with the full force of its misery. 
He caught hold of her hand, raised it to his lips, and 
at that she dropped her parasol to pat him on the 
cheek, murmured "Poor boy," and began to dry her 
eyes under the downward curve of her hat-brim, very 
small in her simple, white frock, almost like a lost 
child crying in the degraded grandeur of the noble 
hall, while he stood by her, again perfectly motionless 
in the contemplation of the marble urn. 

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

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

And then they stopped. Everywhere there were 
long shadows lying on the hills, on the roads, on the 
enclosed fields of olive-trees; the shadows of poplars, 
of wide chestnuts, of farm-buildings, of stone walls; 
and in mid-air the sound of a bell, thin and alert, was 
like the throbbing pulse of the sunset glow. Her 
lips were slightly parted as though in surprise he 
should not be looking at her with his usual expression. 

68 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

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 with- 
out detracting from his dignity. That slight girl, with 
her little feet, little hands, little face attractively over- 
weighted by great coils of hair; with a rather large 
mouth, whose mere parting seemed to breathe upon 
you the fragrance of frankness and generosity, had 
the fastidious soul of an experienced woman. She 
was, before all things and all flatteries, careful of her 
pride in the object of her choice. But now he was 
actually not looking at her at all; and his expression 
was tense and irrational, as is natural in a man who 
elects to stare at nothing past a young girl's head. 

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

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

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

She did. She would. And immediately the future 
hostess of all the Europeans in Sulaco had the physical 
experience of the earth falling away from under her. 
It vanished completely, even to the very sound of the 
bell. When her feet touched the ground again, the 

69 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

bell was still ringing in the valley; she put her hands 
up to her hair, breathing quickly, and glanced up and 
down the stony lane. It was reassuringly empty. 
Meantime, Charles, stepping with one foot into a dry 
and dusty ditch, picked up the open parasol, which had 
bounded away from them with a martial sound of 
drum-taps. He handed it to her soberly, a little crest- 
fallen. 

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 
alwa)^s be a Casa Gould in the principal town of what 
used to be called the Occidental province. I lived 
there once, as a small boy, with my dear mother, for a 
whole year, while poor father was away in the United 
States on business. You shall be the new mistress of 
the Casa Gould." 

And later on, 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 re- 
spected in Sulaco. My uncle Harry was chief of the 
state for some time, and has left a great name among 
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 es- 
sentially an Englishman in his ideas. He made use 

70 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

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 
Tomd 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 Eu- 
rope. A few months before he had made his acquaint- 
ance in an old historic German town, situated in a 
mining district. The American had his womankind 
with him, but seemed lonely while they were sketch- 
ing all day longthe 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 differ- 
ence 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 sup- 
posed 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 

7' 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

savage district, and the San Tom6 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 fas- 
cinating vision of herself. All the eagerness of youth 
for a strange life, for great distances, for a future in 
which there were 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 ten- 
derness. 

He left her to walk down the hill, and directly he 
found himself alone he became sober. That irrepa- 
rable change a death makes in the course of our daily 
thoughts can be felt in a vague and poignant discom- 
fort of mind. It hurt Charles Gould to feel that never 
more, by no effort of will, would he be able to think 
of his father in the same way he used to think of him 
when the poor man was alive. His breathing image 
was no longer in his power. This consideration, close- 
ly 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 illu- 
sions. 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 im- 
perative sometimes to know how to disobey the sol- 
emn 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 

72 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

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 oc- 
curred to him also the general reflection that the 
counsel of the departed must be ever an unsound 
guide. Not one of them could be aware beforehand 
what enormous changes the death of any given in- 
dividual 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 Gould's hereditary position in Sulaco had de- 
scended 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 differentia- 
tion interestingly barren and without importance. 
Dofla 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 erec- 
tion or demolition of theories any more than with the 
defence of prejudices, has no random words at its 

73 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

command. The words it pronounces have the value 
of acts of integrity, tolerance, and compassion. A 
woman's true tenderness, like the true virility of man, 
is expressed in action of a conquering kind. The 
ladies of Sulaco adored Mrs. Gould. "They still look 
upon me as something of a monster," Mrs. Gould had 
said pleasantly to one of the three gentlemen from 
San Francisco she had to entertain in her new Sulaco 
house just about a year after her marriage. 

They were her first visitors from abroad, and they 
had come to look at the San Tomd mine. She jested 
most agreeably, they thought; and Charles Gould, be- 
sides 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 flavor 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-Ameri- 
can ladies had been amazed at the tireless activity of 
her body. She would in her own words have been 
for them "something of a monster." However, the 
Goulds were in essentials a reticent couple, and their 
guests departed without the suspicion of any other pur- 
pose 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 harbor, whence the 
Ceres was to carry them off into the Olympus of pluto- 
crats. Captain Mitchell had snatched at the occasion 

74 



stromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

of leave-taking to remark to Mrs. Gould, in a low, con- 
fidential mutter, "This marks an epoch." 

Mrs. Gould loved the patio of her Spanish house. 
A broad flight of stone steps was overlooked silently 
from a niche in the wall by a Madonna in blue robes 
with the crowned child sitting on her arm. Subdued 

os 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, 
bladelike 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 ser- 
vants passed to and fro, issuing from dark, low door- 
ways 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 

1 a bunch of starched underskirts dazzlingly white 
in the slant of sunshine. Then the old porter would 
hobble in, sweeping the flag-stones, and the house was 

:y for the day. All the lofty rooms on the three 
sides of the quadrangle opened into each other and 
into the corridor, with its wrought-iron railings and a 
border of flowers, whence, like the lady of the mediaeval 

!e, she could witness from above all the departures 
and arrivals of the casa, to which the sonorous arched 
gateway lent an air of stately importance. 

She had watched her carriage roll away with the 
three guests from the north. She smiled. Their three 
arms went up simultaneously to their three hats. Cap- 
tain Mitchell, the fourth, in attendance, had already 

6 75 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

begun a pompous discourse. Then she lingered. She 
lingered, approaching her face to the clusters of flow- 
ers here and there as if to give time to her thoughts to 
catch up with her slow footsteps along the straight 
vista of the corridor. 

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

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

Otherwise, the plastered white walls were completely 
76 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

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

And dropping her eyelids expressively, she added: 
"What do you feel about it, Charley?" 
Then, surprised at her husband's silence, she raised 
her eyes, opened wide, as pretty as pale flowers. He 
had done with the spurs, and, twisting his mustache 
with both hands, horizontally, he contemplated her 
from the height of his long legs with a visible appre- 
ciation of her outward appearance. The consciousness 
of being thus contemplated pleased Mrs. Gould. 
"They are considerable men," he said. 
" I know. But have you listened to their conversa- 
tion? 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 

77 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

so far away from the centre of his activity if the doc- 
tors had not insisted, with veiled menaces, on his 
taking a long holiday. 

"Mr. Holroyd's sense of religion," Mrs. Gould pur- 
sued, "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 endow- 
ment of churches. That's a sort of idolatry. He told 
me he endowed churches every year, Charley." 

"No end of them," said Mr. Gould, marvelling in- 
wardly at the mobility of her physiognomy. "All over 
the country. He's famous for that sort of munifi- 
cence." 

"Oh, he didn't boast," Mrs. Gould declared scrupu- 
lously. "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 inter- 
ests," Charles Gould observed. 

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

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

78 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

Mr 1, frowning, surveyed him from head to 

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Gould, however, did not seem to find this an- 
swer in the least obscure. She brightened up deli- 
cately; 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 knowl- 
edge, which I have which ten thousand other men 
in the world have. But its safety, its continued exist- 
ence as an enterprise, giving a return to men to 

79 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

strangers, comparative strangers who invest money 
in it, is left altogether in my hands. I have inspired 
confidence in a man of wealth and position. You 
seem to think this perfectly natural do you? Well, 
I don't know. I don't know why I have; but it is a 
fact. This fact makes everything possible, because 
without it I would never have thought of disregarding 
my father's wishes. I would never have disposed of 
the Concession as a speculator disposes of a valuable 
right to a company for cash and shares, to grow rich 
eventually if possible, but at any rate to put some 
money at once in his pocket. No. Even if it had 
been feasible which I doubt I would not have done 
so. Poor father did not understand. He was afraid 
I would hang on to the ruinous thing, waiting for just 
some such chance, and waste my life miserably. That 
was the true sense of his prohibition, which we have 
deliberately set aside." 

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

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

- His spurred feet clinked slowly. He was bending 
over his wife as they walked. The big parrot, turning 

80 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

askew, followed their pacing figures with a 
round, unblinking eye. 

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

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

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

These two young people remembered the life which 
d ended wretchedly just when their own lives had 
come together in that splendor 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 

8l 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

made it only the stronger. It had presented itself to 
them at the instant when the woman's instinct of devo- 
tion 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 so far as it was bound 
with that other success. Mrs. Gould, an orphan from 
early childhood and without fortune, brought up in 
an atmosphere of intellectual interests, had never con- 
sidered the aspects of great wealth. They were too 
remote, and she had not learned that they were de- 
sirable. On the other hand, she had not known any- 
thing of absolute want. Even the very poverty of her 
aunt, the Marchesa, had nothing intolerable to a re- 
fined 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 with- 
out a stain on its only real, on its immaterial side! 

Charles Gould, on his part, had been obliged to keep 
the idea of wealth well to the fore; but he brought it 
forward as a means, not as an end. Unless the mine 
was good business it could not be touched. He had 
to insist on that aspect of the enterprise. It was his 
lever to move men who had capital. And Charles 

81 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

Gould believed in the mine. He knew everything that 
could be known of it. His faith in the mine was con- 
tagious, though it was not served by a great eloquence; 
but business men are frequently as sanguine and im- 
aginative as lovers. They are affected by a personal- 
auch oftener than people would suppose; and 
Charles Gould, in his unshaken assurance, was abso- 
lutely convincing. Besides, it was a matter of com- 
mon 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 can- 
dle. 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 
take their decisions on apparently impulsive and hu- 
man grounds. "Very well," had sai.l the considerable 
personage to whom Charles Gould on his way out 
through San Francisco had lucidly exposed his point 
of view. "Let us suppose that the mining affairs of 
Sulaco are taken in hand. There would then be in it: 
first, the house of Holroyd, which is all right; then, 
Mr. Charles Gould, a citizen of Costaguana, who is 
also all right; and, lastly, the government of the re- 
public. So far this resembles the first start of the 
Atacama nitrate fields, where there were a financing 
house, a gentleman of the name of Edwards, and a 
government; or, rather, two governments two South 
American governments. And you know what came < 
of it. War came of it; devastating and prolonged war 

83 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

came of it, Mr. Gould. However, here we possess the 
advantage of having only one South American gov- 
ernment hanging around for plunder out of the deal. 
It is an advantage; but then there are degrees of bad- 
ness, and that government is the Costaguana govern- 
ment." 

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

"The Costaguana government shall play its hand 
for all it's worth and don't you forget it, Mr. Gould. 
Now, what is Costaguana ? It is the bottomless pit of 
ten per cent, loans and other fool investments. Euro- 
pean capital had been flung into it with both hands 
or years. Not ours, though. We in this country 
enow just about enough to keep in-doors when it rains. 
We can sit and watch. Of course, some day we shall 
tepin. We are bound to. But there's no hurry. Time 

84 



No. nomo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

itself has got to wait on the greatest country in the 
whole of God's universe. We shall be giving the word 
for everything industry, trade, law, journalism, art, 
politics, and religion, from Cape Horn clear over to 
Smith's Sound, and beyond, too, if anything worth 
taking hold of turns up at the North Pole. And then 
we shall have the leisure to take in hand the outlying 
islands and continents of the earth. We shall run 
the world's business whether thcworld liTcesit or not. 
^Tlu^worTTrrrin t. holt) it^iml ^^Tn.cr I'M we^l KUC^ 

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.intellig* 
was nqurishejL-jon facts ; and Charles Gould, whos 
imagination had been permanently affected by the 
one great fact of a silver-mine, had no objection 
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 favorable impression ; the conscious- 
ness of that flattering fact helped him to a vague 
smile, which his big interlocutor took for a smile of 
discreet and admiring assent. He smiled quietly, too; 
and immediately Charles Gould, with that mental 
agility mankind will display in defence of a cherished 
hope, reflected that the very apparent insignificance 
of his aim would help him to success. His personality 

85 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

and his mine would be taken up because it was a mat- 
ter of no great consequence, one way or another, to a 
man who referred his action to such a prodigious des- 
tiny. 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 des- 
tiny 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 abso- 
lutely 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 con- 
cession at the first shot. 

"Our consuls get their mouths stopped with them," 
he continued, with a twinkle of genial scorn in his 
eyes. But in a moment he became grave. "A con- 
scientious, upright man, that cares nothing for boodle, 
and keeps clear of their intrigues, conspiracies, and 
factions, soon gets his passports. See that, Mr. 
Gould ? Persona non grata. That's the reason our 
government is never properly informed. On the oth- 
er 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 

86 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

right sort to hold his own against the third and un- 
welcome partner, whii-h is one or another of the high 
and mighty robber gangs that run the Costaguana 
government. What do you think, Mr. Gould, eh?" 

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

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

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

8? \ 




Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

appearance in Sulaco, he had emphasized his uncom- 
promising attitude with a freedom of sincerity per- 
mitted to his wealth and influence. He did this with 
the less reserve, perhaps, because the inspection of 
what had been done, and more still the way in which 
successive steps had been taken, had impressed him 
with the conviction that Charles Gould was perfectly 
capable of keeping up his end. 

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

This thought flattered him, for hitherto the only 
account of this young man he couid give to his inti- 
mates 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 Costa- 
guana Goulds, pure-bred Englishmen, but all born in 
the country. His uncle went into politics, was the 
last provincial President of Sulaco, and got shot after 
a battle. His father was a prominent business-man 
in Sta. Marta, tried to keep clear of their politics, and 
died ruined after a lot of revolutions. And that's 
your Costaguana in a nutshell." 

Of course, he was too great a man to be questioned 
as to his motives, even by his intimates. The outside 
world was at liberty to wonder respectfully at the 
hidden meaning of his actions. He was so great a 
man that his lavish patronage of the "purer forms 
of Christianity" (which in its naive form of church 
building amused Mrs. Gould) was looked upon by his 
fellow-citizens as the manifestation of a pious and 
Vumble spirit. But in his own circles of the financial 

88 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

world the taking up of such a thing as the San Tom 
mine was regarded with respect, indeed, but rather as 
a subject for discreet jocularity. It was a great man's 

ice. In the great Holroyd building (an enormous 
pile of iron, glass, and blocks of stone at the corner of 
two streets, cobwebbed aloft by the radiation of tele- 
graph wires) the heads of principal departments ex- 
changed humorous glances, which meant that they 
were not let into the secrets of the San Tom business. 
The Costaguana mail (it was never large one fairly 
heavy envelope) was taken unopened straight into the 
great man's room, and no instructions dealing with it 
had ever been issued thence. The office whispered 
that he answered personally and not by dictation 
either, but actually writing in his own hand, with pen 
and ink, and, it was to be supposed, taking a copy in 
his own private press copy-book, inaccessible to profane 
eyes. Some scornful young men, insignificant pieces of 
minor machinery in that eleven-story-high workshop 
of great affairs, expressed frankly their private opin- 
ion that the great chief had done at last something 
silly, and was ashamed of his folly; others, elderly and 

nificant, but full of romantic reverence for the 
business that had devoured their best years, used to 
mutter darkly and knowingly that this was a por- 
tentous sign; that the Holroyd connection meant by- 
and-by to get hold of the whole republic of Costa- 
guana, lock, stock, and barrel. But, in fact, the 
hobby theory was the right one. It interested the 
great man to attend personally to the San Tomd mine; 
it interested him so much that he allowed this hobby 
to give a direction to the first complete holiday he 

89 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

had taken for quite a startling number of years. He 
was not running a great enterprise there ; no mere rail- 
way board or industrial corporation. He was running 
a man ! A success would have pleased him very much 
on refreshingly novel grounds; but, on the other side 
of the same feeling, it was incumbent upon him to 
cast it off utterly at the first sign of failure. A man 
may be thrown off. The papers had unfortunately 
trumpeted all over the land his journey to Costaguana. 
If he was pleased at the way Charles Gould was going 
on, he infused an added grimness into his assurances 
of support. Even at the very last interview, half an 
hour or so before he rolled out of the patio, hat in 
hand, behind Mrs. Gould's white mules, he had said 
in Charles's room: 

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

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

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

"Of course," he said to his wife, alluding to this 
last conversation with the departed guest, while they 
walked slowly up and down the corridor, followed by 

00 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

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 shall survive, and some 
day shall get hold of Costaguana along with the rest 
of the world." 

They had stopped near the cage. The parrot, 
catching the sound of a word belonging to his vocabu- 
lary, was moved to interfere. Parrots are very hu- 
man. 

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

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

"My dear, it's nothing to me," interrupted her hus- 
band, 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 pro- 
duced in both Americas. The air of the New World 
seems favorable to the art of declamation. Have you 
forgotten how dear Avellanos can hold forth for hours 
here?" 

"Oh, but that's different," protested Mrs. Gould, al- 
most shocked. The allusion was not to the point. Don 
Jose" was a dear good man, who talked very well, and 
was enthusiastic about the greatness of the San Tome* 
mine. "How can you compare them, Charles?" she 
7 91 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

exclaimed reproachfully. "He has suffered and yet 
he hopes." 

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

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

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

" He did not like to be robbed. It exasperated him," 
said Charles Gould. "But the image will serve well 
enough. What is wanted here is law, good faith, order, 
security. Any one can declaim about these things, 
but I pin my faith to material interests. Only let the 
material interests once get a firm footing, and they are 

92 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

bound to impose the conditions on which alone they 
ran continue to exist. That's how your money-mak- 
ing is justified here in the face of lawlessness and dis- 
order. It is justified because the security whirh it 
tk'iuands must be shared with an oppressed people. 
.T^hettcr 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 de- 
spaired of ever seeing?" 

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

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

He left her suddenly in the corridor to go and get his 
hat, a soft, gray sombrero, an article of national cos- 
tume which combined unexpectedly well with his 
English get-up. He came back, a riding-whip under 
his arm, buttoning up a dog-skin glove; his face re- 
flected the resolute nature of his thoughts. His wife 
had waited for him at the head of the stairs, and be- 
fore he gave her the parting kiss he finished the con- 
versation : 

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

He bent over her upturned face very tenderly and 
a little remorsefully. Charles Gould was competent 
because he had no illusions. The Gould Concession 
had to fight for life with such weapons as could b 

93 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

found at once in the mire of a corruption that was so 
universal as to almost 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 farther 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. 



VII 

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

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

This might have been less or more than the truth. 
Mrs. Gould, accompanying her husband all over the 
province in the search for labor, had seen the land 
with a deeper glance than a true-born Costaguanera 
could have done. In her travel -worn riding-hal.it. 
her face powdered white like a plaster - cast, with a 

95 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

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 re- 
tired 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 
gray mustache hung far below his chin, and, riding 
on Mrs. Gould's left hand, he looked about with kind- 
ly eyes, pointing out the features of the country, tell- 
ing 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 Val- 
ley. It unrolled itself, with green young crops, plains, 
woodland, and gleams of water, parklike, from the 
blue vapor of the distant sierra to an immense quiver- 
ing 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 im- 
mensity itself. The mounted figures of vaqueros gal- 
loped in the distance, and the great herds fed with all 

96 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

their horned heads one way, in one single wavering 
line as far as eye could reach across the broad potreros. 
A spreading cotton-wood tree shaded a thatched ranche 
by the road ; the trudging files of burdened Indians tak- 
ing 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 slumberous dignity in those great houses 
presenting long, blind walls and heavy portals to the 
wind-swept pastures of camps. 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 court-yards, impressing upon her 
the sweetness of their voices and the something mys- 
terious in the quietude of their lives. In the morning 
the gentlemen, well mounted in braided sombreros and 
embroidered riding -suits, with much silver on the 
trappings of their horses, would ride forth to escort 
the departing guests before committing them, with 
grave good-byes, to the care of God at the boundary 
pillars of their estates. In all these households she 
could hear stories of political outrage; friends, relatives 
ruined, imprisoned, killed in the battles of senseless 

97 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

civil wars, barbarously executed in ferocious proscrip- 
tions, 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 nightmareish parody of administration without 
law, without security, and without justice. 

She bore a whole two months of wandering very 
well ; she had that power of resistance to fatigue which 
one discovers here and there in some quite frail-look- 
ing women with surprise like a state of possession 
by a remarkably stubborn spirit. Don Pep 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.-W.as^ideed 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 flap- 
ping 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, 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

with each man's load resting above his head on the 
top of the low mud wall, slept stretched in a row within 
tin- strip of shade. 

The heavy stone-work of bridges and churches left 
by the conquerors proclaimed the disregard of human 
lat>or, the tribute - labor 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 Pdpe" would inter- 
rupt the tale of his campaigns to exclaim: 

"Poor Costaguana! Before, it was everything for 
the padres, nothing for the people; and now it is every- 
thing for these 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 cab- 
alleros on the estates. The commandantes of the dis- 
tricts offered him escorts for he could show an au- 
thorization 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 an- 
swer 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 Inten- 
dencia in Sulaco, and who piqued himself on his culture 
and Europeanism generally in a rather French style 
because he had lived in Europe for some years in 
exile, he said. However, it was pretty well known 
that just before this exile he had incautiously gam- 
bled away all the cash in the custom-house of a small 
port where a friend in power had procured for him the 

99 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

post of sub-collector. That youthful indiscretion had, 
among other inconveniences, obliged him to earn his 
living for a time as a cafe" waiter in Madrid; but his 
talents must have been great, after all, since they had 
enabled him to retrieve his political fortunes so splen- 
didly. Charles Gould, exposing his business with an 
imperturbable steadiness, called him Excellency. 

The provincial Excellency assumed a weary supe- 
riority, 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 im- 
peratively for silence in order to listen to a favorite 
passage. 

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

Of course, rumors had reached him already of the 
new-comer's intentions. Besides, he had received an 
official warning from Sta. Marta. His manner was in- 
tended simply to conceal his curiosity and impress his 
visitor. But after he had locked up something val- 
uable 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 
100 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

Gould, steadily, "and I reckon now confidently upon 
your Excellency's favorable conclusions." 

The Excellency was a man of many moods. With 
the receipt of the money a great mellowness had de- 
scended upon his simple soul. Unexpectedly he fetch- 
ed a deep sigh. 

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

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

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

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

His face darkened. What meant this unimpressed 
101 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

and frigid behavior? He was the first of the succes- 
sive politicians sent out from the capital to rule the 
Occidental province whom the manner of Charles 
Gould in official intercourse was to strike as offen- 
sively 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 accus- 
tomed 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 of 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 Val- 
ley, was pointed out to strangers, with a shade of mys- 

102 






Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

tcry ami respect, as the agent of the San Tome" mine 
"political, you know." He was tall, black-whisk- 
ered, and discreet. It was known that he had easy 
access to ministers, and that the numerous Costa- 
guana 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 ex- 
pressing formally his dutiful affection were seldom 
entrusted to the Costaguana post-office. There the 
envelopes are opened indiscriminately, with the frank- 
ness 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 em- 
ployed 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 circum- 
stances, 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 goat-skin breeches with 
the hair outside, he sat near the tail of his own smart 
mule, his great hat turned against the sun, an expres- 
sion of blissful vacancy on his long face, humming 
day after day a love-song in a plaintive key, or, with- 
out a change of expression, letting out a yell at his 
small tropilla in front. A round little guitar hung 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

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 door- 
way 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 ac- 
complished in the matter of clear starching. He him- 
self 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 ac- 
knowledged 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 even- 
ings he devoted to gambling and to calls in a spirit of 
generous festivity upon the peyne d'oro girls in the more 
remote side-streets of the town. But he, too, was a 
discreet man. 



VIII 

' I ''HOSE of us whom business or curiosity took to^ 
J. Sulaco in these years before the first advent of / 
the railway can remember thesteadying effect of the i 
San Tome" mine upon the life of tfiat qqnoJg province. 
The outward appearances had not changed then as 
they have changed since, as I pm told with cable-cars 
running along the Street 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 harbor, which has a quay- / 
side, a long range of warehouses, and quite serious/ 
^organized labor troubles of its own. 

Nobody had ever heard of labor troubles then. The 
cargadores of the port formed, indeed, an unruly 
brotherhood of all sorts of scum, with a patron saint of 
their own. They went on strike regularly (every bull- 
fight day), a form of trouble that even Nostromo at 
the height of his prestige could never cope with effi- 
ciently; 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-gray 
mare solved the problem of labor without fail. His 
fteed, paced the lanes of the slums and the weed-grown 

103 




A Tale of the Seaboard 

enclosures within the old ramparts, between the black, 
lightless clusters of huts, like cow-byres, like dog-ken- 
nels. The horseman hammered with the butt of a 
heavy revolver atTthe doors of low pulperias, of ob- 
scene lean-to sheds sloping against the tumble-down 
piece of a noble wall, at the wooden sides of dwellings 
so flimsy that the sounds 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 men- 
acingly from the saddle, once, twice. The drowsy an- 
swers grumpy, conciliating, savage, jocular, or depre- 
cating came out into, the silent darkness in which the 
horseman sat still, and presently a dark figure would flit 
out coughing in the still air. Sometimes a low-toned 
woman cried through the window-hole softly, "He's 
coming directly, senor," and the horseman waited 
silent on a motionless horse. But if perchance he had 
to dismount, then, after a while, from the door of that 
hovel or of that pulperia, with a ferocious scuffle and 
stifled imprecations, a cargador would fly out head 
first and hands abroad, to sprawl under the fore-legs 
of the silver-gray 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 

106 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

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; bujt_pver the worn-out antiquity of 
Sulaco, so characreristic 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 in- 
fluence. It had altered, too, the outward character 
of the crowds on feast days on the plaza before the 
open portal of the cathedral, by the number of white 
ponchos with a green stripe affected as holiday wear 
by the San Tome* miners. They had also adopted 
white hats with green cord and braid articles of 
good quality, which could be obtained in the store- 
house of the administration for very little money. 
A peaceable Chulo wearing these colors (unusual in 
Costaguana) was somehow very seldom beaten to 
within an inch of his life on a charge of disrespect to 
the town police; neither ran he much risk of being 
suddenly lassoed on the road by a recruiting -party 
of lanceros a method of voluntary-enlistment looked 
upon as almost legal in the republic. Whole villages 
were known to have volunteered for the army in that 
way ; but, as Don Pdpe* would say with a hopeless shrug 
to Mrs. Gould, "What would you! Poor people! 
Pobrecitos. Pobrecitos! But the state must have 
its soldiers." 

a 107 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

Thus professionally spoke Don P6p6, the fighter, 
with pendent mustaches, a nut-brown, lean face, and 
a clean run of a cast-iron jaw, suggesting the type 
of a cattle-herd horseman from the great Llanos of 
the south. "If you will listen to an old officer of 
Paez, senores," was the exordium of all his speeches 
in the aristocratic club of Sulaco, where he was ad- 
mitted on account of his past services to the extinct 
cause of Federation. The club, dating from the days 
of the proclamation of Costaguana's independence, 
boasted many names of liberators among its first 
founders. Suppressed arbitrarily innumerable times 
by various governments, with memories of proscrip- 
tions and of at least one wholesale massacre of its 
members, sadly assembled for a banquet by the order 
of a zealous military commandante (their bodies were 
afterwards stripped naked and flung into the plaza 
out of the windows by the lowest scum of the populace), 
it was again flourishing, at that period, peacefully. 
It extended to strangers the large hospitality of the 
cool, big rooms of its historic quarters in the front 
part of a house, once the residence of a high official of 
the Holy Office. The two wings, shut up, crumbled 
behind the nailed doors, and what may be described 
as a grove of young orange-trees grown in the unpaved 
patio concealed the utter ruin of the back part facing 
the gate. You turned in from the street, as if enter- 
ing 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 choco- 

108 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

late-colored 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 Pe'pe' moving his 
long mustaches as he spelled 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 curb-stone of the sidewalk. 

Don Pe'pe', when "down from the mountain," as the 
phrase, often heard in Sulaco, went, could also be seen 
in the drawing-room of the Casa Gould. He sat with 
modest assurance at some distance from the tea-table. 
With his knees close together, and a kindly twinkle of 
drollery in his deep-set eyes, he would throw his small 
and ironic pleasantries into the current of conversa- 
tion. There was in that man a sort of sane, humorous 
shrewdness, and a vein of genuine humanity so often 
found in simple old soldiers of proved courage who 
have seen much desperate service. Of course, he 
knew nothing whatever of mining, but his employ- 
ment 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 color of hope, being also 
the color of the mine. 

It was reported in Sulaco that up there "at the 
mountain" Don Pe'pe' walked about precipitous paths, 

109 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

girt with a great sword and in a shabby uniform with 
tarnished bullion epaulets of a senior major. Most 
miners beCng Indians, with big wild eyes, addressed 
him as Taita (father), as these barefooted people of 
Costaguana will address anybody who wears shoes; 
but it was Basilio, Mr. Gould's own mozo and the 
head servant of the casa, who in all good faith and 
from a sense of propriety announced him once in the 
solemn words, "El Senor Gobernador has arrived." 

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

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 with- 
out the Gobernador hearing the click, senora." 

And he would tap his ear with the tip of his fore- 
finger 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 
Jose's, Manuels, Ignacios, from the villages primero, 
segundo, or tercero (there were three mining villages) 
under his government. He could distinguish them 
not only by their flat, joyless faces, which to Mrs. 
Gould looked all alike, as if run into the same ancestral 
mould of suffering and patience, but apparently also 

no 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

by the infinitely graduated shades of reddish-brown, 
of blackish-brown, of coppery-brown backs, as the 
two shifts, stripped to linen drawers and leather skull- 
. mingled together with a confusion of naked 
limbs, of shouldered picks, swinging lamps, in a great 
shuffle of sandalled feet on the open plateau before the 
entrance of the main tunnel. It was a time of pause. 
The Indian boys leaned idly against the long line of 
little cradle wagons standing empty; the screeners and 
ore - breakers squatted on their heels smoking long 
cigars ; the great wooden shoots slanting over the edge 
of the tunnel plateau were silent; and only the cease- 
less, violent rush of water in the open flumes could be 
heard, murmuring fiercely, with the splash and rumble 
of revolving turbine-wheels, and the thudding march 
of the stamps pounding to powder the treasure rock 
on the plateau below. The heads of gangs, distin- 
guished 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 zig- 
zag paths leading to the bottom of the gorge. It was 
deep; and, far below a thread of vegetation winding 
between the blazing rock faces, resembled a slender 
green cord, in which three lumpy knots of banana 
lies, palm-leaf roots, and shady trees marked the 
Village One, Village Two, Village Three, housing the 
miners of the Gould Concession. 

Whole families had been moving from the first tow- 
ards the spot in the Higuerota range, whence the ru- 
mor of work and safety had spread over the pastoral 
Campo, forcing its way also, even as the waters of a 

in 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

high flood, into the nooks and crannies of the distant 
blue walls of the Sierras. Father first, in a pointed 
straw hat, then the mother with the bigger children, 
generally also a diminutive donkey, all under burdens 
except the leader himself, or perhaps some grown girl, 
the pride of the family, stepping barefooted and 
straight as an arrow, with braids of raven hair, a 
thick, haughty profile, and no load to carry but the 
small guitar of the country and a pair of soft leather 
sandals tied together on her back. At the sight of 
such parties strung out on the cross trails between 
the pastures, or camped by the side of the royal 
road, travellers on horseback would remark to each 
other : 

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

And spurring 011 in the dusk they would discuss the 
great news of the province, the news of the San Tome 
mine. A rich Englishman was going to work it and 
perhaps not an Englishman, Quien sabcf A foreigner 
with much money. Oh yes, it had begun. A party 
of men who had been to Sulaco with a herd of black 
bulls for the next corrida had reported that from the 
porch of the posada in Rincon, only a short league 
from the town, the lights on the mountain were visible, 
twinkling above the trees. And there was a woman 
seen riding a horse sideways, not in the chair seat, 
but upon a sort of saddle, and a man's hat on her head. 
She walked about, too, on foot up the mountain-paths. _ 
A woman engineer, it seemed she was. 

"What an absurdity! Impossible, senor!" 

"Si! Si! Una Americana del Norte." 

112 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

" Ah. well! if your worship is informed. Una Anier- 
something of that sort." 

And they would lavish a little with ;ist< nishincnt 
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 Pe'pe' knew 
so well, but he seemed able, with one attentive, thought- 
ful glance, to classify each woman, girl, or growing 
youth of his domain. It was only the small fry that 
puzzled him sometimes. He and the padre could be 
seen frequently side by side, meditative and gazing 
across the street of a village at a lot of sedate brown 
children, trying to sort them out, as it were, in low, 
consulting tones, or else they would together put 
searching questions as to the parentage of some small, 
staid urchin met wandering, naked and grave, along 
the road with a cigar in his baby mouth, and perhaps 
his mother's rosary, purloined for purposes of orna- 
mentation, 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 
ffie~c1laTfe~ffbm Mrs. Gould, and lived in the hospital 
building, they were on not so intimate terms. But no 
one could be on intimate terms with El Senor Doctor, 
who, with his twisted shoulders, drooping head, sar- 
donic mouth, and sidelong bitter glance, was mys- 
terious and uncanny. Tin.- otlu-r two authorities work- 
ed in harmony. Father Roman, dried up, small, alert, 
wrinkled, with big round eyes, a sharp chin, and a 
great snuff -taker, was an old campaigner, too; he had 
113 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

shriven many simple souls on the battle-fields of the 
republic, kneeling by the dying on hill-sides, 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 Pdpe" 
did actually gird his old sword on the veranda of an 
unmistakable American white frame house, which 
Father Roman called the presbytery. Near by, a 
long, low, dark building, steeple-roofed, like a vast 
barn, with a wooden cross over the gable, was the 
miners' chapel. There Father Roman said mass 
every day before a sombre altar-piece representing 
the Resurrection, the gray slab of the tombstone bal- 
anced on one corner, a figure soaring upward, long- 
limbed and livid, in an oval of pallid light, and a hel- 
meted brown legionary smitten down, right across the 
bituminous foreground "This picture, my children, 
muy linda e maravillosa," Father Roman would say 
to some of his flock, "which you behold here through 
the munificence of the wife of our Senor Adminis- 
trador, has been painted in Europe, a country of saints 
and miracles, and much greater than our Costaguana." 
And he would take a pinch of snuff with unction. 
But when once an inquisitive spirit desired to know 
in what direction this Europe was situated, whether 
up or down the coast, Father Roman, to conceal his 

114 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

perplexity, became very reserved and severe. "No 
doubt it is extremely far away. But ignorant sinners 
like you of the San Tom mine should think earnestly 
of everlasting punishment instead of inquiring into 
the magnitude of the earth, with its countries and 
populations altogether beyond your understanding." 

With a "Good -night, padre;" "good -night, Don 
Pe'pe'," 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 shrill- 
ing of responding whistles, mingled with the barking 
of dogs, that would calm down slowly at last, away 
up at the head of the gorge; and in the stillness two 
serenos, on guard by the bridge, would appear walking 
noiselessly towards him. On one side of the road a 
long frame building the store would be closed and 
barricaded from end to end; facing it another white 
frame house, still longer, and with a veranda 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 overheated rocks. Don Pe*p6 would stand still 
for a moment with the two motionless serenos before 
him, and, abruptly, high up on the sheer face of the 
mountain, dotted with single torches, like drops of fire 
fallen from the two great blazing clusters of light* 

US 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

above, the ore shoots would begin to rattle. The 
great clattering, shuffling noise, gathering speed and 
weight, would be caught up by the walls of the gorge, 
and sent upon the plain in a growl of thunder. The 
posadero in Rincon swore that on calm nights, by listen- 
ing 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 moun- 
tain 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 Tom 6 mountain (which is square, like a block- 
house) the thread of a slender waterfall flashed bright 
and glassy through the dark green of the heavy fronds 
of tree-ferns. Don Pdpe", in attendance, rode up, and, 
stretching his arm up the gorge, had declared with 
mock solemnity, " Behold the very paradise of snakes, 
senora." 

And then they had wheeled their horses and ridden 
back to sleep that night at Rincon. The alcalde an 

116 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

oKl. skinny Moreno, a sergeant of Guzman Bento's 
time had cleared respectfully out of his house with 
his three pretty daughters, to make room for the for- 
eign senora and their worships the caballeros. All 
he asked Charles Gould (whom he took for a myste- 
rious and official person) to do for him was to remind 
the supreme government El Gobierno supremo of 
a pension (amounting to about a dollar a month) to 
which he believed himself entitled. It had been prom- 
ised to him, he affirmed, straightening his bent back 
martially, "many years ago, for my valor in the wars 
with the wild Indies when a younj; man, senor." 

The waterfall existed no longer. The tree-ferns that 
had luxuriated in its spray had dried around the dried- 
up pool, and the high ravine was only a big trench 
half filled up with the refuse of excavations and tailings. 
The torrent, dammed up above, sent its water rush- 
ing along the open flumes of scooped tree-trunks strid- 
ing on trestle legs to the turbines working the stamps 
on the lower plateau the mesa grandc of the San Tome" 
mountain. Snly th mpmn^y q {he, 



i 

its amazing fernery^. like a Imaging gorden abuvc thei 
rocks of thg""go"rger- was preserved in Mrs. Gould's! 
water-color sketch; she had made it hastily one day 
from a eleared patch in the bushes, sitting in the shade 
of a roof of straw erected for her on three rough poles 
under Don Pe"pe"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 

U7 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

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 serioritas, 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 car- 
riage 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 P^p^'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 excite- 
ment 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 spungy lump of silver yielded to the hazards 
of the world by the dark depths of the Gould Conces- 
sion ; 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 
o~ the emergency of a principle. 

118 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

Don P(5p<5, extremely interested, too, looked over 
her shoulder with a smile that, making longitudinal 
folds on his face, caused it to resemble a leathern mask 
with a benignantly diabolic expression. 

" Would not the muchachos of Hernandez like to get 

hold of this insignificant object, that looks, por Dies, 

much like a piece of tin ?" he remarked jocularly. 

Hernandez, the robber, had been an inoffensive, 
small ranchero, kidnapped with circumstances of pe- 
culiar atrocity from his home during one of the civil 
wars, and forced to serve in the army. There his con- 
duct as soldier was exemplary, till, watching his chance, 
he killed his colonel, and managed to get clear away. 
With a band of deserters, who chose him for their 
chief, he had taken refuge beyond the wild and water- 
Uolson de Tonoro. The haciendas paid him black- 
mail in cattle and horses; extraordinary stories were 
told of his powers and of his wonderful escapes from 
capture. He used to ride, single-handed, into the 
villages and the little towns on the Campo, driving a 
pack-mule before him, with two revolvers in his belt, 
go straight to the shop or store, select what he wanted, 
and ride away unopposed because of the terror his 
exploits and his audacity inspired. Poor country 
people he usually left alone ; the upper class were often 
stopped on the roads and robbed ; but any unlucky offi- 
that fell into his hands was sure to get a severe 
flogging. The army officers did not like his name to be 
mentioned in their presence. His followers, mounted 
'.olen horses, laughed at the pursuit of the regular 
ilry sent to hunt them down, and whom they took 
pleasure to ambush most scientifically in the broken 

119 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

ground of their own fastness. Expeditions had been 
fitted out; a price had been put upon his head; even 
attempts had been made, treacherously of course, to 
open negotiations with him, without in the slightest 
way affecting the even tenor of his career, At last, 
in true Costaguana fashion, the fiscal of Tonoro, who 
was ambitious of the glory of having reduced the fa- 
mous Hernandez, offered him a sum of money and a 
safe-conduct out of the country for the betrayal of his 
band. But Hernandez evidently was not of the stuff 
of which the distinguished military politicians and 
conspirators of Costaguana are made. This clever 
but common device (which frequently works like a 
charm in putting down revolutions) failed with the 
chief of vulgar salteadores. It promised well for the 
fiscal at first, but ended very badly for the squadron 
of lanceros posted (by the fiscal's directions) in a fold 
of the ground into which Hernandez had promised to 
lead his unsuspecting followers. They came, indeed, 
at the appointed time, but creeping on their hands and 
knees through the bush, and only let their presence 
be known by a general discharge of fire-arms, which 
emptied many saddles. The troopers who escaped came 
riding very hard into Tonoro. It is said that their 
commanding officer (who, being better mounted, rode 
far ahead of the rest) afterwards got into a state of 
despairing intoxication and beat the ambitious fiscal 
severely with the flat of his sabre in the presence of 
his wife and daughters, for bringing this disgrace 
upon the national army. The highest civil official of 
Tonoro, falling to the ground in a swoon, was further 
kicked all over the body and rowelled with sharp spurs 

120 



N o^trumo : A Talc ot" the Seaboard 



about the neck and face because of the great sensi- 
tiveness of his military colleague. This gossip of the 
inland Cumpo. so chara of the rulers of the 

i try with its story of oppression, inefficiency, fatu- 
ous methods, treachery, and savage brutality, was 

vtly known to Mrs. Gould. That it should be 

itcd with no indignant comment by people of 
intelligence, refinement, and character, as something 
inherent in the nature of things, was one of the symp- 
toms 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 Pe"pe"s 
remark : 

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

"Sertora," cried Don Pdpe", with enthusiasm, "r 
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, Dofia 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, switidlers, and sanguinary ma- 

:es to rule us in Sta. Marta. However, all the same, 
a bandit is a bandit, and we shall have a dozen good 

^ht Winchesters to ride with the silver down to 
Sulaco." 

121 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

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

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

The prominent man (who was then a person in power, 
with a lemon-colored 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: 

122 



Nostromo ; A Talc of the Seaboard 



. all! Silence! All, I tell you! The poll t 
the chief of the police, the chief of the cus- 
toms, the general, all, all, are the officials of that 
Gould!" 

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

" No sanguinary macaque from Sta. Marta shall set 
foot on that part of Costaguana which lies beyond the 
San Tom bridge," Don Pe'pe' used to assure Mrs. 
Gould. "Except, of course, as an honored 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 Jos Avellanos would mutter " Imperium in 
imperio, Emilia, my soul," with an air of profound self- 
satisfaction which, somehow, in a curious way, seemed 
to contain a queer admixture of bodily discomfort. 
But that, perhaps, could only be visible to the initiated. 

And for the initiated it was a wonderful place, this 
drawing-room of the Casa Gould, with its momentary 
glimpses of the master El Senor Administrador 
older, harder, mysteriously silent, with the lines deep- 
ened on his English, ruddy, out-of-doors complexion; 

"3 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

flitting on his thin, cavalry-man's legs across the door- 
ways, either just "back from the mountain," or, with 
jingling spurs and riding-whip under his arm, on the 
point of starting "for the mountain." Then Don 
Pepe, modestly martial in his chair, the Llanero who 
seemed somehow to have found his martial jocularity, 
his knowledge of the world, and his manner perfect 
for his station, in the midst of savage armed contests 
with his kind; Avellanos, polished and familiar, the 
diplomatist with his loquacity covering much caution 
and wisdom in delicate advice, with his manuscript of 
a historical work on Costaguana, entitled Fifty Years 
of Misrule, which, at present, he thought it was not 
prudent (even if it were possible) "to give to the 
world"; these three, and also Dona Emilia among 
them, gracious, small, and fairy-like, before the glitter- 
ing tea-set, with one common master-thought in their 
heads, with one common feeling of a tense situation, 
with one ever-present aim to preserve the inviolable 
character of the mine at every cost. And there was 
also to be seen Captain Mitchell, a little apart, near one 
of the long windows, with an air of old-fashioned neat 
old bachelorhood about him, slightly pompous, in a 
white waistcoat, a little disregarded and unconscious of 
it; utterly in the dark, and imagining himself to be in 
the thick of things. The good man, having spent a 
clear thirty years of his life on the high seas before 
getting what he called a "shore billet," was astonished 
at the importance of transactions (others than relating 
to shipping) which takes 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 

124 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

pomposity struggling with a discomfited droop of his 
rubicund, rather handsome face, set off by snow-white 
close hair and short whiskers, he would mutter: 
"Ah, that! That, sir, was a mistake." 
The-receptten Q{ the first consignment of San Tome" 
silver for shipment to S.m I ; r;im-isr<> in <>ne of the 
O.S.N. Company's mail-boat 

n ? Hr 00 *"** Pnr ^in ^'^hffl" 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 down 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, resem- 
bling roomy coffers with a door at the back, and har- 
nessed tandem with two mules each, waiting under 
the guard of armed and mounted serenos. Don Pe'pe' 
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 rum- 
ble over the boundary bridge ("into the land of thieves 
and sanguinary macaques," Don Pe'pe' defined that 
crossing); hats bobbing in the first light of the dawn, 
on the heads of cloaked figures; Winchesters on hip; 
bridle hands protruding lean and brown from under 
the falling folds of the ponchos. The convoy skirting 
a little wood, along the mine trail, between the mud 
huts and low walls of Rincon, increased its pace on the 
Camino Real, mules urged to speed, escort galloping, 
Don Carlos riding alone ahead of a dust storm, afford- 
ing a vague vision of long ears of mules, of fluttering 

125 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

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 Pe"pe, 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 ham- 
mer 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 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 road -side 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 Tom6 silver 
escort going to the sea; a small knot of chilly leperos 
under the Stone Horse of the Alameda would mutter: 
"Caramba!" on seeing it take a wide curve at a gallop 
and dart into the empty Street of the Constitution; 
for it was considered the correct thing, the only proper 
style by the mule-drivers of the San Tome* mine, to go 
through the waking town from end to end without 
a check in the speed, as if chased by a devil. 

The early sunshine glowed on the delicate primrose, 
126 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

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

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

No doubt the initial action of Charles Gould had 
been helped at the beginning by a period of compar- 
ative peace which occurred just about that time; and 
also by the general softening of manners as compared 

127 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

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 blind ferocious political fanaticism. It 
was all more vile, more base, more contemptible, and 
infinitely more manageable in the very outspoken cyni- 
cism of motives. It was more clearly a brazen-faced 
scramble for a constantly diminishing quantity of 
booty, since all enterprise had been stupidly killed in 
the land. Thus it came to pass that the province of 
Sulaco, once the field of cruel party vengeances, had 
become in a way one of the considerable prizes of 
political career. The great of the earth (in Sta. Marta) 
reserved the posts in the old Occidental state to those 
nearest and dearest to them: nephews, brothers, hus- 
bands of favorite sisters, bosom friends, trusty sup- 
porters 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 busi- 
ness 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 inter- 
ests of all sorts, backed up by the influence of the San 
Tome" mine, were quietly gathering substance in that 
part of the republic. r If, for instance, the Sulaco 
collectorship was generally understood, in the politi- 

128 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

cal world of the capital, to open the way to the Ministry 
of Finance, and so on for every official post, then, on 
the other hand, the despondent business circles of the 
republic had come to consider the Occidental Prov- 
ince as the promised land of safety, especially if a 
man managed to get on good terms with the adminis- 
tration of the mine. "Charles Gould; excellent fel- 
low! Absolutely necessary to make sure of him be- 
fore taking a single step. Get an introduction to him 
from Moraga if you can the agent of the King of 
Sulaco, don't you know." 

No wonder, then, that Sir John, coming from Europe 
to smooth the path for his railway, had been meeting 
the name (and even the nickname) of Charles Gould 
at every turn in Costaguana. The agent of the San 
Tom administration in Sta. Marta (a polished, well- 
informed gentleman, Sir John thought him) had cer- 
tainly helped so greatly in bringing about the presi- 
dential tour that he began to think that there was 
something in the faint whispers hinting at the im- 
mense occult influence of the Gould Concession. What 
was currently wTiispered was this that the San Tome" 
administration had, in part, at least, financed the 
last revolution, which had brought into a five-year 
dictatorship Don Vincente Ribiera, a man of culture 
and of unblemished character, invested with a man- 
date of reform by the best elements of the state. 
Serious, well-informed men seemed to believe the fact, 
to hope for better things, (or the establishment of 
legality, of good faith and oraer in f>uMu- life. So 
much the better, then, thought Sir John. He worked 
always on a great scale ; there was a loan to the state, 

129 



I > 

Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

and a project for systematic colonizatioajal_the_ Oc- 
cidental' Prcfvince, involved in one vast scheme with 
the construction of the National Central Railway. 
Good faith, order, honesty, peace, were badly wanted 
for this great development of material interests. Any- 
body 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-humor Gen- 
eral Montero displayed at lunch, given on board the 
Juno just before she was to sail, taking away from 
Sulaco the President-Dictator and the distinguished 
foreign guests in his train. 

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

Charles Gould had his place next to a foreign envoy, 
130 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

who in a listless undertone had been talking to him 
fitfully of hunting and shooting. The well-nourished, 
pale face, with an eyeglass and drooping yellow mus- 
tache, made the Seftor Administrador appear by con- 
trast twice as sunbaked, more flaming red, a hundred 
times more intensely and silently alive. Don Jose" 
Avellanos touched elbows with the other foreign dip- 
lomat, a dark man with a quiet, watchful, self-confi- 
dent demeanor and a touch of reserve. All etiquette 
being laid aside on the occasion, General Memtero was 
the only one there in full uniform, so stiff with em- 
broideries in front that his broad chest seemed pro- 
tected 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 infor- 
mal 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 neces- 
sity of unremitting effort to secure the lasting welfare 
of the country emerging after this last struggle, he 
hoped, into a period of peace and material prosperity. 

Mrs. Gould, listening to the mellow, slightly mourn- 
ful voice, looking at this rotund, dark, spectacled face, 
at the short body, obese to the point of infirmity, 
thought that this man of delicate and melancholy 
mind, physically almost a cripple, coming out of his 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

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, pro- 
nouncing, glass in hand, his simple watchwords of 
honesty, peace, respect for law, political good faith 
abroad and at home the safeguards of national 
honor. 

He sat down. During the respectful, appreciative 
buzz of voices that followed the speech, General Mon- 
tero raised a pair of heavy, drooping eyelids and rolled 
his eyes with a sort of uneasy dulness from face to face. 
The military backwoods hero of the party, though 
secretly impressed by the sudden novelties and splen- 
dors 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 among all these refined Blanco aristo- 
crats. 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 mod- 
ern times." 

"My husband wanted the railway," Mrs. Gould said 
to Sir John in the general murmur of resumed conver- 
sations. "All this brings nearer the sort of future we 
desire for the country, which has waited for it in sor- 
row long enough, God knows. But I will confess that 
the other day, during my afternoon drive, when I sud- 
denly saw an Indian boy ride out of a wood with the 

132 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

red flag of a surveying party in his hand, I felt somei 
thing of a shock. The future means change an uttcf 
change. And yet even here there are simple and pict\ 
uresque things that one would like to preserve." 

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

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

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

"The honor of the country is in the hands of the 
army. I assure you I shall be faithful to it." He 
hesitated till his roaming eyes met Sir John's face, 
upon which he fixed a lurid, sleepy glance; and the fig- 
ure 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 suc- 
ceeded the felicitous toast. Sir John did not move. 

"I don't think I am called upon to rise," he mur- 
133 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

mured 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 good-will towards Costaguana a good -will, 
he continued significantly, "of which I, having been 
in my time accredited to the court of St. James, am 
able to speak with some knowledge." 

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

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

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

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

An enormous national flag of Costaguana, diagonal 
red and yellow, with two green palm-trees in the mid- 
dle, floated lazily at the mainmast-head of the Juno. A 
multitude of fire-works being let off in their thousands 
at the water's edge in honor of the President kept up 
a mysterious crepitating noise half round the harbor. 
Now and then a lot of rockets, swishing upward in- 
visibly, detonated overhead with only a puff of smoke 
in the bright sky. Crowds of people could be seen be- 
tween the town gate and the harbor, under the bunches 
of multicolored flags fluttering on tall poles. Faint 

134 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

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 grayish 
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 Seflor Avellanos ; 
a wide circle was formed round him, where the mirth- 
less 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 nota- 
ble adherents in Sulaco, was drawing to an end. On 
one side, general Montero, his bald head covered now 
by a plumed cocked hat, remained motionless on a 
skylight seat, a pair of big gauntleted hands folded on 
the hilt of the sabre standing upright between his legs. 
The white plume, the coppery tint of his broad face, 
the blue -black of the mustaches under the cur 
beak, the mass of gold on sleeves and breast, the high 
shining boots with enormous spurs, the working nos- 
trils, the imbecile and domineering stare of the glorious 
victor of Rio Seco had in them something ominous 
and incredible; the exaggeration of the cruel carica- 
ture, the fatuity of solemn masquerading, the atro- 
cious grotesqucness of some military idol of Aztec con- 
ception anl European bedecking, awaiting the homage 
of worshippers. Don Jos approached diplomatically 
this weird and inscrutable portent, and Mrs. Gould 
turned her fascinated eyes away at last. 

Charles, coming up to take leave of Sir John, heard 
US 



JNI ostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

him say, as he bent over his wife's hand, "Certainly. 
Of course, my dear Mrs. Gould, for a prote'ge' 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 be- 
tween the extended hands of the beggars, who for that 
day seemed to have abandoned in a body the portals 
of churches. Charles Gould sat on the back seat and 
looked away upon the plain. A multitude of booths 
made of green boughs, of rushes, of odd pieces of plank 
eked out with bits of canvas had been erected all over 
it for the sale of cana, of dulces, of fruit, of cigars. 
Over little heaps of glowing charcoal Indian women, 
squatting on mats, cooked food in black earthen pots, 
and boiled the water for the mate" gourds, which they 
offered in soft, caressing voices to the country people. 
A race-course 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 res- 
onant 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 

'3* 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

from Sir John the promise that the house occupied by 
Giorgio Viola should not be interfered with. She de- 
clared she could never understand why the survey 
engineers ever talked of demolishing that old build- 
ing. It was not in the way of the projected harbor 
branch of the line in the least. 

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

"And is it forever, signora?" he asked. 

" For as long as you like." 

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Gould smiled slightly, and, bending over a lit- 
tle, 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. 

137 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

People were passing in twos and threes, in whole 
parties of men and women attended by trotting chil- 
dren. A horseman mounted on a silver - gray mare 
drew rein quietly in the shade of the house after taking 
off his hat to the party in the carriage, who returned 
smiles and familiar nods. Old Viola, evidently very 
pleased with the news he had just heard, inter- 
rupted 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 re- 
sponse. 

When the carriage moved on he took off his hat 
I., ^again, a gray sombrero with a silver cord and tassels. 
The bright colors 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 fa- 
mous capataz de cargadores a Mediterranean sailor 
got up with more finished splendor than any well- 
to-do young ranchero of the Campo had ever displayed 
on a high holiday. 

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

"The old Englishman who has enough money to pay 
for a railway? He is going off in an hour," remarked 
Nostromo, carelessly. "Buon viaggio, then. I've 
guarded his bones all the way from the Entrada pass 

138 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

down to the plain and into Sulaco, as though he had 
been my own father." 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He turned his horse slowly, and paced on between 

10 139 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

the booths, checking the mare almost to a stand-still 
now and then for children, for the groups of people 
from the distant Campo, who stared after him with 
admiration. The company's lightermen he met sa- 
luted him from afar; and the greatly envied capataz 
de cargadores advanced, among murmurs of recog- 
nition and obsequious greetings, towards the huge 
circus-like erection. The throng thickened; the gui- 
tars tinkled louder; other horseman sat motionless, 
smoking calmly above the heads of the crowd; it ed- 
died and pushed before the doors of the high-roofed 
building, whence issued a shuffle and thumping of 
feet in time to the dance-music vibrating and shrieking 
with a racking rhythm, overhung by the tremendous, 
sustained, hollow roar of the gombo. The barbarous 
and imposing noise of the big drum, that can madden 
a crowd, and that even Europeans cannot hear with- 
out a strange emotion, seemed to draw Nostromo on 
to its source, while a man, wrapped up in a faded, torn 
poncho, walked by his stirrup, and, buffeted right and 
left, begged "his worship" insistently for employment 
on the wharf. He whined, offering the Senor Capataz 
half his daily pay for the privilege of being admitted 
to the swaggering fraternity of cargadores; the other 
half would be enough for him, he protested. But Cap- 
tain Mitchell's right-hand man "invaluable for our 
work a perfectly incorruptible fellow" after look- 
ing 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 farther on Nostromo 
had to pull up. From the doors of the dance-hall men 
and women emerged tottering, streaming with sweat, 

140 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

trembling in every limb, to loan, punting, with staring 
eyes and parted lips, against the wall of the structure, 
where the harps and guitars played on with mad speed 
in an incessant roll of thunder. Hundreds of hands 
clapped in there; voices shrieked, and then all at once 
would sink low, chanting in unison the refrain of a 
love-song, with a dying fall. A red flower, flung with 
a good aim from somewhere in the crowd, struck the 
resplendent capataz on the cheek. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

141 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

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

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

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

"It is true." 

"True on the life?" 

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

She pouted very pretty a little uneasy. 

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

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

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

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

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

Laughs were heard at her anger, at her retort. What 
an audacious spitfire she was! The people aware of 

142 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

this scene were calling out urgently to others in the 
crowd. The circle round the silver-gray mare nar- 
rowed slowly. 

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

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

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

"A knife!" he demanded at large, holding her firm- 
ly by the shoulder. 

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

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

"No, Morenita! You shall not put me to shame," 
he said. "You shall have your present; and so that 
every one shall 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 

143 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

with both her hands full. After whispering for a 
while with a very strenuous face, she walked away, 
staring haughtily, and vanished into the crowd. 

The circle had broken up, and the lordly capataz 
de cargadores, the indispensable man, the tried and 
trusty Nostromo, the Mediterranean sailor come 
ashore casually to try his luck in Costaguana, rode 
slowly towards the harbor. The Juno was just then 
swinging round ; and even as Nostromo reined up again 
to look on, a flag was run up on the improvised flag-staff 
erected in an ancient and dismantled little fort at the 
harbor entrance. Half a battery of field-guns had been 
hurried over there from the Sulaco barracks for the 
purpose of firing the reglementary salutes for the Presi- 
dent-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 of- 
ficial visit to Sulaco, and for Captain Mitchell the end 
of another "historic occasion." Next time when the 
" Hope of honest men " was to come that way, a year 
and a half later, it was unofficially, over the mountain 
tracks, fleeing after a defeat on a lame mule, to be 
only just saved by Nostromo from an ignominious 
death at the hands of a mob. It was a very different 
event, of which Captain Mitchell used to say: 

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

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

i44 



Nostromo: A Tale of* the Scaboar,' 

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



PART II 
The Isabels 




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

149 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

gigantic cedar-trees the quarters of the engineer in 
charge of the advance section. 

The harbor was busy, too, with the traffic in rail- 
way material, and with the movements of troops along 
the coast. The O.S.N. Company found much occu- 
pation for its fleet. Costaguana had no navy, and, 
apart from a few coast-guard cutters, there were no 
national ships except a couple of old merchant steam- 
ers used as transports. 

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

Don Jose" Avellanos had displayed in the service of 
the endangered Ribiera government an organizing 
activity and an eloquence of which the echoes reached 
even Europe. For, after the new loan to the Ribiera 
government, Europe had become interested in Costa- 
guana. The sala of the Provincial Assembly (in the 
municipal buildings of Sulaco), with its portraits of 
the Liberators on the walls and an old flag of Cortez 
preserved in a glass case above the President's chair, 
had heard all these speeches the early one containing 
the impassioned declaration " Militarism is the enemy," 
the famous one of the "trembling balance," delivered 
on the occasion of the vote for the raising of a second 

'5 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

Sulaco regiment in the defence of the reforming gov- 
ernment; and when the provinces again displayed their 
old flags (proscribed in Guzman Bento's time) there 
was another of those great orations, when Don Jose" 
greeted these old emblems of the war of independence, 
brought out again in the name of new Ideals. The old 
idea of Federalism had disappeared. For his part he 
did not wish to revive old political doctrines. They 
were perishable. They died. But the doctrine of 
political rectitude was immortal. The second Sulaco 
regiment, to whom he was presenting this flag, was 
going to show its valor in a contest for order, peace, 
progress; for the establishment of national self-respect, 
without which he declared with energy "we are 
a reproach and a by-word among the powers of the 
world." 

Don Jose" Avellanos loved his country. He had 
served it lavishly with his fortune during his diplo- 
matic career, and the later story of his captivity and 
barbarous ill - usage under Guzman Ben to was well 
known to his listeners. It was a wonder that he had 
not been a victim of the ferocious and summary exe- 
cutions which marked the course of that tyranny; for 
Guzman had ruled the country with the sombre im- 
becility of political fanaticism. The power of su- 
preme government had become in his dull mind an 
object of strange worship, as if it were some sort of 
cruel deity. It was incarnated in himself, and his 
adversaries, the Federalists, were the supreme sinners, 
objects of hate, abhorrence, and fear, as heretics 
would be to a convinced Inquisitor. For years he 
had carried about at the tail of the Army of Pacifica- 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

tion, all over the country, a captive band of such 
atrocious criminals, who considered themselves most 
unfortunate at not having been summarily executed. 
It was a diminishing company of nearly naked skele- 
tons, loaded with irons, covered with dirt, with ver- 
min, with raw wounds, all men of position, of educa- 
tion, of wealth, who had learned to fight among them- 
selves for scraps of rotten beef thrown to them by 
soldiers, or to beg a negro cook for a drink of muddy 
water in pitiful accents. Don Jose Avellanos, clank- 
ing his chains among the others, seemed only to exist 
in order to prove how much hunger, pain, degrada- 
tion, and cruel torture a human body can stand with- 
out parting with the last spark of life. Sometimes 
interrogatories, backed by some primitive method of 
torture, were administered to them by a commission of 
officers hastily assembled in a hut of sticks and branch- 
es, and made pitiless by the fear for their own lives. 
A lucky one or two of that spectral company of pris- 
oners would perhaps be led tottering behind a bush 
to be shot by a file of soldiers. Always an army chap- 
lain some unshaven, dirty man, girt with a sword and 
with a tiny cross embroidered in white cotton on the 
left breast of a lieutenant's uniform would follow, 
cigarette in the corner of the mouth, wooden stool in 
hand, to hear the confession and give absolution; for 
the Citizen Savior of the Country (Guzman Bento 
was called thus officially, in petitions) was not averse 
from the exercise of rational clemency. The irregular 
report of the firing -squad would be heard, followed 
sometimes by a single finishing shot; a little bluish 
cloud of smoke would float up above the green bushes, 

152 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

and the Army of Pacification would move on over the 
savannas, through the forests, crossing rivers, invad- 
ing rural pueblos, devastating the haciendas of the 
horrid aristocrats, occupying the inland towns in the 
fulfilment of its patriotic mission, and leaving behind 
a united land wherein the evil taint of Federalism 
could no longer be detected in the smoke of burning 
houses and the smell of spilled blood. 

Don Jose* Avellanos had survived that time. 

Perhaps, when contemptuously signifying to him 
his release, the Citizen Savior of the Country might 
have thought this benighted aristocrat too broken in 
health and spirit and fortune to be any longer dan- 
gerous. Or, perhaps, it may have been a simple ca- 
price. Guzman Bento, usually full of fanciful fears 
and brooding suspicions, had sudden accesses of un- 
reasonable self-confidence when he perceived himself 
elevated on a pinnacle of power and safety beyond the 
reach of mere mortal plotters. At such times he 
would impulsively command the celebration of a sol- 
emn mass of thanksgiving, which would be sung in 
great pomp in the cathedral of Sta. Marta by the 
trembling, subservient archbishop of his creation. He 
heard it sitting in a gilt arm-chair placed before the high 
altar, surrounded by the civil and military heads of 
his government. The unofficial world of Sta. Marta 
would crowd into the cathedral, for it was not quite 
safe for anybody of mark to stay away from these 
manifestations of presidential piety. Having thus ac- 
knowledged the only power he was at all disposed to 
recognize as above himself, he would scatter acts of 
political grace in a sardonic wantonness of clemency. 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

There was no other way left now to enjoy his power 
but by seeing his crushed adversaries crawl impotent- 
ly into the light of day out of the dark, noisome cells 
of the colegio. Their harmlessness fed his insatiable 
vanity, and they could always be got hold of again. 
It was the rule for all the women of their families to 
present thanks afterwards in a special audience. The 
incarnation of that strange god, El Gobierno Supremo, 
received them standing, cocked hat on head, and ex- 
horted them in a menacing mutter to show their grat- 
itude by bringing up their children in fidelity to the 
democratic form of government, "which I have es- 
tablished for the happiness of our country." His 
front teeth having been knocked out in some accident 
of his former herdsman's life, his utterance was splut- 
tering and indistinct. He had been working for Costa- 
guana alone in the midst of treachery and opposition. 
Let it cease now lest he should become weary of for- 
giving! 

Don Jose" Avellanos had known this forgiveness. 

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

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

The other young ladies of Sulaco stood in awe of her 



: A Tale of the Seaboard 

vharai-u-r and accomplishments. She was reputed to 
be terribly learned and serious. As to pride, it was 
well known that all the Corbelans were proud, and her 
mother was a Corbelan. Don Jos Avellanos depend- 
ed very much upon the devotion of his beloved An- 
tonia. He aorptol it in the benighted way of men, 
who, though made in God's image, are like stone idols 
without sense before the smoke of certain burnt offer- 
ings. He was ruined in every way, but a man pos- 
sessed of passion is not a bankrupt in life. Don Jose" 
Avellanos desired passionately for his country: peace, 
prosperity, and (as the end of the preface to Fifty 
Years of Misrule has it) "an honorable place in the 
comity of civilized nations." In this last phrase the 
Minister Plenipotentiary, cruelly humiliated by the 
bad faith of his government towards the foreign bond- 
holders, stands disclosed in the patriot. 

The fatuous turmoil of greedy factions succeeding 
the tyranny of Guzman Bento seemed to bring his de- 
sire to the very door of opportunity. He was too old 
to descend personally into the centre of the arena at 
Sta. Marta. But the men who acted there sought his 
advice at every step. He himself thought that he 
could be most useful at a distance, in Sulaco. His 
name, his connections, his former position, his experi- 
ence commanded the respect of his class. The discovery 
that this man, living in dignified poverty in the Cor- 
belan town residence (opposite the Casa Gould), could 
dispose of material means towards the support of the 
cause increased his influence. It was his open letter 
of appeal that decided the candidature of Don Vin- 
cente Ribiera for the Presidency. Another of these 
" J55 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

informal state papers drawn up by Don Jose" (this 
time in the shape of an address from the province) in- 
duced that scrupulous constitutionalist to accept the 
extraordinary powers conferred upon him for five 
years by an overwhelming vote of the congress in Sta. 
Marta. It was a specific mandate to establish the 
prosperity of the people on the basis of firm peace at 
home, and to redeem the national credit by the satis- 
faction of all just claims abroad. 

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

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

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

Don Jose" had recovered himself at once, but for a 
time he could do no more than murmur, "Oh, you 
two patriots! Oh, you two patriots!" looking from 
one to the other. Vague plans of another historical 
work, wherein all the devotions to the regeneration of 

156 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

the country he loved would be enshrined for the rev- 
erent worship of posterity, flitted through his mind. 
The historian who had enough elevation of soul to 
write of Guzman Bento: "Yet this monster, imbrued 
in the blood of his countrymen, must not be held un- 
reservedly to the execration of future years. It ap- 
pears to be true that he, too, loved his country. He 
had given it twelve years of peace; and, absolute mas- 
ter of lives and fortune as he was, he died poor. His 
worst fault, perhaps, was not his ferocity, but his igno- 
rance." The man who could write thus of a cruel per- 
secutor (the passage occurs in his History of Misntlc) 
felt at the foreshadowing of success an almost boundless 
affection for his two helpers, for these two young peo- 
ple from over the sea. 

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

Charles Gould's position a commanding position in 
the background of that attempt to retrieve the peace 
and the credit of the republic was very clear. At 
the beginning he had had to accommodate himself to 
existing circumstances of corruption so naively brazen 
as to disarm the hate of a man courageous enough 

'57 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

not to be afraid of its irresponsible potency to ruin every- 
thing it touched. It seemed to him too contemptible 
for hot anger even. He made use of it with a cold, fear- 
less scorn, manifested rather than concealed by the 
forms of stony courtesy which did away with much of 
the ignominy of the situation. At bottom, perhaps, he 
suffered from it, for he was not a man of cowardly illu- 
sions, but he refused to discuss the ethical view with his 
wife. He trusted that, though a little disenchanted, 
she would be intelligent enough to understand that his 
character safeguarded the enterprise of their livps as 
much or more than his policy. The extraordinary de- 
velopment of the mine had put a great power into his 
hands. To feel that prosperity always at the mercy 
of unintelligent greed had grown irksome to him. To 
Mrs. Gould it was humiliating. At any rate, it was 
dangerous. In the confidential communications pass- 
ing between Charles Gould, the King of Sulaco, and the 
head of the silver and steel interests far away in Cali- 
fornia, the conviction was growing that any -attempt 
made by men of education and integrity ought to be 
discreetly supported. "You may tell your friend 
Avellanos that I think so." Mr. Holroyd had written 
at the proper moment from his inviolable sanctuary 
within the eleven-story-high factory of great affairs. 
And shortly afterwards, with a credit opened by the 
Third Southern Bank (located next door but one to 
the Holroyd Building) the Ribierist party in Costa- 
guana took a practical shape under the eye of the ad- 
ministrator of the San Tome mine. And Don Jose, the 
hereditary friend of the Gould family, could say: " Per- 
haps, my dear Carlos, I shall not have believed in vain." 

158 



II 

FTER another armed struggle, decided by Mon- 
tero's victory of Rio Seco, had been added to the 
tale of civil wars, the " honest men," as Don Jose" called 
them, could breathe freely for the first time in half a 
century. The Five- Year-Mandate law became the 

Is of that regeneration, the passionate desire and 
hope for which had l>een like the elixir of everlasting 
youth for Don Jose* Avellanos. 

And when it was suddenl} and not quite unex- 
pectedly endangered by that "brute Montero," it 
was a passionate indignation that gave him a new 
lease of life, as it were. Already, at the time of the 
President-Dictator's visit to Stilaco, Mnraga had sound- 
ed a note of warning from Sta. Maria about the War 
Minister. Montero ami his brother ma. IP the subject 
of an earnest talk between tin- 1 >i< -tutor -Pn-M.lent and 
the Nestor-inspirer of the party. But Don Vinrente, 
a doctor of philosophy from the Cordova Univcr 
seemed to have an exaggerated respect for military 
ability, whose mysteriousness since it appeared to 
be altogether independent of intellect imposed upon 
his imagination. The victor of Rio Seco was a popu- 
lar hero. His services were so recent that the P 
dent-Dictator quailed before the obvious charge of 
political ingratitude. Great regenerating transactions 
were being initiated the fresh loan, a new railway* 

J59 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

line, a vast colonization scheme. Anything that could 
unsettle the public opinion in the capital was to be 
avoided. Don Jose" bowed to these arguments and 
tried to dismiss from his mind the gold-laced portent 
in boots, and with a sabre, made meaningless now at 
last, he hoped, in the new order of things. 

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

After getting over the shock, Don Jose" refused to let 
himself be prostrated. Indeed, better news succeeded 
at first. The revolt in the capital had been suppressed 
after a night of fighting in the streets. Unfortunately, 
both the Monteros had been able to make their escape 
south, to their native province of Entre-Montes. The 
hero of the forest march, the victor of Rio Seco, had 
been received with frenzied acclamations in Nicoya, 
the provincial capital. The troops in garrison there 

160 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

had gone to him in a body. The brothers were or- 
ganizing an army, gathering malcontents, sending 
emissaries primed with patriotic lies to the people, and 
with promises of plunder to the wild Llaneros. Even 
a Monterist press had come into existence, speaking 
oracularly of the secret promises of support given by 
"our great sister republic of the north" against the 
sinister land -grabbing designs of European powers, 
cursing in every issue the "miserable Ribiera," who 
had plotted to deliver his country, bound hand and 
foot, for a prey to foreign speculators. 

Sulaco, pastoral and sleepy, with its opulent Campo 
and the rich silver-mine, heard the din of arms fitfully 
in its fortunate isolation. It was nevertheless in the 
very forefront of the defence with men and money; 
but rumors reached it circuitously from abroad 
even, so much was it cut off from the rest of the re- 
public, not only by natural obstacles, but also by the 
vicissitudes of the war. The Monteristos were besieg- 
ing Cayta, an important postal link. The overland 
couriers ceased to come across the mountains, and no 
muleteer would consent to risk the journey at last; 
even Bonifacio on one occasion failed to return from 
Sta. Marta, either not daring to start, or perhaps capt- 
ured by the parties of the enemy raiding the country 
between the Cordillera and the capital. Monterist 
publications, however, found their way into the prov- 
ince, mysteriously enough; and also Monterist emis- 
saries preaching death to aristocrats in the villages 
and towns of the Campo. Very early, at the begin- 
ning of the trouble, Hernandez, the bandit, had pro- 
posed (through the agency of an old priest of a village 

161 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

in the wilds) to deliver two of them to the Ribierist 
authorities in Tonoro. They had come to offer him 
a free pardon and the rank of colonel from General 
Montero in consideration of joining the rebel army 
with his mounted band. No notice was taken at the 
time of the proposal. It was joined, as an evidence 
of good faith, to a petition praying the Sulaco Assem- 
bly for permission to enlist, with all his followers, in 
the forces being then raised in Sulaco for the defence 
of the Five Year Mandate of regeneration. The pe- 
tition, like everything else, had found its way into Don 
Jose"s hands. He had showed to Mrs. Gould these 
pages of dirty-grayish rough paper (perhaps looted in 
some village store), covered with the crabbed, illiter- 
ate handwriting of the old padre, carried off from his 
hut by the side of a mud-walled church to be the sec- 
retary of the dreaded salteador. They had both bent 
in the lamp-light of the Gould drawing-room over the 
document containing the fierce and yet humble ap- 
peal of the man against the blind and stupid barbar- 
ity turning an honest ranchero into a bandit. A post- 
script of the priest stated that, but for being deprived 
of his liberty for ten days, he had been treated with 
humanity and the respect due to his sacred calling. 
He had been, it appears, confessing and absolving the 
chief and most of the band, and he guaranteed the 
sincerity of their good disposition. He had distrib- 
uted heavy penances, no doubt in the way of litanies 
and fasts; but he argued shrewdly that it would be 
difficult for them to make their peace with God du- 
rably till they had made peace with men. 

Never before, perhaps, had Hernandez's head been 
162 






Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

in less jeopardy than when he petitioned humbly for 
permission to buy a pardon for himself and his gang 
of deserters by armed service. He could range afar 
from the waste lands protecting his fastness, uncheck- 
ed, because there were no troops left in the whole 
province. The usual garrison of Sulaco had gone 
south to the war, with its brass band playing the 
Bolivar march on the bridge of one of the O.S.N. 
Company's steamers. The great family coaches 
drawn up along the shore of the harbor were made 
to rock on the high leathern springs by the en- 
thusiasm of the senoras and the senoritas standing 
up to wave their lace handkerchiefs, as lighter after 
lighter packed full of troops left the end of the 
jetty. 

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

"And then, senora," he continued, baring his curly, 
iron-gray head to Mrs. Gould in her landau "and 
then, senora, we shall convert our swords into plough- 
shares and grow rich. Even I, myself, as soon as this 
little business is settled, shall open a fundacion on some 
land I have on the Llanos and try to make a little 
money in peace and quietness. Senora, you know, 
all Costaguana knows what do 1 say? this whole 

163 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

South American continent knows, that Pablo Barrios 
has had his fill of military glory." 

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

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

the harbor with her. 
/ 

Among his other activities of that stirring time, 
Don Josd had become the chairman of a patriotic com- 
mittee which had armed a great proportion of troops 
in the Sulaco command with an improved model of a 
military rifle. It had been just discarded for some- 
thing still more deadly by one of the great European 
powers. How much of the market-price for second- 

164 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

hand weapons was covered by the voluntary, contri- 
butions of the principal families, and how much came 
from those funds Don Jose* was understood to com- 
mand abroad, remained a secret which he alone could 
have disclosed; but the Ricos, as the populace called 
them, had contributed under the pressure of their 
Nestor's eloquence. Some of the more enthusiastic 
ladies had been moved to bring offerings of jewels into 
the hands of the man who was the life and soul of the 
party. 

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

Whenever possible Antonia attended her father; 
her recognized devotion weakened the shocking effect 
of her scorn for the rigid conventions regulating the 
life of Spanish -American girlhood. And, in truth, 
she was no longer girlish. It was said that she often 
wrote state papers from her father's dictation, and was 
allowed to read all the books in his library. At the 
receptions where the situation was saved by the 
presence of a very decrepit old lady (a relation of the 

165 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

Corbelans), quite deaf and motionless in an arm-chair 
Antonia could hold her own in a discussion with 
two or three men at a time. Obviously she was not 
the girl to be content with peeping through a barred 
window at a cloaked figure of a lover ensconced in a 
doorway opposite which is the correct form of Costa- 
guana courtship. It was generally believed that with 
her foreign upbringing and foreign ideas the learned 
and proud Antonia would never marry unless, in- 
deed, she married a foreigner from Europe or North 
America, now that Sulaco seemed on the point of being 
invaded by all the world. 



Ill 

WHEN General Barrios stopped to address Mrs. 
Gould, Antonia raised negligently her hand hold- 
ing an open fan, as if to shade from the sun her head, 
:>ped in a light lace shawl. The clear gleam of 
her blue eyes gliding behind the black fringe of eye- 
lashes paused for a moment upon her father, thi-n 
travelled farther to the figure of a young man of thirty 
at most, of medium height, rather thick, wearing a 
light overcoat. Bearing down with the open palm of 
his hand upon the knob of a flexible cane, he had been 
looking on from a distance; but directly he saw him- 
self noticed, he approached quietly and put his elbow 
over the door of the landau. 

The shirt collar, cut low in the neck, the big bow of 
his cravat, the style of his clothing, from the round 
hat to the varnished shoes, suggested an idea of Frcm h 
elegance; but otherwise he was the very type of a fair 
iish Creole. The fluffy mustache and the short, 
curly, golden beard did not conceal his lips. rosy, fresh, 
almost pouting in expression. His full round face was 
of that warm, healthy, Creole white which is never 
tanned by its native sunshine. Martin Decoud was 
seldom exposed to the Costaguana sun under which he 
was born. His people had been long settled in Paris, 
where he had studied law, had dabbled in literature, 
had hoped now and then in moments of exaltation to 

167 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

become a poet like that other foreigner of Spanish 
blood, Jose* Maria Here'dia. In other moments he had, 
to pass the time, condescended to write articles on 
European affairs for the Sctn&nario, the principal news- 
paper in Sta. Marta, which printed them under the 
heading, ''From our special correspondent," though 
the authorship was an open secret. Everybody in 
Costaguana, where the tale of compatriots in Europe 
is jealously kept, knew that it was "the son Decoud," 
a talented young man, supposed to be moving in the 
higher spheres of Society. As a matter of fact, he 
was an idle boulevardier, in touch with some smart 
journalists, made free of a few newspaper offices, and 
welcomed in the pleasure haunts of pressmen. This 
life, whose dreary superficiality is covered by the glit- 
ter of universal blague, like the stupid clowning of a 
harlequin by the spangles of a motley costume, in- 
duced in him a Frenchified but most un-French 
cosmopolitanism, in reality a mere barren indifferent- 
ism posing as intellectual superiority. Of his own 
country he used to say to his French associates: 
" Imagine an atmosphere of opera-bouffe in which all 
the comic business of stage statesmen, brigands, etc., 
etc., all their farcical stealing, intriguing, and stabbing 
is done in dead earnest. It is screamingly funny; the 
blood flows all the time, and the actors believe them- 
selves to be influencing the fate of the universe. Of 
course, government in general, any government any- 
where, is a thing of exquisite comicality to a discern- 
ing mind; but really we Spanish-Americans do over- 
step the bounds. No man of ordinary intelligence 
can take part in the intrigues of wne farce macabre, 

i63 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

-.ever, those Ribicrists, of whom we hear so much 
now, are really trying in their own comical way 
to make the country habitable, and even to pay some 
of its debts. My friends, you had better write up 
Sefior RiliitTu all you can in kindness to your own 
bondholders. Really, if what I am told in my letters 
is true, there is some chance for them at last 

And he would explain with railing verve what Don 
Vincente Ribiera stood for a mournful little man op- 
pressed by his own good intentions; the significance 
of battles won, who Montero was (KM grotesque vaniteux 
ft ftroce), and the manner of the new loan connected 
with railway development, and the colonization of vast 
tracts of land in one great financial scheme. 

And his French friends would remark that evidently 
this little fellow Decoud connaissait /j question A fond. 
An important Parisian review asked him for an article 
on the situation. It was composed in a serious tone 
uid in a spirit of levity. Afterwards he asked one of 
his intimates: 

" Have you read my thing about the regeneration of 
Costaguana itnc bonne blague, heinf" 

He imagined himself Parisian to the tips of his fin- 
gers. But far from being that he was in danger of re- 
maining a sort of nondescript dilettante all his life. 
He had pushed the habit of universal raillery to a 
point where it blinded him to the genuine impulses 
of his own nature. To be suddenly selected for the 
executive member of the patriotic small-arms com- 
mittee of Sulaco seemed to him the height of the un- 
spected, one of those fantastic moves of which only 
his "dear countrymen" were capable. 

