Part 3 out of 10
understood by a sort of instinct the advantage his surly,
unpolished attitude of a savage fighter gave him amongst all
these refined Blanco aristocrats. But why was it that nobody was
looking at him? he wondered to himself angrily. He was able to
spell out the print of newspapers, and knew that he had performed
the "greatest military exploit of modern times."
"My husband wanted the railway," Mrs. Gould said to Sir John in
the general murmur of resumed conversations. "All this brings
nearer the sort of future we desire for the country, which has
waited for it in sorrow long enough, God knows. But I will
confess that the other day, during my afternoon drive when I
suddenly saw an Indian boy ride out of a wood with the red flag
of a surveying party in his hand, I felt something of a shock.
The future means change--an utter change. And yet even here
there are simple and picturesque things that one would like to
Sir John listened, smiling. But it was his turn now to hush Mrs.
"General Montero is going to speak," he whispered, and almost
immediately added, in comic alarm, "Heavens! he's going to
propose my own health, I believe."
General Montero had risen with a jingle of steel scabbard and a
ripple of glitter on his gold-embroidered breast; a heavy
sword-hilt appeared at his side above the edge of the table. In
this gorgeous uniform, with his bull neck, his hooked nose
flattened on the tip upon a blue-black, dyed moustache, he looked
like a disguised and sinister vaquero. The drone of his voice had
a strangely rasping, soulless ring. He floundered, lowering,
through a few vague sentences; then suddenly raising his big head
and his voice together, burst out harshly--
"The honour of the country is in the hands of the army. I assure
you I shall be faithful to it." He hesitated till his roaming
eyes met Sir John's face upon which he fixed a lurid, sleepy
glance; and the figure of the lately negotiated loan came into
his mind. He lifted his glass. "I drink to the health of the man
who brings us a million and a half of pounds."
He tossed off his champagne, and sat down heavily with a
half-surprised, half-bullying look all round the faces in the
profound, as if appalled, silence which succeeded the felicitous
toast. Sir John did not move.
"I don't think I am called upon to rise," he murmured to Mrs.
Gould. "That sort of thing speaks for itself." But Don Jose
Avellanos came to the rescue with a short oration, in which he
alluded pointedly to England's goodwill towards Costaguana--"a
goodwill," he continued, significantly, "of which I, having been
in my time accredited to the Court of St. James, am able to speak
with some knowledge."
Only then Sir John thought fit to respond, which he did
gracefully in bad French, punctuated by bursts of applause and
the "Hear! Hears!" of Captain Mitchell, who was able to
understand a word now and then. Directly he had done, the
financier of railways turned to Mrs. Gould--
"You were good enough to say that you intended to ask me for
something," he reminded her, gallantly. "What is it? Be assured
that any request from you would be considered in the light of a
favour to myself."
She thanked him by a gracious smile. Everybody was rising from
"Let us go on deck," she proposed, "where I'll be able to point
out to you the very object of my request."
An enormous national flag of Costaguana, diagonal red and yellow,
with two green palm trees in the middle, floated lazily at the
mainmast head of the Juno. A multitude of fireworks being let off
in their thousands at the water's edge in honour of the President
kept up a mysterious crepitating noise half round the harbour.
Now and then a lot of rockets, swishing upwards invisibly,
detonated overhead with only a puff of smoke in the bright sky.
Crowds of people could be seen between the town gate and the
harbour, under the bunches of multicoloured flags fluttering on
tall poles. Faint bursts of military music would be heard
suddenly, and the remote sound of shouting. A knot of ragged
negroes at the end of the wharf kept on loading and firing a
small iron cannon time after time. A greyish haze of dust hung
thin and motionless against the sun.
Don Vincente Ribiera made a few steps under the deck-awning,
leaning on the arm of Senor Avellanos; a wide circle was formed
round him, where the mirthless smile of his dark lips and the
sightless glitter of his spectacles could be seen turning amiably
from side to side. The informal function arranged on purpose on
board the Juno to give the President-Dictator an opportunity to
meet intimately some of his most notable adherents in Sulaco was
drawing to an end. On one side, General Montero, his bald head
covered now by a plumed cocked hat, remained motionless on a
skylight seat, a pair of big gauntleted hands folded on the hilt
of the sabre standing upright between his legs. The white plume,
the coppery tint of his broad face, the blue-black of the
moustaches under the curved beak, the mass of gold on sleeves and
breast, the high shining boots with enormous spurs, the working
nostrils, the imbecile and domineering stare of the glorious
victor of Rio Seco had in them something ominous and incredible;
the exaggeration of a cruel caricature, the fatuity of solemn
masquerading, the atrocious grotesqueness of some military idol
of Aztec conception and European bedecking, awaiting the homage
of worshippers. Don Jose approached diplomatically this weird
and inscrutable portent, and Mrs. Gould turned her fascinated
eyes away at last.
Charles, coming up to take leave of Sir John, heard him say, as
he bent over his wife's hand, "Certainly. Of course, my dear
Mrs. Gould, for a protege of yours! Not the slightest
difficulty. Consider it done."
Going ashore in the same boat with the Goulds, Don Jose Avellanos
was very silent. Even in the Gould carriage he did not open his
lips for a long time. The mules trotted slowly away from the
wharf between the extended hands of the beggars, who for that day
seemed to have abandoned in a body the portals of churches.
Charles Gould sat on the back seat and looked away upon the
plain. A multitude of booths made of green boughs, of rushes, of
odd pieces of plank eked out with bits of canvas had been erected
all over it for the sale of cana, of dulces, of fruit, of cigars.
Over little heaps of glowing charcoal Indian women, squatting on
mats, cooked food in black earthen pots, and boiled the water for
the mate gourds, which they offered in soft, caressing voices to
the country people. A racecourse had been staked out for the
vaqueros; and away to the left, from where the crowd was massed
thickly about a huge temporary erection, like a circus tent of
wood with a conical grass roof, came the resonant twanging of
harp strings, the sharp ping of guitars, with the grave drumming
throb of an Indian gombo pulsating steadily through the shrill
choruses of the dancers.
Charles Gould said presently--
"All this piece of land belongs now to the Railway Company. There
will be no more popular feasts held here."
Mrs. Gould was rather sorry to think so. She took this
opportunity to mention how she had just obtained from Sir John
the promise that the house occupied by Giorgio Viola should not
be interfered with. She declared she could never understand why
the survey engineers ever talked of demolishing that old
building. It was not in the way of the projected harbour branch
of the line in the least.
She stopped the carriage before the door to reassure at once the
old Genoese, who came out bare-headed and stood by the carriage
step. She talked to him in Italian, of course, and he thanked her
with calm dignity. An old Garibaldino was grateful to her from
the bottom of his heart for keeping the roof over the heads of
his wife and children. He was too old to wander any more.
"And is it for ever, signora?" he asked.
"For as long as you like."
"Bene. Then the place must be named, It was not worth while
He smiled ruggedly, with a running together of wrinkles at the
corners of his eyes. "I shall set about the painting of the name
"And what is it going to be, Giorgio?"
"Albergo d'Italia Una," said the old Garibaldino, looking away
for a moment. "More in memory of those who have died," he added,
"than for the country stolen from us soldiers of liberty by the
craft of that accursed Piedmontese race of kings and ministers."
Mrs. Gould smiled slightly, and, bending over a little, began to
inquire about his wife and children. He had sent them into town
on that day. The padrona was better in health; many thanks to the
signora for inquiring.
People were passing in twos and threes, in whole parties of men
and women attended by trotting children. A horseman mounted on a
silver-grey mare drew rein quietly in the shade of the house
after taking off his hat to the party in the carriage, who
returned smiles and familiar nods. Old Viola, evidently very
pleased with the news he had just heard, interrupted himself for
a moment to tell him rapidly that the house was secured, by the
kindness of the English signora, for as long as he liked to keep
it. The other listened attentively, but made no response.
When the carriage moved on he took off his hat again, a grey
sombrero with a silver cord and tassels. The bright colours of a
Mexican serape twisted on the cantle, the enormous silver buttons
on the embroidered leather jacket, the row of tiny silver buttons
down the seam of the trousers, the snowy linen, a silk sash with
embroidered ends, the silver plates on headstall and saddle,
proclaimed the unapproachable style of the famous Capataz de
Cargadores--a Mediterranean sailor--got up with more finished
splendour than any well-to-do young ranchero of the Campo had
ever displayed on a high holiday.
"It is a great thing for me," murmured old Giorgio, still
thinking of the house, for now he had grown weary of change. "The
signora just said a word to the Englishman."
"The old Englishman who has enough money to pay for a railway? He
is going off in an hour," remarked Nostromo, carelessly. "Buon
viaggio, then. I've guarded his bones all the way from the
Entrada pass down to the plain and into Sulaco, as though he had
been my own father."
Old Giorgio only moved his head sideways absently. Nostromo
pointed after the Goulds' carriage, nearing the grass-grown gate
in the old town wall that was like a wall of matted jungle.
"And I have sat alone at night with my revolver in the Company's
warehouse time and again by the side of that other Englishman's
heap of silver, guarding it as though it had been my own."
Viola seemed lost in thought. "It is a great thing for me," he
repeated again, as if to himself.
"It is," agreed the magnificent Capataz de Cargadores, calmly.
"Listen, Vecchio--go in and bring me, out a cigar, but don't look
for it in my room. There's nothing there."
Viola stepped into the cafe and came out directly, still absorbed
in his idea, and tendered him a cigar, mumbling thoughtfully in
his moustache, "Children growing up--and girls, too! Girls!" He
sighed and fell silent.
"What, only one?" remarked Nostromo, looking down with a sort of
comic inquisitiveness at the unconscious old man. "No matter," he
added, with lofty negligence; "one is enough till another is
He lit it and let the match drop from his passive fingers.
Giorgio Viola looked up, and said abruptly--
"My son would have been just such a fine young man as you, Gian'
Battista, if he had lived."
"What? Your son? But you are right, padrone. If he had been like
me he would have been a man."
He turned his horse slowly, and paced on between the booths,
checking the mare almost to a standstill now and then for
children, for the groups of people from the distant Campo, who
stared after him with admiration. The Company's lightermen
saluted him from afar; and the greatly envied Capataz de
Cargadores advanced, amongst murmurs of recognition and
obsequious greetings, towards the huge circus-like erection. The
throng thickened; the guitars tinkled louder; other horsemen sat
motionless, smoking calmly above the heads of the crowd; it
eddied and pushed before the doors of the high-roofed building,
whence issued a shuffle and thumping of feet in time to the dance
music vibrating and shrieking with a racking rhythm, overhung by
the tremendous, sustained, hollow roar of the gombo. The
barbarous and imposing noise of the big drum, that can madden a
crowd, and that even Europeans cannot hear without a strange
emotion, seemed to draw Nostromo on to its source, while a man,
wrapped up in a faded, torn poncho, walked by his stirrup, and,
buffeted right and left, begged "his worship" insistently for
employment on the wharf. He whined, offering the Senor Capataz
half his daily pay for the privilege of being admitted to the
swaggering fraternity of Cargadores; the other half would be
enough for him, he protested. But Captain Mitchell's right-hand
man--"invaluable for our work--a perfectly incorruptible
fellow"--after looking down critically at the ragged mozo, shook
his head without a word in the uproar going on around.
