Part 4 out of 10
reach us. In all our troubles no army has marched over those
mountains. A revolution in the central provinces isolates us at
once. Look how complete it is now! The news of Barrios' movement
will be cabled to the United States, and only in that way will it
reach Sta. Marta by the cable from the other seaboard. We have
the greatest riches, the greatest fertility, the purest blood in
our great families, the most laborious population. The Occidental
Province should stand alone. The early Federalism was not bad for
us. Then came this union which Don Henrique Gould resisted. It
opened the road to tyranny; and, ever since, the rest of
Costaguana hangs like a millstone round our necks. The Occidental
territory is large enough to make any man's country. Look at the
mountains! Nature itself seems to cry to us, 'Separate!'"
She made an energetic gesture of negation. A silence fell.
"Oh, yes, I know it's contrary to the doctrine laid down in the
'History of Fifty Years' Misrule.' I am only trying to be
sensible. But my sense seems always to give you cause for
offence. Have I startled you very much with this perfectly
She shook her head. No, she was not startled, but the idea
shocked her early convictions. Her patriotism was larger. She had
never considered that possibility.
"It may yet be the means of saving some of your convictions," he
She did not answer. She seemed tired. They leaned side by side on
the rail of the little balcony, very friendly, having exhausted
politics, giving themselves up to the silent feeling of their
nearness, in one of those profound pauses that fall upon the
rhythm of passion. Towards the plaza end of the street the
glowing coals in the brazeros of the market women cooking their
evening meal gleamed red along the edge of the pavement. A man
appeared without a sound in the light of a street lamp, showing
the coloured inverted triangle of his bordered poncho, square on
his shoulders, hanging to a point below his knees. From the
harbour end of the Calle a horseman walked his soft-stepping
mount, gleaming silver-grey abreast each lamp under the dark
shape of the rider.
"Behold the illustrious Capataz de Cargadores," said Decoud,
gently, "coming in all his splendour after his work is done. The
next great man of Sulaco after Don Carlos Gould. But he is
good-natured, and let me make friends with him."
"Ah, indeed!" said Antonia. "How did you make friends?"
"A journalist ought to have his finger on the popular pulse, and
this man is one of the leaders of the populace. A journalist
ought to know remarkable men--and this man is remarkable in his
"Ah, yes!" said Antonia, thoughtfully. "It is known that this
Italian has a great influence."
The horseman had passed below them, with a gleam of dim light on
the shining broad quarters of the grey mare, on a bright heavy
stirrup, on a long silver spur; but the short flick of yellowish
flame in the dusk was powerless against the muffled-up
mysteriousness of the dark figure with an invisible face
concealed by a great sombrero.
Decoud and Antonia remained leaning over the balcony, side by
side, touching elbows, with their heads overhanging the darkness
of the street, and the brilliantly lighted sala at their backs.
This was a tete-a-tete of extreme impropriety; something of which
in the whole extent of the Republic only the extraordinary
Antonia could be capable--the poor, motherless girl, never
accompanied, with a careless father, who had thought only of
making her learned. Even Decoud himself seemed to feel that this
was as much as he could expect of having her to himself
till--till the revolution was over and he could carry her off to
Europe, away from the endlessness of civil strife, whose folly
seemed even harder to bear than its ignominy. After one Montero
there would be another, the lawlessness of a populace of all
colours and races, barbarism, irremediable tyranny. As the great
Liberator Bolivar had said in the bitterness of his spirit,
"America is ungovernable. Those who worked for her independence
have ploughed the sea." He did not care, he declared boldly; he
seized every opportunity to tell her that though she had managed
to make a Blanco journalist of him, he was no patriot. First of
all, the word had no sense for cultured minds, to whom the
narrowness of every belief is odious; and secondly, in connection
with the everlasting troubles of this unhappy country it was
hopelessly besmirched; it had been the cry of dark barbarism, the
cloak of lawlessness, of crimes, of rapacity, of simple thieving.
He was surprised at the warmth of his own utterance. He had no
need to drop his voice; it had been low all the time, a mere
murmur in the silence of dark houses with their shutters closed
early against the night air, as is the custom of Sulaco. Only the
sala of the Casa Gould flung out defiantly the blaze of its four
windows, the bright appeal of light in the whole dumb obscurity
of the street. And the murmur on the little balcony went on after
a short pause.
"But we are labouring to change all that," Antonia protested. "It
is exactly what we desire. It is our object. It is the great
cause. And the word you despise has stood also for sacrifice, for
courage, for constancy, for suffering. Papa, who--"
"Ploughing the sea," interrupted Decoud, looking down.
There was below the sound of hasty and ponderous footsteps.
"Your uncle, the grand-vicar of the cathedral, has just turned
under the gate," observed Decoud. "He said Mass for the troops in
the Plaza this morning. They had built for him an altar of
drums, you know. And they brought outside all the painted blocks
to take the air. All the wooden saints stood militarily in a row
at the top of the great flight of steps. They looked like a
gorgeous escort attending the Vicar-General. I saw the great
function from the windows of the Porvenir. He is amazing, your
uncle, the last of the Corbelans. He glittered exceedingly in his
vestments with a great crimson velvet cross down his back. And
all the time our saviour Barrios sat in the Amarilla Club
drinking punch at an open window. Esprit fort--our Barrios. I
expected every moment your uncle to launch an excommunication
there and then at the black eye-patch in the window across the
Plaza. But not at all. Ultimately the troops marched off. Later
Barrios came down with some of the officers, and stood with his
uniform all unbuttoned, discoursing at the edge of the pavement.
Suddenly your uncle appeared, no longer glittering, but all
black, at the cathedral door with that threatening aspect he
has--you know, like a sort of avenging spirit. He gives one look,
strides over straight at the group of uniforms, and leads away
the general by the elbow. He walked him for a quarter of an hour
in the shade of a wall. Never let go his elbow for a moment,
talking all the time with exaltation, and gesticulating with a
long black arm. It was a curious scene. The officers seemed
struck with astonishment. Remarkable man, your missionary uncle.
He hates an infidel much less than a heretic, and prefers a
heathen many times to an infidel. He condescends graciously to
call me a heathen, sometimes, you know."
Antonia listened with her hands over the balustrade, opening and
shutting the fan gently; and Decoud talked a little nervously, as
if afraid that she would leave him at the first pause. Their
comparative isolation, the precious sense of intimacy, the slight
contact of their arms, affected him softly; for now and then a
tender inflection crept into the flow of his ironic murmurs.
"Any slight sign of favour from a relative of yours is welcome,
Antonia. And perhaps he understands me, after all! But I know
him, too, our Padre Corbelan. The idea of political honour,
justice, and honesty for him consists in the restitution of the
confiscated Church property. Nothing else could have drawn that
fierce converter of savage Indians out of the wilds to work for
the Ribierist cause! Nothing else but that wild hope! He would
make a pronunciamiento himself for such an object against any
Government if he could only get followers! What does Don Carlos
Gould think of that? But, of course, with his English
impenetrability, nobody can tell what he thinks. Probably he
thinks of nothing apart from his mine; of his 'Imperium in
Imperio.' As to Mrs. Gould, she thinks of her schools, of her
hospitals, of the mothers with the young babies, of every sick
old man in the three villages. If you were to turn your head now
you would see her extracting a report from that sinister doctor
in a check shirt--what's his name? Monygham--or else catechising
Don Pepe or perhaps listening to Padre Roman. They are all down
here to-day--all her ministers of state. Well, she is a sensible
woman, and perhaps Don Carlos is a sensible man. It's a part of
solid English sense not to think too much; to see only what may
be of practical use at the moment. These people are not like
ourselves. We have no political reason; we have political
passions--sometimes. What is a conviction? A particular view of
our personal advantage either practical or emotional. No one is
a patriot for nothing. The word serves us well. But I am
clear-sighted, and I shall not use that word to you, Antonia! I
have no patriotic illusions. I have only the supreme illusion of
He paused, then muttered almost inaudibly, "That can lead one
very far, though."
Behind their backs the political tide that once in every
twenty-four hours set with a strong flood through the Gould
drawing-room could be heard, rising higher in a hum of voices.
Men had been dropping in singly, or in twos and threes: the
higher officials of the province, engineers of the railway,
sunburnt and in tweeds, with the frosted head of their chief
smiling with slow, humorous indulgence amongst the young eager
faces. Scarfe, the lover of fandangos, had already slipped out in
search of some dance, no matter where, on the outskirts of the
town. Don Juste Lopez, after taking his daughters home, had
entered solemnly, in a black creased coat buttoned up under his
spreading brown beard. The few members of the Provincial Assembly
present clustered at once around their President to discuss the
news of the war and the last proclamation of the rebel Montero,
the miserable Montero, calling in the name of "a justly incensed
democracy" upon all the Provincial Assemblies of the Republic to
suspend their sittings till his sword had made peace and the will
of the people could be consulted. It was practically an
invitation to dissolve: an unheard-of audacity of that evil
The indignation ran high in the knot of deputies behind Jose
Avellanos. Don Jose, lifting up his voice, cried out to them over
the high back of his chair, "Sulaco has answered by sending
to-day an army upon his flank. If all the other provinces show
only half as much patriotism as we Occidentals--"
A great outburst of acclamations covered the vibrating treble of
the life and soul of the party. Yes! Yes! This was true! A great
truth! Sulaco was in the forefront, as ever! It was a boastful
tumult, the hopefulness inspired by the event of the day breaking
out amongst those caballeros of the Campo thinking of their
herds, of their lands, of the safety of their families.
Everything was at stake. . . . No! It was impossible that Montero
should succeed! This criminal, this shameless Indio! The clamour
continued for some time, everybody else in the room looking
towards the group where Don Juste had put on his air of impartial
solemnity as if presiding at a sitting of the Provincial
Assembly. Decoud had turned round at the noise, and, leaning his
back on the balustrade, shouted into the room with all the
strength of his lungs, "Gran' bestia!"
This unexpected cry had the effect of stilling the noise. All the
eyes were directed to the window with an approving expectation;
but Decoud had already turned his back upon the room, and was
again leaning out over the quiet street.
"This is the quintessence of my journalism; that is the supreme
argument," he said to Antonia. "I have invented this definition,
this last word on a great question. But I am no patriot. I am no
more of a patriot than the Capataz of the Sulaco Cargadores, this
Genoese who has done such great things for this harbour--this
active usher-in of the material implements for our progress. You
have heard Captain Mitchell confess over and over again that till
he got this man he could never tell how long it would take to
unload a ship. That is bad for progress. You have seen him pass
by after his labours on his famous horse to dazzle the girls in
some ballroom with an earthen floor. He is a fortunate fellow!