269 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

"It's like a tile falling on my head. I I execu- 
tive member! It's the first I hear of it! What do I 
know of military rifles? C'est funambulesque!" he had 
exclaimed to his favorite sister; for the Decoud fam- 
ily except the old father and mother used the 
French language among themselves. "And you should 
see the explanatory and confidential letter! Eight 
pages of it no less!" 

This letter, in Antonia's handwriting, was signed by 
Don Jose", who appealed to the "young and gifted 
Costaguanero " on public grounds, and privately open- 
ed his heart to his talented godson, a man of wealth 
and leisure, with wide relations, and by his parentage 
and bringing-up worthy of all confidence. 

"Which means," Martin commented cynically to 
his sister, "that I am not likely to misappropriate the 
funds, or go blabbing to our Charge" d' Affaires here." 

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

"How funny," commented Martin's sister and con- 
fidante ; to which the brother, with an air of best Pa- 
risian blague, had retorted: 

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

170 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

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

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

When the business was concluded he declared sud- 
denly his intention of seeing the precious consignment 
delivered safely in Sulaco. The whole burlesque bu- 1- 
. he thought, was worth following up to the end. 
He mumbled his excuses, tugging at his golden beard, 
before the acute young lady who (after the first wide 
stare of astonishment) looked at him with narrowed 
eyes, and pronounced, slowly: 

1 I believe you want to see Antonia." 

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

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

He had known her some eight years before, shortly 
before the Avellanos had left Europe for good, as a 
tall girl of sixteen, youthfully austere, and of a char- 
acter already so formed that she ventured to treat 
slightingly his pose of disabused wisdom. On one 

n 17* 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

occasion, as though she had lost all patience, 'she flew 
out at him about the aimlessiiess of his life and the 
levity of his opinions. He was twenty then, an only 
son, spoiled by his adoring family. This attack dis- 
concerted him so greatly that he had faltered in his 
affectation of amused superiority before that insignifi- 
cant chit of a school - girl. But the impression left 
was so strong that ever since all the girl friends of his 
sisters recalled to him Antonia Avellanos by some 
faint resemblance, or by the great force of contrast. 
It was, he told himself, like a ridiculous fatality. And, 
of course, in the news the Decouds received regularly 
from Costaguana, the name of their friends, the Avel- 
lanos, cropped up frequently the arrest and the 
abominable treatment of the ex - Minister, the dan- 
gers and hardships endured by the family, its with- 
drawal in poverty to Sulaco, the death of the mother. 

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

" You have come out yourself! No less could be expect- 
ed from a Decoud. Alas ! our worst fears have been real- 
ized," he moaned, affectionately. And again he hugged 
his godson. This was indeed the time for men of intel- 
lect and conscience to rally round the endangered cause. 

172 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

It v..is thru that Martin Dccoud, the adopted chill 
of western Europe, felt the absolute hange of atmos- 
phere. He submitted to bring embraced and talki-.l 
to without a word. He was moved in spite of him- 
self by that note of passion and sorrow unknown on 
the more refined stage of European ]><>litus Hut 
when the tall Antonia, advancing with her light 
in the dimness of the bi^ r bare sala of the Avellanos 
house, offered him her hand (in her emancipated 
way), and murmured, "I am glad to see you here, 
Don Martin," he felt how impossible it would be to 
tell these two people that he had intended to go away 
by the next month's packet. Don Jose", meantime, 
continued his praises. Every accession added to pub- 
lic confidence; and, besides, what an example to the 
young men at home from the brilliant defender of tin- 
country's regeneration, the worthy expounder of the 
party's political faith before the world' Everybody 
read the magnificent article in the famous Paris- 
ian Review. The world was now informed: and the 
author's appearance at this moment was like a public- 
act of faith. Young Decoud felt overcome by a feel- 
ing of impatient confusion. His plan had been to re- 
turn by way of the United States through California, 
visit tlie Yellowstone Park, see Chicago, Niagara, have 
a look at Canada, perhaps make a short stay in New 
York, a longer one in Newport, use his letters of intro- 
ion. The pressure of Antonia's hand was so frank, 
the tone of her voice was so unexpectedly unchanged 
in its approving warmth, that all he found to say after 
bis low bow was: 

" I am inexpressibly grateful for your welcome; but 

173 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

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

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

Martin Decoud said nothing of his plans. He not 
only never breathed a word of them to any one, but 
only a fortnight later asked the mistress of the Casa 
Gould (where he had of course obtained admission at 
once), leaning forward in his chair with an air of well- 
bred familiarity, whether she could not detect in him 
that day a marked change an air, he explained, of 
more excellent gravity. At this Mrs. Gould turned 
her face full towards him with the silent inquiry of 
slightly widened eyes and the merest ghost of a smile, 
an habitua^, movement with her, which was very fas- 
cinating to men by something subtly devoted, finely 
self-forgetful in its lively readiness of attention. Be- 
cause, Decoud continued im perturb ably, he felt no 
longer an idle cumberer of the earth. She was, he 
assured her, actually beholding at that moment the 
Journalist of Sulaco. At once Mrs. Gould glanced 
towards Antonia, posed upright in the corner of a 
high, straight-backed Spanish sofa, a large black fan 
waving slowly against the curves of her fine figure, 
the tips of crossed feet peeping from under the hem of 
the black skirt. Decoud's eyes also remained fixed 
there, while in an undertone he added that Miss Avel- 
lanos was quite aware of his new and unexpected vo- 
cation, which in Costaguana was generally the special- 
ity of half-educated negroes and wholly penniless law- 

174 



Nostromo : A Talc oi the Seaboard 

Then, confronting with a sort of urbane dtron- 

tery >uld's gaze, now turned sympathetically 

lu- breathed out the words, "Pro Patria!" 

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

The clamor of this AV^ro Liberalism frightened Senor 
Avellanos. A newspaper was the only remedy. And 
now the right man had been found in Decoud, great 
black letters appeared painted between the windows 
above the arcaded ground -floor of a house on the Plaza. 
It was next to Anzani's ^reat emporium of boots, silks. 
ironware, muslins, wooden toys, tiny sliver arms, legs, 
heads, hearts (for ex-voto offerings), rosaries, cham- 

e, women's hats, patent medicines, even a 
du>ty books in paper covers and mostly in the French 
language. The big black letters formed the words, 

'75 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

"Offices of the Porvenir." From these offices a single 
folded sheet of Martin's journalism issued three times 
a week; and the sleek, yellow Anzani prowling in a 
suit of ample black and carpet slippers, before the 
many doors of his establishment, greeted by a deep, 
sidelong inclination of his body the Journalist of Su- 
laco going to and fro on the business of his august 
calling. 



IV 

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

General Barrios, in a shabby blue tunic and white 
peg-top trousers falling upon strange red boots, kept 
his head uncovered and stooped slightly, propping 

177 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

himself up with a thick stick. No! He had earned 
enough military glory to satiate any man, he insisted 
to Mrs. Gould, trying at the same time to put an air 
of gallantry into his attitude. A few jetty hairs hung 
sparsely from his upper lip, he had a salient nose, a 
thin, long jaw, and a black silk patch over one eye. 
His other eye, small and deep-set, twinkled erratically 
in all directions, aimlessly affable. The few European 
spectators, all men, who had naturally drifted into the 
neighborhood of the Gould equipage, betrayed by the 
solemnity of their faces their impression that the gen- 
eral must have had too much punch (Swedish punch, 
imported in bottles by Anzani) at the Amarilla Club 
before he had started with his staff on a furious ride 
to the harbor. But Mrs. Gould bent forward, self- 
possessed, and declared her conviction that still more 
glory awaited the general in the near future. 

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

Pablo Ignacio Barrios, son of a village alcalde, gen- 
eral of division, commanding in chief the Occidental 
military district, did not frequent the higher society 
of the town. He preferred the unceremonious gath- 
erings of men, where he could tell jaguar-hunt stories, 
boast of his powers with the lasso, with which he 
could perform extremely difficult feats of the sort 
"no married man should attempt," as the saying goes 
among the Llaneros ; relate tales of extraordinary night 
rides, encounters with wild bulls, struggles with croco- 
diles, adventures in the great forests, crossings of 

ffl 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

swollen rivers. And it was not mere boastfulness 
that prompted the general's reminiscences, but a gen- 
uine love of that wild life which he had led in his 
young days before he turned his back forever on the 
thatched roof of the parental tolderia in the woods. 
Wandering away as far as Mexico he had fought 
against the French by the side (as he said) of Juarez, 
and was the only military man of Costaguana who 
hail ever encountered European troops in the field. 
That fact shed a great lustre upon his name till it be- 
came eclipsed by the rising star of Montero. All his 
life he had been an inveterate gambler. He alluded 
himself quite openly to the current story how once, 
during some campaign (when in command of a brigade), 
he had gambled away his horses, pistols, and accoutre- 
ments, to the very epaulets, playing mcmte with his 
colonels the night before the battle. Finally, he had 
sent under escort his sword (a presentation sword, with 
a gold hilt) to the town in the rear of his position to be 
immediately pledged for five hundred pesetas with a 
sk-i-py and frightened shopkeeper. By daybreak he 
had lost the last of that money, too, when his only re- 
mark, as he rose calmly, was, "Now let us go and 
fight to the death." From that time he had become 
aware that a general could lead his troops into battle 
very well with a simple stick in his hand. "It has 
been my custom ever since," he would say. 

He was always overwhelmed with debts; even dur- 
ing the periods of splendor in his varied fortunes of a 
Costaguana general, when he held high military com- 
mands, his gold-laced uniforms were almost always in 
pawn with some tradesman. And at last, to avoid 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

the incessant difficulties of costume caused by the anx- 
ious lenders, he had assumed a disdain of military 
trappings, an eccentric fashion of shabby old tunics, 
which had become like a second nature. But the 
faction Barrios joined needed to fear no political be- 
trayal. He was too much of a real soldier for the 
ignoble traffic of buying and selling victories. A mem- 
ber of the foreign diplomatic body in Sta. Marta had 
once passed judgment upon him: "Barrios is a man 
of perfect honesty and even of some talent for war, 
mais il manque de temie." After the triumph of the 
Ribierists he had obtained the reputedly lucrative 
Occidental command, mainly through the exertions 
of his creditors (the Sta. Marta shopkeepers, all great 
politicians), who moved heaven and earth in his inter- 
est publicly, and privately besieged Serior Moraga, the 
influential agent of the San Tome" mine, with the ex- 
aggerated lamentations that if the general were passed 
over, "we shall all be ruined." An incidental but favor- 
able mention of his name in Mr. Gould senior's long 
correspondence with his son had something to do with 
his appointment, too; but most of all undoubtedly his 
established political honesty. No one questioned the 
personal bravery of the Tiger-killer, as the populace 
called him. He was, however, said to be unlucky in 
the field but this was to be the beginning of an era of 
peace. The soldiers liked him for his humane tem- 
per, which was like a strange and precious flower un- 
expectedly blooming on the hotbed of corrupt revo- 
lutions; and when he rode slowly through the streets 
during some military display, the contemptuous good- 
humor of his solitary eye roaming over the crowds e.X' 

1 80 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

torted the acclamations of the populace. The women 
of that class especially seemed positively fascinated 
by the long drooping nose, the peaked chin, the heavy 
lower lip. the Mark silk eye-patch and hand slanting 
rakishly over the forehead. His high rank always pro- 
cured an audience of caballeros for his sporting stories. 
which he detailed very well, with a simple grave en- 
joyment. As to the society of ladies, it was irksome 
by the restraints it imposed without any equivalent, 
as far as he could see. He had not, perhaps, spoken 
three times on the whole to Mrs. Gould since he had 
taken up his high command ; but he had observed her 
frequently riding with the Senor Administrador, and 
had pronounced that there was more sense in her lit- 
tle bridle-hand than in all the female heads in Sulaco. 
His impulse had been to be very civil on parting to a 
woman who did not wobble in the saddle and happened 
to be the wife of a personality very important to a man 
always short of money. He even pushed his at 
tions so far as to desire the aide-de-camp at his side 
(a thick-set, short captain with a Tartar physiognomy) 
to bring along a corporal with a file of men in front 
of the carriage, lest the crowd in its backward surges 
should "incommode the mules of the senora." Then, 
turning to the small knot of silent Kumpeans looking 
on within earshot, he raised his voice protectingly: 

"Seftores, have no apprehension. Go on quietly 
making your ferrocarril your railways, your tele- 
graphs, your There's enough wealth in Costa- 
guana to pay for everything or else you would not 
be here. Ha! ha! Don't mind this little picardia ol 
my friend Montero. In a little while you shall be- 

181 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

hold his dyed mustaches through the bars of a strong 
wooden cage. Si, senores! Fear nothing; develop the 
country; work, work." 

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

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

But a young officer in a very new uniform, hurrying 
up from the direction of the jetty, interrupted his in- 
terpretation of Seiior Avellanos's ideals. The general 
made a movement of impatience; the other went on 
talking to him insistently, with an air of respect. The 
horses of the staff had been embarked, the steamer's 
gig was awaiting the general at the boat steps; and 
Barrios, after a fierce stare of his one eye, began to 
take leave. Don Jose* roused himself for an appro- 
priate phrase pronounced mechanically. The terri- 
ble strain of. hope and fear was telling on him, and he 
seemed to husband the last sparks of his fire for those 
oratorial efforts of which even the distant Europe 
was to hear. Antonia, her red lips firmly closed, 
averted her head behind the raised fan; and young 
Decoud, though he felt the girl's eyes upon him, gazed 
away persistently, hooked on his elbow, with a scorn- 
ful and complete detachment. Mrs. Gould heroically 
concealed her dismay at the appearance of men and 
events so remote from her racial conventions, dismay 
* 182 



Nostromo: A T.ilc of the Seaboard 

too deep to be uttered in words even to her husband. 
She understood his voiceless reserve better now. Their 
confidential intercourse fell, not in moments of pri 

. but precisely in public, when the quick meeting 
of their glances would comment upon some fresh turn 
of events. She had gone to his school of uncon ; 
niisin- silcncr, the only one possible, since so much 
that seemed shocking, weird, and grotesque in the 
working out of their purposes had to be accepted as 
normal in this country. I )e< idedly, the stately Antonia 
looked more mature and infinitely calm; but she would 
never have known how to reconcile the sudden sinkings 
of her heart with an amiable mobility of expression. 

Mrs. Gould smiled a good-bye at Barrios, nodded 
round to the Europeans (who raised their hats simul- 
taneously) with an engaging invitation, "I hope to 
see you all presently, at home;" then said nervously to 
Decoud, "<iet in, Don Martin." and heard him mutter 
to himself in French, as he opened the carriage door. 
"/.< sort en cst ictc." She heard him with a sort of 

peration. Nobody ought to have known better 
than himself that the fir <>f dice had been al- 

ready thrown long ago in a most desperate game. 

mt acclamations, words of command yelled out. 
and a roll of drums on the jetty greeted the departing 
general. Something like a slight faintness came < 
her. and she looked blankly at Antonia's still i 
wondering what would happen to Charley if that 
surd man failed. ".1 ii Wtf, Ignaciof* she cried at 
the motionless broad back of the coachman, who gath 

the reins without haste, mumbling to himself un- 
der his breath, "Si, /u casa. Si, si nina." 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

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

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

Decoud, ensconced in the corner of his seat, ob- 
served gloomily Mrs. Gould's old revolutionist, then, 
off-hand : 

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

Old Giorgio, looking at him with some curiosity, 
184 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

:!ly. that the troops had marched very well. 
One-eyed Barrios ami his officers had done wonders 
with the recruits in a short time. Those Indios, only 
lit the other day, had gone swinging past in 
double-quick time, like bersaglieri; they looked well 
too, and had whole uniforms. "Uniforms!" he 
.ited with a half-smile of pity. A look of grim ret- 
rospect stole over his piercing, steady eyes. It had 
a otherwise in his time, when men fought against 
tyranny, in the forests of Brazil, or on the plains of 
Uruguay, starving on half-raw beef without salt, half 
naked, with often only a knife tied to a ^tick for a 
weapon. "And yet we used to prevail against the 
oppressor," he concluded, proudly. 

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

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

Decoud, lolling back moodily, contemplated old 
Viola. 

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

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

185 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Luckily, Montero is not a Caesar," Decoud con- 
tinued. "Not the two Monteros put together would 
make a decent parody of a Ctesar." He crossed his 
arms on his breast, looking at Senor Avellanos, who 
had returned to his immobility. "It is only you, Don 

186 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

Jose", who are a genuine old Roman vir Romanus 
eloquent and inflexi! 

Since he had heard the name of Montero pronounced, 
young Scarfe had been eager to express his simple 
feelings. In a loud and youthful tone In- hoped that 
this Montero was goin^ to U- lu-ked once for all and 
done with. There was no .-aying what would happen 
to the railway if the revolution got the upperhaml. 
Perhaps it would have to be abandoned. It would 
not be the first railway gone to pot in Costaguuna. 

You know, it's one of their so-called national tilings," 
he ran on, wrinkling up his nose as if the word had a 
suspicious flavor to his profound experience of South 
American affairs. And, of course, he chatted with 
animation, it had been such an immense piece of luck 
for him at his age to get appointed on the staff "of 
a big thing like that don't you know." It would 
give him the pull over a lot of chaps all through ! 
he asserted. "Therefore down with Montero, Mrs. 
Gould." His artless grin disappeared slowly lefore 
the unanimous gravity of the faces turned upon him 
from the carriage; only that "old chap," Don JflBe*, 
presenting a motionless, waxy profile, stared straight 
on as if deaf. Scarfe did not know the Avellanos very 
well. They did not give balls, and Antonia never ap- 
peared at a ground-floor window, as some other young 
ladies used to do, attended by elder women, to chaU 
with the caballeros on horseback in the I'alle. The 
stares of these Creoles did not matter much; but v 
on earth had come to Mrs. Gould ? She said. "Go on. 
Ignacio," and gave him a slow inclination of the head, 
card a short laugh from that round-faced, Frenchi- 
18; 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

fied fellow. He colored up to the eyes, and stared at 
Giorgio Viola, who had fallen back with the children, 
hat in hand. 

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

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

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

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

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

"And so very wise for his age," retorted Decoud. 
"But here we have the naked truth from the mouth 

1 88 



Nostroinu: A Tale of the Seaboard 

of that child. You are right, Don Jose". The natural 
treasures of Costaguana are of importance to the pro- 
gressive Europe represented by this youth, just as 
three hundred years ago the wealth of our Spanish 
fathers was a serious object to the rest of Europe as 
represented by the bold buccaneers. There is a curse 
of futility upon our character: Don Quixote andSancho 
Panza, chivalry and materialism, high-sounding senti- 
ments and a supine morality, violent efforts for 4n idea 
and a sullen acquiescence in every form of cornfc>tion. 
We convulsed a continent for our independenc 
to become the passive prey of a democratic 
the helpless victims of scoundrels and cutthroat 
institutions a mockery, our laws a farce a G\ 
Bento our master! And we have sunk so 
when a man like you has awakened our consciei 
stupid barbarian . of a Montero great Heavei 
Montero! becomes a deadly danger, and an ignoi 
boastful Indio, like Barrios, is our defender." 

But Don Jose", disregarding the general indictiient 
as though he had not heard a word of it, took upthe 
defence of Barrios. The man was competent enough 
for his special task in the plan of campaign. It 
sisted in an offensive movement, with Cayta as bs 
upon the flank of the revolutionist forces advanc^ 
from the south against Sta. Marta, which was covei 
by another army with the President-Dictator in 
midst. Don Jose" became quite animated with a gn 
flow of speech, bending forward anxiously under 
steady eyes of his daughter. Decoud, as if silence 
by so much ardor, did not make a sound. The b 
of the city were striking the hour of Oracion when 

189 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

carriage rolled under the old gateway facing the har- 
bor like a shapeless monument of leaves and stones. 
The rumble of wheels under the sonorous arch was 
traversed by a strange, piercing shriek, and Decoud, 
from his back seat, had a view of the people behind 
the carriage trudging along the road outside, all turn- 
ing their heads, in sombreros and rebozos, to look at 
a locomotive which rolled quickly out of sight behind 
Giorgio Viola's house, under a white trail of steam 
that seemed to vanish in the breathless, hysterically 
prolonged scream of warlike triumph. And it was all 
like a fleeting vision, the shrieking ghost of a railway 
engine fleeing across the frame of the archway, behind 
the startled movement of the people streaming back 
from a military spectacle with silent footsteps on the 
dust of the road. It was a material train returning 
fron the Campo to the palisaded yards. The empty 
can rolled lightly on the single track; there was no 
rurible of wheels, no tremor of the ground. The en- 
.gire-driver, running past the Casa Viola with the salute 
of an uplifted arm, checked his speed smartly before 
entering the yard; and when the ear-splitting screech 
of the steam-whistle for the brakes had stopped, a 
series of hard, battering shocks, mingled with the clank- 
irg of chain-couplings, made a tumult of blows and 
siaken fetters under the vault of the gate. 



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

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

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

Decoud spoke in French, perhaps because of Ignacio 

on the box above him; the old coachman, with his 

broad back filling a short silver-braided jacket, had a 

191 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

big pair of ears, whose thick rims stood well away 
from his cropped head. 

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

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

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

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

"That! that! oh, that's really the work of that 
Genoese seaman! But to return to my noises; there 
used to be in the old days the sound of trumpets out- 
side that gate. War trumpets! I'm sure they were 
trumpets. I have read somewhere that Drake, who 
was the greatest of these men, used to dine alone in 
his cabin on board ship to the sound of trumpets. In 
those days this town was full of wealth. Those men 
came to take it. Now the whole land is like a treasure- 
house, and all these people are breaking into it, while 
we are cutting each other's throats. The only thing 
that keeps them out is mutual jealousy. But they'll 
come to an agreement some, day and by the time we've 
settled our quarrels and become decent and honorable, 
there'll be nothing left for us. It has always been the 
same. We are a wonderful people, but it has always 

192 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

been our fate to be" he did not say "robbed," but 
added, after a j.ausr -"r\|il": 

Mrs. GouUl said. "Oh, tins is unjust!" And An- 
tonia interjected, "Don't answer hi-i. Kmilia. He is 
attacking me." 

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

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

Don Josd slipped his hand under the arm of the 
Journalist of Sulaco. 

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

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

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

Basilio, standing aside against the wall, said in a 
soft tone to the passing ladies, "The Setter Adminis- 
trador is just back from the mount 

In the great sala, with its groups of ancient Spanish 

'93 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ladies came in bareheaded, and Mrs. Gould 
sank low before the little tea-table. Antonia took up 

194 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

her usual place at the reception hour the coi 
leathern courh. with a ri^iil grace in her pose and a 
fan in her haml. Dccoud, swerving from the straight 
line of his march, came to lean over the high back of 
her seat. 

For a long time he talked into her ear from behind, 
softly, with a half smile and an air of ap<>! unil- 

iarity. Her fan lay half grasped on her knees. She 
never looked at htm. His rapid utterance grew more 
and more insistent and caressing. At last he vent- 
ured a slight laugh. 

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

"You can't think I am serious when I rail Mont 

bestia every second day in the Par; That 

is not a serious occupation. No occupation is serious, 
not even when a bullet through the heart is the penalty 
of failure!" 

Her hand closed firmly on her fan. 

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

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

"Yes, but you never see the aim. Mm must 
used as they are. I suppose nobody is really disin- 
terested, unless, perhaps, you, Don Martin." 

9S 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

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

She began to fan herself with a slow movement with- 
out raising her hand. After a time he whispered 
passionately: 

" Antonia!" 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meantime, Antonia had risen, and, crossing the room, 
stood looking out of one of the three long windows giv- 
ing on the street. Decoud followed her. The win- 

196 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

dow was thrown open, and he leaned against the 
thickness of the wall. The long folds of the damask 
curtain, falling straight from the broad brass cornice, 
hiil him partly from the room. He folded his arms 
on his breast and looked steadily at Antonia's profile. 
The people returning from the harbor filled the 
pavements; the shuffle of sandals and a low murmur 
of voices ascended to the window. Now and then a 
coach rolled slowly along the disjointed roadway of 
the Calle de la Constitucion. There were not many 
private carriages in Sulaco; at the most crowded hour 
on the Alameda they could be counted with one 
glance of the eye. The great family arks swayed on 
high leathern springs, full of pretty powdered faces in 
which the eyes looked intensely alive and black. And 
first, Don Justo Lopez, the President of the Provincial 
Assembly, passed with his three lovely daughters, 
solemn in a black frock-coat and stiff white tie, as 
when directing a debate from a high tribune. Though 
they all raised their eyes, Antonia did not make the 
usual greeting gesture of a fluttered hand, and they 
affected not to see the two young people, Costaguan- 
eros with European manners, whose eccentricities were 
discussed behind the barred windows of the first fam- 
ilies in Sulaco. And then the widowed Seflora Gav- 
ilaso de Valdes rolled by, handsome and dignified, in 
a great machine in which she used to travel to and 
from her country house, surrounded by an armed 
retinue in leather suits and big sombreros, with car- 
bines at the bows of their saddles. She was a woman 
of most distinguished family, proud, rich, and kind- 
hearted. Her second son, Jaime, had just gone off 

J97 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

on the staff of Barrios. The eldest, a worthless fellow 
of a moody disposition, filled Sulaco with the noise of 
his dissipations and gambled heavily at the club. The 
two youngest boys, with yellow Ribierist cockades in 
their caps, sat on the front seat. She, too, affected 
not to see the Senor Decoud talking publicly with An- 
tonia in defiance of every convention. And he not 
even her novio as far as the world knew! Though, 
even in that case, it would have been scandal enough. 
But the dignified old lady, respected and admired by 
the first families, would have been still more shocked 
if she could have heard the words they were exchang- 
ing. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

198 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 



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

"Ah, par example!" she murmured. 

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

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

" You seem satisfied to see my life hang on a thread ," 
Decoud replied, with a broad smile. "And the other 
Montero, the 'my trusted brother' of the proclama- 
tions, the guerrillero haven't I written that he was 
taking the guests' overcoats and changing platrs in 
Paris at our Legation in the intervals of spying on our 
refugees there, in the time of Rojas ? He will v 
out that sacred truth in blood. In my blood! Why 
do you look annoyed? This is simply a l>it of the 
biography of one of our great men. What do you 
think he will do to me? There is a certain convent 
wall round the corner of the Plaza, opposite the door 
of the Bull-Ring. You know? Opposite the door 
with the inscription, ' Intrada de la Sombra.' Ap- 
propriate, perhaps! That's where the uncle of our 
host gave up his Anglo-South-American soul. And. 
note, he might have run away. A man who has fought 

199 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

with weapons may run away. You might have let 
me go with Barrios if you had cared for me. I would 
have carried one of those rifles, in which Don Jose" be- 
lieves, with the greatest satisfaction, in the ranks of 
poor peons and Indies, that know nothing either of 
reason or politics. The most forlorn hope in the most 
forlorn army on earth would have been safer than that 
for which you made me stay here. When you make 
war you may retreat, but not when you spend your 
time in inciting poor ignorant fools to kill and to die." 

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

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

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

"Martin, you will make me cry." 

He remained silent for a minute, startled, as if over- 
whelmed by a sort of awed happiness, with the lines 
of the mocking smile still stiffened about his mouth, 
and incredulous surprise in his eyes. The value of a 
sentence is in the personality which utters it, for noth- 
ing new can be said by man or woman ; and those were 
the last words, it seemed to him, that could ever have 
been spoken by Antonia. He had never made it up 

200 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

with her so completely in all their intercourse of small 
encounters; but even before she had time to turn tow- 
ards him, which she did slowly with a rigid grace, he 
had begun to pleat 1: 

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

" Leave poor papa alone, Don Martin. He be- 
lieves " 

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

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

"Oh yes!" he said. "Of course you know. You 
know everything. You read all the correspondci 
you write all the papers all those state papers that 
are inspired here, in this room, in blind deference to a 

901 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

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

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

"He wanted the whole lot? What?" 
She was facing him now in the deep recess of the 
window, very close and motionless. Her lips moved 
rapidly. Decoud, leaning his head back against the 
wall, listened with crossed arms and lowered eyelids. 
He drank in the tones of her even voice, and watched 
the agitated life of her throat, as if waves of emotion 
had run from her heart to pass out into the air in her 
reasonable words. He also had his aspirations; he 
aspired to carry her away out of these deadly futilities 
of pronunciamientos and reforms. All this was wrong 
utterly wrong; but she fascinated him, and some- 
times the sheer sagacity of a phrase would break the 
charm, replace the fascination by a sudden unwilling 
thrill of interest. Some women hovered, as it were, 
on the threshold of genius, he reflected. They did 

202 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

.vant to know, or think, or understand. Passion 
tood for all that, and he was ready to believe that 
some startlingly profound remark, some appreciation 
of character, or a judgment upon an event, bordered 
on the miraculous. In the mature Antonia he could 
see with an extraordinary vividness the austere school- 
girl of the earlier days. She seduced his attention; 
sometimes he could not restrain a murmur of assent; 
Bow and then he advanced an objection quite seri 
m. Gradually they began to argue; the curtain half 
hid them from the people in the sala. 

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

' We-Qccidentals." said Martin Decoud, using the 
.\ term the provincials of Sulaco applied to them- 
selves, ''have beeiLalwa-y^distint^aiid^egarated. As 
long as we hold Cayta nothing can reach us. In all 
our troubles no army has marched over those moun- 
tains. A revolution in the central provinces isolates 
t once. Look how complete it is now ! The news 
of Barrios's movement will be cabled to the United 
<-s, and only in that way will it reach Sta. Marta 
by the cable from the other seaboard. We have th 

203 



4 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

greatest riches, the greatest fertility, the purest blood 
in our great families, the most laborious population. 
The Occidental Province should stand alone. The 
early Federalism was not bad for us. Then came this 
union which Don Henrique Gould resisted. It opened 
the road to tyranny; and, ever since, the rest of 
Costaguana hangs like a millstone round our ne,cks. 
The Occidental territory is large enough to make any 
man's country. Look at the mountains! Nature it- 
self seems to cry to us, 'Separate!'" 

She made an energetic gesture of negation. A si- 
lence fell. 

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

She shook her head. No, she was not startled, but 
the idea shocked her early convictions. Her patriot- 
ism was larger. She had never considered that pos- 
sibility. 

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

She did not answer. She seemed tired. They 
leaned side by side on the rail of the little balcony, 
very friendly, having exhausted politics, giving them- 
selves up to the silent feeling of their nearness, in one 
of those profound pauses that fall upon the rhythm 
of passion. Towards the plaza end of the street the 
glowing coals in the brazeros of the market-women 
cooking their evening meal gleamed red along the 

204 



Nostromo: A Talc oi tlic Seaboard 

edge of the pavement. A man appeared without a 
sound in the light of a street-lamp, showing the col- 
ored inverted triangle of his bordered poncho, square 
on his shoulders, hanging to a point below his knees. 
From the harbor end of the calle a ! 
his soft-stepping mount, gleaming silver-gray al.r 
each lamp under the dark shape of the rider. 

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

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

" A journalist ought to have his finger on the popu- 
larpulse, and this man is one of the leaders of the IK>IU- 
lace. A journalist ought to know remarkable men 
and this man is remarkable in his way." 

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

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

Decoud and Antonia remained leaning over the bal- 
cony, side by side, touching elbows, with their heads 
overhanging the darkness of the street, and the brill- 
iantly lighted sala at their backs. This was a tte-a- 
extreme impropriety ; something of which in the 
205 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

whole extent of the republic only the extraordinary 
Antonia could be capable the poor, motherless girl, 
never accompanied, with a careless father, who had 
thought only of making her learned. Even Decoud 
himself seemed to feel that this was as much as he 
could expect of having her to himself till till the 
revolution was over and he could carry her off to 
Europe, away from the endlessness of civil strife, 
whose folly seemed even harder to bear than its ig- 
nominy. After one Montero there would be another, 
the lawlessness of a populace of all colors and races, 
barbarism, irremediable tyranny. As the great Lib- 
erator Bolivar had said in the bitterness of his spirit, 
"America is ungovernable. Those who worked for 
her independence have ploughed the sea." He did 
not care, he declared boldly; he seized every oppor- 
tunity to tell her that though she had managed to make 
a Blanco journalist of him, he was no patriot. First 
of all, the word had no sense for cultured minds, to 
whom the narrowness of every belief is odious; and 
secondly, in connection with the everlasting troubles 
of this unhappy country it was hoplessly besmirched ; 
it had been the cry of dark barbarism, the cloak 
of lawlessness, of crimes, of rapacity, of simple 
thieving. , 

He was surprised at the warmth of his own utter- 
ance. He had no need to drop his voice; it had been 
low all the time, a mere murmur in the silence of dark 
houses with their shutters closed early against the 
night air, as is the custom of Sulaco. Only the sala 
of the Casa Gould flung out defiantly the blaze of its 
four windows, the bright appeal of light in the whole 

206 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 



obscurity of the street. Ancl the murmur on 
the little balcony went on after a short pause." 

" nut we are laboring to change all that," Antonia 

protested. "It is exactly what we desire. It is our 

object. It is the great cause. Ami the word you 

ise had stood also for sacrifice, for courage, for 

constancy, for suffering. Papa, who 

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

There was below the sound of hasty and ponderous 
footsteps. 

" Your uncle, the Grand-Vicar of the Cathedral, has 
just turned under the gate," observed Decoud. " II. 
sat-l mass for the troops in the Plaza this morning. 
They had built for him an altar of drums, you kt 
And they brought outside all the painted Mocks to 
take the air. All the wooden saints stood militarily 
in a row at the top of the great flight of steps. They 
looked like a gorgeous escort attending the Vicar- 
General. I saw the great function from the windows 
of the Porrcnir. He is amazing, your uncle, the last 
of the Corbelans. He glittered exceedingly in his 
vestments, with a great crimson velvet cross down his 
back. And all the time our s;>vior Barrios sat in the 
Amarilla Club drinking punch at an open window. 
['sprit fort our Barrios. I expected every moment 
your uncle to launch an excommunication there and 
then at the black eye-patch in the window across the 
Plaza. But not at all. Ultimately the troops march- 
ed off. Later on Barrios came down with some of the 
officers, and stood with his uniform all unbuttoned, 
discoursing at the edge of the pavement. Suddenly 

207 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

your unde appeared, no longer glittering, but all 
black, at the cathedral door, with that threatening 
aspect he has you know, like a sort of avenging spirit. 
He gives one look, strides over straight at the group 
of uniforms, and leads away the general by the el- 
bow. He walked him for a quarter of an hour in the 
shade of a wall. Never let go his elbow for a mo- 
ment, talking all the time with exaltation, and gesticu- 
lating with a long black arm. It was a curious scene. 
The officers seemed struck with astonishment. Re- 
markable man, your missionary uncle. He hates an 
infidel much less than a heretic, and prefers a heathen 
many times to an infidel. He condescends graciously 
to call me a heathen, sometimes, you know." 

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

"Any slight sign of favor from a relative of yours 
is welcome, Antonia. And perhaps he understands 
me, after all! But I know him, too, our Padre Cor- 
belan. The idea of political honor, justice, and hon- 
esty for him consists in the restitution of the con- 
fiscated church property. Nothing else could have 
drawn that fierce converter of savage Indians out of 
the wilds to work for the Ribierist cause! Nothing 
else but that wild hope! He would make a pronun- 
ciamiento himself for such an object against any gov- 

208 



Nostrorrto : \ Talc of the Seaboard 

ernment if he could only get followers! What does 
Don Carlos Gould think of that? But, of course, 
with his English impenetrability, nobody can tell 
what he thinks. Probably lie thinks of nothing apart 
from his mine; of his ' IinjKTiuin in imi>erio.' As to 
Mrs. Gould, she thinks of her schools, of her hospitals, 
of the mothers with the young babies, of every sick 
old man in the three villages. If you were to turn 
your head now you would see her extracting a report 
from that sinister doctor in a check shirt what's his 
name? Monygham or else catechising Don Pe'pe', 
or perhaps listening to Padre Roman. They are all 
down here to-day all her ministers of state. Well, 
she is a sensible woman, and perhaps Don Carlos is 
a sensible man. It's a part of solid English sense not 
to think too much ; to see only what may be of practi- 
cal use at the moment. These people are not like 
ourselves. We have no political reason; we have po- 
litical passions sometimes. What is a conviction? 
A particular view of our personal advantage either 
practical or emotional. No one is a patriot for noth- 
ing. The word serves us well. But I am clear-sighted, 
and I shall not use that word to you, Antonia! I have 
no patriotic illusions. I have only the supreme illu- 
sion of a lover." 

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

Hohind their backs the political tide that once in 

every twenty-four hours set with a strong flood through 

'iould drawing-room could be lu-ard. rising higher 

in .1 hum of voices. Men ha-! been dropping in singly, 

or in twos and threes; the higher officials of the prov- 

309 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

ince, engineers of the railway, sunburned and in tweeds, 
with the frosted head of their chief smiling with slow 
humorous indulgence among the young eager faces. 
Scarfe, the lover of fandangos, had already slipped out 
in search of some dance, no matter where, on the 
outskirts of the town. Don Juste Lopez, after taking 
his daughters home, had entered solemnly, in a black 
creased coat buttoned up under his spreading brown 
beard. The few members of the Provincial Assem- 
bly present clustered at once around their President 
to discuss the news of the war and the last proclama- 
tion of the rebel Montero, the miserable Montero, call- 
ing in the name of "a justly incensed democracy" 
upon all the Provincial Assemblies of the republic to 
suspend their sittings till his sword had made peace 
and the will of the people could be consulted. It 
was practically an invitation to dissolve; an unheard- 
of audacity of that evil madman. 

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

A great outburst of acclamations covered the vibrat- 
ing treble of the life and soul of the party. Yes, yes! 
This was true! A great truth! Sulaco was in the 
forefront, as ever! It was a boastful tumult, the hope- 
fulness inspired by the event of the day breaking out 
among those caballeros of the Campo thinking of their 
herds, of their lands, of the safety of their families. 
Everything was at stake. . . . No! It was impossible 

210 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

that Montero should succeed! This criminal, this 
shameless Indio! The clamor continued for some 
time, everybody else in the room looking towards the 
group where Don Juste had put on his air of impartial 
solemnity as if presiding at a sitting of the Provincial 
Assembly. Decoud had turned round at the noise, 
anl, leaning his back on the balustrade, shouted into 
the room with all the strength of his lungs, "(inin' 
best ia .'" 

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

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

311 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

"And are these your highest aspirations, Don Mar- 
tin?" interrupted Antonia. 

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

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

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

The tide of political speculation was beating high 
within the four walls of the great sala, as if driven be- 
yond the marks by a great gust of hope. Don Juste's 
fan-shaped beard was still the centre of loud and ani- 
mated discussions. There was a self-confident ring 
in all the voices. Even the few Europeans around 
Charles Gould a Dane, a couple of Frenchmen, a 

212 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

discreet fat German, smiling, with downcast eyes, the 
representatives of those material interests that had got 
a footing in Sulaco under the protecting might of the 
San Tome" mine had infused a lot of good-humor into 
their deference. Charles Gould, to whom they were 
paying their court, was the visible sign of the stability 
that could be achieved on the shifting ground of revo- 
lutions. They felt hopeful about their various under- 
takings. One of the two Frenchmen, small, black, 
with glittering eyes lost in an immense growth of 
bushy beard, waved his tiny brown hands and deli- 
cate wrists. He had been travelling in the interior 
of the province for a syndicate of European capital- 
ists. His forcible "Monsieur /'. l<//;m7ru/-<r" re- 
turning every minute shrilled above the steady hum 
of conversations. He was relating his disoov. 
He was ecstatic. Charles Gould glanced down at him 
courteously. 

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

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

"I am going to cling to mine to the end, Antonia," 
"3 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

he answered, through clinched teeth, then bowed 
very low, a little distantly. 

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

He separated his bony, knotted hands clasped be- 
hind his back, to shake his-finger at Martin. 

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

' ' I have watched your reverence converting General 
214 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

Barrios by a special sermon on the Plaza," he said, 
without making the slightest movement. 

"What miserable nonsense!" Father Corbelan's 

p voice resounded all over the room, making all 

the heads turn on the shoulders. "The man is a 

drunkard. Seftores, the God of your general is a 

bottle!" 

His contemptuous, arbitrary voice caused an un- 
easy suspension of every sound, as if the self-con- 
fidence of the gathering had been staggered by a 
blow. But nobody took up Father Corbelkn's declara- 
tion. 

It was know that Father Corbelan hat! come out of 
the wilds to advocate the sacred rights of the Church 
with the same fanatical fearlessness with which he 
had gone preaching to bloodthirsty savages, devoid 
of human compassion or worship of any kind . Rumors 
of legendary proportions told of his successes as a mis- 
sionary beyond the eye of Christian men. He had bap- 
tized whole nations of Indians, living with them like 
a savage himself. It was related that the padre used 
to ride with his Indians for days, half naked, cam' ing 
a bullock-hide shield, and, no doubt, a long lance, 
too who knows? That he had wandered clothed in 
skins, seeking for proselytes somewhere near the snow- 
line of the Cordillera. Of these exploits Padre Cor- 
belan himself was never known to talk. But he made 
no secret of his opinion that the politicians of Sta. 
Marta had harder hearts and more corrupt minds 
than the heathen to whom he had carried the won! 
of God. His injudicious zeal for the temporal wel- 
fare of the Church was damaging the Ribierist cause. 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

It was common knowledge that he had refused to be 
made titular bishop of the Occidental diocese till jus- 
tice was done to a despoiled Church. The political 
Pe'pe' of Sulaco (the same dignitary whom Captain 
Mitchell saved from the mob afterwards) hinted with 
naive cynicism that doubtless their Excellencies the 
Ministers sent the padre over the mountains to Sulaco 
in the worst season of the year in the hope that he 
would be frozen to death by the icy blasts of the high 
paramos. Every year a few hardy muleteers men 
inured to exposure were know to perish in that way. 
But what would you have? Their Excellencies pos- 
sibly had not realized what a tough priest he was. 
Meantime the ignorant were beginning to murmur 
that the Ribierist reforms meant simply the taking 
away of the land from the people. Some of it was to 
be given to foreigners who made the railway ; the greater 
part was to go to the padres. 

These were the results of the Grand Vicar's zeal. 
Even from the short allocution to the troops on the 
Plaza (which only the first ranks could have heard) 
he had not been able to keep out his fixed idea of an 
outraged Church waiting for reparation from a peni- 
tent country. The political ge"fe" had been exasper- 
ated. But he could not very well throw the brother- 
in-law of Don Jose* into the prison of the Cabildo. The 
chief magistrate, an easy-going and popular official, 
visited the Casa Gould, walking over after sunset from 
the Intendencia, unattended, acknowledging with dig- 
nified courtesy the salutations of high and low alike. 
That evening he had walked straight up to Charles Gould 
and had hissed out to him that he would have liked 

316 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

to .lejKjrt the (irand Vicar out of Sula <>, anywhere, to 
some desert island, to the Isabels, for instance. "The 
one without watrr preferably eh, Don Carlos?" he 
lunl added, in a tone between jest and earnest.* This 
uncontrollable priest, who had rejected his offer of the 
episcopal palace for a residence and preferred to hang 
his shabby hammock among the rubble and spiders of 
the sequestrated Dominican convent, had taken into 
his head to advocate an unconditional pardon for Her- 
nandez the Robber! And this was not enough; he 
seemed to have entered into communication with the 
most audacious criminal the country had known for 
years. The Sulaco police knew, of course, what was 
going on. Padre Corbelan had got hold of that reck- 
less Italian, the capataz de cargadores, the only man 
fit for such an errand, and had sent a message through 
him. Father Corbelan had studied in Rome, and could 
speak Italian. The capataz was known to visit the 
old Dominican convent at night. An old woman who 
served the Grand Vicar had heard the name of Her- 
nandez pronounced ; and only last Saturday afternoon 
the capataz had been observed galloping outof town. 
He did not return for two days. The police would 
have laid the Italian by the heels if it had not been for 
fear of the cargadores, a turbulent body of men, quite 
apt to raise a tumult. Nowadays it was not so easy 
to govern Sulaco. Bad characters flocked into it, at- 
tracted by the money in the pockets of the railway 
workmen. The populace was made restless by Fa- 
ther Corbelan's discourses. And the first magistrate 
explained to Charles Gould that now the province 
was stripped of troops any outbreak of lawlessness 

217 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

would find the authorities with their boots off, as it 
were. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

" Nor bottle," added Decoud without stirring. 
" Neither does the other of your reverence's confidants. 
I mean the capataz of the cargadores. He does not 

218 



Nostromu: A Talc of the Seaboard 

drink Your rr.uling of my character docs honor to 
your perspicacity. But why call me a heathen?" 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The priest nodded, and turned on the heels of his 

square-toed shoes with big steel buckles. Again, with 

his hands clasped behind his back, he paced about, 

planting his feet firmly. When he swung about, the 

15 219 






Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

skirt of his soutane was inflated slightly by the brusk- 
ness of his movements. 

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

In the comparative peace of the room the screaming 
"Monsieur I'Administrateur" of the frail, hairy French- 
man seemed to acquire a preternatural shrillness. The 
explorer of the capitalist syndicate was still enthusi- 
astic. "Ten million dollars' worth of copper practi- 
callv in sight, Monsieur V Administrates. Ten mill- 
ions in sight! And a railway coming a railway! 
They will never believe my report. C'est trap beau." 
He fell a prey to a screaming ecstasy, in the midst of 
sagely nodding heads, before Charles Gould's imper- 
turbable calm. 

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

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

And now the Europeans were dropping off from the 
group around Charles Gould till the administrador of 
the great silver mine could be seen in his whole lank 
length, from head to foot, left stranded by the ebbing 

220 



Nostnmiu : A Talc of the Seaboard 

tide of his guests on the great square of carpet, as it 
were a multicolored shoal of flowers and arabesques 
under his brown boots. Father Corbelan approached 
the rocking-chair of Don Jose" Avellanos. 

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

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

221 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

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

He could get nothing. His alarm increased, and in 
the pauses he would dart his eyes here and there; then, 
loth to give up, he would branch off into feeling al- 
lusion to the dangers of his journey. The audacious 
Hernandez, leaving his usual haunts, had crossed the 
Campo of Sulaco, and was known to be lurking in the 
ravines of the coast-range. Yesterday, when distant 
only a few hours from Sulaco, the hide-merchant and 
his servants had seen three men on the road arrested 
suspiciously, with their horses' heads together. Two 
of these rode off at once and disappeared in a shallow 

222 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

quebrada to the left. "We stopped," continued the 
man from EsmeraMa. "and I tried to hide behind a 
small bush. But none of my mozos would go forward 
to find out what it meant, and the third horseman 
seemed to be waiting for us to come up. It was no 
use. We had been seen. So we rode slowly on, trem- 
bling. He let us pass a man on a gray horse with 
his hat down on his eyes without a word of greeting; 
but by-and-by we heard him galloping after us. We 
faced about, but that did not seem to intimidate him. 
He rode up at speed, and touching my foot with the 
toe of his boot, asked me for a cigar, with a blood- 
curdling laugh. He did not seem armed, but when 
he put his hand back to reach for the matches I saw 
an enormous revolver strapped to his waist. I shud- 
dered. He had very fierce whiskers, Don Carlos, and 
as he did not offer to go on we dared not move. At 
last, blowing the smoke of my cigar into the air through 
his nostrils, he said, 'Senor, it would be perhaps bet- 
ter for you if I rode behind your party. You are not 
very far from Sulaco now. Go you with God.' What 
would you? We went on. There was no resisting 
him. He might have been Hernandez himself; though 
my servant, who has been many times to Sulaco by 
sea, assured me that he had recognized him very 
well for the capataz of the steamship company's 
cargadores. Later on, that same evening, I saw that 
very man at the corner of the Plaza talking to a girl, 
a morenita, who stood by the stirrup with her hand 
on the gray horse's mane." 

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



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

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

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

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

But Charles Gould, openly preoccupied now, gave 
not a sign, made no sound. The impenetrability of 
the embodied Gould Concession had its surface shades. 
To be dumb is merely a fatal affliction; but the King 
of Sulaco had words enough to give him all the mys- 
terious weight of a taciturn force. His silences, back- 
ed by the power of speech, had as many shades of 
significance as uttered words in the way of assent, of 
doubt, of negation even of simple comment. Some 
seemed to say plainly, "Think it over"; others meant 
clearly "Go ahead"; a simple, low, "I see," with an 
affirmative nod, at the end of a patient listening half- 
hour was the equivalent of a verbal contract, which 

224 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

men had learned to trust implicitly, since behind it 
all there was the great San Tom mine, the head and 
front of the material interests, so strong that it de- 
pended on no man's good-will in the whole length and 
breadth of the Occidental Province that is, on no 
good-will whirh it could not buy ten times over. But 
to the little hook-nosed man from Esmeralda, anxious 
about the export of hides, the silence of Charles Gould 
portended a failure. Evidently this was no time for 
extending a modest man's business. He enveloped in 
a swift mental malediction the whole country, with 
all its inhabitants, partisans of Ribiera and Montero 
alike; and there were incipient tears in his mute anger 
at the thought of the innumerable ox-hides going to 
waste upon the dreamy expanse of the Campo, with 
its single palms rising like ships at sea within the per- 
fect circle of the horizon, its clumps of heavy timber 
motionless like solid islands of leaves above the run- 
ning waves of grass. There were hides there, rotting, 
with no profit to anybody rotting where they had 
been dropped by men called away to attend the urgent 
necessities of political revolutions. The practical mer- 
cantile soul of Senor Hirsch rebelled against all that 
foolishness, while he was taking a respectful but dis- 
concerted leave of the might and majesty of the San 
Tomd mine in the person of Charles Gould. He could 
not restrain a heart-broken murmur, wrung out of his 
very aching heart, as it were. 

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

225 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

He sighed. 

"Yes, meantime," repeated Charles Gould, inscru- 
tably. 

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

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

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



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2*7 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

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

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

"Weapon," suggested the railway man. 

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

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

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

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



VI 

A PROFOUND stillness reigned in the Casa GouM. 
/~\ The master of the house, walking along the 
ridor, opene<l the door of his room, and saw his wife 
sitting in a big arm-chair his own smoking arm-chair 
thoughtful, contemplating her little shoes. And sne 
did not raise her eyes when he walked in. 

"Tired?" asked Charles Gould. 

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

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

"One could close one's eyes to the glare Mrs. 

Gould. "But, my dear Charley, it is impossible for 
me to close my eyes to our position, to this awful 

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

I thought you had understood me perfectly from 
the first," Charles Gould said, slowly. " I thought we 
had said all there was to say a long time ago. There 

229 



Nostromo ; A Tale of the Seaboard 

is nothing to say now. There were things to be done. 
We have done them; we have gone on doing them. 
There is no going back now. I don't suppose that, 
even from the first, there was really any possible way 
back. And, what's more, we can't even afford to 
stand still." 

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

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

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

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

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

"Oh, there is no alternative." 

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

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

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

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

"Ah, you are going to meet the escort. I shall be 
230 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

on the balcony at five o'clock to see you pass. Till 
then, good-l- 

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

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

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

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

"No," Charles Gould said, moodily; "it was impos- 
sible to leave it alone." 

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

"Yes; I remember," said Charles Gould, "it was 
Don Pe'pe' who called the gorge the paradise of snakes. 
No doubt we have disturbed a great many. But re- 
member, my dear, that it is not now as it was when 
you made that sketch." He waved his hand towards 

231 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

the small water-color hanging alone upon the great 
bare wall. " It is no longer a paradise of snakes. We 
have brought mankind into it, and we cannot turn 
our backs upon them to go and begin a new life else- 
where." 

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

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

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

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

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

23? 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

233 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

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

Decoud affected suddenly the utmost nonchalance. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

" Nothing. He's at sea with the troops. He will 
get to Cayta in a couple of days' time and learn the 

234 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

news there. What he will do then, who can say? 
Holil Cayta? Offer his submission to Montero? Dis- 
band his army this last most likely, and go himself 
in one of the O.S.N. Company's stcamors, north or 
south, to Valparaiso or to San Francisco, no matter 
where. Our Barrios has a great practice in exiles and 
repatriations, which mark the points in the political 
game." 

Decoud, exchanging a steady stare with Mrs. Gould, 
added, tentatively, as it were, "And yet, if we had 
Barrios with his two thousand improved rifles here, 
something could have been done." 

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

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

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

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

"Mm, madam*. Rien n'est perdu " 

It electrified Mrs. Gould out of her benumbed at- 
titude, and she said, vivaciously: 

" What would you think of doing?" 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

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

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

"Yes," said Mrs. Gould, doubtfully. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

236 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 



you will need his h : 

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

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

" Don't you see, he's such an ideali 

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

"Charley an idealist!" she said, as if to herself, won- 
deringly. " What on earth do you mean 

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

He must have known what he was talking atout. 
The effect he expected was produced. Mrs. Gould, 
ready to take fire, gave it up suddenly with a low lit- 
tle sound that resembled a moan. 

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

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

Well, what of that?" asked Mrs. Gould 

" Simply that he cannot act or exist without ideal- 
izing every simple feeling, desire, or achievement. He 
could not believe his own motives if he did not make 
them first a part of some fairy-tale. The earth is not 

'37 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

quite good enough for him, I fear. Do you excuse my 
frankness? Besides, whether you excuse it or not, it 
is part of the truth of things which hurts the what 
do you call them? the Anglo-Saxon's susceptibilities, 
and at the present moment I don't feel as if I could 
treat seriously either his conception of things or if 
you allow me to say so or yet yours." 

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

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

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

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

"And that is all?" asked Mrs. Gould, without se- 
verity. 

"Absolutely. I am not deceiving myself about my 
motives. She won't leave Sulaco for my sake, there- 
fore Sulaco must leave the rest of the republic to its 
fate. Nothing could be clearer than that. I like a 
clearly defined situation. I cannot part with Antonia, 
therefore the one and indivisible republic of Costa- 
guana must be made to part with its western prov- 
ince. Fortunately it happens to be also a sound policy. 
The richest, the most fertile part of this land may be 
saved from anarchy. Personally, I care little, very 
little; but it's a fact that the establishment of Montero 
in power would mean death to me. In all the procla- 

238 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

mations of general pardon which I have seen, my 
name, with a few of specially exoepted. The 

brothers hate me, as you know very well, Mrs. Gould; 
ami behold, here is the rumor of them having won a 
'c. You say that, supposing it is true, I have 
plenty of time to run a\s 

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

"Ah, but I would, Mrs. Gould. I would run away 
if it served that which at prv; nt is my onl' 
I am courageous enough to say that, and to ,]<> it 
But women, even our women, are idealists. It is An- 
tonia that won't run away. A nov:l sort of vanity." 

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

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

"And you think my husband will give you his sup- 
port?" 

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

'39 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

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

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

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

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

"Think also of your hospitals, of your schools, of 
240 



Nostroino : A Tale of the Seaboard 

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

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

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

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

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

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

241 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Decoud admitted that it was possible. He knew 
well the town children of the Sulaco Campo: sullen, 
thievish, vindictive, and blood-thirsty, whatever great 

242 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

qualities their brothers of the plain might have had. 
Hut then there was that other sentimentalist, who at- 
tached a strangely idealistic meaning to concrete facts, 
stream of silver must be kept flowing north, to 
return in the form of financial backing from the great 
house of Holroyd. Up at the mountain in the strong- 
room of the mine the silver bars were worth less for 
his purpose than so much lead, from which at least 
bullets may be run. Let it come down > W.4fre> harbor, 
ready for shipment. 

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

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

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

. 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

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

Decoud, interrupting himself, looked at Mrs. Gould 



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

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

"Ah! he belongs to the group of your proteges out 
there towards the harbor, Mrs. Gould. Muy bicu. 
And Captain Mitchell calls him wonderful. I have 
heard no end of tales of his strength, his audacity, his 
fidelity. No end of fine things. H'm! incorruptible? 
It is indeed a name of honor for the capataz of the 

944 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

cargadores of Sulaco. Incorruptible ! Fine, but 
vague. However, I suppose he's sensible, too. And 
I talked to him upon that sane and practical assump- 
tion." 

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

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

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

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



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

mere insignificant vestiges of the initial inspiration. 
"Those poor people!" she murmured to herself. 

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

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






VII 

IT was part of what Decoud would have called his 
sane materialism that he did not believe in the pos- 
sibility of friendship existing between man and woman. 

The one exception he allowed confirmed, he main- 
tained, that absolute rule. Friendship was possible 
between brother an meaning by friendship 

the frank unreserve-, a-, before another human being, 
of thoughts and sensations; an objectless and neces- 
sary sincerity of one's innermost life trying to react 
upon the profound sympathies of another existence. 

His favorite sifter, the handsome, slightly arbitt 
and resolute angel, ruling the father and mother De- 
coud in the first-floor apartments of a very I,: 
ian house, was the recipient of Martin Decoud's con- 
fidences as to his thoughts, actions, purposes, doubts, 
and even failures. . . . 

"Prqjare our little circle in Paris for the birth of 
another South American republic. One more or 
what does it matter? They may come into the world 
like evil flowers on a hot-bed of rotten institutions; 
but the seed of this one has germinated in your broth- 
er's brain, and that will be enough for your devoted 
assent. I am writing this to you by the light of a 
single candle, in a sort of inn, near the harbor, kept 
by an Italian called Viola, a prote'ge' of Mrs. Gould. 
The whole building, which, for all I know, may have 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

been contrived by a conquistador farmer of the pearl 
fishery three hundred years ago, is perfectly silent. 
So is the plain between the town and the harbor; si- 
lent, but not so dark as the house, because the pickets 
of Italian workmen guarding the railway have lighted 
little fires all along the line. It was not so quiet 
around here yesterday. We had an awful riot a 
sudden outbreak of the populace, which was not sup- 
pressed till late to-day. Its object, no doubt, was 
loot, and that was defeated, as you must have learned 
already from the cablegram sent via San Francisco 
and New York last night, when the cables were still 
open. You have read already there that the ener- 
getic action of the Europeans of the railway has saved 
the town from destruction, and you may believe that. 
I wrote out the cable myself. We have no Reuter's 
Agency man here. I have also fired at the mob from 
the windows of the club, in company with some othei 
young men of position. Our object was to keep the 
Calle da la Constitucion clear for the exodus of the 
ladies and children, who have taken refuge on board 
a couple of cargo-ships now in the harbor here. That 
was yesterday. You should also have learned from 
the cable that the missing President, Ribiera, who 
had disappeared after the battle of Sta. Marta, has 
turned up here in Sulaco by one of those strange 
coincidences that are almost incredible, riding on a 
lame mule into the very midst of the street-fighting. 
It appears that he had fled, in company of a muleteer 
called Bonifacio, across the mountains, from the 
threats of Montero, into the arms of an enraged mob. 
"The capataz of cargadores, that Italian sailor of 
248 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

whom I have written to you before, has saved him 
from an ignoble death. That man seems to have a 
particular talon t tor being on the spot whenever there 
is something picturesque to be done. 

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

"The sun shines late upon Sulaco, for it has first 
to climb above the mountains. In that dear morn- 
ing light, brighter than twilight, Nostromo saw right 
across the vast Plaza, at the end of the street beyond 
the cathedral, a mounted man apparently in difficul- 
ties with a yelling knot of leperos. At once he said to 
me, ' That's a stranger. What is it they are doing to 
him?' Then he took out the silver whistle he is in 
the habit of using on the wharf (this man seems to 
disdain the use of any metal less precious than silver) 
and blew into it twice, evidently a preconcerted signal 
for his cargadores. He ran out immediately, and 
they rallied round him. I ran out, too, but was too 
late to follow them and help in the rescue of the stran- 
ger whose animal had fallen. I was set upon at once 
as a hated aristocrat, and was only too glad to get into 
the club, where Don Jaime Berges (you may remember 
him visiting at our house in Paris some three years 

249 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

ago) thrust a sporting-gun into my hands. They were 
already firing from the windows. There were little 
heaps of cartridges lying about on the open card- 
tables. I remember a couple of overturned chairs, 
some bottles rolling on the floor among the packs 
of cards scattered suddenly as the caballeros rose 
from their game to open fire upon the mob. Most of 
the young men had spent the night at the club in the 
expectation of some such disturbance. In two of the 
candelabra, on the consoles, the candles were burn- 
ing down in their sockets. A large iron nut, prob- 
ably stolen from the railway workshops, flew in from 
the street as I entered, and broke one of the large 
mirrors set in the wall. I noticed also one of the 
club servants tied up hand and foot with the cords 
of the curtain and flung in a corner. I have a vague 
recollection of Don Jaime assuring me hastily that the 
fellow had been detected putting poison into the 
dishes at supper. But I remember distinctly he was 
shrieking for mercy, without stopping at all, con-; 
tinuously, and so absolutely disregarded that nobody 
even took the trouble to gag him. The noise he madt 
was so disagreeable that I had half a mind to do it 
myself. But there was no time to waste on sucl 
trifles. I took my place at one of the windows anc 
began firing. 

" I didn't learn till later in the afternoon whom it wj 
that Nostromo, with his cargadores and some Italiz 
workmen as well, had managed to save from the 
drunken rascals. That man has a peculiar tale 
when anything striking to the imagination has to be 
done. I made that remark to him afterwards when 

250 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

met after some sort of order had been restore.! in the 
town, and the answer he made rather surprised me. 
He said, quite moodily, 'And how much do I get for 
that, senor?' Then it dawned upon me that perhaps 
this man's vanity has been satiated by the adulation 
of the common people and the confidence of his su- 
periors!" 

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

"That was yesterday evening on the Plaza, while 
he sat on the steps of the cathedral, his hands between 
his knees, holding the bridle of his famous silver-gray 
mare. He had led his body of cargadores splendidly 
all day long. He looked fatigued. I don't know how 
I looked. Yen- dirty, I suppose. But I suppose I 
also looked pleased. From the time the fugitive 
President had been got off to the S.S. MhuT.\i, the tide 
of success had turned against the mob. They had 
been driven off the harl>or, and out of the better 
streets of the town, into their own maze of ruins and 
tolderias. You must understand that this riot, whose 
primary object was undoubtedly the getting hold of 
the San Tome' silver stored in the lower rooms of the 
custom - house (besides the general looting of the 
Ricos), had acquired a political coloring from the fact 
of two Deputies to the Provincial Assembly, Senores 
Gamacho and Fucntes, both from Bolson, putting 
themselves at the head of it late in the afternoon, 
it is true, when the mob, disappointed in their hopes 
of loot, made a stand in the narrow streets to the 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

cries of 'Viva la Libertad! Down with Feudalism!' 
(I wonder what they imagine Feudalism to be.) ' Down 
with the Goths and Paralytics.' I suppose the 
Senores Gamacho and Fuentes knew what they w r ere 
doing. They are prudent gentlemen. In the As- 
sembly they called themselves Moderates, and op- 
posed every energetic measure with philanthropic 
pensiveness. At the first rumors of Montero's vic- 
tory they began to show a subtle change of the pen- 
sive temper, and began to defy poor Don Juste Lopez 
in his presidential tribune with an effrontery to which 
the poor man could only respond by a dazed smooth- 
ing of his beard and the ringing of the presidential 
bell. Then, when the downfall of the Ribierist cause 
became confirmed beyond the shadow of a doubt, 
they blossomed into convinced Liberals, acting to- 
gether as if they were Siamese twins, and ultimately 
taking charge, as it were, of the riot, in the name of 
Monterist principles. 

"Their last move at eight o'clock last night was 
to organize themselves into a Monterist committee, 
which sits, as far as I know, in a posada kept by a 
retired Mexican bull -fighter, a great politician, too, 
whose name I have forgotten. Thence they have 
issued a communication to us, the Goths and 
Paralytics of the Amarilla Club (who have our own 
committee), inviting us to come to some provisional un- 
derstanding for a truce, in order, they have the impu- 
dence to say, that the noble cause of Liberty 'should 
not be stained by the criminal excesses of Conservative 
selfishness!' As I came out to sit with Nostromo on 
the cathedral steps, the club was busy considering a 

252 



-troino: A 1 a U- <>t" the Seaboard 

er reply in the principal room, littered with ex- 
ploded cartridges, with a lot of broken glass, blood 
smears, candlesticks, and all sorts of wreckage on the 
floor. But all this is nonsense. Nobody in the town 
has any real power except the railway engineers, whose 
men occupy the dismantled houses acquired by the 
company for their town station on one side of the 
Plaza, and Nostromo, whose cargadores were sleeping 
under the Arcades, along the front of Anzam's shops. 
A fire of broken furniture out of the lnteml< 
saloons, mostly gilt, was burning on the Plaza, in a 
high flame swaying right upon the statue of Charles IV. 
The dead body of a man was lying on the steps of the 
pedestal, his arms thrown wide open, and his sombrero 
covering his face the attention of some friem 1 , peri 
The light of the flames touched the foliage of the ; 
trees on the Alameda, and played on the end of a 
street near by, blocked up by a jumble of ox -carts ami 
dead bullocks. Sitting on one of the carcasses, a lepero, 
muffled up, smoked a cigarette. It was a truce, you 
understand. The only other living being on the Plaza 
besides ourselves was a cargador, walking to and fro, 
with a long, bare knife in his hand, like a sentry before 
the Arcades, where his friends were sleeping. And the 
only other spot of light in the dark town were the 
lighted windows of the club, at the corner of the calle." 
After having written so far, Don Martin Decoud, the 
exotic dandy of the Parisian boulevard, got up and 
walked across the sanded floor of the cafe" at one end 
of the albcrgo of United Italy, kept by Giorgio Viola, 
the old companion of Garibaldi. The highly colored 
lithograph of the Faithful Hero seemed to look dimly, 

253 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 



in the light of one candle, at the man with no faith in 
anything except the truth of his own sensations. 
Looking out of the window, Decoud was met by a 
darkness so impenetrable that he could see neither the 
mountains nor the town, nor yet the buildings near 
the harbor; and there was not a sound, as if the 
tremendous obscurity of the Placid Gulf, spreading 
from the waters over the land, had made it dumb as 
well as blind. Presently Decoud felt a light tremor of 
the floor and distant clank of iron. A bright white 
light appeared, deep in the darkness, growing bigger 
with a thundering noise. The rolling-stock usually 
kept on the sidings in Rincon was being run back to 
the yards for safe-keeping. Like a mysterious stirring 
of the darkness behind the head-light of the engine, the 
train passed in a gust of hollow uproar by the end of 
the house, which seemed to vibrate all over in response. 
And nothing was clearly visible but, on the end of the 
last flat-car, a negro, in white trousers and naked to 
the waist, swinging a blazing torch-basket incessantly 
with a circular movement of his bare arm. Decoud 
did not stir. 

Behind him, on the back of the chair from which he 
had risen, hung his elegant Parisian overcoat, with a 
pearl-gray silk lining. But when he turned back to 
come to the table the candle-light fell upon a face that 
was grimy and scratched. His rosy lips were blackened 
with heat, the smoke of gunpowder. Dirt and rust 
tarnished the lustre of his short beard. His shirt 
collar and cuffs were crumpled, the blue silken tie 
hung down his breast like a rag; a greasy smudge 
crossed his white brow. He had not taken off his 

2 54 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

clothing nor used water, except to snatch a hasty drink 
greedily, for some forty hours. An awful restlessness 
had made him its own, had marked him with all the 
signs of desperate strife, and put a dry. sleepless stare 
into his eyes. He murmured to himself in a hoarse 
voice, '* I wonder if there's any bread here," looked 
vaguely about him, then dropped into the chair and 
took the pencil up again. He became aware he had 
not eaten anything for many hours. 

It occurred to him that no one could understand 
him so well as his sister. In the most sceptical 1 
there lurks at such moments, when the chances of 
existence are involved, a desire to leave a correct im- 
pression of the feelings, like a light by which the action 
may be seen when personality is gone, gone where no 
light of investigation can ever rc.nl i the truth wlm h 
every death takes out of the world. Therefore, in- 
stead of looking for something to eat or trying to 
snatch an hour or so of sleep, Decoud was filling the 
pages of a large note-book with a letter to his sister. 

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

" I have the feeling of a great solitude around me." 
he continued. " Is it, perhaps, because I am the only 
man with a definite idea in his head, in the com] 
collapse of every resolve, intention, and hope about 
me? But the solitude is also very real. All the en- 
gineers are out, and have been for two days, looking 
after the property of the National Central Railwa; 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

that great Costaguana undertaking which is to put 
money into the pockets of Englishmen, Frenchmen, 
Americans, Germans, and God knows who else. The 
silence about me is ominous. There is above the 
middle part of this house a sort of first floor, with 
narrow openings like loop-holes for windows, probably 
used in old times for the better defence against the 
savages, when the persistent barbarism of our native 
continent did not wear the black coats of politicians, 
but went about yelling, half-naked, with bows and 
arrows in its hands. The woman of the house is dying 
up there, I believe, all alone with her old husband. 
There is a narrow staircase, the sort of staircase one 
man could easily defend against a mob, leading up 
there, and I have just heard, through the thickness of 
the wall, the old fellow going down into their kitchen 
for something or other. It was a sort of noise a mouse 
might make behind the plaster of a wall. All the ser- 
vants they had ran away yesterday and have not re- 
turned yet, if ever they do. For the rest, there are 
only two children here, two girls. The father has sent 
them down-stairs, and they have crept into this cafe", 
perhaps because I am here. They huddle together in 
a corner, in each other's arms. I just noticed them a 
few minutes ago, and I feel more lonely than ever." 

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

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

"You couldn't get me some bread?" insisted De- 
coud. The child did not move; he saw her large eyes 

256 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

stare at him very dark from the corner. "You're 
not afraid of me?" he said. 

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

" You mean Nostromo ?" said Decoud. 

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

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

" Not in this house," retorted the child. 

"Ah! well. I shall call him the capataz then." 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He turned again to his note - book, glanced back 
through the pages, and again started his pennl 

"That was the position yesterday, after the Minerva 
2 57 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

with the fugitive President had gone out of harbor, 
and the rioters had been driven back into the side- 
lanes of the town. I sat on the steps of the cathedral 
with Nostromo, after sending out the cable message 
for the information of a more 01 less attentive world. 
Strangely enough, though the offices of the cable com- 
pany are in the same building as the Porvenir, the mob, 
which has thrown my presses out of the window and 
scattered the type all over the Plaza, has been kept 
from interfering with the instruments on the other 
side of the court-yard. As I sat talking with Nostromo, 
Bernhardt, the telegraphist, came out from under the 
Arcades with a piece of paper in his hand. The little 
man had tied himself up to an enormous sword and 
was hung all over with revolvers. He is ridiculous, 
but the bravest German of his size that ever tapped 
the key of a Morse transmitter. He had received the 
message from Cayta reporting the transports with 
Barrios's army just entering the port, and ending with 
the words, 'The greatest enthusiasm prevails.' I 
walked off to drink some water at the fountain, and I 
was shot at from the Alameda by somebody hiding 
behind a tree. But I drank, and didn't care; with 
Barrios in Cayta, and the great Cordillera between us 
and Montero's victorious army, I seemed, notwith- 
standing Messrs. Gamacho and Fuentes, to hold my 
new state in the hollow of my hand. I was ready to 
sleep, but when I got as far as the Casa Gould I found 
the patio full of wounded laid out on straw. Lights 
were burning, and on that enclosed court -yard in 
that hot night a faint odor of chloroform and blood 
hung about. At one end Dr. Monygham, the doctor 

258 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

of the mine, 'was dressing the wounds; at the other, 
near the stairs, Father corbelan. kneeling, listened t- 
the confession of a dying cargador. Mrs. Gould was 
walking alxnit through these shamhlrs with a large 
bottle in one hand and a lot of cotton - wool in the 
other. She just looked at me and never even winked. 
Her camerista was following her, also holding a bottle, 
and sobbing gently to herself. 

" I busied myself for some time in fetching v. 
from the cistern for the wounded. Afterwards I wan- 
dered up-stairs, meeting some of the first ladies of 
Sulaco, paler than I had ever seen them before, with 
bandages over their arms. Not all of them had fled 
to the ships. A good many had taken refuge for the 
day in the Casa Gould. On the landing a girl, with 
her hair half down, was kneeling against the wall under 
the niche where stands a Madonna in blue robes and 
a gilt crown on her head. I think it was the eldest 
Miss Lopez. I couldn't see her face, but I remember 
looking at the high French heel of her little shoe. 
She did not make a sound, she did not stir, she was 
not sobbing; she remained there, perfectly still, all 
black against the white wall, a silent figure of passion- 
ate piety. I am sure she was no more frightened than 
the other white-faced ladies I met carrying bandages. 
One was sitting on the top step tearing a piece of 
linen hastily into strips the young wife of an elderly 
man of fortune here. She interrupted herself to wave 
her hand to my bow, as though she were in her car- 
riage on the Alameda. The women of our country are 
worth looking at during a revolution. The rouge and 
pearl - powder fall off, together with that passive at- 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

titude towards the outer world which education, tra- 
dition, custom seem to impose upon them from the 
earliest infancy. I thought of your face, which from 
your infancy had the stamp of intelligence instead of 
that patient and resigned cast which appears when 
some political commotion tears down the veil of cos- 
metics and usage. 

"In the great sala up-stairs a sort of Junta of No- 
tables was sitting, the remnant of the vanished Pro- 
vincial Assembly. Don Juste Lopez had had half his 
beard singed off at the muzzle of a trabuco loaded 
with slugs, of which every one missed him, providen- 
tially. And as he turned his head from side to side it 
was exactly as if there had been two men inside his 
frock-coat, one nobly whiskered and solemn, the other 
untidy and scared. 

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

"I walked up to the table blinaly, as though I had 
been drunk. 'You are deliberating upon surrender,' 
I said. They all sat still, with their noses over the 
sheet of paper each had before him, God only knows 

260 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

why. Only Don Jose" hid his face in his hands, mutter- 
ini,'. ' NYviT. never!' But as I looked at him, it seemed 
to me that I could have blown him away with my 
breath, he looked so frail, so weak, so worn out. What- 
ever happens, he will not survive. The deception is 
too great for a man of his age; and hasn't he seen the 
sheets of /"// v }\\irs of Misrule, which we have begun 
printing on the presses of the Porvenir, littering 
Plaza, floating in the gutters, fired out as wads for 
trabucos loaded with handfuls of type, blown in the 
wind, trampled in the mud ? I have seen pages float- 
ing upon the very waters of the harbor. It would be 
unreasonable to expect him to survive. It would be 
cruel. 

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

" I declaimed for five minutes without drawing 
breath, it seems to me, harping on our best chances, 
on the ferocity of Montero, whom I made out to be 
as great a beast as I have no doubt he would like to 
be if he had intelligence enough to conceive a system- 
atic reign of terror. And then for another five min- 
utes or more I poured out an impassioned appeal to 
their courage and manliness, with all the passion of 
my love for Antonia. For if ever man spoke well, it 
would be from a personal feeling, denouncing an 
enemy, defending himself, or pleading for what really 
may be dearer than life. My dear girl, I absolutely 
thundered at them. It seemed as if my voice would 
burst the walls asunder, and when I stopped I saw all 
their scared eyes looking at me dubiously. And that 

261 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

was all the effect I had produced! Only Don Josh's 
head had sunk lower and lower on his breast. I bent 
my ear to his withered lips, and made out his whisper, 
something like 'In God's name, then, Martin, my 
son!' I don't know exactly. There was the name of 
God in it, I am certain. It seems to me I have caught 
his last breath the breath of his departing soul on 
his lips. 

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

"Meanwhile Don Juste had begun a pondered ora- 
tion, whose solemn effect was spoiled by the ridiculous 
disaster to his beard. I did not wait to make it out. 
He seemed to argue that Montero's (he called him 
the General) intentions were probably not evil, though, 
he went on, 'that distinguished man' (only a week 
ago he used to call him a gran' bestia) 'was perhaps 
mistaken as to the true means.' As you may imagine, 
I did not stay to hear the rest. I know the intentions 
of Montero's brother, Pedrito, the guerrillero, whom I 

262 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

exposed in Paris, MHIH- years ago, in a cafe- frequented 
by South American students, where he tried to 
himself off for a Secretary of Legation. He u^rd to 
come in and talk for hours, twisting his felt hat in his 
hairy paws, and his ambition seemed to become a sort 
of Due de Morny to a sort of Napoleon. Already, 
then, he used to talk of his brother in inflated terms. 
He seemed fairly safe from being found out, bet 
the students, all of the Blanco families, did not, as 
you may imagine, frequent the Legation. It was only 
Decoud, a man without faith and principles, as they 
used to say, that went in there sometimes for the sake 
of the fun, as it were to an assembly of trained mon- 
keys. I know his intentions. I have seen him change 
the plates at table. Whoever is allowed to live on in 
terror, I must die the death. 

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

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

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

'"Yes, yes, but ' 

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

"Through the door I held a little ajar behind me 
we heard Don Juste 's measured mouthing monotone 

263 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

go on from phrase to phrase, like a sort of awful and 
solemn madness. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

"She averted her face, and in a pained voice: 
264 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 



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

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

" Late at night we formed a small junta of four 
the two women, Don Carlos, and myself in Mrs. 
Gould's blue-and-white boudoir. 

" El Rey de Sulaco thinks himself, no doubt, a very 
honest man. And so he is, if one could look behind 
his taciturnity. Perhaps he thinks that this alone 
makes his honesty unstained. Those Englishmen live 
on illusions which somehow or other help them to 
get a firm hold of substance. When he speaks it is 
by a rare 'yes' or 'no* that seems as impersonal as 
the words of an oracle. But he could not impose on 
me by his dumb reserve. I knew what he had in his 
head; he has his mine in his head; and his wife had 
nothing in her head but his precious person, which he 
bound up with the Gould Concession and tied up 
hat little woman's neck. No matter. The tiling 
was to make him present the affair to Holroyd (the 

a6 5 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

Steel and Silver King) in such a manner as to secure 
his financial support. At that time last night, just 
twenty-four hours ago, we thought the silver of the 
mine safe in the custom-house vaults till the north- 
bound steamer came to take it away. And as long 
as the treasure flowed north, without a break, that 
utter sentimentalist, Holroyd, would not drop his idea 
of introducing, not only justice, industry, peace, to 
the benighted continents, but also that pet dream of 
his of a purer form of Christianity. Later on, the 
principal European really in Sulaco, the engineer-in - 
chief of the railway, came riding up the calle from 
the harbor, and was admitted to our conclave. Mean- 
time, the Junta of the Notables in the great sala was 
still deliberating; only, one of them had run out in 
the corridor to ask the servmt whether something to 
eat couldn't be sent in. The first words the engineer- 
in-chief said as he came into the boudoir were, 'What 
is your house, dear Mrs. Gould ? A war hospital be- 
low, and apparently a restaurant above. I see them 
carrying trays full of good things into the sala.' 

"And here, in this boudoir,' I said, 'you behold the 
inner cabinet of the Occidental Republic that is to 
be.' 

" He was so preoccupied that he didn't smile at that; 
he didn't even look surprised. 

" He told us that he was attending to the general dis- 
positions for the defence of the railway property at 
the railway-yards when he was sent for to go into the 
railway telegraph - office. The engineer at the rail- 
head, at the foot of the mountains, wanted to talk to 
him fmm his end of the wire. There was nobody in 

266 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

be office but himself and the operator of the railway 
telegraph, who read off the clicks aloud as the tape 
1 its length upon the floor. And the purjx.rt .i 
that talk, dirked nervously from a wooden shed in 
the depths of the forests, had informed the chief that 
President Rihiera had been or was being purs 
This was news, indeed, to all of us in Sulaco. Kibicra 
himself, when rescued, revived, and soothed by us. 
been im -lined to think that he had not been pursued. 
"Rihiera had yielded to the urgent solicitations of 
fcl friends, and had left the headquarters of his dis- 
comfited army alone, under the guidance of Bonifacio, 
be muleteer, who had been willing to take the respon- 
sibility with the risk. He had departed at daybreak 
of the third day. His remaining forces had melted 
away during the night. Bonifacio and he rode hard 
on horses towards the Cordillera; then they obtained 
mules, entered the passes, and crossed the paramo of 
Kte just before a freezing blast swept over that stony 
plateau, burying in a drift of snow the little shelter- 
hut of stones in which they had spent the night. After- 
wards poor Ribiera had many adventures, got separated 
. his guide, lost his mount, struggled down to the 
Campo on foot, and if he had not thrown himself on 
the mercy of a ram-hero would have perished a long 
way from Sulaco. That man. who as a matter of 
fact, recognized him at once, let him have a fresh mule, 
which the fugitive, heavy and unskilful, had ridden 
to death. And it was true he had been pursued by a 
party commanded by no less a person than Pedro 
Montero. he brother of the general. The cold wind 
of the paramo lurkily caught the pursuers on the top 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

of the pass. Some few men, and all the animals, per- 
ished in the icy blast. The stragglers died, but the 
main body kept on. They found poor Bonifacio lying 
half-dead at the foot of a snow-slope, and bayoneted 
him promptly in the true civil - war style. They 
would have had Ribiera too if they had not, for some 
reason or other, turned off the track of the old Camino 
Real, only to lose their way in the forests at the foot 
of the' lower slopes. And there they were at last, 
having stumbled in unexpectedly upon the construc- 
tion camp. The engineer at the rail -head told his 
chief by wire that he had Pedro Montero absolutely 
there, in the very office, listening to the clicks. He 
was going to take possession of Sulaco in the name of 
the democracy. He was very overbearing. His men 
slaughtered some of the railway company's cattle with- 
out asking leave, and went to work broiling the meat 
on the embers. Pedrito made many pointed inquiries 
as to the silver-mine, and what had become of the pro- 
duct of the last six months' working. He had said 
peremptorily, 'Ask your chief up there by wire, he 
ought to know; tell him that Don Pedro Montero, 
Chief of the Campo and Minister of the Interior of 
the new government, desires to be correctly informed.' 
"He had his feet wrapped up in blood-stained rags, 
a lean, haggard face, ragged beard and hair, and had 
walked in limping, with a crooked branch of a tree for 
a staff. His followers were perhaps in a worse plight, 
but apparently they had not thrown away their arms, 
and, at any rate, not all their ammunition. Their 
lean faces filled the door and the windows of the tele- 
graph hut. As it was at the same time the bedroom 

268 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

of the engineer in charge there, Montero had thrown 
himself on his clean blankets and lay there shivering 
and dictating requisitions to be transmitted by wire 
to Sulaco. He demanded a train of cars to be 
down at once to transport his men up. 