The man fell back; and a little further on Nostromo had to pull
up. From the doors of the dance hall men and women emerged
tottering, streaming with sweat, trembling in every limb, to
lean, panting, with staring eyes and parted lips, against the
wall of the structure, where the harps and guitars played on with
mad speed in an incessant roll of thunder. Hundreds of hands
clapped in there; voices shrieked, and then all at once would
sink low, chanting in unison the refrain of a love song, with a
dying fall. A red flower, flung with a good aim from somewhere in
the crowd, struck the resplendent Capataz on the cheek.
He caught it as it fell, neatly, but for some time did not turn
his head. When at last he condescended to look round, the throng
near him had parted to make way for a pretty Morenita, her hair
held up by a small golden comb, who was walking towards him in
the open space.
Her arms and neck emerged plump and bare from a snowy chemisette;
the blue woollen skirt, with all the fullness gathered in front,
scanty on the hips and tight across the back, disclosed the
provoking action of her walk. She came straight on and laid her
hand on the mare's neck with a timid, coquettish look upwards out
of the corner of her eyes.
"Querido," she murmured, caressingly, "why do you pretend not to
see me when I pass?"
"Because I don't love thee any more," said Nostromo,
deliberately, after a moment of reflective silence.
The hand on the mare's neck trembled suddenly. She dropped her
head before all the eyes in the wide circle formed round the
generous, the terrible, the inconstant Capataz de Cargadores, and
Nostromo, looking down, saw tears beginning to fall down her
"Has it come, then, ever beloved of my heart?" she whispered. "Is
"No," said Nostromo, looking away carelessly. "It was a lie. I
love thee as much as ever."
"Is that true?" she cooed, joyously, her cheeks still wet with
"It is true."
"True on the life?"
"As true as that; but thou must not ask me to swear it on the
Madonna that stands in thy room." And the Capataz laughed a
little in response to the grins of the crowd.
She pouted--very pretty--a little uneasy.
"No, I will not ask for that. I can see love in your eyes." She
laid her hand on his knee. "Why are you trembling like this? From
love?" she continued, while the cavernous thundering of the gombo
went on without a pause. "But if you love her as much as that,
you must give your Paquita a gold-mounted rosary of beads for the
neck of her Madonna."
"No," said Nostromo, looking into her uplifted, begging eyes,
which suddenly turned stony with surprise.
"No? Then what else will your worship give me on the day of the
fiesta?" she asked, angrily; "so as not to shame me before all
"There is no shame for thee in getting nothing from thy lover for
"True! The shame is your worship's--my poor lover's," she flared
Laughs were heard at her anger, at her retort. What an audacious
spitfire she was! The people aware of this scene were calling out
urgently to others in the crowd. The circle round the silver-grey
mare narrowed slowly.
The girl went off a pace or two, confronting the mocking
curiosity of the eyes, then flung back to the stirrup, tiptoeing,
her enraged face turned up to Nostromo with a pair of blazing
eyes. He bent low to her in the saddle.
"Juan," she hissed, "I could stab thee to the heart!"
The dreaded Capataz de Cargadores, magnificent and carelessly
public in his amours, flung his arm round her neck and kissed her
spluttering lips. A murmur went round.
"A knife!" he demanded at large, holding her firmly by the
Twenty blades flashed out together in the circle. A young man in
holiday attire, bounding in, thrust one in Nostromo's hand and
bounded back into the ranks, very proud of himself. Nostromo had
not even looked at him.
"Stand on my foot," he commanded the girl, who, suddenly subdued,
rose lightly, and when he had her up, encircling her waist, her
face near to his, he pressed the knife into her little hand.
"No, Morenita! You shall not put me to shame," he said. "You
shall have your present; and so that everyone should know who is
your lover to-day, you may cut all the silver buttons off my
There were shouts of laughter and applause at this witty freak,
while the girl passed the keen blade, and the impassive rider
jingled in his palm the increasing hoard of silver buttons. He
eased her to the ground with both her hands full. After
whispering for a while with a very strenuous face, she walked
away, staring haughtily, and vanished into the crowd.
The circle had broken up, and the lordly Capataz de Cargadores,
the indispensable man, the tried and trusty Nostromo, the
Mediterranean sailor come ashore casually to try his luck in
Costaguana, rode slowly towards the harbour. The Juno was just
then swinging round; and even as Nostromo reined up again to look
on, a flag ran up on the improvised flagstaff erected in an
ancient and dismantled little fort at the harbour entrance. Half
a battery of field guns had been hurried over there from the
Sulaco barracks for the purpose of firing the regulation salutes
for the President-Dictator and the War Minister. As the mail-boat
headed through the pass, the badly timed reports announced the
end of Don Vincente Ribiera's first official visit to Sulaco, and
for Captain Mitchell the end of another "historic occasion." Next
time when the "Hope of honest men" was to come that way, a year
and a half later, it was unofficially, over the mountain tracks,
fleeing after a defeat on a lame mule, to be only just saved by
Nostromo from an ignominious death at the hands of a mob. It was
a very different event, of which Captain Mitchell used to say--
"It was history--history, sir! And that fellow of mine, Nostromo,
you know, was right in it. Absolutely making history, sir."
But this event, creditable to Nostromo, was to lead immediately
to another, which could not be classed either as "history" or as
"a mistake" in Captain Mitchell's phraseology. He had another
word for it.
"Sir" he used to say afterwards, "that was no mistake. It was a
fatality. A misfortune, pure and simple, sir. And that poor
fellow of mine was right in it--right in the middle of it! A
fatality, if ever there was one--and to my mind he has never been
the same man since."
THROUGH good and evil report in the varying fortune of that
struggle which Don Jose had characterized in the phrase, "the
fate of national honesty trembles in the balance," the Gould
Concession, "Imperium in Imperio," had gone on working; the
square mountain had gone on pouring its treasure down the wooden
shoots to the unresting batteries of stamps; the lights of San
Tome had twinkled night after night upon the great, limitless
shadow of the Campo; every three months the silver escort had
gone down to the sea as if neither the war nor its consequences
could ever affect the ancient Occidental State secluded beyond
its high barrier of the Cordillera. All the fighting took place
on the other side of that mighty wall of serrated peaks lorded
over by the white dome of Higuerota and as yet unbreached by the
railway, of which only the first part, the easy Campo part from
Sulaco to the Ivie Valley at the foot of the pass, had been laid.
Neither did the telegraph line cross the mountains yet; its
poles, like slender beacons on the plain, penetrated into the
forest fringe of the foot-hills cut by the deep avenue of the
track; and its wire ended abruptly in the construction camp at a
white deal table supporting a Morse apparatus, in a long hut of
planks with a corrugated iron roof overshadowed by gigantic cedar
trees--the quarters of the engineer in charge of the advance
The harbour was busy, too, with the traffic in railway material,
and with the movements of troops along the coast. The O.S.N.
Company found much occupation for its fleet. Costaguana had no
navy, and, apart from a few coastguard cutters, there were no
national ships except a couple of old merchant steamers used as
Captain Mitchell, feeling more and more in the thick of history,
found time for an hour or so during an afternoon in the
drawing-room of the Casa Gould, where, with a strange ignorance
of the real forces at work around him, he professed himself
delighted to get away from the strain of affairs. He did not know
what he would have done without his invaluable Nostromo, he
declared. Those confounded Costaguana politics gave him more
work--he confided to Mrs. Gould--than he had bargained for.
Don Jose Avellanos had displayed in the service of the endangered
Ribiera Government an organizing activity and an eloquence of
which the echoes reached even Europe. For, after the new loan to
the Ribiera Government, Europe had become interested in
Costaguana. The Sala of the Provincial Assembly (in the
Municipal Buildings of Sulaco), with its portraits of the
Liberators on the walls and an old flag of Cortez preserved in a
glass case above the President's chair, had heard all these
speeches--the early one containing the impassioned declaration
"Militarism is the enemy," the famous one of the "trembling
balance" delivered on the occasion of the vote for the raising of
a second Sulaco regiment in the defence of the reforming
Government; and when the provinces again displayed their old
flags (proscribed in Guzman Bento's time) there was another of
those great orations, when Don Jose greeted these old emblems of
the war of Independence, brought out again in the name of new
Ideals. The old idea of Federalism had disappeared. For his part
he did not wish to revive old political doctrines. They were
perishable. They died. But the doctrine of political rectitude
was immortal. The second Sulaco regiment, to whom he was
presenting this flag, was going to show its valour in a contest
for order, peace, progress; for the establishment of national
self-respect without which--he declared with energy--"we are a
reproach and a byword amongst the powers of the world."
Don Jose Avellanos loved his country. He had served it lavishly
with his fortune during his diplomatic career, and the later
story of his captivity and barbarous ill-usage under Guzman Bento
was well known to his listeners. It was a wonder that he had not
been a victim of the ferocious and summary executions which
marked the course of that tyranny; for Guzman had ruled the
country with the sombre imbecility of political fanaticism. The
power of Supreme Government had become in his dull mind an object
of strange worship, as if it were some sort of cruel deity. It
was incarnated in himself, and his adversaries, the Federalists,
were the supreme sinners, objects of hate, abhorrence, and fear,
as heretics would be to a convinced Inquisitor. For years he had
carried about at the tail of the Army of Pacification, all over
the country, a captive band of such atrocious criminals, who
considered themselves most unfortunate at not having been
summarily executed. It was a diminishing company of nearly naked
skeletons, loaded with irons, covered with dirt, with vermin,
with raw wounds, all men of position, of education, of wealth,
who had learned to fight amongst themselves for scraps of rotten
beef thrown to them by soldiers, or to beg a negro cook for a
drink of muddy water in pitiful accents. Don Jose Avellanos,
clanking his chains amongst the others, seemed only to exist in
order to prove how much hunger, pain, degradation, and cruel
torture a human body can stand without parting with the last
spark of life. Sometimes interrogatories, backed by some
primitive method of torture, were administered to them by a
commission of officers hastily assembled in a hut of sticks and
branches, and made pitiless by the fear for their own lives. A
lucky one or two of that spectral company of prisoners would
perhaps be led tottering behind a bush to be shot by a file of
soldiers. Always an army chaplain--some unshaven, dirty man, girt
with a sword and with a tiny cross embroidered in white cotton on
the left breast of a lieutenant's uniform--would follow,
cigarette in the corner of the mouth, wooden stool in hand, to
hear the confession and give absolution; for the Citizen Saviour
of the Country (Guzman Bento was called thus officially in
petitions) was not averse from the exercise of rational clemency.