His work is an exercise of personal powers; his leisure is spent
in receiving the marks of extraordinary adulation. And he likes
it, too. Can anybody be more fortunate? To be feared and admired
"And are these your highest aspirations, Don Martin?" interrupted
"I was speaking of a man of that sort," said Decoud, curtly. "The
heroes of the world have been feared and admired. What more could
Decoud had often felt his familiar habit of ironic thought fall
shattered against Antonia's gravity. She irritated him as if she,
too, had suffered from that inexplicable feminine obtuseness
which stands so often between a man and a woman of the more
ordinary sort. But he overcame his vexation at once. He was very
far from thinking Antonia ordinary, whatever verdict his
scepticism might have pronounced upon himself. With a touch of
penetrating tenderness in his voice he assured her that his only
aspiration was to a felicity so high that it seemed almost
unrealizable on this earth.
She coloured invisibly, with a warmth against which the breeze
from the sierra seemed to have lost its cooling power in the
sudden melting of the snows. His whisper could not have carried
so far, though there was enough ardour in his tone to melt a
heart of ice. Antonia turned away abruptly, as if to carry his
whispered assurance into the room behind, full of light, noisy
The tide of political speculation was beating high within the
four walls of the great sala, as if driven beyond the marks by a
great gust of hope. Don Juste's fan-shaped beard was still the
centre of loud and animated discussions. There was a
self-confident ring in all the voices. Even the few Europeans
around Charles Gould--a Dane, a couple of Frenchmen, a discreet
fat German, smiling, with down-cast eyes, the representatives of
those material interests that had got a footing in Sulaco under
the protecting might of the San Tome mine--had infused a lot of
good humour into their deference. Charles Gould, to whom they
were paying their court, was the visible sign of the stability
that could be achieved on the shifting ground of revolutions.
They felt hopeful about their various undertakings. One of the
two Frenchmen, small, black, with glittering eyes lost in an
immense growth of bushy beard, waved his tiny brown hands and
delicate wrists. He had been travelling in the interior of the
province for a syndicate of European capitalists. His forcible
"Monsieur l' Administrateur" returning every minute shrilled
above the steady hum of conversations. He was relating his
discoveries. He was ecstatic. Charles Gould glanced down at him
At a given moment of these necessary receptions it was Mrs.
Gould's habit to withdraw quietly into a little drawing-room,
especially her own, next to the great sala. She had risen, and,
waiting for Antonia, listened with a slightly worried
graciousness to the engineer-in-chief of the railway, who stooped
over her, relating slowly, without the slightest gesture,
something apparently amusing, for his eyes had a humorous
twinkle. Antonia, before she advanced into the room to join Mrs.
Gould, turned her head over her shoulder towards Decoud, only for
"Why should any one of us think his aspirations unrealizable?"
she said, rapidly.
"I am going to cling to mine to the end, Antonia," he answered,
through clenched teeth, then bowed very low, a little distantly.
The engineer-in-chief had not finished telling his amusing story.
The humours of railway building in South America appealed to his
keen appreciation of the absurd, and he told his instances of
ignorant prejudice and as ignorant cunning very well. Now, Mrs.
Gould gave him all her attention as he walked by her side
escorting the ladies out of the room. Finally all three passed
unnoticed through the glass doors in the gallery. Only a tall
priest stalking silently in the noise of the sala checked himself
to look after them. Father Corbelan, whom Decoud had seen from
the balcony turning into the gateway of the Casa Gould, had
addressed no one since coming in. The long, skimpy soutane
accentuated the tallness of his stature; he carried his powerful
torso thrown forward; and the straight, black bar of his joined
eyebrows, the pugnacious outline of the bony face, the white spot
of a scar on the bluish shaven cheeks (a testimonial to his
apostolic zeal from a party of unconverted Indians), suggested
something unlawful behind his priesthood, the idea of a chaplain
He separated his bony, knotted hands clasped behind his back, to
shake his finger at Martin.
Decoud had stepped into the room after Antonia. But he did not
go far. He had remained just within, against the curtain, with an
expression of not quite genuine gravity, like a grown-up person
taking part in a game of children. He gazed quietly at the
"I have watched your reverence converting General Barrios by a
special sermon on the Plaza," he said, without making the
"What miserable nonsense!" Father Corbelan's deep voice resounded
all over the room, making all the heads turn on the shoulders.
"The man is a drunkard. Senores, the God of your General is a
His contemptuous, arbitrary voice caused an uneasy suspension of
every sound, as if the self-confidence of the gathering had been
staggered by a blow. But nobody took up Father Corbelan's
It was known that Father Corbelan had come out of the wilds to
advocate the sacred rights of the Church with the same fanatical
fearlessness with which he had gone preaching to bloodthirsty
savages, devoid of human compassion or worship of any kind.
Rumours of legendary proportions told of his successes as a
missionary beyond the eye of Christian men. He had baptized whole
nations of Indians, living with them like a savage himself. It
was related that the padre used to ride with his Indians for
days, half naked, carrying a bullock-hide shield, and, no doubt,
a long lance, too--who knows? That he had wandered clothed in
skins, seeking for proselytes somewhere near the snow line of the
Cordillera. Of these exploits Padre Corbelan himself was never
known to talk. But he made no secret of his opinion that the
politicians of Sta. Marta had harder hearts and more corrupt
minds than the heathen to whom he had carried the word of God.
His injudicious zeal for the temporal welfare of the Church was
damaging the Ribierist cause. It was common knowledge that he had
refused to be made titular bishop of the Occidental diocese till
justice was done to a despoiled Church. The political Gefe of
Sulaco (the same dignitary whom Captain Mitchell saved from the
mob afterwards) hinted with naive cynicism that doubtless their
Excellencies the Ministers sent the padre over the mountains to
Sulaco in the worst season of the year in the hope that he would
be frozen to death by the icy blasts of the high paramos. Every
year a few hardy muleteers--men inured to exposure--were known to
perish in that way. But what would you have? Their Excellencies
possibly had not realized what a tough priest he was. Meantime,
the ignorant were beginning to murmur that the Ribierist reforms
meant simply the taking away of the land from the people. Some
of it was to be given to foreigners who made the railway; the
greater part was to go to the padres.
These were the results of the Grand Vicar's zeal. Even from the
short allocution to the troops on the Plaza (which only the first
ranks could have heard) he had not been able to keep out his
fixed idea of an outraged Church waiting for reparation from a
penitent country. The political Gefe had been exasperated. But
he could not very well throw the brother-in-law of Don Jose into
the prison of the Cabildo. The chief magistrate, an easy-going
and popular official, visited the Casa Gould, walking over after
sunset from the Intendencia, unattended, acknowledging with
dignified courtesy the salutations of high and low alike. That
evening he had walked up straight to Charles Gould and had hissed
out to him that he would have liked to deport the Grand Vicar out
of Sulaco, anywhere, to some desert island, to the Isabels, for
instance. "The one without water preferably--eh, Don Carlos?" he
had added in a tone between jest and earnest. This uncontrollable
priest, who had rejected his offer of the episcopal palace for a
residence and preferred to hang his shabby hammock amongst the
rubble and spiders of the sequestrated Dominican Convent, had
taken into his head to advocate an unconditional pardon for
Hernandez the Robber! And this was not enough; he seemed to have
entered into communication with the most audacious criminal the
country had known for years. The Sulaco police knew, of course,
what was going on. Padre Corbelan had got hold of that reckless
Italian, the Capataz de Cargadores, the only man fit for such an
errand, and had sent a message through him. Father Corbelan had
studied in Rome, and could speak Italian. The Capataz was known
to visit the old Dominican Convent at night. An old woman who
served the Grand Vicar had heard the name of Hernandez
pronounced; and only last Saturday afternoon the Capataz had been
observed galloping out of town. He did not return for two days.
The police would have laid the Italian by the heels if it had not
been for fear of the Cargadores, a turbulent body of men, quite
apt to raise a tumult. Nowadays it was not so easy to govern
Sulaco. Bad characters flocked into it, attracted by the money in
the pockets of the railway workmen. The populace was made
restless by Father Corbelan's discourses. And the first
magistrate explained to Charles Gould that now the province was
stripped of troops any outbreak of lawlessness would find the
authorities with their boots off, as it were.
Then he went away moodily to sit in an armchair, smoking a long,
thin cigar, not very far from Don Jose, with whom, bending over
sideways, he exchanged a few words from time to time. He ignored
the entrance of the priest, and whenever Father Corbelan's voice
was raised behind him, he shrugged his shoulders impatiently.
Father Corbelan had remained quite motionless for a time with
that something vengeful in his immobility which seemed to
characterize all his attitudes. A lurid glow of strong
convictions gave its peculiar aspect to the black figure. But its
fierceness became softened as the padre, fixing his eyes upon
Decoud, raised his long, black arm slowly, impressively--
"And you--you are a perfect heathen," he said, in a subdued, deep
He made a step nearer, pointing a forefinger at the young man's
breast. Decoud, very calm, felt the wall behind the curtain with
the back of his head. Then, with his chin tilted well up, he
"Very well," he agreed with the slightly weary nonchalance of a
man well used to these passages. "But is it perhaps that you have
not discovered yet what is the God of my worship? It was an
easier task with our Barrios."
The priest suppressed a gesture of discouragement. "You believe
neither in stick nor stone," he said.
"Nor bottle," added Decoud without stirring. "Neither does the
other of your reverence's confidants. I mean the Capataz of the
Cargadores. He does not drink. Your reading of my character does
honour to your perspicacity. But why call me a heathen?"
"True," retorted the priest. "You are ten times worse. A miracle
could not convert you."
"I certainly do not believe in miracles," said Decoud, quietly.
Father Corbelan shrugged his high, broad shoulders doubtfully.
"A sort of Frenchman--godless--a materialist," he pronounced
slowly, as if weighing the terms of a careful analysis. "Neither
the son of his own country nor of any other," he continued,
"Scarcely human, in fact," Decoud commented under his breath, his
head at rest against the wall, his eyes gazing up at the ceiling.
"The victim of this faithless age," Father Corbelan resumed in a
deep but subdued voice.
"But of some use as a journalist." Decoud changed his pose and
spoke in a more animated tone. "Has your worship neglected to
read the last number of the Porvenir? I assure you it is just
like the others. On the general policy it continues to call
Montero a gran' bestia, and stigmatize his brother, the
guerrillero, for a combination of lackey and spy. What could be
more effective? In local affairs it urges the Provincial
Government to enlist bodily into the national army the band of
Hernandez the Robber--who is apparently the protege of the
Church--or at least of the Grand Vicar. Nothing could be more
The priest nodded and turned on the heels of his square-toed
shoes with big steel buckles. Again, with his hands clasped
behind his back, he paced to and fro, planting his feet firmly.