"'To this I answered from my end,' the engineer- 
in-chief related to us, ' that I dared not risk the rolling- 
stock in the interior, as there had been attemp* 
wreck trains all along the line several times. I <h<] 
that for your sake, Gould,' said the chief engineer. 
'The answer to this was, in the words of my sul*>nli- 
nate, the filthy brute on my bed said, "Suppose I were 
to have you shot?" To which my subordinate, who, 
it appears, was himself operating, remarked that it 
would not bring the cars up. Upon that, the other, 
yawning, said, " Never mind, there is no lack of hones 
on the Campo." And, turning over, went to sleep on 
Harris's bed.' 

"This is why, my dear girl, I am a fugitive to-night. 
The last wire from rail-head says that Pedro Montero 
and his men left at daybreak, after feeding on asado 
beef all night. They took all the horses; they will 
find more on the road ; they'll be here in less than thirty 
hours, and thus Sulaco is no place either for me or 
the great store of silver belonging to the Gould Con- 
cession. 

" But that is not the worst. The garrison of Es- 
meralda has gone over to the victorious party. That 
news we have heard by means of the telegraphist of 
the cable company, who came to the Casa GouUl in 
the early morning with the news. In fact, it was so 
early that the day had not yet quite broken over 

269 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

Sulaco. His colleague in Esmeralda had called him 
up to say that the garrison, after shooting some of 
their officers, had taken possession of a government 
steamer laid up in the harbor. It is really a heavy 
blow for me. I thought I could depend on every man 
in this province. It was a mistake. It was a Mon- 
terist revolution in Esme r alda, just such as was at- 
tempted in Sulaco, only that that one came off. The 
telegraphist was signalling to Bernhardt all the time, 
and his last transmitted words were, 'They are burst- 
ing in the door and taking possession of the cable 
office. You are cut off. Can do no more.' 

"But, as a matter of fact, he managed somehow to 
escape the vigilance of his captors, who had tried to 
stop the communication with the outer world. He 
did manage it. How it was done I don't know, but 
a few hours afterwards he called up Sulaco again, and 
what he said was, 'The insurgent army has taken 
possession of the government transport in the bay 
and are filling her with troops, with the intention of 
going round the coast to Sulaco. Therefore look out 
for yourselves. They will be ready to start in a few 
hours, and may be upon you before daybreak.' 

"This is all he could say. They drove him away 
from his instrument this time for good, because Bern- 
hardt has been calling up Esmeralda ever since with- 
out getting an answer." 

After setting these words down in the note -book 
which he was filling up for the benefit of his sister, 
Decoud lifted his head to listen. But there were no 
sounds, neither in the room nor in the house, except 
the drip of the water from the filter into the vast 

270 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

earthenware jar under the wooden stand. And outside 
ihe house there was a gr c. Decoud lowered 

his head again over the pocket-book. 

" I am not running away, you understand." he wrote 
on. " I am simply going away with that great treas- 
urr of silver which must be saved at all costs. Pedro 
tero from the Campo and the revolted garriso: 
cralda from the sea are converging upon it. That 
there lying ready for them is only an acci<! 
The real objective is the San Tome" mine itself, a-s 
may well imagine; otherwise the Occidental Province 
would have been, no doubt, left alone for many weeks, 
in l>e gathered at leisure into the arms of the victorious 
party. Don Carlos Gould will have enough to do to 
his mine, with its organization and its people; 
this 'Imperium in imperio.' this wealth - producing 
thing, to which his sentimentalism attaches a strange 

ta of justice. He holds to it as some men hold to the 
idea of love or revenge. Unless I am much mistaken 
in the man, it must remain inviolate or perish by an 
act of his will alone. A passion has crept into his cold 
and idealistic lite. A passion which I can only com- 
prehend intellectually. A passion that is not like the 
passions we know, we men of another blood. But it 
J8 as dangerous as any of ours. 

11 His wife lias understood it too. That is why she 
ich a good ally of mine. She seizes upon all my 
suggestions with a sure instinct that in the end t 
make for the safety of the Gould Concession. 
he defers to her because he trusts her perhaps, but I 
. more rather as if he wished to make up for some 
subtle wrong, for that sentimental unfaithfulness which 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

surrenders her happiness, her life, to the seduction of 
an idea. The little woman has discovered that he 
lives for the mine rather than for her. But let them 
be. To each his fate, shaped by passion or sentiment. 
The principal thing is that she has backed up my ad- 
vice to get the silver out of the town, out of the coun- 
try, at once, at any cost, at any risk. Don Carlos 's 
mission is to preserve unstained the fair fame of his 
mine; Mrs. Gould's mission is to save him from the 
effects of that cold and overmastering passion, which 
she dreads more than if it were an infatuation for an- 
other woman. Nostromo 's mission is to save the 
silver. The plan is to load it into the largest of the 
company's lighters, and send it across the gulf to a 
small port out of Costaguana territory, just on the 
other side the Azuera, where the first north-bound 
steamers will get orders to pick it up. The waters here 
are calm; we shall slip away into the darkness of the 
gulf before the Esmeralda rebels arrive, and by the 
time the day breaks over the ocean we shall be out of 
sight, invisible, hidden by Azuera, which itself looks 
from the Sulaco shore like a faint blue cloud on the 
horizon. 

" The incorruptible capataz de cargadores is the man 
for that work; and I, the man with a passion, but 
without a mission, I go with him to return to play 
my part in the farce to the end, and, if successful, to 
receive my reward, which no one but Antonia can give 
me. 

"I shall not see her again now before I depart. I 
left her, as I have said, by Don Josh's bedside. The 
street was dark, the houses shut up, and I walked out 

272 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

of the town in the night. Not a single street-lamp 
had 1'ccu lit for two days, and the archway of the gate 
was only a mass of darkness in the vague form of a 
r. in which I heard low, dismal groans, that 
ed to answer the murmurs of a man's voice. 
"I recognized something impassive and careless in 
me, characteristic of that Genoese sailor who, like 
me. has come casually here to be drawn into the events 
for which his scepticism as well as mine seems to en- 
tin a sort of passive contempt. The only thing he 
seems to care for, as far as I have been able to dis- 
r, is to be well spoken of. An ambition fit for 
noble souls, but also a profitable one for an exceptional- 
ly intelligent scoundrel. Yes. His very words. 'To 
be well spoken of. Si, senor.' He does not seem to 
make any difference between speaking and thinking 
Is it sheer naiveness or the practical point of view, I 
wonder? Exceptional individualities always interest 
IK, because they are true to the general formula ex- 
preosing the moral state of humanity. 

" He joined me on the harbor road after I had passed 

them under the dark archway without stopping. It 

was a woman in trouble he had been talking to. 

Through discretion I kept silent while he walked by 

myside. After a time he began to talk himself. It 

was not what I expected. It was only an old woman, 

an old lace-maker, in search of her son, one of the 

t-sweepers employed by the municipality. Friends 

come the day before at daybreak to the door of 

r hovel calling him out. He had gone with them. 

. she had not seen him since; so she had left the 

food she had been preparing half-cooked on the cx- 



II 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

tinct embers, and had crawled out as far as the harbor, 
where she had heard that some town mozos had been 
killed on the morning of the riot. One of the carga- 
dores guarding the custom-house had brought out a 
lantern, and had helped her to look at the few dead 
left lying about there. Now she was creeping back, 
having failed in her search. So she sat down on the 
stone seat under the arch, moaning, because she was 
very tired. The capataz had questioned her, and 
after hearing her broken and groaning tale had advised 
her to go and look among the wounded in the patio 
of the Casa Gould. He had also given her a quarter- 
dollar, he mentioned carelessly. 

'"Why did you do that?' I asked. 'Do you know | 
her?' 

"No, senor. I don't suppose I have ever seen her 
before. How should I ? She has not probably been 
out in the streets for years. She is one of those old 
women that you find in this country at the back of 
huts, crouching over fireplaces, with a stick on the 
ground by their side, and almost too feeble to drive 
away the stray dogs from their cooking -pots. Ca- 
ramba! I could tell by her voice that death had for- 
gotten her. But, old or young, they like money, and 
will speak well of the man who gives it to them.' He 
laughed a little. ' Senor, you should have felt the 
clutch of her paw as I put the piece in her palm.' He 
paused. 'My last, too,' he added. 

" I made no comment. He's known for his liberality 
and his bad luck at the game of monte, which keeps him 
as poor as when he first came here. 
. "'I suppose, Don Martin,' he began, in a thoughtful, 

274 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

speculative tone, 'that the Seflor Administrador of 
Toim- will reward me some day if I save his silver?" 

"I said that it could not be otherwise, surely, lie 
walked on, muttering to himself. 'Si, si, without 
doubt without doubt; and look you, Senor Martin, 
what it is to be well spoken of! There is not another 
man that could have been even thought of for such a 
thing. I shall get something great for it some day. 
Anl let it come soon,' he mumbled. 'Time pasM 
this country as quick as anywhere else.' 

"This. s(rtir clu'rie, is my companion in the great 
escape for the sake of the great cause. He is more 
than shrewd, more masterful than crafty, more 
generous with his personality than the people who 
make use of him are with their money. At least, that 
is what he thinks himself, with more pride than senti- 
ment. I am glad I have made friends with him. As 
a companion he acquires more importance than he 
ever had as a sort of minor genius in his way as an 
original Italian sailor whom I allowed to come in in 
fhe small hours and talk familiarly to the editor of 
PonvH/V while the paper was going through the 
. And it is curious to have met a man for whom 
fcie value of life seems to consist in personal prestige. 

"I am waiting for him here now. On arriving at 
the posada kept by Viola we found the children alone 
down below, and the old Genoese shouted to his coun- 
tryman to go and fetch the doctor. Otherwise we 
, would have gone on to the wharf, where it appears 
\ Captain Mitchell with some volunteer Europeans and 
;a few picked cargadores are loading the lighter with 
the silver that must be saved from Montero's clutches 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

in order to be used for Montero's defeat. Nostromo 
galloped furiously back towards the town. He has 
been long gone already. This delay gives me time to 
talk to you. By the time this note -book reac 
your hands much will have happened. But now it is 
a pause under the hovering wing of death in that 
silent house buried in the black night, with this d 
woman, the two children crouching without a sound, 
and that old man whom I can hear through the thick- 
ness of the wall passing up and down with a light rub- 
bing noise no louder than a mouse. And I, the only 
other with them, don't really know whether to coun 
myself with the living or with the dead. ' Quien sabe ?' 
as the people here are prone to say in answer to every 
question. But no! feeling for you is certainly not 
dead, and the whole thing, the house, the dark night, 
the silent children in this dim room, my very pres- 
ence here all this is life> must be life, since^it is so 
much like aT drgftm." . 

With the writing of the last line there came upon 
Decoud a moment of sudden and complete oblivion. 
He swayed over the table as if struck by a bullet. The 
next moment he sat up, confused, with the idea that 
he had heard his pencil roll on the floor. The low 
door of the cafe, wide open, was filled with the glare 
of a torch in which was visible half of a horse, switch- 
ing its tail against the leg of a rider with a long iron 
spur strapped to the naked heel. The two girls were 
gone, and Nostromo, standing in the middle of the 
room, looked at him from under the round brim of 
the sombrero pulled low down over his brow. 

"I have brought that sour-faced English doctor in 
276 



I 



.troino : A Talc of the Seaboard 

Seflora Gould's carriage." said Nostromo. " I doubt 
if, with all his wisdom, he can save the padrona 
time. They have sent for the children. A bad sign 

He sat down on the end of a bench. "She wants 
to give them her blessing. I suppose." 

Dazedly Decoud observed that he must have fallen 
sound asleep, and Nostromo said, with a vague smile, 
that he had looked in at the window and had seen him 
lying still across the table with his head on his arms. 
The English senora had also come in the carriage, and 
went up-stairs at once with the doctor. She had told 
him not to wake up Don Martin yet; but when they 
sent for the children he had come into the cafe". 

The half of the horse with its half of the rider swung 
round outside the door; the torch of tow and resin in 
the iron basket which was carried on a stick at the 
aaddle-bow flared right into the room for a moment, 
and Mrs. Gould entered hastily with a very white. 
! face. The hood of her dark-blue cloak had fallen 
back. Both men rose. 

"Teresa wants to see you, Nottromo." she said. 

The capataz did not move. Decoud. with his back 
to the table, began to button up his coat. 

"The silver, Mrs. Gould, the silver." he murmured 
in English. "Don't forget that the Esmeralda gar- 
faon have got a steamer. They may appear at any 
moment at the harbor entrance." 

The doctor says there is no hope," Mrs. Gould 

tpoke rapidly, also in English. " I shall take you down 

he wharf in my carriage and then come back to 

i away the girls." She changed swiftly into Span- 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

ish to address Nostromo. "Why are you wasting 
time? Old Giorgio's wife wishes to see you." 

" I am going to her, sefiora," muttered the capataz. 

Dr. Monygham now showed himself, bringing back 
the children. To Mrs. Gould's inquiring glance he 
only shook his head and went outside at once, fol- 
lowed by Nostromo. 

The horse of the torch-bearer, motionless, hung his 
head low, and the rider had dropped the reins to light 
a cigarette. The glare of the torch played on the 
front of the house, crossed by the big black letters of its 
inscription in which only the word " Italia" was light- 
ed fully. The patch of wavering glare reached as far 
as Mrs. Gould's carriage waiting on the road, with the 
yellow-faced, portly Ignacio apparently dozing on the 
box. By his side Basilio, dark and skinny, held a 
Winchester carbine in front of him with both hands 
and peered fearfully into the darkness. Nostromo 
touched lightly the doctor's shoulder. 

"Is she really dying, Sefior Doctor?" 

"Yes," said the doctor, with a strange twitch of his 
scarred cheek. "And why she wants to see you I can- 
not imagine." 

"She has been like that before," suggested Nos- 
tromo, looking away. 

"Well, capataz, I can assure you she will never be 
like that again," snarled Dr. Monygham. "You may 
go to her or stay away. There is very little to be got 
from talking to the dying. But she told Dona Emilia 
in my hearing that she has been like a mother to you 
ever since you first set foot ashore here." 

"Si! And she never had a good word to say for 
278 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

me to anybody. It is more as if she could not forgive 
me for being alive, and such a man, too, as she would 
have liked her son to be." 

"Maybe!" exclaimed a mournful deep voice near 
them. "Women have their own ways of tormenting 
themselves." Giorgio Viola had come out of the 
house. He threw a heavy black shadow in the torch- 
light, and the glare fell on his big face, on the great 
bushy head of white hair. He motioned the capataz 
in-doors with his extended arm. 

Dr. Monygham, after busying himself with a little 
medicament-box of polished wood on the seat of the 
landau, turned to old Giorgio and thrust into his big 
trembling hand one of the glass - stoppered bottles 
out of the case. 

" Give her a spoonful of this now and then, in water," 
he said. "It will make her easier." 
[ "And there is nothing more for her?" asked the old 
man patiently. 

" No. Not on earth," said the doctor, with his back 
to him, clicking the lock of the medicine-case. 
1 Nostromo slowly crossed the large kitchen, all dark 
but for the glow of a heap of charcoal under the heavy 
mantel of the cooking-range, where water was boiling 
in an iron pot with a loud, bubbling sound. Between 
the two walls of a narrow staircase a bright light 
streamed from the sick-room above; and the mag- 
nificent capataz de cargadores stepping noiselessly in 
soft leather sandals, bushy whiskered, his muscular 
neck and bronzed chest bare in the open checked shirt, 
resembled a Mediterranean sailor just come ashore from 
some wine or fruit laden felucca. At the top he 

279 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

paused, broad shouldered, narrow hipped and supple, 
looking at the large bed, like a white couch of state, 
with a profusion of snowy linen, among which the 
padrona sat unpropped and bowed, her handsome, 
black-browed face bent over her chest. A mass of 
raven hair with only a few white threads in it covered 
her shoulders; one thick strand fallen forward half- 
veiled her cheek. Perfectly motionless in that pose, 
expressing physical anxiety and unrest, she turned her 
eyes alone towards Nostromo. 

The capataz had a red sash wound many times round 
his waist, and a heavy silver ring on the forefinger of 
the hand he raised to give a twist to his mustache. 

"Their revolutions their revolutions!" gasped 
Sefiora Teresa. " Look, Gian' Battista, it has killed 
me at last!" 

Nostromo said nothing, and the sick woman with 
an upward glance insisted. "Look, this one has 
killed me, while you were away fighting for what did 
not concern you, foolish man." 

"Why talk like this?" mumbled the capataz be- 
tween his teeth. "Will you never believe in my good 
sense ? It concerns me to keep on being what I am : 
every day alike." 

"You never change, indeed," she said, bitterly. 
"Always thinking of yourself and taking your pay 
out in fine words from those who care nothing for 
you." 

There was between them an intimacy of antagonism 
as close in its way as the intimacy of accord and affec- 
tion. He had not walked along the way of Teresa's 
expectations. It was she who had encouraged him 

380 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

to leave his ship, in the hope of securing a friend and 
defender for the girls. The wife of old Giorgio was 
aware of her precarious lu-alth. and was haunted by 
the fear of her aged husband's loneliness and the un- 
protected state of the children. She had wanted to 
annex that apparently quiet and steady young man, 
tionate and pliable, an orphan from his tenderest 
age, as he had told her, with no ties in Italy except 
an uncle, owner and master of a felucca, from whose 
ill-usage he had run away before he was fourteen. He 
hal seemed to her courageous, a hard worker, deter- 
mined to make his way in the world. From gratitude 
ami the ties of habit he would become like a son to 
herself and Giorgio; and then, who knows, when Linda 
haM grown up. . . . Ten years difference between hus- 
band and wife was not so much. Her own great man 
was nearly twenty years older than herself. Gian' 
Battista was an attractive young fellow, besides; at- 
ive to men, women, and children, just by that 
profound quietness of personality \\hich, like a serene 
twilight, rendered more seductive the promise of his 
vigorous form and the resolution of his conduct. 

Old Giorgio, in profound ignorance of his wife's 
views and hopes, had a great regard for his young 
countryman. "A man ought not to be tame," he 
uso.l to tell her, quoting the Spanish proverb in de- 
fence of the splendid capataz. She was growing jeal- 
ous of his success. He was escaping from her, she 
feared. She was practical, and he seemed to her to 
be an absurd spendthrift of these qualities which made 
him so valuable. He got too little for them. He 
scattered them with both hands among too many 

281 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

people, she thought. He laid no money by. She 
railed at his poverty, his exploits, his adventures, his 
loves and his reputation; but in her heart she had 
never given him up, as though, indeed, he had been 
her son. 

Even now, ill as she was, ill enough to feel the chill, 
black breath of the approaching end, she had wished 
to see him. It was like putting out her benumbed 
hand to regain her hold. But she had presumed too 
much on her strength. She could not command her 
thoughts; they had become dim, like her vision. The 
words faltered on her lips, and only the paramount 
anxiety and desire of her life seemed to be too strong 
for death. 

The capataz said, "I have heard these things many 
times. You are unjust, but it does not hurt me. 
Only now you do not seem to have much strength to 
talk, and I have but little time to listen. I am en- 
gaged in a work of very great moment." 

She made an effort to ask him whether it was true 
that he had found time to go and fetch a doctor for 
her. Nostromo nodded affirmatively. 

She was pleased: it relieved her sufferings to know 
that the man had condescended to do so much for 
those who really wanted his help. It was a proof o 
his friendship. Her voice became stronger. 

"I want a priest more than a doctor," she said 
pathetically. She did not move her head; only her 
eyes ran into the corners to watch the capataz stand 
ing by the side of her bed. "Would you go to fetch 
a priest for me now? Think! A dying woman asks 
you!" 

282 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

Nostromo shook his head resolutely. He did not be- 
lieve in priests in their sacerdotal character. A doc- 
vas an efficacious person; but a priest, as priest, 
was nothing, incapable of doing either good or harm. 
Nostromo did not even dislike the sight of them as 
old Giorgio did. The utter uselessness of the errand 
was what struck him most. 

" Padrona," he said, " you have been like this before, 
and got better after a few days, I have given you al- 
ready the very last moments I can spare. Ask Senora 
Gould to send you one." 

He was feeling uneasy at the impiety of this refusal. 
The padrona believed in priests, and confessed her- 
self to them. But all women did that. It could not 
be of much consequence. And yet his heart felt op- 
pressed for a moment at the thought what absolu- 
tion would mean to her if she believed in it only ever 
so little. No matter. It was quite true that he had 
given her already the very last moment he could 
spare. 

"You refuse to go?" she gasped. "Ah! you are 
always yourself, indeed." 

"Listen to reason, padrona," he said. "I am need- 
ed to save the silver of the mine. Do you hear? A 
greater treasure than the one which they say is guarded* 
by ghosts and devils on Azuera. It is true. I am 
ved to make this the most desperate affair I was 
ever engaged on in my whole life." 

She felt a despairing indignation. The supreme 
test had failed. Standing above her, Nostromo did 
not see the distorted features of her face, distorted by 
a paroxysm of pain and anger. Only she began to 

>** 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

tremble all over. Her bowed head shook. The broad 
shoulders quivered. 

" Then God, perhaps, will have mercy upon me. But 
do you look to it, man, that you get something for 
yourself out of it, besides the remorse that shall over- 
take you some day." 

She laughed feebly. "Get riches at least for once, 
you indispensable, admired Gian' Battista, to whom 
the peace of a dying woman is less than the praise of 
people who have given you a silly name and noth- 
ing besides in exchange for your soul and body." 

The capataz de cargadores swore to himself under 
his breath. 

"Leave my soul alone, padrona, and I shall know 
how to take care of my body. Where is the harm of 
people having need of me? What are you envying 
me that I have robbed you and the children of? 
Those very people you are throwing in my teeth have 
done more for old Giorgio than they ever thought of 
doing for me." 

He struck his breast with his open palm; his voice 
had remained low though he had spoken in a forcible 
tone. He twisted his mustaches one after another, 
and his eyes wandered a little about the room. 

"Is it my fault that I am the only man for their 
purposes ? What angry nonsense are you talking, 
mother? Would you rather have me timid and fool- 
ish, selling watermelons on the market-place or row- 
ing a boat for passengers along the harbor, like a soft 
Neapolitan without courage or reputation? Would 
you have a young man live like a monk? I do not 
believe it. Would you want a monk for your eldest 

284 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

girl ? Let her grow. What are you afraid of? You 
have been angry with me for everything I did for 
< r since you first spoke to me, in secret from 
oM Giorgio, about your Linda. Husband to one and 
brother to the other, did you say? Well, why not? 
I like the little ones, and a man must marry some 
time. But ever since that time you have been mak- 
ing little of me to every one. Why ? Did you think 
you could put a collar and chain on me as if I were 
one of the watch-dogs they keep over there in the rail- 
way-yards? Look here, padrona, I am the same 
man who came ashore one evening and sat down in 
the thatched ranche you lived in at that time on the 
other side of the town and told you all about himself. 
You were not unjust to me then. What has happened 
since? I am no longer an insignificant youth. A 
good name, Giorgio says, is a treasure, padrona." 

"They have turned your head with their praises," 
gasped the sick woman. "They have been paying 
you with words. Your folly shall betray you into 
poverty, misery, starvation. The very leperos shall 
laugh at you the great capataz." 

Nostromo stood for a time as if struck dumb. She 
never looked at him. A self -confident, mirthless 
smile passed quickly from his lips, and then he backed 
away. His disregarded figure sank down beyond the 
doorway. He descended the stairs backward, with 
the usual sense of having been somehow baffled by 
this woman's disparagement of this reputation he had 
obtained and desired to keep. 

Down-stairs in the big kitchen a candle was burning, 
surrounded by the shadows of the walls on the ceiling, 

285 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

but no ruddy glare filled the open square of the outer 
door. The carriage with Mrs. Gould and Don Martin, 
preceded by the horseman bearing the torch, had 
gone on to the jetty. Dr. Monygham, who had re- 
mained, sat on the corner of a hard wood table near 
the candlestick, his seamed, shaven face inclined side- 
ways, his arms crossed on his breast, his lips pursed 
up, and his prominent eyes glaring stonily upon the 
floor of black earth. Near the overhanging mantel 
of the fireplace, where the pot of water was still boil- 
ing violently, old Giorgio held his chin in his hand, 
one foot advanced, as if arrested by a sudden thought. 

"Adios, viejo," said Nostromo, feeling the handle 
of his revolver in the belt and loosening his knife in its 
sheath. He picked up a blue poncho lined with red 
from the table, and put it over his head. "Adios, 
look after the things in my sleeping-room, and if you 
hear from me no more, give up the box to Paquita. 
There is not much of value there except my new 
scrape from Mexico and a few silver buttons on my 
best jacket. No matter! The things will look well 
enough on the next lover she gets, and the man need 
not be afraid I shall linger on earth after I am dead, 
like those gringos that haunt the Azuera." 

Dr. Monygham twisted his lips into a bitter smile. 
After old Giorgio, with an almost imperceptible nod 
and without a word, had gone up the narrow stairs, he 
said : 

"Why, capataz! I thought you could never fail in 
anything." 

Nostromo, glancing contemptuously at the doctor, 
lingered in the doorway rolling a cigarette, then struck 

286 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

a match, and, after lighting it, held the burning piece 
of wood above his head till the flame nearly touched 
his fingers. 

"No wind!" he muttered to himself. "Look here, 
scnor do you know the nature of my undertaking?" 

Dr. Monygham nodded sourly. 

"It is as if I were taking a curse upon me, Seflor 
Doctor. A man with a treasure on this coast will 
have every knife raised against him in every place 
upon the shore. You see that, Sefior Doctor? I shall 
float along with a spell upon my life till I meet some- 
where the north-bound steamer of the company, and 
then indeed they will talk about the capataz of the Su- 
laco cargadores from one end of America to the other." 

Dr. Monygham laughed his short, throaty laugh. 
Nostromo turned roumi in the doorway. 

"But if your worship can find any other man ready 
and fit for such business I will stand back. I am not 
exactly tired of my life, though I am so poor that I 
can carry all I have with myself on my horse's back." 

"You gamble too much, and never say 'no' to a 
pretty face, capataz," said Dr. Monygham, with sly 
simplicity. "That's not the way to make a fortune. 
But nobody that I know ever suspected you of being 
poor. I hope you have made a good bargain in case 
you come back safe from this adventure." 

"What bargain would your worship have made?" 
asked Nostromo, blowing the smoke out of his lips 
through the doorway. 

Dr. Monygham listened up the staircase for a mo- 
ment before he answered, with another of his short, 
abrupt laughs: 

287 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

" Illustrious capataz, for taking the curse of death 
upon my back, as you call it, nothing else but the 
whole treasure would do." 

Nostromo vanished out of the doorway with a grunt 
of discontent at this jeering answer. Dr. Monygham 
heard him gallop away. He rode furiously in the 
dark. There were lights in the buildings of the O.S.N. 
Company near the wharf, but before he got there he 
met the Gould carriage. The horseman preceded it 
with the torch, whose light showed the white mules 
trotting, the portly Ignacio driving, and Basilic with 
the carbine at ready on the box. From the dark 
body of the landau Mrs. Gould's voice cried, "They 
are waiting for you, capataz!" She was returning, 
chilly and excited, with Decoud's note - book still 
held in her hand. He had confided it to her to send 
to his sister. "Perhaps my last words to her," he had 
said, pressing Mrs. Gould's hand. 

The capataz never checked his speed. At the head 
of the wharf vague figures with rifles leaped to the 
head of his horse; others closed upon him carga- 
dores of the company posted by Captain Mitchell on 
the watch. At a word from him they fell back with 
subservient murmurs, recognizing his voice. At the 
other end of the jetty, near a cargo-crane, in a dark 
group with glowing cigars, his name was pronounced 
in a tone of relief. Most of the Europeans in Sulaco 
were there, rallied round Charles Gould, as if the silver 
of the mine had been the emblem of a common cause, 
the symbol of the supreme importance of material in- 
terests. They had loaded it into the lighter with 
their own hands. Nostromo recognized Don Charles 

288 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

!il, a thin, tall shape, standing a little apart and 
silent, to whom another tall shape, the engineer -in- 
chief, said aloud, " If it must be lost, it is a million 
times better that it should go to the bottom of the 
sea." 

Martin Decoud called out from the lighter, "Au 
revoir, messieurs, till we clasp hands again over the 
new-born Occidental Republic." Only a subdued 
murmur responded to his clear, ringing tones; and then 
it seemed to him that the wharf was floating away 
into the night; but it was Nostromo, who was already 
pushing against a pile with one of the heavy sweeps. 
Decoud did not move; the effect was that of being 
launched into space. After a splash or two there 
was not a sound but the thud of Nostromo's feet leap- 
ing about the boat. He hoisted the big sail ; a breath 
of wind fanned Decoud 's cheek. Everything had 
vanished but the light of the lantern Captain Mitchell 
had hoisted upon the post at the end of the jetty to 
guide Nostromo out of the harbor. 

The two men, unable to see each other, kept silent 
till the lighter, slipping before the fitful breeze, passed 
out between almost invisible headlands into the still 
deeper darkness of the gulf. For a time the lantern 
on the jetty shone after them. The wind failed, then 
fanned up again, but so faintly that the big, half- 
decked boat slipped along with no more noise than if 
she had been suspended in the air. 

"We are out in the gulf now," said the calm voice 
of Nostromo. A moment after he added, "Seflor 
Mitchell has lowered the light." 

"Yes," said Decoud; "nobody can find us now." 
189 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

A great recrudescence of obscurity embraced the 
boat. The sea in the gulf was as black as the clouds 
above. Nostromo, after striking a couple of matches 
to get a glimpse of the boat-compass he had with him 
in the lighter, steered by the feel of the wind on his 
cheek. 

It was a new experience for Decoud, this myste- 
riousness of the great waters spread out strangely 
smooth, as if their restlessness had been crushed by 
the weight of that dense night. The Placido was 
sleeping profoundly under its black poncho. 

The main thing now for success was to get away 
from the coast and gain the middle of the gulf before 
day broke. The Isabels were somewhere at hand. 
"On your left as you look forward, seiior," said Nos- 
tromo, suddenly. When his voice ceased, the enor- 
mous stillness, without light or sound, seemed to affect 
Decoud's senses like a powerful drug. He didn't 
even know at times whether he were asleep or awake. 
Like a man lost in slumber, he heard nothing, he saw 
nothing. Even his hand held before his face did not 
exist for his eyes. The change from the agitation, 
the passions and the dangers, from the sights and 
sounds of the shore, was so complete that it would 
have resembled death had it not been for the survival 
of his thoughts. In this foretaste of eternal peace 
they floated vivid and light, like unearthly clear 
dreams of earthly things that may haunt the souls 
freed by death from the misty atmosphere of regrets 
and hopes. Decoud shook himself, shuddered a bit, 
though the air that drifted past him was warm. He 
had the strangest sensation of his soul having just 

290 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

returned into his body from the circumambient dark- 
ness in which land, sea, sky, the mountains and the 
rocks were as if they had not been. 

Nostromo's voice was speaking, though he, at the 
tiller, was also as if he were not. " Have you been 
asleep, Don Martin? Caramba! If it were possible 
I would think that I, too, have dozed off. I have a 
strange notion somehow of having dreamed that there 
was a sound of blubbering, a sound a sorrowing man 
could make, somewhere near this boat. Something 
between a sigh and a sob." 

"Strange," muttered Decoud, stretched upon the 
pile of treasure - boxes covered by many tarpaulins. 
"Could it be that there is another boat near us in the 
gulf? We could not see it, you know." 

Nostromo laughed a little at the absurdity of the 
idea. They dismissed it from their minds. The soli- 
tude could almost be felt. And when the breeze 
ceased, the blackness seemed to weigh upon Decoud 
like a stone. 

"This is overpowering," he muttered. "Do we 
move at all, capataz?" 

"Not so fast as a crawling beetle tangled in the 
grass," answered Nostromo, and his voice seemed 
deadened by the thick veil of obscurity that felt warm 
and hopeless all about them. There were long periods 
when he made no sound, invisible and inaudible as if 
he had mysteriously stepped out of the lighter. 

In the featureless night Nostromo was not even cer- 
tain whii-h way the lighter headed after the wind hud 
completely died out. He peered for the islands. There 
was not a hint of them to be seen, as if they had sunk 

391 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

to the bottom of the gulf. He threw himself down by 
the side of Decoud at last, and whispered into his ear 
that if daylight caught them near the Sulaco shore 
through want of wind, it would be possible to sweep 
the lighter behind the cliff at the high end of the Great 
Isabel, where she would lie concealed. Decoud was 
surprised at the grimness of his anxiety. To him the 
removal of the treasure was a political move. It was 
necessary for several reasons that it should not fall into 
the hands of Montero, but here was a man who took 
another view of this enterprise. The caballeros over 
there did not seem to have the slightest idea of what 
they had given him to do. Nostromo, as if affected by 
the gloom around, seemed nervously resentful. De- 
coud was surprised. The capataz, indifferent to those 
dangers that seemed obvious to his companion, al- 
lowed himself to become scornfully exasperated by the 
deadly nature of the trust put, as a matter of course, 
into his hands. It was more dangerous, Nostromo 
said, with a laugh and a curse, than sending a man to 
get the treasure that people said was guarded by devils 
and ghosts in the deep ravines of Azuera. "Senor," 
he said, "we must catch the steamer at sea. We must 
keep out in the open looking for her till we have eaten 
and drunk all that has been put on board here. And 
if we miss her by some mischance we must keep away 
from the land till we grow weak and perhaps mad, and 
die, and drift, dead, until one or another of the steamers 
of the Compania comes upon the boat with the two 
dead men who have saved the treasure. That, senor, 
is the only way to save it; for, don't you see, for us to 
come to the land anywhere in a hundred miles along 

292 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

this coast with this silver in our possession is to run 
the naked breast against the point of a knife. This 
thing has been given to me like a deadly disease. If 
men discover it I am dead, and you, too, senor, since 
you would come with me. There is enough silver 
to make a whole province rich, let alone a sea- 
board pueblo inhabited by thieves and vagabonds. 
Senor, they would think that Heaven itself sent these 
riches into their hands, and would cut our throats with- 
out hesitation. I would trust no fair words from the 
best man around the shores of this wild gulf. Reflect 
that even by giving up the treasure at the first de- 
mand we would not be able to save our lives. Do you 
understand this, or must I explain?" 

"No, you needn't explain," said Decoud, a -little 
listlessly. "I can sec it well enough myself, that the 
possession of so much treasure is very much like a 
deadly disease for men situated as we are. But it had 
to be removed from Sulaco, and you were the man for 
the task." 

"I was. But I cannot believe," said Nostromo, 
"that its loss would have impoverished Don Carlos 
Gould very much. There is more wealth in the moun- 
tain. I have heard it rolling down the shoots on quiet 
nights when I used to ride to Rincon to see a certain 
girl, after my work at the harbor was done. For 
years the rich rocks have been pouring down with a 
noise like thunder, and the miners say that there is 
enough at the heart of the mountain to thunder on for 
years and years to come. And yet, the day before yes- 
terday, we have been fighting to save it from the mob, 
and to-night I am sent out with it into this darkness 

293 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

where there is no wind to get away with, as if it were 
the last lot of silver on earth to get bread for the hun- 
gry with. Ha! ha! Well, I am going to make it the 
most famous and desperate affair of my life wind or 
no wind. It shall be talked about when the little chil- 
dren are grown up and the grown men are old. Aha! 
the Monterists must not get hold of it, I am told, what- 
ever happens to Nostromo the capataz ; and they shall 
not have it, I tell you, since it has been tied for safety 
round Nostromo's neck." 

" I see it," murmured Decoud. He saw, indeed, that 
his companion had his own peculiar view of this en- 
terprise. 

Nostromo interrupted his reflections upon the way 
men's qualities are made use of without any funda- 
mental knowledge of their nature, by the proposal 
that they should slip the long oars out and sweep the 
lighter in the direction of the Isabels. It wouldn't do 
for daylight to reveal the treasure floating within a 
mile or so of the harbor entrance. The denser the 
darkness generally, the smarter were the pruffs of wind 
on which he had reckoned to make his way; but to- 
night the gulf under its poncho of clouds remained 
breathless, as if dead rather than asleep. 

Don Martin's soft hands suffered cruelly, tugging at 
the thick handle of the enormous oar. He stuck to it 
manfully, setting his teeth. He, too, was in the toils of 
an imaginative existence, and that strange work of 
pulling a lighter seemed to belong naturally to the in- 
ception of a new state, acquired an ideal meaning from 
his love for Antonia. For all their efforts the heavily 
laden lighter hardly moved. Nostromo could be heard 

294 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

swearing to himself between the regular splashes of the 
sweeps. "We are making a crooked path," he mut- 
tered to himself. "I wish I could see the islands." 

In his unskilfulness Don Martin overexerted himself. 
Now and then a sort of muscular faintness would run 
from the tips of his aching fingers through every fibre 
of his body and pass off in a flush of heat. He had 
fought, talked, suffered mentally and physically, exert- 
ing his mind and body for the last forty-eight hours 
without intermission. He had had no rest, very little 
food, no pause in the stress of his thoughts and his 
feelings. Even his love for Antonia, whence he drew 
his strength and his inspiration, had reached the 
point of tragic tension during their hurried interview 
by Don Jose"s bedside. And now, suddenly, he was 
thrown out of all this into a dark gulf whose very 
gloom, silence, and breathless peace added a torment 
to the necessity for physical exertion. He imagined 
the lighter sinking to the bottom with an extraordinary 
shudder of delight. "I am on the verge of delirium," 
he thought. He mastered the trembling of all his 
limbs, of his breast, the inward trembling of all his 
body, exhausted of its nervous force. 

"Shall we rest, capataz?" he proposed, in a careless 
tone. " There are many hours of night yet before us." 

"True. It is but a mile or so, I suppose. Rest 
your arms, seflor, if that is what you mean. You will 
find no other sort of rest, I can promise you, since you 
let yourself be bound to this treasure whose loss would 
make no poor man poorer. No, senor; there is no rest 
till we find a north-bound steamer, or else some ship 
finds us drifting about stretched out dead upon the 

295 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

Englishman's silver. Or, rather no, por Dios! I shall 
cut down the gunwale with the axe right to the 
water's edge before thirst and hunger rob me of my 
strength. By all the saints and devils, I shall let the 
sea have the treasure rather than give it up to any 
stranger. Since it was the good pleasure of the cabal- 
leros to send me off on such an errand, they shall learn 
I am just the man they take me for." 

Decoud lay on the silver-boxes panting. All his ac- 
tive sensations and feelings, from as far back as he 
could remember, seemed to him the maddest of dreams. 
Even his passionate devotion to Antonia, into which he 
had worked himself up out of the depths of his scep- 
ticism, had lost all appearance of reality. For a mo- 
ment he was the prey of an extremely languid but not 
unpleasant indifference. 

" I am sure they didn't mean you to take such a des- 
perate view of this affair," he said. 

"What was it then? A joke?" snarled the man 
who, on the pay-sheets of the O.S.N. Company's es- 
tablishment in Sulaco, was described as "Foreman of 
the wharf" against the figure of his wages. "Was it 
for a joke that they woke me up from my sleep after 
two days of street fighting to make me stake my life 
upon a bad card ? Everybody knows, too, that I am 
not a lucky gambler." 

"Yes, everybody knows of your good luck with 
women, capataz," Decoud propitiated his companion, 
in a weary drawl. 

"Look here, senor," Nostromo went on, "I never 
even remonstrated about, this affair. Directly I heard 
what was wanted I saw what a desperate affair it must 

296 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

be, and I made up my mind to see it out. Every min- 
ute was of importance. I had to wait for you first. 
Then, when we arrived at the Italia Una, old Giorgio 
shouted to me to go for the English doctor. Later on 
ihat poor dying woman wanted to see me, as you know, 
r, I was reluctant to go. I felt already this cursed 
Btver growing heavy upon my back, and I was afraid 
feat, knowing herself to be dying, she would ask me 
to ride off again for a priest. Father Corbelan, who 
is fearless, would have come at a word, but Father Cor- 
belan is far away safe, with the band of Hernandez, and 
me populace that would have liked to tear him to 
Beces are much incensed against the priests. Not a 
tingle fat padre would have consented to put his head 
out of his hiding-place to-night to save a Christian 
soul except, perhaps, under my protection. That was 
in her mind. I pretended I did not believe she was 
going to die. Sertor, I refused to fetch a priest for a 
dyin^ woman . . ." 

Decoud was heard to stir. 

"You did, capataz!" he exclaimed. His tone 
changed. "Well, you know it was rather fine." 
"You do not believe in priests, Don Martin? Neither 
do I. What was the use of wasting time? But she 
she believes in them. The thing sticks in my throat. 
She may be dead already, and here we are floating help- 
Hi with no wind at all. Curse on all superstition. 
Ht died thinking I deprived her of paradise, I suppose. 
It shall be the most desperate affair of my life." 

Decoud remained lost in reflection. He tried to 
analyze the sensations awakened by what he had been 
told. The voice of the capataz was heard again. 

297 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

"Now, Don Martin, let us take up the sweeps and 
try to find the Isabels. It is either that or sinking the 
lighter if the day overtakes us. We must not forget 
that the steamer from Esmeralda with the soldiers may 
be coming along. We will pull straight on now. I 
have discovered a bit of a candle here, and we must 
take the risk of a small light to make a course by the 
boat - compass. There is not enough wind to blow it 
out may the curse of Heaven fall upon this blind 
gulf." 

A small flame appeared burning quite straight. It 
showed fragmentally the stout ribs and planking in the 
hollow, empty part of the lighter. Decoud could see I 
Nostromo standing up to pull. He saw him as high as 
the red sash on his waist, with a gleam of a white- 1 
handled revolver and the wooden haft of a long knife 
protruding on his left side. Decoud nerved himself for 
the effort of rowing. Certainly there was not enough 
wind to blow the candle out, but its flame swayed a 
little to the slow movement of the heavy boat. It was 
so big that with their utmost efforts they could not 
move it quicker than about a mile an hour. This was 
sufficient, however, to sweep them among the Isabels 
long before daylight came. There was a good six 
hours of darkness before them, and the distance from! 
the harbor to the Great Isabel did not exceed two! 
miles. Decoud put this heavy toil to the account ofl 
the capataz's impatience. Sometimes they paused, f 
and then both strained their ears to hear the boat from 
Esmeralda. In this perfect quietness a steamer mov-j 
ing would have been heard from far off. As to seeing! 
anything, it was out of the question. They could not| 

298 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

see each other. Kvm the lighter's sail, which remained 
set, was invisible. Very often they rested. 

"Caramba!" said Nostromo, suddenly, during one of 
those intervals when they lolled idly against the heavy 
handles of the sweeps. "What is it? Are you dis- 
ed, Don Martin?" 

Decoud assured him that he was not distressed in 
the least. Nostromo for a time kept perfectly still, and 
then in a whisper invited Martin to come aft. 

With his lips touching Decoud's ear, he declared his 
belief that there was somebody else besides themselves 
upon the lighter. Twice now he had heard the sound 
of stifled sobbing. "Seflor," he whispered, with awed 
wonder, " I am certain that there is somebody weeping 
on this lighter." 

Decoud had heard nothing. He expressed his in- 
credulity. However, it was easy to ascertain the truth 
of the matter. 

" It is most amazing!" muttered Nostromo. "Could 
anybody have concealed himself on board while the 
lighter was lying alongside the wharf?" 

"And you say it was like sobbing?" asked Decoud, 
lowering his voice, too. " If he is weeping, whoever he 
is, he cannot be very dangerous." 

Clambering over the precious pile in the middle, they 
crouched low on the fore side of the mast and groped 
under the half-deck. Right forward, in the narrowest 
part, their hands came upon the limbs of a man who 
remained as silent as death. Too startled themselves to 
make a sound, they dragged him aft by one arm and 
the collar of his coat. He was limp, lifeless. 

The light of the bit of candle fell upon a round, hook- 

ao 299 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 



nosed face with black mustaches and little side-whis- 
kers. He was extremely dirty. A greasy growth of 
beard was sprouting on the shaven parts of the cheeks. 
The thick lips were slightly parted, but the eyes re- 
mained closed. Decoud, to his immense astonishment, 
recognized Senor Hirsch, the hide-merchant from Es- 
meralda. Nostromo, too, had recognized him; and 
they gazed at each other across that body lying with 
its naked feet higher than its head in an absurd pre- 
tence of sleep, faintness, or death. 



VIII 

FOR a moment, before this extraordinary find, 
they forgot their own concerns and sensations. 
Bettor Hirsch's sensations as he lay there must have 
been those of extreme terror. For a long time he re- 
nsed to give a sign of life, till at last Decoud's objur- 
gations and, perhaps more, Nostromo's impatient sug- 
gestion that he should be thrown overboard, as he 
seemed to be dead, induced him to raise one eyelid 
first and then the other. 

I It appeared that he had never found a safe oppor- 
tunity to leave Sulaco. He lodged with Anzani, the 
universal store-keeper on the Plaza Mayor. But when 
the riot broke out he had made his escape from his 
ost's house before daylight, and in such a hurry that 
be had forgotten to put on his shoes. He had run 
out impulsively in his socks, and with his hat in his 
hand, into the garden of Anzani's house. Fear gave 
him the necessary agility to climb over several low 
walls, and afterwards he blundered into the over- 
grown cloisters of the ruined Franciscan convent in one 
of the by-streets. He forced himself into the midst of 
matted bushes with the recklessness of desperation, 
and this accounted for his scratched body and his torn 
clothing. He lay hidden there all day, his tongue 
eaving to the roof of his mouth with all the intensity 
of thirst engendered by heat and fear. Three times 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

different bands of men invaded the place with shouts 
and imprecations looking for Father Corbelan, but 
towards the evening, still lying on his face in the bushes, 
he thought he would die from the fear of silence. He 
was not very clear as to what had induced him to leave 
the place, but evidently he had got out and slunk suc- 
cessfully out of town along the deserted back lanes. 
He wandered in the darkness near the railway, so 
maddened by apprehension that he dared not even 
approach the fires of the pickets of Italian workmen 
guarding the line. He had a vague idea evidently of 
finding refuge in the railway-yards, but the dogs rushed 
upon him barking, men began to shout, a shot was fi 
at random. He fled away from the gates. By 
merest accident, as it happened, he took the direct! 
of the O.S.N. Company's offices. Twice he stumb 
upon the bodies of men killed during the day. B 
everything living frightened him much more, 
crouched, crept, crawled, made dashes guided by a so 
of animal instinct, keeping away from every light an 
from every sound of voices. His idea was to thro 
himself at the feet of Captain Mitchell and beg fo 
shelter in the company's offices. It was all dark then 
as he approached on his hands and knees, but sudde 
some one on guard challenged loudly, "Quien vive? 
There were more dead men lying about, and he fla 
tened himself down at once by the side of a cold corpse. 
He heard a voice saying, " Here is one of those wound 
rascals crawling about. Shall I go and finish him?" 
And another voice objected that it was not safe to 
out without a lantern upon such an errand. Perha 
it was only some negro Liberal looking for a chance 

302 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

^t ; k a knife into the sti-ina^h of an honest man. 

ncli didn't stay to hear any more, but, crawling 
the end of the wharf, hid himself among a lot 
of empty casks. After a while some i>eople came 
along talking and with glowing cigarettes. He did 
stop to ask himself whether they would l>e likely 
to do him any harm, but bolted incontinently along 
B jetty, saw a lighter lying moored at the end, and 
threw himself into it. In his desire to find cover he 
Ctept right forward under the halt-deck, and he had re- 
mained there more dead than alive, suffering agonies 
of hunger and thirst, and almost fainting with terror 
when he heard numerous footsteps and the voices of 
mt Europeans, who came in a body escorting the wagon- 
Bad of treasure pushed along the rails by a squad of 
cargadores. He understood perfectly what was being 
me from the talk, but did not disclose his presence 
Bom the fear that he would not be allowed to re- 
main. His only idea at the time, overpowering and 
asterful, was to get away from this terrible Sulaco. 
Bid now he regretted it very much. He had heard 
Hostromo talk to Decoud and wished himself back 
on shore. He did not desire to be involved in 
any desperate affair in a situation where one could 
not run away. The involuntary groans of his an- 
guished spirit had betrayed him to the sharp ears of 
.ipataz. 

They had propped him up in a sitting posture against 
the side of the lighter, and he went on with the moan- 
jg account of his adventures till his voice broke, his 
bead fell forward. "Water," he whispered, with dif- 
ficulty. Decoud held one of the cans to his lips. He 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

revived after an extraordinarily short time and scram- 
bled up to his feet wildly. Nostromo, in an angry and 
threatening voice, ordered him forward. Hirsch was 
one of those men whom fear lashes like a whip, and he 
must have had an appalling idea of the capataz's 
ferocity. He displayed an extraordinary agility in 
disappearing forward into the darkness. They heard 
him getting over the tarpaulin; then there was the 
sound of a heavy fall followed by a weary sigh. After- 
wards all was still in the fore part of the lighter, as 
though he had killed himself in his headlong tumble. 
Nostromo shouted in a menacing voice: 

"Lie still there! Do not move a limb! If I hear 
as much as a loud breath from you I shall come over 
there and put a bullet through your head!" 

The mere presence of a coward, however passive, 
brings an element of treachery into a dangerous situa- 
tion. Nostromo's nervous impatience passed into 
gloomy thoughtfulness. Decoud, in an undertone, 
if speaking to himself, remarked that, after all, t 
bizarre event made no great difference. He could not 
conceive what harm the man could do. At most 
would be in the way, like an inanimate and usel 
object like a block of wood, for instance. 

"I would think twice before getting rid of a pi 
of wood," said Nostromo, calmly. "Something ma 
happen unexpectedly where you could make use of it. 
But in an affair like ours a man like this ought to 
thrown overboard. Even if he were as brave as 
lion we would not want him here. We are not run 
ning away for our lives. Sefior, there is no ha 
in a brave man trying to save himself with ingenui 

304 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

Courage; but you have heard his tale, Don Martin. 
11 heinn hero is a miracle of fear " Nostromo 
paused. "There is no room for fear in this lighter," 
he added, through his teeth. 

Decoud had no answer to make. It was not a posi- 
tion for argument, for a display of scruples or feelings. 
There were a thousand ways in which a panic-stricken 
man could make himself dangerous. It was evident 
that Hirsch could not be spoken to, reasoned with, or 
persuaded into a rational line of conduct. The story 
of his own escape demonstrated that clearly enough. 
Decoud thought that it was a thousand pities the 
wretch had not died of fright. Nature, who had made 
him what he was, seemed to have calculated cruelly 
how much he could bear in the way of atrocious an- 
guish without actually expiring. Some compassion 
was due to so much terror. Decoud, though imagi- 
native enough for sympathy, resolved not to inter- 
tVrc- with any action that Nostromo would take. But 
Nostromo did nothing. And the fate of Senor Hirsch 
remained suspended in the darkness of the gulf, at the 
mercy of events which could not be foreseen. 

The capataz, extending his hand, put out the candle 
suddenly. It was to Decoud as if his companion had 
destroyed by a single touch the world of affairs, of 
loves, of revolution, where his complacent superiority 
analyzed fearlessly all motives and all passions, in- 
cluiling his own. 

He gasped a little. Decoud was affected by the 
novelty of his position. Intellectually self-confident, 
he suffered from being deprived of the only weapon 
he could use with effect. No intelligence could pene- 

305 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

trate the darkness of the placid gulf. There remain- 
ed only one thing he was certain of, and that was 
the overweening vanity of his companion. It was 
direct, uncomplicated, naive, and effectual. Decoud, 
who had been making use of him, had tried to under- 
stand his man thoroughly. He had discovered a com- 
plete singleness of motive behind the varied manifesta- 
tions of a consistent character. This was why the 
man remained so astonishingly simple in the jealous 
greatness of his conceit. And now there was a com- 
plication. It was evident that he resented having 
been given a task in which there were so many chances 
of failure. "I wonder," thought Decoud, "how he 
would behave if I were not here." 

He heard Nostromo mutter again, "No! There is 
no room for fear on this lighter. Courage itself does 
not seem good enough. I have a good eye and a steady 
hand; no man can say he ever saw me tired, or uncer- 
tain what to do; but, por Dios, Don Martin, I have been 
sent out into this black calm on a business where 
neither a good eye nor a steady hand nor judgment 
are any use. ..." He swore a string of oaths in Span- 
ish and Italian under his breath. "Nothing but sheer 
desperation will do for this affair." 

These words were in strange contrast to the pre- 
vailing peace, to this almost solid stillness of the gulf. 
A shower fell with an abrupt, whispering sound all 
around the boat, and Decoud took off his hat, and, let- 
ting his head get wet, felt greatly refreshed. Pres- 
ently a steady little draught of air caressed his cheek. 
The lighter began to move, but the shower distanced 
it. The drops ceased to fall upon his head and hands, 

306 



Nostromo; A Tale of the Seaboard 

tho whispering died out in the distance. Nostromo 
emitu-il a grunt of satisfaction, and, grasping the tiller, 
chirruped softly, as sailors do, to encourage the wind. 
Never for the last three days had Decoud felt less the 
need for what the capataz would call desperation. 

" I fancy I hear another shower on the water," he 
observed, in a tone of quiet content. "I hope it will 
catrh us up." 

Nostromo ceased chirruping at once. "You hear 
another shower?" he said, doubtfully. A sort of thin- 
ning of the darkness seemed to have taken place, and 
Decoud could see now the outline of his companion's 
figure, and even the sail came out of the night like a 
square block of dense shadow. 

The sound which Decoud had detected came along 
the water harshly. Nostromo recognized that noise, 
partaking of a hiss and a rustle which spreads out on 
all sides of a steamer making her way through smooth 
water on a quiet night. It could be nothing else but 
the captured transport with troops from Esmeralda. 
She carried no lights. The noise of her steaming, 
growing louder every minute, would stop at times al- 
together, and then begin again abruptly and sound 
start lingly nearer, as if that invisible vessel, whose 
position could not be precisely guessed, were making 
straight for the lighter. Meantime, that last kept on 
sailing slowly and noiselessly before a breeze so faint 
that it was only by leaning over the side and feeling 
the water slip through his fingers that Decoud con- 
vinced himself they were moving at all. His drowsy 
feeling had departed. He was glad to know that the 
lighter was moving. After so much stillness the noise 

307 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

of the steamer seemed uproarious and distracting. 
There was a weirdness in not being able to see her. 
Suddenly all was still. She had stopped, but so close 
to them that the steam blowing off sent its rumbling 
vibration right over their heads. 

"They are trying to make out where they are," said 
Decoud, in a whisper. Again he leaned over and put 
his fingers into the water. "We are moving quite 
smartly," he informed Nostromo. 

"We seem to be crossing their bows," said the 
capataz, in a cautious tone. "But this is a blind 
game with death. Moving on is of no use. We 
mustn't be seen or heard." 

His whisper was hoarse with excitement. Of all 
his face there was nothing visible bxit a gleam of white 
eyeballs. His fingers gripped Decoud 's shoulder. 
"That is the only way to save this treasure from this 
steamer full of soldiers. Any other would have car- 
ried lights. But you observe there is not a gleam to 
show us where she is." Decoud stood as if paralyzed; 
only his thoughts were wildly active. In the space of 
a second he remembered the desolate glance of An- 
tonia as he left her a.t the bedside of her father, in 
the gloomy house of Avellanos, with shuttered win- 
dows, but all the doors standing open, and deserted 
by all the servants except an old negro at the gate. 
He remembered the Casa Gould on his last visit; the 
arguments, the tones of his voice, the impenetrable 
attitude of Charles; Mrs. Gould's face, so blanched 
with anxiety and fatigue that her eyes seemed to have 
changed color, appearing nearly black by contrast. 
Even whole sentences of the proclamation which he 

308 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

meant to make Barrios issue from his headquarters 
at Cayta, as soon as he got there, passed through his 
mind; the very germ of the new state, the Separation- 

roclamation which he had tried before he left to 
hurriedly to Don Jose\ stretched out on his bed 
under the fixed gaze of his daughter. God knows 
whether the old statesman had understood it; he was 
unuble to speak, but he had certainly lifted his arm 
off the coverlet; his hand had moved as if to make 
the sign of the cross in the air, a gesture of bless- 
ing, of consent. Decoud had that very draft in his 
pocket, written in pencil on several loose sheets of 
paper, with the heavily printed heading. "Adminis- 
tration of the San Tomd Silver Mine. Sulaco. Re- 
public of Costaguana." He had written it furiously, 
snatching page after page on Charles Gould's table. 
Mrs. Gould had looked several times over his shoulder 
as he wrote; but the Seflor Administrador, standing 
strai Idle-legged, would not even glance at it when it 
was finished. He had waved it away firmly. It must 
have been scorn, and not caution, since he never made 
a remark about the use of the administration's paper 
for such a compromising document. And that showed 

lisdain, the true English disdain of common pru- 
dence, as if everything outside the range of their own 
thoughts and feelings were unworthy of serious recog- 
nition. Decoud had the time in a second or two to 
become furiously angry with Charles Gould, and even 
resentful against Mrs. Gould, in whose care, tacitly it 
is true, he had left the safety of Antonia. Better per- 

i thousand times than owe your preservation to 
such people, he exclaimed mentally. The grip of 

39 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

Nostromo's fingers, never removed from his shoulder, 
tightening fiercely, recalled him to himself. 

"The darkness is our friend," the capataz mur- 
mured into his ear. "I am going to lower the sail, 
and trust our escape to this black gulf. No eyes could 
make \is out lying silent with a naked mast. I will 
do it now, before this steamer closes still more upon 
us. The faint creak of a block would betray us and 
the San Tome treasure into the hands of those thieves." 

He moved about as warily as a cat. Decoud heard 
no sound ; and it was only by the disappearance of the 
square blotch of darkness that he knew the yard had 
come down, lowered as carefully as if it had been made 
of glass. Next moment he heard Nostromo's quiet 
breathing by his side. 

"You had better not move at all from where you 
are, Don Martin," advised the capataz, earnestly. 
"You might stumble or displace something which 
would make a noise. The sweeps and the punting- 
poles are lying about. Move not for your life. . . . For 
Dios, Don Martin," he went on, in a keen but friendly 
whisper, "I am so desperate that if I didn't know your 
worship to be a man of courage, capable of standing 
stock-still whatever happens, I would drive my knife 
into your heart." 

A death-like stillness surrounded the lighter. It 
was difficult to believe that there was near a steamer 
full of men, with many pairs of eyes peering from her 
bridge for some hint of land in the night. Her steam 
h;i<l ceased blowing off and she remained stopped, tool 
far off, apparently, for any other sound to reach the j 
lighter. 

310 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

" Perhaps you would, capataz," Decoud began, in a 
whisper. "However, you need not trouble. There 
arc other things than the fear of your knife to keep 
my heart steady. It shall not betray you. Only, have 
you forgotten " 

1 I spoke to you openly, as to a man as desperate 
as myself," explained the capataz. "The silver must 
be saved from the Montcrists. I told Captain Mitchell 
three times that I preferred to go alone. I told Don 
Carlos Gould, too. It was in the Casa Gould. They 
ha<l sent for me. The ladies were there; and when I 
tried to explain why I did not wish to have you with 
me they promised me hth of them, great rewards 
f<-r your safety. A strange way to talk to a man you 
are sending out to an almost certain death. Those 
gentlefolk do not seem to have sense enough to under- 
stand what they are giving one to do. I told them I 
could do nothing for you. You would have been 
safer with the 1 .audit Hernandez. It would have been 
Hprible to ride out of the town with no greater risk 
than a chance shot sent after you in the dark. But 
it was as if they had been deaf. I had to promise I 
would wait for you under the harbor gate. I did wait 
And now, liccause you are a brave man, you are as 
tafe as the silver. Neither more nor less." 
; At that moment, as if by way of comment upon 
Nostromo's words, the invisible steamer went ahead, 
at half-speed only, as could l>c judged by the leisurely 
beat of her propeller. The sound shifted its place 
markedly, hut without coming nearer. It even grew 
a little more distant right abeam of the lighter, and 
then ceased again. 

3" 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

"They are trying for a sight of the Isabels," mut- 
tered Nostromo, "in order to make for the harbor in a 
straight line, and seize the custom-house with the 
treasure in it. Have you ever seen the Comandante 
of Esmeralda, Sotillo? A handsome fellow with a soft 
voice. When I first came here I used to see him in 
the calle talking to the senoritas at the windows of 
the houses, and showing his white teeth all the time. 
But one of my cargadores, who had been a soldier, 
told me that he had once ordered a man to be flayed 
alive in the remote Campo, where he was sent re- 
cruiting among the people of the Estancias. It has 
never entered his head that the compania had a man 
capable of baffling his game." 

The murmuring loquacity of the capataz disturbed 
Decoud like a hint of weakness. And yet talkative 
resolution may be as genuine as grim silence. 

"Sotillo is not baffled so far," he said. "Have you 
forgotten that crazy man forward?" 

Nostromo had not forgotten Senor Hirsch. He re- 
proached himself bitterly for not having visited the 
lighter carefully before leaving the wharf. He re- 
proached himself for not having stabbed and flung 
him overboard at the very moment of discovery with- 
out even looking at his face. That would have been 
consistent with the desperate character of the affair. 
Whatever happened, Sotillo was already baffled. Even 
if that wretch, now as silent as death, did anything 
to betray the nearness of the lighter, Sotillo if Sotillo 
it was in command of the troops on board would be 
still baffled of his plunder. 

"I have an axe in my hand," Nostromo whispered. 
312 



Nn.stromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

wrathfully, "that in three strokes would cut through 
tlu- side down to the water's edge. Moreover, each 
lighter has a plu^ in the stern and I know exactly 
whore it is. I feel it under the sole of my foot." 

< oud recognized the ring of genuine determina- 
tion in the nervous murmurs, the vindictive excite- 
ment of the famous capataz. Before the steamer, 
guided by a shriek or two (for there could be no more 
than that, Nostromo said, gnashing his teeth audibly), 
could find the lighter there would be plenty of time 

:nk this treasure tied up round his neck. 
The last words he hissed into Decoud's ear. Decoud 
said nothing. He was perfectly convinced. The usual 
characteristic quietness of the man was gone. It 
was not equal to the situation as he conceived it. 
Something ^pyppr, cnmothinp iin.s"spe,c,faffr .b^y evprv 

i i:t ,i rnrflf ^p the i surface^ Decoud, with careful 
movements, slipped off his overcoat and divested him- 
self ol his boots; he did not consider himself bound in 
honor to sink with the treasure. His object w?s to 
get down to Barrios in Cayta, as the capataz knew 

well; and he, too, meant in his own way to put 
into that attempt all the desperation of which he was 
capable. Nostromo muttered, "True, true! You are 
a politician, seflor. Rejoin the army and start an- 
other revolution." He pointed out, however, that 
there was a little boat belonging to every lighter fit to 
carry two men if not more. Theirs was towing behind. 
Of that Decoud had not been aware. Of course it 

too dark to see, and it was only when Nostromo 
put his hand upon its painter fastened to a cleat in 
the stern that he experienced a full measure of relief. 

3'3 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

The prospect of finding himself in the water and swim- 
ming, overwhelmed by ignorance and da/kness, prob- 
ably in a circle, till he sank from exhaustion, was re- 
volting. The barren and cruel futility of such an end 
intimidated his affectation of careless pessimism. In 
comparison to it, the chance of being left floating in a 
boat exposed to thirst, hunger, discovery, imprison- 
ment, execution, presented itself with an aspect of 
amenity worth securing even at the cost of some self- 
contempt. He did not accept Nostromo's proposal 
that he should get into the boat at once. "Something 
sudden may overwhelm us, senor," the capataz re- 
marked, promising faithfully* at the same tin:e to let 
go the painter at the moment when the necessity be- 
came manifest. 

But Decoud assured him lightly that he did not 
mean to take to the boat till the very last moment, 
and that then he meant the capataz to come along, 
too. The darkness of the gulf was no longer for him 
the end of all things. It was part of a living world, 
since, pervading it, failure and death could be felt at 
your elbow. And at the same time it was a shelter. 
He exulted in its impenetrable obscurity. "Like a 
wall like a wall," he muttered to himself. 

The only thing which checked his confidence was 
the thought of Senor Hirsch. Not to have bound 
and gagged him seemed to Decoud now the height of 
improvident folly. As long as the miserable creature 
had the power to raise a yell, he was a constant dan- 
ger. His abject terror was mute now, but there was 
no saying from what cause it might suddenly find vent 
in shrieks. 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

This very madness of fear which both Decoud and 
Nostromo had seen in the wild and irrational glances, 
and in the continuous twitchings of his mouth, pro- 
tected Seflor Hirsch from the cruel necessities of this 
desperate affair. The moment of silencing him for- 
ever had passed. As Nostromo remarked in answer 
to Decoud's regrets, it was too late! It could not be 
done without noise, especially in the ignorance of the 
man's exact position. Wherever he had elected to 
crouch and tremble, it was too hazardous to go near 
him. He would begin, probably, to yell for mercy. 
It was much better to leave him quite alone, since he 
was keeping so still. But to trust to his silence be- 
came every moment a greater strain upon Decoud's 
composure. 

" I wish, capataz, you had not let the right moment 
pass," he murmured. 

"What? To silence him forever! I thought it 
good to hear first how he came to be here. It was too 
strange. Who could imagine that it was all an acci- 
dent. Afterwards, sefior, when I saw you giving him 
water to drink I could not do it. Not after I had seen 
you holding up the can to his lips, as though he were 
your brother. Serior, that sort of necessity must not 
be thought of too long. And yet it would have been 
no cruelty to take away from him his wretched life. 
It is nothing but fear. Your compassion saved him 
then, Don Martin, and now it is too late. It couldn't 
be done without noise." 

In the steamer they were keeping a perfect silence, 
and the stillness was so profound that Decoud felt as 
if the slightest sound conceivable must travel un- 

315 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

checked and audible to the end of the world. What 
if Hirsch coughed or sneezed. To feel himself at the 
mercy of such an idiotic contingency was too exas- 
perating to be looked upon with irony. Nostromo, 
too, seemed to be getting restless. Was it possible, he 
asked himself, that the steamer, finding the night too 
dark altogether, intended to remain stopped where 
she was till daylight ? He began to think that this, 
after all, was the real danger. He was afraid that the 
darkness which was his protection would in the end 
cause his undoing. 

Sotillo, as Nostromo had surmised, was in command 
on board the transport. The events of the last forty- 
eight hours in Sulaco were not known to him; neither 
was he aware that the telegraphist in Esmeralda had 
managed to warn his colleague in Sulaco. Like a good 
many officers of the troops garrisoning the province, 
Sotillo had been influenced in his adoption of the Ri- 
bierist cause by the belief that it had the enormous 
wealth of the Gould Concession on its side. He had 
been one of the frequenters of the Casa Gould, where 
he had aired his Blanco convictions and his ardor for 
reform before Don Jose Avellanos, casting frank, hon- 
est glances towards Mrs. Gould and Antonia the while. 
He was known to belong to a good family, persecuted 
and impoverished during the tyranny of Guzman 
Bento. The opinions he expressed appeared eminent- 
ly natural and proper in a man of his parentage and 
antecedents. And he was not a deceiver; it was per- 
fectly natural for him to express elevated sentiments 
while his whole faculties were taken up with what 
seemed then a solid and practical notion the notion 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

the husband of Antonia Avellanos would be nat- 
urally the intimate friend of the Gould Concession. 
He even pointed this out to Anzani once when nego- 
tiating the sixth or seventh small loan in the gloomy, 
damp apartment, with enormous iron bars, behind the 
principal shop in the whole row under the arcades. 
He hinted to the universal shopkeeper at the excellent 
terms he was on with the emancipated seflorita, who 
was like a sister to the Englishwoman. He would ad- 
vance one leg and put his arms akimbo, posing for 
Anzani's inspection and fixing him with a haughty 
stare. 

"Look, miserable shopkeeper! How can a man like 
me fail with any woman, let alone an emancipated girl 
living in scandalous freedom?" he seemed to say. 

His manner in the Casa Gould was, of course, very 
different, devoid of all truculence and even slightly 
mournful. Like most of his countrymen, he was car- 
ried away by the sound of fine words, especially if ut- 
tered by himself. He had no convictions of any sort 
upon anything except as to the irresistible power of his 
personal advantages. But that was so firm that even 
Decoud's appearance in Sulaco and his intimacy with 
the Goulds and the Avellanos, did not disquiet him. 
On the contrary, he tried to make friends with that 
ric-h Costaguanero from Europe in the hope of bor- 
rowing a large sum by-and-by. The only guiding mo- 
tive of his life was to get money for the satisfaction 
of his expensive tastes, which he indulged recklessly, 
having no self-control. He imagined himself a master 
of intrigue, but his corruption was as simple as an 
animal instinct. At times, in solitude, he had his 

3'7 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

moments of ferocity, and also on such occasions as, 
for instance, when alone in a room with Anzani trying 
to get a loan. 

He had talked himself into the command of the 
Esmeralda garrison. That small seaport had its im- 
portance as the station of the main submarine cable 
connecting the Occidental provinces with the outer 
world, and the junction with it of the Sulaco branch. 
Don Jose" Avellanos proposed him, and Barrios, with 
a rude and jeering guffaw, had said, "Oh, let Sotillo 
go. He is a very good man to keep guard over the 
cable, and the ladies of Esmeralda ought to have their 
turn." Barrios, an indubitably brave man, had no 
great opinion of Sotillo. 

It was through the Esmeralda cable alone that the 
San Tome" mine could be kept in constant touch with 
the great financier, whose tacit approval made the 
strength of the Ribierist movement. This movement 
had its adversaries even there. Sotillo governed Es- 
meralda with repressive severity till the adverse course 
of events upon the distant theatre of civil war forced 
upon him the reflection that, after all, the great silver- 
mine was fated to become the spoil of the victors. 
But caution was necessary. He began by assuming 
a dark and mysterious attitude towards the faithful 
Ribierist municipality of Esmeralda. Later on, the 
information that the comandante was holding assem- 
blies of officers in the dead of night (which had leaked 
out somehow) caused those gentlemen to neglect their 
c-ivil duties altogether and remain shut up in their 
houses. Suddenly, one day, all the letters from Sulaco 
by the overland courier were carried off by a file of 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

soldiers from the post-office to the comandancia, 
without disguise, concealment, or apology. Sotillo 
had heard through Cayta of the final defeat of Ribiera. 

This was the first open sign of the change in his con- 
victions. Presently notorious democrats, who had 
been living till then in constant fear of arrest, leg-irons, 
and even floggings, could be observed going in and 
out at the great door of the comandancia, where the 
horses of the orderlies doze under their heavy saddles, 
while the men, in ragged uniforms and pointed straw 
hats, lounge on a bench with their naked feet stuck 
out beyond the strip of shade, and a sentry in a red 
baize coat, with holes at the elbows, stands at the top 
of the steps glaring haughtily at the common people, 
who uncover their heads to him as they pass. 

Sotillo's ideas did not soar above the care for his per- 
sonal safety and the chance of plundering the town 
in his charge, but he feared that such a late adhesion 
would earn but scant gratitude from the victors. He 
h:il believed just a little too long in the power of the 
San Tome" mine. The seized correspondence had con- 
firmed his previous information of a large amount of 
silver ingots lying in the Sulaco custom-house. To 
gain possession of it would be a clear Monterist move; 
a sort of service that would have to be rewarded. With 
the silver in his hands he could make terms for him- 
self and his soldiers. He was aware neither of the 
riots nor of the President's escape to Sulaco, and the 
close pursuit led by Montero's brother, the guerrillero. 
The game seemed in his own hands. The initial moves 
were the seizure of the cable telegraph office and the 
securing of the government steamer lying in the nar- 

3'9 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

row creek which is the harbor of Esmeralda. The first 
was effected without difficulty by a company of sol- 
diers swarming with a rush over the gangways as she 
lay alongside the quay ; but the lieutenant charged with 
the duty of arresting the telegraphist halted on the way 
before the only cafd in Esmeralda, where he distributed 
some brandy to his men and refreshed himself at the 
expense of the owner, a known Ribierist. The whole 
party became intoxicated, and proceeded on their mis- 
sion up the street yelling and firing random shots at 
the windows. This little festivity, which might have 
turned out dangerous to the telegraphist's life, enabled 
him in the end to send his warning to Sulaco. The 
lieutenant, staggering up-stairs with a drawn sabre, 
was, before long, kissing him on both cheeks in one 
of those swift changes of mood peculiar to a state of 
drunkenness. He clasped the telegraphist close round 
the neck, assuring him that all the officers of the Es- 
meralda garrison were going to be made colonels, while 
tears of happiness streamed down his sodden face. 
Thus it came about that the town major, coming along 
later, found the whole party sleeping on the stairs 
and in passages, and the telegraphist (who scorned 
this chance of escape) very busy clicking the key of 
the transmitter. He led him away bareheaded, with 
his hands tied behind his back, but concealed the 
truth from Sotillo, who remained in ignorance of the 
warning despatched to Sulaco. 

The colonel was not the man to let any sort of dark- 
ness stand in the way of the planned surprise. It ap- 
peared to him a dead certainty ; his heart was set upon 
his object with an ungovernable, childlike impatience. 

320 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

Ever since the steamer had rounded Punta Mala, to 
enter the deeper shadow of the gulf, he had remained 
on the bridge in a group of officers as excited as himself. 
Distracted between the coaxings and menaces of So- 
tillo and his staff, the miserable commander of the 
steamer kept her moving with as much prudence as 
they would let him exercise. Some of them had been 
drinking heavily, no doubt, but the prospect of laying 
hands on so much wealth made them absurdly fool- 
hardy, and, at the same time, extremely anxious. The 
old major of the battalion, a stupid, suspicious man, 
who had never been afloat in his life, distinguished 
himself by putting out suddenly the binnacle light, 
the only one allowed on board for the necessities of 
navigation. He could not understand of what use it 
could be for finding the way. To the vehement prot- 
estations of the ship's captain, he stamped his foot 
and tapped the handle of his sword. "Aha! I have 
unmasked you," he cried, triumphantly. "You are 
tearing your hair from despair at my acuteness. Am 
I a child to believe that a light in that brass box cm 
show you where the harbor is? I am an old soldier, 
I am. I can smell a traitor a league off. You wanted 
that gleam to betray our approach to your friend the 
Englishman. A thing like that show you the way! 
What a miserable lie! Que picardia! You Sulaco 
people are all in the pay of those foreigners. You 
deserve to be run through the body with my sword." 
Other officers, crowding round, tried to calm his in- 
dignation, repeating persuasively: "No, no! This is 
an appliance of the mariners, major. This is no treach- 
ery." The captain of the transport flung himself face 

3" 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

downward on the bridge and refused to rise. "Put 
an end to me at once," he repeated, in a stifled voice. 
Sotillo had to interfere. 

The uproar and confusion on the bridge became so 
great that the helmsman fled from the wheel. He 
took refuge in the engine-room and alarmed the en- 
gineers, who, disregarding the threats of the soldiers 
set on guard over them, stopped the engines, protest- 
ing that they would rather be shot than run the risk of 
being drowned down below. 

This was the first time Nostromo and Decoud heard 
the steamer stop. After order had been restored and 
the binnacle lamp relighted she went ahead again, 
passing wide of the lighter in her search for the Isabels. 
The group could not be made out, and, at the pitiful 
entreaties of the captain, Sotillo allowed the engines 
to be stopped again, to wait for one of those periodical 
lightenings of darkness caused by the shifting of the 
cloud-canopy spread above the waters of the gulf. 

Sotillo, on the bridge, muttered from time to time 
angrily to the captain. The other, in an apologetic 
and cringing tone, begged su inerced the colonel to 
take into consideration the limitations put upon hu- 
man faculties by the darkness of the night. Sotillo 
swelled with rage and impatience. It was the chance 
of a lifetime. 

"If your eyes are of no more use to you than this 
I shall have them put out," he burst out. The captain 
of the steamer made no answer, for just then the mass 
of the Great Isabel loomed up darkly after a passing 
shower, then vanished, as if swept away by a wave of 
greater obscurity preceding another downpour. 

322 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

This was enough for him. In the voice of a man 
come back to life again, he informed Sotillo that in an 
hour he would be alongside the Sulaco wharf. The 
ship was then put full speed on the course, and a 
great bustle of preparation for landing arose among 
the soldiers on her deck. 

It was heard distinctly by Decoud and Nostromo. 
The capataz understood its meaning. They had made 
out the Isabels, and were going on now in a straight 
line for Sulaco. He judged that they would pass close, 
but believed that, lying still like this with the sail 
lowered, the lighter could not be seen. "No, not even 
if they rubbed sides with us," he muttered. 

The rain began to fall again; first like a wet mist, 
then with a heavier touch, thickening into a smart per- 
pendicular downpour; and the hiss and thump of the 
approaching steamer was coming extremely near. De- 
coud, with his eyes full of water and lowered head, 
asked himself how long it would be before she drew 
past, when unexpectedly he felt a lurch. An inrush 
of foam broke swishing over the stern, simultaneously 
with a crack of timbers and a staggering shock. He 
had the impression of an angry hand laying hold of 
the lighter and dragging it along to destruction. The 
shock, of course, had knocked him down, and he found 
himself rolling in a lot of water at the bottom of the 
lighter. A violent churning went on alongside, a 
strange and amazed voice cried out something above 
him in the night. He heard a piercing shriek for help 
from Seflor Hirsch. He kept his teeth hard set all the 
time. It was a collision. 

The steamer had struck the lighter obliquely, heel- 
3 a 3 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

ing her over till she was half swamped, starting some 
of her timbers, and swinging her head parallel to her 
own course with the force of the blow. The shock of 
it on board of her was hardly perceptible. All the 
violence of that collision was, as usual, felt only on 
board the smaller craft. Even Nostromo himself 
thought that this was perhaps the end of his desperate 
adventure. He, too, had been flung away from the 
long tiller, which took charge in the lurch. Next mo- 
ment the steamer would have passed on, leaving the 
lighter to sink or swim after having shouldered her 
thus out of her way, and without even getting a glimpse 
of her form, had it not been that, being deeply laden 
with stores and the great number of people on board, 
her anchor was low enough to hook itself into one of 
the wire shrouds of the lighter's mast. For the space 
of two or three gasping breaths that new rope held 
against the sudden strain. It was this that gave De- 
coud the sensation of the snatching pull, dragging the 
lighter away to destruction. The cause of it, of course, 
was inexplicable to him. The whole thing was so 
sudden that he had no time to think. But all his sen- 
sations were perfectly clear ; he had kept complete pos- 
session of himself; in fact, he was even pleasantly aware 
of that calmness at the very moment of being pitched 
headfirst over the transom to struggle on his back in 
a lot of water. Senor Hirsch's shriek he had heard 
and recognized while he was regaining his feet, always 
with that mysterious sensation of being dragged head- 
long through the darkness. Not a word, not a cry, 
escaped him; he had no time to see anything; and 
following upon the despairing screams for help, the 

3 2 4 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

dragging motion ceased so suddenly that he staggered 
forward with open arms and fell against the pile of 
the treasure-boxes. He clung to them instinctively, 
in the vague apprehension of being flung about again; 
and immediately he heard another lot of shrieks for 
help, prolonged and despairing, not near him at all, 
but unaccountably in the distance, away from the 
lighter altogether, as if some spirit in the night were 
mocking at Sertor Hirsch's terror and despair. 

Then all was still, as still as when you wake up in 
your bed in a dark room from a bizarre and agitated 
dream. The lighter rocked slightly; the rain was still 
falling. Two groping hands took hold of his bruised 
sides from behind, and the capataz's voice whispered 
in his ear, "Silence for your life! Silence! The 
steamer has stopped." 

Decoud listened. The gulf was dumb. He felt the 
water nearly up to his knees. "Are we sinking?" he 
asked, in a faint breath. 

" I don't know," Nostromo breathed back at him. 
"Seftor, make not the slightest sound." 

Hirsch, when ordered forward by Nostromo, had 
not returned into his first hiding-place. He had fallen 
near the mast and had no strength to rise. More- 
over, he feared to move. He had given himself up for 
dead, but not on any rational grounds. It was sim- 
ply a cruel and terrifying feeling. Whenever he tried 
to think what would become of him his teeth would 
start chattering violently. He was too absorbed in 
the utter misery of his fear to take notice of any- 
thing. 