The irregular report of the firing squad would be heard, followed
sometimes by a single finishing shot; a little bluish cloud of
smoke would float up above the green bushes, and the Army of
Pacification would move on over the savannas, through the
forests, crossing rivers, invading rural pueblos, devastating the
haciendas of the horrid aristocrats, occupying the inland towns
in the fulfilment of its patriotic mission, and leaving behind a
united land wherein the evil taint of Federalism could no longer
be detected in the smoke of burning houses and the smell of spilt
blood. Don Jose Avellanos had survived that time. Perhaps, when
contemptuously signifying to him his release, the Citizen Saviour
of the Country might have thought this benighted aristocrat too
broken in health and spirit and fortune to be any longer
dangerous. Or, perhaps, it may have been a simple caprice. Guzman
Bento, usually full of fanciful fears and brooding suspicions,
had sudden accesses of unreasonable self-confidence when he
perceived himself elevated on a pinnacle of power and safety
beyond the reach of mere mortal plotters. At such times he would
impulsively command the celebration of a solemn Mass of
thanksgiving, which would be sung in great pomp in the cathedral
of Sta. Marta by the trembling, subservient Archbishop of his
creation. He heard it sitting in a gilt armchair placed before
the high altar, surrounded by the civil and military heads of his
Government. The unofficial world of Sta. Marta would crowd into
the cathedral, for it was not quite safe for anybody of mark to
stay away from these manifestations of presidential piety. Having
thus acknowledged the only power he was at all disposed to
recognize as above himself, he would scatter acts of political
grace in a sardonic wantonness of clemency. There was no other
way left now to enjoy his power but by seeing his crushed
adversaries crawl impotently into the light of day out of the
dark, noisome cells of the Collegio. Their harmlessness fed his
insatiable vanity, and they could always be got hold of again. It
was the rule for all the women of their families to present
thanks afterwards in a special audience. The incarnation of that
strange god, El Gobierno Supremo, received them standing, cocked
hat on head, and exhorted them in a menacing mutter to show their
gratitude by bringing up their children in fidelity to the
democratic form of government, "which I have established for the
happiness of our country." His front teeth having been knocked
out in some accident of his former herdsman's life, his utterance
was spluttering and indistinct. He had been working for
Costaguana alone in the midst of treachery and opposition. Let
it cease now lest he should become weary of forgiving!
Don Jose Avellanos had known this forgiveness.
He was broken in health and fortune deplorably enough to present
a truly gratifying spectacle to the supreme chief of democratic
institutions. He retired to Sulaco. His wife had an estate in
that province, and she nursed him back to life out of the house
of death and captivity. When she died, their daughter, an only
child, was old enough to devote herself to "poor papa."
Miss Avellanos, born in Europe and educated partly in England,
was a tall, grave girl, with a self-possessed manner, a wide,
white forehead, a wealth of rich brown hair, and blue eyes.
The other young ladies of Sulaco stood in awe of her character
and accomplishments. She was reputed to be terribly learned and
serious. As to pride, it was well known that all the Corbelans
were proud, and her mother was a Corbelan. Don Jose Avellanos
depended very much upon the devotion of his beloved Antonia. He
accepted it in the benighted way of men, who, though made in
God's image, are like stone idols without sense before the smoke
of certain burnt offerings. He was ruined in every way, but a man
possessed of passion is not a bankrupt in life. Don Jose
Avellanos desired passionately for his country: peace,
prosperity, and (as the end of the preface to "Fifty Years of
Misrule" has it) "an honourable place in the comity of civilized
nations." In this last phrase the Minister Plenipotentiary,
cruelly humiliated by the bad faith of his Government towards the
foreign bondholders, stands disclosed in the patriot.
The fatuous turmoil of greedy factions succeeding the tyranny of
Guzman Bento seemed to bring his desire to the very door of
opportunity. He was too old to descend personally into the centre
of the arena at Sta. Marta. But the men who acted there sought
his advice at every step. He himself thought that he could be
most useful at a distance, in Sulaco. His name, his connections,
his former position, his experience commanded the respect of his
class. The discovery that this man, living in dignified poverty
in the Corbelan town residence (opposite the Casa Gould), could
dispose of material means towards the support of the cause
increased his influence. It was his open letter of appeal that
decided the candidature of Don Vincente Ribiera for the
Presidency. Another of these informal State papers drawn up by
Don Jose (this time in the shape of an address from the Province)
induced that scrupulous constitutionalist to accept the
extraordinary powers conferred upon him for five years by an
overwhelming vote of congress in Sta. Marta. It was a specific
mandate to establish the prosperity of the people on the basis of
firm peace at home, and to redeem the national credit by the
satisfaction of all just claims abroad.
On the afternoon the news of that vote had reached Sulaco by the
usual roundabout postal way through Cayta, and up the coast by
steamer. Don Jose, who had been waiting for the mail in the
Goulds' drawing-room, got out of the rocking-chair, letting his
hat fall off his knees. He rubbed his silvery, short hair with
both hands, speechless with the excess of joy.
"Emilia, my soul," he had burst out, "let me embrace you! Let
Captain Mitchell, had he been there, would no doubt have made an
apt remark about the dawn of a new era; but if Don Jose thought
something of the kind, his eloquence failed him on this occasion.
The inspirer of that revival of the Blanco party tottered where
he stood. Mrs. Gould moved forward quickly and, as she offered
her cheek with a smile to her old friend, managed very cleverly
to give him the support of her arm he really needed.
Don Jose had recovered himself at once, but for a time he could
do no more than murmur, "Oh, you two patriots! Oh, you two
patriots!"--looking from one to the other. Vague plans of another
historical work, wherein all the devotions to the regeneration of
the country he loved would be enshrined for the reverent worship
of posterity, flitted through his mind. The historian who had
enough elevation of soul to write of Guzman Bento: "Yet this
monster, imbrued in the blood of his countrymen, must not be held
unreservedly to the execration of future years. It appears to be
true that he, too, loved his country. He had given it twelve
years of peace; and, absolute master of lives and fortunes as he
was, he died poor. His worst fault, perhaps, was not his
ferocity, but his ignorance;" the man who could write thus of a
cruel persecutor (the passage occurs in his "History of Misrule")
felt at the foreshadowing of success an almost boundless
affection for his two helpers, for these two young people from
over the sea.
Just as years ago, calmly, from the conviction of practical
necessity, stronger than any abstract political doctrine, Henry
Gould had drawn the sword, so now, the times being changed,
Charles Gould had flung the silver of the San Tome into the fray.
The Inglez of Sulaco, the "Costaguana Englishman" of the third
generation, was as far from being a political intriguer as his
uncle from a revolutionary swashbuckler. Springing from the
instinctive uprightness of their natures their action was
reasoned. They saw an opportunity and used the weapon to hand.
Charles Gould's position--a commanding position in the background
of that attempt to retrieve the peace and the credit of the
Republic--was very clear. At the beginning he had had to
accommodate himself to existing circumstances of corruption so
naively brazen as to disarm the hate of a man courageous enough
not to be afraid of its irresponsible potency to ruin everything
it touched. It seemed to him too contemptible for hot anger even.
He made use of it with a cold, fearless scorn, manifested rather
than concealed by the forms of stony courtesy which did away with
much of the ignominy of the situation. At bottom, perhaps, he
suffered from it, for he was not a man of cowardly illusions, but
he refused to discuss the ethical view with his wife. He trusted
that, though a little disenchanted, she would be intelligent
enough to understand that his character safeguarded the
enterprise of their lives as much or more than his policy. The
extraordinary development of the mine had put a great power into
his hands. To feel that prosperity always at the mercy of
unintelligent greed had grown irksome to him. To Mrs. Gould it
was humiliating. At any rate, it was dangerous. In the
confidential communications passing between Charles Gould, the
King of Sulaco, and the head of the silver and steel interests
far away in California, the conviction was growing that any
attempt made by men of education and integrity ought to be
discreetly supported. "You may tell your friend Avellanos that I
think so," Mr. Holroyd had written at the proper moment from his
inviolable sanctuary within the eleven-storey high factory of
great affairs. And shortly afterwards, with a credit opened by
the Third Southern Bank (located next door but one to the Holroyd
Building), the Ribierist party in Costaguana took a practical
shape under the eye of the administrator of the San Tome mine.
And Don Jose, the hereditary friend of the Gould family, could
say: "Perhaps, my dear Carlos, I shall not have believed in
AFTER another armed struggle, decided by Montero's victory of Rio
Seco, had been added to the tale of civil wars, the "honest men,"
as Don Jose called them, could breathe freely for the first time
in half a century. The Five-Year-Mandate law became the basis of
that regeneration, the passionate desire and hope for which had
been like the elixir of everlasting youth for Don Jose Avellanos.
And when it was suddenly--and not quite unexpectedly--endangered
by that "brute Montero," it was a passionate indignation that
gave him a new lease of life, as it were. Already, at the time of
the President-Dictator's visit to Sulaco, Moraga had sounded a
note of warning from Sta. Marta about the War Minister. Montero
and his brother made the subject of an earnest talk between the
Dictator-President and the Nestor-inspirer of the party. But Don
Vincente, a doctor of philosophy from the Cordova University,
seemed to have an exaggerated respect for military ability, whose
mysteriousness--since it appeared to be altogether independent of
intellect--imposed upon his imagination. The victor of Rio Seco
was a popular hero. His services were so recent that the
President-Dictator quailed before the obvious charge of political
ingratitude. Great regenerating transactions were being
initiated--the fresh loan, a new railway line, a vast
colonization scheme. Anything that could unsettle the public
opinion in the capital was to be avoided. Don Jose bowed to
these arguments and tried to dismiss from his mind the gold-laced
portent in boots, and with a sabre, made meaningless now at last,
he hoped, in the new order of things.
Less than six months after the President-Dictator's visit, Sulaco
learned with stupefaction of the military revolt in the name of
national honour. The Minister of War, in a barrack-square
allocution to the officers of the artillery regiment he had been
inspecting, had declared the national honour sold to foreigners.
The Dictator, by his weak compliance with the demands of the
European powers--for the settlement of long outstanding money
claims--had showed himself unfit to rule. A letter from Moraga
explained afterwards that the initiative, and even the very text,
of the incendiary allocution came, in reality, from the other
Montero, the ex-guerillero, the Commandante de Plaza. The
energetic treatment of Dr. Monygham, sent for in haste "to the
mountain," who came galloping three leagues in the dark, saved
Don Jose from a dangerous attack of jaundice.
After getting over the shock, Don Jose refused to let himself be
prostrated. Indeed, better news succeeded at first. The revolt in
the capital had been suppressed after a night of fighting in the
streets. Unfortunately, both the Monteros had been able to make
their escape south, to their native province of Entre-Montes. The
hero of the forest march, the victor of Rio Seco, had been
received with frenzied acclamations in Nicoya, the provincial
capital. The troops in garrison there had gone to him in a body.