When he swung about, the skirt of his soutane was inflated
slightly by the brusqueness of his movements.
The great sala had been emptying itself slowly. When the Gefe
Politico rose to go, most of those still remaining stood up
suddenly in sign of respect, and Don Jose Avellanos stopped the
rocking of his chair. But the good-natured First Official made a
deprecatory gesture, waved his hand to Charles Gould, and went
In the comparative peace of the room the screaming "Monsieur
l'Administrateur" of the frail, hairy Frenchman seemed to acquire
a preternatural shrillness. The explorer of the Capitalist
syndicate was still enthusiastic. "Ten million dollars' worth of
copper practically in sight, Monsieur l'Administrateur. Ten
millions in sight! And a railway coming--a railway! They will
never believe my report. C'est trop beau." He fell a prey to a
screaming ecstasy, in the midst of sagely nodding heads, before
Charles Gould's imperturbable calm.
And only the priest continued his pacing, flinging round the
skirt of his soutane at each end of his beat. Decoud murmured to
him ironically: "Those gentlemen talk about their gods."
Father Corbelan stopped short, looked at the journalist of Sulaco
fixedly for a moment, shrugged his shoulders slightly, and
resumed his plodding walk of an obstinate traveller.
And now the Europeans were dropping off from the group around
Charles Gould till the Administrador of the Great Silver Mine
could be seen in his whole lank length, from head to foot, left
stranded by the ebbing tide of his guests on the great square of
carpet, as it were a multi-coloured shoal of flowers and
arabesques under his brown boots. Father Corbelan approached the
rocking-chair of Don Jose Avellanos.
"Come, brother," he said, with kindly brusqueness and a touch of
relieved impatience a man may feel at the end of a perfectly
useless ceremony. "A la Casa! A la Casa! This has been all talk.
Let us now go and think and pray for guidance from Heaven."
He rolled his black eyes upwards. By the side of the frail
diplomatist--the life and soul of the party--he seemed gigantic,
with a gleam of fanaticism in the glance. But the voice of the
party, or, rather, its mouthpiece, the "son Decoud" from Paris,
turned journalist for the sake of Antonia's eyes, knew very well
that it was not so, that he was only a strenuous priest with one
idea, feared by the women and execrated by the men of the people.
Martin Decoud, the dilettante in life, imagined himself to derive
an artistic pleasure from watching the picturesque extreme of
wrongheadedness into which an honest, almost sacred, conviction
may drive a man. "It is like madness. It must be--because it's
self-destructive," Decoud had said to himself often. It seemed to
him that every conviction, as soon as it became effective, turned
into that form of dementia the gods send upon those they wish to
destroy. But he enjoyed the bitter flavour of that example with
the zest of a connoisseur in the art of his choice. Those two men
got on well together, as if each had felt respectively that a
masterful conviction, as well as utter scepticism, may lead a man
very far on the by-paths of political action.
Don Jose obeyed the touch of the big hairy hand. Decoud followed
out the brothers-in-law. And there remained only one visitor in
the vast empty sala, bluishly hazy with tobacco smoke, a
heavy-eyed, round-cheeked man, with a drooping moustache, a hide
merchant from Esmeralda, who had come overland to Sulaco, riding
with a few peons across the coast range. He was very full of his
journey, undertaken mostly for the purpose of seeing the Senor
Administrador of San Tome in relation to some assistance he
required in his hide-exporting business. He hoped to enlarge it
greatly now that the country was going to be settled. It was
going to be settled, he repeated several times, degrading by a
strange, anxious whine the sonority of the Spanish language,
which he pattered rapidly, like some sort of cringing jargon. A
plain man could carry on his little business now in the country,
and even think of enlarging it--with safety. Was it not so? He
seemed to beg Charles Gould for a confirmatory word, a grunt of
assent, a simple nod even.
He could get nothing. His alarm increased, and in the pauses he
would dart his eyes here and there; then, loth to give up, he
would branch off into feeling allusion to the dangers of his
journey. The audacious Hernandez, leaving his usual haunts, had
crossed the Campo of Sulaco, and was known to be lurking in the
ravines of the coast range. Yesterday, when distant only a few
hours from Sulaco, the hide merchant and his servants had seen
three men on the road arrested suspiciously, with their horses'
heads together. Two of these rode off at once and disappeared in
a shallow quebrada to the left. "We stopped," continued the man
from Esmeralda, "and I tried to hide behind a small bush. But
none of my mozos would go forward to find out what it meant, and
the third horseman seemed to be waiting for us to come up. It was
no use. We had been seen. So we rode slowly on, trembling. He
let us pass--a man on a grey horse with his hat down on his
eyes--without a word of greeting; but by-and-by we heard him
galloping after us. We faced about, but that did not seem to
intimidate him. He rode up at speed, and touching my foot with
the toe of his boot, asked me for a cigar, with a blood-curdling
laugh. He did not seem armed, but when he put his hand back to
reach for the matches I saw an enormous revolver strapped to his
waist. I shuddered. He had very fierce whiskers, Don Carlos, and
as he did not offer to go on we dared not move. At last, blowing
the smoke of my cigar into the air through his nostrils, he said,
'Senor, it would be perhaps better for you if I rode behind your
party. You are not very far from Sulaco now. Go you with God.'
What would you? We went on. There was no resisting him. He might
have been Hernandez himself; though my servant, who has been many
times to Sulaco by sea, assured me that he had recognized him
very well for the Capataz of the Steamship Company's Cargadores.
Later, that same evening, I saw that very man at the corner of
the Plaza talking to a girl, a Morenita, who stood by the stirrup
with her hand on the grey horse's mane."
"I assure you, Senor Hirsch," murmured Charles Gould, "that you
ran no risk on this occasion."
"That may be, senor, though I tremble yet. A most fierce man--to
look at. And what does it mean? A person employed by the
Steamship Company talking with salteadores--no less, senor; the
other horsemen were salteadores--in a lonely place, and behaving
like a robber himself! A cigar is nothing, but what was there to
prevent him asking me for my purse?"
"No, no, Senor Hirsch," Charles Gould murmured, letting his
glance stray away a little vacantly from the round face, with its
hooked beak upturned towards him in an almost childlike appeal.
"If it was the Capataz de Cargadores you met--and there is no
doubt, is there? --you were perfectly safe."
"Thank you. You are very good. A very fierce-looking man, Don
Carlos. He asked me for a cigar in a most familiar manner. What
would have happened if I had not had a cigar? I shudder yet. What
business had he to be talking with robbers in a lonely place?"
But Charles Gould, openly preoccupied now, gave not a sign, made
no sound. The impenetrability of the embodied Gould Concession
had its surface shades. To be dumb is merely a fatal affliction;
but the King of Sulaco had words enough to give him all the
mysterious weight of a taciturn force. His silences, backed by
the power of speech, had as many shades of significance as
uttered words in the way of assent, of doubt, of negation--even
of simple comment. Some seemed to say plainly, "Think it over";
others meant clearly, "Go ahead"; a simple, low "I see," with an
affirmative nod, at the end of a patient listening half-hour was
the equivalent of a verbal contract, which men had learned to
trust implicitly, since behind it all there was the great San
Tome mine, the head and front of the material interests, so
strong that it depended on no man's goodwill in the whole length
and breadth of the Occidental Province--that is, on no goodwill
which it could not buy ten times over. But to the little
hook-nosed man from Esmeralda, anxious about the export of hides,
the silence of Charles Gould portended a failure. Evidently this
was no time for extending a modest man's business. He enveloped
in a swift mental malediction the whole country, with all its
inhabitants, partisans of Ribiera and Montero alike; and there
were incipient tears in his mute anger at the thought of the
innumerable ox-hides going to waste upon the dreamy expanse of
the Campo, with its single palms rising like ships at sea within
the perfect circle of the horizon, its clumps of heavy timber
motionless like solid islands of leaves above the running waves
of grass. There were hides there, rotting, with no profit to
anybody--rotting where they had been dropped by men called away
to attend the urgent necessities of political revolutions. The
practical, mercantile soul of Senor Hirsch rebelled against all
that foolishness, while he was taking a respectful but
disconcerted leave of the might and majesty of the San Tome mine
in the person of Charles Gould. He could not restrain a
heart-broken murmur, wrung out of his very aching heart, as it
"It is a great, great foolishness, Don Carlos, all this. The
price of hides in Hamburg is gone up--up. Of course the Ribierist
Government will do away with all that--when it gets established
"Yes, meantime," repeated Charles Gould, inscrutably.
The other shrugged his shoulders. But he was not ready to go yet.
There was a little matter he would like to mention very much if
permitted. It appeared he had some good friends in Hamburg (he
murmured the name of the firm) who were very anxious to do
business, in dynamite, he explained. A contract for dynamite with
the San Tome mine, and then, perhaps, later on, other mines,
which were sure to--The little man from Esmeralda was ready to
enlarge, but Charles interrupted him. It seemed as though the
patience of the Senor Administrador was giving way at last.
"Senor Hirsch," he said, "I have enough dynamite stored up at the
mountain to send it down crashing into the valley"--his voice
rose a little--"to send half Sulaco into the air if I liked."
Charles Gould smiled at the round, startled eyes of the dealer in
hides, who was murmuring hastily, "Just so. Just so." And now he
was going. It was impossible to do business in explosives with an
Administrador so well provided and so discouraging. He had
suffered agonies in the saddle and had exposed himself to the
atrocities of the bandit Hernandez for nothing at all. Neither
hides nor dynamite--and the very shoulders of the enterprising
Israelite expressed dejection. At the door he bowed low to the
engineer-in-chief. But at the bottom of the stairs in the patio
he stopped short, with his podgy hand over his lips in an
attitude of meditative astonishment.
"What does he want to keep so much dynamite for?" he muttered.
"And why does he talk like this to me?"
The engineer-in-chief, looking in at the door of the empty sala,
whence the political tide had ebbed out to the last insignificant
drop, nodded familiarly to the master of the house, standing
motionless like a tall beacon amongst the deserted shoals of
"Good-night, I am going. Got my bike downstairs. The railway
will know where to go for dynamite should we get short at any
time. We have done cutting and chopping for a while now. We shall
begin soon to blast our way through."
"Don't come to me," said Charles Gould, with perfect serenity. "I
shan't have an ounce to spare for anybody. Not an ounce. Not for
my own brother, if I had a brother, and he were the
engineer-in-chief of the most promising railway in the world."
"What's that?" asked the engineer-in-chief, with equanimity.