Though he was stifling under the lighter's sail, which 

3*5 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

Nostromo had unwittingly lowered on top of him, he 
did not even dare to put out his head till the very mo- 
ment of the steamer striking. Then, indeed, he leaped 
right out, spurred on to new miracles of bodily vigor 
by this new shape of danger. The inrush of water 
when the lighter heeled over unsealed his lips. His 
shriek, "Save me!" was the first distinct warning of 
the collision for the people on board the steamer. Next 
moment the wire shroud parted, and the released an- 
chor swept over the lighter's forecastle. It came 
against the breast of Senor Hirsch, who simply seized 
hold of it without in the least knowing what it was, 
but curling his arms and legs upon the part above the 
fluke with an invincible, unreasonable tenacity. The 
lighter yawed off wide, and the steamer moving on 
carried him away, clinging hard and shouting for help. 
It was some time, however, after the steamer had 
stopped that his position was discovered. His sus- 
tained yelping for help seemed to come from somebody 
swimming in the water. At last a couple of men went 
over the bows and hauled him on board. He was 
carried straight off to Sotillo on the bridge. His ex- 
amination confirmed the impression that some craft had 
been run over and sunk; but it was impracticable on 
such a dark night to look for the positive proof of 
floating wreckage. Sotillo was more anxious than 
ever now to enter the harbor without loss of time; the 
idea that he had destroyed the principal object of his 
expedition was too intolerable to be accepted. This 
feeling made the story he had heard appear the more 
incredible. Senor Hirsch, after being beaten a little 
for telling lies, was thrust into the chart-room. But 

326 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

vas beaten only a little. His talc had taken the 
t out of Sotilio's staff, though they all repeated 
round their chief, "Impossible! impossible!" with the 
exception of the old major, who triumphed gloomily. 
" I told you, I told you," he mumbled, "I could smell 
some treachery, some diablerie, a league off." 

Meantime, the steamer had kept on her way towards 
Sulaco, where only the truth of that matter could be 
ascertained. Decoud and Nostromo heard the loud 
churning of her propeller diminish and die out; and 
then, with no useless words, busied themselves in mak- 
ing for the Isabels. The last shower had brought with 
it a gentle but steady breeze. The danger was not 
over yet, and there was no time for talk. The lighter 
was leaking like a sieve. They splashed in the water 
at every step. The capataz put into Decoud's hands 
the handle of the pump, which was fitted at the side aft, 
anil at once, without question or remark, Decoud be- 
gan to pump, in utter forgetfulness of every desire but 
that of keeping the treasure afloat. Nostromo hoisted 
the sail, flew back to the tiller, pulled at the sheet like 
mad. The short flare of a match (they had been kept 
dry in a tight tin box, though the man himself was 
completely wet) the vivid flare of a match disclosed 
to the toiling Decoud the eagerness of his face, bent 
low over the box of the compass, and the attentive 
stare of his eyes. He knew now where he was, and 
he hoped to run the sinking lighter ashore in the shal- 
cove where the high, cliff-like end of the great 
{Isabel is divided in two equal parts by a deep and 
overgrown ravine. 

Decoud pumped without intermission. Nostromo 

327 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

steered without relaxing for a second the intense, peer- 
ing effort of his stare. Each of them was as if utterly 
alone with his task. It did not occur to them to speak. 
There was nothing in common between them but the 
knowledge that the damaged lighter must be slowly 
but surely sinking. In that knowledge, which was 
like the crucial test of their desires, they seemed to 
have become completely estranged, as if they had dis- 
covered in the very shock of the collision that the loss 
of the lighter would not mean the same thing to them 
both. This common danger brought their differences 
in aim, in view, in character, and in position into ab- 
solute prominence in the private vision of each There 
was no bond of conviction, of common idea; they were 
merely two adventurers pursuing each his own ad- 
venture, involved in the same imminence of deadly 
peril. Therefore they had nothing to say to each 
other. But this peril, this only incontrovertible 
truth in which they shared, seemed to act as an in- 
spiration to their mental and bodily powers. 

There was certainly something almost miraculous 
in the way the capataz made the cove, with nothing 
but the shadowy hint of the island's shape and the 
vague gleam of a small sandy strip for a guide. Where 
the ravine opens between the cliffs, and a slender, shal- 
low rivulet meanders out of the bushes to lose itself in 
the sea, the lighter was run ashore; and the two men, 
with a taciturn, undaunted energy, began to discharge 
her precious freight, carrying each ox -hide box up the 
bed of the rivulet, beyond the bushes, to a hollow 
place which the caving-in of the soil had made below 
the roots of a large tree. Its big, smooth trunk leaned 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

likr a fallen column far over the trickle of water run- 
ning among the loose stones. 

A couple of years l>efore, Nostromo had spent a whole 
Sunday, all alone, exploring the island. He explained 
this to Decoud after their task was done and they sat, 
weary in every limb, with their legs hanging down the 
low bank and their backs against the tree, like a pair 
of blind men aware of each other and their surround- 
ings by some indefinable sixth sense. 

"Yes," Nostromo repeated, "I never forget a place 
I have carefully looked at once." He spoke slowly, 
almost lazily, as if there had been a whole leisurely life 
before him instead of the scanty two hours before day- 
light. The existence of the treasure, barely concealed 
in this improbable spot, laid a burden of secrecy upon 
every contemplated step, upon every intention and 
plan of future conduct. He felt the partial failure of 
this desperate affair, intrusted to the great reputation 
he had known how to make for himself. However, it 
was also a partial success. His vanity was half ap- 
peased. His nervous irritation had subsided. 

"You never know what may be of use," he pursued, 
with his usual quietness of tone and manner. "I 
spent a whole miserable Sunday in exploring this 
crumb of land." 

" A misanthropic sort of occupation," muttered De- 
coud, viciously. "You had no money, I suppose, to 
gamble with and to fling about among the girls in your 
usual haunts, capataz?" 

"E vero!" exclaimed the capataz, surprised into the 
use of his native tongue by so much perspicacity. "I 
had not. Therefore I did not want to go among those 

3*9 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

beggarly people accustomed to my generosity. It is 
looked for from the capataz of the cargadores, who are 
the rich men, and, as it were, the caballeros among the 
common people. I don't care for cards but as a pas- 
time ; and as to those girls that boast of having opened 
their doors to my knock, you know I wouldn't look at 
any one of them twice except for what the people 
would say. They are queer, the good people of Sulaco, 
and I have got much useful information simply by 
listening patiently to the talk of women that every- 
body believed I was in love with. Poor Teresa could 
never understand that. On that particular Sunday, 
sefior, she scolded so that I went out of the house 
swearing that I would never darken their door again, 
xmless to fetch away my hammock and my chest of 
clothes. Sefior, there is nothing more exasperating 
than to hear a woman you respect rail against your 
good reputation when you have not a single brass coin 
in your pocket. I untied one of the small boats and 
pulled myself out of the harbor with nothing but three 
cigars in my pocket to help me spend the day on this 
island. But the water of this rivulet you hear under 
your feet is cool and sweet and good, sefior, both be- 
fore and after a smoke." He was silent for a while, 
then added, reflectively: "That was the first Sunday 
after I brought the white - whiskered English rico all 
the way down the mountains from the Paramo on 
the top of the Entrada Pass and in the coach, too! 
No coach had gone up or down that mountain road 
within the memory of man, sefior, till I brought this 
one down in charge of fifty peons working like one 
man with ropes, pickaxes, and poles, under my direc- 

330 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

Bbo. That was the rich KM irishman who, as people 
say, pays for the making of this railway. He was very 

based with me. But my wages were not due till the 
end of the month." 

He slid down the bank, suddenly. Decoud heard 

Ihe splash of his feet in the brook, and followed his 
footsteps down the ravine. His form was lost among 
the bushes till he had reached the strip of sand under 

She cliff. As often happens in the gulf, when the 
showers during the first part of the night had been fre- 
quent and heavy, the darkness had thinned consider- 
ably towards the morning, though there were uo signs 
of daylight as yet. 

The cargo lighter, relieved of its precious burden, 
locked feebly, half afloat, with her forefoot on the sand. 
A long rope stretched away like a black cotton thread 

cross the strip of white beach to the grapnel No- 
stromo had carried ashore, and hooked to the stem 
of a tree -like shrub in the very opening of the ravine. 
There was nothing for Decoud but to remain on the 
island. He received from Nostromo's hands what- 

Brer food the foresight of Captain Mitchell had put on 
board the lighter, and deposited it temporarily in the 
Kttle dinghy which, on their arrival, they had hauled up 
out of sight among the bushes. It was to be left with 
him. The island was to be a hiding-place, not a prison ; 

Hi could pull out to a passing ship. The O.S.N. Com- 
pany's mail-boats passed close to the islands when 
going into Sulaco from the north. But the Minerva, 
carrying off the ex-president, had taken the news up 
north of the disturbances in Sulaco. It was possible 

Hut the next steamer down would get instructions to 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

miss the port altogether, since the town, as far as the 
Minerva's officers knew, was for the time being in the 
hands of the rabble. This would mean that there 
would be no steamer for a month, as far as the mail 
service went; but Decoud had to take his chance of 
that. The island was his only shelter from the pro- 
scription hanging over his head. The capataz was, of 
course, going back. The unloaded lighter leaked much 
less, and he thought that she would keep afloat as far 
as the harbor. 

He passed to Decoud, standing knee-deep along- 
side, one of the two spades which belonged to the 
equipment of each lighter, for use when ballasting 
ships. By working with it carefully, as soon as there 
was daylight enough to see, Decoud could loosen a 
mass of earth and stones overhanging the cavity in 
which they had deposited the treasure, so that it would 
look as if it had fallen naturally. It would cover up 
not only the cavity, but even all traces of their wor 
the footsteps, the displaced stones, and even i. 
broken bushes. 

"Besides, who would think of looking either for you 
or the treasure here?" Nostromo continued, as if he 
could not tear himself away from the spot. "Nobody 
is ever likely to come here. What could any man 
want with this piece of earth as long as there is room 
for his feet on the mainland ? The people in this coun- 
try are not curious. There are even no fishermen 
here to intrude upon your worship. All the fishing 
that is done in the gulf goes on near Zapiga, over there. 
Senor, if you are forced to leave this island before any- 
thing can be arranged for you, do not try to make foi 

332 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

Zapiga. It is a settlement of thieves and matreros, 
where they would cut your throat promptly fof the 
sake of your gold watch and chain. And, seflor, 
think twice before confiding in any one whatever, even 
in the officers of the company's steamers if you ever 
get on board one. Honesty alone is not enough for 
security. You must look to discretion and prudence 
in a man. And always remember, seflor, before you 
open your lips for a confidence, that this treasure may 
be left safely here for hundreds of years. Time is on 
its side, seflor. And silver is an incorruptible metal 
that can be trusted to keep its value forever. . . . An in- 
corruptible metal," he repeated, as if the idea had 
given him a profound pleasure. 

"As some men are said to be," Decoud pronounced, 
inscrutably, while the capataz, who busied himself in 
baling out the lighter with a wooden bucket, went on 
throwing the water over the side with a regular splash. 
Decoud, incorrigible in his scepticism, reflected, not 
cynically, but with genuine satisfaction, that this man 
was made incorruptible by his enormous vanity, that 
finest form of egoism which can take on the aspect of 
every virtue. 

Nostromo ceased baling and, as if struck with a 
sudden thought, dropped the bucket with a clatter 
into the lighter. 

"Have you any message?" he asked, in a lowered 
voice. "Remember, I shall be asked questions." 

"You must find the hopeful words that ought to be 
spoken to the people in town. I trust for that your 
intelligence and your experience, capataz. You un- 
derstand ?" 

333 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

"Si, senor. . . . For the ladies." 

"Yes, yes," said Decoud, hastily. "Your wonder- 
ful reputation will make them attach great value to 
your words; therefore, be careful what you say. I am 
looking forward," he continued, feeling the fatal touch 
of contempt for himself to which his complex nature 
was subject "I am looking forward to a glorious and 
successful ending to my mission. Do you hear, capa- 
taz ? Use the words glorious and successful when you 
speak to the senorita. Your own mission is accom- 
plished gloriously and successfully. You have indubi- 
tably saved the silver of the mine Not only this sil- 
ver, but probably all the silver that shall ever come 
out of it." 

Nostromo detected the ironic tone. "I dare say, 
Senor Don Martin," he said, moodily. "There are 
very few things that I am not equal to. Ask the 
foreign signori. I, a man of the people, who cannot 
always understand what you mean. But as to this 
lot which I must leave here, let me tell you that I would 
believe it in greater safety if you had not been with 
me at all." 

An exclamation escaped Decoud, and a short pause 
followed. "Shall I go back with you to Sulaco?" he 
asked, in an angry tone. 

"Shall I strike you dead with my knife where you 
stand?" retorted Nostromo, contemptuously. "It 
would be the same thing as taking you to Sulaco. 
Come, senor! Your reputation is in your politics, and 
mine is bound up with the fate of this silver. Do you 
wonder I wish there had been no other man to share 
my knowledge? I wanted no one with me, senor." 

334 



stromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

" You could not have kept the lighter afloat without 
me," Decoud almost shouted, "You would have gone 
to the bottom with her." 

"Yes," muttered Nostromo, slowly. "Alone." 

Here was a man, Decoud reflected, that seemed as 
though he would have preferred to die rather than de- 
face the perfect form of his egoism. Such a man was 
safe. In silence he helped the capataz to get the grap- 
nel on board. Nostromo cleared the shelving shore 
with one push of the heavy oar, and Decoud found 
himself solitary on the beach, like a man in a dream. 
A sudden desire to hear a human voice once more seized 
upon his heart. The lighter was hardly distinguishable 
from the black water upon which she floated. 

"What do you think has become of Hirsch?" he 
shouted. 

"Knocked overboard and drowned," cried Nostro- 

voice, confidently, out of the black wastes of sky 

aii-1 sea around the islet. "Keep close in the ravine, 

senor. I shall try to come out to you in a night or 

two." 

A slight swishing ruirtte showed that Nostromo was 
setting the sail. It filled all at once with a sound as of 
a single loud drum -tap. Decoud went back to the 
ravine. Nostromo, at the tiller, looked back from time 
to time at the vanishing mass of the Great Isabel, 
which, little by little, merged into the uniform texture 
of the night. At last, when he turned his head again, 
he saw nothing but a smooth darkness like a solid wall. 

Then he, too, experienced that feeling of solitude 
which had weighed heavily on Decoud after the lighter 
had slipped off the shore. But while the man on the 

33S 



Nostromo : A Tale of* the Seaboard 

island was oppressed by a bizarre sense of unreality, 
affecting the very ground upon which he walked, the 
mind of the capataz of the cargadores turned alertly 
to the problem of future conduct. Nostromo 's facul- 
ties, working on parallel lines, enabled him to steer 
straight, to keep a lookout for Hermosa, near which 
he had to pass, and to try to imagine what would hap- 
pen to-morrow in Sulaco. To-morrow, or, as a mat- 
ter of fact, to-day, since the dawn was not very far, 
Sotillo would find out in what way the treasure had 
gone. A gang of cargadores had been employed in 
loading it into a railway -truck from the custom-house 
store-rooms and running the truck onto the wharf. 
There would be arrests made, and certainly before 
noon Sotillo would know in what manner the silver 
had left Sulaco and who it was that took it out. 

Nostromo's intention had been to sail right into the 
harbor, but at this thought, by a sudden touch of the 
tiller, he threw the lighter into the wind and checked 
her rapid way. His reappearance with the very boat 
would raise suspicions, would cause surmises, would 
absolutely put Sotillo on the track. He himself would 
be arrested; and, once in the calabozo, there was no 
saying what they would do to him to make him speak. 
He trusted himself, but he stood up to look around. 
Near by Hermosa showed low, its white surface as flat 
as a table, with the slight run of the sea raised by the 
breeze washing over its edges noisily. The lighter 
must be sunk at once. 

He allowed her to drift with her sail aback. There 
was already a good deal of water in her. He allowed 
her to drift towards the harbor entrance, and, letting 

336 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

tlu- tilk-r swing ;il><>ut, squatted down and busied him- 
self in loosening the plug. With that out she would 
till very quickly, and every lighter carried a little iron 
ist enough to make her go down when full of 
r. When he stood up again, the noisy wash about 
tlu- Hermosa sounded far away, almost inaudible; and 
already he could make out the shape of land about 
the harbor entrance. This was a desperate affair, and 
he was a good swimmer. A mile was nothing to him, 
and he knew of an easy place for landing just below 
the earthworks of the old abandoned fort. It occurred 
to him with a peculiar fascination that this fort was a 
good place in which to sleep the day through after so 
many sleepless nights. 

With one blow of the tiller he unshipped for the pur- 
pose he knocked the plug out, but did not take the 
trouble to lower the sail. He felt the water welling 
up heavily about his legs before he leaped onto the 
taffrail. There, upright and motionless, in his shirt 
and trousers only, he stood waiting. When he felt 
her settle, he sprang far away with a mighty plash. 

At once he turned his head. The gloomy, clouded 
dawn from behind the mountains showed him on the 
smooth waters the upper corner of the sail, a dark, 
wet triangle of canvas waving slightly to and fro. He 
saw it vanish, as if jerked under, and then struck out 
for the shore. 



PART III 
The Light-House 



T^VIRECTLY the cargo-boat had slipped away from 
JLx the wharf and got lost in the darkness of the har- 
bor, the Europeans of Sulaco separated, to prepare for 
the coming of the Monterist regime, which was ap- 
proaching Sulaco from the mountains as well as from 
the sea. 

This bit of manual work in loading the silver was 
their last concerted action. It ended the three days 
of danger, during which, according to the newspaper 
press of Europe, their energy had preserved the town 
from the calamities of popular disorder. At the shore 
end of the jetty Captain Mitchell said good-night and 
turned back. His intention was to walk the planks 
of the wharf till the steamer from Esmeralda turned 
up. The engineers of the railway staff, collecting their 
Basque and Italian workmen, marched them away to 
the railway-yards, leaving the custom-house, so well de- 
fended on the first day of the riot, standing open to the 
four winds of heaven. Their men had conducted them- 
selves bravely and faithfully during the famous "three 
days" of Sulaco. In a great part this faithfulness and 
that courage had been exercised in self-defence rather 
than in the cause of those material interests to which 
Charles Gould had pinned his faith. Among the cries 
of the mob, not the least loud had been the cry of 
" Death to foreigners!" It was, indeed, a lucky circum- 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

stance for Sulaco that the relations of those imported 
workmen with the people of the country had been 
uniformly bad from the first. 

Dr. Monygham, going to the door of Viola's kitchen, 
observed this retreat marking the end of the foreign 
interference, this withdrawal of the army of material 
progress from the field of Costaguana revolutions. 

Algarroba torches, carried on the outskirts of the 
moving body, sent their penetrating aroma into his 
nostrils. Their light, sweeping along the front of 
the house, made the letters of the inscription, " Albergo 
d'ltalia Una," leap out black from end to end of the 
long wall. His eyes blinked in the clear blaze. Sev- 
eral young men, mostly fair and tall, shepherding this 
mob of dark bronzed heads surmounted by the glint 
of slanting rifle-barrels, nodded to him familiarly as 
they went by. The doctor was a well-known character. 
Some of them wondered what he was doing there. 
Then, on the flank of their workmen, they tramped on, 
following the line of rails. 

"Withdrawing your people from the harbor?" said 
the doctor, addressing himself to the chief-engineer of 
the railway, who had accompanied Charles Gould so 
far on his way to the town, walking by the side of the 
horse, with his hand on the saddle-bow. They had 
stopped just outside the open door to let the workmen 
cross the road. 

"As quick as I can. We are not a political faction," 
answered the engineer, meaningly. "And we are not 
going to give our new rulers a handle against the rail- 
way. You approve me, Gould?" 

"Absolutely," said Charles Gould's impassive voice, 
342 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 



up -in. I outside the dim parallelogram of light fall- 
ing on, the road through the open door. 

With Sotillo < from one side, and Pedro 

Montero from the other, the engineer-in-chiefs only 
anxiety now was to avoid a collision with either. 
Sulaco, for him, was a railway station, a terminus, 
workshops, a great accumulation of stores. As 
against the mob the railway defended its property, 
but politically the railway was neutral. He was a 
brave man, and in that spirit of neutrality he had 
carried proposals of truce to the self-appointed chiefs 
of the popular party, the deputies Fuentes and Ga- 
macho. Bullets were still flying about when he had 
crossed the plaza on that mission, waving above his 
head a white napkin belonging to the table-linen of the 
Amarilla Club. 

He was rather proud of this exploit; and reflecting 
that the doctor, busy all day with the wounded in the 
patio of the Casa Gould, had not had time to hear the 
news, he began a succinct narrative. He had com- 
municated to them the intelligence from the construc- 
tion-camp as to Pedro Montero. The brother of the 
rious general, he had assured them, could be ex- 
pected at Sulaco at any time now. This news (as he 
anticipated), when shouted out of the window by 
Sefior Gamacho, induced a rush of the mob along the 
Campo road towards Rincon. The two deputies, also, 
after shaking hands with him effusively, mounted and 
galloped off to meet the great man. 

" I have misled them a little as to the time," the 
chief-engineer confessed. " However hard he rides, he 
can scarcely get here before the morning. But my 

343 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

object is attained. I've secured several hours' peace 
for the losing party. But I did not tell them anything 
about Sotillo, for fear they would take it into their 
heads to try to get hold of the harbor again, either 
to oppose him or welcome him there's no saying 
which. There was Gould's silver, on which rests the 
remnant of our hopes. Decoud's retreat had to be 
thought of, too. I think the railway has done pretty 
well by its friends without compromising itself hope- 
lessly. Now the parties must be left to themselves.' 

"Costaguana for the Costaguaneros," interjected 
the doctor, sardonically. "It is a fine country, and 
they have raised a fine crop of hates, vengeance, mur- 
der, and rapine those sons of the country." 

"Well, I am one of them," Charles Gould's voice 
sounded, calmly, "and I must be going on to see to my 
own crop of trouble. My wife has driven straight on, 
doctor?" 

"Yes. All was quiet on this side. Mrs. Gould has 
taken the two girls with her." 

Charles Gould rode on and the engineer-in-chief fol- 
lowed the doctor in-doors. 

"That man is calmness personified," he said, ap- 
preciatively, dropping on a bench and stretching his 
well-shaped legs, in cycling-stockings, nearly across 
the door- way. "He must be extremely sure of him- 
self." 

"If that's all he is sure of, then he is sure of noth-l 
ing," said the doctor. He had perched himself again 
on the end of the table. He nursed his cheek in the 
palm of one hand, while the other sustained the elbow. 
"It is the last thing a man ought to be sure of." Thej 

344 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

candle, half consumed ami burning dimly with a long 
. lighted up from below his inclined face, whose 
expression, affected by the drawn-in cicatrices in the 
hecks, had something vaguely unnatural, an exag- 
gerated remorseful bitterness. As he sat there he had 
the air of meditating upon sinister things. The en- 
gineer-in-chief gazed at him for a time before he pro- 
Ited. 

"I really don't see that. For me there seems to be 
nothing else. However " 

He was a wise man, but he could not quite conceal 
his contempt for that sort of paradox; in fact, Dr. 
Monygham was not liked by the Europeans of Sulaco. 
His outward aspect of an outcast, which he preserved 
even in Mrs. Gould's drawing-room, provoked unfa- 
vorable criticism. There could be no doubt of his in- 
telligence; and, as he had lived for over twenty years 
in the country, the pessimism of his outlook could not 
be altogether ignored. But, instinctively, in self- 
defence of their activities and hopes, his hearers put it 
to the account of some hidden imperfection in the 
man's character. It was known that many years be- 
fore, when quite young, he had been made by Guzman 
Bento chief medical officer of the army. Not one of 
the Europeans then in the service of Costaguana had 
been so much liked and trusted by the fierce old dic- 
tator. 

Afterwards his story was not so clear. It lost itself 
among the innumerable tales of conspiracies and plots 
against the tyrant, as a stream is lost in an arid belt 
of sandy country before it emerges, diminished and 
troubled, perhaps, on the other side. He made no 

345 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

secret of it that he had lived for years in the wildest 
parts of the republic, wandering with almost unknown 
Indian tribes in the great forests of the far interior, 
where the great rivers have their sources. But it 
was mere aimless wandering; he had written nothing, 
collected nothing, brought nothing for science out of 
the twilight of the forests, which seemed to cling to his 
battered personality limping about Sulaco, where it 
had drifted in casually only to get stranded on the 
shores of the sea. 

It was also known that he had lived in a state of 
destitution till the arrival of the Goulds from Europe. 
Don Carlos and Senora Emilia had taken up the mad 
English doctor when it became apparent that for all 
his savage independence he could be tamed by kind- 
ness. Perhaps it was only hunger that had tamed him. 
In years gone by he had certainly been acquainted 
with Charles Gould's father, in Sta. Marta; and now, 
no matter what were the dark passages of his history, 
as the medical officer of the San Tome mine he became 
a recognized personality. He was recognized, but not 
unreservedly accepted. So much defiant eccentricity 
and such an outspoken scorn for mankind seemed 
point to mere recklessness of judgment, the bravado 
guilt. Besides, since he had become again of some 
account, vague whispers had been heard that years ago, 
when fallen into disgrace and thrown into prison by 
Guzman Bento, at the time of the so-called Great 
Conspiracy, he had betrayed some of his best friends 
among the conspirators. Nobody pretended to be-i 
lieve that whisper; the whole story of the Great Con-j 
spiracy was hopelessly involved and obscure; it is 

346 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

admitted in Costaguana that there never had been 
a conspiracy except in the diseased imagination of the 
tyrant, and, therefore, nothing and no one to betray; 
though the most distinguished Costaguaneros had been 
imprisoned and executed upon that accusation. The 
procedure had dragged on for years, decimating the 
better 'class like a pestilence. The mere expression of 
sorrow for the fate of executed kinsmen had been pun- 
ished with death. Don Jose* Avellanos was, perhaps, 
the only one living who knew the whole story of those 
unspeakable cruelties. He had suffered from them 
himself; and he, with a shrug of the shoulders and a 
nervous, jerky gesture of the arm, was wont to put 
away from him, as it were, every allusion to it. But 
whatever the reason, Dr. Monygham, a personage in 
the administration of the Gould Concession, treated 
with reverent awe by the miners and indulged in his 
peculiarities by Mrs. Gould, remained somehow outside 
the pale. 

It was not from any liking for the doctor that the 
engineer-in-chief had lingered in the inn upon the 
plain. He liked old Viola much better. He had come 
to look upon the Albcrgo d'ltalia Una as a dependence 
of the railway. Many of his subordinates had their 
quarters there. Mrs. Gould's interest in the family 
conferred upon it a sort of distinction. The engineer- 
in-chief, with an army of workers under his orders, ap- 
preciated the moral influence of the old Garibaldino 
upon his countrymen. His austere old - world re- 
publicanism had a severe, soldier-like standard of faith- 
fulness and duty, as if the world were a battle-field 
where men had to fight for the sake of universal love 
u 347 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

and brotherhood instead of a more or less large share 
of booty. 

"Poor old chap!" he said, after he had heard the 
doctor's account of Teresa. " He'll never be able to 
keep the place going by himself. I shall be sorry." 

"He's quite alone up there," grunted Dr. Monyg- 
ham, with a toss of his heavy head towards the nar- 
row staircase. "Every living soul has cleared out, 
and Mrs. Gould took the girls away just now. It 
might not be oversafe for them out here, before very 
long. Of course, as a doctor I can do nothing more 
here, but she has asked me to stay with old Viola, and 
as I have no horse to get back to the mine, where I 
ought to be, I made no difficulty to stay. They can 
do without me in the town." 

"I have a good mind to remain with you, doctor, 
till we see whether anything happens to-night at the 
harbor," declared the engineer-in-chief. "He must 
not be molested by Sotillo's soldiery, who may push 
on as far as this at once. Sotillo used to be very cord- 
ial to me at the Goulds' and at the club. How that 
man '11 ever dare to look any of his friends here in the 
face I can't imagine." 

" He'll no doubt begin by shooting some of them, to 
get over the first awkwardness," said the doctor. 
"Nothing in this country serves better your military 
man who has changed sides than a few summary exe- 
cutions." He spoke with a gloomy positiveness that 
left no room for protest. The engineer-in-chief did not 
attempt any. He simply nodded several times, regret- 
fully, then said: 

" I think we shall be able to mount you in the morn- 
348 



NOstromo: A Talc ot* the Seaboard 

ing, doctor. Our peons have recoverd some of our 
stampeded horses. By riding hard and taking a wide 
circuit by Los Ilatos and along the edge of the forest, 
clear of Rincon altogether, you may hope to reach the 
San Tome" bridge without being interfered with. The 
mine is just now, to my mind, the safest place for any- 
body at all compromised. I only wish the railway 
was as difficult to touch." 

"Am I compromised?" Dr. Monygham brought out 
slowly, after a short silence. 

"The whole Gould Concession is compromised. It 
could not have remained forever outside the political 
life of the country if those convulsions may be called 
life. The thing is can it be touched ? The moment 
was bound to come when neutrality would become 
impossible, and Charles Gould understood this well. 
I believe he is prepared for every extremity. A man 
of his sort has never contemplated remaining indefi- 
nitely at the mercy of ignorance and corruption. It 
was like being a prisoner in a cavern of banditti with 
the price of your ransom in your pocket and buying 
your life from day to day. Your mere safety, not your 
liberty, mind, doctor. I know what I am talking 
about. The image at which you shrug your shoulders 
is perfectly correct; especially if you conceive such a 
prisoner endowed with the power of replenishing his 
pocket by means as remote from the faculties of his 
captors as if they were magic. You must have under- 
stood that as well as I do, doctor. He was in the po- 
sition of the goose with the golden eggs. I broached 
this matter to him as far back as Sir John's visit here. 
The prisoner of stupid and greedy banditti is always at 

349 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

the mercy of the first imbecile ruffian, who may blow 
out his brains in a fit of temper or for some prospect 
of an immediate big haul. The tale of killing the 
goose with the golden eggs has not been evolved for 
nothing out of the wisdom of mankind. It is a story 
that will never grow old. That is why Charles Gould 
in his deep, dumb way has countenanced the Ribierist 
mandate, the first public act that promised him safety 
on other than venal grounds. Ribierism has failed, as 
everything merely rational fails in this country. But 
Gould remains logieal in wishing to save this big lot of 
silver. Decoud's plan of a counter-revolution may 
be practicable or not, it may have a chance or it may 
not have a chance. With all my experience of this 
revolutionary continent I can hardly yet look at their 
methods seriously. Decoud has been reading to us 
his draught of a proclamation and talking very well 
for two hours about his plan of action. He had argu- 
ments which should have appeared solid enough if we, 
members of old, stable political and national organi- 
zations, were not startled by the mere idea of a new 
state evolved, like this, out of the head of a scofling 
young man fleeing for his life, with a proclamation in 
his pocket, to a rough, jeering, half-bred swashbuckler 
who in this part of the world is called a general. It 
sounds like a comic fairy-tale and , behold ! it may come 
off, because it is true to the very spirit of the country." 

"Is the silver gone off, then?" asked the doctor, 
moodily. 

The chief engineer pulled out his watch. 

"By Captain Mitchell's reckoning, and he ought to 
know, it has been gone long enough now to be some 

350 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

thrrr or four miles outsi-lr the harbor; and, as Mitchell 
says, Nostrotno is the sort of seaman to make the host of 
ppoftufti! 

Here tin- doctor grunted so heavily that the other 
changed his tone. 

' You have a poor opinion of that move, doctor ? 
But why ? Charles Gould has got to play his game 
out, though he is not the man to formulate his conduct 
even to himself, perhaps, let alone to others. It may 
be that the game has been partly suggested to him by 
Holroyd; but it accords with his character, too, and 
that is why it has been so successful. Haven't they 
come to calling him ' El Rev de Sulaco' in Sta. Marta? 
A nickname may be the best record of a success. 
That's what I call putting the face of a joke upon the 
body of a truth. My dear sir, when I first arrived in 
Marta I was struck by the way all those journal- 
ists, demagogues, members of Congress, and all those 
generals and judges cringed before a sleepy-eyed ad- 
vocate without practice, simply because he was the 
plenipotentiary of the Gould Concession. Sir John, 
when he came out, was impressed, too." 

"A new state, with that plump dandy, Decoud, for 
the first President," mused Dr. Monygham, nursing 
his cheek and swinging his legs all the time. 

"Upon my word, and why not?" the chief engineer 
retorted, in an unexpectedly earnest and confidential 
voice. It was as if something subtle in the air of Cos- 
taguana had inoculated him with the local faith in 
" jironunciamientos." All at once he began to talk like 
an expert revolutionist of the instrument ready to 
hand in the intact army at Cayla, which could be 

35' 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

brought back in a few days to Sulaco, if only Decoud 
managed to make his way at once down the coast. 
For the military chief there was Barrios, who had 
nothing but a bullet to expect from Montero, his 
former professional rival and bitter enemy. Barrios's 
concurrence was assured. As to his army, it had noth- 
ing to expect from Montero either; not even a month's 
pay. From that point of view the existence of the 
treasure was of enormous importance. The mere 
knowledge that it had been saved from the Monterists 
would be a strong inducement for the Cayta troops to 
embrace the cause of the new state. 

The doctor turned round and contemplated his 
companion for some time. 

"This Decoud, I see, is a persuasive young beggar," 
he remarked at last. "And, pray, is it for this, then, 
that Charles Gould has let the whole lot of ingots go 
out to sea in charge of that Nostromo?" 

"Charles Gould," said the engineer-in-chief, "has 
said no more about his motive than usual. You know 
he doesn't talk. But we all here know his motive, and 
he has only one the safety of the San Tom mine with 
the preservation of the Gould Concession in the spirit 
of his compact with Holroyd. Holroyd is another un- 
common man. They understand each other's imagi- 
native side. One is thirty, the other nearly sixty, and 
they have been made for each other. To be a million- 
aire, and such a millionaire as Holroyd, is like being 
eternally young. The audacity of youth reckons upon 
what it fancies an unlimited time at its . disposal ; but 
a millionaire has unlimited means in his hand which 
i* better. One's time on earth is an uncertain quan- 

352 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

but about the long reach of millions there is no 
doubt. The introduction of a pure form of Christianity 
into this continent is a dream for a youthful enthusiast, 
and I have been trying to explain to you why Holroyd 
at fifty-eight is like a man on the threshold of life, and 
better, too. He's not a missionary, but the San 
Tome" mine holds just that for him. I assure you, 
in sober truth, that he could not manage to keep 
this out of a strictly business conference upon the 
finances of Costaguana he had with Sir John a couple 
of years ago. Sir John mentioned it with amazement 
in a letter he wrote to me here from San Francisco, 
when on his way home. Upon my word, doctor, things 
seem to be worth nothing by what they are in them- 
selves. I begin to believe that the only solid thing 
about them is the spiritual value which every one 
discovers in his own form of activity." 

"Bah!" interrupted the doctor, without stopping 
for an instant the idle swinging movement of his legs. 
"Self-flattery. Food for that vanity which makes the 
world go round. Meantime, what do you think is go- 
ing to happen to the treasure floating about the gulf 
with the great capataz and the great politician?" 
"Why are you uneasy about it, doctor?" 
" I uneasy! And what the devil is it to me? I put 
no spiritual value into my desires, or my opinions, or 
my actions. They have not enough vastness to give 
me room for self-flattery. Look, for instance; I should 
certainly have liked to ease the last moments of that 
poor woman, and I can't. It's impossible. Have you 
met the impossible face to face or have you, the Napo- 
leon of railways, no such word in your dictionary ' 

354 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

" Is she bound to have a very bad time of it ?" asked 
the chief engineer, with humane concern. 

Slow, heavy footsteps moved across the planks above 
the heavy, hard- wood beams of the kitchen. Then 
down the narrow opening of the staircase made in the 
thickness of the wall, and narrow enough to be defended 
by one man against twenty, enemies, came the mur- 
mur of two voices, one faint and broken, the other deep 
and gentle answering it, and in its graver tone covering 
the weaker sound. 

The two men remained still and silent till the mur- 
murs ceased; then the doctor shrugged his shoulders 
and muttered: 

"Yes, she's bound to. And I could do nothing if 
I went up now." 

A long period of silence above and below ensued. 

"I fancy," began the engineer, in a subdued voice, 
"that you mistrust Captain Mitchell's capataz." 

"Mistrust him," muttered the doctor, through his 
teeth. "I believe him capable of anything; even of 
the most absurd fidelity. I am the last person he 
spoke to before he left the wharf, you know. The poor 
woman up there wanted to see him and I let him go 
up to her. The dying must not be contradicted, you 
know. She seemed then fairly calm and resigned, but 
the scoundrel in those ten minutes or so has done or 
said something which seems to have driven her into 
despair. You know," went on the doctor, hesitatingly, 
"women are so very unaccountable, in every position 
and at all times of life, that I thought sometimes she 
was, in a way, don't you see? in love with him the 
capataz. The rascal has his own charm indubitably, or 

354 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

lie would not have made the conquest of all the populace 
of the town. No, no; I am not absurd. I may have 
given a wrong name to some strong sentiment for him 
on her part to an unreasonable and simple attitude a 
woman is apt to take up emotionally towards a man. 
She used to abuse him to me frequently, which, of 
course, is not inconsistent with my idea. Not at all. 
It looked to me as if she were always thinking of him. 
He was something important in her life. You know 
I have seen a lot of those people. Whenever I came 
down from the mine Mrs. Gould used to ask me to keep 
my eye on them. She likes Italians; she has lived a 
long time in Italy, I believe, and she took a special 
fancy to that old Garibaldino. A remarkable chap 
enough. A rugged and dreamy character living in the 
republicanism of his young days as if in a cloud. He 
has encouraged much of the capataz's confounded 
nonsense the high-strung, exalted old beggar." 

"What sort of nonsense?" wondered the chief en- 
gineer. "I found the capataz always a very shrewd 
and sensible fellow, absolutely fearless, and remarkably 
useful. A perfect handy man. Sir John was greatly 
impressed by his resourcefulness and attention when 
he made that overland journey from Sta. Mart a. 
Later on, as you might have heard, he rendered us a 
service by disclosing to the then chief of police the 
presence in the town of some professional thieves who 
came from a distance to wreck and rob our monthly 
pay-train. He has certainly organized the lighterage 
service of the harbor for the O.S.N. Company with 
great ability. He knows how to make himself obevr.l. 
foreigner though he is. It is true that the cargadores 

355 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

are strangers here, too, for the most part immigrants, 
Islenos." 

"His prestige is his fortune," muttered the doctor, 
sourly. 

"The man has proved his trustworthiness up to the 
hilt on innumerable occasions and in all sorts of ways," 
argued the engineer. "When this question of the 
silver arose, Captain Mitchell naturally was very warm- 
ly of the opinion that his capataz was the only man 
fit for the trust. As a sailor, of course, I suppose so. 
But as a man, don't you know, Gould, Decoud, and 
myself judged that it didn't matter in the least who 
went. Any boatman would have done just as well. 
Pray, what could a thief do with such a lot of ingots? 
If he ran off with them he would have in the end to 
land somewhere, and how could he conceal his cargo 
from the knowledge of the people ashore. We dis- 
missed that consideration from our minds. More- 
over, Decoud was going. There have been occasions 
when the capataz has been more implicitly trusted." 

"He took a slightly different view," the doctor said. 
"I heard him declare in this very room that it would 
be the most desperate affair of his life. He made a 
sort of verbal will here in my hearing, appointing old 
Viola his executor; and, by Jove! do you know, he he's 
not grown rich by his fidelity to you good people of the 
railway and the harbor. I suppose he obtains some 
how do you say that some spiritual value for his 
labors, or else I don't know why the devil he should be 
faithful to you, Gould, Mitchell, or anybody else. He 
knows this country well. He knows, for instance, that 
Gamacho, the deputy from Javira, has been nothing 

356 



Nostromo; A Tale of the Seaboard 

else but a " tramposo " of the commonest sort, a petty 
peddler of the Campo, till he managed to get enough 
goods on credit from Anzani to open a little store in 
the wilds and get himself elected by the drunken mozos 
that hang about the Estancias and the poorest sort of 
rancheros, who were in his debt. And Gamacho, who 
to-morrow will be probably one of our high officials, is a 
stranger too, an Isleflo. He might have been a car- 
gador on the O.S.N. wharf had he not (the posadero 
of Rincon is ready to swear it) murdered a peddler in 
the woods and stolen his pack to begin life on. And 
do you think that Gamacho then would have ever 
become a hero with the democracy of this place like 
our capataz ? Of course not. He isn't half the 
man. No ; decidedly, I think that Nostromo is a 
fool." 

The doctor's talk was distasteful to the builder of 
railways. "It is impossible to argue that point," he 
said, philosophically. " Each man has his gifts. You 
should have heard Gamacho haranguing his friends 
in the street. He has a howling voice and he shouted 
like mad, lifting his clinched fist right above his head 
and throwing his body half out of the window. At 
every pause the rabble below yelled, "Down with the 
oligarchs! Viva la Libertad!" Fuentes, inside, looked 
extremely miserable. You know he is the brother of 
Jorge Fuentes, who has been Minister of the Interior 
for six months or so some few years back. Of course, 
he has no conscience, but he's a man of birth ard edu- 
cation; at one time the director of the customs of 
Cayta. That idiot -brute Gamacho fastened himself 
upon him with his following of the lowest rabble. His 

357 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

sickly fear of that ruffian was the most rejoicing sight 
imaginable." 

He got up and went to the door to look out towards 
the harbor. "All quiet," he said. "I wonder if 
Sotillo really means to turn up here?" 



II 

CAPTAIN MITCHELL, pacing the wharf, was 
v_x asking himself the same question. There was 
always the doubt whether the warning of the Esmer- 
alda telegraphist a fragmentary and interrupted 
message had been properly understood. However, 
the good man had made up his mind not to go to bed 
till daylight, if even then. He imagined himself to 
have rendered an enormous service to Charles Gould. 
When he thought of the saved silver he rubbed his 
hands together with satisfaction. In his simple way 
he was proud at being a party to this extremely clever 
expedient. It was he who had given it a practical 
shape by suggesting the possibility of intercepting at 
sea the north-bound steamer. And it was advanta- 
geous to his company, too, which would have lost a val- 
uable freight if the treasure had been left ashore to be 
confiscated. The pleasure of disappointing the Mon- 
terists was also very great. Authoritative by tem- 
perament and the long habit of command, Captain 
Mitchell was no democrat. He even went so far as 
to profess a contempt for parliamentarism itself. 
"His Excellency Don Vincente Ribiera," he used to 
say, "whom I and that fellow of mine, Nostromo, had 
the honor, sir, and the pleasure of saving from a cruel 
death, deferred too much to his Congress. It was a 
mistake a distinct mistake, sir." 

359 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

The guileless old seaman superintending the O.S.N. 
service imagined that the last three days had exhausted 
every startling surprise the political life of Costaguana 
could offer. He used to confess afterwards that the 
events which followed surpassed his imagination. To 
begin with, Sulaco (because of the seizure of the cables 
and the disorganization of the steam service) remained 
for a whole fortnight cut off from the rest of the world 
like a besieged city. 

"One would not have believed it possible. But so 
it was, sir. A full fortnight." 

The account of the extraordinary things that hap- 
pened during that time and the powerful emotions 
he experienced acquired a wearisome impressiveness 
from the pompous manner of his personal narrative. 
He opened it always by assuring his hearer that he was 
"in the thick of things from first to last." Then he 
would begin by describing the getting away of the 
silver and his natural anxiety lest " his fellow " in charge 
of the lighter should make some mistake. Apart from 
the loss of so much precious metal, the life of Senor 
Martin Decoud, an agreeable, wealthy, and well-in- 
formed young gentleman, would have been jeopardized 
through his falling into the hands of his political ene- 
mies. Captain Mitchell also admitted that in his sol- 
itary vigil on the wharf he had felt a certain measure 
of concern for the future of the whole country. 

"A feeling, sir," he explained, " perfectly comprehen- 
sible in a man properly grateful for the many kindnesses 
received from the best families of merchants and other 
native gentlemen of independent means who, barely 
saved by us from the excesses of the mob, seemed to 

360 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 



my miml'* eye destined to become the prey in person 
and fortune of the native soldiery, which, as is well 
known, behave with regrettable barbarity to the in- 
habitants during their rivil commotions. And then, 
sir, there were the Goulds, for both of whom, man and 
wife, I could not but entertain the warmest feelings, 
deserved by their hospitality and kindness. I felt, 
too, the dangers of the gentlemen of the AmariHa 
Club, who had made me honorary member and had 
treated me with uniform regard and civility both in 
my capacity of consular agent and as superintendent 
of an important steam service. Miss Antonia Avella- 

the most beautiful and accomplished young lady 
whom it had ever been my privilege to speak to, was 
not a little in my mind, I confess. How the interests 
of my company would be affected by the impending 
change of officials claimed a large share of my atten- 
tion. too. In short, sir, I was extremely anxious and 
very tired, as you may suppose, by the exciting and 
memorable events in which I had taken my little part. 
The company's building containing my residence was 
within five minutes' walk, with the attraction of some 
supper and of my hammock (I always take my nightly 

m a hammock, as the most suitable to the climate) ; 
but somehow, sir, though evidently I could do nothing 
for any one by remaining about, I could not tear myself 
away from that wharf, where the fatigue made me stum- 
ble painfully at times. The night was excessively 
dark the darkest I remember in my life so that I 
began to think that the arrival of the transport from 
emerald a could not possibly take place before day- 
light, owing to the difficulty of navigating the gulf. 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

The mosquitos bit like fury. We have been infested 
here with mosquitos before the late improvements 
a peculiar harbor brand, sir, renowned for its ferocity. 
They were like a cloud about my head, and I shouldn't 
wonder that but for their attacks I would have dozed 
off as I walked up and down and got a heavy fall. I 
kept on smoking cigar after cigar, more to protect my- 
self from being eaten up alive than from any real relish 
for the weed. Then, sir, when perhaps for the twen- 
tieth time I was approaching my watch to the lighted 
end in order to see the time, and observing with surprisi 
that it wanted yet ten minutes to midnight, I heard the 
plash of a ship's propeller, an unmistakable sound to a 
sailor's ear on such a calm night. It was faint indeed, 
because they were advancing with precaution and dead 
slow, both on account of the darkness and from their 
desire of not revealing too soon their presence a 
very unnecessary care, because, I verily believe, in all 
the enormous extent of this harbor I was the only living 
soul about. Even the usual staff of watchmen and 
others had been absent from their posts for several 
nights owing to the disturbances. I stood stock-still 
after dropping and stamping out my cigar a circum- 
stance highly agreeable, I should think, to the mos- 
quitos, if I may judge from the state of my face next 
morning. But that was a trifling inconvenience in 
comparison with the brutal proceedings I became vic- 
tim of on the part of Sotillo. Something utterly in- 
conceivable, sir. More like the proceedings of a 
maniac than the action of a sane man, however lost 
to all sense of honor and decency. But Sotillo was 
furious at the failure of his thievish scheme." 

362 



1 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

In this Captain Mitchell was right. Sotillo was in- 
deed infuriated. Captain Mitchell, however, had not 
been arrested at once; a vivid curiosity induced him 
to remain on the wharf (which is nearly two hundred 
and fifty yards long) to see, or rather hear, the whole 
process of disembarkation. Concealed by the railway- 
truck used for silver, which had been run back after- 
wards to the shore end of the jetty, Captain Mitchell 
saw the small detachment thrown forward and pass by, 
taking different directions upon the plain. Meantime 
the troops were being landed and formed into a col- 
umn whose head crept up gradually so close to him 
that he made it out barring nea'rly the whole width of 
the wharf only a very few yards from him. Then the 
low, shuffling, murmuring, clinking sounds ceased, and 
the whole mass remained for about an hour motion- 
less and silent, awaiting the return of the scouts. On 
land nothing was to be heard except the deep baying 
of the mastiffs at the railway-yards, answered by the 
faint barking of the curs infesting the outer limits of 
the town. A detached knot of dark shapes stood in 
front of the head of the column. 

Presently the picket at the end of the wharf began 
to challenge in undertones single figures approaching 
from the plain. Those messengers sent back from the 
scouting-parties flung to their comrades brief sentences 
and passed on rapidly, becoming lost in the great 
motionless mass, to make their report to the staff. It 
occurred to Captain Mitchell that his position could 
become disagreeable, and perhaps dangerous, when, 
suddenly, at the head of the jetty, there was a shout 
of command, a btigle-call, followed by a stir and a 
363 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

rattling of arms and a murmuring noise that ran right 
up the column. Near by a loud voice directed hur- 
riedly, "Push that railway-car out of the way." At 
the rush of bare feet to execute the order, Captain 
Mitchell skipped back a pace or two ; the car, suddenly 
impelled by many hands, flew away from him along 
the rails; and before lie knew what had happened he 
found himself surrounded and seized, by his arms and 
the collar of his coat. 

"We have caught a man hiding here, mi teniente!" 
cried one of his captors. 

" Hold him on one side till the rear-guard comes 
along," answered the voice. The whole column stream- 
ed past Captain Mitchell at a run, the thundering noise 
of their feet dying away suddenly on the shore. His 
captors held him tightly, disregarding his declaration 
that he was an Englishman, and his loud demands to 
be taken at once before their commanding officer. 
Finally he lapsed into dignified silence. With a hol- 
low rumble of wheels on the planks, a couple of field- 
guns dragged by hand rolled by. Then, after a small 
body of men had marched past, escorting four or five 
figures which walked in advance with a jingle of steel 
scabbards, he felt a tug at his arms and was ordered 
to come along. During the passage from the wharf to 
the custom-house it is to be feared that Captain Mit- 
chell was subjected to certain indignities at the hands 
of the soldiers, such as jerks, thumps on the neck, 
forcible application of the butt of a rifle to the small 
of his back. Their ideas of speed were not in accord with 
his notion of his dignity. He became flustered, flushed, 
and helpless. It was a,s if the world were coming to an end, 

364 



tromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

The long building was surrounded by troops, which 
were already piling arms by companies ami preparing 
f|> pass the night lying on the ground in their pon> 
with their sarks under their heads. ('<>rp.>ruls moved 
with swinging lantenis, posting sentries all round the 
walls wherever there was a door or an opening. So- 
tillo was taking his measures to protect his conquest 
as if it had indeed contained the treasure. His desire 
W make his fortune at one audacious stroke of genius 
kd overmastered his reasoning faculties. He would 
not believe in the possibility of failure. The mere hint 
of such a thing made his brain reel with rage. Every 
circumstance pointing to it appeared incredible. The 
ftatement of Hirsch, which was so absolutely fatal to 
his hopes, could by no means be admitted. It is true, 

that Hirsch "s story had been told so incoherently, 
with such excessive signs of distraction, that it really 
looked improbable. It was extremely difficult, as the 
lying is, to make head or tail of it. On the bridge 
of the steamer, directly after his rescue, Sotillo and his 
officers, in their impatience and excitement, would not 
ve the wretched man time to collect such few wits as 

lined to him. He ought to have been quieted, 
soothed, and reassured; whereas he had been roughly 
handled, cuffed, shaken, and addressed in menacing 
ones. His struggles, his wriggles, his attempts to get 
down on his knees, followed by the most violent efforts 

reak away, as if he meant incontinently to jump 
overboard; his shrieks and shrinkings and cowering 
wild glances had filled them first with amazement 
then with a doubt of his genuineness, as men are wont 
b suspect the sincerity of every great passion. His 

365 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

Spanish, too, became so mixed up with German that the 
better half of his statements remained incomprehensible. 
He tried to propitiate them by calling them hocku'ohl- 
geboren herren, which in itself sounded suspicious. 
When admonished sternly not to trifle he repeated his 
entreaties and protestations of loyalty and innocence 
again in German, obstinately, because he was not aware 
in what language he was speaking. His identity, of 
course, was perfectly known as an inhabitant of Es- 
meralda, but this made the matter no clearer. As he 
kept on forgetting Decoud's name, mixing him up with 
several other people he had seen in the Casa Gould, it 
looked as if they all had been in the lighter together; 
and for a moment Sotillo thought that he had drowned 
every prominent Ribierist of Sulaco. The improb- 
ability of such a thing threw a doubt upon the whole 
statement. Hirsch was either mad or playing a part 
pretending fear and distraction on the spur of the mo- 
ment to cover the truth. Sotillo's rapacity, excited 
to the highest pitch by the prospect of an immense 
booty, could believe in nothing adverse. This Jew 
might have been very much frightened by the accident, 
but he knew where the silver was concealed, and had 
invented this story, with his Jewish cunning, to put 
him entirely off the track as to what had been done. 
Sotillo had taken up his quarters on the upper floor 
in a vast apartment with heavy black beams. But 
there was no ceiling, and the eye lost itself in the dark- 
ness under the high pitch of the roof. The thick shut- 
ters stood open. On a long table could be seen a large 
inkstand, some stumpy, inky quill pens, and two 
square wooden boxes, each holding half a hundred- 

366 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

weight of sand. Sheets of gr rse, official paper 

bestrewed the floor. It must have been a room oc- 
cupied by some higher official of the customs, because a 
qge leathern arm-chair stood behind the table, with 
other high-backed chairs scattered about. A net ham- 
mock was swung under one of the beams for the oflfi- 
gfal's afternoon siesta, no doubt. A couple of candles 
stuck into tall iron candlesticks gave a dim, reddish 
ght. The colonel's hat, sword, and revolver lay l>e- 
reen them, and a couple of his more trusty officers 
lounged gloomily against the table. The colonel 
threw himself into the arm-chair, and a big negro with 
a sergeant's stripes on his ragged sleeve, kneeling down, 
pulled off his boots. Sotillo's ebony mustache con- 
pasted violently with the livid coloring of his cheeks. 
mas eyes were sombre and as if sunk very far into his 
Lad. He seemed exhausted by his perplexities, lan- 
guid with disappointment; but when the sentry on the 
landing thrust his head in to announce the arrival of a 
prisoner he revived at once. 

" Let him be brought in," he shouted, fiercely. 

The door flew open and Captain Mitchell, bare- 
Haded, his waistcoat open, the bow of his tie under 
his ear, was hustled into the room. 

Sotillo recognized him at once. He could not have 
hoped for a more precious capture. Here was a man who 
could tell him, if he chose, everything he wished to know ; 
and, directly, the problem of how best to make him talk 
to the point presented itself to his mind. The resent- 
ment of a foreign nation had no terrors for Sotillo. 
The might of the whole armed Europe would not have 
protected Captain Mitchell from insults and ill-usage so 

367 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

well as the quick reflection of Sotillo that this was an I 
Englishman, who would most likely turn obstinate 
under bad treatment and become quite unmanageable. 
At all events, the colonel smoothed the scowl on his 
brow. 

"What! The excellent Senor Mitchell!" he cried, j. 
in affected dismay. The pretended anger of his swift 
advance and of his shout, "Release the caballero 
at once," was so effective that the astounded soldiers 
positively sprang away from their prisoner. Thus 
suddenly deprived of forcible support, Captain Mitchell 
reeled as though about to fall. Sotillo took him fa- 
miliarly under the arm, led him to a chair, waved his 
hand at the room. "Go out, all of you," he commanded. 

When they had been left alone he stood looking 
down, irresolute and silent, waiting till Captain Mitchell 
had recovered his power of speech. 

Here in his very grasp was one of the men concerned 
in the removal of the silver. Sotillo's temperam 
was of that sort that he experienced an ardent desi: 
to beat him; just as formerly, when negotiating wit! 
difficulty a loan from the cautious Anzani, his fingers 
always itched to take the shopkeeper by the throat. 
As to Captain Mitchell, the suddenness, unexpectedness, 
and general inconceivableness of this experience had 
confused his thoughts. Moreover, he was physically 
out of breath. 

"I've been knocked down three times between this 
and the wharf," he gasped out, at last. "Somebody 
shall be made to pay for this. " He had certainly stum- 
bled more than once, and had been dragged along for 
some distance before he could regain his stride. With 

368 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

ecovered breath his indignation seemed to madden 
him. He jumped up, crimson, all his white hair bristling, 
his eyes glaring vengefully, and shook violently the 
Haj is of Ins ruined waistcoat before the disconcerted 
Sotillo. "Look! Those uniformed thieves of yours 
down-stairs have robbed me of my watch." 

The old sailor's aspect was very threatening. So- 
tillo saw himself cut off from the table on which his 
sabre and revolver were lying. 

" I demand restitution and apologies," Mitchell thun- 
dered at him, (mite beside himself. "From you! 
,Yes, from you!" 

For the space of a second or so the colonel stood with 
a perfectly stony expression of face; then, as Captain 
Mitchell flung out an arm towards the table as if to 
snatch up the revolver, Sotillo, with a yell of alarm, 
bounded to the door and was gone in a flash, slamming 
it after him. Surprise calmed Captain Mitchell's 
fury. Behind the closed door Sotillo shouted on the 
landing, and there was a great tumult of feet on the 
wooden staircase. 

"Disarm him! Bind him!" the colonel could be 
heard vociferating. 

Captain Mitchell had just the time to glance once 
at the windows, with three perpendicular bars of iron 
each and some twenty feet from the ground, as he 
well knew, before the door flew open and the rush 
upon him took place. In an incredibly short time he 
found himself bound with many turns of a hide rope 
to a high-backed chair, so that his head alone remained 
free. Not till then did Sotillo, who had been leaning 
in the doorway, trembling visibly, venture again with- 

369 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard \\ 

in. The soldiers, picking up from the floor the rifles 
they had dropped to grapple with the prisoner, filed 
out of the room. The officers remained leaning on 
their swords and looking on. 

" The watch ! The watch !" raved the colonel, pacing 
to and fro like a tiger in a cage. " Give me that man's 
watch." 

It was true that when searched for arms in the 
hall down -stairs, before being taken into Sotillo's 
presence, Captain Mitchell had been relieved of his 
watch and chain ; but at the colonel's clamor it was prc 
duced quickly enough, a corporal bringing it up, carrit 
carefully in the palms of his joined hands. Sotilk 
snatched it and pushed the clinched fist from which it 
dangled close to Captain Mitchell's face. 

"Now, then; you arrogant Englishman! You dai 
to call the soldiers of the army thieves! Behold yoi 
watch." 

He flourished his fist as if aiming blows at th 
prisoner's nose. Captain Mitchell, helpless as a swathe 
infant, looked anxiously at the sixty -guinea golc 
half - chronometer presented to him years ago by 
committee of underwriters for saving a ship from tote 
loss by fire. Sotillo, too, seemed to perceive its val- 
uable appearance. He became silent suddenly, st 
ped aside to the table and began a careful examim 
tion in the light of the candles. He had never 
anything so fine. His officers closed in and cranec 
their necks behind his back. 

He became so interested that for an instant he for 
got his precious prisoner. There is always something 
childish in the rapacity of the passionate, clear-mindi 

37 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

southern races, wanting in the misty idealism of the 
irrners, who at the smallest encouragement drram 
of nothing less than the conquest of the earth. Sotillo 
was fond of jewels, gold trinkets, of personal adorn- 
ment. After a moment he turned about, and with a 
mantling gesture made all his officers fall hark, 
lid down the watch on the table, then, negligent- 
ly, pushed his hat over it. 

" Ha!" he began, going up very close to the chair. 
u dare call my valiant soldiers of the Esmerakla 
regiment thieves ? You dare? What impudence! You 
foreigners come here to rob our country of its wealth. 
You never have enough! Your audacity knows no 
bounds." 

He looked towards the officers, among whom there 
was an approving murmur. The old major was 
moved to declare: 

"Si, mi coronel. They are all traitors." 

"I shall say nothing," continued Sotillo, fixing the 
motionless and powerless Mitchell with an angry but 
uneasy stare. " I shall say nothing of your treacher- 
ous attempt to get possession of my revolver to shoot 
me while I was trying to treat you with a consideration 
you did not deserve. You have forfeited your life. 
Your only hope is in my clemency." 

He watched for the effect of his words, but there was 
no obvious sign of fear on Captain Mitchell's face. 
Hi white hair was full of dust, which covered also the 
rest of his helpless person. As if he had heard nothing, 
he twitched an eyebrow to get rid of a bit of straw 
which hung among the hairs. 

Sotillo advanced one leg and put his arms akimbo. 
37' 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

"It is you, Mitchell," he said, emphatically, "who 
are the thief, not my soldiers." He pointed at his 
prisoner a forefinger with a long, almond-shaped nail. 
" Where is the silver of the San Tome' mine ? I ask you.. 
Mitchell, where is the silver that was deposited in this 
custom-house? Answer me that! You stole it. 
You were a party to stealing it. It is stolen from the 
government. Aha! you think I do not know what J 
say, but I am up to your foreign tricks. It is gone, 
the silver. No ? Gone in one of your lanchas, you 
miserable man. How dared you?" 

This time he produced his effect. " How on earth 
could Sotillo know that ?" thought Mitchell. His head, 
the only part of his body that could move, betrayed 
his surprise by a sudden jerk. 

"Ha! you tremble!" Sotillo shouted suddenly. 
" It is a conspiracy. It is a crime against the stave. 
Did you not know that the silver belongs to the repub- 
lic till the government claims are satisfied? Where 
is it ? Where have you hidden it, you miserable 
thief?" 

At this question Captain Mitchell's sinking spirits 
revived. In whatever incomprehensible manner So- 
tillo had already got his information about the lighter, 
he had not captured it. That was clear. In his out- 
raged heart Captain Mitchell had resolved that noth- 
ing would induce him to say a word while he remained 
so disgracefully bound, but his desire to help the es- 
cape of the silver made him depart from this resolution. 
His wits were very much at work. He detected in 
Sotillo a certain air of doubt, of irresolution. "That 
man," he said to himself, " is not certain of what he. ad- 

372 



Nostroino: A Tale of the Seaboard 

''> trances." For all his pomposity in social intercourse, 
Jptain Mitchell could meet the realities of life in a 
ohite and ready spirit. Now he had got over the 
it shock of the abominable treatment he was cool 
and collected enough. The immense contempt he 
felt for Sotillo steadied him and he said, oracularly, 
"No doubt it is well concealed by this time." 

tillo, too, had time to cool down. "Muy bien, 
Mitchell," he said, in a cold and threatening manner. 
"But can you produce the government receipt for the 
yalty, and the custom-house permit of embarkation, 
By? Can vou? No. Then the silver has been re- 



moved illegally, and the guilty shall l>e made to suffer 
unless it is produced within five days from this." He 
gave orders for the prisoner to be unbound and locked 
rap in one of the smaller rooms down-stairs. He walked 
Bout the room, moody and silent, till Captain Mitchell, 
with each of his arms held by a couple of men, stood 
>, shook himself, and stamped his feet. 
| " How did you like to be tied up, Mitchell ?" he asked, 

ely. 

if " It is the most incredible, abominable use of power," 
Captain Mitchell declared, in a loud voice. "And 
whatever your purpose, you shall gain nothing from it, 
I can promise you." 

The tall colonel, livid, with his coal-black ringlets and 
ptache. crouched, as it were, to look into the eyes 
of the short, thick-set, red -faced prisoner with rumpled 
white hair. 

"That we shall see. You shall know my power a 
tte better when I tie you up to a potalon outside in 
t sun for a whole day." He drew himself up haugh- 

373 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

tily , and made a sign for- Captain Mitchell to be led 
away. 

"What about my watch?" cried Captain Mitchell, 
hanging back from the efforts of the men pulling him 
towards the door. 

Sotillo turned to his officers. "No! But only listen 
to this picaro, caballeros," he pronounced, with affected 
scorn, and was answered by a chorus of derisive 
laughter. "He demands his watch!" . . . He ran up 
again to Captain Mitchell, for the desire to relieve his 
feelings by inflicting blows and pain upon this English- 
man was very strong within him. " Your watch! You 
are a prisoner in war-time, Mitchell in \\ar-time! 
You have no rights and no property. Caramba! The | 
very breath in your body belongs to me. Remember 
that." 

" Bosh!" said Captain Mitchell, concealing a disagree- 
able impression. 

Down below, in a great hall with an earthen floor 
and with a tall mound thrown up by white ants in a 
corner, the soldiers had kindled a small fire with broken 
chairs and tables near the arched gateway, through 
which the faint murmur of the harbor waters on the 
beach could be heard. While Captain Mitchell was 
being led down the staircase an officer passed him, 
running up to report to Sotillo the capture of more 
prisoners. A lot of smoke hung about in the vast 
gloomy place, the fire crackled, and as if through a 
haze Captain Mitchell made out, surrounded by short 
soldiers with fixed bayonets, the heads of three tall 
prisoners: the doctor, the engineer-in-chief, and the 
white leonine mane of old Viola, who stood half turned 

374 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

ray from the others with his chin on his breast an- 1 
m& arms crossed. Mitchell's astonishment knew no 
Bunds. He cried out ; the other two exclaimed a 
But he was hurried on, diagonally, across the big. 
rn-like hall. Lots of thoughts, surmises, hint 
.ion, and so on, crowded his head to distraction. 

"Is he actually keeping you?" shouted the chief 
engineer, whose single eye-glass glittered in the firelight. 

An officer from the top of the stairs was shouting 
tly, "Bring them all up all three." 

In the clamor of voices and the rattle of arms Cap- 
B|B Mitchell made himself heard imi>erfectly. "By 
eavens! The fellow has stolen my watch!" 

The engineer-in-chief on the staircase resisted the 
pressure long enough to shout, " What ? What did you 
tay ?" 

"My chronometer!" Captain Mitchell yelled violent- 
It, at the very moment of being thrust head-f>remost 
pirough a small door into a sort of cell perfectly black 
and so narrow that he fetched up against the opposite 
wall. The door had been instantly slammed. He 
knew where they had put him. This was the strong- 
Bom of the custom-house, whence the silver had been 
removed only a few hours earlier. It was almost 
as narrow as a corridor, with a small, square aperture 
barred by a heavy grating at the distant end. Cap- 
fel Mitchell staggered for a few steps, then sat down 
on the earthen floor with his back to the wall. Noth- 
>ot even a gleam of light from anywhere, interfered 
with Captain Mitchell's meditation. He did some 
hard but not very extensive thinking. It was not of a 
gloomy cast. The old sailor, with all his small weak- 

375 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

ness and absurdities, was constitutionally incapable i 
of entertaining for any length of time a fear of his per- 
sonal safety. It was not so much firmness of soul as 
the lack of a certain kind of imagination the kind 
whose undue development caused intense suffering to 
Senor Hirsch ; that sort of imagination which adds the , 
blind terror of bodily suffering and of death, envis- | 
aged as an accident to the body alone, strictly, to all 
the other apprehensions on which the sense of one's 
existence is based. Unfortunately, Captain Mitchell 
had not much penetration of any kind ; characteristic, [ 
illuminating trifles of expression, action, or movement, j 
escaped him completely. He was too pompously and 
innocently aware of his own existence to observe that 
of others. For instance, he could not believe that So- 
tillo had been really afraid of him, and this simply 
because it would never have entered into his head to ; 
shoot any one except in the most pressing case of self- ;. 
defence. Anybody could see he was not a murdering 
kind of man, he reflected quite gravely. Then wl 
this preposterous and insulting charge, he asked him- 
self. But his thoughts mainly clung around the as- 
tounding and unanswerable question: How the devil 
the fellow got to know that the silver had gone off in 
the lighter? It was obvious that he had not captured 
it. And, obviously, he could not have captured it. 
In this last conclusion Captain Mitchell was misled 
by the assumption drawn from his observation of the 
weather during his long vigil on the wharf. He thought 
that there had been much more wind than usual that 
night in the gulf; whereas, as a matter of (act, the re- 
verse was the case. 

376 

I 



Nostiomo. A Talc of the Seaboard 

1 How in the name of all that's marvellous did that 
confounded fellow got wind of the affair?" was the first 
ion he asked directly after the bang, clatter, and 
Hush of the open door (which was closed again almost 
before he could lift his dropped head) informed him 
that he had a companion of captivity. Dr. Monyg- 
ham's voice stopped muttering curses in English and 
Spanish. 

1 Is that you, Mitchell?" he made answer, surlily. 
I struck my forehead against this confounded wall 
with enough force to fell an ox. Where are you?" 

Captain Mitchell, accustomed to the darkness, could 
make out the doctor stretching out his hands 
blindly. 

"I am sitting here on the floor. Don't fall over my 
(legs," Captain Mitchell's voice announced with great 
(dignity of tone. The doctor, entreated not to walk 
about in the dark, sank down to the ground, too. The 
itwo prisoners of Sotillo, with their heads nearly touch- 
ling, began to exchange confidences. 

" Yes," the doctor related, in a low tone, to Captain 
[Mitchell's vehement curiosity, "we have been nabbed 
j in old Viola's place. It seems that one of their pickets 
commanded by an officer pushed as far as the town gate. 
IThey had orders not to enter, but to bring along every- 
[soul they could find on the plain. We had been talking 
in there with the door open, and no doubt they saw the 
glimmer of our light. They must have been making 
their approaches for some time. The engineer laid 
himself on a bench in a recess by the fireplace and I 
went up-stairs to have a look. I hadn't heard any 
(sound from there for a long time. Old Viola, as soon 

377 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

as he saw me come up, lifted his arm for silence. I 
stole in on tiptoe. By Jove! his wife was lying down 
and had gone to sleep. The woman had actually 
dropped off to sleep! 'Senor Doctor,' Viola whispers 
to me, 'it looks as if her oppression was going to get 
better.' 'Yes,' I said, very much surprised, 'your wife 
is a wonderful woman, Giorgio.' Just then a shot was 
fired in the kitchen which made us jump and cower 
as if at a thunder-clap. It seems that the party of 
soldiers had stolen quite close up and one of them had 
crept up to the door. He looked 'in, thought there 
was no one there, and holding his rifle ready entered 
quietly. The chief told me that he had just closed his 
eyes for a moment: when he opened them he saw the 
man already in the middle of the room peering into 
the dark corners. The chief was so startled that 
without thinking, he made one leap from the rec 
right out in front of the fireplace. The soldier, no 1 
startled, up with his rifle and pulls the trigger, dea: 
ening and singeing the engineer, but in his flurry miss- 
ing him completely. But look what happens! At 
the noise of the report the sleeping woman sat up, as 
if moved by a spring, with a shriek, 'The child 
Gian' Battista! Save the children!' I have it in 
ears now. It was the truest cry of distress I ever 
heard. I stood as if paralyzed, but the old husband 
ran across to the bedside stretching out his hands. 
She clung to them. I could see her eyes go glazed. 
The old fellow lowered her down on the pillows and 
then looked round at me. She was dead. All this 
took less than five minutes, and then I ran down to 
see what was the matter. It was no use thinking of 

378 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

any ice. Nothing we two could 'say availed 

with the officer, so I volunteered to go up with a couple 
of soldiers and fetch down old Viola. He was sitting 
at the foot of the bed looking at his wife's face and 
did not seem to hear what I said ; but after I had pulled 
the sheet over her head he got up and followed us 
down-stairs quietly, in a sort of thoughtful way. They 
marched us off along the road, leaving the door open 
and the candle burning. The chief engineer strode 
on without a word, but I looked back once or twice at 
the feeble gleam. After we had gone some consider- 
able distance the Garibaldino, who was walking by my 
side, suddenly said : ' 1 have buried many men on battle- 
fields on this continent. The priests talk of conse- 
crated ground! Bah! All the earth made by God is 
holy; but the sea, which knows nothing of kings and 
priests and tyrants, is the holiest of all. Doctor, I 
should like to bury her in the sea. No mummeries, 
randies, incense, no holy - water mumbled over by 
priests. The spirit of liberty is upon the waters.' . . . 
Amazing old man. He was saying all this in an under- 
tone, as if talking to himself." 

"Yes, yes," interrupted Captain Mitchell, impa- 
tiently. "Poor old chap! But have you any idea 
how that ruffian Sotillo obtained his information ? He 
did not get hold of any of our cargadores who helped 
with the truck, did he? But no, it is impossible! 
These were picked men we've had in our boats for 
five years, and I paid them myself specially for 
the job, with instructions to keep out of the way for 
twenty-four hours at least. I saw them with my own 
march off with the Italians to the railway-yards. 
s 379 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

The chief promised to give them rations as long as they 
wanted to remain there." 

"Well," said the doctor, slowly, "I can tell you that 
you may say good-bye forever to your best lighter and 
to the capataz of cargadores." 

At this Captain Mitchell scrambled up to his feet in 
the excess of his excitement. The doctor, without 
giving him time to exclaim, stated briefly the part 
played by Hirsch during the night. 

Captain Mitchell was overcome. "Drowned!" he 
muttered, in a bewildered and appalled whisper. 
"Drowned!" Afterwards he kept still, apparently 
listening, but too absorbed in the news of the catas- 
trophe to follow the doctor's narrative with attention. 

The doctor had taken up an attitude of perfect igno- 
rance, till at last Sotillo was induced to have Hirsch 
brought in to repeat the whole story, which was got 
out of him again with the greatest difficulty, because 
every moment he would break out into lamentations. 
At last Hirsch was led away, looking more dead than 
alive, and shut up in one of the up-stairs rooms to be 
close at hand. Then the doctor, keeping up his char- 
acter of a man not admitted to the inner councils of 
the San Tome administration, remarked that the story 
sounded incredible. Of course, he said, he couldn't 
tell what had been the action of the Europeans, as he 
had been exclusively occupied with his own work in 
looking after the wounded and also in attending Don 
Jose" Avellanos. He had succeeded in assuming so 
well a tone of impartial indifference that Sotillo seemed 
to be completely deceived. Till then a show of regular 
inquiry had been kept up one of the officers sitting at 

380 






Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

tlu- table wrote down the questions and the answers; 
tin- others, lounging about the room, listened atten- 
tively, puffing at their long cigars and keeping their 
eyes on the doctor. But at that point Sotillo ordered 
everybody out. 



Ill 

DIRECTLY they were alone the colonel's severe 
official manner changed. He rose and approach- 
ed the doctor. His eyes shone with rapacity and hope ; 
he became confidential. " The silver might have been 
indeed put on board the lighter, but it was not con- 
ceivable that it should have been taken out to sea." 
The doctor, watching every word, nodded slightly, 
smoking with apparent relish the cigar which Sotilk 
had offered him as a sign of his friendly intentions. 
His manner of cold detachment from the rest of the 
Europeans led Sotillo on till, from conjecture to con- 
jecture, he arrived at hinting that in his opinion this 
was a put-up job on the part of Charles Gould in order 
to get hold of that immense treasure all to himself. 
The doctor, observant and self-possessed, muttered, 
"He is very capable of that." 

Here Captain Mitchell exclaimed, with amazement, 
amusement, and indignation, "You said that of 
Charles Gould!" Disgust and even some suspicion 
crept into his tone, for to him, too, as to other Euro- 
peans, there appeared to be something dubious about 
the doctor's personality. 

"What on earth made you say that to that watch- 
stealing scoundrel?" he asked. "What's the object 
of an infernal lie of that sort? That confounded 
pickpocket was quite capable of believing you." 

382 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

He snorted. For a time the doctor remained silent 
in the dark. 

"Yes, that is exactly what I did say," he uttered 
at last, in a tone which would have made it clear 
enough to a third party that the pause was not of a 
reluctant but of a reflective character. Captain Mit- 
chell thought that he had never heard anything so 
brazenly impudent in his life. 

" Well, well!" he muttered to himself, but he had not 
the heart to voice his thoughts. They were swept 
away by others full of astonishment and regret. A 
heavy sense of discomfiture crushed him: the loss of 
the silver, the death of Nostromo, which was really 
quite a blow to his sensibilities, because he had be- 
come attached to his capataz as people get attached 
to their inferiors from love of ease and almost uncon- 
scious gratitude. And when he thought of Decoud 
being drowned, too, his sensibility was almost overcome 
by this miserable end. What a heavy blow for that 
poor young woman ! Captain Mitchell did not belong 
to the species of crabbed old bachelors, on the con- 
trary, he liked to see young men paying attentions to 
young women. It seemed to him a natural and proper 
thing. Proper, especially. As to sailors, it was dif- 
feriMit; it was not their place to marry, he maintained; 
but it was on moral grounds as a matter of self-denial; 
for, he explained, life on board ship is not fit for a 
woman even at best, and if you leave her on shore, first 
of all it is not fair, and next she either suffers from it 
or doesn't care a bit, which in both cases is bad. He 
couldn't have told what upset him most Charles 
Gould's immense material loss, the death of Nostromo, 

383 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

which was a heavy loss to himself, or the idea of 
that beautiful and accomplished young woman being 
plunged into mourning. 

" Yes," the doctor, who had been apparently reflect- 
ing some more, began again, "he believed me right 
enough. I thought he would have hugged me. 'Si, 
si,' he said, 'he will write to that partner of his, the 
rich Americano in San Francisco, that it is all lost. 
Why not? There is enough to share with many peo- 
ple.'" 

"But this is perfectly imbecile!" cried Captain 
Mitchell. 

The doctor remarked that Sotillo was imbecile, and 
that his imbecility was ingenious enough to lead him 
completely astray. He had helped him only but a 
little way. 

"I mentioned," the doctor said, "in a sort of casual 
way, that treasure is generally buried in the earth rather 
than being set afloat upon the sea. At this my Sotillo 
slapped his forehead. 'For Dios, yes,' he said, 'they 
must have buried it on the shores of this harbor some- 
where before they sailed out.'" 

"Heavens and earth!" muttered Captain Mitchell. 
"I should not have believed that anybody could be 
ass enough " He paused, then went on, mournful- 
ly: "But what's the good of all this? It would have 
been a clever enough lie if the lighter had been still 
afloat. It would have kept that inconceivable idiot 
perhaps from sending out the steamer to cruise in the 
gulf. That was the danger that worried me no end." 
Captain Mitchell sighed profoundly. 

"I had an object," the doctor pronounced, slowly. 
384 



Nostromu: A Tale of the Seaboard 

Had you?" muttered Captain Mitchell. "Well, 
that's lucky. or else I would have thought that you went 
on fooling him for the fun of the thing. And perhaps 
that was your object. Well, I must say I personally 
wouldn't condescend to that sort of thing. It is not to 
my taste. No, no. Blackening a friend's character is 
not my idea of fun, if it were to fool the greatest black- 
guard on earth." 

Had it not been for Captain Mitchell's depression, 
caused by the fatal news, his distrust of Dr. Monygham 
would have taken a more outspoken shape; but he 
thought to himself that now it really did not matter 
what that man, whom he had never liked, would say 
and do. 

" I wonder," he grumbled, "why they have shut us 
up together, or why Sotillo should have shut you up at 
all, since it seems to me you have been fairly chummy 
'up there?" 

"Yes, I wonder," said the doctor, grimly. 

Captain Mitchell's heart was so heavy that he would 
have preferred for the time being a complete solitude 
to the best of company. But any company would 
have been preferable to the doctor's, at whom he had 
always looked askance as a sort of beach-comber of 
superior intelligence partly reclaimed from his abased 
state. That feeling led him to ask: 

"What has that ruffian done with the other two?" 

"The chief engineer he would have let go in any 
case," said the doctor. "He wouldn't like to have a 
|uarrel with the railway upon his hands. Not just yet, 
at any rate. I don't think, Captain Mitchell, that you 
understand exactly what Sotillo's position is " 

385 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

" I don't see why I should bother my head about it," 
snarled Captain Mitchell. 

" No," assented the doctor, with the same grim com- 
posure, "I don't see why you should. It wouldn't 
help a single human being in the world if you thought 
ever so hard upon any subject whatever." 

"No," said Captain Mitchell, simply, and with evi- 
dent depression. "A man locked up in a confounded 
dark hole is not much use to anybody." 

"As to old Viola," the doctor continued, as though 
he had not heard, "Sotillo released him for the same 
reason he is presently going to release you." 

"Eh? What?" exclaimed Captain Mitchell, staring 
like an owl in the darkness. "What is there in com- 
mon between me and old Viola ? More likely because the 
old chap has no watch and chain for the pickpocket 
to steal. And I tell you what, Dr. Monygham," he 
went on with rising choler, "he will find it more diffi- 
cult than he thinks to get rid of me. He will burn his 
fingers over that job yet, I can tell you. To begin 
with, I won't go without my watch, and as to the rest 
we shall see. I dare say it is no great matter for you 
to be locked up. But Joe Mitchell is a different kind 
of man, sir. I don't mean to submit tamely to insult 
and robbery. I am a public character, sir." 

And then Captain Mitchell became aware that the 
bars of the opening had become visible a black grating 
upon a square of gray. The coming of the day silenced 
Captain Mitchell as if by the reflection that now in all 
the future days he would be deprived of the invaluable 
services of his capataz. He leaned against the wall 
with his arms folded on his breast, and the doctor 

386 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

walked up and down the whole length of the place with 
hi> peculiar, hobbling gait, as if slinking about on dam- 
: feet. At the end farthest from the grating he 
M be lost altogether in the darkness. Only the 
slight, limping shuffle could be heard. There was 
an air of moody detachment in that painful prowl kept 
up without a pause. When the door of the prison was 
suddenly flung open and his name shouted out, he 
showed no surprise. He swerved sharply in his walk 
and passed out at once, as though much depended upon 
his speed; but Captain Mitchell remained for some 
time with his shoulders against the wall, quite unde- 
cided in the bitterness of his spirit whether it wouldn't 
be better to refuse to stir a limb in the way of protest. 
He had half a mind to get himself carried out, but 
after the officer at the door had shouted three or four 
times in tones of remonstrance and surprise he con- 
descended to walk out. 

Sotillo's manner had changed. The colonel's off- 
hand civility was slightly irresolute, as though he were 
in doubt if civility were the proper course in this case. 
He observed Captain Mitchell attentively before he 
spoke from the big arm-chair behind the table, in a 
condescending voice: 

" I have concluded not to detain you, Sefior Mitchell. 
I am of a forgiving disposition. I make allowances. 
Let this be a lesson to you, however." 