The brothers were organizing an army, gathering malcontents,
sending emissaries primed with patriotic lies to the people, and
with promises of plunder to the wild llaneros. Even a Monterist
press had come into existence, speaking oracularly of the secret
promises of support given by "our great sister Republic of the
North" against the sinister land-grabbing designs of European
powers, cursing in every issue the "miserable Ribiera," who had
plotted to deliver his country, bound hand and foot, for a prey
to foreign speculators.
Sulaco, pastoral and sleepy, with its opulent Campo and the rich
silver mine, heard the din of arms fitfully in its fortunate
isolation. It was nevertheless in the very forefront of the
defence with men and money; but the very rumours reached it
circuitously--from abroad even, so much was it cut off from the
rest of the Republic, not only by natural obstacles, but also by
the vicissitudes of the war. The Monteristos were besieging
Cayta, an important postal link. The overland couriers ceased to
come across the mountains, and no muleteer would consent to risk
the journey at last; even Bonifacio on one occasion failed to
return from Sta. Marta, either not daring to start, or perhaps
captured by the parties of the enemy raiding the country between
the Cordillera and the capital. Monterist publications, however,
found their way into the province, mysteriously enough; and also
Monterist emissaries preaching death to aristocrats in the
villages and towns of the Campo. Very early, at the beginning of
the trouble, Hernandez, the bandit, had proposed (through the
agency of an old priest of a village in the wilds) to deliver two
of them to the Ribierist authorities in Tonoro. They had come to
offer him a free pardon and the rank of colonel from General
Montero in consideration of joining the rebel army with his
mounted band. No notice was taken at the time of the proposal. It
was joined, as an evidence of good faith, to a petition praying
the Sulaco Assembly for permission to enlist, with all his
followers, in the forces being then raised in Sulaco for the
defence of the Five-Year Mandate of regeneration. The petition,
like everything else, had found its way into Don Jose's hands. He
had showed to Mrs. Gould these pages of dirty-greyish rough paper
(perhaps looted in some village store), covered with the crabbed,
illiterate handwriting of the old padre, carried off from his hut
by the side of a mud-walled church to be the secretary of the
dreaded Salteador. They had both bent in the lamplight of the
Gould drawing-room over the document containing the fierce and
yet humble appeal of the man against the blind and stupid
barbarity turning an honest ranchero into a bandit. A postscript
of the priest stated that, but for being deprived of his liberty
for ten days, he had been treated with humanity and the respect
due to his sacred calling. He had been, it appears, confessing
and absolving the chief and most of the band, and he guaranteed
the sincerity of their good disposition. He had distributed heavy
penances, no doubt in the way of litanies and fasts; but he
argued shrewdly that it would be difficult for them to make their
peace with God durably till they had made peace with men.
Never before, perhaps, had Hernandez's head been in less jeopardy
than when he petitioned humbly for permission to buy a pardon for
himself and his gang of deserters by armed service. He could
range afar from the waste lands protecting his fastness,
unchecked, because there were no troops left in the whole
province. The usual garrison of Sulaco had gone south to the
war, with its brass band playing the Bolivar march on the bridge
of one of the O.S.N. Company's steamers. The great family
coaches drawn up along the shore of the harbour were made to rock
on the high leathern springs by the enthusiasm of the senoras and
the senoritas standing up to wave their lace handkerchiefs, as
lighter after lighter packed full of troops left the end of the
Nostromo directed the embarkation, under the superintendendence
of Captain Mitchell, red-faced in the sun, conspicuous in a white
waistcoat, representing the allied and anxious goodwill of all
the material interests of civilization. General Barrios, who
commanded the troops, assured Don Jose on parting that in three
weeks he would have Montero in a wooden cage drawn by three pair
of oxen ready for a tour through all the towns of the Republic.
"And then, senora," he continued, baring his curly iron-grey head
to Mrs. Gould in her landau--"and then, senora, we shall convert
our swords into plough-shares and grow rich. Even I, myself, as
soon as this little business is settled, shall open a fundacion
on some land I have on the llanos and try to make a little money
in peace and quietness. Senora, you know, all Costaguana
knows--what do I say?--this whole South American continent knows,
that Pablo Barrios has had his fill of military glory."
Charles Gould was not present at the anxious and patriotic
send-off. It was not his part to see the soldiers embark. It was
neither his part, nor his inclination, nor his policy. His part,
his inclination, and his policy were united in one endeavour to
keep unchecked the flow of treasure he had started single-handed
from the re-opened scar in the flank of the mountain. As the mine
developed he had trained for himself some native help. There were
foremen, artificers and clerks, with Don Pepe for the gobernador
of the mining population. For the rest his shoulders alone
sustained the whole weight of the "Imperium in Imperio," the
great Gould Concession whose mere shadow had been enough to crush
the life out of his father.
Mrs. Gould had no silver mine to look after. In the general life
of the Gould Concession she was represented by her two
lieutenants, the doctor and the priest, but she fed her woman's
love of excitement on events whose significance was purified to
her by the fire of her imaginative purpose. On that day she had
brought the Avellanos, father and daughter, down to the harbour
Amongst his other activities of that stirring time, Don Jose had
become the chairman of a Patriotic Committee which had armed a
great proportion of troops in the Sulaco command with an improved
model of a military rifle. It had been just discarded for
something still more deadly by one of the great European powers.
How much of the market-price for second-hand weapons was covered
by the voluntary contributions of the principal families, and how
much came from those funds Don Jose was understood to command
abroad, remained a secret which he alone could have disclosed;
but the Ricos, as the populace called them, had contributed under
the pressure of their Nestor's eloquence. Some of the more
enthusiastic ladies had been moved to bring offerings of jewels
into the hands of the man who was the life and soul of the party.
There were moments when both his life and his soul seemed
overtaxed by so many years of undiscouraged belief in
regeneration. He appeared almost inanimate, sitting rigidly by
the side of Mrs. Gould in the landau, with his fine, old,
clean-shaven face of a uniform tint as if modelled in yellow wax,
shaded by a soft felt hat, the dark eyes looking out fixedly.
Antonia, the beautiful Antonia, as Miss Avellanos was called in
Sulaco, leaned back, facing them; and her full figure, the grave
oval of her face with full red lips, made her look more mature
than Mrs. Gould, with her mobile expression and small, erect
person under a slightly swaying sunshade.
Whenever possible Antonia attended her father; her recognized
devotion weakened the shocking effect of her scorn for the rigid
conventions regulating the life of Spanish-American girlhood.
And, in truth, she was no longer girlish. It was said that she
often wrote State papers from her father's dictation, and was
allowed to read all the books in his library. At the receptions--
where the situation was saved by the presence of a very decrepit
old lady (a relation of the Corbelans), quite deaf and motionless
in an armchair--Antonia could hold her own in a discussion with
two or three men at a time. Obviously she was not the girl to be
content with peeping through a barred window at a cloaked figure
of a lover ensconced in a doorway opposite--which is the correct
form of Costaguana courtship. It was generally believed that with
her foreign upbringing and foreign ideas the learned and proud
Antonia would never marry--unless, indeed, she married a
foreigner from Europe or North America, now that Sulaco seemed on
the point of being invaded by all the world.
WHEN General Barrios stopped to address Mrs. Gould, Antonia
raised negligently her hand holding an open fan, as if to shade
from the sun her head, wrapped in a light lace shawl. The clear
gleam of her blue eyes gliding behind the black fringe of
eyelashes paused for a moment upon her father, then travelled
further to the figure of a young man of thirty at most, of medium
height, rather thick-set, wearing a light overcoat. Bearing down
with the open palm of his hand upon the knob of a flexible cane,
he had been looking on from a distance; but directly he saw
himself noticed, he approached quietly and put his elbow over the
door of the landau.
The shirt collar, cut low in the neck, the big bow of his cravat,
the style of his clothing, from the round hat to the varnished
shoes, suggested an idea of French elegance; but otherwise he was
the very type of a fair Spanish creole. The fluffy moustache and
the short, curly, golden beard did not conceal his lips, rosy,
fresh, almost pouting in expression. His full, round face was of
that warm, healthy creole white which is never tanned by its
native sunshine. Martin Decoud was seldom exposed to the
Costaguana sun under which he was born. His people had been long
settled in Paris, where he had studied law, had dabbled in
literature, had hoped now and then in moments of exaltation to
become a poet like that other foreigner of Spanish blood, Jose
Maria Heredia. In other moments he had, to pass the time,
condescended to write articles on European affairs for the
Semenario, the principal newspaper in Sta. Marta, which printed
them under the heading "From our special correspondent," though
the authorship was an open secret. Everybody in Costaguana, where
the tale of compatriots in Europe is jealously kept, knew that it
was "the son Decoud," a talented young man, supposed to be moving
in the higher spheres of Society. As a matter of fact, he was an
idle boulevardier, in touch with some smart journalists, made
free of a few newspaper offices, and welcomed in the pleasure
haunts of pressmen. This life, whose dreary superficiality is
covered by the glitter of universal blague, like the stupid
clowning of a harlequin by the spangles of a motley costume,
induced in him a Frenchified--but most
un-French--cosmopolitanism, in reality a mere barren
indifferentism posing as intellectual superiority. Of his own
country he used to say to his French associates: "Imagine an
atmosphere of opera-bouffe in which all the comic business of
stage statesmen, brigands, etc., etc., all their farcical
stealing, intriguing, and stabbing is done in dead earnest. It is
screamingly funny, the blood flows all the time, and the actors
believe themselves to be influencing the fate of the universe. Of
course, government in general, any government anywhere, is a
thing of exquisite comicality to a discerning mind; but really we
Spanish-Americans do overstep the bounds. No man of ordinary
intelligence can take part in the intrigues of une farce macabre.
However, these Ribierists, of whom we hear so much just now, are
really trying in their own comical way to make the country
habitable, and even to pay some of its debts. My friends, you had
better write up Senor Ribiera all you can in kindness to your own
bondholders. Really, if what I am told in my letters is true,
there is some chance for them at last."
And he would explain with railing verve what Don Vincente Ribiera
stood for--a mournful little man oppressed by his own good
intentions, the significance of battles won, who Montero was (un
grotesque vaniteux et feroce), and the manner of the new loan
connected with railway development, and the colonization of vast
tracts of land in one great financial scheme.
And his French friends would remark that evidently this little
fellow Decoud connaissait la question a fond. An important
Parisian review asked him for an article on the situation. It was
composed in a serious tone and in a spirit of levity. Afterwards
he asked one of his intimates--
"Have you read my thing about the regeneration of Costaguana--une
bonne blague, hein?"
He imagined himself Parisian to the tips of his fingers. But far
from being that he was in danger of remaining a sort of
nondescript dilettante all his life. He had pushed the habit of
universal raillery to a point where it blinded him to the genuine
impulses of his own nature. To be suddenly selected for the
executive member of the patriotic small-arms committee of Sulaco
seemed to him the height of the unexpected, one of those
fantastic moves of which only his "dear countrymen" were capable.