"No," said Charles Gould, stolidly. "Policy."
"Radical, I should think," the engineer-in-chief observed from
"Is that the right name?" Charles Gould said, from the middle of
"I mean, going to the roots, you know," the engineer explained,
with an air of enjoyment.
"Why, yes," Charles pronounced, slowly. "The Gould Concession has
struck such deep roots in this country, in this province, in that
gorge of the mountains, that nothing but dynamite shall be
allowed to dislodge it from there. It's my choice. It's my last
card to play."
The engineer-in-chief whistled low. "A pretty game," he said,
with a shade of discretion. "And have you told Holroyd of that
extraordinary trump card you hold in your hand?"
"Card only when it's played; when it falls at the end of the
game. Till then you may call it a--a--"
"Weapon," suggested the railway man.
"No. You may call it rather an argument," corrected Charles
Gould, gently. "And that's how I've presented it to Mr. Holroyd."
"And what did he say to it?" asked the engineer, with undisguised
"He"--Charles Gould spoke after a slight pause--"he said
something about holding on like grim death and putting our trust
in God. I should imagine he must have been rather startled. But
then"--pursued the Administrador of the San Tome mine--"but then,
he is very far away, you know, and, as they say in this country,
God is very high above."
The engineer's appreciative laugh died away down the stairs,
where the Madonna with the Child on her arm seemed to look after
his shaking broad back from her shallow niche.
A PROFOUND stillness reigned in the Casa Gould. The master of
the house, walking along the corredor, opened the door of his
room, and saw his wife sitting in a big armchair--his own smoking
armchair--thoughtful, contemplating her little shoes. And she did
not raise her eyes when he walked in.
"Tired?" asked Charles Gould.
"A little," said Mrs. Gould. Still without looking up, she added
with feeling, "There is an awful sense of unreality about all
Charles Gould, before the long table strewn with papers, on which
lay a hunting crop and a pair of spurs, stood looking at his
wife: "The heat and dust must have been awful this afternoon by
the waterside," he murmured, sympathetically. "The glare on the
water must have been simply terrible."
"One could close one's eyes to the glare," said Mrs. Gould.
"But, my dear Charley, it is impossible for me to close my eyes
to our position; to this awful . . ."
She raised her eyes and looked at her husband's face, from which
all sign of sympathy or any other feeling had disappeared. "Why
don't you tell me something?" she almost wailed.
"I thought you had understood me perfectly from the first,"
Charles Gould said, slowly. "I thought we had said all there was
to say a long time ago. There is nothing to say now. There were
things to be done. We have done them; we have gone on doing
them. There is no going back now. I don't suppose that, even
from the first, there was really any possible way back. And,
what's more, we can't even afford to stand still."
"Ah, if one only knew how far you mean to go," said his wife.
inwardly trembling, but in an almost playful tone.
"Any distance, any length, of course," was the answer, in a
matter-of-fact tone, which caused Mrs. Gould to make another
effort to repress a shudder.
She stood up, smiling graciously, and her little figure seemed to
be diminished still more by the heavy mass of her hair and the
long train of her gown.
"But always to success," she said, persuasively.
Charles Gould, enveloping her in the steely blue glance of his
attentive eyes, answered without hesitation--
"Oh, there is no alternative."
He put an immense assurance into his tone. As to the words, this
was all that his conscience would allow him to say.
Mrs. Gould's smile remained a shade too long upon her lips. She
"I will leave you; I've a slight headache. The heat, the dust,
were indeed--I suppose you are going back to the mine before the
"At midnight," said Charles Gould. "We are bringing down the
silver to-morrow. Then I shall take three whole days off in town
"Ah, you are going to meet the escort. I shall be on the balcony
at five o'clock to see you pass. Till then, good-bye."
Charles Gould walked rapidly round the table, and, seizing her
hands, bent down, pressing them both to his lips. Before he
straightened himself up again to his full height she had
disengaged one to smooth his cheek with a light touch, as if he
were a little boy.
"Try to get some rest for a couple of hours," she murmured, with
a glance at a hammock stretched in a distant part of the room.
Her long train swished softly after her on the red tiles. At the
door she looked back.
Two big lamps with unpolished glass globes bathed in a soft and
abundant light the four white walls of the room, with a glass
case of arms, the brass hilt of Henry Gould's cavalry sabre on
its square of velvet, and the water-colour sketch of the San Tome
gorge. And Mrs. Gould, gazing at the last in its black wooden
frame, sighed out--
"Ah, if we had left it alone, Charley!"
"No," Charles Gould said, moodily; "it was impossible to leave it
"Perhaps it was impossible," Mrs. Gould admitted, slowly. Her
lips quivered a little, but she smiled with an air of dainty
bravado. "We have disturbed a good many snakes in that Paradise,
Charley, haven't we?"
"Yes, I remember," said Charles Gould, "it was Don Pepe who
called the gorge the Paradise of snakes. No doubt we have
disturbed a great many. But remember, my dear, that it is not now
as it was when you made that sketch." He waved his hand towards
the small water-colour hanging alone upon the great bare wall.
"It is no longer a Paradise of snakes. We have brought mankind
into it, and we cannot turn our backs upon them to go and begin a
new life elsewhere."
He confronted his wife with a firm, concentrated gaze, which Mrs.
Gould returned with a brave assumption of fearlessness before she
went out, closing the door gently after her.
In contrast with the white glaring room the dimly lit corredor
had a restful mysteriousness of a forest glade, suggested by the
stems and the leaves of the plants ranged along the balustrade of
the open side. In the streaks of light falling through the open
doors of the reception-rooms, the blossoms, white and red and
pale lilac, came out vivid with the brilliance of flowers in a
stream of sunshine; and Mrs. Gould, passing on, had the vividness
of a figure seen in the clear patches of sun that chequer the
gloom of open glades in the woods. The stones in the rings upon
her hand pressed to her forehead glittered in the lamplight
abreast of the door of the sala.
"Who's there?" she asked, in a startled voice. "Is that you,
Basilio?" She looked in, and saw Martin Decoud walking about,
with an air of having lost something, amongst the chairs and
"Antonia has forgotten her fan in here," said Decoud, with a
strange air of distraction; "so I entered to see."
But, even as he said this, he had obviously given up his search,
and walked straight towards Mrs. Gould, who looked at him with
"Senora," he began, in a low voice.
"What is it, Don Martin?" asked Mrs. Gould. And then she added,
with a slight laugh, "I am so nervous to-day," as if to explain
the eagerness of the question.
"Nothing immediately dangerous," said Decoud, who now could not
conceal his agitation. "Pray don't distress yourself. No, really,
you must not distress yourself."
Mrs. Gould, with her candid eyes very wide open, her lips
composed into a smile, was steadying herself with a little
bejewelled hand against the side of the door.
"Perhaps you don't know how alarming you are, appearing like this
"I! Alarming!" he protested, sincerely vexed and surprised. "I
assure you that I am not in the least alarmed myself. A fan is
lost; well, it will be found again. But I don't think it is here.
It is a fan I am looking for. I cannot understand how Antonia
could--Well! Have you found it, amigo?"
"No, senor," said behind Mrs. Gould the soft voice of Basilio,
the head servant of the Casa. "I don't think the senorita could
have left it in this house at all."
"Go and look for it in the patio again. Go now, my friend; look
for it on the steps, under the gate; examine every flagstone;
search for it till I come down again. . . . That fellow"--he
addressed himself in English to Mrs. Gould--"is always stealing
up behind one's back on his bare feet. I set him to look for that
fan directly I came in to justify my reappearance, my sudden
He paused and Mrs. Gould said, amiably, "You are always welcome."
She paused for a second, too. "But I am waiting to learn the
cause of your return."
Decoud affected suddenly the utmost nonchalance.
"I can't bear to be spied upon. Oh, the cause? Yes, there is a
cause; there is something else that is lost besides Antonia's
favourite fan. As I was walking home after seeing Don Jose and
Antonia to their house, the Capataz de Cargadores, riding down
the street, spoke to me."
"Has anything happened to the Violas?" inquired Mrs. Gould.
"The Violas? You mean the old Garibaldino who keeps the hotel
where the engineers live? Nothing happened there. The Capataz
said nothing of them; he only told me that the telegraphist of
the Cable Company was walking on the Plaza, bareheaded, looking
out for me. There is news from the interior, Mrs. Gould. I
should rather say rumours of news."
"Good news?" said Mrs. Gould in a low voice.
"Worthless, I should think. But if I must define them, I would
say bad. They are to the effect that a two days' battle had been
fought near Sta. Marta, and that the Ribierists are defeated. It
must have happened a few days ago--perhaps a week. The rumour has
just reached Cayta, and the man in charge of the cable station
there has telegraphed the news to his colleague here. We might
just as well have kept Barrios in Sulaco."
"What's to be done now?" murmured Mrs. Gould.
"Nothing. He's at sea with the troops. He will get to Cayta in a
couple of days' time and learn the news there. What he will do
then, who can say? Hold Cayta? Offer his submission to Montero?
Disband his army--this last most likely, and go himself in one of
the O.S.N. Company's steamers, north or south--to Valparaiso or
to San Francisco, no matter where. Our Barrios has a great
practice in exiles and repatriations, which mark the points in
the political game."
Decoud, exchanging a steady stare with Mrs. Gould, added,
tentatively, as it were, "And yet, if we had could have been
"Montero victorious, completely victorious!" Mrs. Gould breathed
out in a tone of unbelief.
"A canard, probably. That sort of bird is hatched in great
numbers in such times as these. And even if it were true? Well,
let us put things at their worst, let us say it is true."
"Then everything is lost," said Mrs. Gould, with the calmness of
Suddenly she seemed to divine, she seemed to see Decoud's
tremendous excitement under its cloak of studied carelessness. It
was, indeed, becoming visible in his audacious and watchful
stare, in the curve, half-reckless, half-contemptuous, of his
lips. And a French phrase came upon them as if, for this
Costaguanero of the Boulevard, that had been the only forcible
"Non, Madame. Rien n'est perdu."
It electrified Mrs. Gould out of her benumbed attitude, and she
"What would you think of doing?"
But already there was something of mockery in Decoud's suppressed
"What would you expect a true Costaguanero to do? Another
revolution, of course. On my word of honour, Mrs. Gould, I
believe I am a true hijo del pays, a true son of the country,
whatever Father Corbelan may say. And I'm not so much of an
unbeliever as not to have faith in my own ideas, in my own
remedies, in my own desires."
"Yes," said Mrs. Gould, doubtfully.
"You don't seem convinced," Decoud went on again in French. "Say,
then, in my passions."