The peculiar dawn of Sulaco, which seems to break 
far away to the westward and creep back into the shade 
of the mountains, mingled with the reddish light of the 
candles. Captain Mitchell, in sign of contempt and 
indifference, let his eyes roam all over the room, and 

387 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

he gave a hard stare at the doctor, perched already on 
the casement of one of the windows, with his eyelids 
lowered, careless and thoughtful or perhaps ashamed. 

Sotillo, ensconced in the vast arm-chair, remarked: 
"I should have thought that the feelings of a cabal- 
lero would have dictated to you an appropriate reply." 

He waited for it, but Captain Mitchell remaining 
mute, more from extreme resentment than from rea- 
soned intention, Sotillo hesitated, glanced towards the 
doctor, who looked up and nodded, then went on with 
a slight effort: 

"Here, Serior Mitchell, is your watch. Learn how 
hasty and unjust has been your judgment of my pa- 
triotic soldiers." 

Lying back in his seat he extended his arm over the 
table and pushed the watch away slightly. Captain 
Mitchell walked up with undisguised eagerness, put it 
to his ear, then slipped it into his pocket coolly. 

Sotillo seemed to overcome an immense reluctance. 
Again he looked aside at the doctor, who stared at him 
un win kingly. 

But as Captain Mitchell was turning away, without 
as much as a nod or a glance, he hastened to say: 

"You may go and wait down-stairs for the Senor 
Doctor, whom I am going to liberate too. You for- 
eigners are insignificant to my mind." 

He forced a slight discordant laugh out of himself, 
while Captain Mitchell for the first time looked at him 
with some interest. 

"The law shall take note later on of your trans- 
gressions," Sotillo hurried on. "But as for me, you 
can live free, unguarded, unobserved. Do you hear, 

388 






Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

Sertor Mitchell? You may depart to your aff 
You are beneath my notice. My attention is claimed 
by matters of the very highest importance." 

Captain Mitchell was very nearly provoked to an 
answer. It displeased him to be liberated insultingly ; 
but want of sleep, prolonged anxieties, a profound 
appointment with the fatal ending of the silver-saving 
business weighed upon his spirits. It was as much as 
he could do to conceal his uneasiness, not about him- 
self, perhaps, but about things in general. It occurred 
to him distinctly that something underhand was 
going on. As he went out he ignored the doctor 
pointedly. 

"A brute," said Sotillo, as the door shut. 

Dr. Monygham slipped off the window-sill, and, 
thrusting his hands into the pockets of the long, gray 
dust-coat he was wearing, made a few steps into the 
room. 

Sotillo got up, too, and, putting himself in the way, 
examined him from head to foot. 

"So your countrymen do not confide in you very 
much, Seflor Doctor? They do not love you? Eh? 
Why is that, I wonder?" 

The doctor, lifting his head, answered by a long, 
lifeless stare and the words, " Perhaps because I have 
lived too long in Costaguana." 

Sotillo had a gleam of white teeth under the black 
mustache. 

"Aha! But you love yourself," he said, encourag- 
ingly. 

"If you leave them alone," the doctor said, looking 
with the same lifeless stare at Sotillo's handsome face, 

389 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

"they will betray themselves very soon. Meantime, 
I may try to make Don Carlos speak." 

"Ah, Seflor Doctor," said Sotillo, wagging his head, 
"you are a man of quick intelligence. We were made 
to understand each other." He turned away. He 
could bear no longer that expressionless and motionless 
stare, which seemed to have a sort of impenetrable 
emptiness like the black depth of an abyss. 

Even in a man utterly devoid of moral sense there 
remains an appreciation of rascality which, being con- 
ventional, is perfectly clear. Sotillo thought that Dr. 
Monygham, so different from all Europeans, was ready 
to sell his countrymen and Charles Gould, his employer, 
for some share of the San Tome" silver. Sotillo did not 
despise him for that. The colonel's want of moral 
sense was of a profound and innocent character. It 
bordered upon stupidity moral stupidity. Nothing 
that served his ends could appear to him really rep- 
rehensible. Nevertheless, he despised Dr. Monygham. 
He had for him an immense and satisfactory contempt. 
He despised him with all his heart, because he did not 
mean to let the doctor have any reward at all. He de- 
spised him not as a man without faith and honor, but 
as a fool. Dr. Monygham 's insight into his character 
had deceived Sotillo completely. Therefore he thought 
the doctor a fool. 

Since his arrival in Sulaco the colonel's ideas had un- 
dergone some modification. 

He no longer wished for a political career in Mon- 
tero's administration. He had always doubted the 
safety of that course. Since he had learned from the 
chief engineer that at daylight most likely he would 

390 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

be confronted by Pedro Montero, his misgivings on that 
point had considerably increased. The guerrillero 
brother of the general, the Pedrito of popular speech, 
had a reputation of his own. He wasn't safe to deal 
with. Sotillo had vaguely planned seizing not only 
the treasure but the town itself, and then negotiating 
at leisure. But in the face of facts learned from the 
chief engineer (who had frankly disclosed to him the 
whole situation) his audacity, never of a very dashing 
kind, had been replaced by a most cautious hesita- 
tion. 

"An army an army crossed the mountains under 

Pedrito already," he had repeated, unable to hide his 

ternation. "If it had not been that I am given 

the news by a man of your position I would never 

have believed it. Astonishing!" 

"An armed force," corrected the engineer, suavely. 

His aim was attained. It was to keep Sulaco clear 
of any armed occupation for a few hours longer, to let 
those whom fear impelled leave the town. In the gen- 
eral dismay there were families hopeful enough to fly 
upon the road towards Los Hatos, which was left open 
: ie withdrawal of the armed rabble under Sefiores 
Fuentes and Gumacho to Rincon, with their enthusi- 
astic welcome for Pedro Montero. It was a hasty and 
risky exodus, and it was said that Hernandez, occu- 
pying with his band the woods about Los Hatos, was 
receiving the fugitives. That a good many people he 
knew were contemplating such a flight had been well 
know to the chief engineer. 

ther Corbelan's efforts in the cause of that most 
pious robber had not been altogether fruitless. The 

39 1 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

political chief of Sulaco had yielded at the last moment 
to the urgent entreaties of the priest, had signed a pro- 
visional nomination appointing Hernandez a general, 
and calling upon him officially in this new capacity to 
preserve order in the town. The fact is that the po- 
litical chief, seeing the situation desperate, did not 
care what he signed. It was the last official document 
he signed before he left the palace of the Intendencia 
for the refuge of the O.S.N. Company's office. But 
even had he meant his act to be effective it was already 
too late. The riot which he feared and expected broke 
out in less than an hour after Father Corbelan had left 
him. Indeed, Father Corbelan, who had appointed a 
meeting with Nostromo in the Dominican convent, where 
he had his residence in one of the cells, never managed 
to reach the place. From the Intendencia he had gone 
straight on to the Avellanos house to tell his brother- 
in-law, and though he stayed there no more than half 
an hour he had found himself cut off from his ascetic 
abode. Nostromo, after waiting there for some time 
watching uneasily the increasing uproar in the street, 
had made his way to the offices of the Porvcnir 
and stayed there till daylight, as Decoud had mentioned 
in the letter to his sister. Thus the capataz, instead 
of riding towards the Los Hatos woods as bearer of 
Hernandez's nomination, had remained in town to 
save the life of the President-Dictator, to assist in re- 
pressing the outbreak of the mob, and at last to sail 
out with the silver of the mine. 

But Father Corbelkn, escaping to Hernandez, had 
the document in his pocket, a piece of official writing 
turning a bandit into a general in a memorable last 

393 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

ial act of the Rihierist party, whose watchwords 
were honesty, peace, and progress. Probably neither 
tlu' priest nor the bandit saw the irony of it. Father 
Corbelan must havt' found messengers to send into the 
town, for early on the second day of the disturbances 
there were rumors of Hernandez being on the road 
to Los Hatos ready to receive those who would put 
themselves under his protection. A strange-looking 
horseman, elderly and audacious, had appeared in the 
town, riding slowly while his eyes examined the fronts 
of the houses as though he had never seen such high 
buildings before. Before the cathedral he had dis- 
mounted, and, kneeling in the middle of the Plaza, his 
bridle over his arm and his hat lying in front of him on 
the ground, had bowed his head, crossing himself and 
beating his breast for some little time. Remounting 
his horse with a fearless but not unfriendly look round 
the little gathering formed about his public devotions, 
he had asked for the Casa Avellanos. A score of hands 
were extended in answer, with fingers pointing up the 
Calle de la Constitution. 

The horseman had gone on with only a glance of 
casual curiosity upward to the windows of the 
Amarilla Club at the corfter. His stentorian voice 
shouted periodically in the empty street: "Which is 
the Casa Avellanos?" till an answer came from the 
scared porter, and he disappeared under the gate. 
The letter he was bringing, written by Father Corbelan 
with a pencil by the camp - fire of Hernandez, was 
addressed to Don Jose", of whose critical state the priest 
was not aware. Antonia read it, and, after consulting 
Charles Gould, sent it on for the information of the 

393 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

gentlemen garrisoning the Amarilla Club. For her- 
self, her mind was made up ; she would rejoin her uncle ; 
she would entrust the last day the last hours, per- 
haps of her father's life to the keeping of the bandit 
whose existence was a protest against the irresponsible 
tyranny of all parties alike ; against the moral darkness 
of the land. The gloom of the Los Hatos woods was 
preferable; a life of hardships in the train of a robber 
band less debasing. Antonia embraced with all her 
soul her uncle's obstinate defiance of misfortune. It 
was grounded in the belief in the man whom she loved. 

In his message the Vicar-General answered upon his 
head for Hernandez's fidelity. As to his power, he 
pointed out that he had remained unsubdued for so 
many years. In that letter Decoud's idea of the new 
Occidental state (whose flourishing and stable con- 
dition is a matter of common knowledge now) was 
for the first time made public and used as an argument. 
Hernandez, ex-bandit and the last general of Ribierist 
creation, was confident of being able to hold the tract 
of country between the woods of Los Hatos and the 
coast range till that devoted patriot, Don Martin 
Decoud, could bring General Barrios back to Sulaco for 
the reconquest of the town. 

"Heaven itself wills it. Providence is on our side," 
wrote Father Corbelkn; there was no time to re- 
flect upon or to controvert his statement; and if the 
discussion started upon the reading of that letter in 
the Amarilla Club was violent, it was also short-lived. 
In the general bewilderment of the collapse some 
jumped at the idea with joyful astonishment as upon 
the amazing discovery of a new hope. Others became 

394 






Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

:iatcl by the prospect of immediate personal 
y for their women and children. The majority 
it at it as a drowning man catches at a straw. 
Father Corbelan was unexpectedly offering them a 
refuge from Pedrito Montero with his Llaneros allied to 
Beflores Fuentes and Gamacho with their armed rabble. 
All the latter part of the afternoon an animated 
discussion went on in the big rooms of the Amarilla 
Club. Even those memt>ers posted at the windows with 
ritlcs and carbines to guard the end of the street in case 
ot an offensive return of the populace shouted their 
opinions and arguments over their shoulders. As dusk 
fell. Don Juste Lopez, inviting those caballeros who 
were of his way of thinking to follow him, withdrew 
into the corridor, where at a little table in the light of 
aiulles he busied himself in composing an address, 
or rather a solemn declaration, to be presented to 
Pedrito Montero by a deputation of such members of 
Assembly as had elected to remain in town. His idea 
to propitiate him in order to save the form at least 
of parliamentary institutions. Seated before a blank 
sheet of paper, a goose -quill pen in his hand, and 
surged upon from all sides, he turned to the right and 
to the left, repeating with solemn 'nsistence: 

"Caballeros, a moment of silence! A moment of si- 
! We ought to make it clear that we bow in all 
good faith to the accomplished facts." 

The utterance of that phrase seemed to give him 
a melancholy satisfaction. The hubbub of voices round 
him was growing strained and hoarse. In the sudden 
es the excited grimacing of the faces would sink 
all at once into the stillness of profound dejection. 
,6 395 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

Meantime the exodus had begun. Carretas full of 
ladies and children rolled swaying across the plaza, with 
men walking or riding by their side; mounted parties 
followed on mules and horses; the poorest were setting 
out on foot, men and women carrying bundles, clasping 
babies in their arms, leading old people, dragging along 
the bigger children. When Charles Gould, after leav- 
ing the doctor and the engineer at the Casa Viola, en- 
tered the town by the harbor gate, all those that had 
meant to go were gone and the others had barricaded 
themselves in their houses. In the whole dark street 
there was only one spot of flickering lights and moving 
figures, where the Senor Administrador recognized his 
wife's carriage waiting at the door of the Avellanos 
house. He rode up, almost unnoticed, and looked on 
without a word while some of his own servants came 
out of the gate carrying Don Jose" Avellanos, who with 
closed eyes and motionless features appeared perfectly 
lifeless. His wife and Antonia walked on each side of 
the improvised stretcher, which was put at once into 
the carriage. The two women embraced; while from 
the other side of the landau Father Corbelan's emissary, 
with his ragged beard all streaked with gray, and high, 
bronzed cheek-bones, stared, sitting upright in the 
saddle. Then Antonia, dry-eyed, got in by the side 
of the stretcher, and, after making the sign of the cross 
rapidly, lowered a thick veil upon her face. The 
servants and the three or four neighbors who had come 
to assist, stood back, uncovering their heads. On the 
box Ignacio, resigned now to driving all night (and to 
having, perhaps, his throat cut before daylight), looked 
back surlily over his shoulder. 

39 6 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

"Drive carefully." cried Mrs. Gould, in a tremulous 
voice. 

"Si, carefully, si. nina," he mumbled, chewing his 
lips, his round leathery cheeks quivering. And the 
landau rolled slowly out of the light 

"I will see them as far as the fonl," said Charles 
Gould to his wife. She stood on the edge of the 
sidewalk with her hands clasped lightly, and nodded 
to him as he followed after the carriage. And now the 
windows of the Amarilla Club were dark. The last 
spark of resistance had died out. Turning his head at 
the corner, Charles Gould saw his wife crossing over to 
their own gate in the lighted patch of the street. One of 
their neighbors, a well-known merchant and land-owner 
of the province, followed at her elbow, talking with great 
gestures. As she passed in all the lights went out in the 
street, which remained dark and empty from end to end. 

The houses of the vast plaza were lost in the night. 
High up, like a star, there was a small gleam in one of 
the towers of the cathedral ; and the equestrian statue 
gleamed pale against the black trees of the Alameda, 
like a ghost of royalty haunting the scenes of revolution. 
The rare prowlers they met ranged themselves against 
the wall. Beyond the last houses the carriage rolled 
noiselessly on the soft cushion of dust, and with a 
greater obscurity a feeling of freshness seemed to fall 
from the foliage of the trees bordering the country 
road. The emissary from Hernandez's camp pushed 
his horse close to Charles Gould. 

"Caballero," he said, in an interested voice, "you 
are he whom they call the King of Sulaco, the master of 
the mine. Is it not so?" 

397 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

"Yes, I am the master of the mine," answered 
Charles Gould. 

The man cantered for a time in silence, then said: "I 
have a brother, a sereno in your service in the San 
Tome Valley. You have proved yourself a just man. 
There had been no wrong done to any one since you 
called upon the people to work in the mountains. My 
brother says that no official of the government, no 
oppressor of the Campo, had been seen on your side 
of the stream. Your own officials do not oppress the 
people in the gorge. Doubtless they are afraid of your 
severity. You are a just man and a powerful one," he 
added. 

He spoke in an abrupt, independent tone, but evi- 
dently he was communicative with a purpose. He told 
Charles Gould that he had been a ranchero in one 
of the lower valleys far south, a neighbor of Hernandez 
in the old days and godfather to his eldest boy; one 
of those who joined him in his resistance to the re- 
cruiting raid which was the beginning of all their 
misfortunes. It was he that, when his compadre had 
been carried off, had buried his wife and children, mur- 
dered by the soldiers. 

"Si, senor," he muttered hoarsely, "I and two or 
three others, the lucky ones left at liberty, buried them 
all in one grave near the ashes of their ranch, under 
the tree that had shaded its roof." 

It was to him, too, that Hernandez came after he had 
deserted, three years afterwards. He had still his 
uniform on, with the sergeant's stripes on the sleeve 
and the blood of his colonel upon his hands and breast. 
Three troopers followed him of those who had. started 

398 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

in pursuit t-ut had ridden on for liberty. And he tol<l 

Hbarles Gould how he and a few friends, seeing those 

soldiers, lay in ambush behind some rocks ready to pull 

the trigger on them, when he recognized his compadre 

and jumped up from cover shouting his name, because 

me knew that Hernandez could not have been coming 

Back on an errand of injustice and oppression. Those 

Bhree soldiers, together with the party who lay behind 

he rocks, had formed the nucleus of the famous band. 

and he, the narrator, had been the favorite lieutenant 

W Hernandez for many, many years. He mentioned 

proudly that the officials had put a price upon his head, 

too; but it did not prevent it getting sprinkled with 

gray upon his shoulders. And now he had lived 

lontf enough to see his compadre made a general. 

He had a burst of muffled laughter. " And now from 

ers we have become soldiers. But look, caballero, 

at those who made us soldiers and him a general ! Look 

at these people!" 

Ignacio shouted. The light of the carriage - lamps, 
running along the nopal hedges that crowned the 
bank on each side, flashed upon the scared faces of 
people standing aside in the road, sunk deep, like an 
English country lane, into the soft soil of the Campo. 
They cowered; their eyes glistened very big for a 
second; and then the light, running on, fell upon the 
half-denuded roots of a big tree, on another stretch 
of nopal hedge, caught up another bunch of faces 
glaring back apprehensively. Three women of whom 
one was carrying a child and a couple of men in civilian 
dress one armed with a sabre and another with a gun 
were grouped about a donkey carrying two bundles 

399 






Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

tied up in blankets. Farther on Ignacio shouted 
again to pass a carreta, a long wooden box on two 
high wheels with the door at the back swinging open. 
Some ladies in it must have recognized the white 
mules, because they screamed out, "Is it you, Dona 
Emilia?" 

At the turn of the road the glare of a big fire filled 
the short stretch vaulted over by the branches meeting 
overhead. Near the ford of a shallow stream a road- 
side rancho of woven rushes and a roof of grass had 
been set on fire by accident, and the flames, roaring 
viciously, lit up an open space blocked with horses, 
mules, and a distracted, shouting crowd of people. 
When Ignacio pulled up, several ladies on foot assailed 
the carriage, begging Antonia for a seat. To their 
clamor she answered by pointing silently to her 
father. 

"I must leave you here," said Charles Gould, in the 
uproar. The flames leaped up sky-high, and in the 
recoil from the scorching heat across the road the 
stream of fugitives pressed against the carriage. A 
middle-aged lady dressed in black silk, but with a 
coarse manta over her head and a rough branch for a 
stick in her hand, staggered against the front wheel. 
Two young girls, frightened and silent, were clinging 
to her arms. Charles Gould knew her very well. 

"Misericordia! We are getting terribly bruised in 
this crowd!" she exclaimed, smiling up courageously to 
him. " We have started on foot. All our servants ran 
away yesterday to join the democrats. We are going 
to put ourselves under the protection of Father Cor- 
belan, of your sainted uncle, Antonia. He has wrought 

400 



mo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

a mirai It- in tin- heart of a most merciless robber. 
A miracle!" 

She raised her voice gradually up to a scream as 
she sv.ix lx>rne along l>v tin- |. unsure of people getting 
out of the way of some carts coming up out of the fonl 
at a gallop, with loud yells ami cracking of whip- 
Great masses of sparks mingled with black smoke flew 
over the road; the bamboos of the walls detonated in 
the fire with the sound of an irregular fusillade. And 
then the bright blaze sank suddenly, leaving only 
i dusk crowded with aimless dark shadows drift- 
in:; in contrary directions; the noise of voices seemed 
to die away with the flame; and the tumult of heads, 
arms, quarrelling and imprecations passed on fleeing 
into the darkness. 

"I must leave you now," repeated Charles Gould to 
Antonia. She turned her head slowly and uncovered 
her face. The emissary and compadre of Hernandez 
pushed his horse close up. 

" Has not the master of the mine any message to send 
to Hernandez, the master of the Campo?" 

The truth of the comparison struck Charles Gould 
ily. In his determined purpose he held the mine, 
and the indomitable bandit held the Campo by the 
same precarious tenure. They were equals before the 
lawlessness of the land. It was impossible to dis- 
entangle one's activity from its debasing contacts. A 
ose-meshed net of crime and corruption lay upon 
whole country. An immense and weary dis- 
couragement sealed his lips for a time. 

"You are a just man," urged the emissary of 
Hernandez. "Look at those people who made my 

401 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

compadre a general and have turned us all into soldiers. 
Look at those oligarchs fleeing for life with only the 
clothes on their backs. My compadre does not think 
of that, but our followers may be wondering greatly, 
and I would speak for them to you. Look, senor! 
For many months now the Campo has been our own. 
We need ask no man for anything; but soldiers must 
have their pay to live honestly when the wars are over. 
It is believed that your soul is so just that a prayer 
from you would cure the sickness of every beast, like 
the oration of the upright judge. Let me have so 
words from your lips that would act like a cha 
upon the doubts of our partida, where all are men." 

"Do you hear what he says ?" Charles Gould said, in 
English, to Antonia. 

"Forgive us our misery!" she exclaimed, hurriedly. 
"It is your character that is the inexhaustible treasure 
which may save us all yet your character, Carlos, not 
your wealth. I entreat you to give this man your 
word that you will accept any arrangement my uncle 
may make with their chief. One word. He will 
want no more." 

On the site of the roadside hut there remained 
nothing but an enormous heap of embers, throwing 
afar a darkening red glow, in which Antonia's face 
appeared deeply flushed with excitement. Charles 
Gould, with only a short hesitation, pronounced the 
required pledge. He was like a man who had vent- 
ured on a precipitous path with no room to turn, 
where the only chance of safety is to press forward. 
At that moment he understood it thoroughly as he 
looked down at Don Jose", stretched out, hardly breath- 

402 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

!>y the side of the erect Antonia, vanquished in a 
>ng struggle with the powers of moral darkness, 
e stagnant depths breed monstrous crimes and 
trous illusions. In a few words the emissary 
Hernandez expressed his complete satisfaction. 
.illy, Antonia lowered her veil, resisting the long- 
ing to inquire about Decoud's escape. But Ignacio 
leered morosely over his shoulder, 
i "Take a good look at the mules, mi amo," he grum- 
bled. " You shall never see them again." 



, 



IV 

/CHARLES GOULD turned towards the town. 
\^^> Before him the jagged peaks of the vSierra came 
out all black in the clear dawn. Here and there a 
muffled lepero whisked round the corner of a grass- 
grown street before the ringing hoofs of his horse. 
Dogs barked behind the walls of the gardens; and with 
the colorless light the chill of the snows seemed to fall 
from the mountains upon the disjointed pavements 
and the shuttered houses, with broken cornices and the 
plaster peeling in patches between the flat pilasters 
of the fronts. The daybreak struggled with the gloom 
under the arcades on the plaza, with no signs of coun- 
try people disposing their goods for the day's market 
piles of fruit, bundles of vegetables ornamented with 
flowers, on low benches under enormous mat umbrel- 
las with no cheery early morning bustle of villagers, 
women, children, and loaded donkeys. Only a few 
scattered knots of revolutionists stood in the vast 
space looking all one way from under their slouched 
hats for some sign of news from Rincon. The largest 
of those groups turned about like one man as Charles 
Gould passed, and shouted, "Viva la libertad!" after 
him in a menacing tone. 

Charles Gould rode on and turned into the archway 
of his house. In the patio, littered with straw, a 
practicante, one of Dr. Monygham's native assistants, 

404 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

sat on the ground with his back against the rim of the 
fountain fingering a guitar discreetly, while two girls 
of the lower class, standing up before him. shuffled 
their feet a little and waved their arms, humming a 
popular dance tune. Most of the wounded during the 
two days of rioting had been taken away already by 
their friends and relations, but several figures could 
be seen sitting up, balancing their bandaged heads in 
time to the music. Charles Gould dismounted. A 
sleepy mozo coming out of the bakery door took hold 
of the horse's bridle; the practicante endeavored to 
conceal his guitar hastily ; the girls, unabashed, stepped 
back smiling; and Charles Gould, on his way to the 
staircase, glanced into a dark corner of the patio at 
another group, a mortally wounded cargador with a 
woman kneeling by his side. She mumbled prayers 
rapidly, trying at the same time to force a piece of 
orange between the stiffening lips of the dying man. 

The cruel futility of things stood unveiled in the 
levity and sufferings of that incorrigible people; the 
cruel futility of lives and of deaths thrown away in the 
vain endeavor to attain an enduring solution of the 
problem. Unlike Decoud, Charles Gould could not 
lightly a part in a tragic farce. It was tragic 
enough for him, in all conscience, but he could see no 
farcical element. He suffered too much under a con- 
viction of irremediable folly. He was too severely 
practical and too idealistic to look upon its terrible 
humors with amusement, as Martin Decoud, the imag- 
inative materialist, was able to do in the dry light 
of his scepticism. To him, as to all of us, the com- 
promises with his conscience appeared uglier than ever 

405 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

in the light of failure. His taciturnity, assumed with a 
purpose, had prevented him from tampering openly 
with his thoughts, but the Gould Concession had 
insidiously corrupted his judgment. He might have 
known, he said to himself, leaning over the balustrade 
of the corridor, that Ribierism could never come to 
anything. The mine had corrupted his judgment 
by making him sick of bribing and intriguing merely to 
have his work left alone from day to day. Like his 
father, he did not like to be robbed. It exasperated 
him. He had persuaded himself that, apart from 
higher considerations, the backing- up of Don Josh's 
hopes of reform was good business. He had gone 
forth into the senseless fray like his poor uncle, whose 
sword hung on the wall of his study, had gone forth 
in the defence of the commonest decencies of organized 
society. Only, his weapon was the wealth of the mine, 
more far-reaching and subtle than an honest blade 
of steel fitted into a simple brass guard. 

More dangerous to the wielder, too, this weapon of 
wealth, double-edged with the cupidity and misery of 
mankind, steeped in all the vices of self-indulgence as 
in a concoction of poisonous roots, tainting the very 
cause for which it is drawn, always ready to turn awk- 
wardly in the hand. There was nothing for it now but 
to go on using it. But he promised himself to see it 
shattered into small bits before he let it be wrenched 
from his grasp. 

After all, with his English parentage and English 

up-bringing, he perceived that he was an adventurer in 

Costaguana, the descendant of adventurers enlisted in a 

foreign legion, of men who had sought fortune in a 

x. 406 



stromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

evolutionary war, who had planned revolutions, who 

t>elieved in revolutions. For all the uprightness of 
b character, he had something of an adventurer's 

morality, which takes count of personal risk in the 
ethical appraising of his action. He was prepared. 

ed be, to blow up the whole San Tome" mountain 
sky-high out of the territory of the republic. This 
solution expressed the tenacity of his character, 
the remorse of that subtle conjugal infidelity through 
which his wife was no longer the sole mistress of his 
thoughts, something of his father's imaginative weak- 
and something, too, of the spirit of a buccaneer 
throwing a lighted match into the magazine rather 
than surrender his ship. 

Down below, in the patio, the wounded cargador had 
breathed his last. The woman cried out once, and her 

unexpected and shrill, made all the wounded sit up. 
The practicante scrambled to his feet and, guitar in 
hand, gazed steadily in her direction with elevated eye- 
brows. The two girls, sitting now one on each side of 
their wounded relative, with their knees drawn up 
and long cigars between their lips, nodded at each 
other significantly. 

Charles Gould, looking down over the balustrade, 
saw three men dressed ceremoniously in black frock- 
coats, with white shirts, and wearing European round 
enter the patio from the street. One of them, 
head and shoulders taller than the two others, ad- 
vanced with marked gravity, leading the way. This 
was Don Juste Lopez, accompanied by two of his 
friends, members of Assembly, coming to rail upon the 
administrador of the San Tome* mine at this early hour. 

407 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

They saw him, too, waved their hands to him urgently, 
walking up the stairs as if in procession. 

Don Juste, astonishingly changed by having shaved 
off altogether his damaged beard, had lost with it nine- 
tenths of his outward dignity. Even at that time of 
serious preoccupation Charles Gould could not help 
noting the revealed ineptitude in the aspect of the 
man. His companions looked crestfallen and sleepy. 
One kept on passing the tip of his tongue over his 
parched lips, the other's eyes strayed dully over the 
tiled floor of the corridor, while Don Juste, standing alp, 
little in advance, harangued the Senor Administrador of | .' 
the San Tome mine. It was his firm opinion that forms 
had to be observed. A new governor is always visited 
by deputations from the cabildo, which is the municipal 
council, from the consulado, the commercial board; 
and it was proper that the Provincial Assembly should 
send a deputation, too, if only to assert the existence of 
parliamentary institutions. Don Juste proposed that 
Don Carlos Gould, as the most prominent citizen of the 
province, should join the Assembly's deputation. His 
position was exceptional, his personality known through 
the length and breadth of the whole republic. Official 
courtesies must not be neglected, if they are gone 
through with a bleeding heart. The acceptance of 
accomplished facts may save yet the precious vestiges 
of parliamentary institutions. Don Juste'fc eyes glow- 
ed dully; he believed in parliamentary institutions 
and the convinced drone of his voice loslt itself in the 
stillness of the house, like the deep buzzing of some 
ponderous insect. 

Charles Gould had turned round to listen patiently, 
408 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

leaning his elbow on the balustrade. He shook his 
hr.id a little, refusing, almost touched by the anxious 
gaze of the President of the Provincial Assembly. It 
was not Charles Gould's policy to make the San Tom6 
mine a party to any formal proceedings. 

"My advice, seflores, is that you should wait for 
your fate in your houses. There is no necessity for you 
to give yourselves up formally into Montero's hands. 
Submission to the inevitable, as Don Juste calls it, 
is all very well; but when the inevitable is called 
Pedrito Montero there is no need to exhibit pointedly 
the whole extent of your surrender. The fault of this 
country is the want of measure in political life. Flat 
acquiescence in illegality, followed by sanguinary re- 
action that, seflores, is not the way to a stable and 
prosperous future." 

Charles Gould stopped before the sad bewilderment 
of the faces, the wondering, anxious glances of the 
eyes. The feeling of pity for those men, putting all 
their trust into words of some sort, while murder and 
rapine stalked over the land, had betrayed him into 
what seemed empty loquacity. Don Juste murmured: 

"You are abandoning us, Don Carlos. . . . And yet, 
parliamentary institutions " 

He could not finish from grief. For a moment he 
put his hand over his eyes. Charles Gould, in his fear 
of empty loquacity, made no answer to the charge. He 
returned in silence their ceremonious bows. His taci- 
turnity was his refuge. He understood that what 
they sought was to get the influence of the San Tome" 
mine on their side. They wanted to go on a concili- 
ating errand to the victor, under the wing of the Gould 

409 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

Concession. Other public bodies the cabildo, the 
consulado would be coming, too, presently, seek- 
ing the support of the most stable, the most effective 
force they had ever known to exist in their province. 

The doctor, arriving with his sharp, jerky walk, 
found that the master had retired into his own room 
with orders not to be disturbed on any account. But 
Dr. Monygham was not anxious to see Charles Gould 
at once. He spent some time in a rapid examination 
of his wounded. He gazed down upon each in turn, 
rubbing his chin between his thumb and forefinger; 
his steady stare met without expression their silently 
inquisitive look. All these cases were doing well; but 
when he came to the dead cargador he stopped a lit- 
tle longer, surveying not the man who had ceased to 
suffer, but the woman kneeling in silent contemplation 
of the rigid face, with its pinched nostrils and a white 
gleam in the imperfectly closed eyes. She lifted her 
head slowly and said, in a dull voice: 

"It is not long since he had become a cargador 
only a few weeks. His worship the capataz had ac- 
cepted him after many entreaties." 

"I am not responsible for the great capataz," mut- 
tered the doctor, moving off. 

Directing his course up-stairs towards the door of 
Charles Gould's room, the doctor at the last moment 
hesitated; then, turning away from the handle with a 
shrug of his uneven shoulders, slunk off hastily along 
the corridor in search of Mrs. Gould's camerista. 

Leonarda told him that the senora had not risen yet. 
The senora had given into her charge the girls belong- 
ing to that Italian posadero. She, Leonarda, had put 

410 



A Tale of the Seaboard 

tern to bed in her own room. The fair x\r\ had < 

-If to sleep, hut the dark one. the biggest, had not, 

Hosed her eyes yet. She sat up in bed clutching the 

Wieets right up under her chin ami staring before her 

like a little witch. Leonarda did not approve of the 

i children being admitted to the house. She 

made tln^ feeling clear by the indifferent tone in which 

she imjuirel whether their mother was dead yet. 

to the seflora, she must be asleep. Kver since she had 

gone into her room after seeing the departure of Dofia 

nia with her dying father, there had been no sound 

behind her door. 

The doctor, rousing himself out of profound reflec- 

told her abruptly to call her mistress at once. 

lobbied off to wait for Mrs. Gould in the sala. He 

was very tired, but too excited to sit down. In this 

great drawing-room, now empty, in which his withered 

soul had been refreshed after many arid years and his 

Hfcftcast spirit had accepted silently the toleration of 

many side glances, he wandered hap-hazard among 

the chairs and table, still Mrs Gould, enveloped in a 

morning wrapper, came in rapidly. 

" You know that I never approved of the silver being 
away," the doctor began at once, as a preliminary 
to the narrative of his night's adventures in association 
with Captain Mitchell, the engineer-in-chief, and old 
Viola at Sotillo's headquarters. To the doctor, with 
ial conception of this political crisis, the re- 
moval of the silver had seemed an irrational and ill- 
ned measure. It was as if a general were sending 
!est part of his troops away on the eve of battle 
u some recondite pretext. The whole lot of in- 
.7 4" 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

gots might have been concealed somewhere where they 
could have been got at for the purpose of staving off 
the dangers which were menacing the security of the 
Gould Concession. The administrador had acted as 
if the immense and powerful prosperity of the mine 
had been founded on methods of probity, on the sen?e 
of usefulness. And it was nothing of the kind. The 
method followed had been the only one possible. The 
Gould Concession had ransomed its way through all 
those years. It was a nauseous process. He quite 
understood that Charles Gould had got sick of it, and 
had left the old path to back up that hopeless attempt 
at reform. The doctor did not believe in the reform of 
Costaguana. And now the mine was back again in its 
old path, with the disadvantage that henceforth it 
had to deal not only with the greed provoked by its 
wealth, but with the resentment awakened by the at- 
tempt to free itself from its bondage to moral corrup- 
tion. That was the penalty of failure. What made 
him uneasy was that Charles Gould seemed to him to 
have weakened at the decisive moment when a frank 
return to the old methods was the only chance. Lis- 
tening to Decoud's wild scheme had been a weakness. 
The doctor flung up his arms, exclaiming, "Decoud! 
Decoud!" He hobbled about the room with slight, 
angry laughs. Many years ago both his ankles had 
been seriously damaged in the course of a certain 
investigation conducted in the castle of Sta. Marta by 
a commission composed of military men. Their nomi- 
nation had been signified to them unexpectedly, at the 
dead of night, with scowling brow, flashing eyes, and 
in a tempestuous voice, by Guzman Bento. The old 

412 






Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

t, inadikMio.l l>y one of his sudden accesses of 

n, mingled spluttering appeals to their fidelity 

imprecations and horrible menaces. The cells 

and casements of the castle on the hill had been already 

filled with prisoners. The commission was charged now 

with the task of discovering the iniquitous conspiracy 

against the Citizen Savior of his Country. 

Their dread of the raving tyrant translated itself 
into a hasty ferocity of procedure. The Citizen Sav- 
ior was not accustomed to wait. A conspiracy had 
to be discovered. The court-yards of the castle re- 
sounded witli the clanking of leg-irons, sounds of blows, 
yells of pain ; and the commission of high officers la- 
bored feverishly, concealing their distress and appre- 
hensions from each other, and especially from their 
secretary, Father Beron, an army chaplain, at that 
time very much in the confidence of the Citizen- Sav- 
ior. That priest was a big, round - shouldered man, 
with an unclean-looking, overgrown tonsure on the 
top of his flat head, of a dingy, yellow complexion, 
softly fat, with greasy stains all down the front of his 
lieutenant's uniform, and a small cross embroidered in 
white cotton on his left breast. He had a heavy nose 
and a pendent lip. Dr. Monygham remembered him 
still. He remembered him against all the force of his 
will striving its utmost to forget. Father Beron had 
been adjoined to the commission by Guzman Bento 
expressly for the purpose that his enlightened zeal 
should assist them in their labors. Dr. Monygham 
could by no manner of means forget the zeal of Father 
Beron, or his face, or the pitiless, monotonous voice in 
which he pronounced the words," Will you confess now ?" 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

This memory did not make him shudder, but it had 
made of him what he was in the eyes of respectable 
people, a man careless of common decencies, some- 
thing between a clever vagabond and a disreputable 
doctor. But not all respectable people would have 
had the necessary delicacy of sentiment to understand 
with what trouble of mind and accuracy of vision Dr. 
Monygham, medical officer of the San Tome' mine, re- 
membered Father Beron, army chaplain, and once a 
secretary of a military commission. After all these 
years Dr. Monygham, in his rooms at the end of the 
hospital building in the San Tom gorge, remembered 
Father Beron as distinctly as ever. He remembered 
that priest at night, sometimes in his sleep. On such 
nights the doctor waited for daylight with a candle 
lighted, and walking the whole length of his two rooms 
to and fro, staring down at his bare feet, his arms 
hugging his sides tightly. He would dream of Father 
Beron sitting at the end of a long, black table, behind 
which, in a row, appeared the heads, shoulders, and 
epaulettes of the military members, nibbling the feather 
of a quill pen, and listening with weary and impatient 
scorn to the protestations of some prisoner calling 
Heaven to witness of his innocence, till he burst out: 
"What's the use of wasting time over that miserable 
nonsense!, Let me take him outside for a while." 
And Father Beron would go outside after the clanking 
prisoner, led away between two soldiers. Such inter- 
ludes happened on many days, many times, with many 
prisoners. When the prisoner returned he was ready 
to make a full confession, Father Beron would declare, 
leaning forward with that dull, surfeited look which 

414 



omo: A Tale of the Seaboard 
an be seen in the eyes of gluttonous persons after a 

The priest's in.|uisitorial instincts suffered but little 
from the want <>: .1 apparatus of the inquisition. 

At no time of the worKl's history have men been at a 
.loss how to inflict mental and bodily anguish upon 
their fellow-creatures. This aptitude came to them 
in the growing complexity of their passions and the 
early refinement of their ingenuity. But it may safely 
be said that primeval man did not go to the trouble 
of inventing tortures. He was indolent and pure of 
rt. He brained his neighbor ferociously with a 
stone axe from necessity and without malice. The 
stupidest mind may invent a rankling phrase or brand 
the innocent with a cruel aspersion. A piece of string 
and a ramrod, a few muskets in combination with a 
length of hide rope, or even a simple mallet of heavy, 
hard wood applied with a swing to human fingers or 
to the joints of a human body, is enough for the in- 
fliction of the most exquisite torture The doctor had 
been a very stubborn prisoner, and, as a natural con- 
sequence of that "bad disposition" (so Father Beron 
called it), his subjugation had been very crushing and 
complete. That is why the limp in his walk, the 
twist of his shoulders, the scars on his cheeks were so 
pr. .nounced. His confessions, when they came at last, 
were very complete, too. Sometimes, on the nights 
when he walked the floor, he wondered, grinding his 
i with shame and rage, at the fertility of his im- 
agination when stimulated by a sort of pain which 
makes truth, honor, self-respect, and life itself matters 
of little moment. 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

And he could not forget Father Beron with his monot- 
onous phrase, "Will you confess now?" reaching him 
in an awful iteration and lucidity of meaning through 
the delirious incoherence of unbearable pain. He 
could not forget. But that was not the worst. Had 
he met Father Beron in the street after all these years, 
Dr. Monygham was sure he would have quailed before 
him. This contingency was not to be feared now. 
Father Beron was dead ; but the sickening certitude pre- 
vented Dr. Monygham from looking anybody in the face. 

Dr. Monygham had become, in a manner, the slave of 
a ghost. It was obviously impossible to take his 
knowledge of Father Beron home to Europe. When 
making his extorted confessions to the military board 
Dr. Monygham was not seeking- to avoid death. He 
longed for it. Sitting half -naked for hours on the wet 
earth of his prison, and so motionless that the spiders, 
his companions, attached their webs to his matted hair, 
he consoled the misery of his soul with acute reason- 
ings that he had confessed to crimes enough for a sen- 
tence of death that they had gone too far with him 
to let him live to tell the tale. 

But, as if by a refinement of cruelty, Dr. Monygham 
was left for months to decay slowly in the darkness of 
his gravelike prison. It was no doubt hoped that it 
would finish him off without the trouble of an execu- 
tion; but Dr. Monygham had an iron constitution. 
It was Guzman Bento who died, not by the knife- 
thrust of a conspirator, but from a stroke of apoplexy, 
and Dr. Monygham was liberated hastily. His fetters 
were struck off by the light of a candle, which, after 
months of gloom, hurt his eyes so much that he had 

416 



omo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

>ver his face with his hands. He was raised up. 
1! heart was beating violently with the fear of this 
lif>rrty. When he tried to walk the extraordinary 
lightness of his feet made him giddy, and he fell down. 
stuks were thrust into his hands, and he was 
pushed out of the passage. It was dusk; candles glim- 
'mered already in the windows of the officers' quarters 
round the court-yard, but the twilight sky dazed him 
by its enormous and overwhelming brilliance. A thin 
poncho hung over his naked, bony shoulders; the rags 
of his trousers came down no lower than his knees, an 
eighteen months' growth of hair fell in dirty-gray locks 
on each side of his sharp cheek-bones. As he dragged 
himself past the guard-room door one of the soldiers, 
lolling outside, moved'by some obscure impulse, leaped 
arc! with a strange laugh and rammed a broken 
old straw hat on his head. And Dr. Monygham, after 
having tottered, continued on his way. He advanced 
one stick, then one maimed foot, then the other stick; 
the other foot followed only a very short distance along 
the ground, toilfully, as though it were almost too 
heavy to be moved at all ; and yet his legs, under the 
hanging angles of the poncho, appeared no thicker 
than the two sticks in his hands. A ceaseless trembling 
agitated his bent body, all his wasted limbs, his bony 
!. the conical, ragged crown of the sombrero whose 
ample, flat rim rested on his shoulders. 

In such conditions of manner and attire did Dr. 
Monygham go forth to take possession of his liberty. 
; these conditions seemed to bind him indissolu- 
bly to the land of Costaguana like an awful pro- 
cedure of naturalization, involving him deep in the 

M7 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

national life, far deeper than any amount of success 
and honor could have done. They did away with his 
Europeanism; for Dr. Monygham had made for him- 
self an ideal conception of his disgrace. It was a con- 
ception eminently fit and proper for an officer and a 
gentleman. Dr. Monygham, before he went out to 
Costaguana, had been surgeon in one of her Majesty's 
regiments of foot. It was a conception which took no 
account of physiological facts or reasonable argu- 
ments. But it was not stupid for all that. It was 
simple. A rule of conduct resting mainly on severe 
rejections is necessarily simple. Dr. Monygham's view 
of what it behooved him to do was severe; it was an 
ideal view insomuch that it was the imaginative 
exaggeration of a correct feeling. It was also, in its 
force, influence, and persistency, the view of an emi- 
nently loyal nature. 

There was a great fund of loyalty in Dr. Monygham's 
nature. He had settled it all on Mrs. Gould's head. 
He believed her worthy of every devotion. At the 
bottom of his heart he felt an angry uneasiness be- 
fore the prosperity of the San Tome' mine, because 
its growth was robbing her of all peace of mind. Costa- 
guana was no place for a woman of that kind. What 
could Charles Gould have been thinking of when he 
brought her out there? It was outrageous! And the 
doctor had watched the course of events witli a grim 
and distant reserve which, he imagined, his lamentable 
history imposed upon him. 

Loyalty to Mrs. Gould could not, however, leave 
out of account the safety of her husband. The doctor 
had contrived to be in town at the critical time be- 

418 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

o he mistrustc.l Charles Gould. He considered 

him hopelessly infect* 1 with the madness of revolu- 

That is why lie hobbli-d in distress in the 

.ing-room of th< i that morning. 

timing, "Decoud! Decoud!" in a toned mournful 

irritation. 

Mrs. Gould, her color heightened and with glisten- 
ing eyes, looked straight before her at the sudden enor- 
mity of that disaster. The finger-tips of one hand 
rested lightly on a low little table by her side, and the 
arm trembled right up to the shoulder. The sun, which 
s late upon Sulaco, issuing in all the fulness of its 
power high up on the sky from behind the dazzling 
snow-edge of Higuerota, had precipitated the deli- 
cate, smooth, pearly gray ness of light, in which the 
town lies steeped during the early hours, into sharp- 
cut masses of black shade and spaces of hot, blind- 
ing glare. Three long rectangles of sunshine fell 
through the windows of the sala, while just across the 
street the front of the Avellanos house appeared very 
sombre in its own shadow seen through the flood of 
light. 

A voice said at the door, " What of Decoud ?" 
It was Charles Gould. They had not heard him 
coming along the corridor. His glance just glided over 
his wife and struck full at the doctor. 

"You have brought some news, doctor?" 
Dr. Monygham blurted it all out at once, in the 
rough. For some time alter he had done the admin- 
istrador of the San Tome" mine remained looking at 
him without a word. Mrs. Gould sank into a low 
chair with her hands lying on her lap. A silence 

419 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

reigned between those three motionless persons. 
Then Charles Gould spoke: 

"You must want some breakfast." 

He stood aside to let his wife pass first. She caught 
up her husband's hand and pressed it as she went out, 
raising the handkerchief to her eyes. The sight of 
her husband had brought Antonia's position to her 
mind, and she could not contain her tears at the 
thought of the poor girl. When she rejoined the two 
men in the dining-room after having bathed her face, 
Charles Gould was saying to the doctor across the 
table: 

"No; there does not seem any room for doubt." 

And the doctor assented: 

"No, I don't see myself how we could question that 
wretched Hirsch's tale. It's only too true, I fear." 

She sat down desolately at the head of the table 
and looked from one to the other. The two men, 
without absolutely turning their heads away, tried to 
avoid her glance. The doctor even made a show of 
being hungry. He seized his knife and fork and be- 
gan to eat with emphasis, as if on the stage. Charles 
Gould made no pretence of the sort; with his elbows 
raised squarely he twisted both ends of his flaming 
mustaches they were so long that his hands wei 
quite away from his face. 

"I am not surprised," he muttered, abandoning his 
mustaches and throwing one arm over the back of 
his chair. His face was calm with that immobility of 
expression which betrays the intensity of a mental 
struggle. He felt that this accident had brought to 
a point all the consequences involved in his line of 

420 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

conduct, with its conscious and subconscious inten- 
l, There must be an end now of this silent re- 
serve, of that air of impenetrability behind which he 
had been safeguarding his dignity. It was the least 
ignoble form of dissembling forced upon him by that 
parody of civilized institutions which offended his in- 
telligence, his uprightness, and his sense of right. He 
was like his father, He had no ironic eye. He was 
not amused at the absurdities that prevail in this 
world. They hurt him in his innate gravity. He felt 
that the miserable death of that poor Decoud took 
from him his inaccessible position of a force in the 
background. It committed him openly unless he 
wished to throw up the game; and that was impos- 
sible. The material interests required from him the 
sacrifice of his aloofness perhaps his own safety, too. 
And he reflected tha . s separationist plan had 

not gone to the bottom with the lost silver. 

The only thing that was not changed was his posi- 
tion towards Mr. Holroyd. The head of the silver and 
steel interests had entered into Costaguana affairs with 
a sort of passion. Costaguana had become necessary 
to his existence; in the San Tome" mine he had found 
the imaginative satisfaction which other minds would 
get from drama, from art, or from a risky and fascinat- 
ing sport. It was a special form of the great man's 
extravagance, sanctioned by a moral intention big 
enough to flatter his vanity. Even in this aberration 
of his genius he served the progress of the world. 
Charles Gould felt sure of being understood with pre- 
cision and judged with the indulgence of their common 
passion. Nothing now could surprise or startle his 

421 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

great man. And Charles Gould imagined himself 
writing a letter to San Francisco in some such words: 
"... The men at the head of the movement are dead 
or have fled; the civil organization of the province is 
at an end for the present; the Blanco party in Sulaco 
has collapsed inexcusably, but in the characteristic 
manner of this country. But Barrios, untouched in 
Cayta, remains still available. I am forced to take up 
openly the plan of a provincial revolution as the only 
way of placing the enormous material interests in- 
volved in the prosperity and peace of Sulaco in a posi- 
tion of permanent safety. ..." That was clear. He 
saw these words as if written in letters of fire upon 
the wall at which he was gazing abstractedly. 

Mrs. Gould watched his abstraction with dread. It 
was a domestic and frightful phenomenon that dark- 
ened and chilled the house for her like a thunder-cloud 
passing over the sun. Charles Gould's fits of abstrac- 
tion depicted the energetic concentration of a will 
haunted by a fixed idea. A man haunted by a fixed 
idea is insane. He is dangerous even if that idea is 
an idea of justice; for may he not bring the heaven 
down pitilessly upon a loved head ? The eyes of Mrs. 
Gould, watching her husband's profile, filled with tears 
again. And again she seemed to see the despair of 
the unfortunate Antonia. 

"What would I have done if Charley had been 
drowned while we were engaged!" she exclaimed men- 
tally, with horror. Her heart turned to ice while her 
cheeks flamed up as if scorched by the blaze of a fu- 
neral pyre consuming all her earthly affections. The 
tears burst out of her eyes. 

422 






Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

''Antonia will kill her ie cried out. 

This i rv tell into the silence of the room with strange- 
ly little effect. Only the doctor, crumbling up a piece 
of bread, with his head inclined on one side, raised his 
face, and the few long hairs sticking out of his shaggy 
eyebrows stirred in a slight frown. Dr. Monygham 
thought quite sincerely that Decoud was a singularly 
unworthy object for any woman's affection. Then he 
lowered his head again, with a curl of his lip and his 
heart full of tender admiration for Mrs. Gould. 

"She thinks of that girl," he said to himself; "she 
thinks of the Viola children, she thinks of me, of the 
wounded, of the miners she always thinks of every- 
body who is poor and miserable! But what will she 
do if Charles gets the worst of it in this infernal scrim- 
mage those confounded Avellanos have drawn him 
into? No one seems to be thinking of her." 

Charles Gould, staring at the wall, pursued his re- 
flections subtly. 

" I shall write to Holroyd that the San Tome" mine is 
big enough to take in hand the making of a new state. 
It 11 please him. It '11 reconcile him to the risk." 

But was Barrios really available? Perhaps. But 
he was inaccessible. To send off a boat to Cayta was 
no longer possible, since Sotillo was master of the har- 
bor and had a steamer at his disposal. And now, 
with all the democrats in the province up and every 
Campo township in a state of disturbance, where could 
nd a man who would make his way successfully 
overland to Cayta with a message, a ten days' ride at 
a man of courage and resolution who would 
avoid arrest or murder, and if arrested would faith- 

423 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

fully eat the paper ? The capataz de cargadores would 
have been just such a man. But the capataz of the 
cargadores was no more. 

And Charles Gould, withdrawing his eyes from the 
wall, said, gently: "That Hirsch! What an extraor- 
dinary thing! Saved himself by clinging to the anchor, 
did he ? I had no idea that he was still in Sulaco. I 
thought he had gone back overland to Esmeralda 
more than a week ago. He came here once to talk 
to me about his hide business and some other things. 
I made it clear to him that nothing could be done." 

"He was afraid to start back on account of Her- 
nandez being about," remarked the doctor. 

"And but for him we might not have known any- 
thing of what has happened," marvelled Charles Gould. 

Mrs. Gould cried out: 

"Antonia must not know! She must not be told. 
Not now." 

"Nobody's likely to carry the news," remarked the 
doctor. " It's no one's interest. Moreover, the people 
here are afraid of Hernandez as if he were the devil." 
He turned to Charles Gould. " It's even awkward, be- 
cause if you wanted to communicate with the refugees 
you could find no messenger. When Hernandez was 
ranging hundreds of miles away from here the Sulaco 
populace used to shudder at the tales of him roasting 
his prisoners alive." 

"Yes," murmured Charles Gould, "Captain Mit- 
chell's capataz was the only man in the town who had 
seen Hernandez eye to eye. Father Corbelan employ- 
ed him. He opened the communications first. It is 
a pity that " 

424 



omo : A Talc ot" the Seaboard 

His voice was covered by the booming of the great 
In 1! of the cathedral. Three single strokes, one after 
UT. burst out explosively, dying away in deep 
and mellow vibrations. And then all the bells in the 
wer of even' church, convent, or chapel in town, even 
lose that had remained shut up for years, pealed out 
Bgether with a i rush. In this furious flood of metallic 
uproar there was a power of suggesting images of 
Erife and violence which blanched Mrs. Gould's cheek, 
lio, who had been waiting at table shrinking 
within himself, clung to the sideboard with chattering 
teeth. It was impossible to hear yourself speak. 

"Shut these windows!" Charles Gould yelled at him, 
angrily. All the other servants, terrified at what they 
for the signal of a general massacre, had rushed up- 
, tumbling over each other, men and women, the 
obscure and generally invisible population of the 
ground floor on the four sides of the patio. The wom- 
en screaming " Misericordia!" ran right into the room, 
and, falling on their knees against the walls, began to 
cross themselves convulsively. The staring heads of 
men blocked the doorway in an instant mozos from 
-table, gardeners, nondescript helpers living on 
crumbs of the munificent house and Charles 
Gould beheld all the extent of his domestic establish- 
ment even to the gate-keeper. This was a half-para- 
1 old man, whose long, white locks fell down to his 
shoulders an heirloom taken up by Charles Gould's 
familial piety. He could remember Henry Gould, an 
Englishman and Costaguanero of the second genera- 
chief of the Sulaco province; he had been his \n r- 
sonal mozo years and years ago, in peace and war; had 

425 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

been allowed to attend his master in prison; had on 
the fatal morning followed the firing squad, and, 
peeping from behind one of the cypresses growing 
along the wall of the Franciscan convent, had seen, 
with his eyes starting out of his head, Don Enrique 
throw up his hands and fall with his face in the dust. 
Charles Gould noted particularly the big, patriarchal 
head of that witness in the rear of the other servants. 
But he was surprised to see a shrivelled old hag or 
two of whose existence within the walls of his house 
he had not been aware. They must have been the 
mothers or even the grandmothers of some of his 
people. There were a few children, too, more or less 
naked, crying and clinging to the legs of their elders. 
He had never before noticed any sign of a child in his 
patio. Even Leonarda, the camerista, came in a 
fright, pushing through, with her spoiled, pouting face 
of a favorite maid, leading the Viola girls by the hand. 
The crockery rattled on table and sideboard, and the 
whole house seemed to sway in the deafening wave of 
sound. 



DURING the night the expectant populace had 
taken possession of all the belfries in the town in 
order to welcome Pedrito Montero, who was making 
his entry after having slept the night in Rincon. And 
first came straggling in through the land gate the 
armed mob, of all colors, complexions, types, and states 
of raggedness, calling themselves the Sulaco National 
Guard, and commanded by Seflor Gamacho. Through 
the middle of the street streamed, like a torrent of 
rubbish, a mass of straw hats, ponchos, gun-barrels, 
with an enormous green-and-yellow flag flapping in 
their midst, in a cloud of dust, to the furious beating 
of drums. The spectators recoiled against the walls 
of the houses, shouting their i*ivns / Behind the rab- 
ble could be seen the lances of the cavalry, the "army " 
of Pedro Montero. He advanced between Senores 
Fuentes and Gamacho, at the head of his Llaneros, 
who had accomplished the feat of crossing the para- 
mos of the Higuerota in a snow-storm. They rode 
four abreast, mounted on confiscated Campo horses, 
clad in the heterogeneous stock of road-side stores 
they had looted hurriedly in their rapid ride through 
the northern part of the province; for Pedro Montero 
had been in a great hurry to occupy Sulaco. The 
handkerchiefs knotted loosely around their bare throats 
were glaringly new, and all the right sleeves of their 
8 4 7 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

cotton shirts had been cut off close to the shoulder for 
greater freedom in throwing the lazo. Emaciated 
graybeards rode by the side of lean, dark youths, 
marked by all the hardships of campaigning, with 
scrips of raw beef twined round the crowns of their 
hats and huge iron spurs fastened to their naked heels. 
Those that in the passes of the mountain had lost 
their lances had provided themselves with the goads 
used by the Campo cattlemen slender shafts of palm 
fully ten feet long, with a lot of loose rings jingling 
under the iron-shod point. They were armed with 
knives and revolvers. A haggard fearlessness charac- 
terized the expression of all these sun-blacked coun- 
tenances ; they glared down haughtily with their scorch- 
ed eyes at the crowd, or, blinking upward insolently, 
pointed out to each other some particular head among 
the women at the windows. When they had ridden 
into the Plaza and caught sight of the equestrian 
statue of the king dazzlingly white in the sunshine, 
towering enormous and motionless above the surges 
of the crowd, with its eternal gesture of saluting, a 
murmur of surprise ran through their ranks. "What 
is that saint in the big hat?" they asked each other. 
They were a good sample of the cavalry of the plains 
with which Pedro Montero had helped so much the 
victorious career of his brother the general. The in- 
fluence which that man, brought up in coast towns, ac- 
quired in a short time over the plainsmen of the 
republic can be ascribed only to a genius for treach- 
ery of so effective a kind that it must have appeared 
to those violent men, but little removed from a state 
of utter savagery, as the perfection of sagacity and 

428 



mo: A Talc ot" the Seaboard 

:t. The popular lore of all nations testifies th.it 
duplicitv anl < mining, together with bodily strength, 
ijH.n, cvni more than courage, as heroic 
yr primitive mankind. To overcome your ad- 
narv was the great alTair of life. Courage was taken 
r granted. Rut the use of intelligence awakened 
Vender and respect. Stratagems, providing they did 
>t fail, were honorable; the easy massacre of an un- 
ispecting enemy evoked no feelings but those of 
Badness, pride, and admiration. Not, perhaps, that 
primitive men were more faithless than their descend- 
Mts of to-day, but that they went straighter to their 
aim and were more artless in their recognition of suc- 
4bss as the only standard of morality. 

We have changed since. The use of intelligence 
awakens little wonder and less respect. But the 
Hoorant and barbarous plainsmen engaging in civil 
strife followed willingly a leader who often managed 
to deliver their enemies bound, as it were, into their 
hands. Pedro Montero had a talent for lulling his ad- 
versaries into a sense of security. And as men learn 
wisdom with extreme slowness, and are always ready 
clieve promises that flatter their secret hopes, 
Pedro Montero was successful time after time. Wheth- 
er only a servant or some inferior official in the Costa- 
Ma legation in Paris, he had rushed back to his 
:try directly he heard that his brother had emerged 
Hbfn the obscurity of his frontier commandancia. He 
had managed to deceive by his gift of plausibility the 
chiefs of the Ribierist movement in the capital, and 
even the acute agent of the San Tome" mine had failed 
.nderstand him thoroughly. At once he had ob- 
429 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

tained an enormous influence over his brother. They 
were very much alike in appearance, both bald, with 
bunches of crisp hair above their ears, arguing the 
presence of some negro blood. Only Pedro was small- 
er than the general, more delicate altogether, with an 
apelike faculty for imitating all the outward signs of 
refinement and distinction, and with a parrot-like tal- 
ent for languages. Both brothers had received some 
elementary instruction by the munificence of a great 
European traveller, to whom their father had been a 
body-servant during his journeys in the interior of 
the country. In General Montero's case it enabled 
him to rise from the ranks. Pedrito, the younger, in- 
corrigibly lazy and slovenly, had drifted aimlessly 
from one coast town to another, hanging about count- 
ing-houses, attaching himself to strangers as a sort of 
valet-de-place, picking up an easy and disreputable 
living. His ability to read did nothing foi; him but 
fill his head with absurd visions. His actions were 
usually determined by motives so improbable in them- 
selves as to escape the penetration of a rational person. 
Thus, at first, the agent of the Gould Concession in 
Sta. Marta had credited him with the possession of 
sane views, and even with a restraining power over 
the general's everlastingly discontented vanity. It 
could never have entered his head that Pedrito Mon- 
tero, lackey or inferior scribe, lodged in the garrets 
of the various Parisian hotels where the Costaguana 
legation used to shelter its diplomatic dignity, had 
been devouring the lighter sort of historical works 
in the French language, such, for instance, as the books 
of Imbert de Saint Amand upon the Second Empire. 

43 



^tromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

But I' Irito had been struck by the splendor of a 
nit court, and had conceived the idea of an ex- 
ist nice for himself where, like the Due de Morny, he 
would associate the command of every pleasure with 
M conduct of political affairs and enjoy power su- 
Bemely in every way. Nobody could have guessed 
Bat. And yet this was one of the immediate causes 
the Monterist rev -hit ion. This will appear less 
credible by the reflection that the fundamental 
Bases were the same as ever, rooted in the plr 
immaturity of the people, in the indolence of the up- 
Br classes and the mental darkness of the lower. 

Pedrito Montero saw, in the elevation of his brother, 
Be road wide open to his wildest imaginings. This 
was what made the Monterist pronunciamiento so un- 
Beventable. The general himself probably could have 
been bought off, pacified with flatteries, despatched on 
a diplomatic mission to Europe. It was his brother 
who had egged him on from first to last. He wanted 
to become the most brilliant statesman of South Amer- 
ica. He did not desire supreme power. He would 
been afraid of its labor and risk, in fact. Before 
all, Pedrito Montero, taught by his Kuropean experi- 
ence, meant to acquire a serious fortune for himself. 
With this object in view he obtained from his brother, 
on the very morrow of the successful battle, the per- 
mission to push on over the mountains and take pos- 
session of Sulaco. Sulaco was the land of future pros- 
perity, the chosen land of material progress, the only 
Btevince in the republic of interest to European cap- 
^Hbts. Pedrito Montero, following the example of 
the Due de Morny, meant to have his share of this pros- 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

perity. This is what he meant literally. Now his 
brother was master of the country, whether as President, 
Dictator, or even as Emperor why not as an Emperor? 
he meant to demand a share in every enterprise in 
railways, in mines, in sugar estates, in cotton-mills, in 
land companies, in each and every undertaking as 
the price of his protection. The desire to be on the 
spot early was the real cause of the celebrated ride over 
the mountains with some two hundred Llaneros, an 
enterprise of which the dangers had not appeared at 
first clearly to his impatience. Coming from a series 
of victories, it seemed to him that a Montcro had only 
to appear to be master of the situation. This illu- 
sion had betrayed him into a rashness of which he was 
becoming aware. As he rode at the head of his Lla- 
neros he regretted that there were so few of them. The 
enthusiasm of the populace reassured him. They 
yelled "Viva Montero!" "Viva Pedrito!" In order J 
make them still more enthusiastic, and from the nat- 
ural pleasure he had in dissembling, he dropped the 
reins on his horse's neck, and with a tremendous effect 
of familiarity and confidence slipped his hands under 
the arms of Senores Fuentes and Gamacho. In that 
posture, with a ragged town mozo holding his horse 
by the bridle, he rode triumphantly across the Plaza .s 
to the door of the Intendencia. Its old, gloomy walls 
seemed to shake in the acclamations that rent the air I : 
and covered the crashing peals of the cathedral bells. : 

Pedro Montero, the brother of the general, dismount- 
ed into a shouting and perspiring throng of enthusiasts m 
whom the ragged Nationals were pushing back fiercely. '\ 
Ascending a few steps, he surveyed the large crowd 

43 2 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

ig at him ami tin- bullet-speckled walls of the 
ite lightly veiled by a sunny haze of dust. 
Tin- w>rd " I'< )RVKNIR." in immense Murk capitals, 
:;iting with broken windows, stared at him across 
the vast space; and he thought with delight of the hour 
of vengeam-e. because he was very sure of laying his 
hands upon Decoud. On his left hand, Gamacho, big 
and hot. wiping his hairy, wet face, uncovered a set of 
yellow fangs in a grin of stupid hilarity. On his right, 
r Fuentes, small and lean, looked on with coin- 
ed lips. The crowd stared literally open-mouthed, 
:n eager stillness, as though they had expected the 
i guerrillero, the famous Pedrito, to begin scatter- 
ing at once some sort of visible largesse. What he be- 
gan was a speech. He began it with the shouted word 
izens!" which reached even those in the middle of 
the Plaza. Afterwards the greater part of the citizens 
remained fascinated by the orator's action alone his 
tiptoeing, the arms flung above his head with the fists 
clinched; a hand laid flat upon the heart; the silver 
gleam of rolling eyes; the sweeping, pointing, embrac- 
.resture?; a hand laid familiarly on Gamacho's 
shoulder; a hand waved formally towards the little, 
black-coated person of Senor Fuentes, advocate and 
politician and a true friend of the people. The vivas 
of those nearest to the orator, bursting out suddenly, 
agated themselves irregularly to the confines of 
rowd. like flames running over dry grass, and ex- 
Aired in the opening of the streets. In the intervals, 
over the swarming Plaza brooded a heavy silence, in 
which the mouth of the orator went on opening and 
shutting, and detached phrases "The happiness of 

433 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 



the people," "Sons of the country," "The entire 
world" (el mundo entiero) reached even the packed 
steps of the cathedral with a feeble, clear ring, thin as 
the buzzing of a mosquito. But the orator struck his 
breast ; he seemed to prance between his two supporters. 
It was the supreme effort of his peroration. Then the 
two smaller figures disappeared from the public 
and the enormous Gamacho, left alone, advanced, rais- 
ing his hat high above his head. Then he cove 
himself proudly and yelled out, "Ciudadanos!" 
dull roar greeted Senor Gamacho, ex-peddler of the 
Campo, Commandante of the National Guards. 

Up-stairs, Pedrito Montero walked about rapidly 
from one wrecked room of the Intendencia to another, 
snarling incessantly: 

"What stupidity! What destruction!" 

Senor Fuentes, following, would relax his taciturn 
disposition to murmur: 

"It is all the work of Gamacho and his Nationals;", 
and then, inclining his head on his left shoulder, would 
press together his lips so firmly that a little hollow 
would appear at each corner. He had his nomination 
for Political Chief of the town in his pocket and was 
all impatience to enter upon his functions. 

In the long audience-room, with its tall mirrors all 
starred by stones, the hangings torn down and the 
canopy over the platform at the upper end pulled to 
pieces, the vast, deep muttering of the crowd and 
the howling voice of Gamacho, speaking just below, 
reached them through the shutters as they stood idly 
in dimness and desolation. 

"The brute!" observed his Excellency Don Pedro 
434 



>im> : A Talc of the Seaboard 

Montero through clinched teeth. "We must contrive 
as quickly as possible to send him and his Nationals 

to fight Uernan 

The new Ge"fe Politico only jerked his head sideways 
and took a puff at his cigarette, in sign of his agreement 
with this method for ridding the town of Gamacho and 

.aconvenient rabble. 

Pedrito Montero looked with disgust at the abso- 
lutely bare floor and at the belt of heavy gilt picture- 
frames running round the room, out of which the rem- 
nants of torn and slashed canvases fluttered like dingy 
rags. 

U'e^arejifiLJiarbarians," he &aid. 
This was what said his Excellency, the popular 
: ito, the guerrillero skilled in the art of laying am- 
ies, charged by his brother at his own demand with 
the organization of Sulaco on democratic principles. 
The night before, during the consultation with his par- 
.s, who had come out to meet him in Rincon, he 
had opened his intentions to Sefior Fuentes: 

" \Ve shall organize a popular vote, by yes or no, 

confiding the destinies of our beloved country to the 

wisdom and valiance of my heroic brother, the in- 

ible general. A plebiscite. Do you understand ?" 

And Seflor Fuentes, puffing out his leathery cheeks, 

ha. I inclined his head slightly to the left, letting a thin, 

bluish jet of smoke escape through his pursed lips. 

He had understood. 

His Excellency was exasperated at the devastation. 

Not a single chair, table, sofa, ttagtre, or console had 

been left in the state rooms of the Intendencia. His 

llency, though twitching all over with rage, was 

43$ 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

restrained from bursting into violence by a sense of his 
remoteness and isolation. His heroic brother was very 
far away. Meantime, how was he going to take his 
siesta? He had expected to find comfort and luxury 
in the Intendencia after a year of hard camp-life, end- 
ing with the hardships and privations of the daring dash 
upon Sulaco upon the province which was worth 
more in wealth and influence than all the rest of the 
republic's territory. He would get even with Gama- 
cho by -and -by. And Senor Gamacho's oration, de- 
lectable to popular ears, went on in the heat and glare 
of the Plaza like the uncouth howlings of an inferior 
sort of devil cast into a white-hot furnace. Every 
moment he had to wipe his streaming face with his 
bare forearm; he had flung off his coat and had turned 
up the sleeves of his shirt high above the elbows, but he 
kept on his head the large cocked hat with white plumes. 
His ingenuousness cherished this sign of his rank as 
Commandante of the National Guards. Approving and 
grave murmurs greeted his periods. His opinion was 
that war should be declared at once against France, 
England, Germany, and the United States, who, by 
introducing railways, mining enterprises, colonization, 
and under such other shallow pretences aimed at rob- 
bing poor people of their lands, and, with the help of 
these Goths and paralytics, the aristocrats, would 
convert them into toiling and miserable slaves. And 
the leperos, flinging about the corners of their dirty 
white mantas, yelled their approbation. General Mon- 
tero, Gamacho howled with conviction, was the only 
man equal to the patriotic task. They assented to 
that, too. 

436 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

The morning was wearing on; there were already 
:ption, currents and eddies in the crowd. 
were seeking the shade of the walls and under 
tlu- t rrrs of the Alann : i Horsemen spurred through, 
shouting; groups <>i -onilirems. set level on heads 
against the vertical sun, were drifting away into the 
Itreets, where the open doors of pulperias revealed an 
enticing gloom resounding with the gentle tinkling of 
guitars The National Guards were thinking of siesta, 
and the eloquence of Gamacho, their chief, was ex- 
:ed. Later on. when in the cooler hours of the 
afternoon they tried to assemble again for further con- 
sideration of public affairs, detachments of Montero's 
dry camped on the Alameda charged them with- 
out parley, at s{>eed, with long lances levelled at their 
flying backs, as far as the ends of the streets. The 
National Guards of Sulaco were surprised by this 

eding, but they were not indignant. No Costa- 
guanero had ever learned to question the eccentricities 
of a military force. They were part of the natural 
order of things. This must be, they concluded, some 
kind of administrative measure, no doubt. But the 
motive of it escaped their unaided intelligence, and 
their chief and orator, Gamacho, Commandante of the 
National Guard, was lying drunk and asleep in the 
bosom of his family. His bare feet were upturned in 
the shadows repulsively, in the manner of a cor; 

loquent mouth had dropped open. His youngest 
daughter, scratching her head with one hand, with the 
other waved a green bough over his scorched and peel- 
ing face. 



VI 

THE declining sun had shifted the shadows from 
west to east among the houses of the town. It 
had shifted them upon the whole extent of the im- 
mense Campo, with the white walls of its haciendas on 
the knolls dominating the green distances; with its 
grass-hatched ranchos crouching in the folds of ground 
by the banks of streams; with the dark islands of clus- 
tered trees on a clear sea of grass, and the precipitous 
range of the Cordillera, immense and motionless, 
emerging from the billows of the lower forests like the 
barren coast of a land of giants. The sunset rays, 
striking the snow-slope of Higuerota from afar, gave it 
an air of rosy youth, while the serrated mass of distant 
peaks remained black, as if calcined in the fiery ra- 
diance. The undulating surface of the forests seemed 
powdered with pale gold-dust; and away there, beyond 
Rincon, hidden from the town by two wooded spurs, 
the rocks of the San Tome gorge, with the flat wall of 
the mountain itself crowned by gigantic ferns, took on 
warm tones of brown and yellow, with red, rusty streaks 
and the dark-green clumps of bushes rooted in crev- 
ices. From the plain the stamp sheds and the houses 
of the mine appeared dark and small, high up, like the 
nests of birds clustered on the ledges of a cliff. The 
zigzag paths resembled faint tracings scratched on the 
wall of a cyclopean block-house. To the two serenos 

438 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

of the mine on day fluty, strolling, carbine in hand 
and watchful eyes, in the shade of the trees lining the 
rn near the bridge, Don Pdpd, descending the path 
fp>m the upper plateau, appeared no bigger than a 
large beetle. 

With his air of aimless, insect-like going to and fro 
upon the face of the rock, Don Pdp6's figure kept on 
ending steadily, and, when near the bottom, sank 
at last behind the roofs of store-houses, forges, and 
workshops. For a time the pair of serenos strolled 
back and forth before the bridge, on which they had 
stopped a horseman holding a large white envelope in 
his hand. Then Don Pdpe", emerging in the village 
street from among the houses, not a stone's-throw from 
the frontier bridge, approached, striding in wide, dark 
trousers tucked into boots, a white linen jacket, sabre 
at his side and revolver at his belt. In this disturbed 
time nothing could find the Sefior Gobernador with his 
"boots off, as the saying is. 

At a slight nod from one of the serenos, the man, a 
messenger from the town, dismounted and crossed the 
bridge, leading his horse by the bridle. 

Don Pe'pe' received the letter from his other hand, 
slapped his left side and his hips in succession, feel- 
ing for his spectacle-case. After settling the heavy, 
silver-mounted affair astride his nose and adjusting it 
ally behind his ears, he opened the envelope, hold- 
ing it up at about a foot in front of his eyes. The paper 
ulled out contained some three lines of writing. 
>oked at them for a long time. His gray mustache 
moved slightly up and down, and the wrinkles, radiating 
at the corners of his eyes, ran together. He nodded 

439 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

serenely. " Bueno," he said. "There is no an- 
swer." 

Then, in his quiet, kindly way, he engaged in a cau- 
tious conversation with the man, who was willing to 
talk cheerily, as if something lucky had happened to 
him recently. He had seen from a distance Sotillo's 
infantry camped along the shore of the harbor on each 
side of the custom - house. They had done no damage 
to the buildings. The foreigners of the railway re- 
mained shut up within the yards. They were no longer 
anxious to shoot poor people. He cursed the foreign- 
ers; then he reported Montero's entry and the rumors 
of the town. The poor were going to be made rich 
now. That was very good. More he did not know; 
and, breaking into propitiatory smiles, he intimated 
that he was hungry and thirsty. The old major di- 
rected him to go to the alcalde of the first village. The 
man rode off, and Don Pepe", striding slowly in the di- 
rection of a little wooden belfry, looked over a hedge 
into a little garden and saw Father Romkn sitting in a 
white hammock slung between two orange -trees in 
front of the presbytery. 

An enormous tamarind shaded with its dark foliage 
the whole white frame house. A young Indian girl, 
with long hair, big eyes, and small hands and feet, car- 
ried out a wooden chair, while a thin, old woman, 
crabbed and vigilant, watched her all the time from the 
veranda. Don P6p6 sat down in the chair and lighted 
a cigar; the priest drew in an immense quantity of 
snuff out of the hollow of his palm. On his reddish- 
brown face, worn, hollowed as if crumbled, the eyes 
fresh and candid, sparkled like two black diamonds. 

440 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

Don Pe'pe', in a mild and humorous voice, informed 
Father Roman that Pcdrito Montero, by the hand of 
Senor Fuentes, had asked him on what terms he would 
surrender the mine in proper working order to a legally 
constituted commission of patriotic citizens, escorted 
by a small military force. The priest cast his eyes up 
to heaven. However, Don Pe"pd continued, the mozo 
who brought the letter said that Don Carlos Gould was 
alive, and so far unmolested. 

Father Roman expressed in a few words his thank- 
fulness at hearing of the Seftor Administrador's safety. 

The hour of oration had gone by in the silvery ring- 
ing of a bell in the little belfry. The belt of forest clos- 
ing the entrance of the valley stood like a screen be- 
tween the low sun and the street of the village. At the 
other end of the rocky gorge, between the walls of basalt 
and granite, a forest-clad mountain, hiding all the range 
from the San Tome* dwellers, rose steeply, lighted up 
and leafy to the very top. Three small, rosy clouds 
hung motionless overhead in the great depth of blue. 
Knots of people sat in the street between the wattled 
huts. Before the casa of the alcalde, the foremen of 
the night-shift, already assembled to lead their men, 
squatted on the ground in a circle of leather skull-caps, 
and, bowing their bronze backs, were passing round 
the gourd of mate*. The mozo from the town, having 
fastened his horse to a wooden post before the door, 
was telling them the news of Sulaco as the blackened 
gourd of the decoction passed from hand to hand. The 
e alcalde himself, in a white waist-cloth and a 
flowered chintz gown with sleeves, open wide upon his 
naked, stout person, with an effect of a gaudy bathing- 

441 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

robe, stood by, wearing a rough beaver hat at the back 
of his head, and grasping a tall staff with a silver knob 
in his hand. These insignia of his dignity had been 
conferred upon him by the administration of the mine, 
the fountain of honor, of prosperity, and peace. He 
had been one of the first immigrants into this valley; 
his sons and sons-in-law worked within the mountain, 
which seemed, with its treasures, to pour down the 
thundering ore-shoots of the upper mesa the gifts of 
well-being, security, and justice upon the toilers. He 
listened to the news from the town with curiosity and 
indifference, as if concerning another world than his 
own. And it was true that they appeared to him so. 
In a very few years the sense of belonging to a powerful 
organization had been developed in these harassed, 
half-wild Indians. They were proud of, and attached 
to, the mine. It had secured their confidence and be- 
lief. They invested it with a protecting and invincible 
virtue, as though it were a fetish made by their own 
hands, for they were ignorant, and in other respects 
did not differ appreciably from the rest of mankind, 
which puts infinite trust in its own creations It 
never entered the alcalde's head that the mine could 
fail in its protection and force. Politics were good 
enough for the people of the town and the Campo. His 
yellow, round face, with wide nostrils, and motionless in 
expression, resembled a fierce full moon. He listened 
to the excited vaporings of the mozo without misgiv- 
ings, without surprise, without any active sentinic-nt 
whatever. 

Padre Roman sat dejectedly balancing himself, his 
feet just touching the ground, his hands gripping the 

442 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

edge of the hammock. With less confidence, but as 
ignorant as his flock, he asked the major what did he 
think was going to happen now. 

Don Pe'pe', bolt upright in the chair, folded his hands 
peacefully on the hilt of his sword, standing perpen- 
dicular between his thighs, and answered that he did 
not know. The mine could be defended against any 
force likely to be sent to take possession. On the 
other hand, from the arid character of the valley, when 
the regular supplies from the Campo had been cut off, 
the population of the three villages could be starved 
into submission. Don Pe'pe' exposed these contingen- 
cies with serenity to Father Roman, who, as an old 
campaigner, was able to understand the reasoning of 
a military man. They talked with simplicity and 
directness. Father Roman was saddened at the idea 
of his flock being scattered or else enslaved. He had 
no illusions as to their fate, not from penetration, but 
from long experience of political atrocities, which seem- 
ed to him fatal and unavoidable in the life of a state. 
The working of the usual public institutions presented 
itself to him most distinctly as a series of calamities 
overtaking private individuals and flowing logically 
from one another through hate, revenge, folly, and 
rapacity, as though they had been part of a divine dis- 
pensation. Father Roman's clear-sightedness was 
served by an uninformed intelligence; but his heart, 
preserving its tenderness among scenes of carnage, 
spoliation, and violence, abhorred these calamities the 
more as his association with the victims was closer. 
He entertained towards the Indians of the valley 
feelings of paternal scorn. He had been marrying, 

443 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

baptizing, confessing, absolving, and burying the 
workers of the San Tome" mine with dignity and 
unction for five years or more; and he believed in the 
sacredness of these ministrations, which made them 
his own in a spiritual sense. They were dear to his 
sacerdotal supremacy. Mrs. Gould's earnest interest in 
the concerns of these people enhanced their importance 
in the priest's eyes, because it really augmented his 
own. When talking over with her the innumerable 
Marias and Bngidas of the villages, he felt his own hu- 
manity expand. Padre Roman was incapable of fa- 
naticism to an almost reprehensible degree. The Eng- 
lish senora was evidently a heretic; but at the same 
time she seemed to him wonderful and angelic. When- 
ever that confused state of his feelings occurred to 
him, while strolling, for instance, his breviary under 
his arm, in the wide shade of the tamarind, he would 
stop short to inhale, with a strong snuffling noise, a 
large quantity of snuff, and shake his head profoundly. 
At the thought of what might befall the illustrious 
senora presently he became gradually overcome with 
dismay. He voiced it in an agitated murmur. Even 
Don P6p6 lost his serenity for a moment. He leaned 
forward stiffly. 

"Listen, padre. The very fact that those thieving 
macaques in Sulaco are trying to find out the price of 
my honor proves that Senor Don Carlos and all in the 
Casa Gould are safe. As to my honor, that also is safe, 
as every man, woman, and child knows. But the 
negro Liberals who have snatched the town by surprise 
do not know that. Bueno! Let them sit and wait. 
While they wait they can do no harm." 