"It's like a tile falling on my head. I--I--executive member!
It's the first I hear of it! What do I know of military rifles?
C'est funambulesque!" he had exclaimed to his favourite sister;
for the Decoud family--except the old father and mother--used
the French language amongst themselves. "And you should see the
explanatory and confidential letter! Eight pages of it--no less!"
This letter, in Antonia's handwriting, was signed by Don Jose,
who appealed to the "young and gifted Costaguanero" on public
grounds, and privately opened his heart to his talented god-son,
a man of wealth and leisure, with wide relations, and by his
parentage and bringing-up worthy of all confidence.
"Which means," Martin commented, cynically, to his sister, "that
I am not likely to misappropriate the funds, or go blabbing to
our Charge d'Affaires here."
The whole thing was being carried out behind the back of the War
Minister, Montero, a mistrusted member of the Ribiera Government,
but difficult to get rid of at once. He was not to know anything
of it till the troops under Barrios's command had the new rifle
in their hands. The President-Dictator, whose position was very
difficult, was alone in the secret.
"How funny!" commented Martin's sister and confidante; to which
the brother, with an air of best Parisian blague, had retorted:
"It's immense! The idea of that Chief of the State engaged, with
the help of private citizens, in digging a mine under his own
indispensable War Minister. No! We are unapproachable!" And he
Afterwards his sister was surprised at the earnestness and
ability he displayed in carrying out his mission, which
circumstances made delicate, and his want of special knowledge
rendered difficult. She had never seen Martin take so much
trouble about anything in his whole life.
"It amuses me," he had explained, briefly. "I am beset by a lot
of swindlers trying to sell all sorts of gaspipe weapons. They
are charming; they invite me to expensive luncheons; I keep up
their hopes; it's extremely entertaining. Meanwhile, the real
affair is being carried through in quite another quarter."
When the business was concluded he declared suddenly his
intention of seeing the precious consignment delivered safely in
Sulaco. The whole burlesque business, he thought, was worth
following up to the end. He mumbled his excuses, tugging at his
golden beard, before the acute young lady who (after the first
wide stare of astonishment) looked at him with narrowed eyes, and
"I believe you want to see Antonia."
"What Antonia?" asked the Costaguana boulevardier, in a vexed and
disdainful tone. He shrugged his shoulders, and spun round on his
heel. His sister called out after him joyously--
"The Antonia you used to know when she wore her hair in two
plaits down her back."
He had known her some eight years since, shortly before the
Avellanos had left Europe for good, as a tall girl of sixteen,
youthfully austere, and of a character already so formed that she
ventured to treat slightingly his pose of disabused wisdom. On
one occasion, as though she had lost all patience, she flew out
at him about the aimlessness of his life and the levity of his
opinions. He was twenty then, an only son, spoiled by his adoring
family. This attack disconcerted him so greatly that he had
faltered in his affectation of amused superiority before that
insignificant chit of a school-girl. But the impression left was
so strong that ever since all the girl friends of his sisters
recalled to him Antonia Avellanos by some faint resemblance, or
by the great force of contrast. It was, he told himself, like a
ridiculous fatality. And, of course, in the news the Decouds
received regularly from Costaguana, the name of their friends,
the Avellanos, cropped up frequently--the arrest and the
abominable treatment of the ex-Minister, the dangers and
hardships endured by the family, its withdrawal in poverty to
Sulaco, the death of the mother.
The Monterist pronunciamento had taken place before Martin Decoud
reached Costaguana. He came out in a roundabout way, through
Magellan's Straits by the main line and the West Coast Service of
the O.S.N. Company. His precious consignment arrived just in
time to convert the first feelings of consternation into a mood
of hope and resolution. Publicly he was made much of by the
familias principales. Privately Don Jose, still shaken and weak,
embraced him with tears in his eyes.
"You have come out yourself! No less could be expected from a
Decoud. Alas! our worst fears have been realized," he moaned,
affectionately. And again he hugged his god-son. This was indeed
the time for men of intellect and conscience to rally round the
It was then that Martin Decoud, the adopted child of Western
Europe, felt the absolute change of atmosphere. He submitted to
being embraced and talked to without a word. He was moved in
spite of himself by that note of passion and sorrow unknown on
the more refined stage of European politics. But when the tall
Antonia, advancing with her light step in the dimness of the big
bare Sala of the Avellanos house, offered him her hand (in her
emancipated way), and murmured, "I am glad to see you here, Don
Martin," he felt how impossible it would be to tell these two
people that he had intended to go away by the next month's
packet. Don Jose, meantime, continued his praises. Every
accession added to public confidence, and, besides, what an
example to the young men at home from the brilliant defender of
the country's regeneration, the worthy expounder of the party's
political faith before the world! Everybody had read the
magnificent article in the famous Parisian Review. The world was
now informed: and the author's appearance at this moment was
like a public act of faith. Young Decoud felt overcome by a
feeling of impatient confusion. His plan had been to return by
way of the United States through California, visit Yellowstone
Park, see Chicago, Niagara, have a look at Canada, perhaps make a
short stay in New York, a longer one in Newport, use his letters
of introduction. The pressure of Antonia's hand was so frank, the
tone of her voice was so unexpectedly unchanged in its approving
warmth, that all he found to say after his low bow was--
"I am inexpressibly grateful for your welcome; but why need a man
be thanked for returning to his native country? I am sure Dona
Antonia does not think so."
"Certainly not, senor," she said, with that perfectly calm
openness of manner which characterized all her utterances. "But
when he returns, as you return, one may be glad--for the sake of
Martin Decoud said nothing of his plans. He not only never
breathed a word of them to any one, but only a fortnight later
asked the mistress of the Casa Gould (where he had of course
obtained admission at once), leaning forward in his chair with an
air of well-bred familiarity, whether she could not detect in him
that day a marked change--an air, he explained, of more excellent
gravity. At this Mrs. Gould turned her face full towards him with
the silent inquiry of slightly widened eyes and the merest ghost
of a smile, an habitual movement with her, which was very
fascinating to men by something subtly devoted, finely
self-forgetful in its lively readiness of attention. Because,
Decoud continued imperturbably, he felt no longer an idle
cumberer of the earth. She was, he assured her, actually
beholding at that moment the Journalist of Sulaco. At once Mrs.
Gould glanced towards Antonia, posed upright in the corner of a
high, straight-backed Spanish sofa, a large black fan waving
slowly against the curves of her fine figure, the tips of crossed
feet peeping from under the hem of the black skirt. Decoud's
eyes also remained fixed there, while in an undertone he added
that Miss Avellanos was quite aware of his new and unexpected
vocation, which in Costaguana was generally the speciality of
half-educated negroes and wholly penniless lawyers. Then,
confronting with a sort of urbane effrontery Mrs. Gould's gaze,
now turned sympathetically upon himself, he breathed out the
words, "Pro Patria!"
What had happened was that he had all at once yielded to Don
Jose's pressing entreaties to take the direction of a newspaper
that would "voice the aspirations of the province." It had been
Don Jose's old and cherished idea. The necessary plant (on a
modest scale) and a large consignment of paper had been received
from America some time before; the right man alone was wanted.
Even Senor Moraga in Sta. Marta had not been able to find one,
and the matter was now becoming pressing; some organ was
absolutely needed to counteract the effect of the lies
disseminated by the Monterist press: the atrocious calumnies, the
appeals to the people calling upon them to rise with their knives
in their hands and put an end once for all to the Blancos, to
these Gothic remnants, to these sinister mummies, these impotent
paraliticos, who plotted with foreigners for the surrender of the
lands and the slavery of the people.
The clamour of this Negro Liberalism frightened Senor Avellanos.
A newspaper was the only remedy. And now that the right man had
been found in Decoud, great black letters appeared painted
between the windows above the arcaded ground floor of a house on
the Plaza. It was next to Anzani's great emporium of boots,
silks, ironware, muslins, wooden toys, tiny silver arms, legs,
heads, hearts (for ex-voto offerings), rosaries, champagne,
women's hats, patent medicines, even a few dusty books in paper
covers and mostly in the French language. The big black letters
formed the words, "Offices of the Porvenir." From these offices a
single folded sheet of Martin's journalism issued three times a
week; and the sleek yellow Anzani prowling in a suit of ample
black and carpet slippers, before the many doors of his
establishment, greeted by a deep, side-long inclination of his
body the Journalist of Sulaco going to and fro on the business of
his august calling.
PERHAPS it was in the exercise of his calling that he had come to
see the troops depart. The Porvenir of the day after next would
no doubt relate the event, but its editor, leaning his side
against the landau, seemed to look at nothing. The front rank of
the company of infantry drawn up three deep across the shore end
of the jetty when pressed too close would bring their bayonets to
the charge ferociously, with an awful rattle; and then the crowd
of spectators swayed back bodily, even under the noses of the big
white mules. Notwithstanding the great multitude there was only a
low, muttering noise; the dust hung in a brown haze, in which the
horsemen, wedged in the throng here and there, towered from the
hips upwards, gazing all one way over the heads. Almost every one
of them had mounted a friend, who steadied himself with both
hands grasping his shoulders from behind; and the rims of their
hats touching, made like one disc sustaining the cones of two
pointed crowns with a double face underneath. A hoarse mozo would
bawl out something to an acquaintance in the ranks, or a woman
would shriek suddenly the word Adios! followed by the Christian
name of a man.
General Barrios, in a shabby blue tunic and white peg-top
trousers falling upon strange red boots, kept his head uncovered
and stooped slightly, propping himself up with a thick stick. No!
He had earned enough military glory to satiate any man, he
insisted to Mrs. Gould, trying at the same time to put an air of
gallantry into his attitude. A few jetty hairs hung sparsely from
his upper lip, he had a salient nose, a thin, long jaw, and a
black silk patch over one eye. His other eye, small and deep-set,
twinkled erratically in all directions, aimlessly affable. The
few European spectators, all men, who had naturally drifted into
the neighbourhood of the Gould carriage, betrayed by the
solemnity of their faces their impression that the general must
have had too much punch (Swedish punch, imported in bottles by
Anzani) at the Amarilla Club before he had started with his Staff
on a furious ride to the harbour. But Mrs. Gould bent forward,
self-possessed, and declared her conviction that still more glory
awaited the general in the near future.
"Senora!" he remonstrated, with great feeling, "in the name of
God, reflect! How can there be any glory for a man like me in
overcoming that bald-headed embustero with the dyed moustaches?"