Mrs. Gould received this addition unflinchingly. To understand it
thoroughly she did not require to hear his muttered assurance--
"There is nothing I would not do for the sake of Antonia. There
is nothing I am not prepared to undertake. There is no risk I am
not ready to run."
Decoud seemed to find a fresh audacity in this voicing of his
thoughts. "You would not believe me if I were to say that it is
the love of the country which--"
She made a sort of discouraged protest with her arm, as if to
express that she had given up expecting that motive from any one.
"A Sulaco revolution," Decoud pursued in a forcible undertone.
"The Great Cause may be served here, on the very spot of its
inception, in the place of its birth, Mrs. Gould."
Frowning, and biting her lower lip thoughtfully, she made a step
away from the door.
"You are not going to speak to your husband?" Decoud arrested her
"But you will need his help?"
"No doubt," Decoud admitted without hesitation. "Everything
turns upon the San Tome mine, but I would rather he didn't know
anything as yet of my--my hopes."
A puzzled look came upon Mrs. Gould's face, and Decoud,
approaching, explained confidentially--
"Don't you see, he's such an idealist."
Mrs. Gould flushed pink, and her eyes grew darker at the same
"Charley an idealist!" she said, as if to herself, wonderingly.
"What on earth do you mean?"
"Yes," conceded Decoud, "it's a wonderful thing to say with the
sight of the San Tome mine, the greatest fact in the whole of
South America, perhaps, before our very eyes. But look even at
that, he has idealized this fact to a point--" He paused. "Mrs.
Gould, are you aware to what point he has idealized the
existence, the worth, the meaning of the San Tome mine? Are you
aware of it?"
He must have known what he was talking about.
The effect he expected was produced. Mrs. Gould, ready to take
fire, gave it up suddenly with a low little sound that resembled
"What do you know?" she asked in a feeble voice.
"Nothing," answered Decoud, firmly. "But, then, don't you see,
he's an Englishman?"
"Well, what of that?" asked Mrs. Gould.
"Simply that he cannot act or exist without idealizing every
simple feeling, desire, or achievement. He could not believe his
own motives if he did not make them first a part of some fairy
tale. The earth is not quite good enough for him, I fear. Do you
excuse my frankness? Besides, whether you excuse it or not, it is
part of the truth of things which hurts the--what do you call
them?--the Anglo-Saxon's susceptibilities, and at the present
moment I don't feel as if I could treat seriously either his
conception of things or--if you allow me to say so--or yet
Mrs. Gould gave no sign of being offended. "I suppose Antonia
understands you thoroughly?"
"Understands? Well, yes. But I am not sure that she approves.
That, however, makes no difference. I am honest enough to tell
you that, Mrs. Gould."
"Your idea, of course, is separation," she said.
"Separation, of course," declared Martin. "Yes; separation of the
whole Occidental Province from the rest of the unquiet body. But
my true idea, the only one I care for, is not to be separated
"And that is all?" asked Mrs. Gould, without severity.
"Absolutely. I am not deceiving myself about my motives. She
won't leave Sulaco for my sake, therefore Sulaco must leave the
rest of the Republic to its fate. Nothing could be clearer than
that. I like a clearly defined situation. I cannot part with
Antonia, therefore the one and indivisible Republic of Costaguana
must be made to part with its western province. Fortunately it
happens to be also a sound policy. The richest, the most fertile
part of this land may be saved from anarchy. Personally, I care
little, very little; but it's a fact that the establishment of
Montero in power would mean death to me. In all the proclamations
of general pardon which I have seen, my name, with a few others,
is specially excepted. The brothers hate me, as you know very
well, Mrs. Gould; and behold, here is the rumour of them having
won a battle. You say that supposing it is true, I have plenty of
time to run away."
The slight, protesting murmur on the part of Mrs. Gould made him
pause for a moment, while he looked at her with a sombre and
"Ah, but I would, Mrs. Gould. I would run away if it served that
which at present is my only desire. I am courageous enough to say
that, and to do it, too. But women, even our women, are
idealists. It is Antonia that won't run away. A novel sort of
"You call it vanity," said Mrs. Gould, in a shocked voice.
"Say pride, then, which. Father Corbelan would tell you, is a
mortal sin. But I am not proud. I am simply too much in love to
run away. At the same time I want to live. There is no love for a
dead man. Therefore it is necessary that Sulaco should not
recognize the victorious Montero."
"And you think my husband will give you his support?"
"I think he can be drawn into it, like all idealists, when he
once sees a sentimental basis for his action. But I wouldn't
talk to him. Mere clear facts won't appeal to his sentiment. It
is much better for him to convince himself in his own way. And,
frankly, I could not, perhaps, just now pay sufficient respect to
either his motives or even, perhaps, to yours, Mrs. Gould."
It was evident that Mrs. Gould was very determined not to be
offended. She smiled vaguely, while she seemed to think the
matter over. As far as she could judge from the girl's
half-confidences, Antonia understood that young man. Obviously
there was promise of safety in his plan, or rather in his idea.
Moreover, right or wrong, the idea could do no harm. And it was
quite possible, also, that the rumour was false.
"You have some sort of a plan," she said.
"Simplicity itself. Barrios has started, let him go on then; he
will hold Cayta, which is the door of the sea route to Sulaco.
They cannot send a sufficient force over the mountains. No; not
even to cope with the band of Hernandez. Meantime we shall
organize our resistance here. And for that, this very Hernandez
will be useful. He has defeated troops as a bandit; he will no
doubt accomplish the same thing if he is made a colonel or even a
general. You know the country well enough not to be shocked by
what I say, Mrs. Gould. I have heard you assert that this poor
bandit was the living,breathing example of cruelty, injustice,
stupidity, and oppression, that ruin men's souls as well as their
fortunes in this country. Well, there would be some poetical
retribution in that man arising to crush the evils which had
driven an honest ranchero into a life of crime. A fine idea of
retribution in that, isn't there?"
Decoud had dropped easily into English, which he spoke with
precision, very correctly, but with too many z sounds.
"Think also of your hospitals, of your schools, of your ailing
mothers and feeble old men, of all that population which you and
your husband have brought into the rocky gorge of San Tome. Are
you not responsible to your conscience for all these people? Is
it not worth while to make another effort, which is not at all so
desperate as it looks, rather than--"
Decoud finished his thought with an upward toss of the arm,
suggesting annihilation; and Mrs. Gould turned away her head with
a look of horror.
"Why don't you say all this to my husband?" she asked, without
looking at Decoud, who stood watching the effect of his words.
"Ah! But Don Carlos is so English," he began. Mrs. Gould
"Leave that alone, Don Martin. He's as much a Costaguanero--No!
He's more of a Costaguanero than yourself."
"Sentimentalist, sentimentalist," Decoud almost cooed, in a tone
of gentle and soothing deference. "Sentimentalist, after the
amazing manner of your people. I have been watching El Rey de
Sulaco since I came here on a fool's errand, and perhaps impelled
by some treason of fate lurking behind the unaccountable turns of
a man's life. But I don't matter, I am not a sentimentalist, I
cannot endow my personal desires with a shining robe of silk and
jewels. Life is not for me a moral romance derived from the
tradition of a pretty fairy tale. No, Mrs. Gould; I am practical.
I am not afraid of my motives. But, pardon me, I have been rather
carried away. What I wish to say is that I have been observing. I
won't tell you what I have discovered--"
"No. That is unnecessary," whispered Mrs. Gould, once more
averting her head.
"It is. Except one little fact, that your husband does not like
me. It's a small matter, which, in the circumstances, seems to
acquire a perfectly ridiculous importance. Ridiculous and
immense; for, clearly, money is required for my plan," he
reflected; then added, meaningly, "and we have two
sentimentalists to deal with."
"I don't know that I understand you, Don Martin," said Mrs.
Gould, coldly, preserving the low key of their conversation.
"But, speaking as if I did, who is the other?"
"The great Holroyd in San Francisco, of course," Decoud
whispered, lightly. "I think you understand me very well. Women
are idealists; but then they are so perspicacious."
But whatever was the reason of that remark, disparaging and
complimentary at the same time, Mrs. Gould seemed not to pay
attention to it. The name of Holroyd had given a new tone to her
"The silver escort is coming down to the harbour tomorrow; a
whole six months' working, Don Martin!" she cried in dismay.
"Let it come down, then," breathed out Decoud, earnestly, almost
into her ear.
"But if the rumour should get about, and especially if it turned
out true, troubles might break out in the town," objected Mrs.
Decoud admitted that it was possible. He knew well the town
children of the Sulaco Campo: sullen, thievish, vindictive, and
bloodthirsty, whatever great qualities their brothers of the
plain might have had. But then there was that other
sentimentalist, who attached a strangely idealistic meaning to
concrete facts. This stream of silver must be kept flowing north
to return in the form of financial backing from the great house
of Holroyd. Up at the mountain in the strong room of the mine the
silver bars were worth less for his purpose than so much lead,
from which at least bullets may be run. Let it come down to the
harbour, ready for shipment.
The next north-going steamer would carry it off for the very
salvation of the San Tome mine, which had produced so much
treasure. And, moreover, the rumour was probably false, he
remarked, with much conviction in his hurried tone.
"Besides, senora," concluded Decoud, "we may suppress it for many
days. I have been talking with the telegraphist in the middle of
the Plaza Mayor; thus I am certain that we could not have been
overheard. There was not even a bird in the air near us. And
also let me tell you something more. I have been making friends
with this man called Nostromo, the Capataz. We had a
conversation this very evening, I walking by the side of his
horse as he rode slowly out of the town just now. He promised me
that if a riot took place for any reason--even for the most
political of reasons, you understand--his Cargadores, an
important part of the populace, you will admit, should be found
on the side of the Europeans."
"He has promised you that?" Mrs. Gould inquired, with interest.
"What made him make that promise to you?"
"Upon my word, I don't know," declared Decoud, in a slightly
surprised tone. "He certainly promised me that, but now you ask
me why, I could not tell you his reasons. He talked with his
usual carelessness, which, if he had been anything else but a
common sailor, I would call a pose or an affectation."
Decoud, interrupting himself, looked at Mrs. Gould curiously.
"Upon the whole," he continued, "I suppose he expects something
to his advantage from it. You mustn't forget that he does not
exercise his extraordinary power over the lower classes without a
certain amount of personal risk and without a great profusion in
spending his money. One must pay in some way or other for such a
solid thing as individual prestige. He told me after we made
friends at a dance, in a Posada kept by a Mexican just outside
the walls, that he had come here to make his fortune. I suppose
he looks upon his prestige as a sort of investment."
