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Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard by Joseph Conrad

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

J. C.

October, 1917.










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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

"I can hear the padrona is not dead."

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

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

"She is a little upset."

Outside Nostromo shouted back with another laugh--

"She cannot upset me."

Signora Teresa found her voice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Signora Teresa, after an impressive pause, remonstrated--

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She tossed back all her dark hair.

"Nobody calls out after me."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"We can't move mountains!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

She was always sorry for homesick people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After such a warning there was nothing for it but to sign and
pay. Mr. Gould had swallowed the pill, and it was as though it
had been compounded of some subtle poison that acted directly on
his brain. He became at once mine-ridden, and as he was well read
in light literature it took to his mind the form of the Old Man
of the Sea fastened upon his shoulders. He also began to dream of
vampires. Mr. Gould exaggerated to himself the disadvantages of
his new position, because he viewed it emotionally. His position
in Costaguana was no worse than before. But man is a desperately
conservative creature, and the extravagant novelty of this
outrage upon his purse distressed his sensibilities. Everybody
around him was being robbed by the grotesque and murderous bands
that played their game of governments and revolutions after the
death of Guzman Bento. His experience had taught him that,
however short the plunder might fall of their legitimate
expectations, no gang in possession of the Presidential Palace
would be so incompetent as to suffer itself to be baffled by the
want of a pretext. The first casual colonel of the barefooted
army of scarecrows that came along was able to expose with force
and precision to any mere civilian his titles to a sum of 10,000
dollars; the while his hope would be immutably fixed upon a
gratuity, at any rate, of no less than a thousand. Mr. Gould
knew that very well, and, armed with resignation, had waited for
better times. But to be robbed under the forms of legality and
business was intolerable to his imagination. Mr. Gould, the
father, had one fault in his sagacious and honourable character:
he attached too much importance to form. It is a failing common
to mankind, whose views are tinged by prejudices. There was for
him in that affair a malignancy of perverted justice which, by
means of a moral shock, attacked his vigorous physique. "It will

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