Pablo Ignacio Barrios, son of a village alcalde, general of
division, commanding in chief the Occidental Military district,
did not frequent the higher society of the town. He preferred the
unceremonious gatherings of men where he could tell jaguar-hunt
stories, boast of his powers with the lasso, with which he could
perform extremely difficult feats of the sort "no married man
should attempt," as the saying goes amongst the llaneros; relate
tales of extraordinary night rides, encounters with wild bulls,
struggles with crocodiles, adventures in the great forests,
crossings of swollen rivers. And it was not mere boastfulness
that prompted the general's reminiscences, but a genuine love of
that wild life which he had led in his young days before he
turned his back for ever on the thatched roof of the parental
tolderia in the woods. Wandering away as far as Mexico he had
fought against the French by the side (as he said) of Juarez, and
was the only military man of Costaguana who had ever encountered
European troops in the field. That fact shed a great lustre upon
his name till it became eclipsed by the rising star of Montero.
All his life he had been an inveterate gambler. He alluded
himself quite openly to the current story how once, during some
campaign (when in command of a brigade), he had gambled away his
horses, pistols, and accoutrements, to the very epaulettes,
playing monte with his colonels the night before the battle.
Finally, he had sent under escort his sword (a presentation
sword, with a gold hilt) to the town in the rear of his position
to be immediately pledged for five hundred pesetas with a sleepy
and frightened shop-keeper. By daybreak he had lost the last of
that money, too, when his only remark, as he rose calmly, was,
"Now let us go and fight to the death." From that time he had
become aware that a general could lead his troops into battle
very well with a simple stick in his hand. "It has been my custom
ever since," he would say.
He was always overwhelmed with debts; even during the periods of
splendour in his varied fortunes of a Costaguana general, when he
held high military commands, his gold-laced uniforms were almost
always in pawn with some tradesman. And at last, to avoid the
incessant difficulties of costume caused by the anxious lenders,
he had assumed a disdain of military trappings, an eccentric
fashion of shabby old tunics, which had become like a second
nature. But the faction Barrios joined needed to fear no
political betrayal. He was too much of a real soldier for the
ignoble traffic of buying and selling victories. A member of the
foreign diplomatic body in Sta. Marta had once passed a judgment
upon him: "Barrios is a man of perfect honesty and even of some
talent for war, mais il manque de tenue." After the triumph of
the Ribierists he had obtained the reputedly lucrative Occidental
command, mainly through the exertions of his creditors (the Sta.
Marta shopkeepers, all great politicians), who moved heaven and
earth in his interest publicly, and privately besieged Senor
Moraga, the influential agent of the San Tome mine, with the
exaggerated lamentations that if the general were passed over,
"We shall all be ruined." An incidental but favourable mention of
his name in Mr. Gould senior's long correspondence with his son
had something to do with his appointment, too; but most of all
undoubtedly his established political honesty. No one questioned
the personal bravery of the Tiger-killer, as the populace called
him. He was, however, said to be unlucky in the field--but this
was to be the beginning of an era of peace. The soldiers liked
him for his humane temper, which was like a strange and precious
flower unexpectedly blooming on the hotbed of corrupt
revolutions; and when he rode slowly through the streets during
some military display, the contemptuous good humour of his
solitary eye roaming over the crowds extorted the acclamations of
the populace. The women of that class especially seemed
positively fascinated by the long drooping nose, the peaked chin,
the heavy lower lip, the black silk eyepatch and band slanting
rakishly over the forehead. His high rank always procured an
audience of Caballeros for his sporting stories, which he
detailed very well with a simple, grave enjoyment. As to the
society of ladies, it was irksome by the restraints it imposed
without any equivalent, as far as he could see. He had not,
perhaps, spoken three times on the whole to Mrs. Gould since he
had taken up his high command; but he had observed her frequently
riding with the Senor Administrador, and had pronounced that
there was more sense in her little bridle-hand than in all the
female heads in Sulaco. His impulse had been to be very civil on
parting to a woman who did not wobble in the saddle, and happened
to be the wife of a personality very important to a man always
short of money. He even pushed his attentions so far as to desire
the aide-de-camp at his side (a thick-set, short captain with a
Tartar physiognomy) to bring along a corporal with a file of men
in front of the carriage, lest the crowd in its backward surges
should "incommode the mules of the senora." Then, turning to the
small knot of silent Europeans looking on within earshot, he
raised his voice protectingly--
"Senores, have no apprehension. Go on quietly making your Ferro
Carril--your railways, your telegraphs. Your--There's enough
wealth in Costaguana to pay for everything--or else you would not
be here. Ha! ha! Don't mind this little picardia of my friend
Montero. In a little while you shall behold his dyed moustaches
through the bars of a strong wooden cage. Si, senores! Fear
nothing, develop the country, work, work!"
The little group of engineers received this exhortation without a
word, and after waving his hand at them loftily, he addressed
himself again to Mrs. Gould--
"That is what Don Jose says we must do. Be enterprising! Work!
Grow rich! To put Montero in a cage is my work; and when that
insignificant piece of business is done, then, as Don Jose wishes
us, we shall grow rich, one and all, like so many Englishmen,
because it is money that saves a country, and--"
But a young officer in a very new uniform, hurrying up from the
direction of the jetty, interrupted his interpretation of Senor
Avellanos's ideals. The general made a movement of impatience;
the other went on talking to him insistently, with an air of
respect. The horses of the Staff had been embarked, the steamer's
gig was awaiting the general at the boat steps; and Barrios,
after a fierce stare of his one eye, began to take leave. Don
Jose roused himself for an appropriate phrase pronounced
mechanically. The terrible strain of hope and fear was telling on
him, and he seemed to husband the last sparks of his fire for
those oratorical efforts of which even the distant Europe was to
hear. Antonia, her red lips firmly closed, averted her head
behind the raised fan; and young Decoud, though he felt the
girl's eyes upon him, gazed away persistently, hooked on his
elbow, with a scornful and complete detachment. Mrs. Gould
heroically concealed her dismay at the appearance of men and
events so remote from her racial conventions, dismay too deep to
be uttered in words even to her husband. She understood his
voiceless reserve better now. Their confidential intercourse
fell, not in moments of privacy, but precisely in public, when
the quick meeting of their glances would comment upon some fresh
turn of events. She had gone to his school of uncompromising
silence, the only one possible, since so much that seemed
shocking, weird, and grotesque in the working out of their
purposes had to be accepted as normal in this country.
Decidedly, the stately Antonia looked more mature and infinitely
calm; but she would never have known how to reconcile the sudden
sinkings of her heart with an amiable mobility of expression.
Mrs. Gould smiled a good-bye at Barrios, nodded round to the
Europeans (who raised their hats simultaneously) with an engaging
invitation, "I hope to see you all presently, at home"; then said
nervously to Decoud, "Get in, Don Martin," and heard him mutter
to himself in French, as he opened the carriage door, "Le sort en
est jete." She heard him with a sort of exasperation. Nobody
ought to have known better than himself that the first cast of
dice had been already thrown long ago in a most desperate game.
Distant acclamations, words of command yelled out, and a roll of
drums on the jetty greeted the departing general. Something like
a slight faintness came over her, and she looked blankly at
Antonia's still face, wondering what would happen to Charley if
that absurd man failed. "A la casa, Ignacio," she cried at the
motionless broad back of the coachman, who gathered the reins
without haste, mumbling to himself under his breath, "Si, la
casa. Si, si nina."
The carriage rolled noiselessly on the soft track, the shadows
fell long on the dusty little plain interspersed with dark
bushes, mounds of turned-up earth, low wooden buildings with iron
roofs of the Railway Company; the sparse row of telegraph poles
strode obliquely clear of the town, bearing a single, almost
invisible wire far into the great campo--like a slender,
vibrating feeler of that progress waiting outside for a moment of
peace to enter and twine itself about the weary heart of the
The cafe window of the Albergo d'ltalia Una was full of sunburnt,
whiskered faces of railway men. But at the other end of the
house, the end of the Signori Inglesi, old Giorgio, at the door
with one of his girls on each side, bared his bushy head, as
white as the snows of Higuerota. Mrs. Gould stopped the carriage.
She seldom failed to speak to her protege; moreover, the
excitement, the heat, and the dust had made her thirsty. She
asked for a glass of water. Giorgio sent the children indoors for
it, and approached with pleasure expressed in his whole rugged
countenance. It was not often that he had occasion to see his
benefactress, who was also an Englishwoman--another title to his
regard. He offered some excuses for his wife. It was a bad day
with her; her oppressions--he tapped his own broad chest. She
could not move from her chair that day.
Decoud, ensconced in the corner of his seat, observed gloomily
Mrs. Gould's old revolutionist, then, offhand--
"Well, and what do you think of it all, Garibaldino?"
Old Giorgio, looking at him with some curiosity, said civilly
that the troops had marched very well. One-eyed Barrios and his
officers had done wonders with the recruits in a short time.
Those Indios, only caught the other day, had gone swinging past
in double quick time, like bersaglieri; they looked well fed,
too, and had whole uniforms. "Uniforms!" he repeated with a
half-smile of pity. A look of grim retrospect stole over his
piercing, steady eyes. It had been otherwise in his time when men
fought against tyranny, in the forests of Brazil, or on the
plains of Uruguay, starving on half-raw beef without salt, half
naked, with often only a knife tied to a stick for a weapon. "And
yet we used to prevail against the oppressor," he concluded,
His animation fell; the slight gesture of his hand expressed
discouragement; but he added that he had asked one of the
sergeants to show him the new rifle. There was no such weapon in
his fighting days; and if Barrios could not--
"Yes, yes," broke in Don Jose, almost trembling with eagerness.
"We are safe. The good Senor Viola is a man of experience.
Extremely deadly--is it not so? You have accomplished your
mission admirably, my dear Martin."
Decoud, lolling back moodily, contemplated old Viola.
"Ah! Yes. A man of experience. But who are you for, really, in
Mrs. Gould leaned over to the children. Linda had brought out a
glass of water on a tray, with extreme care; Giselle presented
her with a bunch of flowers gathered hastily.
"For the people," declared old Viola, sternly.
"We are all for the people--in the end."
"Yes," muttered old Viola, savagely. "And meantime they fight for
you. Blind. Esclavos!"
At that moment young Scarfe of the railway staff emerged from the
door of the part reserved for the Signori Inglesi. He had come
down to headquarters from somewhere up the line on a light
engine, and had had just time to get a bath and change his
clothes. He was a nice boy, and Mrs. Gould welcomed him.
"It's a delightful surprise to see you, Mrs. Gould. I've just
come down. Usual luck. Missed everything, of course. This show is
just over, and I hear there has been a great dance at Don Juste
Lopez's last night. Is it true?"
"The young patricians," Decoud began suddenly in his precise
English, "have indeed been dancing before they started off to the
war with the Great Pompey."
Young Scarfe stared, astounded. "You haven't met before," Mrs.
Gould intervened. "Mr. Decoud--Mr. Scarfe."