444 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

And he regained his composure. He regained it 
easily. ! 'uiU-vrr happened liis honor of an old 

r of Pacz was safe. He had promised Ch 
Gould that at the approach of an armed force he would 
defend the gorge just long enough to give himself time 
to destroy scientifically the whole plant, buildings, and 
workshops of the mine with heavy charges of dynamite ; 
block with ruins the main tunnel, break down the path- 
ways, blow up the dam of the water-power, shatter the 
famous Gould Concession into fragments, flying sky- 
high out of a horrified world. The mine had got hold 
of Charles Gould with a grip as deadly as ever it had 
laid upon his father. But this extreme resolution had 
seemed to Don Pe"pe the most natural thing in the 
world. His measures had been taken with judgment. 
Everything was prepared with a careful completeness. 
And Don Pe'pe' folded his hands pacifically on his 
sword-hilt and nodded at the priest. In his excite- 
ment Father Roman had flung snuff in handfuls at his 
face, and, all besmeared with tobacco, round-eyed, 
and beside himself, had got out of the hammock to 
walk about, uttering exclamations. 

Don Pdpe" stroked his gray and pendent mustache, 
whose fine ends hung far below the clean-cut line of 
his jaw, and spoke with a conscious pride in his repu- 
tation. 

"So, padre, I don't know what will happen. But I 
know that, as long as I am here, Don Carlos can speak 
to that macaque, Pedrito Montero, and threaten 
the destruction of the mine with perfect assurance 
that he will be taken seriously. For people know 
me." 

445 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

He began to turn the cigar in his lips a little nervous- 
ly, and went on: 

" But that is talk good for the politicos. I am a 
military man. I do not know what may happen. 
But I know what ought to be done: the mine should 
march upon the town with guns, axes, knives tied up 
to sticks por Dios! That is what should be done. 
Only" 

His folded hands twitched on the hilt. The cigar 
turned faster in the corner of his lips. 

"And who should lead but I? Unfortunately ob- 
serve I have given my word of honor to Don Carlos 
not to let the mine fall into the hands of these thieves. 
In war you know this, padre the fate of battles is 
uncertain, and whom could I leave here to act for me 
in case of defeat? The explosives are ready. But it 
would require a man of high honor, of intelligence, of 
judgment, of courage, to carry out the prepared de- 
struction somebody I can trust with my honor as 
I can trust myself; another old officer of Paez, for 
instance; or or perhaps one of Paez's old chap- 
lains would do." 

He got up, long, lank, upright, hard, with his mar- 
tial mustache and the bony structure of his face, 
from which the glance of the sunken eyes seemed to 
transfix the priest, who stood still, an empty wooden 
snuff-box held upside-down in his hand, and glared 
back, speechlessly, at the governor of the mine. 



VII 

AT about that time, in the Intendencia of Sulaco, 
Charles Gould was assuring Pedrito Montero, who 
hal sent a request for his presence there, that he 
would never let the mine pass out of his hand for the 
profit of a government who had robbed him of it. 
The Gould Concession could not be resumed. His 
father had not desired it. The son would never sur- 
render it. He would never surrender it alive. And 
once dead, where was the power capable of resuscitat- 
ing such an enterprise in all its vigor and wealth out 
of the ashes and ruin of destruction? There was no 
such power in the country. And where was the skill 
and capital abroad that would condescend to touch 
such an ill-omened corpse? Charles Gould talked in 
the impassive tone which had for many years served 
to conceal his anger and contempt. He suffered. He 
was disgusted with what he had to say. It was too 
much like heroics. In him the strictly practical in- 
stinct was in profound discord with the almost mystic- 
view he took of his right. The Gould Concession was 
symbolic of abstract justice. Let the heavens fall. 
But since the San Tome* mine had developed into 
world-wide fame his threat had enough force and effec- 
tiveness to reach the rudimentary intelligence of Pedro 
Montero, wrapped up as it was in the futilities of his- 
torical anecdotes. The Gould Concession was a se- 

447 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

nous asset in the country's finance, and, what was 
more, in the private budgets of many officials as well. 
It was traditional. It was known. It was staid. It 
was credible. Every Minister of Interior drew a sal- 
ary from the San Tomd mine. It was natural. And 
Pedrito intended to be Minister of the Interior and 
President of the Council in his brother's government. 
The Due de Morny had occupied those high posts 
during the Second French Empire with conspicuous 
advantage to himself. 

A table, a chair, a wooden bedstead had been pro- 
cured for his Excellency, who, after a short siesta, 
rendered absolutely necessary by the labors and the 
pomps of his entry into Sulaco, had been getting hold 
of the administrative machine by making appoint- 
ments, giving orders, and signing proclamations. 
Alone with Charles Gould in the audience-room, his 
Excellency managed with his well-known skill to con- 
ceal his annoyance and consternation. He had begun 
at first to talk loftily of confiscation, but the want of 
all proper feeling and mobility in the Sefior Adminis- 
trador's features ended by affecting adversely his pow- 
er of masterful expression. Charles Gould had re- 
peated: "The government can certainly bring about 
the destruction of the San Tome" mine if it likes; but 
without me it can do nothing else." It was an alarm- 
ing pronouncement, and well calculated to hurt the 
sensibilities of a politician whose mind is bent upon the 
spoils of victory. And Charles Gould said also that 
the destruction of the San Tome" mine would cause the 
ruin of other undertakings, the withdrawal of Euro- 
pean capital, the withholding, most probably, of the 

448 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

.ilment of the foreign loan. That stony fiend 
of a man said all these things (which were accessible 
to his Excellency's intelligence-) in a cold-blooded 
manner which made one shudder. 

A long course of reading historical works, light and 
gossipy in tone, carried <>ut in garrets of Parisian 
hotels, sprawling on an untidy bed, to the neglect of his 
duties, menial or otherwise, had affected the manners 
of Pedro Montero. Had he seen around him the 
splendor of the old Intendencia the magnificent hang- 
ings, the gilt furniture ranged along the walls had he 
stood upon a dais on a noble square of red carpet, he 
would have probably been very dangerous from a sense 
of success and elevation. But in this sacked and de- 
vastated residence, with the three pieces of common 
furniture huddled up in the middle of the vast apart- 
ment, Pedrito's imagination was subdued by a feeling 
of insecurity and impermanence. That feeling, and 
the firm attitude of Charles Gould, who had not once 
so far pronounced the word " Excellency," dimin- 
ished him in his own eyes. He assumed the tone of 
an enlightened man of the world, and begged Charles 
Gould to dismiss from his mind every cause for alarm. 
He was now conversing, he reminded him, with the 
brother of the master of the country, charged with a 
reorganizing mission. The trusted brother of the 
master of the country, he repeated. Nothing was 
farther from the thoughts of that wise and patriotic 
hero than ideas of destruction. " I entreat you, Don 
Carlos, not to give way to your anti - democratic 
prejudices," he cried, in a burst of condescending effu- 
sion. 

449 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

Pedrito Montero surprised one at first sight by the 
vast development of his bald forehead, a shiny yellow 
expanse between the crinkly coal - black tufts of hair 
without any lustre, the engaging form of his mouth, 
and an unexpectedly cultivated voice. But his eyes, 
very glistening, as if freshly painted on each side of his 
hooked nose, had a round, hopeless, birdlike stare when 
opened fully. Now, however, he narrowed them 
agreeably, throwing his square chin up and speaking 
with closed teeth slightly through the nose with what 
he imagined to be the manner of a grand seigneur. 

In that attitude he declared suddenly that the high- 
est expression of democracy was Caesarism the im- 
perial rule based upon the direct popular vote. Caesar- 
ism was conservative. It was strong. It recognized 
the legitimate needs of democracy, which requires 
orders, titles, and distinctions. They would be show- 
ered upon deserving men. Caesarism was peace. It 
was progressive. It secured the prosperity of a coun- 
try. Pedrito Montero was carried away. Look at 
what the Second Empire had done for France. It 
was a regime which delighted to honor men of Don 
Carlos's stamp. The Second Empire fell, but that 
was because its chief was devoid of that military genius 
which had raised General Montero to the pinnacle of 
fame and glory. Pedrito elevated his hand jerkily to 
help the idea of pinnacle of fame. "We shall have 
many talks yet. We shall understand each other 
thoroughly, Don Carlos!" he cried, in a tone of fellow- 
ship. Republicanism had done its work. Imperial 
democracy was the power of the future. Pedrito, the 
guerrillero, showing his hand, lowered his voice forcibly. 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

A man singled out by his fellow-citizens for the hon- 
i mrkiKime of El Rev de Sulaco could not but re- 
ull recognition from an imperial democracy as 
a great captain of industry and a person of weighty 
"uiisel. whose popular designation would be soon re- 
"tl by a more solid title. "Eh, Don Carlos ? No! 
What do you say? Conde de Sulaco, eh? or mar- 
quis . . ." 

He ceased. The air was cool on the Plaza, where a 
patrol of cavalry rode round and round without pene- 
t rat ing into the streets, which resounded with shouts and 
the strumming of guitars issuing from the open doors 
of pulperias. The orders were not to interfere with 
tin- enjoyments of the people. And above the roofs, 
next to the perpendicular lines of the cathedral towers, 
tin snowy curve of Higuerota blocked a large space 
of darkening blue sky before the windows of the In- 
terulencia. After a time Pedrito Montero, thrusting 
his hand in the bosom of his coat, bowed his head with 
low dignity. The audience was over. 

Charles Gould, on going out, passed his hand over 
his forehead as if to disperse the mists of an oppres- 
dream whose grotesque extravagance leaves be- 
hind a subtle sense of bodily danger and intellectual 
decay. In the passages and on the staircases of the 
old palace Montero's troopers lounged about insolently, 
smoking, and making way for no one; the clanking of 
sabres and spurs resounded all over the building. 
Three silent groups of civilians in severe black waited 
in the main gallery, formal and helpless, a little hud- 
dled up, each keeping apart from the others, as if 
in the exercise of a public duty they had been over- 

45 1 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

come by a desire to shun the notice of every eye. 
These were the deputations waiting for their audience. 
The one from the Provincial Assembly, more restless 
and uneasy in its corporate expression, was overtopped 
by the big face of Don Juste Lopez, soft and white, 
with prominent eyelids and wreathed in impenetrable 
solemnity as if in a dense cloud. The President of the 
Provincial Assembly, coming bravely to save the last 
shred of parliamentary institutions (on the English 
model), averted his eyes from the administrador of the 
San Tome" mine as a dignified rebuke of his little faith 
in that only saving principle. 

The mournful severity of that reproof did not affect 
Charles Gould, but he was sensible to the glances of the 
others directed upon him without reproach, as if only 
to read their own fate upon his face. All of them had 
talked, shouted, and declaimed in the great sala of the 
Casa Gould. The feeling of compassion for those men, 
struck with a strange impotence in the toils of moral 
degradation, did not 'induce him to make a sign. He 
suffered from his fellowship in evil with them too much. 
He crossed the plaza unmolested. The Amarilla Club 
was full of joyous ragamuffins. Their frowsy heads 
protruded from every window, and from behind came 
drunken shouts, the thumping of feet, and the twang- 
ing of harps. Broken bottles strewed the pavement 
below. Charles Gould found the doctor still in his 
house. 

Dr. Monygham came away from the crack in the 
shutter through which he had been watching the 
street. 

" Ah ! You are back at last," he said, in a tone of re- 
452 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

"I have I >een telling Mrs. Gould that you were 
perfectly safe. I nit I was not by any means certain 
tliat the fellow would have let you go." 

" Neither was I," confessed Charles Gould, laying his 
hat on the table. 

u will have to take action." 

The silence of Charles Gould seemed to admit that 
this was the only course. This was as far as Charles 
Gould was accustomed to go towards expressing his 
intentions. 

" I hope you did not warn Montero of what you 
mean to do," the doctor said, anxiously. 

" I tried to make him see that the existence of the 
mine was bound up with my personal safety," con- 
tinued Charles Gould, looking away from the doctor 
and fixing his eyes upon the water-color sketch upon 
the wall. 

" He believed you ?" the doctor asked, eagerly. 

"God knows!" said Charles Gould. "I owed it to 
my wife to say that much. He is well enough informed. 
He knows that I have Don Pdpe" there. Fuentes must 
have told him. They know that the old major is per- 
fectly capable of blowing up the San Tome* mine with- 
out hesitation or compunction. Had it not been for 
that I don't think I'd have left the Injendencia a free 
man. He would blow everything up from loyalty 
and from hate from hate of these Liberals, as they 
call themselves. Liberals! The words one knows so 
well have a nightmarish meaning in this country. 
Liberty democracy patriotism government. All 
of them have a flavor of folly and murder. Haven't 
they, doctor? ... I alone can restrain Don Pe'pe'. If 

453 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

they were to to do away with me, nothing could pre- 
vent him." 

"They will try to tamper with him," the doctor sug- 
gested, thoughtfully. 

"It is very possible," Charles Gould said, very low, 
as if speaking to himself, and still gazing at the sketch 
of the San Tome gorge upon the wall. " Yes, I expect 
they will try that." Charles Gould looked for the 
first time at the doctor. "It would give me time," 
he added. 

"Exactly," said Dr. Monygham, suppressing his ex- 
citement. "Especially if Don Pepe" behaves diplo- 
matically. Why shouldn't he give them some hope of 
success? Eh? Otherwise you wouldn't gain so much 
time. Couldn't he be instructed to " 

Charles Gould, looking at the doctor steadily, shook 
his head, but the doctor continued, with a certain 
amount of fire: 

"Yes, to enter into negotiations for the surrender 
of the mine. It is a good notion. You would mature 
your plan. Of course I don't ask what it is. I don't 
want to know. I would refuse to listen to you if you 
tried to tell me. I am not fit for confidences." 

"What nonsense!" muttered Charles Gould, with 
displeasure. 

He disapproved of the doctor's sensitiveness about 
that far-off episode of his life. So much memory 
shocked Charles Gould. It was like morbidness. And 
again he shook his head. He refused to tamper with 
the open rectitude of Don Pe"pe"'s conduct both from 
taste and from policy. Instructions would have to 
be either verbal or in writing. In either case they 

454 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

ran the risk of being intercepted. It was by no means 
m that a messenger could reach the mine, and, 
U-siiU's. there was no one to send. It was on the tip 
of Charles's tongue to say that only the late capataz 
of cargadores could have been employed with some 
chance of success and the certitude of discretion. But 
he did not say that. He pointed out to the doctor 
that it would have been bad policy. Directly Don 
Pe"p let it be supposed that he could be bought over, 
the administrator*! personal safety and the safety of 
his friends would become endangered. For there 
would be then no reason for moderation. The incor- 
ruptibility of Don Pe"p<$ was the essential and restrain- 
ing thing. The doctor hung his head and admitted 
that in a way it was so. 

He couldn't deny to himself that the reasoning was 
sound enough. Don Pe"pe"s usefulness consisted in 
his unstained character. As to his own usefulness, he 
reflected bitterly it was also in his own character. He 
declared to Charles Gould that he had the means of 
keeping Sotillo from joining his forces with Montero, 
at least for the present. 

" If you had had all this silver here," the doctor said, 
"or even if it had been known to be at the mine, you 
could have bribed Sotillo to throw off his recent Mon- 
terism. You could have induced him either to go 
away in his steamer or even to join you." 

"Certainly not that last," Charles Gould declared, 
firmly. "What could one do with a man like that 
afterwards tell me, doctor ? The silver is gone and I 
am glad of it. It would have been an immediate and 
strong temptation. The scramble for that visible 

455 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

plunder would have precipitated a disastrous ending. 
I would have had to defend it too. I am glad we've re- 
moved it even if it is lost. It would have been a 
danger and a curse." 

"Perhaps he is right," the doctor an hour later said, 
hurriedly, to Mrs. Gould, whom he met in the corridor. 
"The thing is done, and the shadow of the treasure 
may do just as well as the substance. Let me try to 
serve you to the whole extent of my evil reputation. 
I am off now to play my game of betrayal with Sotillo 
and keep him off the town." 

She put out both her hands impulsively. "Dr. 
Monygham, you are running a terrible risk," she whis- 
pered, averting from his face her eyes full of tears for 
a short glance at the door of her husband's room. 
She pressed both his hands, and the doctor stood as if 
rooted to the spot, looking down at her and trying to 
twist his lips into a smile. 

"Oh, I know you will defend my memory," he ut- 
tered at last, and ran tottering down the stairs, across 
the patio, and out of the house. In the street he kept 
up a great pace with his smart hobbling walk, a case of 
instruments under his arm. He was known for being 
loco. Nobody interfered with him. From under the 
seaward gate, across the dusty, arid plain interspersed 
with low bushes, he saw, more than a mile away, the 
ugly enormity of the custom-house and the two or 
three other buildings which at that time constituted 
the seaport of Sulaco. Far away to the south groves 
of palm-trees edged the curve of the harbor shore. 
The distant peaks of the Cordillera had lost their iden- 
tity of clear-cut shapes in the steadily deepening blue of 

45 6 



Nostromo: A Talc ot the Seaboard 

the eastern sky. The doctor walked briskly. A dark- 
ling shadow seemed to fall upon him I'rom the zenith. 
The sun had srt. For a time the snows of Higuerota 
continued to glow with the reflected glory of the west. 
The doctor, holding a straight course for the custom- 
house, appeared loiu-ly, hopping among the dark bushes 
like a tall bird with a broken wing. 

Tints of purple, gold, and crimson were mirrored in 
the clear water of the harbor. A long tongue of land, 
straight as a wall, with the grass-grown ruins of the 
fort making a sort of rounded green mound, plainly 
le from the inner shore, closed its circuit ; and be- 
yond, the Placid Gulf repeated those splendors of 
coloring on a greater scale with a more sombre mag- 
nificence. The great mass of cloud filling the head 
of the gulf had long, red smears among its convoluted 
folds of gray and black, as of a floating mantle stained 
with blood. The three Isabels, overshadowed and 
clear-cut in a great smoothness confounding the sea 
and sky, appeared suspended, purple-black, in the air. 
The little wavelets seemed to be tossing tiny red sparks 
upon the sandy beaches. The glassy bands of water 
along the horizon gave out a fiery red glow, as if fire 
and water had been mingled together in the vast bed 
of the ocean. 

At last the conflagration of sea and sky, lying em- 
braced and asleep in a flaming contact upon the edge 
of the world, went out. The red sparks in the water 
vanished, together with the stains of blood in the black 
mantle draping the sombre head of the Placid Gulf; 
and a sudden breeze sprang up and died out after 
rustling heavily the growth of bushes on the ruined 

457 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

earthwork of the fort. Nostromo woke up from a 
fourteen-hours' sleep and arose full length from his 
lair in the long grass. He stood knee-deep among the 
whispering undulations of the green blades, with the 
lost air of a man just born into the world. Hand- 
some, robust, and supple, he threw back his head, flung 
his arms open, and stretched himself with a slow twist 
of the waist and a leisurely growling yawn of white 
I teeth ; as natural and free from evil in the moment of 
i waking as a magnificent and unconscious wild beast. 
1 Then, in the suddenly steadied glance fixed upon noth 
y ing from under a forced frown, appeared the man. 



VIII 

A-TKR landing from his swim, Nostromo had 
scrambled up, all dripping, into the main quad- 
rangle of the old fort, and there, among ruined bits 
.i walls and rotting remnants of roofs and sheds, he 
had slept the day through. He had slept in the shad- 
ow of the mountains, in the white blaze of noon, in 
the stillness and solitude of that overgrown piece of 
land between the nearly closed oval of the harbor and 
the spacious semicircle of the gulf. He lay as if dead. 
A rey-zamuro, appearing like a tiny black speck in 
the blue, stooped, circling prudently with a stealthi- 
ness of flight startling in a bird of that great size. 
The shadow of his pearly white body, of his black- 
tipi>ed wings, fell on the grass no more silently than 
he alighted himself on a hillock of rubbish within 
three yards of that man lying as still as a corpse. He 
stretched his bare neck, craned his bald head, loath- 
some in the brilliance of varied coloring, with an air of 
voracious anxiety towards the promising stillness of 
that prostrate body. Then sinking his head deeply into 
his soft plumage he settled himself to wait. The first 
thing upon which Nostromo's eyes fell on waking was 
this patient watcher for the signs of death and corrup- 
tion. When the man got up the vulture hopped 
away in great, sidelong, fluttering jumps. He lingered 
*, 459 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

for a while morose and reluctant before he rose, circling 
noiselessly with a sinister droop of beak and claws. 

Long after he had vanished the capataz of the car- 
gadores, lifting his eyes up to the sky, muttered, " I am 
not dead yet." 

Nostromo was some time, in regaining his hold on 
the world. It had slipped from him completely in the 
deep slumber of more than twelve hours. It had been 
like a break of continuity in the chain of experience; 
he had to find himself in time and space, to think of 
the hour and the place of his return. It was a novelty. 
He was one of those efficient sailors who generally 
wake up from a dead sleep with their wits in complete 
working order. The capataz of the cargadores had 
been a good man on board ship. He had been a good 
foremast-hand and a first-rate boatswain. From the 
conditions of sea-life that sort of excellence brings no 
prize but an exaggerated consciousness of one's value 
and the confidence of one's superiors. The captain of 
the Genoese ship from which he had deserted had 
gone about tearing his gray hairs with grief and ex- 
asperation. He did it very publicly, being an Italian 
and unashamed of genuine emotions. He mingled 
imprecations against ingratitude with words of regret 
at his loss before the people on the wharf, before the 
lightermen discharging the cargo; in the O.S.N. office 
before Captain Mitchell, who was sympathetic in a 
way, but considered him in the end an awful and ridic- 
ulous nuisance and was glad to see his back for the 
last time. 

Nostromo, in close hiding in a back room of a pul- 
peria for the three days before the ship sailed, heard of 

460 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

lamentations, threats, and curses apparently 
unmoved. But he heard of them with satisfaction. 
This was as it should be. He was a valuable man. 

t U-tttT recognition could he expect ? His vanity 

infinitely ami naively greedy, but his conceptions 
were limited. Afterwards his success in the work he 
[found on shore enlarged them in the direction of per- 
sonal magnificence. This sailor led a public life in his 
sphere. It became necessary to him. It was the 
breath of his nostrils. And who can say that it was 
'not genuine distinction. It was genuine because it 
was based on something that was in him his over- 
weening vanity, which Decoud alone, thinking that he 
would be of use politically, had taken the trouble to 
find out. Each man must have some temperamental 
sense by which to discover himself. With Nostromo 
it was vanity of an artless sort. Without it he would 
have been nothing. It called out his recklessness, his 
industry, his ingenuity, and that disdain of the natives 
which helped him so much upon the line of his work 
and resembled an inborn capacity for command. It 
made him appear incorruptible and fierce. It made 
him happy also. He was disinterested with the un- 
worldliness of a sailor, arising not so much from the 
absence of mercenary instincts as from sheer igno- 
rance and carelessness for to-morrow. He was pleased 
with himself. It was not the cold, ferocious, and ideal- 
self-conceit of a man of some northern race; it 
was materialistic and imaginative. It was an unprac- 

1 and warm sentiment, a picturesque development 
of his character, the growth of an unsophisticated 
sense of his individuality. It was immense. It was 

461 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

fostered by Captain Mitchell's absurd pride in his 
foreman, the varied use made of his handiness, and the 
appreciative grunts and nods of the silent old Viola, 
to whose exalted sentiments every sort of faithfulness 
appealed greatly. 

The capataz of the Sulaco cargadores had lived in 
splendor and publicity up to the very moment, as it 
were, when he took charge of the lighter containing the 
treasure in silver ingots. 

The last act he had performed in Sulaco was in com- 
plete harmony with his vanity, and as such perfectly 
genuine. He had given his last quarter-dollar to an old 
woman moaning with the grief and fatigue of a dismal 
search under the arch of the ancient gate. Performed 
in obscurity and without witnesses, it had still the 
characteristics of splendor and publicity, and was in 
strict keeping with his reputation. But this awakening, 
in solitude but for the watchful vulture, among the ruins 
of the fort, had no such characteristics. His first con- 
fused feeling was exactly this that it was not in keep- 
ing. It was more like the end of things. The neces- 
sity of living concealed somehow, for God knows how 
long, which assailed him on his return to conscious- 
ness, made everything that had gone before for years 
appear vain and foolish, like a flattering dream come 
suddenly to an end. 

He climbed the crumbling slope of the rampart and, 
putting aside the bushes, looked upon the harbor. He 
saw a couple of ships at anchor upon the sheet of water 
reflecting the last gleams of light, and Sotillo's steamer 
moored to the jetty. And behind the pale, long front 
of the custom-house there appeared the extent of the 

462 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

n, like a grove of thick timber on the plain, with a 
gateway in front and the cupolas, towers, and mira- 

rising nl)ove the trees, all dark, as if surremi' 
ly t<> the nipht. The thought that it was no 

i-r open to him to ride through the streets, recog- 

! by every one, great and little, as he used to do 

evening on his way to play monte in the posada 

of the Mexican Domingo; or to sit in the place of honor, 

ling to songs and looking at dances, made it ap- 
pear to him as a town that had no existence. 

For a long time he gazed on, then let the parted 

rs spring back, and crossing over to the other side 
of the fort, surveyed the vaster emptiness of the great 
gulf. The Isabels stood out heavily upon the narrow- 
ing long band of red in the west, which gleamed low 
between their black shapes; and the capataz thought of 
Ibcoud alone there with the treasure. That man was 

nly one who cared whether he fell into the hands 
of the Monterists or not, the capataz reflected bitterly. 
And that merely would be an anxiety for his own sake. 

> the rest, they neither knew nor cared. What 
he had heard Giorgio Viola say once was very true. 
Kind's, ministers, aristocrats, the rich in general, kept 
the people in poverty and subjection ; they kept them 
as they kept dogs, to fight and hunt for their service. 

The darkness of the sky had descended to the line of 
the horizon, enveloping the whole gulf, the islets, and 
the lover of Antonia, alone with the treasure on the 

t Isabel. The capataz of the cargadores, turning 
his back on these things invisible and existing, sat down 
and t>ok his face between his fists. He felt the pirn h 
of poverty for the first time in his life. To find him- 

463 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

self without money after a run of bad luck at monte 
in the low, smoky room of Domingo's posada, where 
the fraternity of cargadores gambled, sang, and 
danced of an evening; to remain with empty pockets 
after a burst of public generosity to some peyne d'oro 
girl or other (for whom he did not care) , had none of 
the humiliation of destitution. He remained rich in 
glory and reputation. But since it was no longer pos- 
sible for him to parade the streets of the town and be 
hailed with respect in the usual haunts of his leisure, 
this sailor felt himself destitute indeed. 

His mouth was dry. It was dry with heavy sleep 
and extremely anxious thinking as it had never been 
dry before. It may be said that Nostromo tasted the 
dust and ashes of the fruit of life into which he had 
bitten deeply in his hunger for praise. Without re- 
moving his head from between his fists he tried to spit 
before him "Tfui" and muttered a curse upon the 
selfishness of all the rich people. 

In this harbor, at the foot of immense mountains 
that outlined their peaks among the kindled swarm 
of stars; on this smooth, half - wild sheet of black 
water, serene in its loneliness, whose future of crowded 
prosperity was being settled not so much by the in- 
dustry as by the fears, necessities and crimes of men 
short-sighted in good and evil, the two solitary for- 
eign ships had hoisted their riding - lights, according 
to rule. But Nostromo gave no second look to the 
harbor. Those two ships were present enough to his 
mind. Either would have been a refuge. It would 
have been no feat for him to swim off to them. One 
of them was an Italian bark which had brought a cargo 

464 






Nostromu: A Tale of the Seaboard 

of tiinU'r from 1'ujjet Sound for the railway. He 
knew her iin-n, in his .|uahtv of foreman of all the work 
doiu- in the harlx>r hi- had U-en ahle to oblige her 
tain in some small matter relating to the filling of his 
water-tanks. Bronzed, l>laek-whiskere<l, and stately. 
with the impressive gravity of a man too powerful to 
unbend, he had l>een invited more than once to drink 
a glass of Italian vermouth in her cabin. It was well 
known among ship-masters trading along the seaboard 
that, as a matter of sound policy, the capataz of the 
cargadores in Sulaco should be propitiated by small 
eivilities, which he seemed to expect as his due. For 
in truth, being implicitly trusted by Captain Mitchell, 
he had, as sometx>dy said, the whole harbor in his 
pocket. For the rest, an cxecllent fellow, quite straight- 
forward, everybody agreed. 

Since everything seemed lost in Sulaco (and that 
was the feeling of his waking), the idea of leaving the 
country altogether had presented itself to Nostromo. 
In that ship they would have given him shelter and a 
passage, and have landed him in Italy ultimately. At 
that thought he had seen, like the beginning of another 
dream, a vision of steep and tideless shores, with dark 
pines on the heights and white houses low down near a 
very blue sea. He saw the quays of a big port where 
the coasting feluccas, with their lateen-sails outspread 
like motionless wings, enter, gliding silently between 
the end of long moles of squared blocks that project 
angularly towards each other, hugging a cluster of 
shipping, to the superb bosom of a hill covered with 
palaces. He remembered these sights n^t without 
sonic filial emotion, though he had been habitually and 

465 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

severely beaten as a boy on one of these feluccas by his 
uncle, a short-necked, -shaven Genoese with a deliber- 
ate and distrustful manner, who (he firmly believed) 
had cheated him out of his orphan's inheritance. But 
it is mercifully decreed that the evils of the past should 
appear but faintly in retrospect. Under the sense of 
loneliness, abandonment, and failure, the idea of re- 
turn to these things appeared tolerable. But what! 
Return? With bare feet and head, with one check 
shirt and a pair of cotton calzoneros for all worldly 
possessions ? 

The renowned capataz, his elbows on his knees and a 
fist dug into each cheek, laughed with self-derision, as 
he had spat with disgust, straight out before him into 
the night. The confused and intimate impressions of 
universal dissolution which beset a subjective nature 
at any strong check to its ruling passion had a bitter- 
ness approaching that of death itself. And no won- 
der with no intellectual existence or moral strain to 
carry on his individuality, unscathed, over the abyss 
left by the collapse of his vanity; for even that had 
been simply sensuous and picturesque, and could not 
exist apart from outward show. He was like many 
other men of southern races in whom the complexity 
of simple conceptions is much more apparent than 
real. He was simple. He was as ready to become 
the prey of any belief, superstition, or desire as a 
child. 

The facts of his situation he could appreciate like a 
man with a distinct experience of the country. He 
saw them clearly. He was as if sobered after a long 
bout of intoxication. His fidelity had been taken 

466 



tromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

advantage of. He had persuaded the body of carga- 
dores to side with the Blancos against the rest of the 
!c; he had had interviews with Don Jose"; he had 
been made use of by Father Corbelan for negotiating 
with Hernandez; it was known that Don Martin De- 
coinl hail admitted htm to a sort of intimacy so that he 

[had been free of the offices of the Porrcnir. All these 
things had flattered him in the usual way. What did 
ire about their politics. Nothing at all. And at 
the end of it all, Nostromo here and Nostromo there, 
wlu-rr is Nostromo? Nostromo can do this and that; 
\v<>rk all day and ride about at night behold! he 
found himself a marked Ribierist for any sort of ven- 
geance Gamacho, for instance, would choose to take, 
now the Montero party had, after all, mastered the 
town. The Europeans had given up; the cabal- 

ileros had given up. Don Martin had indeed ex- 
plained it was only temporary; that he was going to 
bring Barrios to the rescue. Where was that now 
with Don Martin (whose ironic manner of talk had al- 
made the capataz feel vaguely uneasy) stranded 
on the Great Isabel. Everybody had given up Even 
Don Carlos had given up. The hurried removal of 
the treasure out to sea meant nothing else than that. 
The capataz de cargadores, in a revulsion of subjec- 
tiveness, exasperated almost to insajjjty, beheld all his i *r r 
world without faith and courage. IK- had been be- I 
-d! 1 

With the boundless shadows of the sea behind him. 
out of his silence and immobility, facing the lofty 
shapes of the lower peaks crowded around the white, 
misty sheen of Higuerota, Nostromo laughed aloud 

467 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

again, sprang abruptly to his feet and stood still. He 
must go. But where? 

"There is no mistake. They keep us and encourage 
us as if we were dogs born to fight and hunt for them. 
The vecchio is right," he said, slowly and scathingly. 
He remembered old Giorgio taking his pipe out of his 
mouth to throw these words over his shoulder at the 
cafe* full of engine-drivers and fitters from the railway 
workshops. This image fixed his wavering purpose. 
He would try to find old Giorgio if he could. God 
knows what might have happened to him! He made 
a few steps, then stopped again and shook his head. 
To the left and right, in front and behind him, the 
scrubby bush rustled mysteriously in the darkness. 

"Teresa was right, too," he added, in a low tone 
touched with awe. He wondered whether she were 
dead in her anger with him or still alive. As if in 
answer to this thought, half of remorse and half of 
hope, with a soft flutter and oblique flight, a big owl, 
whose appalling cry "Ya-acabo! Ya-acabo!" (It is 
finished ! It is finished !) announces calamity and 
death in the popular belief, drifted vaguely, like a 
large dark ball, across his path. In the downfall of 
all the realities that made his force, he was affected 
by the superstition and shuddered slightly. Signora 
Teresa must have died, then. It could mean nothing 
else. The cry of the ill-omened bird, the first sound he 
was to hear on his return, was a fitting welcome for 
his betrayed individuality. The unseen powers which 
he had offended by refusing to bring a priest to a 
dying woman were lifting up their voice against him. 
She was dead- With admirable and human consist- 

468 



: A Tale of the Seaboard 

ency he referred everything to himself. She had been 
a woman of good counsel always. And the bereaved 
oltl Giorgio remained stunned by his loss just as he 
was likely to require the advice of his sagacity. The 
blow would render the dreamy old man quite stupid 
for a time. 

As to Captain Mitchell, Nostromo, after the manner 
of trusted subordinates, considered him as a person 
fitted by education perhaps to sign papers in an office 
and to give orders, but otherwise of no use whatever, 
and something of a fool. The necessity of winding 
round his little finger, almost daily, the pompous and 
testy self-importance of the old seaman had grown 
irksome with use to Nostromo. At first it had given 
him an inward satisfaction. But the necessity of 
overcoming small obstacles becomes wearisome to a 
self-confident personality, as much by the certitude of 
success as by the monotony of effort. He mistrusted 
his superior's proneness to fussy action. That old 
Englishman had no judgment, he said to himself. It 
was useless to suppose that, acquainted with the true 
state of the case, he would keep it to himself. He 
would talk of doing impracticable things. Nostromo 
feared him as one would fear saddling one's self with 
some persistent worry. He had no discretion. He 
would betray the treasure. And Nostromo had made 
up his mind that the treasure should not be betrayed. 

The word had fixed itself tenaciously in his unintelli- 
gence. His imagination had seized upon the clear and 
simple notion of betrayal to account for the dazed 
feeling of enlightenment as to being done for, of hav- 
ing inadvertently gone out of his existence on an issue 

469 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

in which his personality had not been taken into ac- 
count. A man betrayed is a man destroyed. Signora 
Teresa (may God have her soul!) had been right. He 
had never been taken into account. Destroyed ! Her 
white form sitting up bowed in bed, the falling black 
hair, the wide-browed, suffering face raised to him, the 
anger of her denunciations, appeared to him now ma- 
jestic with the awfulness of inspiration and of death. 
For it was not for nothing that the evil bird had uttered 
its lamentable shriek over his head. She was dead- 
may God have her soul! 

Sharing in the anti - priestly free thought of the 
masses, his mind used the pious formula from the super- 
ficial force of habit, but with a deep-seated sincerity. 
The popular mind is incapable of scepticism; and that 
incapacity delivers their helpless strength to the wiles 
of swindlers and to the pitiless enthusiasms of leaders 
inspired by visions of a high destiny. She was dead. 
But would God consent to receive her soul ? She had 
died without confession or absolution, because he had 
not been willing to spare her another moment of his 
time. His scorn of priests as priests remained; but, 
after all, it was impossible to know whether what they 
affirmed was not true. Power, punishment, pardon, 
are simple and credible notions. The magnificent 
capataz of cargadores, deprived of certain simple reali- 
ties, such as the admiration of women, the adulation 
of men, the admired publicity of his life, was ready to 
feel the burden of sacrilegious guilt descend upon his 
shoulders. 

Bareheaded, in a thin shirt and drawers, he felt the 
lingering warmth of the fine sand under the soles of his 

47 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

feet. Tl .v straiul gleamed far ahead in a long 

curve, defining the outline of this wild side of the har- 
bor. He flitted along the shore like a pursued shadow, 
between the sombre palm-groves and the sheet of water 
lying as still as death on his right hand. He strode 
with headlong haste in the silence and solitude as 
though he had forgotten all prudence and caution. 
But he knew that on this side of the water he ran no 
risk of discovery. The only inhabitant was a lonely, 
silent, apathetic Indian in charge of the palniaries, who 
brought sometimes a load of cocoa-nuts to the town for 
sale. He lived without a woman in an open shed, with 
a perpetual tire of dry sticks smouldering in front, near 
an old canoe lying bottom up on the beach. He could 
be easily avoided. 

The barking of the dogs about that man's rancho 
was the first thing that checked his speed. He had 
forgotten the dogs. He swerved sharply and plunged 
into the palm-grove as into a wilderness of columns 
in an immense hall, whose dense obscurity seemed to 
whisper and rustle faintly high above his head. He 
traversed it, entered a ravine, climbed to the top of a 
!> ridge free of trees and bushes. 

From there, open and vague in the starlight, he saw 
the plain between the town and the harbor. In the 
woods above some night-bird made a strange drum- 
ming noise. Below, beyond the palmaria on the 
beach, the Indian's dogs continued to bark uproar- 
iously. He wondered what had upset them so much, 
and peering down from his elevation was surprised to 
detect unaccountable movements of the ground below, 
1 several oblong pieces of the plain had been in 
47 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

motion. Those dark, shifting patches, alternately 
catching and eluding the eye, altered their place al- 
ways away from the harbor with a suggestion of con- 
secutive order and purpose. A light dawned upon 
him. It was a column of infantry on a night march 
towards the higher broken country at the foot of the 
hills. But he was too much in the dark about every- 
thing for wonder and speculation. 

The plain had resumed its shadowy immobility. 
He descended the ridge, and found himself in the open 
solitude between the harbor and the town. Its spa- 
ciousness, extended indefinitely by an effect of ob- 
scurity, rendered more sensible his profound isolation. 
His pace became slower. No one waited for him; no 
one thought of him; no one expected or wished his 
return. " Betrayed! Betrayed!" he muttered to him- 
self. No one cared. He might have been drowned 
by this time. No one would have cared unless, per- 
haps, the children, he thought to himself. But they 
were with the English signora, and not thinking of 
him at all. 

He wavered in his purpose of making straight for 
the Casa Viola. To what end? What could he ex- 
pect there? His life seemed to fail him in all its de- 
tails, even to the scornful reproaches of Teresa. He 
was aware painfully of his reluctance. Was it that 
remorse which she had prophesied with what he saw 
now was her last breath ? 

Meantime he had deviated from the straight course, 
inclining by a sort of instinct to the left, towards the 
jetty and the harbor, the scene of his daily labors. 
The great length of the custom - house loomed up all 

472 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

at once like the wall of a factory. Not a soul chal- 
lenged his approach, and his curiosity became excited 
as he passed cautiously towards the front by the un- 
expected sight of two lighted windows. 

They had the fascination of a lonely vigil kept by 
some mysterious watcher up there, those two windows 
shining dimly upon the harbor in the whole vast ex- 
ti'tit of the abandoned building. The solitude could 
almost be felt. A strong smell of wood smoke hung 
about in a thin haze, which was faintly perceptible to 
his raised eyes against the glitter of the stars. As he 
advanced in the profound silence, the shrilling of in- 
numerable cicalas in the dry grass seemed positively 
deafening to his strained ears. Slowly, step by step, 
he found himself in the great hall, sombre and full of 
acrid smoke. 

A fire built against the staircase had burned down 
im potently to a low heap of embers. The hard wood 
hal failed to catch; only a few steps at the bottom 
smouldered, with a creeping glow of sparks defining 
tlu-ir charred edges. At the top he saw a streak of 
light from an open door. It fell upon the vast land- 
ing, all foggy with a slow drift of smoke. That was 
the room. He climbed the stairs, then checked him- 
self, because he had seen within the shadow of a man 
cast upon one of the walls. It was a shapeless, high- 
shouldered shadow of somebody standing still, with a 
lowered head out of his line of sight. The capataz, 
remembering that he was totally unarmed, stepped 
aside, and effacing himself upright in a dark corner, 
waited with his eyes fixed on the door. 

The whole enormous ruined barrack of a place, un- 
473 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

finished, without ceilings under its lofty roof, was per- 
vaded by the smoke swaying to and fro in the faint 
cross - draughts playing in the obscurity of many 
lofty rooms and barnlike passages. Once one of the 
swinging shutters came against the wall with a single | 
sharp crack, as if pushed by an impatient hand. A 
piece of paper scurried out from somewhere, rustling j 
along the landing. The man, whoever he was, did not 
darken the lighted doorway. Twice the capataz, ad- 
vancing a couple of steps out of his corner, craned his I 
neck in the hope of catching sight of what he would 
be at so quietly in there. But every time he saw only 
the distorted shadow of broad shoulders and bowed | 
head. He was doing apparently nothing, and stirred 
not from the spot, as though he were meditating or, 
perhaps, reading a paper. And not a sound issued 
from the room. 

Once more the capataz stepped back. He won- 
dered who it was some Monterist ? But he dreaded 
to show himself. To discover his presence on shore, 
unless after many days, would, he believed, endanger 
the treasure. With his own knowledge possessing his 
whole soul, it seemed impossible that anybody ii 
Sulaco should fail to jump at the right surmise. Aft 
a couple of weeks or so it would be different. Who 
could tell he had not returned overland from some 
port beyond the limits of the republic. The exist- 
ence of the treasure confused his thoughts with a 
peculiar sort of anxiety, as though his life had become 
bound up with it. It rendered him timorous for a 
moment before that enigmatic, lighted door. Devil 
take the fellow ! He did not want to see him. There 

474 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

I 

would be nothing to learn from his face, known or 
unknown. 1 .1 fool to waste his time there in 

waiting. 

ian five minutes after entering the place the 
capataz began his retreat. He got away down the 
stairs with perfect success, gave one upward look over 
his shoulder at the light on the landing, and ran 
stealthily across the hall. But at the very moment 
he was turning out of the great door, with his mind 
i upon escaping the notice of the man up-stairs, 
somebody he had not heard coming briskly along the 
front ran full into him. Both muttered a stifled ex- 
clamation of surprise, and leaped back and stood 
still, each indistinct to the other. Nostromo was 
silent. The other man spoke first, in an amazed and 
deadened tone. 

"Who are you?" 

Already Nostromo had seemed to recognize Dr. 
Monygham. He had no doubt now. He hesitated 
the space of a second. The idea of bolting without a 
word presented itself to his mind. No use! An in- 
explicable repugnance to pronounce the name by 
which he was known kept him silent a little longer. 
At last he said, in a low voice: 
A cargador." 

He walked up to the other. Dr. Monygham had re- 
ceived a shock. He flung his arms up and cried out 
his wonder aloud, forgetting himself before the marvel 
of this meeting. Nostromo angrily warned him to 
moderate his voice. The custom-house was not so 
deserted as it looked to be. There was somebody in 
the lighted room above. 

475 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

There is no more evanescent quality in an accom- 
plished fact than its wonderfulness. Solicited inces- 
santly by the considerations affecting its fears and 
desires, the human mind turns naturally away from 
the marvellous side of events. And it was in the 
most natural way possible that the doctor asked 
this man whom, only two minutes before he believed 
to have been drowned in the gulf: 

"You have seen somebody up there? Have you?" 

"No, I have not seen him." 

"Then how do you know?" 

" I was running away from his shadow when we 
met." 

"His shadow?" 

"Yes. His shadow in the lighted room," said 
Nostromo, in a contemptuous tone. Leaning back 
with folded arms at the foot of the immense building, 
he dropped his head, biting his lips slightly, and not 
looking at the doctor. "Now," he thought to him- 
self, "he will begin asking me about the treasure." 

But the doctor's thoughts were concerned with an 
event not as marvellous as Nostromo's reappearance, 
but in itself much less clear. Why had Sotillo taken* 
himself off, with his whole command, with this sudden- 
ness and secrecy ? What did this move portend ? 
However, it dawned upon the doctor that the man 
up-stairs was one of the officers left behind by the dis- 
appointed colonel to communicate with him. 

"I believe he is waiting for me," he said. 

"It is possible." 

"I must see. Do not go away yet, capataz." 

"Go away, where?" muttered Nostromo. 
476 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

Already the doctor had left him. He remained 
leaning against the wall, staring at the dark water of 
the harbor; the shrilling of cicalas filled his ears. An 
invincible vagueness coming over his thoughts took 
from them all power to determine his will. 

"Capataz! Capataz!" the doctor's voice called 
urgently from above. 

The sense of betrayal and ruin floated upon his 
sombre indifference as upon a sluggish sea of pitch. 
But he stepped out from under the wall, and looking 
up saw Dr. Monygham leaning out of a lighted window. 

"Come up and see what Sotillo has done. You 
need not fear the man up here." 

He answered by a slight, bitter laugh. Fear a 
man! The capataz of the Sulaco cargadores fear a 
man! It angered him that anybody should suggest 
such a thing. It angered him to be disarmed and 
skulking and in danger because of the accursed treas- 
ure, which was of so little account to the people who 
had tied it round his neck. He could not shake off 
the worry of it. To Nostromo the doctor represented 
all these people. . . . And he had never even asked 
after it. Not a word of inquiry about the most des- 
perate undertaking of his life. 

Thinking these thoughts, Nostromo passed again 
through the cavernous hall, where the smoke was 
considerably thinned, and went up the stairs, not so 
warm to his feet now, towards the streak of light at 
the top. The doctor appeared in it for a moment, 
agitated and impatient. 

"Come up! Come up!" 

At the moment of crossing the doorway the capataz 
477 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

experienced a shock of surprise. The man had not 
moved. He saw his shadow in the same place. He 
started, then stepped in with a feeling of being about 
to slove a mystery. 

It was very simple. For an infinitesimal fraction 
of a second, against the light of two flaring and gut- 
tering candles, through a blue, pungent, thin haze 
which made his eyes smart, he saw the man standing, 
as he had imagined him, with his back to the door, 
casting an enormous and distorted shadow upon the 
wall. Swifter than a flash of lightning followed the 
impression of his constrained, toppling attitude the 
shoulders projecting forward, the head sunk low upon 
the breast. Then he distinguished the arms behind 
his back, and wrenched so terribly that the two clinch- 
ed fists, lashed together, had been forced up higher 
than the shoulder-blades. From there his eyes traced 
in one instantaneous glance the hide rope going up- 
ward from the tied wrists, over a heavy beam, and 
down to a staple in the wall. He did not want to 
look at the rigid legs, at the feet hanging down nerve- 
lessly, with their bare toes some six inches above the 
floor, to know that the man had been given the es- 
trapade till he had swooned. His first impulse was 
to dash forward and sever the rope at one blow. He 
felt for his knife. He had no knife not even a knife! 
He stood quivering, and the doctor, perched on the 
edge of the table, facing thoughtfully the cruel and 
lamentable sight, his chin in his hand, uttered with- 
out stirring: 

"Tortured, and shot dead through the breast- 
getting cold." 

478 



: A Talc of the Seaboard 

Tins information calmed the capataz. One of the 
candK-s tinkering in the socket went out. "Who did 
this ?" he asked. 

"Sotillo, I tell you. Who else? Tortured of 
course. But why si The doctor looked fixedly 

at Nostromo, who shrugged his shoulders slightly. 
"And, mark, shot suddenly, on impulse. It is evi- 
dent. I wish I had his seer 

Nostromo had advanced and stooped slightly to 
look. "I seem to have seen that face somewhere," 
he muttered. " Who is he ?" 

The doctor turned his eyes upon him again. " I 
mav vet come to envying his fate. What do you 
think of that, capataz? Eh?" 

But Nostromo did not even hear these words. 
Seizing the remaining light he thrust it under the 
drooping head. The doctor sat oblivious, with a lost 
gaze. Then the heavy iron candlestick, as if struck 
out of Nostromo's hand, clattered on the floor. 

" Hullo!" exclaimed the doctor, looking up with a 
start. He could hear the capataz stagger against the 
table and gasp. In the sudden extinction of the light 
within, the dead blackness sealing the window-frames 
became alive with stars to his sight. 

"Of course, of course," the doctor muttered to him- 
self, in English. "Enough to make him jump out of 
his skin." 

Nostromo's heart seemed to force itself into his 
throat. His head swam. Hirsch! The man was 
Hirsch! He held on tight to the edge of the table. 

"But he was hiding in the lighter," he almost 
shouted. His voice fell. " In the lighter, and and " 

479 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

"And Sotillo brought him in," said the doctor. 
"He is no more startling to you than you were to me. 
What I want to know is how he induced some com- 
passionate soul to shoot him." 

"So Sotillo knows " began Nostromo, in a more 
equable voice. 

"Everything!" interrupted the doctor. 

The capataz was heard striking the table with his 
fist. "Everything? What are you saying, there? 
Everything? Knows everything? It is impossible! 
Everything?" 

"Of course. What do you mean by impossible ? I 
tell you I have heard this Hirsch questioned last 
night, here, in this very room. He knew your name, 
Decoud's name, and all about the loading of the sil- 
ver. . . . The lighter was cut in two. He was grovel- 
ling in abject terror before Sotillo, but he remembered 
that much. What do you want more ? He knew least 
about himself. They found him clinging to their an- 
chor. He must have caught at it just as the lighter 
went to the bottom." 

"Went to the bottom?" repeated Nostromo, slowly. 
' ' Sotillo believes that ? Bueno !" 

The doctor, a little impatiently, was unable to 
imagine what else could anybody believe. Yes, So- 
tillo believed that the lighter was sunk, and the capa- 
taz of the cargadores, together with Martin Decoud 
and perhaps one or two other political fugitives, had 
been drowned. 

" I told you well, Senor Doctor," remarked Nostromo, 
at that piont, "that Sotillo did not know everything." 

"Eh? What do you mean ?" 
480 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

" He did not know I was not dead." 

"Neither did we." 

"And you did not care none of you caballeros on 
the wharf once you got off a man of flesh and blood 
like yourselves on a fool's business that could not end 
well." 

' You forget, capataz, I was not on the wharf. And 
I did not think well of the business. So you need not 
taunt me. I tell you what, man, we had but little 
leisure to think of the dead. Death stands near be- 
hind us all. You were gone." 

" I went, indeed!" broke in Nostromo. " And for the 
sake of what tell me?" 

"Ah! that is your own affair," the doctor said, 
roughly. "Do not ask me." 

Their flowing murmurs paused in the dark. Perched 
on the edge of the table with slightly averted faces, 
they felt their shoulders touch, and their eyes remain- 
ed directed towards an upright shape nearly lost in 
the obscurity of the inner part of the room, that with 
projecting head and shoulders, in ghastly immobility, 
seemed intent on catching every word. 

"Muy bien," Nostromo muttered, at last. "So be 
it. Teresa was right. It is my own affair." 

"Teresa is dead," remarked the doctor, absently, 
while his mind followed a new line of thought sug- 
gested by what might have been called Nostromo's 
return to life. "She died, the poor woman." 

"Without a priest?" the capataz asked, anxiously. 

" What a question ! Who could have got a priest 
for her last night?" 

"May God have her soul!" ejaculated Nostromo, 
481 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

with a gloomy and hopeless fervor which had no time 
to surprise Dr. Monygham before, reverting to their 
previous conversation, he continued in a sinister tone, 
"Si, Senor Doctor. As you were saying, it is my own 
affair. A very desperate affair." 

"There are no two men in this part of the world that 
could have saved themselves by swimming, as you 
have done," the doctor said, admiringly. 

And again there was silence between those two 
men. They were both reflecting, and the diversity of 
their natures made their thoughts, born from their 
meeting, swing afar from each other. The doctor, im- 
pelled to risky action by his loyalty to the Goulds, 
wondered with thankfulness at the chain of accident 
which had brought that man back where he would be 
of the greatest use in the work of saving the San Tome 
mine. The doctor was loyal to the mine. It presented 
itself to his fifty -years-old eyes in the shape of a little 
woman in a soft dress with a long train, with a head 
attractively overweighted by a great mass of fair hair, 
and the delicate preciousness of her inner worth, par- 
taking of a gem and a flower, revealed in every atti- 
tude of her person. As the dangers thickened round 
the San Tom6 mine, this illusion acquired force, per- 
manency, and authority. It claimed him at last! 
This claim, exalted by a spiritual detachment from 
the usual sanctions of hope and reward, made Dr. 
Monygham's thinking, acting individuality extremely 
dangerous to himself and to others, all his scruples 
vanishing in the proud feeling that his devotion was 
the only thing that stood between an admirable wom- 
an and a frightful disaster. 

48? 



Nostromo ; A Talc of the Seaboard 

1 1 was a sort of intoxication which made him utterly 
indifferent to Decoud's fate, but left his wits perfectly 
dear tor the .IJIJTI > iation of Decoud's political idea. 
It was a good idea, and Barrios was the only instru- 
ment of its realization. The doctor's soul, withered 
and struck by the shame of a moral disgrace, became 
implacable in the expansion of its tenderness. Nos- 
tromo's return was providential. He did not think 
of him humanely, as of a fellow-creature just escaped 
from the jaws of death. The capataz for him was 
the only possible messenger to Cayta. The very man. 
The doctor's misanthropic mistrust of mankind (the 
bitterer because based on personal failure) did not 
lift him sufficiently above common weaknesses. He 
was under the spell of an established reputation. 
Trumpeted by Captain Mitchell, grown in repetition, 
and fixed in general assent, Nostromo's faithfulness 
had never been questioned by Dr. Monygham as a 
furt. It was not likely to be questioned now he stood 
in desperate need of it himself. Dr. Monygham was 
human; he accepted the popular conception of the 
capataz's incorruptibility simply because no word or 
fact had ever contradicted a mere affirmation. It 
seemed to be a part of the man, like his whiskers or 
his teeth. It was impossible to conceive him other- 
wise. The question was whether he would consent 
to go on such a dangerous and desperate errand. The 
doctor was observant enough to have become aware 
from the first of something peculiar in the man's tem- 
per. He was no doubt sore about the loss of the 
silver. 

"It will be necessary to take him into my fullest 
483 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

confidence," he said to himself, with a certain acute- 
ness of insight into the nature he had to deal with. 

On Nostromo's side the silence had been full of 
black irresolution, anger, and mistrust. He was the 
first to break it, however. 

" The swimming was no great matter," he said. " It 
is what went before and what comes after that 

He did not quite finish what he meant to say, break- 
ing off short, as though his thought had butted against 
a solid obstacle. The doctor's mind pursued its own 
schemes with Machiavellian subtlety. He said, as 
sympathetically as he was able: 

"It is unfortunate, capataz. But no one would 
think of blaming you. Very unfortunate. To begin 
with, the treasure ought never to have left the moun- 
tain. But it was Decoud who However, he is 
dead. There is no need to talk of him." 

"No," assented Nostromo, as the doctor paused, 
"there is no need to talk of dead men. But I am not 
dead yet." 

"You are all right. Only a man of your intrepidity 
could have saved himself." 

In this Dr. Monygham was sincere. He esteemed 
highly the intrepidity of that man, whom he valued 
but little, being disillusioned as to mankind in general 
because of the particular instance in which his own 
manhood had failed. Having had to encounter single- 
handed during his period of eclipse many physical 
dangers, he was well aware of the most dangerous 
element common to them all of the crushing, para- 
lyzing sense of human littleness, which is what really 
defeats a man struggling with natural forces, alone. 

484 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

far from the eyes of his fellows. He was eminently 
(it to appreciate the mental image he made for him- 
self of the capataz, after hours of tension and anxiety 
precipitated suddenly into an abyss of waters and 
darkness, without earth or sky, and confronting it not 
only with an undismayed mind but with sensible suc- 
cess. Of course the man was an incomparable swim- 
mer, that was known; but the doctor judged that this 
instance testified to a still greater intrepidity of spirit. 
It was pleasing to him; he augured well from it for 
the success of the arduous mission with which he 
meant to intrust the capataz, so marvellously re- 
stored to usefulness. And in a tone vaguely gratified 
he observed: 

"It must have been terribly dark!" 

"It was the worst darkness of the Golf o," the 
capataz assented, briefly. He was mollified by what 
seemed a sign of some faint interest in such things as 
had befallen him, and , dropped a few descriptive 
phrases with an affected and curt nonchalance. At 
that moment he felt communicative. He expected 
the continuance of that interest which, whether ac- 
cepted or rejected, would have restored to him his 
personality the only thing lost in that desperate 
affair. But the doctor, engrossed by a desperate ad- 
venture of his own, was terrible in the pursuit of his 
idea. He let an exclamation of regret escape him. 

" I could almost wish you had shouted and shown a 
light 

This unexpected utterance astounded the capataz 
by its character of cold-blooded atrocity. It was as 
much as to say: "I wish you had shown vourself a 

485 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

coward; I wish you had had your throat cut for your 
pains." Naturally he referred it to himself, whereas 
it related only to the silver, being uttered simply and 
with many mental reservations. Surprise and rage 
rendered him speechless, and the doctor pursued, prac- 
tically unheard by Nostromo, whose stirred blood was 
beating violently in his ears: 

"For I am convinced Sotillo in possession of the 
silver would have turned short round and made for 
some small port abroad. Economically it would have 
been wasteful, but still less wasteful than having it 
sunk. It was the next best thing to having it at 
hand in some safe place and using part of it to buy 
up Sotillo. But I doubt whether Don Carlos would 
have ever made up his mind to it. He is not fit for 
Costaguana, and that is a fact, capataz." 

The capataz had mastered the fury that was like a 
tempest in his ears in time to hear the name of Don 
Carlos. He seemed to have come out of it a changed 
man a man who spoke thoughtfully in a soft and even 
voice. 

"And would Don Carlos have been content if I had 
surrendered this treasure?" 

"I should not wonder if they were all of that way 
of thinking now," the doctor said, grimly. "I was 
never consulted. Decoud had it his own way. Their 
eyes are opened by this time, I should think. I for 
one know that if that silver turned up this- moment 
miraculously ashore, I would give it to Sotillo. And 
as things stand I would be approved." 

"Turned up miraculously," repeated the capataz, 
very low; then raised his voice. "That, senor, would 

486 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

be a greater miracle than any saint could per- 
form." 

"I believe you, capataz," said the doctor, dryly. 
lie went on to develop his view of Sotillo's dangerous 
influence upon the situation. And the capataz, lis- 
tening as if in a dream, felt himself of as little account 
as the iiulistiiu t. motionless shape of the dead man 
whom he saw upright under the beam, with his air of 
listening also, disregarded, forgotten, like a terrible 
:iple of neglect. 

"Is it for an unconsidered and foolish whim that 
they came to me, then ?" he interrupted, suddenly. 
" Had I not done enough for them to be of some ac- 
count, por Dios? Is it that the hombres finos the 
gentlemen need not think as long as there is a man 
of the people ready to risk his body and soul? Or, 
perhaps, we have no souls like dogs." 

"There was Decoud, too, with his plan," the doctor 
reminded him again. 

"Si! Anl the rich man in San Francisco who had 
something to do with that treasure, too what do I 
know? No! I have heard too many things. It 
seems to me that everything is permitted to the rich." 

"I under land, capataz," the doctor began. 

"What capataz?" broke in Nostromo, in a forcible 
but even voice. "The capataz is undone, destroyed. 
There is n<> /-. Oh no! You will find the 

capataz no more." 

"Come, this is childish," remonstrated the doctor; 
and the other calmed down suddenly. 

" I have been indeed like a little child," he muttered. 

And as his eyes met again the shape of the murdered 
487 



Nostromo A Tale of the Seaboard 

man suspended in his awful immobility, which seemed 
the uncomplaining immobility of attention, he asked, 
wondering gently: 

"Why did Sotillo give the estrapade to this pitiful 
wretch ? Do you know ? No torture could have been 
worse than his fear. Killing I can understand. His 
anguish was intolerable to behold. But why should 
he torment him like this? He could tell no more." 

"No. He could tell nothing more. Any sane man 
would have seen that. He had told him everything. 
But I tell you what it is, capataz; Sotillo would not 
believe what he was told. Not everything." 

" What is it he would not believe ? I cannot under- 
stand." 

"I can, because I have seen the man. He refuses 
to believe that the treasure is lost." 

"What?" the capataz cried out, in a discomposed 
tone. 

"That startles you eh?" 

"Am I to understand, senor," Nostromo went on, 
in a deliberate and, as it were, watchful tone, "that 
Sotillo thinks the treasure has been saved by some 
means?" 

"No! no! That would be impossible," said the 
doctor, with conviction ; and Nostromo emitted a grunt 
in the dark. "That would be impossible. He thinks 
that the silver was no longer in the lighter when she 
was sunk. He has convinced himself that the whole 
show of getting it away to sea is a mere sham got up 
to deceive Gamacho and his Nationals, Pedrito Mon- 
tero, Senor Fuentes, our new Gefe" Politico, and him- 
self, too. Only, he says, he is no such fool." 

488 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

" Hut he is devoid of sense. He is the greatest im- 
becile that ever called himself a colonel in this country 
of evil," growled Nostromo. 

" He is no more unreasonable than many sensible 
men," sai<l the doctor. "He has convinced himself 
that the treasure can be found because he desires pas- 
sionately to possess himself of it. And he is also afraid 
of his officers turning upon him and going over to 
Pedrito, whom he has not the courage either to fight 
or trust. Do you see that, capataz? He need fear 
no desertion as long as some hope remains of that 
enormous plunder turning up. I have made it my 
business to keep this very hope up." 

"You have!" the capataz de cargadores repeated 
cautiously. "Well, that is wonderful. And how long 
do you think you are going to keep it up ?" 

"As long as I can." 

44 What does that mean ?" 

44 1 can tell you exactly. As long as I live," the doc- 
tor retorted, in a stubborn voice. Then in a few 
words he described the story of his unrest and the 
circumstances of his release. " I was going back to 
that silly scoundrel when we met," he concluded. 

Nostromo had listened with profound attention. 
i have made up your mind, then, to a speedy 
death," he muttered through his clinched teeth. 

"Perhaps! my illustrious capataz," the doctor said, 
testily. " You are not the only one here who can look 
an ugly death in the face." 

"No doubt," mumbled Nostromo, loud enough to 
be overheard. "There may be even more than two 
fools in this place. Who knows ?" 

489 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

"And that is my affair," said the doctor, curtly. 

"As taking out the accursed silver to sea was my 
affair," retorted Nostromo. "I see. Bueno! Each 
of us has his reasons. But you were the last man I 
conversed with before I started, and you talked to me 
as if I were a fool." 

Nostromo had a great distaste for the doctor's sar- 
donic treatment of his great reputation. Decoud's 
faintly ironic recognition used to make him uneasy; 
but the familiarity of a man like Don Martin w; 
flattering, whereas the doctor was a nobody. H 
could remember him a penniless outcast slinking about 
the streets of Sulaco without a single friend or ac- 
quaintance till Don Carlos Gould took him into the 
service of the mine. 

"You may be very wise," he went on, thoughtfully, 
staring into the obscurity of the room pervaded by the 
grewsome enigma of the tortured and murdered 
Hirsch. "But I am not such a 'fool as when I started. 
I have learned one thing since, and that is that you 
are a dangerous man." 

Dr. Monygham was too startled to do more than 
exclaim : 

"What is it you say?" 

"If he could speak he would say the same thing," 
pursued Nostromo, with a nod of his shadowy head sil- 
houetted against the starlit window. 

"I do not understand you," said Dr. Monygham, 
faintly. 

"No? Perhaps if you had not confirmed Sotillo in 
his madness he would have been in no haste to give 
the estrapade to that miserable Hirsch." 

490 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

The doctor started at the suggestion. But his de- 
riling all his sensibilities, had left his heart 
led against remorse and pity. Still, for complete 
relief, he felt the necessity of repelling it loudly and 
contemptuously. 

"Bah! You dare to tell me that, with a man like 
Sotillo. I confess I did not give a thought to Hirsch. 
If I had it would have been useless. Anybody can 
see that the luckless wretch was doomed from the 
moment he caught hold of the anchor. He was doom- 
ed, I tell you! Just as I myself am doomed most 
probably." 

This is what Dr. Monygham said in answer to Nos- 
tromo's remark, which was plausible enough to prick 
his conscience. He was not a callous man. But the 
necessity, the magnitude, the importance of the task 
he had taken upon himself dwarfed all merely humane 
considerations. He had undertaken it in a fanatical 
spirit. He did not like it. To lie, to deceive, to cir- 
cumvent even the basest of mankind was odious to 
him. It was odious to him by training, instinct, and 
tradition. To do these things in the character of a 
traitor was abhorrent to his nature and terrible to his 
feelings. He had made that sacrifice in a spirit of 
abasement. He had said to himself, bitterly: " I am 
the only one fit for that dirty work." And he believed 
this. He was not subtle. His simplicity was such 
that though he had no sort of heroic idea of seeking 
death, the risk, deadly enough, to which he exposed 
himself had a sustaining and comforting effect. To 
that spiritual state the fate of Hirsch presented itself 
as part of the general atrocity of things. He consid- 
*. 49 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

ered that episode practically. What did it mean ? 
Was it a sign of some dangerous change in Sotillo's de- 
lusion ? That the man should have been killed like this 
was what the doctor could not understand. 

"Yes. But why shot?" he murmured to himself. 

Nostromo kept very still. 



IX 

T^VISTRACTED between doubts and hopes, dis- 
\^s iiiaved by the sound of bells pealing out the ar- 
rival of Pedrito Montero, Sotillo had spent the morn- 
ing in I ..ittling with his thoughts a contest to which 
IB was unequal from the vacuity of his mind and the 
Bolence of his passions. Disappointment, greed, an- 
ger, and fear made a tumult in the colonel's breast 
louder than the din of l>ells in the town. Nothing he 
ftd planned had come to pass. Neither Sulaco nor 
me silver of the mine had fallen into his hands. He 
had performed no military exploit to secure his posi- 
pn, and had obtained no enormous booty to make 
off with. Pedrito Montero, either as friend or foe, 
filled him with dread. The sound of bells maddened 
him. 

Imagining at first that he might be attacked at once, 
he had made his battalion stand to arms on the shore. 
He walked to and fro all the length of the room, stop- 
ping sometimes to gnaw the finger-tips of his right 
Bud with a lurid sideway glare fixed on the floor; 
fcn with a sullen, repelling glance all round, he would 
resume his tramping in savage aloofness. His hat, 
'whip, sword, and revolver were lying on the 
t.iHe. His officers, crowding the window giving the 
iew of the town gate, disputed among themselves the 
wse of his field-glass, bought last year on long credit 

493 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

from Anzani. It passed from hand to hand, and the 
possessor for the time being was besieged by anxious 
inquiries. 

"There is nothing; there is nothing to see," he would 
repeat, impatiently. 

There was nothing. And when the picket in the 
bushes near the Casa Viola had been ordered to fall back 
upon the main body, no stir of life appeared on the 
stretch of dusty and arid land between the town and 
the waters of the port. But late in the afternoon a 
horseman issuing from the gate was made out riding 
up fearlessly. It was an emissary from Senor Fuentes. 
Being all alone he was allowed to come on. Dismount- 
ing at the great door he greeted the silent bystanders 
with cheery impudence and begged to be taken up at 
once to the "muy valiente" colonel. 

Senor Fuentes, on entering upon his functions of 
Ge"fe" Politico, had turned his diplomatic abilities to 
getting hold of the harbor as well as of the mine. The 
man he pitched upon to negotiate with Sotillo was a 
notary public whom the revolution had found languish- 
ing in the common jail on a charge of forging docu- 
ments. Liberated by the mob along with the other 
" victims of Blanco tyranny," he had hastened to 
offer his services to the new government. 

He set out determined to display much zeal and 
eloquence in trying to induce Sotillo to come into town 
alone for a conference with Pedrito Montero. Noth- 
ing was further from the colonel's intentions. The 
mere fleeting idea of trusting himself into the famous 
Pedrito's hands had made him feel unwell several 
times. It was out of the question it was madness. 

494 



[Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

id to put himself in open hostility was madness, too. 
It would render impossible a systematic search for 
tli.it treasure, for that wealth of silver which he seemed 
feel somewhere about, to scent somewhere near. 
Jut where? Where? Heavens! Where? Oh! why 
id he allowed that doctor to go ? Imbecile that he 
,-.t But no! It was the only right course, he re- 
'1, distractedly, while the messenger waited down- 
chatting agreeably to the officers. It was in that 
[scoundrelly doctor's true interest to return with ] 
Hve information. But what, if anything, stopped 
[him? A general prohibition to leave the town, for 
stance! There would be patrols! 

The colonel, seizing his head in his hands, turned 
Aon himself as if struck with vertigo. A flash of 
ftvcn inspiration suggested to him an expedient not 
unknown to European statesmen when they wish to 
delay a difficult negotiation. Booted and spurred, 
e scrambled into the hammock with undignified 
Bite. His handsome face had turned yellow with 
e strain of weighty cares. The ridge of his shapely 
Bose had grown sharp ; the audacious nostrils appeared 
mean and pinched. The velvety, caressing glance of 
s fine eyes seemed dead and even decomposed, for 
Wtese almond-shaped, languishing orbs had become 
appropriately bloodshot with much sinister sleep- 
ftness. He addressed the surprised envoy of Sefior 
Fwntcs in a deadened, exhausted voice. It came 
pathetically feeble from under a vast pile of ponchos 
which buried his elegant person right up to the black 
mustaches, uncurled, pendent, in sign of bodily pros- 
tration and mental incapacity. Fever, fever a heavy 

495 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboan 

fever had overtaken the "muy valiente" colonel. A 
wavering wildness of expression caused by the pass- 
ing waves of a slight colic which had declared itself 
suddenly, and the rattling teeth of repressed panic had 
a genuineness which impressed the envoy. It was a 
cold fit. The colonel explained that he was unable to 
think, to listen, to speak. With an appearance of 
superhuman effort the colonel gasped out that he was 
not in a state to return a suitable reply or to execute 
any of his Excellency's orders. But, to-morrow! To- 
morrow! Ah! to-morrow. Let his Excellency Don 1 
Pedro be without uneasiness. The brave Esmeralda I. 
regiment held the harbor, held And closing his 
eyes he rolled his aching head like a half-del:rious in- 
valid under the inquisitive stare of the envoy, who I 
was obliged to bend down over the hammock in or- 
der to catch the painful and broken accents. Mean- 
time, Colonel Sotillo trusted that his Excellency's hu- 
manity would permit the doctor, the English doctor, 
to come out of town with his case of foreign reme- 
dies to attend upon him. He begged anxiously 
worship the caballero now present for the grace of 
looking in as he passed the Casa Gould, and informing 
the English doctor, who was probably there, that his 
services were immediately required by Colonel Sotillo, 
lying ill of fever in the custom - house. Immediately. 
Most urgently required. Awaited with extreme im- I *' 
patience. A thousand thanks. He closed his eyes I r 
wearily and would not open them again, lying per- 
fectly still, deaf, dumb, insensible, overcome, van- I 
quished, crushed, annihilated by the fell disease. 
But as soon as the other had shut after him the 
496 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

1 1" ir of the landing, the colonel leaped out with a fling 
of both feet in an avalanche of woollen coverings. His 
spurs having become entangled in a perfect welter of 
ponchos, he nearly pitched on his head, and did not re- 
cover his balance till the middle of the room. Con- 
cealed behind the half-closed jalousies he listened to 
what went on below. 

The envoy had already mounted, and turning to the 
morose officers occupying the great doorway , took off 
his hat formally. 

"Caballeros," he said, in a very loud tone, "allow 
me to recommend you to take great care of your colo- 
nel. It has done me much honor and gratification to 
have seen you all, a fine body of men exercising the 
soldierly virtue of patience in this exposed situation, 
where there is much sun and no water to speak of, 
while a town full of wine and feminine charms is ready 
to embrace you for the brave men you are. Caballeros, 
I have the honor to salute you. There will be much 
dancing to-night in Sulaco. Good-bye!" 

But he reined in his horse and inclined his head side- 
way on seeing the old major step out, very tall and 
meagre in a straight, narrow coat coming down to his 
ankles, as it were the casing of the regimental colors 
rolled round their staff. 

The intelligent old warrior, after enunciating in a 
dogmatic tone the general proposition that the "world 
was full of traitors," went on pronouncing deliberately 
a panegyric upon Sotillo. He ascribed to him with 
leisurely emphasis every virtue under heaven, sum- 
ming it all up in an absurd colloquialism current 
among the lower class of Occidentals (especially about 

497 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

Esmeralda). "And," he concluded, with a sudden 
rise in the voice, "a man of many teeth ' hombre de 
muchos dientes.' Si, senor. As to us," he pursued, 
portentous and impressive, "your worship is behold- 
ing the finest body of officers in the republic, men un- 
equalled for valor and sagacity, ' y hombres de muchos 
dientes.' ' 

"What? All of them?" inquired the disreputable 
envoy of Senor Fuentes, with a faint, derisive smile. 

"Todos. Si, senor," the major affirmed gravely, 
with conviction. "Men of many teeth." 

The other wheeled his horse to face the portal re- 
sembling the high gate of a dismal barn. He raised 
himself in his stirrups, extended one arm. He was 
a facetious scoundrel, entertaining for these stupid 
Occidentals a feeling of great scorn natural in a native 
from the central provinces. The folly of Esmeraldians 
especially aroused his amused contempt. He began 
an oration upon Pedro Montero, keeping a solemn 
countenance. He flourished his hand as if introduc- 
ing him to their notice. And when he saw every face 
set, all the eyes fixed upon his lips, he began to shout 
a sort of catalogue of perfections: "Generous, valor- 
ous, affable, profound (he snatched off his hat enthu- 
siastically) a statesman, an invincible chief of parti- 
sans " he dropped his voice startlingly to a deep, 
hollow note "and a dentist." 

He was off instantly at a smart walk; the rigid strad- 
dle of his legs, the turned-out feet, the stiff back, the 
rakish slant of the sombrero above the square, motion- 
less set of the shoulders expressing an infinite, awe- 
inspiring impudence. 

498 



Kostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

Up-stairs, behind the jalousies, Sotillo did not move 
;g time. The an f the feliow appalled 

him. What were Irs officers saying below? They 
were saying nothing. Complete silence. He quaked. 
It was n<>t thus that he had imagined himself at that 
stage of the expedition. He had seen himself trium- 
phant, unquestioned, appeased, the idol of the soldiers, 
hing in secret complacency the agreeable alterna- 
of power and wealth open to his choice. Alas! 
how different! Distracted, restless, supine, burning 
with fury or frozen with terror, he felt a dread as 
fathomless as the sea creep upon him from every side. 
That rogue of a doctor had to come out with his infor- 
mation. That was clear. It would be of no use to him 
alone. He could do nothing with it. Malediction! 
The doctor would never come out. He was probably 
under arrest already, shut up together with Don Carlos. 
Hi- laughed aloud insanely. Ha! ha! ha! ha! It was 
Pedrito Montero who would get the information. Ha! 
ha! ha! ha! and the silver. Ha! 

All at once, in the midst of the laugh, he became 
motionless and silent as if turned into stone. He, too, 
had a prisoner. A prisoner who must, must know the 
real truth. He would have to be made to speak. 
And Sotillo, who all that time had not quite forgotten 
Hirsch, felt an inexplicable reluctance at the notion 
of proceeding to extremities. 

He felt a reluctance part of that unfathomable 
dread that crept on all sides upon him. He remembered 
reluctantly, too, the dilated eyes of the hide-merchant, 
his contortions, his loud sobs and protestations. It 
was not compassion or even mere nervous sensibility. 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

The fact was that though he never for a moment be- 
lieved his story he could not believe it ; nobody could 
believe such nonsense yet those accents of despairing 
truth impressed him disagreeably. They made him 
feel sick. And he suspected, also, that the man might 
have gone mad with fear. A lunatic is a hopeless sub- 
ject. Bah! A pretence. Nothing but a pretence. 
He would know how to deal with that. 

He was working himself up to the right pitch of 
ferocity. His fine eyes squinted slightly; he clapped 
his hands ; a barefooted orderly appeared noiselessly 
a corporal, with his bayonet hanging on his thigh and 
a stick in his hand. 

The colonel gave his orders, and presently the miser- 
able Hirsch, pushed in by several soldiers, found him 
frowning awfully in a broad arm-chair, hat on head, 
knees wide apart, arms akimbo, masterful, imposing, 
irresistible, haughty, sublime, terrible. 

Hirsch, with his arms tied behind his back, had been 
bundled violently into one of the smaller rooms. For 
many hours he remained apparently forgotten, stretch- 
ed lifelessly on the floor. From that solitude, full of 
despair and terror, he was torn out brutally, with kicks 
and blows, passive, sunk in hebetude. He listened to 
threats and admonitions, and afterwards made his usual 
answers to questions, with his chin sunk on his breast, 
his hands tied behind his back, swaying a little in 
front of Sotillo, and never looking up. When he wat 
forced to hold up his head, by means of a bayonet 
point prodding him under the chin, his eyes had a va- 
cant, trancelike stare, and drops of perspiration as big 
as peas were seen hailing down the dirt, bruises, 






Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

cratches of his white face. Then they stopped sud- 
den lv 

tillo looked at him in silence. "Will you depart 
from your obstinacy, you rogue?" he asked. Already 
a rope, whose one end was fastened to Seflor Hirsch's 
wrists, had been thrown over a beam, and three soldiers 
lu 1 I the other end, waiting. He made no answer. 
His heavy lower lip hung stupidly. Sotillo made a 
sign. He was jerked up off his feet, and a yell of de- 
spair and agony burst out in the room, filled the pas- 
sage of the great building, rent the air outside, caused 
every soldier of the camp along the shore to look up 
at the windows, started some of the officers in the hall 
>ling excitedly, with shining eyes; others, setting 
their lips, looked gloomily at the floor. 
[ Sotillo, followed by the soldiers, had left the room. 
The sentry on the landing presented arms. Hirsch 
went on screaming all alone behind the half-closed 
jalousies, while the sunshine, reflected from the water 
of the harbor, made an ever-running ripple of light 
high up on the wall. He screamed with uplifted eye- 
brows and a wide open mouth incredibly wide, black, 
enormous, full of teeth comical. 

In the still burning air of the windless afternoon he 
male the waves of his agony travel as far as the O.S.N. 
Company's offices. Captain Mitchell on the balcony, 
trying to make out what went on generally, had heard 
him faintly but distinctly, and the feeble and appalling 
sound lingered in his ears after he had retreated in- 
doors with blanched cheeks. He had been driven off 
the balcony several times during that afternoon. 

Sotillo, irritable, moody, walked restlessly about, 
501 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

held consultations with his officers, gave contradictory 
orders in this shrill clamor pervading the whole empty 
edifice. Sometimes there would be long and awful 
silences. Several times he had entered the torture- 
chamber, where his sword, horsewhip, revolver, and 
field-glass were lying on the table, to ask with forced 
calmness, "Will you speak the truth now? No? I 
can wait." But he could not afford to wait much 
longer. That was just it. Every time he went in and 
came out with a slam of the door, the sentry on the 
landing presented arms and got in return a black, 
venomous, unsteady glance, which, in reality, saw 
nothing at all, being merely the reflection of the soul 
within a soul of gloomy hatred, irresolution, avarice, 
and fury. 

The sun had set when he went in once more. A 
soldier carried in two lighted candles and slunk out, 
shutting the door without noise. 

"Speak, thou Jewish child of the devil! The silver! 
The silver, I say! Where is it? Where have you 
foreign rogues hidden it ? Confess or 

A slight quiver passed up the taut rope from the 
racked limbs, but the body of Senor Hirsch, enterpris- 
ing business man from Esmeralda, hung under the 
heavy beam perpendicular and slient, facing the colo- 
nel awfully. The inflow of the night air, cooled by 
the snows of the Sierra, spread gradually a delicious 
freshness through the close heat of the room. 

"Speak thief scoundrel picaro or 

Sotillo had seized the horsewhip, and stood with his 
arm lifted up. For a word, for one little word, he felt 
he would have knelt, cringed, grovelled on the floor 

502 



>mo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

re the drowsy, conscious stare of those fixed eye- 
balls starting out of the grimy, dishevelled head that 
j>cd very still with its mouth closed askew. The 
Atonel ground his teeth and struck. The rope vi- 
brated leisurely to the blow, like the long string of a 
iuluin starting from a rest. Hut n<> swinging mo- 
was imparted to the body of Seflor Hirsch, the 
well-known hide-merchant of the coast. With a con- 
vulsive effort of the twisted arms it leaped up a few 
inches, curling upon itself like a fish on the end of a 
Sefmr Hirs. li's }i. flung back on his 

straining throat; his chin trembled. For a moment 
.the rattle of his chattering teeth pervaded the vast, 
shadowy room, where the candles made a patch of 
light round the two flames burning side by side. And 
s Sotillo, staying his raised hand, waited for him to 
k, with a sudden flash of a grin and a straining 
forward of the wrenched shoulders, he spat violently 
into his face. 