"Perhaps he prizes it for its own sake," Mrs. Gould said in a
tone as if she were repelling an undeserved aspersion. "Viola,
the Garibaldino, with whom he has lived for some years, calls him
"Ah! he belongs to the group of your proteges out there towards
the harbour, Mrs. Gould. Muy bien. And Captain Mitchell calls
him wonderful. I have heard no end of tales of his strength, his
audacity, his fidelity. No end of fine things. H'm!
incorruptible! It is indeed a name of honour for the Capataz of
the Cargadores of Sulaco. Incorruptible! Fine, but vague.
However, I suppose he's sensible, too. And I talked to him upon
that sane and practical assumption."
"I prefer to think him disinterested, and therefore trustworthy,"
Mrs. Gould said, with the nearest approach to curtness it was in
her nature to assume.
"Well, if so, then the silver will be still more safe. Let it
come down, senora. Let it come down, so that it may go north and
return to us in the shape of credit."
Mrs. Gould glanced along the corredor towards the door of her
husband's room. Decoud, watching her as if she had his fate in
her hands, detected an almost imperceptible nod of assent. He
bowed with a smile, and, putting his hand into the breast pocket
of his coat, pulled out a fan of light feathers set upon painted
leaves of sandal-wood. "I had it in my pocket," he murmured,
triumphantly, "for a plausible pretext." He bowed again.
Mrs. Gould continued along the corredor away from her husband's
room. The fate of the San Tome mine was lying heavy upon her
heart. It was a long time now since she had begun to fear it. It
had been an idea. She had watched it with misgivings turning into
a fetish, and now the fetish had grown into a monstrous and
crushing weight. It was as if the inspiration of their early
years had left her heart to turn into a wall of silver-bricks,
erected by the silent work of evil spirits, between her and her
husband. He seemed to dwell alone within a circumvallation of
precious metal, leaving her outside with her school, her
hospital, the sick mothers and the feeble old men, mere
insignificant vestiges of the initial inspiration. "Those poor
people!" she murmured to herself.
Below she heard the voice of Martin Decoud in the patio speaking
"I have found Dona Antonia's fan, Basilio. Look. here it is!"
IT WAS part of what Decoud would have called his sane materialism
that he did not believe in the possibility of friendship between
man and woman.
The one exception he allowed confirmed, he maintained, that
absolute rule. Friendship was possible between brother and
sister, meaning by friendship the frank unreserve, as before
another human being, of thoughts and sensations; all the
objectless and necessary sincerity of one's innermost life trying
to re-act upon the profound sympathies of another existence.
His favourite sister, the handsome, slightly arbitrary and
resolute angel, ruling the father and mother Decoud in the
first-floor apartments of a very fine Parisian house, was the
recipient of Martin Decoud's confidences as to his thoughts,
actions, purposes, doubts, and even failures. . . .
"Prepare our little circle in Paris for the birth of another
South American Republic. One more or less, what does it matter?
They may come into the world like evil flowers on a hotbed of
rotten institutions; but the seed of this one has germinated in
your brother's brain, and that will be enough for your devoted
assent. I am writing this to you by the light of a single
candle, in a sort of inn, near the harbour, kept by an Italian
called Viola, a protege of Mrs. Gould. The whole building, which,
for all I know, may have been contrived by a Conquistador farmer
of the pearl fishery three hundred years ago, is perfectly
silent. So is the plain between the town and the harbour; silent,
but not so dark as the house, because the pickets of Italian
workmen guarding the railway have lighted little fires all along
the line. It was not so quiet around here yesterday. We had an
awful riot--a sudden outbreak of the populace, which was not
suppressed till late today. Its object, no doubt, was loot, and
that was defeated, as you may have learned already from the
cablegram sent via San Francisco and New York last night, when
the cables were still open. You have read already there that the
energetic action of the Europeans of the railway has saved the
town from destruction, and you may believe that. I wrote out the
cable myself. We have no Reuter's agency man here. I have also
fired at the mob from the windows of the club, in company with
some other young men of position. Our object was to keep the
Calle de la Constitucion clear for the exodus of the ladies and
children, who have taken refuge on board a couple of cargo ships
now in the harbour here. That was yesterday. You should also have
learned from the cable that the missing President, Ribiera, who
had disappeared after the battle of Sta. Marta, has turned up
here in Sulaco by one of those strange coincidences that are
almost incredible, riding on a lame mule into the very midst of
the street fighting. It appears that he had fled, in company of
a muleteer called Bonifacio, across the mountains from the
threats of Montero into the arms of an enraged mob.
"The Capataz of Cargadores, that Italian sailor of whom I have
written to you before, has saved him from an ignoble death. That
man seems to have a particular talent for being on the spot
whenever there is something picturesque to be done.
"He was with me at four o'clock in the morning at the offices of
the Porvenir, where he had turned up so early in order to warn me
of the coming trouble, and also to assure me that he would keep
his Cargadores on the side of order. When the full daylight came
we were looking together at the crowd on foot and on horseback,
demonstrating on the Plaza and shying stones at the windows of
the Intendencia. Nostromo (that is the name they call him by
here) was pointing out to me his Cargadores interspersed in the
"The sun shines late upon Sulaco, for it has first to climb above
the mountains. In that clear morning light, brighter than
twilight, Nostromo saw right across the vast Plaza, at the end of
the street beyond the cathedral, a mounted man apparently in
difficulties with a yelling knot of leperos. At once he said to
me, 'That's a stranger. What is it they are doing to him?' Then
he took out the silver whistle he is in the habit of using on the
wharf (this man seems to disdain the use of any metal less
precious than silver) and blew into it twice, evidently a
preconcerted signal for his Cargadores. He ran out immediately,
and they rallied round him. I ran out, too, but was too late to
follow them and help in the rescue of the stranger, whose animal
had fallen. I was set upon at once as a hated aristocrat, and
was only too glad to get into the club, where Don Jaime Berges
(you may remember him visiting at our house in Paris some three
years ago) thrust a sporting gun into my hands. They were already
firing from the windows. There were little heaps of cartridges
lying about on the open card-tables. I remember a couple of
overturned chairs, some bottles rolling on the floor amongst the
packs of cards scattered suddenly as the caballeros rose from
their game to open fire upon the mob. Most of the young men had
spent the night at the club in the expectation of some such
disturbance. In two of the candelabra, on the consoles, the
candles were burning down in their sockets. A large iron nut,
probably stolen from the railway workshops, flew in from the
street as I entered, and broke one of the large mirrors set in
the wall. I noticed also one of the club servants tied up hand
and foot with the cords of the curtain and flung in a corner. I
have a vague recollection of Don Jaime assuring me hastily that
the fellow had been detected putting poison into the dishes at
supper. But I remember distinctly he was shrieking for mercy,
without stopping at all, continuously, and so absolutely
disregarded that nobody even took the trouble to gag him. The
noise he made was so disagreeable that I had half a mind to do it
myself. But there was no time to waste on such trifles. I took my
place at one of the windows and began firing.
"I didn't learn till later in the afternoon whom it was that
Nostromo, with his Cargadores and some Italian workmen as well,
had managed to save from those drunken rascals. That man has a
peculiar talent when anything striking to the imagination has to
be done. I made that remark to him afterwards when we met after
some sort of order had been restored in the town, and the answer
he made rather surprised me. He said quite moodily, 'And how much
do I get for that, senor?' Then it dawned upon me that perhaps
this man's vanity has been satiated by the adulation of the
common people and the confidence of his superiors!"
Decoud paused to light a cigarette, then, with his head still
over his writing, he blew a cloud of smoke, which seemed to
rebound from the paper. He took up the pencil again.
"That was yesterday evening on the Plaza, while he sat on the
steps of the cathedral, his hands between his knees, holding the
bridle of his famous silver-grey mare. He had led his body of
Cargadores splendidly all day long. He looked fatigued. I don't
know how I looked. Very dirty, I suppose. But I suppose I also
looked pleased. From the time the fugitive President had been got
off to the S. S. Minerva, the tide of success had turned against
the mob. They had been driven off the harbour, and out of the
better streets of the town, into their own maze of ruins and
tolderias. You must understand that this riot, whose primary
object was undoubtedly the getting hold of the San Tome silver
stored in the lower rooms of the Custom House (besides the
general looting of the Ricos), had acquired a political colouring
from the fact of two Deputies to the Provincial Assembly, Senores
Gamacho and Fuentes, both from Bolson, putting themselves at the
head of it--late in the afternoon, it is true, when the mob,
disappointed in their hopes of loot, made a stand in the narrow
streets to the cries of 'Viva la Libertad! Down with Feudalism!'
(I wonder what they imagine feudalism to be?) 'Down with the
Goths and Paralytics.' I suppose the Senores Gamacho and Fuentes
knew what they were doing. They are prudent gentlemen. In the
Assembly they called themselves Moderates, and opposed every
energetic measure with philanthropic pensiveness. At the first
rumours of Montero's victory, they showed a subtle change of the
pensive temper, and began to defy poor Don Juste Lopez in his
Presidential tribune with an effrontery to which the poor man
could only respond by a dazed smoothing of his beard and the
ringing of the presidential bell. Then, when the downfall of the
Ribierist cause became confirmed beyond the shadow of a doubt,
they have blossomed into convinced Liberals, acting together as
if they were Siamese twins, and ultimately taking charge, as it
were, of the riot in the name of Monterist principles.
"Their last move of eight o'clock last night was to organize
themselves into a Monterist Committee which sits, as far as I
know, in a posada kept by a retired Mexican bull-fighter, a great
politician, too, whose name I have forgotten. Thence they have
issued a communication to us, the Goths and Paralytics of the
Amarilla Club (who have our own committee), inviting us to come
to some provisional understanding for a truce, in order, they
have the impudence to say, that the noble cause of Liberty
'should not be stained by the criminal excesses of Conservative
selfishness!' As I came out to sit with Nostromo on the cathedral
steps the club was busy considering a proper reply in the
principal room, littered with exploded cartridges, with a lot of
broken glass, blood smears, candlesticks, and all sorts of
wreckage on the floor. But all this is nonsense. Nobody in the
town has any real power except the railway engineers, whose men
occupy the dismantled houses acquired by the Company for their
town station on one side of the Plaza, and Nostromo, whose
Cargadores were sleeping under the arcades along the front of
Anzani's shops. A fire of broken furniture out of the Intendencia
saloons, mostly gilt, was burning on the Plaza, in a high flame
swaying right upon the statue of Charles IV. The dead body of a
man was lying on the steps of the pedestal, his arms thrown wide
open, and his sombrero covering his face--the attention of some
friend, perhaps. The light of the flames touched the foliage of
the first trees on the Alameda, and played on the end of a side
street near by, blocked up by a jumble of ox-carts and dead
bullocks. Sitting on one of the carcasses, a lepero, muffled up,
smoked a cigarette. It was a truce, you understand. The only
other living being on the Plaza besides ourselves was a Cargador
walking to and fro, with a long, bare knife in his hand, like a
sentry before the Arcades, where his friends were sleeping. And
the only other spot of light in the dark town were the lighted
windows of the club, at the corner of the Calle."