"Ah! But we are not going to Pharsalia," protested Don Jose, with
nervous haste, also in English. "You should not jest like this,
Antonia's breast rose and fell with a deeper breath. The young
engineer was utterly in the dark. "Great what?" he muttered,
"Luckily, Montero is not a Caesar," Decoud continued. "Not the
two Monteros put together would make a decent parody of a
Caesar." He crossed his arms on his breast, looking at Senor
Avellanos, who had returned to his immobility. "It is only you,
Don Jose, who are a genuine old Roman--vir Romanus--eloquent and
Since he had heard the name of Montero pronounced, young Scarfe
had been eager to express his simple feelings. In a loud and
youthful tone he hoped that this Montero was going to be licked
once for all and done with. There was no saying what would happen
to the railway if the revolution got the upper hand. Perhaps it
would have to be abandoned. It would not be the first railway
gone to pot in Costaguana. "You know, it's one of their so-called
national things," he ran on, wrinkling up his nose as if the word
had a suspicious flavour to his profound experience of South
American affairs. And, of course, he chatted with animation, it
had been such an immense piece of luck for him at his age to get
appointed on the staff "of a big thing like that--don't you
know." It would give him the pull over a lot of chaps all through
life, he asserted. "Therefore--down with Montero! Mrs. Gould."
His artless grin disappeared slowly before the unanimous gravity
of the faces turned upon him from the carriage; only that "old
chap," Don Jose, presenting a motionless, waxy profile, stared
straight on as if deaf. Scarfe did not know the Avellanos very
well. They did not give balls, and Antonia never appeared at a
ground-floor window, as some other young ladies used to do
attended by elder women, to chat with the caballeros on horseback
in the Calle. The stares of these creoles did not matter much;
but what on earth had come to Mrs. Gould? She said, "Go on,
Ignacio," and gave him a slow inclination of the head. He heard a
short laugh from that round-faced, Frenchified fellow. He
coloured up to the eyes, and stared at Giorgio Viola, who had
fallen back with the children, hat in hand.
"I shall want a horse presently," he said with some asperity to
the old man.
"Si, senor. There are plenty of horses," murmured the
Garibaldino, smoothing absently, with his brown hands, the two
heads, one dark with bronze glints, the other fair with a coppery
ripple, of the two girls by his side. The returning stream of
sightseers raised a great dust on the road. Horsemen noticed the
group. "Go to your mother," he said. "They are growing up as I
am growing older, and there is nobody--"
He looked at the young engineer and stopped, as if awakened from
a dream; then, folding his arms on his breast, took up his usual
position, leaning back in the doorway with an upward glance
fastened on the white shoulder of Higuerota far away.
In the carriage Martin Decoud, shifting his position as though he
could not make himself comfortable, muttered as he swayed towards
Antonia, "I suppose you hate me." Then in a loud voice he began
to congratulate Don Jose upon all the engineers being convinced
Ribierists. The interest of all those foreigners was gratifying.
"You have heard this one. He is an enlightened well-wisher. It is
pleasant to think that the prosperity of Costaguana is of some
use to the world."
"He is very young," Mrs. Gould remarked, quietly.
"And so very wise for his age," retorted Decoud. "But here we
have the naked truth from the mouth of that child. You are right,
Don Jose. The natural treasures of Costaguana are of importance
to the progressive Europe represented by this youth, just as
three hundred years ago the wealth of our Spanish fathers was a
serious object to the rest of Europe--as represented by the bold
buccaneers. There is a curse of futility upon our character: Don
Quixote and Sancho Panza, chivalry and materialism, high-sounding
sentiments and a supine morality, violent efforts for an idea and
a sullen acquiescence in every form of corruption. We convulsed
a continent for our independence only to become the passive prey
of a democratic parody, the helpless victims of scoundrels and
cut-throats, our institutions a mockery, our laws a farce--a
Guzman Bento our master! And we have sunk so low that when a man
like you has awakened our conscience, a stupid barbarian of a
Montero--Great Heavens! a Montero!--becomes a deadly danger, and
an ignorant, boastful Indio, like Barrios, is our defender."
But Don Jose, disregarding the general indictment as though he
had not heard a word of it, took up the defence of Barrios. The
man was competent enough for his special task in the plan of
campaign. It consisted in an offensive movement, with Cayta as
base, upon the flank of the Revolutionist forces advancing from
the south against Sta. Marta, which was covered by another army
with the President-Dictator in its midst. Don Jose became quite
animated with a great flow of speech, bending forward anxiously
under the steady eyes of his daughter. Decoud, as if silenced by
so much ardour, did not make a sound. The bells of the city were
striking the hour of Oracion when the carriage rolled under the
old gateway facing the harbour like a shapeless monument of
leaves and stones. The rumble of wheels under the sonorous arch
was traversed by a strange, piercing shriek, and Decoud, from his
back seat, had a view of the people behind the carriage trudging
along the road outside, all turning their heads, in sombreros and
rebozos, to look at a locomotive which rolled quickly out of
sight behind Giorgio Viola's house, under a white trail of steam
that seemed to vanish in the breathless, hysterically prolonged
scream of warlike triumph. And it was all like a fleeting vision,
the shrieking ghost of a railway engine fleeing across the frame
of the archway, behind the startled movement of the people
streaming back from a military spectacle with silent footsteps on
the dust of the road. It was a material train returning from the
Campo to the palisaded yards. The empty cars rolled lightly on
the single track; there was no rumble of wheels, no tremor of the
ground. The engine-driver, running past the Casa Viola with the
salute of an uplifted arm, checked his speed smartly before
entering the yard; and when the ear-splitting screech of the
steam-whistle for the brakes had stopped, a series of hard,
battering shocks, mingled with the clanking of chain-couplings,
made a tumult of blows and shaken fetters under the vault of the
THE Gould carriage was the first to return from the harbour to
the empty town. On the ancient pavement, laid out in patterns,
sunk into ruts and holes, the portly Ignacio, mindful of the
springs of the Parisian-built landau, had pulled up to a walk,
and Decoud in his corner contemplated moodily the inner aspect of
the gate. The squat turreted sides held up between them a mass of
masonry with bunches of grass growing at the top, and a grey,
heavily scrolled, armorial shield of stone above the apex of the
arch with the arms of Spain nearly smoothed out as if in
readiness for some new device typical of the impending progress.
The explosive noise of the railway trucks seemed to augment
Decoud's irritation. He muttered something to himself, then began
to talk aloud in curt, angry phrases thrown at the silence of the
two women. They did not look at him at all; while Don Jose, with
his semi-translucent, waxy complexion, overshadowed by the soft
grey hat, swayed a little to the jolts of the carriage by the
side of Mrs. Gould.
"This sound puts a new edge on a very old truth."
Decoud spoke in French, perhaps because of Ignacio on the box
above him; the old coachman, with his broad back filling a short,
silver-braided jacket, had a big pair of ears, whose thick rims
stood well away from his cropped head.
"Yes, the noise outside the city wall is new, but the principle
He ruminated his discontent for a while, then began afresh with a
sidelong glance at Antonia--
"No, but just imagine our forefathers in morions and corselets
drawn up outside this gate, and a band of adventurers just landed
from their ships in the harbour there. Thieves, of course.
Speculators, too. Their expeditions, each one, were the
speculations of grave and reverend persons in England. That is
history, as that absurd sailor Mitchell is always saying."
"Mitchell's arrangements for the embarkation of the troops were
excellent!" exclaimed Don Jose.
"That!--that! oh, that's really the work of that Genoese seaman!
But to return to my noises; there used to be in the old days the
sound of trumpets outside that gate. War trumpets! I'm sure they
were trumpets. I have read somewhere that Drake, who was the
greatest of these men, used to dine alone in his cabin on board
ship to the sound of trumpets. In those days this town was full
of wealth. Those men came to take it. Now the whole land is like
a treasure-house, and all these people are breaking into it,
whilst we are cutting each other's throats. The only thing that
keeps them out is mutual jealousy. But they'll come to an
agreement some day--and by the time we've settled our quarrels
and become decent and honourable, there'll be nothing left for
us. It has always been the same. We are a wonderful people, but
it has always been our fate to be"--he did not say "robbed," but
added, after a pause--"exploited!"
Mrs. Gould said, "Oh, this is unjust!" And Antonia interjected,
"Don't answer him, Emilia. He is attacking me."
"You surely do not think I was attacking Don Carlos!" Decoud
And then the carriage stopped before the door of the Casa Gould.
The young man offered his hand to the ladies. They went in first
together; Don Jose walked by the side of Decoud, and the gouty
old porter tottered after them with some light wraps on his arm.
Don Jose slipped his hand under the arm of the journalist of
"The Porvenir must have a long and confident article upon Barrios
and the irresistibleness of his army of Cayta! The moral effect
should be kept up in the country. We must cable encouraging
extracts to Europe and the United States to maintain a favourable
Decoud muttered, "Oh, yes, we must comfort our friends, the
The long open gallery was in shadow, with its screen of plants in
vases along the balustrade, holding out motionless blossoms, and
all the glass doors of the reception-rooms thrown open. A jingle
of spurs died out at the further end.
Basilio, standing aside against the wall, said in a soft tone to
the passing ladies, "The Senor Administrador is just back from
In the great sala, with its groups of ancient Spanish and modern
European furniture making as if different centres under the high
white spread of the ceiling, the silver and porcelain of the
tea-service gleamed among a cluster of dwarf chairs, like a bit
of a lady's boudoir, putting in a note of feminine and intimate
Don Jose in his rocking-chair placed his hat on his lap, and
Decoud walked up and down the whole length of the room, passing
between tables loaded with knick-knacks and almost disappearing
behind the high backs of leathern sofas. He was thinking of the
angry face of Antonia; he was confident that he would make his
peace with her. He had not stayed in Sulaco to quarrel with
Martin Decoud was angry with himself. All he saw and heard going
on around him exasperated the preconceived views of his European
civilization. To contemplate revolutions from the distance of the
Parisian Boulevards was quite another matter. Here on the spot it
was not possible to dismiss their tragic comedy with the
expression, "Quelle farce!"
The reality of the political action, such as it was, seemed
closer, and acquired poignancy by Antonia's belief in the cause.
Its crudeness hurt his feelings. He was surprised at his own
"I suppose I am more of a Costaguanero than I would have believed
possible," he thought to himself.
His disdain grew like a reaction of his scepticism against the
action into which he was forced by his infatuation for Antonia.
He soothed himself by saying he was not a patriot, but a lover.
The ladies came in bareheaded, and Mrs. Gould sank low before the
little tea-table. Antonia took up her usual place at the
reception hour--the corner of a leathern couch, with a rigid
grace in her pose and a fan in her hand. Decoud, swerving from
the straight line of his march, came to lean over the high back
of her seat.
For a long time he talked into her ear from behind, softly, with
a half smile and an air of apologetic familiarity. Her fan lay
half grasped on her knees. She never looked at him. His rapid
utterance grew more and more insistent and caressing. At last he
ventured a slight laugh.
"No, really. You must forgive me. One must be serious sometimes."