The uplifted whip fell, and the colonel sprang back 
with a low cry of dismay, as if aspersed by a jet of 
:!y venom. Quick as thought he snatched up his 
revolver and fired twice. The report and the con- 
cussion of the shots seemed to throw him at once from 
>vernable rage into idiotic stupor. He stood with 
Mrooping jaw and stony eyes. What had he done? 
Sangre de Dios! what had he done? He was basely 
^palled at his impulsive act, sealing forever these 
H;K from which so much was to be extorted. What 
could he say ? How could he explain ? Ideas of head- 
long flight somewhere, anywhere, passed through his 
mind; even the craven and absurd notion of hiding 

5<>3 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

under the table occurred to his cowardice. It was 
too late; his officers had rushed in tumultuously, in a 
great clatter of scabbards, clamoring with astonish- 
ment and wonder. But since they did not imme- 
diately proceed to plunge their swords into his breast, 
the brazen side of his character asserted itself. Pass- 
ing the sleeve of his uniform over his face he pull* 
himself together. His truculent glance turned slowlj 
here and there checked the noise where it fell; anc 
the stiff body of the late Senor Hirsch, merchant, aft 
swaying imperceptibly, made a half turn and came 
a rest in the midst of awed murmurs and uneasy 
shuffling. 

A voice remarked loudly, "Behold a man who wil 
never speak again." And another, from the back ro\ 
of faces, timid and pressing, cried out: 
"Why did you kill him, mi coronel?" 
"Because he has confessed everything," answere 
Sotillo, with the hardihood of desperation. He felt 
himself cornered. He brazened it out on the strength 
of his reputation with very fair success. His hearers 
thought him very capable of such an act. They were 
disposed to believe his flattering tale. There is no 
credulity so eager and blind as the credulity of covet- 
ousness, which, in its universal extent, measures the 
moral misery and the intellectual destitution of man- 
kind. Ah! he had confessed everything, this factious 
Jew, this bribon. Good! Then he was no longer 
wanted. A sudden dense guffaw was heard from the 
senior captain a big-headed man, with little round 
eyes and monstrously fat cheeks which never moved. 
The old major, tall and fantastically ragged, like a 

504 



: A Tale of the Seaboard 

scarecrow, walked round the body of the late Snor 
h. muttering to himself with ineffable compla- 
cency that like this there was no need to guard against 
future treacheries of that rastrero. The others 
1. shifting from foot to foot and whispering short 
remarks to each other. 

Sotillo buckled on his sword and gave curt, peremp- 
hasten the retirement decided upon in 
the afternoon. Sinister, impressive, his wide som- 
brero pulled tight down upon his eyebrows, he march- 
ed first through the door in such disorder of mind that 
he forgot utterly to provide for Dr. Monygham's pos- 
sible return. As they trooped out after him, one or 
two looked back hastily at the late Senor Hirsch, mer- 
chant of Esmeralda, left swinging rigidly at rest, alone 
with the two burning candles. In the emptiness of 
the room the burly shadow of head and shoulders on 
the wall had an air of life. 

Below the troops fell in silently, and moved off by 
companies without drum or trumpet. The old scare- 
major commanded the rear-guard; but the party 
he left behind with orders to fire the custom-house 
(and "burn the carcass of the treacherous Jew where 
it hung") failed somehow in their haste to set the stair- 
case properly alight. The body of the late Senor 
Hirsch dwelt alone for a time in the dismal solitude 
of the vast unfinished building, resounding weirdly 
with sudden slams and clicks of doors and latches, 
with rustling scurries of torn papers, and the tremu- 
lous sighs that at each gust of wind passed under the 
hi^'h roof. The light of the two candles burning be- 
to re the perpendicular and breathless immobility of 

50$ 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

the late Senor Hirsch threw a gleam afar over land and 
water, like a signal in the night. He remained to 
startle Nostfomo by his presence, and to puzzle Dr. 
Monygham by the mystery of his atrocious end. 

"But why shot?" the doctor again asked himself, 
audibly. This time he was answered by a dry laugh 
from Nostromo. 

"You seem much concerned at a very natural thing, 
Senor Doctor. I wonder why ? It is very likely that 
before long we shall all get shot one after another, if not 
by Sotillo, then by Pedrito, or Fuentes, or Gamacho. 
And we may even get the estrapade, too, or worse 
quien sabe? with your pretty tale of the silver you 
put into Sotillo's head." 

"It was in his head already," the doctor protested. 
"I only " 

"Yes. And you only nailed it there so that the 
devil himself " 

"That is precisely what I meant to do," caught up 
the doctor. 

" That is what you meant to do ? Bueno ! It is as 
say. You are a dangerous man ." 

Their voices, which, without rising, had been gro\ 
ing quarrelsome, ceased suddenly. The late Seik 
Hirsch, erect and shadowy against the stars, seemed to 
be waiting, attentive, in impartial silence. 

But Dr. Monygham had no mind to quarrel with 
Nostromo. At this supremely critical point of Su- 
laco's fortunes it was borne upon him at last that this 
man was really indispensable, more indispensable 
than ever the infatuation of Captain Mitchell, his 
proud discoverer, could conceive; far beyond what 

506 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

Decoud's best dry raillery about " my illustrious friend, 
the unique capataz de cargadores," had ever invented. 
The fellow was unique. He was not "one in a thou- 
sand." He was absolutely the only one. The doctor 
surrendered. There was something in the genius of 
that Genoese seaman which dominated the destinies 
of great enterprises and of many people, the fortunes 
of Charles Gould, the fate of an admirable woman. 
At this last thought the doctor had to clear his throat 
before he could speak. 

In a completely changed tone he pointed out to 
the capataz that, to begin with, he personally ran no 
great risk. As far as everybody knew, he was dead. 
It was an enormous advantage. He had only to keep 
out of sight in the Casa Viola, where the old Garibal- 
; dino was known to be alone with his dead wife. The 
servants had all run away. No one would think of 
searching for him there or anywhere else on earth, 
for that matter. 

"That would be very true," Nostromo spoke up, 
bitterly, "if I had not met you." 

For a time the doctor kept silent. "Do you mean 
to say that you think I may give you away ?" he asked, 
in an unsteady voice. "Why? Why should I do 
that?" 

1 What do I know? Why not? To gain a day, 
perhaps. It would take Sotillo a day to give me the 
estrapade, and try some other things, perhaps, before 
he puts a bullet through my heart as he did to that 
poor wretch here. Why not?" 

The doctor swallowed with difficulty. His throat 
had gone dry in a moment. It was not from indigiia- 

507 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

tion. The doctor, pathetically enough, believed that 
he had forfeited the right to be indignant with any 
one for anything. It was simple dread. Had the 
fellow heard his story by some chance? If so, there 
was an end of his usefulness in that direction. The 
indispensable man escaped his influence because of 
that indelible blot which made him fit for dirty work. 
A feeling as of sickness came upon him. He would 
have given anything to know, but he dared not clear 
up the point. The fanaticism of his devotion, fed on 
the sense of his abasement, hardened his heart in sad- 
ness and scorn. 

"Why not, indeed?" he re-echoed sardonically. 
"Then the safe thing for you is to kill me on the 
spot. I would defend myself. But you may just as 
well know I am going about unarmed." 

"For Dios!" said the capataz, passionately. "Yo 
find people are all alike. All dangerous. All betray- 
ers of the poor who are your dogs." 

"You do not understand " began the doctor, 
slowly. 

"I understand you all!" cried the other, with a vio- 
lent movement as shadowy to the doctor's eyes as the 
persistent immobility of the late Senor Hirsch. "A 
poor man among you has got to look after himself. I 
say that you do not care for those that serve you. Look 
at me! After all these years, suddenly, here I find 
myself like one of these curs that bark outside the 
walls without a kennel or a dry bone for my teeth. 
Caramba!" But he relented with a contemptuous 
fairness. "Of course," he went on, quietly, "I do not 
suppose that you would hasten to give me up to Sotillo. 

508 






stromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

for example. It is not that. It is that I am nothing! 
'.only " He swung his arm downward. "Noth- 
ing to any one," he repeated. 

The doctor breathed freely. " Listen, capataz," he 
said, stretching out his arm almost affectionately tow- 
ards Nostromo's shoulder. " I am going to tell you a 
very simple thing. You are safe because you are 
needed. I would not give you away for any conceiv- 
able reason, because I want you." 

In the dark, Nostromo bit his lip. He had heard 
enough of that. He knew what that meant. No 
more of that for him. But he had to look after him- 
self now, he thought. And he thought, too, that it 
would not be prudent to part in anger from his com- 
panion. The doctor, admitted to be a great healer, 
lui'l. among the populace of Sulaco, the reputation of 
being an evil sort of man. It was based solidly on his 
personal appearance, which was strange, and on his 
rough, ironic manner proofs visible, sensible, and in- 
controvertible of the doctor's malevolent disposition. 
And Nostromo was of the people. So he only grunted 
incredulously. 

" You, to speak plainly, are the only man," the doc- 
tor pursued. "It is in your power to save this town 
and . . . everybody from the destructive rapacity of 
men who " 

" No, seftor," said Nostromo, sullenly. " It is not in 
my power to get the treasure back for you to give up 
to Sotillo, or Pedrito, or Gamacho. What do I know ?" 

"Nobody expects the impossible," was the answer. 

"You have said it yourself nobody," muttered 
Nostromo, in a gloomy, threatening tone. 

509 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

But Dr. Monygham, full of hope, disregarded the 
enigmatic words and the threatening tone. To their 
eyes, accustomed to obscurity, the late Senor Hirsch, 
growing more distinct, seemed to have come nearer. 
And the doctor lowered his voice in exposing his 
scheme as though afraid of being overheard. 

He was taking the indispensable man into his full- 
est confidence. Its implied flattery and suggestion of 
great risks came with a familiar sound to the capataz. 
His mind, floating in irresolution and discontent, recog- 
nized it with bitterness. He understood well that the 
doctor was anxious to save the San Tome" mine from 
annihilation. He would be nothing without it. It 
was his interest. Just as it had been the interest of 
Senor Decoud, of the Blancos, and of the Europeans 
to get his cargadores on their side. His thought be- 
came arrested upon Decoud. What would happen to 
him? 

Nostromo's prolonged silence made the doctor un- 
easy. He pointed out, quite unnecessarily, that 
though for the present he was safe, he could not live 
concealed forever. The choice was between accept- 
ing the mission to Barrios, with all its dangers and 
difficulties, and leaving Sulaco by stealth, ingloriously, 
in poverty. 

"None of your friends could reward you and protect 
you just now, capataz. Not even Don Carlos himself." 

" I would have none of your protection and none of 
your rewards. I only wish I could trust your courage 
and your sense. When I return in triumph, as you 
say, with Barios, I may find you all destroyed. You 
have the knife at your throat now." 






Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

It was the doctor's turn to remain silent in the con- 
templation of horrible contingencies. 

1, we would trust your courage and your sense. 
And you, too, have a knife at your throat." 

"Ah! And whom am I to thank for that? What 
are your politics and your mines to me your silver 
and your constitutions your Don Carlos this and Don 
Jose* that" 

"I don't know," burst out the exasperated doctor. 
"There are innocent people in danger whose IntU- 
finger is worth more than you or I and all the Ribi< 
together. I don't know. You should have asked 
yourself before you allowed Decoud to lead you into 
all this. It was your place to think like a man, but if 
you did not think then, try to act like a man now. 
Did you imagine Decoud cared very much for what 
would happen to you?" 

"No more than you care for what will happen to 
me," muttered the other. 

"No. I care for what will happen to you as little 
as I care for what will happen to myself." 

" And all this because you are such a devoted Ribie- 
rist?" Nostromo said, in an incredulous tone. 

"All this because I am such a devoted Ribierist," 
repeated Dr. Monygham, grimly. 

Again Nostromo, gazing abstractedly at the body of 
the late Sefior Hirsch, remained silent, thinking that 
the doctor was a dangerous person in more than one 
sense. Tt was impossible to trust him. 

"Do you speak in the name of Don Carlos?" he 
asked at last. 

"Yes, I do," the doctor said, loudly, without hesi- 

5" 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

tation. " He must come forward now. He must," 
he added, in a mutter which Nostromo did not catch. 

"What did you say, senor?" 

The doctor started. "I say that you must be true 
to yourself, capataz. It would be worse than folly to 
fail now." 

"True to myself," repeated Nostromo. "How do 
you know that I would not be true to myself if I told 
you to go to the devil with your propositions?" 

"I do not know. Maybe you would," the doctor 
said, with a roughness of tone intended to hide the 
sinking of his heart and the faltering of his voice. " All 
I know is that you had better get away from here. 
Some of Sotillo's men may turn up here looking for me." 

He slipped off the table, listening intently. The 
capataz, too, stood up. 

"Suppose I went to Cayta, what would you do 
meantime?" he asked. 

" I would go to Sotillo directly you had left in the 
way I am thinking of." 

"A very good way if only that engineer -in -chief 
consents. Remind him, senor, that I looked after the 
rich old Englishman who pays for the railway, and that 
I saved the lives of some of his people that time when a 
gang of thieves came from the south to wreck one of 
his pay -trains. It was I who discovered it all, at the 
risk of my life, by pretending to enter into their plans. 
Just as you are doing with Sotillo." 

"Yes. Yes, of course. But I can offer him better 
arguments," the doctor said, hastily. " Leave it to me." 

"Ah, yes! True. I am nothing." 

"Not at all. You are everything." 
5" 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

moved a few paces towards the door. Be- 
hind them the late Seflor Hirsch preserved the immo- 
Inhtv <>i 

"That will be all right. I know what to say to the 
engineer." pursued the doctor, in a low tone. "My 
ulty will he with Sotillo." 

And Dr. Monygham stopped short in the doorway 
as if intimidated by the difficulty. He had made 
the sacrifice of his life. He considered this a fitting 
rtunity. But he did not want to throw his ln- 
away too soon. In Ins quality of betrayer of Don 
Carlos's confidence, he would have ultimately to indi- 
cate the hiding-place of the treasure. That would be 
the end of his deception, and the end of himself as well, 
at the hands of the infuriated colonel. He wanted to 
delay him to the very last moment, and he had been 
racking his brains to invent some place of concealment 
at once plausible and difficult of access. 

He imparted his trouble to Nostromo, and concluded: 

"Do you know what, capataz? I think that when 
the time comes and some information must be given, 
I shall indicate the Great Isabel. That is the best 
place I can think of. What is the matter?" 

A low exclamation had escaped Nostromo. The 
doctor waited, surprised, and after a moment of pro- 
found silence heard a thick voice stammer out. " Utter 
folly," and stop with a gasp. 

"I do not see it." 

"Ah! You do not see it," began Nostromo, scath- 
ingly, gathering scorn as he went on. "Three men in 
half an hour would see that no ground had been dis- 
turbed anywhere on that island. Do you think that 

5'3 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

such a treasure can be buried without leaving traces 
of the work eh, Senor Doctor? Why, you would 
not gain half a day more before having your throat cut 
by Sotillo. The Isabel! What stupidity! What 
miserable invention. Ah! you are all alike, you fine 
men of intelligence. All you are fit for is to betray 
men of the people into undertaking deadly risks for 
objects that you are not even sure about. If it comes 
off you get the benefit. If not, then it does not mat- 
ter. He is only a dog. Ah ! Madre de Dios, I would 
He shook his fists above his head. 

The doctor was overwhelmed at first by this fierce, 
hissing vehemence. 

"Well, it seems to me on your own showing that 
the men of the people are no mean fools too," he said, 
sullenly. "No, but come. You are so clever. Have 
you a better place?" 

Nostromo had calmed down as quickly as he had 
flared up. 

"I am clever enough for that," he said, quietly, al- 
most with indifference. "You want to tell him of a 
hiding-place vast enough to take days in ransacking 
a place where a treasure of silver ingots can be buried 
without leaving a sign on the surface." 

"And close at hand," the doctor put in. 

"Just so, senor. Tell him it is sunk." 

"This has the merit of being the truth," the doctor 
said, contemptuously. "He will not believe it." 

"You tell him that it is sunk where he may hope to 
lay his hands on it, and he will believe you quick 
enough. Tell him it has been sunk in the harbor in 
order to be recovered afterwards by divers. Tell him 

5H 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

you found out that I had orders from Don Carlos Gould 
to lower the cases quietly overl>oard somewhere in a 
liiu- U-tween the end of the jetty and the entrance. 
lepth is not too great there. He has no divers, 
1'Ut he has a ship, boats, ropes, chains, sailors of a 
sort. Let him fish for the silver. Let him set hi . 
fools to drag backward and forward and crosswise 
while he sits and watches till his eyes drop out of his 
head." 

"Really, this is an admirable idea," muttered the 
doctor. 

"Si. You tell him that, and see whether he will not 
believe you! He will spend days in rage and torment 
and still he will believe. He will have no thought 
for anything else. He will not give up till he is driven 
off why, he may even forget to kill you. He shall 
neither eat nor sleep. He " 

"The very thing! The very thing!" the doctor re- 
peated in an excited whisper. "Capataz, I begin to 
believe that you are a great genius in your way." 
Nostromo had paused; then began again in a changed 
tone, sombre, speaking to himself as though he had 
forgotten the doctor's existence. 

"There is something in a treasure that fastens upon 
a man's mind. He will pray and blaspheme and still 
persevere, and will curse the day he ever heard of it, 
and will let his last hour come upon him unawares, 
still believing that he missed it only by a foot. He 
will see it every time he closes his eyes. He will never 
forget it till he is dead and even then Doctor, did 
you ever hear of the miserable gringos on Azuera, that 
cannot die? Ha! ha! Sailors like myself. There is 

5S 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

no getting away from a treasure that once fastens upon 
your mind." 

" You are a devil of a man, capataz. It is the most 
plausible thing." 

Nostromo pressed his arm. 

' ' It will be worse for him than thirst at sea or hun- 
ger in a town full of people. Do you know what that 
is ? He shall suffer greater torments than he inflicted 
upon that terrified wretch who had no invention. 
None! none! Not like me. I could have told Sotillo 
a deadly tale for very little pain." 

He laughed wildly and turned in the doorway tow- 
ards the body of the late Senor Hirsch, an opaque long 
blotch in the semi-transparent obscurity of the room 
between the two tall parallelograms of the windows 
full of stars. 

"You man of fear!" he cried. "You shall be 
avenged by me Nostromo. Out of my way, doctor! 
Stand aside or, by the suffering soul of a woman dead 
without confession, I will strangle you with my two 
hands." 

He bounded downward into the black, smoky hall. 
With a grunt of astonishment Dr. Monygham threw 
himself recklessly into the pursuit. At the bottom of 
the charred stairs he had a fall, pitching forward on 
his face with a force that would have stunned a spirit 
less intent upon a task of love and devotion. He was 
up in a moment, jarred, shaken, with a strange im- 
pression of the terrestrial globe having been flung at 
his head in the dark. But it wanted more than that 
to stop Dr. Monygham's body, possessed by the ex- 
altation of self-sacrifice; a reasonable exaltation, de- 



>tromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

ined not whatever advantage chance put 

A. iv He ran with headlong, tottering sv. 
ness, his arms going like a windmill in his effort to 
liis balance <>n his rrippled feet. He lost his hat; 
the tails of 1m opi-n gaberdine Hew behind him. He 
had no mind to lose sight of the indispensable man. 
Hut it was a long time, and a long way from the custom- 
house, before he managed to seize his arm from behind, 
roughly, out of breath. 

Stop! Are you mad?" 

Already Nostromo was walking slowly, his head 
drooping, as if checked in his pace by the weariness of 
>lution. 

"What is that to you? Ah! I forgot you want me 
for something. Always. Siempre, Nostromo." 

" What do you mean by talking of strangling me?" 
panted the doctor. 

" What do I mean ? I mean that the king of the 
devils himself has sent you out of this town of cowards 
and talkers to meet me to-night of all the nights of 
my life." 

Under the starry sky the Albergo d' Italia Una 
emerged, black and low, breaking the dark level of the 
plain. Nostromo stopped altogether. 

"The priests say he is a tempter, do they not?" he 
added, through his clinched teeth. 

" My good man, you rave. The devil has nothing to 
do with this. Neither has the town, which you may 
call by what name you please. But Don Carlos Gould 
is neither a coward nor an empty talker. You will 
admit that?" He waited. "Well?" 

"Could I see Don Carlos?" 
57 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

"Great Heavens! No! Why? What for?" ex- 
claimed the doctor in agitation. "I tell you it is mad- 
ness. I will not let you go into the town for any- 
thing." 

" I must." 

"You must not," hissed the doctor, fiercely, almost 
beside himself with the fear of the man doing away 
with his usefulness for an imbecile whim of some sort. 
" I tell you you shall not. I would rather " 

He stopped at loss for words, feeling fagged out, 
powerless, holding on to Nostromo 's sleeve, absolute- 
ly for support after his run. 

"I am betrayed," muttered the capataz to himself; 
and the doctor, who overheard the last word, made an 
effort to speak calmly. 

"That is exactly what would happen to you. You 
would be betrayed." 

He thought with a sickening dread that the man 
was so well known that he could not escape recogni- 
tion. The house of the Senor Administrador was be- 
set by spies, no doubt. And even the very servants 
of the casa were not to be trusted." "Reflect capa- 
taz," he said, impressively. . . . "What are you laugh- 
ing at?" 

" I am laughing to think that if somebody that did 
not approve of my presence in town, for instance 
you understand, Senor Doctor if somebody were to 
give me up to Pedrito, it would not be beyond my 
power to make friends even with him. It is true. 
What do you think of that?" 

"You are a man of infinite resource, capataz," said 
Dr. Monygham, dismally. " I recognize that. But the 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

town is full of talk about you; and those few car- 
gadores that are not in hiding with the railway people 
have been shouting 'Viva Montero 1 on the Plaza all 
day." 

"My poorjrargadores," muttered Nostromo. "fip- 
trayeqll BetravecTr*' " ' 

I undelrstan<nthat on the wharf you were pretty 
free in laying about you with a stick among your poor 
cargadores," the doctor said, in a grim tone, which 
showed that he was recovering from his exertions. 
"Make no mistake. Pedrito is furious at Senor Ri- 
l.iera's n-srue and at having lost the pleasure of shoot- 
ing Decoud. Already there are rumors in the town of 
the treasure having been spirited away. To have 
missed that does not please Pedrito either; but let me 
tell you that if you had all that silver in your hand 
for your ransom it would not save you." 

Turning swiftly, and catching the doctor by the 
shoulders, Nostromo thrust his face close to his. 

"Maladetta! You follow me speaking of the tre.-is 
ure. You have sworn my ruin. You were the last 
man who looked upon me before I went out with it. 
And Sidoni, the engine-driver, says you have an evil 
eye." 

"He ought to know. I saved his broken leg for 
him last year," the doctor said, stoically. He felt on 
his shoulders the weight of these hands famed among 
the populace for snapping thick ropes and bending 
horseshoes. "And to you I offer the best means of 
saving yourself let me go and of retrieving your 
great reputation. You boasted of making the capataz 
of cargadores famous from one end of America to the 

5'9 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

other about this wretched silver. But I bring you a 
better opportunity let me go, hombre!" 

Nostromo released him abruptly, and the doctor 
feared that the indispensable man would run off again. 
But he did not. He walked on slowly. The doctor 
hobbled by his side till, within a stone's-throw from the 
Casa Viola, Nostromo stopped again. 

Silent in inhospitable darkness, the Casa Viola 
seemed to have changed its nature ; his home appeared 
to repel him with an air of hopeless and inimical mys- 
tery. The doctor said: 

"You will be safe there. Go in, capataz." 

"How can I go in?" Nostromo seemed to ask him- 
self in a low, inward tone. "She cannot unsay what 
she said, and I cannot undo what I have done." 

" I tell you it is all right. Viola is all alone in there. 
I looked in as I came out of the town. You will be 
perfectly safe in that house till you leave it to make 
your name famous on the Campo. I am going now 
to arrange for your departure with the engineer-in- 
chief, and I shall bring you news here long' before day- 
break." 

Dr. Monygham, disregarding or perhaps fearing to 
penetrate the meaning of Nostromo's silence, clapped 
him lightly on the shoulder, and, starting off with his 
smart lame walk, vanished utterly at the third or 
fourth hop in the direction of the railway-track. Ar- 
rested between the two wooden posts for people to fast- 
en their horses to, Nostromo did not move, as if he 
too had been planted solidly in the ground. At the 
end of half an hour he lifted his head to the deep bay- 
ing of the dogs at the railway-yards, which had burst 






INostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

out suddenly , tumultuous and deadened as if coming 
from under the plain. That lame doctor with the 

ad got there pretty fast. 
Step by step Nostromo approached the Albergo 

ilia Una. which he had never known so lightless, 
so silent, before. The door, all black in the pale wall. 
stood open as he had left it twenty -four hours before, 
when he had nothing to hide from the world. He re- 

ied before it, irresolute, like a fugitive, like a man 
betrayed. Poverty, misery, starvation! Where had 
he heard these words ? The anger of a dying woman 

prophesied that fate for his folly. It looked as if 
it would come true very quickly. And the leperos 
would laugh she had said. Yes, they would laugh 
if they knew that the capataz de cargadores was at 
the mercy of the mad doctor whom they could remem- 
IKT. only a few years ago, buying cooked food from a 
stall on the Plaza for a copper coin like one of them- 
selves. 

At that moment the notion of seeking Captain Mit- 
chell passed through his mind. He glanced in the 
direction of the jetty and saw a small gleam of light 
in the O.S.N. Company's building. The thought of 
lighted windows was not attractive. Two lighted 
windows had decoyed him into the empty custom- 
house, only to fall into the clutches of that doctor. 
No! He would not go near lighted windows again on 
that night. Captain Mitchell was there. And what 
could he be told ' That doctor would worm it all out 
of him as if he were a child. 

On the threshold he called out "Giorgio!" in an 
undertone. Nobody answered. H stepped in. "Ola! 

521 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

viejo! Are you there?" ... In the impenetrable dark- 
ness his head swam with the illusion that the obscurity 
of the kitchen was as vast as the Placid Gulf, and that 
the floor dipped forward like a sinking lighter. "Oik! 
viejo!" he repeated falteringly, swaying where he 
stood. His hand, extended to steady himself, fell 
upon the table. Moving a step forward, he shifted 
it, and felt a box of matches under his fingers. He 
fancied he had heard a quiet sigh. He listened for a 
moment, holding his breath; then, with trembling 
hands, tried to strike a light. 

The tiny piece of wood flamed up quite blindingly 
at the end of his fingers, raised above his blinking 
eyes. A concentrated glare fell upon the leonine white 
head of old Giorgio against the black fireplace showed 
him leaning forward in a chair in staring immobility, 
surrounded, overhung, by great masses of shadow, his 
legs crossed, his cheek in his hand, an empty pipe in 
the corner of his mouth. It seemed hours before he 
attempted to turn his face; at the very moment the 
match went out, and he disappeared, overwhelmed by 
the shadows, as if the walls and roof of the desolate 
house had collapsed upon his white head in ghostly 
silence. 

Nostromo heard him stir and utter dispassionately 
the words: 

"It may have been a vision." 

"No," he said, softly. "It is no vision, old man." 

A strong chest voice asked very loud in the dark: 

"Is that you I hear, Giovann' Battista?" 

"Si, viejo. Steady. Not so loud." 

After his release by Sotillo, Giorgio Viola, attended 
522 



:<[Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

to tin- vi-ry door by the good-natured engineer-in- 
chii-i, had re-rtiUTfl his house, which he had been 
almost at tlic very moment of his wife's 
i. All was still. The lamp above was burning, 
nearly called out to her by name; and the thought 
that no call from him would ever again evoke the an- 
r of her voice made him drop heavily into the chair 
with a loud groan, wrung out by the pain, as of a 

Made piercing his breast. 

The rest of the night he made no sound. The dark- 
turned to gray, and on the colorless, clear, glassy 
n the jagged sierra stood out flat and opaque, as 
:t out of paper. 

The enthusiastic and severe soul of Giorgio Viola, 
"sailor, champion of oppressed humanity, enemy of 
Kings, and, by the grace of Mrs. Gould, hotel-keeper 
-niluco harbor, had descended into the open 
abyss Hi" desolation among the shattered vestiges of 
;.ast. He remembered his wooing between two 
campaigns, a single short week in the season of gather- 
ing olives. Nothing approached the grave passion of 
that time but the deep, passionate sense of his bereave- 
ment. He discovered all the extent of his dependence 
uj">n the silenced voice of that woman. It was her 
that he missed. Abstracted, busy, lost in in- 
1 contemplation, he seldom looked at his wife in 
later years. The thought of his girls was a mat- 
>f concern, not of consolation. It was her voice 
that he wouKl miss. And he remembered the other 
fluid the little boy who died at sea. Ah! a man 
would have been something to lean upon. And, alas! 
even Gian* Battista he of whom and of Linda his 

5*3 






Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

wife had spoken to him so anxiously before she drop* 
ped off into her last sleep on earth, he on whom she 
had called aloud to save the children just before she 
died even he was dead! 

And the old man, bent forward, his head in his hand, 
sat through the day in immobility and solitude. He 
never heard the brazen roar of the bells in town. 
When it ceased, the earthenware filter in the corner of 
the kitchen kept on its swift musical drip, drip into 
the vast, porous jar below. 

Towards sunset he got up, and with slow move- 
ments disappeared up the narrow staircase. His bulk 
filled it ; and the rubbing of his shoulders made a small 
noise as of a mouse running behind the plaster of a 
wall. While he remained up there the house was as 
dumb as a grave. Then, with the same faint rubbing 
noise, he descended. He had to catch at the chairs 
and tables to regain his seat. He seized his pipe off the 
high mantel of the fireplace but made no attempt to 
reach the tobacco thrust it empty into the corner of 
his mouth, and sat down again in the same staring 
pose. The sun of Pedrito's entry into Sulaco, the last 
sun of Senor Hirsch's life, the first of Decoud's solitude 
on the Great Isabel, passed over the Albergo d'ltalia 
Una on its way to the west. The tinkling drip, drip 
of the filter had ceased, the lamp up-stairs had burned 
itself out, and the night beset Giorgio Viola and his 
dead wife with its obscurity and silence that seemed 
invincible till the capataz de cargadores, returning 
from the dead, put them to flight with the sputter and 
flare of a match. 

"Si, viejo. It is me. Wait." 
524 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

Nostromo, after barricading the door and closing 
hutters carefully, groped upon a shelf for a candle, 
and lit it. 

Old Viola had risen. He followed with his eyes in 
the dark the sounds made by Nostromo. The light 
disclosed him standing without support, as if the mere 
presence of that man who was loyal, brave, incorrupti- 
ble, who was all his son would have been, were enough 
for the support of his decaying strength. 

He extended his hand, grasping the briar-wood pipe, 
whose bowl was charred on the edge, and knitted his 
bushy eyebrows heavily at the light. 

" You have returned," he said, with shaky dignity. 
"Ah! Very well! I" 

He broke off. Nostromo, leaning back against the 
table, his arms folded on his breast, nodded at him 
slightly. 

"You thought I was drowned! No! The best dog 
of the rich, of the aristocrats, of these fine men who 
can only talk and betray the people, is not dead yet." 

The Garibaldino, motionless, seemed to drink in the 
sound of the well-known voice. His head moved 
slightly once as if in sign of approval; but Nostromo 
saw clearly that the old man understood nothing of 
the words. There was no one to understand; no one 
he could take into the confidence of Decoud's fate, of 
his own, into the secret of the silver. That doctor was 
an enemy of the people a tempter. . . . 

Old Giorgio's heavy frame shook from head to foot 
with the effort to overcome his emotion at the sight of 
that man, who had shared the intimacies of his do- 
mestic life as though he had been a grown-up son. 

525 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

"She believed you would return," he said, solemnly. 

Nostromo raised his head. 

"She was a wise woman. How could I fail to come 
back ?" 

He finished the thought mentally: "Since she has 
prophesied for me an end of poverty, misery, and star- 
vation." These words of Teresa's anger, from the 
circumstances in which they had been uttered, like the 
cry of a soul prevented from making its peace with 
God, stirred the obscure superstition of personal fort- 
une from which even the greatest genius among men 
of adventure and action is seldom free. They reigned 
over Nostromo's mind with the force of a potent male- 
diction. And what a curse it was, that which her 
words had laid upon him! He had been orphaned so 
young that he could remember no other woman whom 
he called mother. Henceforth there would be no enter- 
prise in which he would not fail. The spell was work- 
ing already. Death itself would elude him now . . . 
He said, violently : 

"Come, viejo! Get me something to eat. I am 
hungry! Sangre de Dios! The emptiness of my belly 
makes me light-headed." 

With his chin dropped again upon his bare breast 
above his folded arms, barefooted, watching from un- 
der a gloomy brow the movements of old Viola forag- 
ing among the cupboards, he seemed as if indeed fallen 
under a curse a ruined and sinister capataz. 

Old Viola walked out of a dark corner, and, without 
a word, emptied upon the table out of his hollowed 
palms a few dry crusts of bread and half a raw onion. 

While the capataz began to devour this beggar's 
526 



tromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

I fare, taking up with stony-eyed voracity piece after 

e lying by his side, the (J.mUiIdmo went off, and 

Matting down in another corner, filled an earthenware 

with red wine out of a wicker-covered demijohn. 

i a familiar gesture, as when serving customer 

!Jhe cafe, he had thrust his pipe between his teeth to 

hi-; hands free. 

The capataz drank greedily. A slight flush deep- 
eiu-d the bronze of his cheek. Before him, Viola, 
with a turn of his white and massive head towards the 
staircase, took his empty pipe out of his mouth and 

ounced slowly: 

"After the shot was fired down here, which killed 
is surely as if the bullet had struck her oppressed 
hr.trt, she called upon you to save the children. Upon 
you, Gian' Battista." 

capataz looked up. 

"Did she do that, padrone? To save the children! 
are with the English senora, their rich benefac- 
Hey? old man of the people. Thy benefac- 
..." 

I am old," muttered Giorgio Viola. "An English- 
woman was allowed to give a bed to Garibaldi lying 
wounded in prison. The greatest man that ever 
lived. A man of the people, too a sailor. I may 
let another keep a roof over my head. Si ... I am 
old. I may let her. Life lasts too long sometimes." 
\nd she herself may not have a roof over her 
head before many days are out unless I ... What do 
you say ? Am I to keep a roof over her head ? Am 
I to try and save all the Blancos together with 
her?" 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

"You shall do it," said old Viola, in a strong voice. 
"You shall do it as my son would have ..." 

"Thy son, viejo! . . . There never has been a man 
like thy son. Ha, I must try. . . . But what if it were 
only a part of the curse to lure me on ... And so she 
called upon me to save and then ?" 

"She spoke no more," The heroic follower of Gari- 
baldi, at the thought of the eternal stillness and silence 
fallen upon the shrouded form stretched out on the 
bed up-stairs, averted his face and raised his hand to 
his furrowed brow. "She was dead before I could 
seize her hands," he stammered out pitifully. 

Before the wide eyes of the capataz, staring at the 
doorway of the dark staircase, floated the shape of the 
Great Isabel, like a strange ship in distress, freighted 
with enormous wealth and the solitary life of a man. 
It was impossible for him to do anything. He could 
only hold his tongue, since there was no one to trust. 
The treasure would be lost, probably unless Decoud 
. . . And his thought came abruptly to an end. He 
perceived that he could not imagine in the least what 
Decoud was likely to do. 

Old Viola had not stirred. And the motionless cap- 
ataz dropped his long, soft eyelashes, which gave to 
the upper part of his fierce, black-whiskered face a 
touch of feminine ingenuousness. The silence had 
lasted for a long time. 

"God rest her soul," he murmured gloomily. 



Til 1C next day was quiet in the morning, except 
for the faint sound of firing to the northward, in 
n of Los Hatos. Captain Mitchell had 

:ied to it from his balcony anxiously. The phrase, 
" In my delicate position as the only consular agent 
then in the port, everything, sir, everything was a 
just cause for anxiety." had its place in the more or 

stereotyped relation of the "historical events" 
whirh for the next few years was at the service of 

nguished strangers visiting Sulaco. The mention 
of the dignity and neutrality of the flag, so difficult to 
preserve in his position, "right in the thick of these 
events between the lawlessness of that piratical villain 
Sotillo and the more regularly established but scarcely 
less atrocious tyranny of his Excellency Don Pedro 
Montero," came next in order. Captain Mitchell was 
not the man to enlarge upon mere dangers much. 
But he insisted that it was a memorable day. On that 
towards dusk, he had seen "that poor fellow of 
mine Nostromo. The sailor whom I discovered, and, 
I may say, made. sir. The man of the famous ride to 
Cavta, sir. An historical event, sir!" 

Regarded by the O.S.N. Company as an old and 
faithful servant, Captain Mitchell was allowed to at- 
tain the term of his usefulness in ease and dignity at 
the head of the enormousl extended service. The 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

augmentation of the establishment, with its crowds of 
clerks, an office in town, the old office in the harbor, 
the division into departments passenger, cargo, light- 
erage, and so on secured a greater leisure for his last 
years in the regenerated Sulaco, the capital of the 
Occidental Republic. Liked by the natives for his 
good-nature and the formality of his manner, self- 
important and simple, known for years as a "friend 
of our country," he felt himself a personality of mark 
in the town. Getting up early for a turn in the mar- 
ket-place while the gigantic shadow of Higuerota was 
still lying upon the fruit and flower stalls piled up with 
masses of gorgeous coloring, attending easily to cur- 
rent affairs, welcomed in houses, greeted by ladies 
on the Alameda, with his entry into all the clubs and 
a footing in the Casa Gould, he led his privileged old 
bachelor, man-about-town existence with great com- 
fort and solemnity. But on mail-boat days he was 
down at the harbor office at an early hour, with his 
own gig, manned by a smart crew in white and blue, 
ready to dash off and board the ship directly she 
showed her bows between the harbor heads. 

And it would be into the harbor office that he 
would lead some privileged passenger he had brought 
off in his own boat, and invite him to take a seat for 
a moment while he signed a few papers. And Captain 
Mitchell, seating himself at his desk, would keep on 
talking hospitably: 

"There isn't much time if you are to see everything 
in a day. We shall be off in a moment. We'll have 
lunch at the Amarilla Club, though I belong also to 
the Anglo-American mining - engineers and business 

53 



>mo: A 'I'ule of the Seaboard 

. don't you know and to the Mirliflores as well, 
a new club English, French, Italians, all sorts lively 
young fellows mostly, who wanted to pay a compli- 
t to an old resident, sir. But we'll lunch at the 
i!!.i Int. T -i you, I fancy. Real thing of the 
5 try. Men of the first families. The President of 
Occidental Republic himself belongs to it, sir. 
old bishop with a broken nose in the patio. Re- 
markable piece of statuary, I believe. Cavaliere Par- 
>'tti you know Parrochetti, the famous Italian 
sculptor was working here for two years thought 
highly <>f our old bishop . . . There! I am very 
much at your service now." 

Inflexible, proud of his experience, penetrated by 
the sense of historical importance of men, events, and 
buildings, he talked pompously in jerky periods, with 
slight indicating sweeps of his short, thick arm, letting 
nothing "escape the attention" of his privileged cap- 

" Lots of building going on, as you observe. Be- 
fore the Separation it was a plain of burned grass 
smothered in clouds of dust, with an ox-cart track to 
our jetty. Nothing more. This is the harbor gate, 
uresque, is it not ? Formerly the town stopped 
short there. We enter now the Calle de la Constitu- 
cion. Observe the old Spanish houses. Great dignity. 
Eh? I suppose it's just as it was in the time of the 
viceroys, except for the pavement. Wood blocks 
now. Sulaco National Bank there, with the sentry 
boxes each side of the gate. Casa Avellanos this side, 
with all the ground-floor windows shuttered. A won- 
derful woman lives there Miss Avellanos the beau- 

53' 






Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

tiful Antonia. A character, sir! A historical woman! 
Opposite Casa Gould. Noble gateway. Yes, the 
Goulds of the original Gould Concession, that all the 
world knows of now. I hold seventeen of the thou- 
sand-dollar shares in the Consolidated San Tome mines. 
All the poor savings of my lifetime, sir, and it will be 
enough to keep me in comfort to the end of my days 
at home when I retire. I got in on the ground-floor, 
you see. Don Carlos, great friend of mine. Seven- 
teen shares quite a little fortune to leave behind one, 
too. I have a niece married a parson most worthy 
man, incumbent of a small parish in Sussex; no end of 
children. I was never married myself. A sailor should 
exercise self-denial. Standing under that very gate- 
way, sir, with some young engineer-fellows, ready to 
defend that house where we had received so much 
kindness and hospitality, I saw the first and last 
charge of Pedrito's Llaneros upon Barrios's troops, who 
had just taken the harbor gate. They could not stand 
the new rifles brought out by that poor Decoud. It 
was a murderous fire. In a moment the street be- 
came blocked with a mass of dead men and horses. 
They never came on again." 

And all day Captain Mitchell would talk like this to 
his more or less willing victim: 

"The Plaza. I call it magnificent. Twice the area 
of Trafalgar Square." 

From the very centre, in the blazing sunshine, he 
pointed out the buildings. 

"The Intendencia, now President's Palace Cabildo. 
where the Lower Chamber of Parliament sits. You 
notice the new houses on that side of the Plaza ? Com- 



tromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

-i Anzani, a great general store, like those co- 
operative tilings at hmie. old Anzani was mun! 

the National Guards in front of his safe. It was 
even for that specific crime that the deputy Gamacho, 
commanding the Nationals, a blood-thirsty and savage 
brute, was executed publicly by garrote upon the 
sentence of a court-martial ordered l.y Barrios. An- 
zani 's nephews converted the business into a company. 
All that side of the Plaza had been burned ; used to be 
colonnaded before. A terrible fire, by the light of which 
I saw the last of the fighting, the Llaneros flying, the 
Nationals throwing their arms down, and the miners 
of San Tome", all Indians from the Sierra, rolling by 
like a torrent to the sound of pipes and cymbals, green 
flags flying, a wild mass of men in white ponchos and 
green hats, on foot, on mules, on donkeys. The 
miners, sir, had marched upon the town, Don Pe'pe' 
leading on his black horse, and their very wives in the 
rear on burros, screaming encouragement, sir, and 
beating tambourines. I remember one of these women 
had a green parrot seated on her shoulder, as calm as 
a bird of stone. Such a sight, sir, will never be seen 
again. They had just saved their Sefior Administra- 
dor; for Barrios, though he ordered the assault at once, 
at night too, would have been too late. Pedrito Mon- 
tero had Don Carlos led out to be shot like his uncle 
many years ago and then, as Barrios said afterwards, 
'Sulaco would not have been worth fighting for.' 
Sulaco without the Concession was nothing; and there 
were tons and tons of dynamite distributed all over 
the mountain with detonators arranged, and an old 
priest, Father Roman, standing by to annihilate the 

533 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

San Tome" mine at the first news of failure. Don 
Carlos had made up his mind not to leave it behind, 
and he had the right men to see to it, too." 

Thus Captain Mitchell would talk in the middle of 
the Plaza, holding over his head a white umbrella with 
a green lining; but inside the cathedral, in the dim 
light, with a faint scent of incense floating in the cool 
atmosphere and here and there a kneeling female fig- 
ure, black or all white, with a veiled head, his lowered 
voice became solemn and impressive. 

"Here," he would say, pointing to a niche in the 
wall of the dusky aisle, "you see the bust of Don Jose* 
Avellanos, 'Patriot and Statesman,' as the inscription 
says, 'Minister to Courts of England and Spain, etc., 
etc., died in the woods of Los Hatos, worn out with his 
life-long struggle for Right and Justice, at the dawn of 
the New Era.' A fair likeness. Parrochetti's work 
from some old photographs and a pencil - sketch by 
Mrs. Gould. I was well acquainted with that dis- 
tinguished Spanish- American of the old school, a true 
Hidalgo, beloved by everybody who knew him. The 
marble medallion in the wall, in the antique style, 
representing a veiled woman seated with her hands 
clasped loosely over her knees, commemorates that un- 
fortunate young gentleman who sailed out with Nos- 
tromo on that fatal night, sir. See, 'To the memory 
of Martin Decoud, his betrothed Antonia Avellanos.' 
Frank, simple, noble. There you have that lady, sir, 
as she is. An exceptional woman. Those who thought 
she would give way to despair were mistaken, sir. 
She has been blamed in many quarters for not having 
taken the veil. It was expected of her. But Dona 

534 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

Antonia is not the stuff they make nuns of. Bishop 

Corbelan, her uncle, lives with lier in the Corbelan 

:: -house. He is a fierce sort of priest, everlastingly 

worrying the government about the old church - lands 

and convents. I believe they think a lot of him in 

Rome. Now let us go to the Amarilla Club, just 

^s the Plaza, to get some lunch." 

rectly outside the cathedral, on the very top of 

the noble flight of steps, his voice rose pompously, his 

arm found again its sweeping gesture. 

\-nir, over there on that first floor, above those 
French plate-glass shop-fronts; our biggest daily. 
Conservative, or, rather, I should say, Parliamentary. 
We have the Parliamentary party here of which the 
actual Chief of the State, Don Juste Lopez, is the head ; 
a very sagacious man, I think. A first-rate intellect, 
sir. The Democratic party in opposition rests mostly, 
I am sorry to say, on these socialistic Italians, sir, 
with their secret societies, camorras, and such like. 
There are lots of Italians settled here on the railway 
lands, dismissed navvies, mechanics, and so on, all along 
the trunk-line. There are whole villages of Italians 
on the Campo. And the natives, too, are being drawn 
into these ways . . . American bar? Yes. And over 
there you can see another. New-Yorkers mostly fre- 
quent that one Here we are at the Amarilla. 
Observe the bishop at the foot of the stairs to the 
right as we go in." 

And the lunch would begin and terminate its lavish 
and leisurely course at a little table in the gallery, 
Captain Mitchell nodding, bowing, getting up to speak 
for a moment to different officials in black clothes, 

535 






Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

merchants in jackets, officers in uniform, middle-aged 
caballeros from the Campo sallow, little, nervous 
men, and fat, placid, swarthy men, and Europeans or 
North Americans of superior standing, whose faces 
looked very white among the majority of dark com- 
plexions and black, glistening eyes. 

Captain Mitchell would lay back in the chair, cast- 
ing around looks of satisfaction, and tender over the 
table a case full of thick cigars. 

"Try a weed with your coffee. Local tobacco. 
The black coffee you get at the Amarilla, sir, you 
don't meet anywhere in the world. We get the bean 
from a famous cafeteria in the foot-hills, whose owner 
sends three sacks every year as a present to his fel- 
low-members, in remembrance of the fight against Ga- 
macho's Nationals, carried on from this very window 
by the caballeros. He was in town at the time, and 
took part, sir, to the bitter end. It arrives on three 
mules not in the common way, by rail; no fear! 
right into the patio, escorted by mounted peons in 
charge of the mayoral of his estate, who walks up-stairs, 
booted and spurred, and delivers it to our committee 
formally with the words, ' For the sake of those fallen 
on the 3d of May.' We call it Tres de Mayo coffee. 
Taste it." 

Captain Mitchell, with an expression as though 
making ready to hear a sermon in a church, would lift 
the tiny cup to his lips. And the nectar would be 
sipped to the bottom during a restful silence in a cloud 
of cigar-smoke. 

" Look at this man in black just going out," he would 
begin, leaning forward hastily. "This is the famous 

536 






Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

Hernandez, Minister of War. The Times' special cor- 
ndent, who wrote that striking series of letters 
calling the Occidental Republic the 'Treasure House 
of the World,' gave a whole article to him and the 
force he has organized the renowned Carabineers of 
the Campo." 

Captain Mitchell's guest, staring curiously, would see 
a figure in a long -tailed black coat walking gravely, 
with downcast eyelids in a long, composed face, a 
brow furrowed horizontally, a pointed head, whose 
gray hair, thin at the top, combed down carefully on 
all sides and rolled at the ends, fell low on the neck 
and shoulders. This, then, was the famous bandit of 
whom Europe had heard with interest. He put on a 
high-crowned sombrero with a vast flat brim; a rosary 
of wooden beads was twisted about his right wrist. 
And Captain Mitchell would proceed: 

"The protector of the Sulaco refugees from the 
rage of Pedrito. As general of cavalry with Barrios 
he distinguished himself at the storming of Tonoro, 
where Seflor Fuentes was killed with the last remnant 
of the Monterists. He is the friend and humble ser- 
vant of Bishop Corbelan. Hears three masses every 
day. I bet you he will step into the cathedral to say 
a prayer or two on his way home to his siesta." 

He took several puffs at his cigar in silence; then, 
in his best important manner pronounced: 

"The Spanish race, sir, is prolific of remarkable 
characters in every rank of life. ... I propose we go 
now into the billiard-room, which is cool, for a quiet 
chat. There's never anybody there till after five. I 
could tell you episodes of the Separationist revolution 

537 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

that would astonish you. When the great heat's o^ 
we'll take a turn on the Alameda." 

The programme went on relentless, like a law of 
nature. The turn on the Alameda was taken with 
slow steps and stately remarks. 

"All the great world of Sulaco here, sir," Captain 
Mitchell bowed right and left with no end of formality ; 
then with animation, "Dona Emilia, Mrs. Gould's 
carriage. Look. Always white mules. The kindest, 
most gracious woman the sun ever shone upon. A 
great position, sir a great position. First lady in 
Sulaco far before the President's wife. And worthy 
of it." He took off his hat; then, with a studied 
change of tone, added, negligently, that the man in 
black by her side, with a high white collar and a 
scarred, snarly face, was Dr. Monygham, inspector of 
state hospitals, chief medical officer of the Consolidated 
San Tome* mines. "A familiar of the house. Ever- 
lastingly there. No wonder. The Goulds made him. 
Very clever man and all that, but I never liked him. 
Nobody does. I can recollect him limping about the 
streets in a check shirt and native sandals with a 
watermelon under his arm all he would get to eat 
for the day. A big-wig now, sir, and as nasty as ever. 
However. . . . There's no doubt he has played his 
part fairly well at the time. He saved us all from 
the deadly incubus of Sotillo, where a more particular 
man might have failed " 

His arm went up. 

"The equestrian statue that used to stand on the 
pedestal over there has been removed. It was an an- 
achronism," Captain Mitchell commented obscurely. 

538 



OHIO: A Tale of the Seaboard 

"There is some talk of replacing it by a marble shaft 
.:ncmorative of Separation, with angels of peace at 
the four corners, and a bronze Justice holding an even 
balance, all gilt, on the top. Cuvaliere Parrochetti 
was asked to make a design, which you can see framed 
under glass in the municipal sala. Names are to be 
engraved all round the base. Well, they could do 
no better than l>egin with the name of Nostromo. 
las done for Separation as much as anybody else, 
and," added Captain Mitchell, "has got less than 
many others by it when it comes to that." He drop- 
ped onto a stone scat under a tree, and tapped in- 
vitingly at the place by his side. "He carried to 
Harrios the letters from Sulaco which decided the 
general to evacuate Cayta for a time, and come to 
our help here by sea. The transports were still in 
harbor, fortunately. Sir, I did not even know that 
my capataz de cargadores was alive. I had no idea. 
It was Dr. Monygham who came upon him, by chance, 
in the custom-house, evacuated an hour or two before 
by the wretched Sotillo. I was never told; never 
given a hint, nothing as if I were unworthy of con- 
fidence. Monygham arranged it all. He went to the 
railway - yards and got admission to the engineer-in- 
chief, who, for the sake of the Goulds as much as for 
anything else, consented to let an engine make a dash 
down the line, one hundred and eighty miles, with 
Nostromo aboard. It was the only way to get him 
away. In the construction camp at the rail - head 
he obtained a horse, arms, some clothing, and started 
alone on that marvellous ride four hundred miles in 
six days, through a disturbed country, ending by the 

539 



J5 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

feat of passing through the Monterist lines outside 
Cayta. The history of that ride, sir, would make a 
most exciting book. He carried all our lives in his 
pocket. Devotion, courage, fidelity, intelligence were 
not enough. Of course, he was perfectly fearless and 
incorruptible. But a man was wanted that would 
know how to succeed. He was that man, sir. On 
the $th of May, being practically a prisoner in the 
harbor office of my company, I suddenly heard the 
whistle of an engine in the railway - yards, a quarter 
of a mile away. I could not believe my ears. I 
made one jump onto the balcony, and beheld a loco- 
motive under a great head of steam run out of the 
yard gates, screeching like mad, enveloped in a white 
cloud, and then, just abreast of old Viola's inn, check 
almost to a stand-still. I made out, sir, a man I 
couldn't tell who dash out of the Albergo d'ltalia 
Una, climb into the cab, and then, sir, that engine 
seemed positively to leap clear of the house, and was 
gone in the twinkling of an eye, as you blow a candle 
out, sir! There was a first-rate driver on the foot- 
plate, sir, I can tell you. They were fired heavily upon 
by the National Guards in Rincon and one other place. 
Fortunately the line had not been torn up. In four 
hours they reached the construction camp. Nostromo 
had his start. . . . The rest you know. You've got only 
to look round you. There are people on this Alameda 
that ride in their carriages, or even are alive at all 
to-day, because years ago I engaged a runaway Ital- 
ian sailor for a foreman of our wharf simply on the 
strength of his looks. And that's a fact. You can't 
get over it, sir. On the i7th of May, just twelve days 

540 



Nostrumo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

r I saw the man from the Casa Viola get on the 

nc and wondered what it meant, Barrios's trans* 
ts were entering this liarNr, and the 'Treasure 

;>e of the World,' as the Times man calls Sulaco in 
his \x>o\i, was saved intact for civilization for a great 
future, sir. Pedrito, with Hernandez on the west 

the San Tome" miners pressing on the land gate, 
was not able to oppose the landing. He had been 

mg messages to Sotillo for a week to join him. 
Sotillo done so there would have been massacres 
and proscription that would have left no man or 
woman of position alive. But that's where Dr. Monyg- 
liain comes in Sotillo, blind and deaf to everything, 
stuck on board his steamer watching the dragging for 
silver, which he believed to be sunk at the bottom of 
the harbor They say that for the last three days he 
was out of his mind, raving and foaming with disap- 
pointment at getting nothing, flying about the deck 
and yelling curses at the boats with the drags, ordering 
them in. and then suddenly stamping his foot and 
crying out, 'And yet it is there! I see it! I feel it!'" 
" He was preparing to hang Dr. Monygham (whom 
he had on board) at the end of the after-derrick, when 
the first of Barrios's transports, one of our own ships at 
that, steamed right in, and, ranging close alongside, 
opened a small-arm fire without as much preliminaries 
as a hail. It was the completest surprise in the world, 
sir. They were too astounded at first to bolt below. 
Men were falling right and left like ninepins. It's a 
miracle that Monygham, standing on the after-hatch 
with the rope already round his neck, escaped being 
riddled through and through like a sieve. He told 

54i 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

me since that he had given himself up for lost, and 
kept on yelling with all the strength of his lungs: 
' Hoist a white flag! Hoist a white flag!' Suddenly an 
old major of the Esmeralda regiment, standing by, 
unsheathed his sword with a shriek: 'Die, perjured 
traitor!' and ran Sotillo clean through the body, just 
before he fell himself shot through the head." 

Captain Mitchell stopped for a while. 

"Begad, sir! I could spin you a yarn for hours. 
But it's time we started off to Rincon. It would not 
do for you to pass through Sulaco and not see the 
lights of the San Tome" mine, a whole mountain ablaze 
like a lighted palace above the dark Campo. It's a 
fashionable drive. . . . But let me tell you one little 
anecdote, sir; just to show you. A fortnight or more 
later, when Barrios, declared generalisimo, was gone 
in pursuit of Pedrito away south, when the Provisional 
Junta, with Don Juste Lopez at its head, had promul- 
gated the new Constitution, and our Don Carlos Gould 
was packing up his trunks bound on a mission to San 
Francisco and Washington (the United States, sir, 
were the first great power to recognize the Occidental 
Republic) a fortnight later, I say, when we were 
beginning to feel that our heads were still on our 
shoulders, if I may express myself so, a prominent 
man, a foreigner, a large shipper by our line, came to 
see me on business, and, says he, the first thing: 'I 
say, Captain Mitchell, is that fellow (meaning Nostromo) 
still the capataz of your cargadores, or not ?' ' What's 
the matter?' says I. 'Because, if he is, then I don't 
mind ; I send and receive a good lot of cargo by your 
ships; but I have observed him several days loafing 

542 



stromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

about the wharf, anil just now he stopped me as cool 
as you i t for a cigar. Now, you 

know, my cigars are rather special, and I can't get 
them so easily as all that.' I hope you stretched a 
point,' I said, very gently. 'Why, yes; but it's a 
confounded nuisance. The fellow's everlastingly cadg- 
ing for smokes.' Sir, I turned my eyes away, and 
then asked, 'Weren't you one of the prisoners in the 
cabildo?' 'You know very well I was, and in chains, 
too,' says he. 'And under a fine of fifteen thousand 
dollars?' He colored, sir, because it got about that 
he fainted from fright when they came to arrest him, 
anil then behaved before Fucntes in a manner to make 
the very policianos, who had dragged him there by 
the hair of his head, smile at his cringing. 'Yes,' he 
says, in a sort of shy way. 'Why?' 'Oh, nothing. 
Y<>u stood to lose a tidy bit,' says I, even if you saved 
your life. . . . But what can I do for you ?f He never 
even saw the point. Not he. And that's how the 
world wags, sir." 

He rose a little stiffly, and the drive to Rii 
would be taken with only one philosophical remark, 
uttered by the merciless cicerone, with his eyes fixed 
upon the lights of San Tome", that seemed suspended 
in the dark night between earth and heaven. 

"A great power, this, for good and evil, sir. A 
great power." 

And the dinner of the Mirliflores would be eaten, 
excellent as to cooking, and leaving upon the travel- 
ler's mind an impression that there were in Sulaco 
many pleasant, able young men with salaries appar- 
ently too large for their discretion, and among them 

543 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

a few, mostly Anglo-Saxon, skilled in the art of, as the 
saying is, "taking a rise" out of his kind host. 

With a rapid, jingling drive to the harbor in a two- 
wheeled machine (which Captain Mitchell called a 
curricle) behind a fleet and scraggy mule beaten all 
the time by an obviously Neapolitan driver, the cycle 
would be nearly closed before the lighted-up offices 
of the O.S.N. Company, remaining open so late be- 
cause of the steamer. Nearly but not quite. 

"Ten o'clock. Your ship won't be ready to leave 
till half-past twelve, if by then. Come in for a brandy- 
and-soda and one more cigar." 

And in the superintendent's private room the priv- 
ileged passenger by the Ceres or Juno or Pallas, stun- 
ned and as it were annihilated mentally by a sudden 
surfeit of sights, sounds, names, facts, and complicated 
information imperfectly apprehended, would listen 
like a tired child to a fairy tale; would hear a voice, 
familiar and surprising in its pompousness, tell him, 
as if from another world, how there was "in this very 
harbor" an international naval demonstration which 
put an end to the Costaguana-Sulaco War. How the 
United States cruiser Powhatan was the first to sa- 
lute the Occidental flag white, with a wreath of 
green laurel in the middle encircling a yellow amarilla 
flower. Would hear how General Montero, in less 
than a month after proclaiming himself Emperor of 
Costaguana, was shot dead (during a solemn and pub- 
lic distribution of orders and crosses) by a young ar- 
tillery officer, the brother of his then mistress. 

"The abominable Pedrito, sir, fled the country," 
the voice would say. And it would continue: "A cap- 

544 



Nostromu : A Talc of the Seaboard 

of one of our ships told me lately that he recog- 
nized Pedrito the gucrrillero, arrayed in purple slippers 
and a velvet smo king-cap with a gold tassel, keeping 
a disorderly house in one of the southern ports." 

"Abominable Pedrito! Who the devil was he?" 
would wonder the distinguished bird of passage, hov- 
ering on the confines of waking and sleep with reso- 
lutely open eyes and a faint but amiable curl upon 
his lips, from between which stuck out the eighteenth 
or twentieth cigar of that memorable day. 

" He appeared to me in this very room like a haunt- 
ing ghost, sir" Captain Mitchell was talking of his 
Nostromo with true warmth of feeling and a touch of 
wistful pride. "You may imagine, sir, what an effect 
it produced on me. He had come round by sea with 
Barrios, of course. And the first thing he told me 
after I became fit to hear him was that he had picked 
up the lighter's boat floating in the gulf I He seemed 
quite overcome by that circumstance. And a re- 
markable enough circumstance it was, when you re- 
member that it was then sixteen days since the sink- 
ing of the silver. At once I could see he was another 
man. He stared at the wall, sir, as if there had been 
a spider or something running about there. The loss 
of the silver preyed on his mind. The first thing he 
asked me about was whether Dofla Antonia had heard 
yet of Decoud's death. His voice trembled. I had 
to tell him that Dofla Antonia, as a matter of fact, 
was not then back in town yet. Poor girl! And just 
as I was making ready to ask him a thousand ques- 
tions, with a sudden, 'Pardon me, seflor,' he cleared 
out of the office altogether. I did not see him again 

545 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

for three days. I was terribly busy, you know. It 
seems that he wandered about in and out of the town, 
and on two nights turned up to sleep in the barracoons 
of the railway people. He seemed absolutely indif- 
ferent to what went on. I asked him on the wharf, 
'When are you going to take hold again, Nostromo? 
There will be plenty of work for the cargadores pres- 
ently.' 

"'Senor,' says he, looking at me in a slow, inquisi- 
tive manner, ' would it surprise you to hear that I am 
too tired to work just yet ? And what work could I do 
now? How can I look my cargadores in the face after 
losing a lighter?' 

"I begged him not to think any more about the 
silver, and he smiled. A smile that went to my heart, 
sir. 'It was no mistake,' I told him. 'It was a fatal- 
ity. A thing that could not be helped.' 'Si, si!' he 
said, and turned away. I thought it best to leave 
him alone for a bit to get over it. Sir, it took him 
years, really, to get over it. I was present at his inter- 
view with Don Carlos. I must say that Gould is 
rather a cold man. He had learned to keep a tight 
hand on his feelings, dealing with thieves and rascals, 
in constant danger of ruin for himself and wife for so 
many years, that it had become a second nature. 
They looked at each other for a long time. Don 
Carlos asked what he could do for him, in his quiet, 
reserved way. 

'"My name is known from one end of Sulaco to the 
other,' he said, as quiet as the other. 'What more can 
you do for me ?' That was all that passed on that occa- 
sion. Later on, however, there was a very fine coasting 

546 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

schooner for sale, and Mrs. Gould and I put our heads 
together to get her bought and presented to him. It 
done, but he paid all the price back within the 
three years. Business was booming all along this 
sea hoard, sir. Moreover, that man alway rded 

/erything except in saving the silver. Poor Dofta 
>nia, fresh from her terrible experiences in the 
woods of Los Matos, had an interview with him, too. 
.ted to hear about Decoud: what they said, what 
di<l, what they thought up to the last on that 
fatal night. Mrs. Gould told me his manner was per- 
quietness and sympathy. Miss Avellanos 
i into tears only when he told her how Decoud 
had happened to say that his plan would be a glori- 
ous success. . . . And there's no doubt, sir, that it is. 
It is a success." 

The cycle was about to close at last. And while the 
privileged passenger, shivering with the an- 

ticipations of his berth, forgot to ask himself, " What 
on earth Decoud's plan could be?" Captain Mitchell 
was saying, "Sorry we must part so soon. Your in- 
telligent interest made this a pleasant day to me I 
shall see you now on board. You had a glimpse of the 
'Treasure House of the World.' A very good name 
that." And the cockswain's voice at the door, an- 
nouncing that the gig was ready, closed the cycle. 

Nostromo had, indeed, found the lighter's boat, which 
he had left on the Great Isabel with Decoud, floating 
empty far out in the gulf. He was then on the bridge 
of the first of Barrios's transjx>rts. and within an hour's 
steaming from Sulaco. Barrios, always delighted with 
a feat of daring and a good judge of courage, had 

547 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

taken a great liking to the capataz. During all the 
passage round the coast the general kept Nostromo 
near his person, addressing him frequently in that 
abrupt and boisterous manner which was the sign of 
his high favor. 

Nostromo's eyes were the first to catch, wide on the 
bow, the tiny, elusive dark speck which, alone with 
the forms of the three Isabels right ahead, appeared 
on the flat, shimmering emptiness of the gulf. There 
are times when no fact should be neglected as insignif- 
icant; a small boat so far from the land might have 
had some meaning worth finding out. At a nod of 
consent from Barrios the transport swept out of her 
course, passing near enough to ascertain that no one 
manned the little cockle-shell. It was merely a com- 
mon small boat gone adrift with her oars in her. But 
Nostromo, to whose mind Decoud had been insistently 
present for days, had long before recognized with ex- 
citement the dinghy of the lighter. 

There could be no question of stopping to pick up 
that thing. Every minute of time was momentous 
with the lives and future of a whole town. The head 
of the leading ship, with the general on board, fell off 
to her course. Behind her, the fleet of transports, 
scattered haphazard over a mile or so in the offing, 
like the finish of an ocean race, pressed on, all black 
and smoking on the western sky. 

"Mi general," Nostromo's voice rang out, loud but 
quiet, from behind a group of officers, "I should like 
to save that little boat. For Dios, I know her. She 
belongs to my company." 

"And, por Dios," guffawed Barrios, in a noisy, good- 
548 



Nostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

humored voice, "you belong to me. I am going to 
make ;i captain of cavalry out of you directly we get 
within sight of a horse again." 

"I can swim far better than I can ride, mi general," 
cried Nostromo, pushing through to the rail with a set 
stare in his eyes. " Let me " 

"Let you? What a conceited fellow that is," ban- 
tered the general, jovially, without even looking at 
him. "Let him go! Ha! ha! ha! He wants me to 
admit that we cannot take Sulaco without him! Ha! 
ha! ha! Would you like to swim off to her, my son?' 

A tremendous shout from one end of the ship to the 
other stopped his guffaw. Nostromo had leaped over- 
board; and his black head bobbed up faraway already 
from the ship. The general muttered an appalled 
"Cielo! Sinner that I am!" in a thunderstruck tone. 
One anxious glance was enough to show him that 
Nostromo was swimming with perfect ease; and then 
he thundered terribly, "No! no! We shall not stop 
to pick up this impertinent fellow. Let him drown 
that mad capataz!" 

Nothing short of main force would have kept Nos- 
tromo from leaping overboard. That empty boat, 
coming out to meet him mysteriously, as if rowed by 
an invisible spectre, exercised the fascination of some 
sign, of some warning, seemed to answer in a startling 
and enigmatic way the persistent thought of a treas- 
ure and of a man's fate. He would have leaped if 
there had been death in that half-mile of water. It 
was as smooth as a pond, and for some reason sharks 
are unknown in the Placid Gulf, though on the other 
side of the Punta Mala the coast-line swarms with them. 

549 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

The capataz seized hold of the stern and blew with 
force. A queer, faint feeling had come over him while 
he swam. He had to get rid of his boots and coat in 
the water. He hung on for a time, regaining his 
breath. In the distance the transports, more in a 
bunch now, held on straight for Sulaco with their air 
of friendly contest, of nautical sport, of a regatta; and 
the united smoke of their funnels drove like a thin, 
sulphurous fog-bank right over his head. It was his 
daring, his courage, his act that had set these ships 
in motion upon the sea, hurrying on to save the lives 
and fortunes of the Blancos, the taskmasters of the 
people; to save the San Tome" mine; to save the chil- 
dren. 

With a vigorous and skilful effort he clambered over 
the stern. The very boat! No doubt of it; no doubt 
whatever. It was the dinghy of the lighter No. 3 
the dinghy left with Martin Decoud on the Great 
Isabel so that he should have some means to help him- 
self if nothing could be done for him from the shore. 
And here she had come out to meet him, empty and 
inexplicable. What had become of Decoud? The 
capataz made a minute examination. He looked for 
some scratch, for some mark, for some sign. All he 
discovered was a brown stain on the gunwale abreast 
of the thwart. He bent his face over it and rubbed 
hard with his ringer. Then he sat down in the stern- 
sheets, passive, with his knees close together and legs 
aslant. 

Streaming from head to foot, with his hair and whis- 
kers hanging lank and dripping, and a lustreless stare 
fixed upon the bottom boards, the capataz of the 

550 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

Sulaco cargadores resembled a drowned corpse come 

up i' rum tin* bottom to idle away the sunset hour in a 

itement of his adventurous ride, 

the excitement of the return in time, of achievement, 
of success, all this excitement centred round the as- 
sociated ideas of the great treasure and of the only 
other man who knew of its existence, had departed 
from him. To the very last moment he had been 
cudgelling his brains as to how he could manage to 
visit the (ireat Isabel without loss of time and un- 
detertfl. For the idea of secrecy had come to be 
connected with the treasure so closely that even to 
I'arri). himself he had refrained from mentioning the 
tence of Decoud and of the silver on the island. 
The letters he carried to the general, however, made 
brief mention of the loss of the lighter, as having its 
bearing upon the situation in Sulaco. In the circum- 
the one - eyed tiger - slayer, scenting battle 
from afar, had not waste*! his time in making inquiries 
from the messenger. In fact, Barrios, talking with 
Nostromo, assumed that both Don Martin Devoinl and 
the ingots of San Tome" were lost together, and Nos- 
tromo, not questioned directly, had kept silent, u 
the influence of some indefinable form of resentment 
and distrust. Let Don Martin speak of everything 
with his own lips was what he told himself mentally. 
And now, with the means of gaining the Great 
I thrown thus in his way at the earliest possible 
moment, his excitement had departed, as when the 
soul takes flight, leaving the Ixxly inert upon an earth 
it knows no more. Nostromo did not seem to know 
the gulf. For a long time even his eyelids did not 

55' 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

flutter once upon the glazed emptiness of his stare. 
Then, slowly, without a limb having stirred, without 
a twitch of muscle or quiver of an eyelash, an expres- 
sion, a living expression, came upon the still features, 
deep thought crept into the empty stare as if an out- 
cast soul, a quiet, brooding soul, finding that untenanted 
body in its way, had come in stealthily to take posses- 
sion. 

The capataz frowned; and in the immense stillness 
of sea, islands, and coast, of cloud forms on the sky 
and trails of light upon the water, the knitting of that 
brow had the emphasis of a powerful gesture. Noth- 
ing else budged for a long time, then the capataz shook 
his head and again surrendered himself to the universal 
repose of all visible things. Suddenly he seized the oars, 
and with one movement made the dinghy spin round, 
head-on to the Great Isabel. But before he began to 
pull he bent once more over the brown stain on the 
gunwale. 

"I know that thing," he muttered to himself, with a 
sagacious jerk of the head. "That's blood." 

His stroke was long, vigorous, and steady. Now 
and then he looked over his shoulder at the Great 
Isabel, presenting its low cliff to his anxious gaze like 
an impenetrable face. At last the stem touched the 
strand. He flung rather than dragged the boat up 
the little beach. At once, turning his back upon the 
sunset, he plunged with long strides into the ravine, 
making the water of the stream spurt and fly upward 
at every step, as if spurning its shallow, clear, murmur- 
ing spirit, with his feet. He wanted to save every 
moment of daylight. 

55 2 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

A mass of earth, grass, and smashed bushes had 
M down very naturally from above upon the cavity 
under the leaning tree. Decoud had attended to the 
ealment of the silver as instructed, using the spade 
with some intelligence. But Nostromo's half-smile of 
Bproval changed into a scornful curl of the lip by the 
Hht of the spade itself flung there in full view, as if 
in utter carelessness or sudden panic, giving away the 
whole thing. Ah! They were all alike in their folly, 
th'.> ^e hotnbres jinos that invented laws and governments 
and barren tasks for the people. 

The capataz picked up the spade, and with the feel 
of the handle in his palm the desire of having a look 
at the horse-hide boxes of treasure came upon him 
suddenly. In a very few strokes he uncovered the 
Bges and corners of several; then, clearing away more 
earth, became aware that one of them had been slashed 
with a knife. 

He exclaimed at that discovery in a stifled voice, 

1 ropped on his knees with a look of irrational ap- 

cnsion over one shoulder, then over the other. 

The stiff hide had closed, and he hesitated before 

fee pushed his hand through the long slit and felt 

the ingots inside. There they were. One, two, three. 

Fes, four gone. Taken away. Four ingots. But 

who? Decoud? Nobody else. And why? For what 

purpose? For what cursed fancy ? Let him explain. 

Four ingots carried off in a boat, and blood! 

In the face of the open gulf, the sun, clear, uncloud- 
ed, unaltered, plunged into the waters in a grave 
and untroubled mystery of self-immolation consum- 
mated far from all mortal eyes, with an infinite 

553 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

majesty of silence and peace. Four ingots short! 
and blood! 

The capataz got up slowly. 

" He might simply have cut his hand," he muttered. 
"But, then" 

He sat down on the soft earth, unresisting, as if he 
had been chained to the treasure, his drawn-up legs 
clasped in his hands with an air of hopeless submission, ; 
like a slave set on guard. Once only he lifted his 
head smartly ; the rattle of hot musketry fire had reach- 
ed his ears, like pouring from on high a stream of dry 
peas upon a drum. After listening for a while, he said, j 
half aloud : 

" He will never come back to explain." 

And he lowered his head again. 

"Impossible!" he muttered, gloomily. 

The sounds of firing died out. The loom of a great 
conflagration in Sulaco flashed up red above the coast, 
played on the clouds at the head of the gulf, seemed 
to touch with a ruddy and sinister reflection the forms 
of the three Isabels. He never saw it, though he 
raised his head. 

"But, then, I cannot know," he pronounced dis- 
tinctly, and remained silent and staring for hours. 

He could not know. Nobody was to know. As 
might have been supposed, the end of Don Martin 
Decoud never became a subject of speculation for any 
one except Nostromo. Had the truth of the facts been 
known, there would always ha*e remained the ques- 
tion, Why? Whereas the version of his death at the 
sinking of the lighter had no uncertainty of motive. 
The young apostle of Separation had died striving for 

554 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

his idea by an ever-lamented accident. But the 
truth was that he died from solitude, the enemy known 
but to few on this earth, and whom only the sinij 
of us are fit to withstand. The brilliant Costaguanero 
of the boulevards had died from solitude and want 
of faith in himself and others. 

For some good and valid reasons beyond mere hu- 
man comprehension, the sea-birds of the gulf shun 
the Isabels. The rocky head of Azaera is their haunt, 
whose stony levels and chasms resound with their wild 
and tumultuous clamor, as if they were forever <juar- 
relling over the legendary treasure. 

At the end of his first day on the Great Isabel, De- 
coud, turning in his lair of coarse grass, under the shade 
of a tree, said to himself: 

" I have not seen as much as one single bird all day." 

And he had not heard a sound, either, all day, hut 
that one now of his own muttering voice. It had been 
a day of absolute silence the first he had known in 
his life. And he had not slept a wink. Not for all 
these wakeful nights and the days of fighting, plan- 
ning, talking; not for all that last night of danger and 
hard physical toil upon the gulf, had he been able to 
close his eyes for a moment. And yet from sunrise 
to sunset he had been lying prone on the ground, 
either on his back or on his face. 

He stretched himself, and with slow steps descended 
into the gully to spend the night by the side of the 
silver. If Nostromo returned as he may have done 
at any moment it was there that he would look first: 
and night would, of course, be the proper time for an 
attempt to communicate. He remembered with pro- 

555 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

found indifference that he had not eaten anything 
yet since he had been left alone on the island. 

He spent the night open-eyed, and when the day 
broke he ate something with the same indifference. 
The brilliant "Son Decoud," the spoiled darling of 
the family, the lover of Antonia and journalist of 
Sulaco, was not fit to grapple with himself single- 
handed. Solitude from mere outward condition of 
existence becomes very swiftly a state of soul in which 
the affectations of irony and scepticism have no place. 
It takes possession of the mind, and drives forth the 
thought into the exile of utter unbelief. After three 
days of waiting for the sight of some human face, 
Decoud caught himself entertaining a doubt of his 
own individuality. It had merged into the world of 
cloud and water, of natural forces and forms of nat- 
ure. In our activity alone do we find the sustaining 
illusion of an independent existence as against the 
whole scheme of things of which we form a helpless 
part. Decoud lost all belief in the reality of his action 
past and to come. On the fifth day an immense 
melancholy descended upon him palpably. He re- 
solved not to give himself up hopelessly to those peo- 
ple in Sulaco, who had beset him, unreal and terrible, 
like jibbering and obscene spectres. He saw himself 
struggling feebly in their midst, and Antonia, gigantic 
and lovely like an allegorical statue, looking on with 
scornful eyes at his weakness. 

Not a living being, not a speck of distant sail, ap- 
peared within the range of his vision; and, as if to 
escape from this solitude, he absorbed himself in his 
melancholy. The vague consciousness of a misdirect- 

556 



omo: A Tale of the Seaboard 



d life Kiven up to impulses, whose memory left a bit- 
tastc in his mouth, was the first moral sentiment 
If his manhood. But at the sanu- tune he felt no re- 
horse. What should In- lie had recognized 

l.o other virtue than intelligence, and had erected pas- 
lions into duties. Hoth his intelligence and Impassion 
swallowed up easily in this great unbroken sH- 
le of waiting without faith. Sleeplessness had rob- 
in his will of all energy, for he had not slept seven 
ors in the seven days. His sadness was the sadness 
l sceptical mind. He beheld the universe as a suc- 
fesion of incomprehensible images. Nostromo was 
ad. Everything had failed ignominiously. He no 
Inger dared to think 01" Antonia. She had not sur- 
ved. But if she survived he could not face her. 
Lnd all exertion seemed senseless. 

On the tenth day, after a night spent without even 
(dozing off once (it had occurred to him that Antonia 
Icould not possibly have ever loved a being so impal- 
pable as himself), the solitude appeared like a great 
jvoid, and the silence of the gulf like a tense, thin 
cord to which he hung suspended by both hands, with- 
|out fear, without surprise, without any sort of emotion 
whatever. Only towards the evening, in the com- 
parative relief of coolness, he began to wish that this 
cord would snap. He imagined it snapping with a 
report as of a pistol a sharp, full crack. And that 
would be the end of him. He contemplated that 
eventuality with pleasure, because he dreaded the 
tepless nights in which the silence, remaining un- 
broken in the shape of a cord to which he hung with 
both hands, vibrated with senseless phrases, always 

557 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

the same but utterly incomprehensible, about Nos- 
tromo, Antonia, Barrios, and proclamations mingled 
into an ironical and senseless buzzing. In the day- 
time he could look at the silence like a still cord stretch- 
ed to breaking-point, with his life, his vain life, sus- i 
pended to it like a weight. 

"I wonder whether I would hear it snap before I 
fell," he asked himself. 

The sun was two hours above the horizon when he 
got up, gaunt, dirty, white-faced, and looked at it I 
with his red-rimmed eyes. His limbs obeyed him yet 
slowly, as if full of lead, but without tremor; and the 
effect of that physical condition gave to his move- 
ments an unhesitating, deliberate dignity. He acted 
as if accomplishing some sort of rite. He descended 
into the gully; for the fascination of all that silver, 
with its potential power, survived alone outside of 
himself. He picked up the belt with the revolver, that 
was lying there, and buckled it round his waist. The 
cord of silence could never snap on the island. It 
must let him fall and sink into the sea, he thought. 
And sink! He was looking at the loose earth cover- 
ing the treasure. In the sea! His aspect was that of 
a somnambulist. He lowered himself down on his 
knees slowly and went on grubbing with his fingers 
with industrious patience till he uncovered one of the 
boxes. Without a pause, as if doing some work done 
many times before, he slit it open and took four ingots 
which he put in his pockets. He covered up the ex- 
posed box again and step by step came out of the 
gully. The bushes closed after him with a swish. 

It was on the third day of his solitude that he had 
558 



I 



Kostromo : A Talc of the Seaboard 

(ragged the dinghy near the water with an idea of 
towing away somewhere, tmt had desisted partly at 
[.he whisper of lingering hope that Nostromo would 
irn, partly from conviction of utter usclessness of 
effort. Now she wanted only a slight shove to be 
afloat. He had eaten a little every day after the 
Bit, and had some muscular strength left yet. Tak- 
up the oars slowly, he pulled away from the cliff 
the Great Isabel, that stood behind him warm with 
Bnshine, as if with the heat of life, bathed in a ru h 
from head to foot as if in a radiance of hope and 
He pulled straight towards the setting sun. 
ben the gulf had grown dark, he ceased rowing and 
png the sculls in. The hollow clatter they made m 
(falling was the loudest noise he had ever heard in his 
e. It was a revelation. It seemed to recall him 
from far away. Actually the thought, "Perhaj- I 
ay sleep to-night," passed through his mind. But 
he did not believe it. He believed in nothing; and he 
remained sitting on the thwart. 

The dawn from behind the mountains put a gleam 
into his unwinking eyes. After a clear daybreak the 
sun appeared splendidly above the peaks of the range. 
The great gulf burst into a glitter all around the l>oat; 
and in this glory of merciless solitude the silence ap- 
peared before him, stretched taut like a dark, thin 
string. 

His eyes looked at it while, without haste, he shifted 
his seat from the thwart to the gunwale. They look- 
ed at it fixedly, while his hand, feeling about his w. 
unbuttoned the flap of the leather case, drew the re- 
volver, cocked it, brought it forward pointing at his 

559 






Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

breast, pulled the trigger, and, with convulsive force, 
sent the still smoking weapon hurling through the air. 
His eyes looked at it while he fell forward and hung 
with his breast on the gunwale and the fingers of his 
right hand hooked under the thwart. They looked 

"It is done," he stammered out, in a sudden flow of 
blood. His last thought was: "I wonder how that 
capataz died." The stiffness of the fingers relaxed, 
and the lover of Antonia Avellanos rolled overboard 
without having heard the cord of silence snap aloud 
in the solitude of the Placid Gulf, whose glittering sur- 
face remained untroubled by the fall of his body. 