After having written so far, Don Martin Decoud, the exotic dandy
of the Parisian boulevard, got up and walked across the sanded
floor of the cafe at one end of the Albergo of United Italy, kept
by Giorgio Viola, the old companion of Garibaldi. The highly
coloured lithograph of the Faithful Hero seemed to look dimly, in
the light of one candle, at the man with no faith in anything
except the truth of his own sensations. Looking out of the
window, Decoud was met by a darkness so impenetrable that he
could see neither the mountains nor the town, nor yet the
buildings near the harbour; and there was not a sound, as if the
tremendous obscurity of the Placid Gulf, spreading from the
waters over the land, had made it dumb as well as blind.
Presently Decoud felt a light tremor of the floor and a distant
clank of iron. A bright white light appeared, deep in the
darkness, growing bigger with a thundering noise. The rolling
stock usually kept on the sidings in Rincon was being run back to
the yards for safe keeping. Like a mysterious stirring of the
darkness behind the headlight of the engine, the train passed in
a gust of hollow uproar, by the end of the house, which seemed to
vibrate all over in response. And nothing was clearly visible
but, on the end of the last flat car, a negro, in white trousers
and naked to the waist, swinging a blazing torch basket
incessantly with a circular movement of his bare arm. Decoud did
Behind him, on the back of the chair from which he had risen,
hung his elegant Parisian overcoat, with a pearl-grey silk
lining. But when he turned back to come to the table the
candlelight fell upon a face that was grimy and scratched. His
rosy lips were blackened with heat, the smoke of gun-powder. Dirt
and rust tarnished the lustre of his short beard. His shirt
collar and cuffs were crumpled; the blue silken tie hung down his
breast like a rag; a greasy smudge crossed his white brow. He had
not taken off his clothing nor used water, except to snatch a
hasty drink greedily, for some forty hours. An awful restlessness
had made him its own, had marked him with all the signs of
desperate strife, and put a dry, sleepless stare into his eyes.
He murmured to himself in a hoarse voice, "I wonder if there's
any bread here," looked vaguely about him, then dropped into the
chair and took the pencil up again. He became aware he had not
eaten anything for many hours.
It occurred to him that no one could understand him so well as
his sister. In the most sceptical heart there lurks at such
moments, when the chances of existence are involved, a desire to
leave a correct impression of the feelings, like a light by which
the action may be seen when personality is gone, gone where no
light of investigation can ever reach the truth which every death
takes out of the world. Therefore, instead of looking for
something to eat, or trying to snatch an hour or so of sleep,
Decoud was filling the pages of a large pocket-book with a letter
to his sister.
In the intimacy of that intercourse he could not keep out his
weariness, his great fatigue, the close touch of his bodily
sensations. He began again as if he were talking to her. With
almost an illusion of her presence, he wrote the phrase, "I am
"I have the feeling of a great solitude around me," he continued.
"Is it, perhaps, because I am the only man with a definite idea
in his head, in the complete collapse of every resolve,
intention, and hope about me? But the solitude is also very
real. All the engineers are out, and have been for two days,
looking after the property of the National Central Railway, of
that great Costaguana undertaking which is to put money into the
pockets of Englishmen, Frenchmen, Americans, Germans, and God
knows who else. The silence about me is ominous. There is above
the middle part of this house a sort of first floor, with narrow
openings like loopholes for windows, probably used in old times
for the better defence against the savages, when the persistent
barbarism of our native continent did not wear the black coats of
politicians, but went about yelling, half-naked, with bows and
arrows in its hands. The woman of the house is dying up there, I
believe, all alone with her old husband. There is a narrow
staircase, the sort of staircase one man could easily defend
against a mob, leading up there, and I have just heard, through
the thickness of the wall, the old fellow going down into their
kitchen for something or other. It was a sort of noise a mouse
might make behind the plaster of a wall. All the servants they
had ran away yesterday and have not returned yet, if ever they
do. For the rest, there are only two children here, two girls.
The father has sent them downstairs, and they have crept into
this cafe, perhaps because I am here. They huddle together in a
corner, in each other's arms; I just noticed them a few minutes
ago, and I feel more lonely than ever."
Decoud turned half round in his chair, and asked, "Is there any
Linda's dark head was shaken negatively in response, above the
fair head of her sister nestling on her breast.
"You couldn't get me some bread?" insisted Decoud. The child did
not move; he saw her large eyes stare at him very dark from the
corner. "You're not afraid of me?" he said.
"No," said Linda, "we are not afraid of you. You came here with
"You mean Nostromo?" said Decoud.
"The English call him so, but that is no name either for man or
beast," said the girl, passing her hand gently over her sister's
"But he lets people call him so," remarked Decoud.
"Not in this house," retorted the child.
"Ah! well, I shall call him the Capataz then."
Decoud gave up the point, and after writing steadily for a while
turned round again.
"When do you expect him back?" he asked.
"After he brought you here he rode off to fetch the Senor Doctor
from the town for mother. He will be back soon."
"He stands a good chance of getting shot somewhere on the road,"
Decoud murmured to himself audibly; and Linda declared in her
"Nobody would dare to fire a shot at Gian' Battista."
"You believe that," asked Decoud, "do you?"
"I know it," said the child, with conviction. "There is no one in
this place brave enough to attack Gian' Battista."
"It doesn't require much bravery to pull a trigger behind a
bush," muttered Decoud to himself. "Fortunately, the night is
dark, or there would be but little chance of saving the silver of
He turned again to his pocket-book, glanced back through the
pages, and again started his pencil.
"That was the position yesterday, after the Minerva with the
fugitive President had gone out of harbour, and the rioters had
been driven back into the side lanes of the town. I sat on the
steps of the cathedral with Nostromo, after sending out the cable
message for the information of a more or less attentive world.
Strangely enough, though the offices of the Cable Company are in
the same building as the Porvenir, the mob, which has thrown my
presses out of the window and scattered the type all over the
Plaza, has been kept from interfering with the instruments on the
other side of the courtyard. As I sat talking with Nostromo,
Bernhardt, the telegraphist, came out from under the Arcades with
a piece of paper in his hand. The little man had tied himself up
to an enormous sword and was hung all over with revolvers. He is
ridiculous, but the bravest German of his size that ever tapped
the key of a Morse transmitter. He had received the message from
Cayta reporting the transports with Barrios's army just entering
the port, and ending with the words, 'The greatest enthusiasm
prevails.' I walked off to drink some water at the fountain, and
I was shot at from the Alameda by somebody hiding behind a tree.
But I drank, and didn't care; with Barrios in Cayta and the great
Cordillera between us and Montero's victorious army I seemed,
notwithstanding Messrs. Gamacho and Fuentes, to hold my new State
in the hollow of my hand. I was ready to sleep, but when I got as
far as the Casa Gould I found the patio full of wounded laid out
on straw. Lights were burning, and in that enclosed courtyard on
that hot night a faint odour of chloroform and blood hung about.
At one end Doctor Monygham, the doctor of the mine, was dressing
the wounds; at the other, near the stairs, Father Corbelan,
kneeling, listened to the confession of a dying Cargador. Mrs.
Gould was walking about through these shambles with a large
bottle in one hand and a lot of cotton wool in the other. She
just looked at me and never even winked. Her camerista was
following her, also holding a bottle, and sobbing gently to
"I busied myself for some time in fetching water from the cistern
for the wounded. Afterwards I wandered upstairs, meeting some of
the first ladies of Sulaco, paler than I had ever seen them
before, with bandages over their arms. Not all of them had fled
to the ships. A good many had taken refuge for the day in the
Casa Gould. On the landing a girl, with her hair half down, was
kneeling against the wall under the niche where stands a Madonna
in blue robes and a gilt crown on her head. I think it was the
eldest Miss Lopez; I couldn't see her face, but I remember
looking at the high French heel of her little shoe. She did not
make a sound, she did not stir, she was not sobbing; she remained
there, perfectly still, all black against the white wall, a
silent figure of passionate piety. I am sure she was no more
frightened than the other white-faced ladies I met carrying
bandages. One was sitting on the top step tearing a piece of
linen hastily into strips--the young wife of an elderly man of
fortune here. She interrupted herself to wave her hand to my
bow, as though she were in her carriage on the Alameda. The women
of our country are worth looking at during a revolution. The
rouge and pearl powder fall off, together with that passive
attitude towards the outer world which education, tradition,
custom impose upon them from the earliest infancy. I thought of
your face, which from your infancy had the stamp of intelligence
instead of that patient and resigned cast which appears when some
political commotion tears down the veil of cosmetics and usage.
"In the great sala upstairs a sort of Junta of Notables was
sitting, the remnant of the vanished Provincial Assembly. Don
Juste Lopez had had half his beard singed off at the muzzle of a
trabuco loaded with slugs, of which every one missed him,
providentially. And as he turned his head from side to side it
was exactly as if there had been two men inside his frock-coat,
one nobly whiskered and solemn, the other untidy and scared.
"They raised a cry of 'Decoud! Don Martin!' at my entrance. I
asked them, 'What are you deliberating upon, gentlemen?' There
did not seem to be any president, though Don Jose Avellanos sat
at the head of the table. They all answered together, 'On the
preservation of life and property.' 'Till the new officials
arrive,' Don Juste explained to me, with the solemn side of his
face offered to my view. It was as if a stream of water had been
poured upon my glowing idea of a new State. There was a hissing
sound in my ears, and the room grew dim, as if suddenly filled
"I walked up to the table blindly, as though I had been drunk.
'You are deliberating upon surrender,' I said. They all sat
still, with their noses over the sheet of paper each had before
him, God only knows why. Only Don Jose hid his face in his hands,
muttering, 'Never, never!' But as I looked at him, it seemed to
me that I could have blown him away with my breath, he looked so
frail, so weak, so worn out. Whatever happens, he will not
survive. The deception is too great for a man of his age; and
hasn't he seen the sheets of 'Fifty Years of Misrule,' which we
have begun printing on the presses of the Porvenir, littering the
Plaza, floating in the gutters, fired out as wads for trabucos
loaded with handfuls of type, blown in the wind, trampled in the
mud? I have seen pages floating upon the very waters of the
harbour. It would be unreasonable to expect him to survive. It
would be cruel.