He paused. She turned her head a little; her blue eyes glided
slowly towards him, slightly upwards, mollified and questioning.
"You can't think I am serious when I call Montero a gran' bestia
every second day in the Porvenir? That is not a serious
occupation. No occupation is serious, not even when a bullet
through the heart is the penalty of failure!"
Her hand closed firmly on her fan.
"Some reason, you understand, I mean some sense, may creep into
thinking; some glimpse of truth. I mean some effective truth, for
which there is no room in politics or journalism. I happen to
have said what I thought. And you are angry! If you do me the
kindness to think a little you will see that I spoke like a
She opened her red lips for the first time, not unkindly.
"Yes, but you never see the aim. Men must be used as they are. I
suppose nobody is really disinterested, unless, perhaps, you, Don
"God forbid! It's the last thing I should like you to believe of
me." He spoke lightly, and paused.
She began to fan herself with a slow movement without raising her
hand. After a time he whispered passionately--
She smiled, and extended her hand after the English manner
towards Charles Gould, who was bowing before her; while Decoud,
with his elbows spread on the back of the sofa, dropped his eyes
and murmured, "Bonjour."
The Senor Administrador of the San Tome mine bent over his wife
for a moment. They exchanged a few words, of which only the
phrase, "The greatest enthusiasm," pronounced by Mrs. Gould,
could be heard.
"Yes," Decoud began in a murmur. "Even he!"
"This is sheer calumny," said Antonia, not very severely.
"You just ask him to throw his mine into the melting-pot for the
great cause," Decoud whispered.
Don Jose had raised his voice. He rubbed his hands cheerily. The
excellent aspect of the troops and the great quantity of new
deadly rifles on the shoulders of those brave men seemed to fill
him with an ecstatic confidence.
Charles Gould, very tall and thin before his chair, listened, but
nothing could be discovered in his face except a kind and
Meantime, Antonia had risen, and, crossing the room, stood
looking out of one of the three long windows giving on the
street. Decoud followed her. The window was thrown open, and he
leaned against the thickness of the wall. The long folds of the
damask curtain, falling straight from the broad brass cornice,
hid him partly from the room. He folded his arms on his breast,
and looked steadily at Antonia's profile.
The people returning from the harbour filled the pavements; the
shuffle of sandals and a low murmur of voices ascended to the
window. Now and then a coach rolled slowly along the disjointed
roadway of the Calle de la Constitucion. There were not many
private carriages in Sulaco; at the most crowded hour on the
Alameda they could be counted with one glance of the eye. The
great family arks swayed on high leathern springs, full of pretty
powdered faces in which the eyes looked intensely alive and
black. And first Don Juste Lopez, the President of the Provincial
Assembly, passed with his three lovely daughters, solemn in a
black frock-coat and stiff white tie, as when directing a debate
from a high tribune. Though they all raised their eyes, Antonia
did not make the usual greeting gesture of a fluttered hand, and
they affected not to see the two young people, Costaguaneros with
European manners, whose eccentricities were discussed behind the
barred windows of the first families in Sulaco. And then the
widowed Senora Gavilaso de Valdes rolled by, handsome and
dignified, in a great machine in which she used to travel to and
from her country house, surrounded by an armed retinue in leather
suits and big sombreros, with carbines at the bows of their
saddles. She was a woman of most distinguished family, proud,
rich, and kind-hearted. Her second son, Jaime, had just gone off
on the Staff of Barrios. The eldest, a worthless fellow of a
moody disposition, filled Sulaco with the noise of his
dissipations, and gambled heavily at the club. The two youngest
boys, with yellow Ribierist cockades in their caps, sat on the
front seat. She, too, affected not to see the Senor Decoud
talking publicly with Antonia in defiance of every convention.
And he not even her novio as far as the world knew! Though, even
in that case, it would have been scandal enough. But the
dignified old lady, respected and admired by the first families,
would have been still more shocked if she could have heard the
words they were exchanging.
"Did you say I lost sight of the aim? I have only one aim in the
She made an almost imperceptible negative movement of her head,
still staring across the street at the Avellanos's house, grey,
marked with decay, and with iron bars like a prison.
"And it would be so easy of attainment," he continued, "this aim
which, whether knowingly or not, I have always had in my
heart--ever since the day when you snubbed me so horribly once in
Paris, you remember."
A slight smile seemed to move the corner of the lip that was on
"You know you were a very terrible person, a sort of Charlotte
Corday in a schoolgirl's dress; a ferocious patriot. I suppose
you would have stuck a knife into Guzman Bento?"
She interrupted him. "You do me too much honour."
"At any rate," he said, changing suddenly to a tone of bitter
levity, "you would have sent me to stab him without compunction."
"Ah, par exemple!" she murmured in a shocked tone.
"Well," he argued, mockingly, "you do keep me here writing deadly
nonsense. Deadly to me! It has already killed my self-respect.
And you may imagine," he continued, his tone passing into light
banter, "that Montero, should he be successful, would get even
with me in the only way such a brute can get even with a man of
intelligence who condescends to call him a gran' bestia three
times a week. It's a sort of intellectual death; but there is the
other one in the background for a journalist of my ability."
"If he is successful!" said Antonia, thoughtfully.
"You seem satisfied to see my life hang on a thread," Decoud
replied, with a broad smile. "And the other Montero, the 'my
trusted brother' of the proclamations, the guerrillero--haven't I
written that he was taking the guests' overcoats and changing
plates in Paris at our Legation in the intervals of spying on our
refugees there, in the time of Rojas? He will wash out that
sacred truth in blood. In my blood! Why do you look annoyed? This
is simply a bit of the biography of one of our great men. What do
you think he will do to me? There is a certain convent wall round
the corner of the Plaza, opposite the door of the Bull Ring. You
know? Opposite the door with the inscription, Intrada de la
Sombra.' Appropriate, perhaps! That's where the uncle of our host
gave up his Anglo-South-American soul. And, note, he might have
run away. A man who has fought with weapons may run away. You
might have let me go with Barrios if you had cared for me. I
would have carried one of those rifles, in which Don Jose
believes, with the greatest satisfaction, in the ranks of poor
peons and Indios, that know nothing either of reason or politics.
The most forlorn hope in the most forlorn army on earth would
have been safer than that for which you made me stay here. When
you make war you may retreat, but not when you spend your time in
inciting poor ignorant fools to kill and to die."
His tone remained light, and as if unaware of his presence she
stood motionless, her hands clasped lightly, the fan hanging down
from her interlaced fingers. He waited for a while, and then--
"I shall go to the wall," he said, with a sort of jocular
Even that declaration did not make her look at him. Her head
remained still, her eyes fixed upon the house of the Avellanos,
whose chipped pilasters, broken cornices, the whole degradation
of dignity was hidden now by the gathering dusk of the street. In
her whole figure her lips alone moved, forming the words--
"Martin, you will make me cry."
He remained silent for a minute, startled, as if overwhelmed by a
sort of awed happiness, with the lines of the mocking smile still
stiffened about his mouth, and incredulous surprise in his eyes.
The value of a sentence is in the personality which utters it,
for nothing new can be said by man or woman; and those were the
last words, it seemed to him, that could ever have been spoken by
Antonia. He had never made it up with her so completely in all
their intercourse of small encounters; but even before she had
time to turn towards him, which she did slowly with a rigid
grace, he had begun to plead--
"My sister is only waiting to embrace you. My father is
transported with joy. I won't say anything of my mother! Our
mothers were like sisters. There is the mail-boat for the south
next week--let us go. That Moraga is a fool! A man like Montero
is bribed. It's the practice of the country. It's tradition
--it's politics. Read 'Fifty Years of Misrule.'"
"Leave poor papa alone, Don Martin. He believes--"
"I have the greatest tenderness for your father," he began,
hurriedly. "But I love you, Antonia! And Moraga has miserably
mismanaged this business. Perhaps your father did, too; I don't
know. Montero was bribeable. Why, I suppose he only wanted his
share of this famous loan for national development. Why didn't
the stupid Sta. Marta people give him a mission to Europe, or
something? He would have taken five years' salary in advance, and
gone on loafing in Paris, this stupid, ferocious Indio!"
"The man," she said, thoughtfully, and very calm before this
outburst, "was intoxicated with vanity. We had all the
information, not from Moraga only; from others, too. There was
his brother intriguing, too."
"Oh, yes!" he said. "Of course you know. You know everything. You
read all the correspondence, you write all the papers--all those
State papers that are inspired here, in this room, in blind
deference to a theory of political purity. Hadn't you Charles
Gould before your eyes? Rey de Sulaco! He and his mine are the
practical demonstration of what could have been done. Do you
think he succeeded by his fidelity to a theory of virtue? And all
those railway people, with their honest work! Of course, their
work is honest! But what if you cannot work honestly till the
thieves are satisfied? Could he not, a gentleman, have told this
Sir John what's-his-name that Montero had to be bought off--he
and all his Negro Liberals hanging on to his gold-laced sleeve?
He ought to have been bought off with his own stupid weight of
gold--his weight of gold, I tell you, boots, sabre, spurs, cocked
hat, and all."
She shook her head slightly. "It was impossible," she murmured.
"He wanted the whole lot? What?"
She was facing him now in the deep recess of the window, very
close and motionless. Her lips moved rapidly. Decoud, leaning his
back against the wall, listened with crossed arms and lowered
eyelids. He drank the tones of her even voice, and watched the
agitated life of her throat, as if waves of emotion had run from
her heart to pass out into the air in her reasonable words. He
also had his aspirations, he aspired to carry her away out of
these deadly futilities of pronunciamientos and reforms. All this
was wrong--utterly wrong; but she fascinated him, and sometimes
the sheer sagacity of a phrase would break the charm, replace the
fascination by a sudden unwilling thrill of interest. Some women
hovered, as it were, on the threshold of genius, he reflected.
They did not want to know, or think, or understand. Passion stood
for all that, and he was ready to believe that some startlingly
profound remark, some appreciation of character, or a judgment
upon an event, bordered on the miraculous. In the mature Antonia
he could see with an extraordinary vividness the austere
schoolgirl of the earlier days. She seduced his attention;
sometimes he could not restrain a murmur of assent; now and then
he advanced an objection quite seriously. Gradually they began to
argue; the curtain half hid them from the people in the sala.
Outside it had grown dark. From the deep trench of shadow between
the houses, lit up vaguely by the glimmer of street lamps,
ascended the evening silence of Sulaco; the silence of a town
with few carriages, of unshod horses, and a softly sandalled
population. The windows of the Casa Gould flung their shining
parallelograms upon the house of the Avellanos. Now and then a
shuffle of feet passed below with the pulsating red glow of a
cigarette at the foot of the walls; and the night air, as if
cooled by the snows of Higuerota, refreshed their faces.
"We Occidentals," said Martin Decoud, using the usual term the
provincials of Sulaco applied to themselves, "have been always
distinct and separated. As long as we hold Cayta nothing can