A victim of the disillusioned weariness which is the 
retribution meted out to intellectual audacity, the 
brilliant Don Martin Decoud, weighted by the bars of 
San Tome" silver, disappeared without a trace, swal- 
lowed up in the immense indifference of things. His 
sleepless, crouching figure was gone from the side of 
the San Tome" silver; and for a time the spirits of good 
and evil that hover near every concealed treasure of 
the earth might have thought that this one had been 
forgotten by all mankind. Then, after a few days, 
another form appeared striding away from the setting 
sun to sit motionless and awake in the narrow black 
gully all through the night, in nearly the same pose, 
in the same place in which had sat that other sleepless 
man who had gone away forever so quietly in a small 
boat, about the time of sunset. And the spirits of 
good and evil that hover about a forbidden treasure 
understood well that the silver of San Tome" was pro- 
vided now with a faithful and lifelong slave. 

The magnificent capataz de cargadores, victim of 
560 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

the disenchanted vanity which is the reward of auda- 
cious action, sat in the weary pose of a hunted outcast 
through a night of sleeplessness as tormenting as any 
known to Decoud. his companion in the most desperate 
affair of his life. And he wondered how Decoud had 
: Hut he knew the part he had played himself. 
' a woman, then a man, abandoned each in their 
last extremity, for the sake of this accursed treasure. 
It was paid for by a soul lost and by a vanished life. 
The blank stillness of awe was succeeded by a gust of 
immense pride. There was no one in the world but 
Gian* Battista Fidanza, captain de cargadores, the in 
corruptible and faithful Nostromo, to pay such a price. 

He had made up his mind that nothing should be 
allowed now to rob him of his bargain. Nothing. 
Decoud had died. But how ? That he was dead he 
had not a shadow of a doubt. But four ingots? . . . 
What for? Did he mean to come for more some 
other time? 

The treasure was putting forth its latent power. 
It troubled the clear mind of the man who had paid 
the price. He was sure that Decoud was dead. The 
island seemed full of that whisper. Dead! Gone! 
And he caught himself listening for the swish of bushes 
and the splash of the footfalls in the bed of the brook. 
Dead! The talker, the novio of Dona Antonia! 

"Ha!" he murmured, with his head on his knees, 
under the livid clouded dawn breaking over the lib- 
erated Sulaco and upon the gulf as gray as ashes. "It 
is to her that he will fly. To her that he will fly!" 

And four ingots! Did he take them in revenge, to 
cast a spell, like the angry woman who had prophesied 

$6. 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

remorse and failure, and yet had laid upon him the 
task of saving the children? Well, he had saved the 
children. He had defeated the spell of poverty and 
starvation. He had done it all alone or perhaps 
helped by the devil. Who cared ? He had done it, 
betrayed as he was, saving by the same stroke the San 
Tome" mine, which appeared to him hateful and im- 
mense, lording it by its vast wealth over the valor, 
the toil, the fidelity of the poor, over war and peace, 
over the labors of the town, the sea, and the Campo. 

The sun lit up the sky behind the peaks of the Cor- 
dillera. The capataz looked down for a time upon 
the fall of loose earth, stones, and smashed bushes con- 
cealing the hiding-place of the silver. 

" I must grow rich very slowly," he meditated aloud. 



XI 



SULACO outstripped Nostromo's prudence, grow- 
ing rich swiftly on the hidden treasures of the 
earth, hovered over by the anxious spirits of good and 
evil, torn out by the laboring hands of the people. It 
was like a second youth, like a new life, full of prom- 
ise, or unrest, of toil, scattering lavishly its wealth to 
the four corners of an excited world. Material changes 
swept along in the train of material interests. And 
other changes more subtle, outwardly unmarked, af- 
fected the minds and hearts of the workers. Captain 
Mitchell had gone home to live on his savings invested 
in the San Tome" mine; and Dr. Monygham had grown 
older, with his head steel-gray and the unchanged ex- 
^ion of his face, living on the inexhaustible treas- 
ure of his devotion drawn upon in the secret of his 
heart like a store of unlawful wealth. 

The Inspector- General of State Hospitals (whose 
maintenance is a charge upon the Gould Concession), 
Official Adviser on Sanitation to the Municipality. 
Chief Medical Officer of the San Tome" Consolidated 
Mines (whose territory, containing gold, silver, copper, 
lead, cobalt, extends for miles along the foot-hills of 
the Cordillera), had felt poverty-stricken, miserable, 
and starved during the prolonged visit the Goulds 
paid to Europe and the United States of America. 
Intimate of the casa, proved friend, a bachelor with- 

563 



I 

Nostromo: A Tale ot the Seaboard 

out ties and without establishment (except of the pro- 
fessional sort), he had been asked to take up his quar- 
ters in the Gould house. In the eighteen months of 
their absence these familiar rooms, recalling at every 
glance the woman to whom he had given all his loyal- 
ty, had grown intolerable. As the day approached 
for the arrival of the mail-boat Hermes (the latest ad- 
dition to the O.S.N. Company's splendid fleet), the 
doctor hobbled about more vivaciously, snapped more 
sardonically at simple and gentle, out of sheer nervous- 
ness. 

He packed up his modest trunk with speed, with 
fury, with enthusiasm, and saw it carried out past the 
old porter at the gate of the Casa Gould with delight, 
with intoxication; then, as the hour approached, sit- 
ting alone in the great landau behind the white mules, 
a little sideways, his drawn-up face positively venom- 
ous with the effort of self-control, and holding a pair 
of new gloves in his left hand, he drove to the harbor. 

His heart dilated within him so when he saw the 
Goulds on the deck of the Hermes that his greetings 
were reduced to a casual mutter. Driving back to 
town, all three were silent. And in the patio the doc- 
tor, in a more natural manner, said: 

"I'll leave you now to yourselves. I'll call to-mor- 
row, if I may?" 

"Come to lunch, dear Dr. Monygham, and come 
early," said Mrs. Gould, in her travelling-dress and her 
veil down, turning to look at him at the foot of the 
stairs; while at the top of the flight the Madonna, in 
blue robes, and the Child on her arm, seemed to wel- 
come her with an aspect of pitying tenderness. 

564 






omo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

" Don't expect to find me at home," Charles Gould 
| warned him. "I'll be off early, to the mine." 

After lunch, Dona Kmilia and the Scnor Doctor came 
powly through the inner gateway of the patio. The 
large gardens of the Casa Gould, surrounded l>y high 
walls, and the mi-tile slopes of neighl*>ring roofs, lay 
pen before them, with masses of shade under the 
Kees and level surfaces of sunlight upon the lawns. 
A triple row of old orange-trees surrounded the whole. 
Barefooted, brown gardeners, in snowy white shirts 
and wide calzoneras, dotted the grounds, squatting 
flower-beds, passing between the trees, dragging 
slender india-rubber tubes across the gravel of the 
[paths; and the fine jets of water crossed each other in 
graceful curves, sparkling in the sunshine with a slight 
Battering noise upon the bushes and an effect of show- 
ered diamonds upon the grass. 

Dona Emilia, holding up the train of a clear dress, 
walked by the side of Dr. Monygham, in a Ion 

k coat and severe black bow on an immaculate 
shirt-front. Under a shady clump of trees, where 
stood scattered little tables and wicker easy-chairs, 
Mrs. Gould sat down in a low and ample seat. 

"Don't go yet," she said to Dr. Monygham, who 
was unable to tear himself away from the spot. His 
chin nestling within the points of his collar, he devour- 
ed her stealthily with his eyes, which, luckily, were 
round and hard like clouded marbles, and incapable 
of disclosing his sentiments. His pitying emotions 
at the marks of time upon the face of that woman, 
tin- air of frailty and weary fatigue that had settled 
toon the eyes and temples of the "never-tired senora" 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

(as Don Pe'pe' years ago used to call her with admira- 
tion), touched him almost to tears. "Don't go yet. 
To-day is all my own," Mrs. Gould urged gently. 
"We are not back yet officially. No one will come. 
It's only to-morrow that the windows of the Casa 
Gould are to be lit up for a reception." 

The doctor dropped into a chair. 

"Giving a tertulia?" he said, with a detached air. 

"A simple greeting for all the kind friends who care 
to come." 

"And only to-morrow?" 

" Yes. Charles would be tired out after a day at the 
mine, and so I It would be good to have him to 
myself for one evening on our return to this house I 
love. It has seen all my life." 

"Ah, yes!" snarled the doctor, suddenly. "Women 
count time from the marriage feast. Didn't you live 
a little before?" 

"Yes; but what is there to remember? There were 
no cares." 

Mrs. Gould sighed. And as two friends, after a long 
separation, will revert to the most agitated period of 
their lives, they began to talk of the Sulaco revolu- 
tion. It seemed strange to Mrs. Gould that people 
who had taken part in it seemed to forget its memory 
and its lesson. 

"And yet," struck in the doctor, "we who played 
our part in it had our reward. Don Pepe", though 
superannuated, still can sit a horse. Barrios is drink- 
ing himself to death in jovial company away some- 
where on his fundacion beyond the Bolson de Tonoro. 
And the heroic Father Roman I imagine the old 

566 



ostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

Mowing up systematically the San Tomd mine, 
jttering a pious t \< I nn.ition at every bang, and tak- 
n^ up hamlfuls of snuff between the explosions the 
i'adre Romhn says that he is not afraid of th<- 
"inarm Holroyd's missionaries can do to his flock, as 
"long as //.- is alive." 

Mrs. Gould shuddered a little at the allusion to the 
estnu tion that had come so near to the San Tome* 
linr. 

"Ah, but you, old friend?" 
" I did the work I was fit for." 
"You faced the most cruel dangers of all. Some- 
jthing more than death." 

"No, Mrs. Gould! Only death by hanging. And 
1 1 am rewarded beyond my deserts." 

Noticing Mrs. Gould's gaze fixed upon him, he 

ed his eyes. 

"I've made my career as you see," said the In- 
Bector-General of State Hospitals, taking up lightly 
the lapels of his superfine black coat. The doctor's 
self-respect, marked inwardly by the almost complete 
feappcarance from his dreams of Father Heron, ap- 
peared visibly in what, by contrast with former care- 
ness, seemed an immoderate cult of personal ap- 
Mrance. Carried out within severe limits of form 
and color, and in perpetual freshness, this change of 
pparel gave to Dr. Monygham an air at the same 
time professional and festive; while his gait and the 
unchanged crabbed character of his face acquin.l 

:t ;i startling force of incongruity, 
i " Yes," he went on. " We all had our rewards the 
engineer-in-chief, Captain Mitchell" 

567 



. 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

"We saw him," interrupted Mrs. Gould, in her 
charming voice. "The poor old man came up from 
the country on purpose to call upon us in our hotel 
in London. He comported himself with great dignity, 
but I fancy he regrets Sulaco. He rambled feebly 
about 'historical events' till I felt I could have a cry." 

"H'm," grunted the doctor; "getting old, I suppose. 
Even Nostromo is getting older though he is not 
changed. And, speaking of that fellow, I wanted to 
tell you something " 

For some time the house had been full of murmurs, 
of agitation. Suddenly the two gardeners, busy with 
rose-trees at the side of the garden arch, fell upon their 
knees with bowed heads on the passage of Antonia 
Avellanos, who appeared walking beside her uncle. 

Invested with the red hat after a short visit to Rome, 
where he had been invited by the Propaganda, Father 
Corbelan, missionary to the wild Indians, conspirator, 
friend and patron of Hernandez the robber, advanced 
with big, slow strides, gaunt, and leaning forward, 
with his powerful hands knotted behind his back. 
The first Cardinal-Archbishop of Sulaco had preserved 
his fanatical and morose air the aspect of a chaplain 
of bandits. It was believed that his unexpected eleva- 
tion to the purple was a counter move to the Protes- 
tant invasion of Sulaco organized by the Holroyd 
Missionary Fund. Antonia, the beauty of her face as 
if a little blurred, her figure slightly fuller, advanced 
with her light walk and her high serenity, smiling from 
a distance at Mrs. Gould. She had brought her uncle 
over to see dear Emilia, without ceremony, just for a 
moment before the siesta. 

568 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

When all were seated again, Dr. Monygham. who 
ad come to dislike lie .irtily everybody who approached 
Mrs. Gould with an . intimacy, kept aside, pretending 
- lo>t in profound meditation. A louder phrase 
of Antonia made him lift his head. 

" How can we abandon, groaning under oppression, 
nose who have been our countrymen only a few years 
jo, who arc our countrymen now?" Miss Avcllanos 
was saying. " How can we remain blind, and deaf, 
And without pity to the cruel wrongs suffered by our 
brothers? There is a remedy." 

"Annex the rest of Costaguana to the order and 
Prosperity of Sulaco," snapped the doctor. "There 
il no other remedy." 

" I am convinced, Senor Doctor," Antonia said, with 
the earnest calm of invincible resolution, "that this 
was from the first poor Martin's intention." 
I "Yes, but the material interests will not let you 
leopard ize their development for a mere idea of pity 
and justice," the doctor muttered grumpily. "And 
it is just as well, perhaps." 

The Cardinal-Archbishop straightened up his gaunt, 
bony frame. 

"We have worked for them; we have made them; 
Ibese material interests of the foreigners," the last 
of the Corbelans uttered in a deep, denunciatory 
tone. 

"And without them you are nothing," cried the 
doctor from the distance. "They will not let you." 

"Let them beware, then, lest the people, prevented 
from their aspirations, should rise and claim their 
share of the wealth and their share of the power," the 

569 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

popular Cardinal-Archbishop of Sulaco declared sig 
nificantly, menacingly. 

A silence ensued, during which his eminence stared 
frowning at the ground, and Antonia, graceful and 
rigid in her chair, breathed calmly in the streng1.li of 
her convictions. Then the conversation took a social 
turn, touching on the visit of the Goulds to Europe. 
The Cardinal -Archbishop, when in Rome, had suffered 
from neuralgia in the head all the time. It was the 
climate the bad air. 

When uncle and niece had gone away, with the ser- . 
vants again falling on their knees, and the old porter,-^ 
who had known Henry Gould, almost totally blin< 
and impotent now, creeping up to kiss his Eminence': 
extended hand, Dr. Monygham, looking after them 
pronounced the one word: 

" Incorrigible!" 

Mrs. Gould, with a look upward, dropped wearil 
on her lap her white hands flashing with the gold am 
stones of many rings. 

"Conspiring. Yes!" said the doctor. "The last 
the Avellanos and the last of the Corbelans are con- 
spiring with the refugees from Sta. Marta that floe! 
here after every revolution. The Cafe Lambroso at th< 
corner of the Plaza, is full of them; you can hear thei 
chatter across the street like the noise of a parrot-housi 
They are conspiring for the invasion of Costagui 
And do you know where they go for strength, for th 
necessary force? To the secret societies among im 
migrants and natives, where Nostromo I should sa 
Captain Fidanza is the great man. What gives hi 
that position? Who can say? Genius? He h 

570 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

genius. He is greater with the populace than < 
he was before. It was as if he had some secret power; 
some mysterious mea: - p u,> his influence. He 

holds conferences with the Archbishop, M in these old 
days which you and I remember. Barrios is useless. 
But for a military head they have the pious Hernandez. 
And they may raise the country with the new cry of 
the wealth for the people." 

"Will there be never any peace? Will there be no 
rest?" Mrs. Gould whispei " I thought that we 

"No!" interrupted the doctor. " JJiSSfijsjjojjjacc 
and rest JaJfrfc, development of material intereST \ 
Tlu-y have thru- l.iv. nd their juftici Bat it i fottoa- 
ed on expediency, and is inhuman; it is without r 
tude. without the continuity and the force that can be 
found only in a moral pnn< iple. Mrs. Gould, the 
time approaches when all th^t UveGould Concession 
stands^foT^S'hall wejgli_ag, people as 

l;h<r~b^rbarjsn3~CTuelty, and mi;rule~t lew year?"' 

" 



How can you say that, Dr. Monygham?" she cried 
out, as if hurt in the most sensitive place of her soul. 

" I can say what is true," the doctor insisted ol 
nately. "It '11 weigh as heavily, and provoke resent- 
ment, bloodshed, and vengeance, because the men have 
grown different. Do you think that now the mine 
would march upon the town to save their SeAor Ad- 
nunistrador? l>o you think that?" 

She pressed the backs of her entwined hands on her 
eyes and murmured hoj>clesslv: 

* Is it that we have worked for, then ?" 

The doctor lowered his head. He could follow her 
57i 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

silent thought. Was it for that that her life had been 
robbed of all the intimate felicities of daily affection 
which her tenderness needed as the human body needs 
air to breathe? And the doctor, indignant with 
Charles Gould's blindness, hastened to change the con- 
versation. 

"It is about Nostromo that I wanted to talk to you. 
Ah, that fellow has some continuity and force. Noth- 
ing will put an end to him. But never mind that. 
There's something inexplicable going on or perhaps 
only too easy to explain. You know, Linda is prac- 
tically the lighthouse-keeper of the Great Isabel light. 
The Garibaldino is too old now. His part is to clean 
the lamps and to cook in the house; but he can't get 
up the stairs any longer. The black-eyed Linda sleeps 
all day and watches the light all night. Not all day, 
though. She is up towards five in the afternoon, 
when our Nostromo, whenever he is in the harbor 
with his schooner, comes out on his courting visit, pull- 
ing in a small boat." 

"Aren't they married yet?" Mrs. Gould asked. 
"The mother wished it, as far as I can understand, 
while Linda was yet quite a child. When I had the 
girls with me for a year or so during the war of separa- 
tion, that extraordinary Linda used to declare quite 
simply that she was going to be Gian' Battista's 
wife." 

"They are not married yet," said the doctor, curtly. 
"I have looked after them a little." 

"Thank you, dear Dr. Monygham," said Mrs. Gould; 
and under the shade of the big trees her little, even 
teeth gleamed in a youthful smile of gentle malice. 

572 



: A Talc of the Seaboard 

pie don't know how really good you are. You 
will not let them know, as if on purpose to annoy 
me, who have put my faith in your good heart long 
ago." 

The doctor, with a lifting up of his upper Up, as 
though he were longing to bite, bowed stiffly in his 
chair. With the utter absorption of a man to wh<>in 
love comes late, not as a most splendid of illusions, 
but like an enlightening and priceless misfortune, the 
sight of that woman (of whom he had been deprived 
for about eighteen months) suggested ideas of adora- 
tion, of kissing the hem of her robe. And this exeat 
of feeling translated itself naturally by an augmented 
grimness of speech. 

"I am afraid of being overwhelmed by too much 
gratitude. However, these people interest me. I 
went out several times to the Great Isabel light to 
look after old Giorgio." 

He did not tell Mrs. Gould that it was because he 
found there, in her absence, the relief of an atmosphere 
of congenial sentiment in old Giorgio *s austere ad- 
miration of the English signora the benefactress; in 
black-eyed Linda's voluble, ^torrential, passionate af- 
fection for "our Dona Emilia that angel"; in the 
white-throated, fair Giselle's adoring upward turn of 
the eyes, which then glided towards him with a side- 
long, half-arch, half-candid glance, which made the 
doctor exclaim to himself, mentally, "If I weren't 
what I am, old and ugly, I would think the sly minx 
is making eyes at me. And perhaps she is. I dare 
say she would make eyes at anybody." Dr. Monyg- 
ham said nothing of this to Mrs. Gould, the provi- 

573 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

dence of the Viola family, but reverted to what he 
called "our great Nostromo." 

"What I wanted to tell you is this: Our great Nos- 
tromo did not seem to take much notice of the old 
man and the children for some years. It's true, too, 
that he was away on his coasting voyages certainly 
ten months out of the twelve. He was making his 
fortune, as he told Captain Mitchell once. He seems 
to have done uncommonly well. It was only to be 
expected. He is a man full of resource, full of con- 
fidence in himself, ready to take chances and risks of 
every sort. I remember being in Mitchell's office one 
day, when he came in with that calm, grave air he 
always carries everywhere. He had been away trading 
in the Gulf of California, he said, looking straight past 
us at the wall, as his manner is, and was glad to see 
on his return that a light -house was being built on the 
cliff of the Great Isabel. Very glad, he repeated. 
Mitchell explained that it was the O.S.N. Company who 
was building it for the convenience of the mail ser- 
vice, on his own advice. Captain Fidanza \vas good 
enough to say that it was excellent advice. I re- 
member him twisting up his mustaches and looking 
all round the cornice of the room before he proposed 
that old Giorgio should be made the keeper of that 
light." 

" I heard of this. I was consulted at the time," 
Mrs. Gould said. "I doubted whether it would be 
good for these girls to be shut up on that island as if 
in a prison." 

"The proposal fell in with the old Garibaldino's 
humor. As to Linda, any place was lovely and de- 

574 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

tightful enough for her as long as it was Nostromo ' 
suggestion. She could wait for her Gian' Battista't 
good pleasure there as well as anywhere else. My 
opinion is that she was always in love with that grave 
and incorruptible capataz. Moreover, both father 
and sister were anxious to get Giselle away from the 
attentions of a certain Ramirez." 

"Ah!" said Mrs. Gould, interested. "Ramirez? 
What sort of man is that?" 

"Just a mozo of the town. His father was a car- 
gador. As a lanky boy he ran about the wharf in 
till Nostromo took him up and made a man of 
him When he got a little older he put him into a 
lighter, and very soon gave him charge of the No. 3 
boat the boat which took the silver away, Mrs. 
Gould. Nostromo selected that lighter for the v. 
because she was the best sailing and the strongest 
boat of all the company's fleet. Young Ramirez was 
one of the five cargadores entrusted with the removal 
of the treasure from the custom-house on that famous 
night. As the boat he had charge of was sunk, Nos- 
tromo, on leaving the company's service, recommend- 
ed him to Captain Mitchell for his successor. He had 
trained him in the routine of work perfectly, and thus 
Mr. Ramirez, from a starving waif, becomes a man 
and the capataz of the Sulaco cargadores." 

"Thanks to Nostromo," said Mrs. Gould, with warm 
approval. 

"Thanks to Nostromo," repeated Dr. Monygham. 
"Upon my word, the fellow's power frightens roe 
when I think of it. That our poor old Mitchell was 
only too glad to appoint somebody trained to the 

575 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

work, who saved him trouble, is not surprising. What 
is wonderful is the fact that the Sulaco cargadores 
accepted Ramirez for their chief, simply because such 
was Nostromo's good pleasure. Of course he is not 
a second Nostromo, as he fondly imagined he would 
be; but still, the position was brilliant enough. It 
emboldened him to make up to Giselle Viola, who, 
you know, is the recognized beauty of the town. The 
old Garibaldino, however, took a violent dislike to 
him. I don't know why. Perhaps because he was 
not a model of perfection like his Gian* Battista, the 
incarnation of the courage, the fidelity, the honor of 
'the people.' Signer Viola does not think much of 
Sulaco natives. Both of them, the old Spartan and 
that tall, white-faced Linda, with her red mouth and 
coal-black eyes, were looking rather fiercely after the 
fair one. Ramirez was warned off. Father Viola, I 
am told, threatened him with his gun once." 

"But what of Giselle herself?" asked Mrs. Gould. 

"She's a bit of a flirt, I believe," said the doctor. 
"I don't think she cared much one way or another. 
Of course she likes men's attentions. Ramirez was 
not the only one, let me tell you, Mrs. Gould. There 
was one engineer, at least, on the railway staff who got 
warned off with a gun, too. Old Viola does not allow 
any trifling with his honor. He has grown uneasy 
and suspicious since his wife died. He was very 
pleased to remove his youngest girl away from the 
town. But look what happens, Mrs. Gould. Rami- 
rez, the honest lovelorn swain, is forbidden the island. 
Very well. He respects the prohibition, but natural- 
ly turns his eyes frequently towards the Great Isabel. 

576 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

<?ems as though he had been in the habit of gazing 
late at night upon the light. And during these senti- 
mental vigils he discovers that Nostromo, Captain 
inza that is, returns very late from his visits to 
the Violas. As late as midnight at time 

The doctor paused and stared meaningly at Mrs. 
Gould. 

"Yes. But I don't understand," she began, look- 
ing puzzled. 

" Now comes the strange part," went on Dr. Monyg- 
ham. "Viola, who is king on his island, will allow 
no visitor on it after dark. Even Captain Pidanza 
has got to leave after sunset, when Linda has gone up 
to tend the light. And Nostromo goes avay obedi- 
ently. It is well known. Hut what happens after- 
wards? What does he do in the gulf between half- 
past six and midnight ? He has been seen more than 
once at that late hour pulling quietly into the harbor. 
Ramirez is devoured by jealousy. He dared not ap- 
proach old Viola; but he plucked up courage to rail 
I.niila about it one Sunday morning as she came on 
the main-land to hear mass and visit her mother's 
grave. There was a scene on the wharf, which, as a 
matter of fact, I witnessed. It was early morning. 
IK must have been waiting for her on purpose. I 
was there by the merest chance, having been called to 
an urgent consultation by the doctor of the German 
gunboat in the harbor. She poured wrath, scorn, and 
flame upon Ramirez, who seemed out of his mind. It 
was a strange sight, Mrs. Gould: the long jetty, with 
this raving cargador in his crimson sash and the girl 
all in black, at the end; the early Sunday morning 

577 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

quiet of the harbor in the shade of the mountains; 
nothing but a canoe or two moving between the ships 
at anchor and the German gunboat's gig coming to 
take me off. I am sure she was taken by surprise; I 
am sure it was news to her. She passed me within a 
foot. I noticed her wild eyes. I called out 'Linda!' 
She never heard me; she never saw me. But I looked 
at her face. It was awful in its anger and wretched- 
ness." 

Mrs. Gould sat up, opening her eyes very wide. 

"What do you mean, Dr. Monygham? Do you 
mean to say that you suspect the younger sister?" 

" Quien sabe ! Who can tell," said the doctor, shrug- 
ging his shoulders like a born Costaguanero. "Rami- 
rez came up to me on the wharf. He reeled he 
looked insane. He took his head into his hands. He 
had to talk to some one simply had to. Of course, 
for all his mad stare he recognized me. People know 
me well here. I have lived too long among them to 
be anything else but the evil-eyed doctor, who can 
cure all the ills of the flesh and bring bad luck by a 
glance. He came up to me. He tried to be calm. 
He tried to make it out that he wanted merely to 
warn me against Nostromo. It seems that Captain 
Fidanza at some secret meeting or other had denounced 
me as the worst enemy of all the poor of the people. 
It's very possible. He honors me with his undying 
dislike. And a word from the great Fidanza may be 
quite enough to send some fool's knife into my back. 
The sanitary commission I preside over is not in favor 
with the populace. 'Beware of him, Senor Doctor! 
Destroy him, Senor Doctor!' Ramirez hissed right into 

578 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

face. And then he broke out: 'That man.' he 
u-red, 'has cast a spell upon loth these girls.' 
<> himself, he had said too much. He must run 
away now run away and hide somewhere. II- 
moaned tender exclamations uUmt the girl, and then 
railed her names that cannot be repeated. If he 
thought she could be made to love him by any means, 
he would carry her off from the Islam 1. Oft into 
the woods. But it was no good. . . . He strode 
away, flourishing his arms above his head. Then I 
noticed an old negro, who had been sitting behind a 
pile of cases, fishing from the wharf. He wound up 
his lines and slunk away at once. But he must have 
heard something, and must have talked, too, because 
some of the old Garibaldino's railway friends. I sup- 
pose, warned him against Ramirez. At any rate, the 
father has been warned. But Ramirez has disappear- 
ed from the town." 

" I feel I have a duty towards these girls," s.ii-1 Mrs. 
Gould, uneasily. "Is Nostromo in Sulaco now?" 

" He is, since last Sunday." 

" He ought to be spoken to at once." 

"Who will dare speak to him? Even the love-mad 
Ramirez runs away before the mere shadow of Captain 
Fidanza." 

"I can. I will," Mrs. Gould declared. "A word 
will be enough for a man like Nostromo." 

The doctor smiled sourly. 

" He must end this situation which lends itself to 
I can't believe it of that child," pursued Mrs. Gould. 

"He's very attractive," muttered the doctor, 
gloomily. 

579 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

"He'll see it, I am sure. He must put an end to 
all this by marrying Linda at once," pronounced the 
first lady of Sulaco with immense decision. 

Through the garden gate emerged Basilio, grown 
fat and sleek, with an elderly hairless face, wrinkles 
at the corners of his eyes, and his jet-black, coarse 
hair plastered down smoothly. Stooping carefully 
behind an ornamental clump of bushes, he put down 
with precaution a small child he had been carrying 
on his shoulders his own and Leonarda's last born. 
The pouting, spoiled camerista and the head mozo 
of the Casa Gould had been married for some years 
now. 

He remained squatting on his heels for some time, 
gazing fondly at his offspring, which returned his stare 
with imperturbable gravity ;' then, solemn and re- 
spectable, walked down the path. 

"What is it, Basilio?" asked Mrs. Gould. 

"A telephone came through from the office of the 
mine. The master remains to sleep at the mountain 
to-night." 

Dr. Monygham had got up and stood looking away. 
A profound silence reigned for a time under the shade 
of the biggest trees in the lovely gardens of the Casa 
Gould. 

"Very well, Basilio," said Mrs. Gould. She watch- 
ed him walk away along the path, step aside behind a 
flowering bush, and reappear with the child seated on 
his shoulders. He passed through the gateway be- 
tween the garden and the patio with measured steps, 
careful of his light burden. 

The doctor, with his back to Mrs. Gould, contem- 
580 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

plated a flower led away in the sunshine. People be- 
1 u- v nl him scornful and soured. The truth of 
nature ion i u.l m his capacity for passion and in 
UK tmn.hty <>; his temperament. What he lacked 
the polished callousness of men of the world, the 
callousness from which springs an easy tolerance for 
one's self and others; the tolerance wide as poles 
asunder from true sympathy and human compassion. 
This want of callousness accounted for his sardonic 
turn of mind and his biting speeches. 

In profound silence, and glaring viciously at the 
brilliant flowcr-bcd, Dr. Monygham poured mental 
imprecations on Charles Gould's head. Behind him 
the immobility of Mrs. Gould added to the grace of 
her seated figure the charm of art, of an attitude 
caught and interpreted forever. Turning abruptly, 
the doctor took his K 

Mrs. Gould leaned hack in the shade of the big 
trees planted in a circle. She leaned back with her 
eyes closed and her white hands lying idle on the 
arms of her seat. The half-light under the thick man 
of leaves brought out the youthful prettincss of her 
face; made the clear light fabrics and white lace of her 
dress appear luminous. Small and dainty, as if radi- 
ating a light of her own in the deep shade of the 
interlaced boughs, she resembled a good fairy, weary 
with a long career of well-doing, touched by the with- 
ering suspicion of the uselcssness of her labors, the 
powerlessness of her magic. 

Had anybody asked her of what she was thinking, 
alone in the garden of the casa, with her husband at 
the mine and the house closed to the itreet like an 

581 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

empty dwelling, her frankness would have had to 
evade the question. It had come into her mind that 
for life to be large and full it must contain the care 
of the past and of the future in every passing mo- 
ment of the present. Our daily work must be done 
to the glory of the dead, and for the good of those 
who come after. She thought that, and sighed with- 
out opening her syes without moving at all. Mrs. 
Gould's face became set and rigid for a second, as if 
to receive, without flinching, a great wave of loneli- 
ness that swept over her head. And it came into her 
mind, too, that no one would ever ask her with solici- 
tude what she was thinking of. No one. No one, 
but perhaps the man who had just gone away. No; 
no one who could be answered with careless sincerity 
in the ideal perfection of confidence. 

The word "incorrigible" a word lately pronounced 
by Dr. Monygham floated into her still and sad im- 
mobility. Incorrigible in his devotion to the great 
silver mine was the Senor Administrador! Incorrigible 
in his hard, determined service of the material interests 
to which he had pinned his faith in the triumph of 
order and justice. Poor boy! She had a clear vision 
of the gray hairs on his temples. He was perfect- 
perfect. What more could she have expected? It 
was a colossal and lasting success; and love was only a 
short moment of forgetfulness, a short intoxication, 
whose delight one remembered with a sense of sad- 
ness, as if it had been a deep grief lived through. 
There was something inherent in the necessities of 
successful action which carried with it the moral deg- 
radation of the idea. She saw the San Tome" moun- 

582 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

tain hanging over the Campo, over the whole land, 
feared, hated, wealthy, more soulless than any tyrant. 
more pitiless and autocratic than the worst govern- 
ment, ready to crush innumerable lives in the ex- 
pansion of its greatness. He did not see it. He could 
not see it. It was not his fault. He was perfect, 
perfect; but she would never have him to herself. 
or; not for one short hour altogether to herself 
in this old Spanish house she loved so well! Incor- 
rigible, the last of the Corbel an s. the last of the 
Avellanos, the doctor had said; but she saw clearly 
the San Tome! mine possessing, consuming, burning up 
the life of the last of the Costaguana Goulds; ma 
ing the energetic spirit of the son as it had mastered 
the lamentable weakness of the father. A terrible 
success for the last of the Goulds. The last! She 
luul hoped for a long, long time, that perhaps But 
no! There were to l>e no more. An immense deso- 
lation. the dread of her own continued life, descended 
upon the first latly of Sulaco. With a prophet 

herself surviving alone the dev : 
y un^ idj '. ': life, ol l>ve, of work a!' 1:1 tl.r 
TieaMiiv House of the \V. rM Tl.e profound, blind, 



suffering expression of a painful dream settled on her 
face with its closed eyes. In the indistinct voice of 
an unlucky sleeper, lying passive in the toils of a 
merciless nightmare, she stammered out aimlessly the 
words: 

Material interests." 



XII 



X TOSTROMO had been growing rich very slowly. 

1 \l It was an effect of his prudence. He could com- 
mand himself even when thrown off his balance. And 
to become the slave of a treasure with full self-knowl- 
edge is an occurrence rare and mentally disturbing. 
But it was also in a great part because of the diffi- 
culty of converting it into a form in which it could 
become available. The mere act of getting it away 
from the island piecemeal, little by little, was sur- 
rounded by difficulties, by the dangers of imminent 
detection. He had to visit the Great Isabel in secret, 
between his voyages along the coast, which were the 
ostensible source of his fortune. The crew of his own 
schooner were to be feared as if they had been spies 
upon their dreaded captain. He did not dare stay 
too long in port. When his coaster was unloaded 
he hurried away on another trip, for he feared arous- 
ing suspicion even by a day's delay. Sometimes dur- 
ing a week's stay, or more, he could only manage one 
visit to the treasure. And that was all. A couple of 
ingots. He suffered through his fears as much as 
through his prudence. To do things by stealth hu- 
miliated him. And he suffered most from the concen- 
tration of his thought upon the treasure; as thought 
becomes concentrated, his unblemished reputation ap- 
peared more vividly as a matter of life and death. 

584 



Nostromo: A Tale t* the Seaboard 

A transgression, a crime, entering a man's existence. 
cats it up like a malignant growth, consumes it like a 
fever. Nosttomo had lost his T*mr- th 



of all his qualities 



e et t nimscll 



and often cursed the si ver of San Tomd. His cour- 



age, his magnificence, hi.s leisure, his work, every- 
thing was as before, only everything was a sham. 
But the treasure was real. He clung to it with a more 
tenacious mental grip. But he hated the feel of the 
ingots. Sometimes, after putting away a couple of 
them in his cabin the fruit of a secret night expe- 
dition to the Great Isabel he would look fixedly at 
his fingers, as if surprised they had left no stain on 
his skin. 

He had found means of disposing of the silver bars 
in distant ports. The necessity to go far afield made 
his coasting voyages long, and caused his visits to 
the Viola household to be rare and far between. He 
was fated to have his wife from there. He had said 
so once to Giorgio himself. But the Garibaldino had 
put the subject aside with a majestic wave of his 
hand, clutching a smouldering black briar-root pipe. 
There was plenty of time; he was not the man to 
force his girls upon anybody. 

As time went on, Nostromo discovered his prefer- 
ence for the younger of the two. They had some pro- 
found similarities of nature, which must exist for com- 
plete confidence and understanding, no matter what 
outward differences of temperament there may be to 
exercise their own fascination of contrast. His wife 
would have to know his secret, or else life would be 
impossible. He was attracted by Giselle, with her 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

candid gaze and white throat, pliable, silent, fond of 
excitement under her quiet indolence; whereas Linda, 
with her intense, passionately pale face, energetic, 
all fire and words, touched with gloom and scorn, a 
chip of the old block, true daughter of the austere 
republican, but with Teresa's voice, inspired him with 
a deep-seated mistrust. Moreover, the poor girl could 
not conceal her love for Gian' Battista. He could see 
it would be violent, exacting, suspicious, uncompromis- 
ing like her soul. Giselle, by her fair but warm 
beauty, by the surface placidity of her nature holding 
a promise of submissiveness, by the charm of her girlish 
mysteriousness, excited his passion and allayed his 
fears as to the future. 

His absences from Sulaco were long. On returning 
from the longest of them, he made out lighters loaded 
with blocks of stone lying under the cliff of the Great 
Isabel; cranes and scaffolding above; workmen's fig- 
ures moving about, and a small light-house already 
rising from its foundations on the edge of the cliff. 

At this unexpected, undreamed-of, startling sight, 
he thought himself lost irretrievably. What could save 
him from detection now? Nothing! He was struck 
with amazed dread at this turn of chance, that would 
kindle a far-reaching light upon the only secret spot 
of his life, whose very essence, value, reality, consisted 
in its reflection from the admiring eyes of men. All 
of it but that; and that was beyond common com- 
prehension, something that stood between him and 
the power that hears and gives effect to the evil words 
of curses. It was dark. Not every man had such a 
darkness. And they were going to put a light there. 

586 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

A light. He saw it shining upon disgrace, poverty, 
hntempt. Somebody was sure to Perhaps 

somebody had already . . . 

incomparable Nostromo, the capataz, the re- 
Kected and feared Captain Fidanza, the unquestioned 
fcftcle of secret societies, a republican like old Giorgio, 
and a revolutionist at heart (but in another manner), 
was on the point of jumping overl>oard from the deck 
of his own schooner. That man, subjective almo 

;uty. looked suicide deliberately in the face. But 
he never lost his head. He was checked by the thought 
that tins was no escape. He imagined himself dead, 
and the disgrace, the shame going on. Or. rather, 
prperly speaking, he could not imagine himself dead. 
He was possessed too strongly by the sense of his own 
tence, a thing of infinite duration in its changes, to 
grasp the notion of finality. The earth goes on forever. 
And he was courageous. It was a corrupt courage, 
but it was as good for his purposes as the other kind 
He sailed close to the cliff of the Great Isabel, throw- 
i penetrating glance from the deck at the mouth 
of the ravine, tangled in an undisturbed growth of 
bushes. He sailed close enough to exchange hails 
with the workmen, shading their eyes on the edge of 
the sheer drop of the cliff, "overhung by the jib-head of 
a powerful crane. He perceived that none of them 
had any occasion even to approach the ravine where 
the silver lay hidden, let alone to enter it. In the 
harl)or he learned that no one slept on the island. The 
laboring gangs returned to port every evening, singing 
chorus songs, in the empty lighters towed by a harbor 
tug. For the moment he had nothing to fear. 
* 587 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

But afterwards? he asked himself. Later on, when 
a keeper came to live in the cottage that was being 
built some hundred and fifty yards back from the low 
light-tower, and four hundred or so from the dark, 
shaded, jungly ravine, containing the secret of his 
safety, of his influence, of his magnificence, of his 
power over the future, of his defiance of ill-luck, of 
every possible betrayal from rich and poor alike what 
then? He could never shake off the treasure. His 
audacity, greater than that of other men, had welded 
that vein of silver into his life. And the feeling of fear- 
ful and ardent subjection, the feeling of his slavery 
so irremediable and profound that often in his thoughts 
he compared himself to the legendary gringos, neither 
dead nor alive, bound down to their conquest of un- 
lawful wealth on Azuera weighed heavily on the in- 
dependent Captain Fidanza, owner and master of a 
coasting schooner, whose smart appearance and fab- 
ulous good luck in trading were so well known along 
the western seaboard of a vast continent. 

Fiercely whiskered and grave, a shade less supple in 
his walk, the vigor and symmetry of his powerful 
limbs lost in the vulgarity of a brown tweed suit, 
made by Jews in the slums of London and sold by 
the clothing department of the Compania Anzani, 
Captain Fidanza was seen in the streets of Sulaco at- 
tending to his business, as usual, that trip. And, as 
usual, he allowed it to get about that he had made a 
great profit on his cargo. It was a cargo of salt fish, 
and Lent was approaching. He was seen in tram- 
cars going to and fro between the town and the harbor; 
he talked with people in a cafe" or two in his measured, 

588 



[Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 

Heady voice. Captain Pidanzn was sent. The gen- 
eration that would know nothing of the famous ride 
| to Cayta was not born yet. 

Nostromo, the miscalled capataz de cargadores, had 
ide for himself, unlcr his rightful name, another 
fetblic existence, hut modified by the new conditions. 
88 pu-tuivsque, more difficult to keep up in the in- 
Htoased size and varied population of Sulaco, the pro- 
gressive capital of the Occidental RepuMio. 

Captain Fidanza, unpicturesque. but always a little 
faysterious, was recognized quite sufficiently under the 
npfty glass and iron roof of the Sulaco railway-station 
He took a local train, and got out in Rincon, where he 
visited the widow of the cargador who had died of his 
wounds (at the dawn of the New Era. like Don Jose" 
ijfkvellanos) in the patio of the Casa Gould. He con- 
ented to sit down and drink a glass of cool lemonade 
in the hut, while the woman, standing up, poured a 
perfect torrent of words to which he did not listen. 
<>ft some money with her, as usual. The orphaned 
children, growing up and well schooled, calling him 
uncle, clamored for his blessing. He gave that, too; 
and in the doorway paused for a moment to look at 
the flat face of the San Tom mountain with a faint 
frown. This slight contraction of his bronzed brow 
casting a marked tinge of severity upon his usual un- 
bending expression, was observed at the lodge which 
.{.tended but went away before the banquet. He 
wore it at the meeting of some good comrades, Italians 
and Occidentals, assembled in his honor under the 
residency of an indigent, sickly, somewhat hunch- 
backed little photographer, with a white face, and a 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

magnanimous soul dyed crimson by a blood-thirsty 
hate of all capitalists, oppressors of the two hemi- 
spheres. The heroic Giorgio Viola, old revolutionist, 
would have understood nothing of his opening speech ; 
and Captain Fidanza, lavishly generous as usual to 
some poor comrades, made no speech at all. He had 
listened, frowning, with his mind far away, and walked 
off unapproachable, silent, like a man full of cares. 

His frown deepened as, in the early morning, he 
watched the stone-masons go off to the Great Isabel 
in lighters loaded with squared blocks of stone, enough 
to add another course to the squat light-tower. That 
was the rate of the work. One course per day. 

And Captain Fidanza meditated. The presence of 
strangers on the island would cut him completely off 
the treasure. It had been difficult and dangerous 
enough before. He was afraid, and he was angry, 
lie thought with the resolution of a master and the 
cunning of a cowed slave. Then he went ashore. 

He was a man of resource and ingenuity; and, as 
usual, the expedient he found at a critical moment was 
effective enough to alter the situation radically. He 
had the gift of evolving safety out of the very danger, 
this incomparable Nostromo, this "fellow in a thou- 
sand." With Giorgio established on the Great Isabel, 
there would be no need for concealment. He would 
be able to go openly, in daylight, to see his daughters 
one of his daughters and stay late talking to the 
old Garibaldino. Then in the dark . . . Night after 
night . . . He would dare to grow rich quicker now. 
He yearned to clasp, embrace, absorb, subjugate in 
unquestioned possession this treasure, whose tyranny 

590 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 



weighed tr mind, 1 : ;is very 

II- his friend Captain Mitchell and the 

thin ' -ham had related to Mrs. 

'd. When the ; to the dari- 

baldino. something like the fain' the dim 

ghost of a very aneient sin:' under the white 

and enormous i the old hater of kings 

and ministers. His daughters wen' the < 
anxi The your ly. Linda, with 

her mot' 

Her deep, vibrating " Kh, pa :ned. hut lor the 

change of the word, -of the 

nst rating " Kh. ' I :iora T i 

It was his fixed opinion that the town was no proper 
for his girls. The infatuated t>ut guileless Rami- 
his jinjfounil aversion, as reMim- 
of the country ,. 

vnfroni' ''aptain Fidanx.a 

found t! 

His '. d not j.il 

him lino had ntertam 

the : >n what. MS girls. 

And Cajitaii: ]lease his ]>oor 

), with that of inspiration which only true 

rinally a|>i>ointe<I Limla Viola 

lit. 

" The light 
" It bel"' I've t!, 

. 

the only thing Nostromo a man worth his weight 

S9 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

in gold, mind you had ever asked me to do for 
him." 

Directly his schooner was anchored opposite the 
new custom-house, with its sham air of a Greek tem- 
ple, flat-roofed, with a colonnade, Captain Fidanza 
went pulling his small boat out of the harbor, bound 
for the Great Isabel, openly in the light of a declining 
day, before all men's eyes, with a sense of having mas- 
tered the fates. He must establish a regular position. 
He would ask him for his daughter now. He thought 
of Giselle as he pulled. Linda loved him, perhaps, 
but the old man would be glad to keep the eldest, who 
was like a daughter and wife in one. 

He did not pull for the narrow strand where he had 
landed with Decoud, and afterwards alone on his first 
visit to the treasure. He made for the beach at the 
other end, and walked up the regular and gentle slope 
of the wedge-shaped island. Giorgio Viola, whom 
he saw from afar sitting on a bench under the 
front wall of the cottage, lifted his arm slightly to 
his loud hail. He walked up. Neither of the girls ap- 
peared. 

"It is good here," said the old man, in his austere, 
far-away manner. 

Nostromo nodded; then, after a short silence: 

"You saw my schooner pass in not two hours ago? 
Do you know why I am here before, so to speak, my 
anchor has fairly bitten into the ground of this port 
of Sulaco?" 

"You are welcome like a son," the old man de- 
clared, quietly, staring away upon the sea. 

"Ah! thy son. I know. I am what thy son would 
59 2 



Nostromo: A Talc ot the Seaboard 

have la-en. It :. irell, . : : [1 < >od wel- 

ii, 1 lia\ :. you tor " 

A sudden dread eame upon tlr 
ible Xoslromo. lie dared n<>t u 
nind. The slight pause only imparted a marked 

mty to the changed end ot tlie pi,: 
" l ; or my wife!" ... 11 
" It is time you " 

The Garibaldino arrested him with an 
arm. "Tliat was left for you to ju 

He j^ot up s) id, um li 

Teresa'.-, death, thie'. 

ful chest. He tunu-d hi id ..died 

out in his strong voi 
" Linda." 

Ib '::arp and faint from within; and 

the appalled Xostromo stood u- :ned 

mute, ijazini; at the door. He 

1 of bein^ rt'fusfd the ^'irl h.. 
refusal eould stand ln-tween him and a woman he 

but the shininj.; of the ; 

before him, claiming his all' that 

could not le v, r am laid. H . neither 

! nor alive, like t: 

iul to the unlawful:. 

He :ul. He 

afra; 'ii^. 

m.^ up 

Li ln-r, U:i<! .\(jthin^ 

1 alter the ; 

but her blac-k t .tt'h ami 

all the light of the low sun in a tlaming spark within 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

the black depths, covered at once by the slow descent 
of heavy eyelids. 

"Behold thy husband, master, and benefactor." 
Old Viola's voice resounded with a force that seemed 
to fill the whole gulf. 

She stepped forward with her eyes nearly closed, 
like a sleep-walker in a beatific dream. 

Nostromo made a superhuman effort. "It is time, 
Linda, we two were betrothed," he said, steadily, in 
his level, careless, 'unbending tone. 

She put her hand into his offered palm, lowering her 
head, dark with bronze glints, upon which her father's 
hand rested for a moment. 

"And so the soul of the dead is satisfied." 

This came from Giorgio Viola, who went on talking 
for a while of his dead wife; while the two, sitting side 
by side, never looked at each other. Then the old 
man ceased; and Linda, motionless, began to speak. 

"Ever since I felt I lived in the world, I have lived 
for you alone, Gian' Battista. And that you knew! 
You knew it ... Battistino." 

She pronounced the name exactly with her mother's 
intonation. A gloom as of the grave covered Nos- 
tromo's heart. 

"Yes. I knew," he said. 

The heroic Garibaldino sat on the same bench bow- 
ing his hoary head, his old soul dwelling alone with 
its memories, tender and violent, terrible and dreary 
all alone on the earth full of men. 

And Linda, his best-loved daughter, was saying, "I 
was yours ever since I can remember. I had only to 
think of you for the earth to become empty to my 

594 



Nostromo: A Talc of the Seaboard 



I could see no one - 

I u ; be- 

long t \ OU, ai; i J Id Olfl live in it, 

her low, vibratn. 

other things to say torUiriru man at 

ht-r side. Her niurnuir ran on anlt-nt and voluble. 
liil not ,vith 

an altar-rloth sh< l-miik-rin^ in ln-r hands, and 

d in front of thi-m, sik-n; air, \viti 

j^laiu i- and a taint Mini- the 

:iO. 

Tht- rvcwiii: .11. Th> the 

edge of a jiurpk- - 

;lit- background of clouds tilling I 

the k r ulf, I'on- the lantern red ami s^knvin^, like a live 
ember kindled by tin lent 

and demure, raised ' ; nne 

to hide ner. 

Suildenly Linda r 
her 
brain reeled. When 

i shoot ' 

" \\ 
" '\' ' 

He gl >\ T 

then, in :o of 

! The 

old r too." 

595 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

He turned to Giselle, with a change to austere ten- 
derness. 

"And you, little one, pray not to the God of priests 
and slaves, but to the God of orphans, of the oppressed, 
of the poor, of little children, to give thee a man like 
this one for a husband." 

His hand rested heavily for a moment on Nostro- 
rno's shoulder; then he went in. The hopeless slave 
of the San Tome* silver felt at these words the venom- 
ous fangs of jealousy biting deep into his heart. He 
was appalled by the novelty of the experience, by its 
force, by its physical intimacy. A husband! A hus- 
band for her! And yet it was natural that Giselle 
should have a husband at some time or other. . He 
had never realized that before. In discovering that 
her beauty could belong to another he felt as though 
he could kill this one of old Giorgio's daughters also. 
He muttered moodily: 

"They say you love Ramirez." 

She shook her head without looking at him. Cop- 
pery glints rippled to an,d fro on the wealth of her gold 
hair. Her smooth forehead had the soft, pure sheen 
of a priceless pearl in the splendor of the sunset, min- 
gling the gloom of starry spaces, the purple of the sea 
and the crimson of the sky in a magnificent stillness. 

"No," she said, slowly. "I never loved him. I 
think I never . . . He loves me perhaps." 

The seduction of her slow voice died out of the air, 
and her raised eyes remained fixed on nothing, as if 
indifferent and without thought. 

"Ramirez told you he loved you?" asked Nostromo, 
restraining himself. 

596 



Nostromo: A laic oi ti. .; hoard 

\h! once on< 
"The miserable . . . ila !" 

He had jump. if stung by a gadfly, and 

stood before her mute with anger. 

"Miserieonha Ihvma! You, too, Gian' I 
Poor wretch that 1 am!" She lamei. If in in- 

:<>us tones. " I told Linda, and 
!ed. Am 1 to live blind, dumb, and deaf in this 
world? And she told father, who took d 
and cleaned it. Poor Ramirez ! Then ;,< 
she told you." 

He looked at her. II< ;on the 

hollow of her white .vhich had the mvn. 

charm of things young, palpitatin 
this the child he had know; 
It dawned upon him that in th. 

really seen very little nothing of her. Nothing. 
She had come into the world like a thing unknown. 
She had come upon him una . 
a frightful danger. The r. 

determination that ! iled hii: the 

perils of this life added i ! 

of h: n. She, in him 

the song of running water, the tinkln; Sell, 

continu- 

"And bet u me 

into this captivity to ti 'th- 

ing else. Skv and 

hair shall turn gray in this tedioi: ; 

H i out loudh :im 

like a caress. She lam: ..ding ur. 

597 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

sciously, like a flower its perfume in the coolness of 
the evening, the indefinable seduction of her person. 
Was it her fault that nobody ever had admired Linda ? 
Even when they were little, going out with their 
mother to mass, she remembered that people took no 
notice of Linda, who was fearless, and chose instead to 
frighten her, who was timid, with their attention. It 
was her hair like gold, she supposed. 

He broke out: 

"Your hair like gold, and your eyes like violets, and 
your lips like the rose; your round arms, your white 
throat." 

Imperturbable in the indolence of her pose, she 
blushed deeply all over to the roots of her hair. She 
was not conceited. She was no more self-conscious 
than a flower. But she was pleased. And perhaps 
even a flower loves to hear itself praised. He glanced 
down, and added, impetuously: 

"Your little feet!" 

Leaning back against the rough stone wall of the 
cottage, she seemed to bask languidly in the warmth 
of the rosy flush. Only her lowered eyes glanced at 
her little feet. 

"And so you are going at last to marry our Linda. 
She is terrible. Ah! now she will understand better 
since you have told her you love her. She will not be 
so fierce." 

"Chica!" said Nostromo, "I have not told her any- 
thing." 

"Then make haste. Come to-morrow. Come and 
tell her, so that I may have some peace from her 
scolding, and perhaps who knows ..." 

598 



Nostromo: A Talc of" the Seaboard 

"Be allowed your ! .-h? Is 

that it? You . 

"Mercy of God! 1 
she said, unmoved. " \\ 

. . . Who is .ily, in i 

and gloom of the cl< If, witli 

in the west like a hot bar ol 

the entrance of a world sonil the 

magnificent capataz de cargadores ha 
quests of love and wealth. 

"Listen, Giselle," he said, in meastr 
will tell no word of love to your sister. Do you 
to know wlr 

"Alas! I could not understand pcrhaj nni. 

ivs you are not like <>t1 

had ever understood you pr will 

be surprised yet ... Oh! sain 1 

Sh her emt-: 

of her face, then let it fall on her lap. 

,iy t'n.m 

the dark column of tin- II the 

long shaft of light, kindled 1. 

i a hnrixon of pi:- 
^elle Viola, with her 

:. and her li' 
in white Stockings :md !'.:> k sl-j-p.-rs. 

tranquil 

fatal to the gathering dusk. rm of he: 

the promising ir 

out into the night o 1 i rulf like a f : 

intoxicating fragranc 

599 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

impregnating the air. The incorruptible Nostromo 
breathed her ambient seduction in the tumultuous 
heaving of his breast. Before leaving the harbor he 
had thrown off the store clothing of Captain Fidanza, 
for greater ease in the long pull out to the islands. 
He stood before her in the red sash and check shirt as 
he used to appear on the company's wharf a Medi- 
terranean sailor come ashore to try his luck in Costa- 
guana. The dusk of purple and red enveloped him 
too close, soft, profound, as no more than fifty yards 
from that spot it had gathered evening after evening 
about the self-destructive passion of Don Martin De- 
coud's utter scepticism, flaming up to death in soli- 
tude. 

"You have got to hear," he began at last, with per- 
fect self-control. "I shall say no word of love to 
your sister, to whom I am betrothed from this even- 
ing, because it is you that I love. It is you!" 

The dusk let him see yet the tender and voluptuous 
smile that came instinctively upon her lips, shaped for 
love and kisses, freeze hard in the drawn, haggard 
lines of terror. He could not restrain himself any 
longer. While she shrank from his approach her arms 
went out to him, abandoned and regal in the dignity 
of her languid surrender. He held her head in his two 
hands, and showered rapid kisses upon the upturned 
forehead, that gleamed smooth, like white satin, in the 
purple dusk. Masterful and tender, he was entering 
slowly upon the fulness of his possession. And he per- 
ceived that she was crying. Then the incomparable 
capataz, the man of careless loves, became gentle and 
caressing, like a woman to the grief of a child. He 

600 



\ Pale i t he 

murmur. 

: her his 


It had : . :ving-n - 



zling and the an 

In tin- ing 

like a cataclysm, i! vrafl in mine In 

some gleam of reason survived. 11< the 

world in their e:: But she sa: 

pering i: ; r: 

"God of mercy! What will become of me here 
between this sky and t 
!a I see her 

:enly relaxed at tlu- sound 
one approurhing tl. 

ling on the whit' the 



of fear l>efi>re my poor sister Lin 
to Giovanni my lover' 
been mad! I cannot in 

>ther men! I will n -nly 

elf! But w! 
iel, frightful thii. 

Released, she hung her head, let fall her ha: 
altar-cloth, 
. from them, gleamii 

" Prom fe u ng my 1 N'ot- 

1 

"You knew that you had my soul! You know 
60 1 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

everything! It was made for you! But what could 
stand between you and me? What? Tell me!" she 
repeated, without impatience, in superb assurance. 

"Your dead mother," he said, very low. 

"Ah! . . . Poor mother! She has always . . . She 
is a saint in heaven now, and I cannot give you up to 
her. No, Giovanni. Only to God alone. You were 
mad but it is done. Oh ! what have you done ? Gio- 
vanni, my beloved, my life, my master, do not leave 
me here in this grave of clouds. You cannot leave 
me now! You must take me away at once this in- 
stant in the little boat. Giovanni, carry me off to- 
night, from my fear of Linda's eyes, before I have to 
look at her again." 

She nestled close to him. The slave of the San 
Tome silver felt the weight as of chains upon his limbs, 
a pressure as of a cold hand upon his lips. He strug- 
gled against the spell. 

"I cannot." he said. "Not yet. There is some- 
thing that stands between us two and the freedom of 
the world." 



She pressed her form closer to his side with a subtle 
and naive instinct of seduction. 

"You rave, Giovanni my lover!" she whispered 
engagingly. " What can there be ? Carry me off in 
thy very hands to Dona Emilia away from here. 
1 am not very heavy." 

It seeine<l as though she expected him to lift her up 

n Ins two palms. She had lost the notion of 

all impossibility. Anything could happen on this 

night of wonder. As he made no movement, she al- 

most cried aloud: 

602 



Nostromo : A Talc ot tl< ini 

" i 

then 




min 

t still. ' 
umi< 
a g 



ed d 
b 

her 



i ungov- 
frn.ii 

Then 
ed on 

:ie spell s as 

king a 1: 

kness ot 

fall 

whc; 

ice. 
" 1 

gave him an ir sense of frce- 

39 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

dom ; they cast a spell stronger than the accursed spell 
of the treasure; they changed his weary subjection to 
that dead thing into an exulting conviction of his pow- 
er. He would cherish her, he said, in a splendor as 
great as Dona Emilia's. The rich lived on wealth 
stolen from the people, but he had taken from the rich 
nothing nothing that was not lost to them already 
by their folly and their betrayal. For he had been 
betrayed he said deceived, tempted. She believed 
him. . . . He had kept the treasure for purposes of re- 
venge; but now he cared nothing for it. He cared 
only for her. He would put her beauty in a palace on 
a hill crowned with olive-trees a white hill above a 
blue sea. He would keep her there like a jewel in a 
casket. He would get land for her her own land 
fertile with vines and corn to set her little feet upon. 
He embraced them. . . . He had already paid for it all 
with the soul of a woman and the life of a man. . . . 
The capataz de cargadores tasted the supreme in- 
toxication of his generosity. He flung the mastered 
treasure superbly at her feet in the impenetrable dark- 
ness of the gulf, in the darkness defying as men said 
the knowledge of God and the wit of the devil. But 
jir.h first ne warned hp.r. 



She listened as if in a trance. Her fingers stirred in 
his hair. He got up from his knees reeling, weak, 
empty, as though he had flung his soul away. 

"Make haste, then," she said. "Make haste, Gio- 
vanni, my lover, my master, for I will give thee up to 
no one but God. And I am afraid of Linda." 

He guessed at her shudder, and swore to do his best. 
He trusted the courage of her love. She promised to 

604 



Nostromo : A i >cah..ard 

be ! 

hill above a blue sea. T! 

stni 

"Not that! Not th;i' vd at 

the spell of 
so many people, tallii .vith un 

e. Not ' It was 

too dangero 1 ; " I forbid thee to her, 

deadening cauti 

He IKL re of 

the unlawful like 

a figure of silver. 

ale lips. His s<>ul 'lic-<l within him at tl. 
of himself creeping in pr< .vith 

the smell of earth, igc in I 1 . 

>ing in, determir. >sc that numbe'i 

breast, and creeping out uled with silver, with 

his ears alert It must be done on this 

night that work of a craven sla 
He stooped low, pressed the hem of her skirt to his 
lips, with a muttered 

"Tell him I would iddenly 

from her, silent, without as muci otfall in the 

dark night. 

She sat still, her h< lolently against the 

wall, and her little ! hite sto .d black 

slippers crossed over each other. O 
ing out, eem to be surprised at the iniellig- 

;uch as she had vaguely : she was full 

60$ 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

of inexplicable fear now fear of everything and every- 
body, except of her Giovanni and his treasure. But 
that was incredible. 

The heroic Garibaldino accepted Nostromo's abrupt 
departure with a sagacious indulgence. He remem- 
bered his own feelings, and exhibited a masculine pene- 
tration of the true state of the case. 

" Va bene. Let him go. Ha! ha! No matter how 
fair the woman, it galls a little. Liberty, liberty. 
There's more than one kind! He has said the great 
word, and son Gian' Battista is not tame." He seem- 
ed to be instructing the motionless and scared Giselle. 
... "A man should not be tame," he added dogmati- 
cally out the doorway. Her stillness and silence seem- 
ed to displease him. "Do not give way to the en- 
viousness of your sister's lot," he admonished her, very 
grave, in his deep voice. 

Presently he had to come to the door again to call 
in his younger daughter. It was late. He shouted her 
name three times betore she even moved her head. 
Left alone, she had become the helpless prey of aston- 
ishment. She walked into the bedroom she shared 
with Linda like a person profoundly asleep. That 
aspect was so marked that even old Giorgio, spectacled, 
raising his eyes from the Bible, shook his head as she 
shut the door behind her. 

She walked right across the room without looking 
at anything, and sat down at once by the open window. 
Linda, stealing down from the tower in the exuber- 
ance of her happiness, found her with a lighted candle 
at her back, facing the black night full of sighing gusts 
of wind and the sound of distant showers a true 

606 



Nostmmo: A Talc of the Sealu 

wile 1 She the 

open >or. 

nothing in her immobility wl. 
cd Linda in tin her ; an 



in h> ,-rcd 

:it 
,;irl that : walk 



Not 'hint,' in 

her head to was beating 

" Do : 

. of the 

whose soul waa 
dead within him 
with 

607 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

"You have come back to carry me off. It is well! 
Open thy arms, Giovanni, my lover. I am coming." 

His prudent footsteps stopped, and, with his eyes 
glistening wildly, he spoke in a harsh voice: 

"Not yet. I must grow rich slowly." ... A threat- 
ening note came into his tone. "Do not forget that 
you have a thief for your lover." 

"Yes! Yes!" she whispered hastily. "Come near- 
er! Listen! Do not give me up, Giovanni! Never, 
never! ... I will be patient! ..." 

Her form drooped consolingly over the low casement 
towards the slave of the unlawful treasure. The light 
in the room went out, and, weighted with silver, the 
magnificent capataz clasped her round her white neck 
in the darkness of the gulf as a drowning man clutches 
at a straw. 



:n 

Ol 
ha- 



than usual. Tl. 
before he landol <>n the 
witli 

in a 

the window < 

.n her hands, and In-! 
tranquil' 

tor with 

at him very 1 

T: 
in t! 

- 



Nastrem : A Tale of the Seaboard 

He approached then, and, looking through the win- 
dow into the bedroom for fear of being detected by 
Linda returning there for some reason, he said, mov- 
ing only his lips: 

"You love me?" 

"More than my life." She went on with her em- 
broidery under his contemplating gaze, and continued 
to speak, looking at her work, " Or I could not live. I 
could not, Giovanni. For this life is like death. Oh, 
Giovanni, I shall perish if you do not take me away." 

He smiled carelessly. "I will come to the window 
when it's dark," he said. 

"No, don't, Giovanni. Not to-night. Linda and 
father have been talking together for a long time to- 
day." 

" What about?" 

"Ramirez, I fancy I heard. I do not know. I am 
afraid. I am always afraid. It is like dying a thou- 
sand times a day, Your love is to me like your treas- 
ure to you. It is there, but I can never get enough 
of it." 

He looked at her very still. She was beautiful. 

re had grown within him. He had two mas- 

]<>w. Hut she was incapable of sustained emotion. 

n what she said, but she slept placidly 

at night. When she saw him she flamed up alw; 

n i>nly an increased taciturnity marked the change 
in her. She was afraid of betraying herself. She 

pain, of bodily harm, of sharp words, of facing 
anger, and witnessing pain. For her soul was light and 
tender with a pagan sincerity in its impulses. She 
murmured: 

610 



A I i the - 

Sin- ceased 

illness ai 
II 

" I shall ;.' 

fingr- ngherga 

him. 

She waited f><; 

i with 1; 
unn twn 


And iaid 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

nothing of his cares to "Son Gian' Battista." It was 
a touch of senile vanity. He wanted to show that he 
was equal yet to the task of guarding alone the honor 
of his house. 

Nostromo went away early. As soon as he had 
disappeared, walking towards the beach, Linda stepped 
over the threshold and, with a haggard smile, sat down 
by the side of her father. 

Ever since that Sunday when the infatuated and 
desperate Ramirez had waited for her on the wharf 
she had no doubts whatever. The jealous ravings of 
that man were no revelation. They had only ii 
with precision, as with a nail driven into her heart, 
that sense of unreality and deception which, instead 
of bliss and security, she had found in her intercourse 
with her promised husband. She had passed on, 
pouring indignation and scorn upon Ramirez; but 
that Sunday she nearly died of wretchedness and 
shame, lying on the carved and lettered stone of 
Teresa's grave, subscribed for l>v the engine-drivers 
and the fitters of the railway workshops, in sign of their 
respect for the hero of Italian unity. Old Viola had 
not been able to carry out his desire of burying his 
wife in the sea; and Linda wept upon the stone. 

The gratuitous outrage appalled her. If he wished 
to break her heart well and good. Everything was 
permitted to Gian' Battista. But why trample upon 
the pieces? why seek to humiliate her spirit? Aha! 
He could not break that. She dried her tears. And 
le! Giselle! The little one that, ever since she 
could toddle, had always clung to her skirt for pro- 
tection. What duplicity! But she could not help it 

612 



\ I f the 

i there was a man in the case the poor 

'If. 

the win' >elle 

Ready to fanr \n a 

' 
alive, I.: 

She cann 


her n 

him from tip 

up her mind ' When 

he h 

<x>d 

le him n 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

several nights past instead of reading or only sitting, 
with Mrs. Gould's silver spectacles on his nose, before 
the open Bible he had been prowling actively all 
about the island with his old gun, on watch over his 
honor. 

Linda, laying her thin, brown hand on his knee, 
tried to soothe his excitement. Ramirez was not in 
Sulaco. Nobody knew where he w r as. He was gone. 
His talk of what he would do meant nothing. 

"No," the old man interrupted. "But son Gian' 
Battista told me quite of himself that the coward- 
ly esclavo was drinking and gambling with the rascals 
of Zapiga, over there on the north side of the gulf. He 
may get some of the worst scoundrels of that scoun- 
drelly town of negroes to help him in his attempt upon 
the little one. . . . But I am not so old. No!" 

She argued earnestly against the probability of any 
attempt being made; and at last the old man fell silent, 
chewing his white mustache. Women had their ob- 
stinate notions which must be humored his poor wife 
was like that, and Linda resembled her mother. It 
was not seemly for a man to argue. "Maybe. May- 
be," he mumbled. 

She was by no means easy in her mind. She loved 
Nostromo. She turned her eyes upon Giselle, sitting 
at a distance, with something of maternal tenden 
and the jealous rage of a rival outraged in her defeat. 
Then she rose and walked over to her. 
." she said, roughly. 

The invincible candor of the gaze raised up all vio- 
let and dew, : her rage ami admiration. She 
had beautiful eyes the chica this vile thing of white 

614 



No \ I of the Sc;i 

she 

came empty, gazing 
fear 

-rt. 

.vill 

" \Vh.L- 

Weil. lias 

ikin^' ah. nit -Aiti. 
: him. 

body 

This could : 
IKT aw.s 

To B] 
begi 

. 

Lr 
to light up. She ui 

;ly up tl 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

increasing load of shameful fetters. No; she could 
not throw it off. No; let Heaven dispose of these two. 
And moving about the lantern, filled with twilight and 
the sheen of the moon, with careful movements she 
lighted the lamp. Then her arms fell along her body. 

"And with our mother looking on," she murmured. 
"My own sister the chica!" 

The whole refracting apparatus, with its brass fit- 
tings and rings of prisms, glittered and sparkled like 
a dome-shaped shrine of diamonds, containing not a 
lamp, but some splendid flame, dominating the sea. 
And Linda, the keeper, in black, with a pale face, 
drooped low in a wooden chair, alone with her jealousy, 
far above the shames and passions of the earth. A 
strange, dragging pain, as if somebody were pulling her 
about brutally by her dark hair with bronze glints, 
made her put her hands up to her temples. They 
would meet. They would meet. And she knew 
where, too. At the window. The sweat of anguish 
fell in drops on her checks, while the moonlight in 
the offing closed as if with a colossal bar of silver the 
entrance of the Placid Gulf the sombre cavern of 
clouds and stillness in the surf -fretted seaboard. 

Linda Viola stood up suddenly with a finger on her 

lip. He loved neither her nor her sister. The whole 

thing seemed so objectless as to frighten her, and also 

her some hope. Why did he not carry her off? 

What prevented him ? He was incomprehensible. 

What were they waiting for? For what end were 

these two lying and deceiving? Not for the ends of 

their love. There was no such thing. The hope of 

lining him for herself made her break her vow of 

616 



\ I . i ! the ard 

rouH'l t ; 

hut 

rum 



Linii with 1 



The ' 

' 
' 

- 






Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

He did not offer to move an inch, to advance a 
single step. He stood there, rugged and unstirring, 
like a statue of an old man guarding the honor of his 
house. Linda removed her trembling hand from his 
arm, firm and steady like an arm of stone, and, with- 
out a word, advanced into the blackness of the shade. 
She saw a stir of formless shapes on the ground, and 
stopped short. A murmur of despair and tears grew 
louder to her strained hearing. 

"I entreated you not to come to-night. Oh, my 
Giovanni! And you promised. Oh! Why why did 
you come, Giovanni?" 

It was her sister's voice. It broke on a sob. And 
the voice of the resourceful capataz de cargadores, 
master and slave of the San Tome" treasure, who had 
been caught unawares by old Giorgio while stealing 
across the open towards the ravine to get some more 
silver, answered, careless and cool, but sounding start - 
lingly weak from the ground: 

"It seemed as though I could not live through the 
night without seeing thee once more my star, my 
little flower." 

The brilliant tertulia was just over, the last guests 

had depart oil, and the Senor Administrador had gone 

is room already, when Dr. Monygham, who had 

beer 1 in the evening but had not turned up, 

arrived, driving along the wood-Mock pavement under 

lectric-lamps of the deserted Calle de la Coni-titu- 

and found the great gateway of the casa still 

open. 

He limited in, stumped up the stairs, and found the 
618 






Nostromo: A Tale of the Seabo 

turning off the 

1 

it the lights," commanded the d< 

i the S< 
cillar: 

rts for an 

' :i thr Wo- 

- 

with t < xasper.i 

whirh nude hi: 

hr M. : 

' 

I 

r thr weight ni .< 
' 

Mitrhell used to dest i 



mood a: 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

the sight of the doctor, standing there all alone among 
the groups of furniture, recalled to her emotional 
memory her unexpected meeting with Martin Decoud ; 
she seemed to hear in the silence the voice of that man, 
dead miserably so many years ago, pronounce the 
words, "Antonia lost her fan here." But it was the 
doctor's voice that spoke, a little altered by his ex- 
citement. She remarked his shining eyes. 

" Mrs. Gould, you are wanted. Do you know what 
has happened ? You remember what I told you yes- 
terday about Nostromo. Well, it seems that a lancha, 
a decked boat, coming from Zapiga, with four negroes 
in her, passing close to the Great Isabel, was nailed 
from the cliff by a woman's voice Linda's, as a mat- 
ter of fact commanding them (it's a moonlight night) 
to go round to the beach and take up a wounded man 
to the town. The patron (from whom I've heard all 
this), of course, did so at once. He told me that when 
they got round to the low side of the Great Isabel 
they found Linda Viola waiting for them. They fol- 
lowed her; she led them under a tree not far from the 
cottage. There they found Nostromo lying on the 
ground with his head in the younger girl's lap, and 
father Viola standing some distance off leaning on his 
gun. Under Linda's direction they got a table out 
of the cottage for a stretcher, after breaking off the 
legs. They are here, Mrs. Gould. I mean Nostromo 
and and Giselle. The negroes brought him in to the 
first-aid hospital near the harbor. He made the at- 
tendant send for me. But it is not me he wants to 
see it is you, Mrs. (iould! It is you." 

"M<-'" \vliisjirn-d Mrs. (iould, shrinking a little. 
620 



Nostrumo: A I .1 1 r t>f the 

" He 
thin 

,-r 

Prank- 
thai 

hr trutli fn>ni her hushaml :il)i>ut t: 



Iful. 

" \ . 



leath " 
"The point 

' 
621 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

The doctor remained still, in a submissive, disap- 
pointed silence. At last he ventured, very low: 

"And there is that Viola girl, Giselle. What are we 5 
to do? It looks as though father and sister had " 

Mrs. Gould admitted that she felt in duty bound to 
do her best for these girls. 

"I have a volante here," the doctor said. "If you 
don't mind getting into that " 

He waited, all impatience, till Mrs. Gould reappeared, 
having thrown over her dress a gray cloak with a deep 
hood. 

It was thus that, cloaked and monastically hooded 
over her evening costume, this woman, full of endur- 
ance and compassion, stood by the side of the bed on 
which the splendid capataz de cargadores lay stretch- 
ed out motionless on his back. The whiteness of 
sheets and pillows gave a sombre and energetic relief 
to his bronzed face, to the big, dark, nervous hands, 
so good on a tiller, upon a bridle, and on a trigger, 
lying open and idle upon a white coverlet. 

"She is innocent," the capataz was saying in a 
deep and level voice, as though afraid that a louder 
word would break the slender hold his spirit still kept 
upon his body. " She is innocent. It is I alone. But 
no matter. For these things I would answer to no 
man or woman alive." 

lie paused. Mrs. Gould's face, very white within 
the shadow of the hood, bent over him with an invin- 
cil.k- and dn-ary sadness. And the low sobs of Giselle 
Viola, kneeling at the end of the bed, her gold hair with 
MIS loose and scattered over the capataz's 
hardly troubled the silence of the room. 
622 



A Talc of the .ird 

lint th. 

. I !. 


the 

ium- 





N'o! It ; 

: was 

i that a 

full. Aivl ! 
Pica 



Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

the treasure with four ingots missing? They would 
have said I had purloined them. The doctor would 
have said that. Alas! it holds me yet!" 

Mrs. Gould bent low, fascinated cold with appre- 
hension. 

"What became of Don Martin on that night, Nos- 
tromo?" 

"Who knows? I wondered what would become of 
me. Now I know. Death was to come upon me un- 
awares. He went away! He betrayed me. And you 
think I have killed him! You are all alike, you fine 
people. The silver has killed me. It has held me. 
It holds me yet. Nobody knows where it is. But 
you are the wife of Don Carlos, who put it into my 
hands and said, 'Save it on your life.' And when I 
returned, and you all thought it was lost, what do I 
hear ? It was nothing of importance. Let it go. Up, 
Nostromo, the faithful, and ride away to save us, for 
dear life!" 

"Nostromo," Mrs. Gould whispered, bending very 
low, "I, too, have hated the idea of that silver from 
the bottom of my heart." 

"Marvellous! that one of you should hate the 
wealth that you know so well how to take from Un- 
hands of the poor. The world rests upon the poor, as 
old Giorgio says. You have been always good to the 
poor. But there is something accursed in wealth. 
>ra, shall 1 tell you where the treasure is? To you 
alone. . . . Shining! Incorruptible!" 

A pained, involuntary reluctance lingered in his tone, 
in his eyes, plain to the woman with the genius of 
sympathetic intuition. She averted her glance from 

624 



i : the Seaboard 

i 
nc miss* 

. 

' 


i his 
You have x<>t the word 


The li^ht 

of I >t 



>ved wr 

nan 
un- 

" I 

m withi- '!. Th* 

\\} ' 

ing han 

un- 
htcr of old Viola, ti 



Nostromo ; A Tale of the Seaboard 

lican, the hero without a stain. Slowly, gradually, as 
a withered flower droops, the head of the girl, who 
would have followed a thief to the end of the world, 
rested on the shoulder of Dona Emilia, the first lady 
of Sulaco, the wife of the Senor Administrador of the 
San Tome mine. And Mrs. Gould, feeling her sup- 
pressed sobbing, nervous and excited, had the first 
and only moment of cynical bitterness in her life. It 
was worthy of Dr. Monygham himself. 

"Console yourself, child. Very soon he would have 
forgotten you for his treasure." 

"Senora, he loved me. He loved me," Giselle whis- 
pered, despairingly. " He loved me as no one had ever 
been loved before." 

" I have been loved too," Mrs. Gould said, in a severe 
tone. 

Giselle clung to her convulsively. "Oh, senora, but 
you shall live adored to the end of your life," she sob- 
bed out. 

Mrs. Gould kept an unbroken silence till the car- 
riage arrived. She helped in the half-fainting girl. 
After the doctor had shut the door of the landau, she 
leaned over to him. 

"You can do nothing?" she whispered. 

"No, Mrs. Gould. Moreover, he won't let us touch 
him. It does not matter. I just had one look. . . . 
UseK 

Hut he promised to see old Viola and the otlu 
that very night. He could get the police-boat to take 
him >it' to the island. He remained in the street. I 
ing after the landau rolling away slowly behind the 
white mules. 

626 



itromo: A Talc of the I .ird 

an accident to Cap- 
new 

s - the 



B with t 

with his kn- 
H- 

' wharf', h.i.i ! to a 

mortally wound- 

want 

The i in- 

' 
ID >mo roll 

mat 





Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard 

broken by short shudders testifying to the most atro- 
cious sufferings. 

Dr. Monygham, going out in the police-galley to the 
islands, beheld the glitter of the moon upon the gulf 
and the high black shape of the Great Isabel sending 
a shaft of light afar from under the canopy of clouds. 

"Pull easy," he said, wondering what he would find 
there. He tried to imagine Linda and her father, and 
dicovered a strange reluctance within himself. "Pull 
easy," he repeated. 

From the moment he fired at the thief of his honor, 
Giorgio Viola had not stirred from the spot. He stood, 
his old gun grounded, his hand grasping the barrel 
near the muzzle. After the lancha carrying off Nos- 
tromo forever from her had left the shore, Linda, 
coming up, stopped before him. He did not seem to 
be aware of her presence, but when, losing her forced 
calmness, she cried out: 

"Do you know whom you have killed?" he an- 
swered : 

"Ramirez, the vagabond." 

White, and staring insanely at her father, Linda 
laughed in his face. After a time he joined her faintly 
in a deep-toned and distant echo of her peals. Then 
opped, and the old man spoke as if startled: 

" He eried out in son Gian' Battista's voice." 

The gun fell from his opened hand, but the arm re- 
mained extended for a moment as if still supported. 
Linda seized it roughly. 

" You are too old to understand. Come into the 
house," 

628 



\ I : (he Seaboard 


" In 

l.m<! i him in: 

" When- 
pen- 

which h 
1 with tli 
Lin.: 

She could him. I : 

with terror and wit: 

him. IK- woul-1 never 01 

i With d 

Linda 

r .1 a 

Behind his chair ' 



Nostromo : A Tale of the Seaboard 

without noise. Suddenly she started for the door. 
He heard her move. 

" Where are you going?" he asked. 
"To the light," she answered, turning round to look 
at him balefully. 

"The light! ' Si duty." 

Very upright, white-haired, leonine, heroic in his 
absorbed quietness, he felt in the pocket of his red 
shirt for the spectacles given him by Dona Emilia. 
He put them on. After a long period of immobility 
he opened the book, and from on high looked through 
the glasses at the small print in double columns. A 
rigid, stern expression settled upon his features with a 
slight frown, as if in response to some gloomy thought 
of unpleasant sensation. But he never detached his 
from the book while he swayed forward, gently, 
gradually, till his snow-white head rested upon the 
opi-n pages. A wooden clock ticked methodically on 
the whitewashed wall, and growing slowly cold the 
Garibaldino lay alone, rugged, undecayed, like an old 
oak uprooted by a treacherous gust of wind. 

The light of the Great Isabel burned peacefully 

ie lost treasure of the San Tomd mine. Into 

the Muish sheen of a night without stars the lantern 

im of yellow light towards the far horizon. 

vck upon the shining panes, l.n 
hing in the outer gallery, rested her head on the 
rail. The moon, drooping in the western board, look- 

r radiantly. 

B.-1..W. at the foot of the cliff, the regular splash of 
from a passing boat ceased, and Dr. Monygham 
stood up in the stern-sheets. 

630 





"Linda 1 " h< 
" Lii. 

i from ': 

Lin* i .. 
light of the lantern with her ar 

all her fidelity, her 
:nto on- 

tm, pul! 

itest, tl 

of all. In that tm 
1 to rin i to 

iark gu' 






i c ceo 1/1 ^o 



ii 




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