"'Do you know,' I cried, 'what surrender means to you, to your
women, to your children, to your property?'
"I declaimed for five minutes without drawing breath, it seems to
me, harping on our best chances, on the ferocity of Montero, whom
I made out to be as great a beast as I have no doubt he would
like to be if he had intelligence enough to conceive a systematic
reign of terror. And then for another five minutes or more I
poured out an impassioned appeal to their courage and manliness,
with all the passion of my love for Antonia. For if ever man
spoke well, it would be from a personal feeling, denouncing an
enemy, defending himself, or pleading for what really may be
dearer than life. My dear girl, I absolutely thundered at them.
It seemed as if my voice would burst the walls asunder, and when
I stopped I saw all their scared eyes looking at me dubiously.
And that was all the effect I had produced! Only Don Jose's head
had sunk lower and lower on his breast. I bent my ear to his
withered lips, and made out his whisper, something like, 'In
God's name, then, Martin, my son!' I don't know exactly. There
was the name of God in it, I am certain. It seems to me I have
caught his last breath--the breath of his departing soul on his
"He lives yet, it is true. I have seen him since; but it was only
a senile body, lying on its back, covered to the chin, with open
eyes, and so still that you might have said it was breathing no
longer. I left him thus, with Antonia kneeling by the side of the
bed, just before I came to this Italian's posada, where the
ubiquitous death is also waiting. But I know that Don Jose has
really died there, in the Casa Gould, with that whisper urging me
to attempt what no doubt his soul, wrapped up in the sanctity of
diplomatic treaties and solemn declarations, must have abhorred.
I had exclaimed very loud, 'There is never any God in a country
where men will not help themselves.'
"Meanwhile, Don Juste had begun a pondered oration whose solemn
effect was spoiled by the ridiculous disaster to his beard. I did
not wait to make it out. He seemed to argue that Montero's (he
called him The General) intentions were probably not evil,
though, he went on, 'that distinguished man' (only a week ago we
used to call him a gran' bestia) 'was perhaps mistaken as to the
true means.' As you may imagine, I didn't stay to hear the rest.
I know the intentions of Montero's brother, Pedrito, the
guerrillero, whom I exposed in Paris, some years ago, in a cafe
frequented by South American students, where he tried to pass
himself off for a Secretary of Legation. He used to come in and
talk for hours, twisting his felt hat in his hairy paws, and his
ambition seemed to become a sort of Duc de Morny to a sort of
Napoleon. Already, then, he used to talk of his brother in
inflated terms. He seemed fairly safe from being found out,
because the students, all of the Blanco families, did not, as you
may imagine, frequent the Legation. It was only Decoud, a man
without faith and principles, as they used to say, that went in
there sometimes for the sake of the fun, as it were to an
assembly of trained monkeys. I know his intentions. I have seen
him change the plates at table. Whoever is allowed to live on in
terror, I must die the death.
"No, I didn't stay to the end to hear Don Juste Lopez trying to
persuade himself in a grave oration of the clemency and justice,
and honesty, and purity of the brothers Montero. I went out
abruptly to seek Antonia. I saw her in the gallery. As I opened
the door, she extended to me her clasped hands.
"'What are they doing in there?' she asked.
"'Talking,' I said, with my eyes looking into hers.
"'Yes, yes, but--'
"'Empty speeches,' I interrupted her. 'Hiding their fears behind
imbecile hopes. They are all great Parliamentarians there--on the
English model, as you know.' I was so furious that I could hardly
speak. She made a gesture of despair.
"Through the door I held a little ajar behind me, we heard Dun
Juste's measured mouthing monotone go on from phrase to phrase,
like a sort of awful and solemn madness.
"'After all, the Democratic aspirations have, perhaps, their
legitimacy. The ways of human progress are inscrutable, and if
the fate of the country is in the hand of Montero, we ought--'
"I crashed the door to on that; it was enough; it was too much.
There was never a beautiful face expressing more horror and
despair than the face of Antonia. I couldn't bear it; I seized
"'Have they killed my father in there?' she asked.
"Her eyes blazed with indignation, but as I looked on,
fascinated, the light in them went out.
"'It is a surrender,' I said. And I remember I was shaking her
wrists I held apart in my hands. 'But it's more than talk. Your
father told me to go on in God's name.'
"My dear girl, there is that in Antonia which would make me
believe in the feasibility of anything. One look at her face is
enough to set my brain on fire. And yet I love her as any other
man would--with the heart, and with that alone. She is more to me
than his Church to Father Corbelan (the Grand Vicar disappeared
last night from the town; perhaps gone to join the band of
Hernandez). She is more to me than his precious mine to that
sentimental Englishman. I won't speak of his wife. She may have
been sentimental once. The San Tome mine stands now between
those two people. 'Your father himself, Antonia,' I repeated;
'your father, do you understand? has told me to go on.'
"She averted her face, and in a pained voice--
"'He has?' she cried. 'Then, indeed, I fear he will never speak
"She freed her wrists from my clutch and began to cry in her
handkerchief. I disregarded her sorrow; I would rather see her
miserable than not see her at all, never any more; for whether I
escaped or stayed to die, there was for us no coming together, no
future. And that being so, I had no pity to waste upon the
passing moments of her sorrow. I sent her off in tears to fetch
Dona Emilia and Don Carlos, too. Their sentiment was necessary to
the very life of my plan; the sentimentalism of the people that
will never do anything for the sake of their passionate desire,
unless it comes to them clothed in the fair robes of an idea.
"Late at night we formed a small junta of four--the two women,
Don Carlos, and myself--in Mrs. Gould's blue-and-white boudoir.
"El Rey de Sulaco thinks himself, no doubt, a very honest man.
And so he is, if one could look behind his taciturnity. Perhaps
he thinks that this alone makes his honesty unstained. Those
Englishmen live on illusions which somehow or other help them to
get a firm hold of the substance. When he speaks it is by a rare
'yes' or 'no' that seems as impersonal as the words of an oracle.
But he could not impose on me by his dumb reserve. I knew what he
had in his head; he has his mine in his head; and his wife had
nothing in her head but his precious person, which he has bound
up with the Gould Concession and tied up to that little woman's
neck. No matter. The thing was to make him present the affair to
Holroyd (the Steel and Silver King) in such a manner as to secure
his financial support. At that time last night, just twenty-four
hours ago, we thought the silver of the mine safe in the Custom
House vaults till the north-bound steamer came to take it away.
And as long as the treasure flowed north, without a break, that
utter sentimentalist, Holroyd, would not drop his idea of
introducing, not only justice, industry, peace, to the benighted
continents, but also that pet dream of his of a purer form of
Christianity. Later on, the principal European really in Sulaco,
the engineer-in-chief of the railway, came riding up the Calle,
from the harbour, and was admitted to our conclave. Meantime, the
Junta of the Notables in the great sala was still deliberating;
only, one of them had run out in the corredor to ask the servant
whether something to eat couldn't be sent in. The first words the
engineer-in-chief said as he came into the boudoir were, 'What is
your house, dear Mrs. Gould? A war hospital below, and apparently
a restaurant above. I saw them carrying trays full of good
things into the sala.'
"'And here, in this boudoir,' I said, 'you behold the inner
cabinet of the Occidental Republic that is to be.'
"He was so preoccupied that he didn't smile at that, he didn't
even look surprised.
"He told us that he was attending to the general dispositions for
the defence of the railway property at the railway yards when he
was sent for to go into the railway telegraph office. The
engineer of the railhead, at the foot of the mountains, wanted to
talk to him from his end of the wire. There was nobody in the
office but himself and the operator of the railway telegraph, who
read off the clicks aloud as the tape coiled its length upon the
floor. And the purport of that talk, clicked nervously from a
wooden shed in the depths of the forests, had informed the chief
that President Ribiera had been, or was being, pursued. This was
news, indeed, to all of us in Sulaco. Ribiera himself, when
rescued, revived, and soothed by us, had been inclined to think
that he had not been pursued.
"Ribiera had yielded to the urgent solicitations of his friends,
and had left the headquarters of his discomfited army alone,
under the guidance of Bonifacio, the muleteer, who had been
willing to take the responsibility with the risk. He had departed
at daybreak of the third day. His remaining forces had melted
away during the night. Bonifacio and he rode hard on horses
towards the Cordillera; then they obtained mules, entered the
passes, and crossed the Paramo of Ivie just before a freezing
blast swept over that stony plateau, burying in a drift of snow
the little shelter-hut of stones in which they had spent the
night. Afterwards poor Ribiera had many adventures, got
separated from his guide, lost his mount, struggled down to the
Campo on foot, and if he had not thrown himself on the mercy of a
ranchero would have perished a long way from Sulaco. That man,
who, as a matter of fact, recognized him at once, let him have a
fresh mule, which the fugitive, heavy and unskilful, had ridden
to death. And it was true he had been pursued by a party
commanded by no less a person than Pedro Montero, the brother of
the general. The cold wind of the Paramo luckily caught the
pursuers on the top of the pass. Some few men, and all the
animals, perished in the icy blast. The stragglers died, but the
main body kept on. They found poor Bonifacio lying half-dead at
the foot of a snow slope, and bayoneted him promptly in the true
Civil War style. They would have had Ribiera, too, if they had
not, for some reason or other, turned off the track of the old
Camino Real, only to lose their way in the forests at the foot of
the lower slopes. And there they were at last, having stumbled
in unexpectedly upon the construction camp. The engineer at the
railhead told his chief by wire that he had Pedro Montero
absolutely there, in the very office, listening to the clicks. He
was going to take possession of Sulaco in the name of the
Democracy. He was very overbearing. His men slaughtered some of
the Railway Company's cattle without asking leave, and went to
work broiling the meat on the embers. Pedrito made many pointed
inquiries as to the silver mine, and what had become of the
product of the last six months' working. He had said
peremptorily, "Ask your chief up there by wire, he ought to know;
tell him that Don Pedro Montero, Chief of the Campo and Minister
of the Interior of the new Government, desires to be correctly
"He had his feet wrapped up in blood-stained rags, a lean,
haggard face, ragged beard and hair, and had walked in limping,
with a crooked branch of a tree for a staff. His followers were
perhaps in a worse plight, but apparently they had not thrown
away their arms, and, at any rate, not all their ammunition.
Their lean faces filled the door and the windows of the telegraph
hut. As it was at the same time the bedroom of the
engineer-in-charge there, Montero had thrown himself on his clean
blankets and lay there shivering and dictating requisitions to be
transmitted by wire to Sulaco. He demanded a train of cars to be
sent down at once to transport his men up.
"'To this I answered from my end,' the engineer-in-chief related