Part 8 out of 10
"I told you well, senor doctor," remarked Nostromo at that point,
"that Sotillo did not know everything."
"Eh? What do you mean?"
"He did not know I was not dead."
"Neither did we."
"And you did not care--none of you caballeros on the wharf--once
you got off a man of flesh and blood like yourselves on a fool's
business that could not end well."
"You forget, Capataz, I was not on the wharf. And I did not think
well of the business. So you need not taunt me. I tell you what,
man, we had but little leisure to think of the dead. Death stands
near behind us all. You were gone."
"I went, indeed!" broke in Nostromo. "And for the sake of
"Ah! that is your own affair," the doctor said, roughly. "Do not
Their flowing murmurs paused in the dark. Perched on the edge of
the table with slightly averted faces, they felt their shoulders
touch, and their eyes remained directed towards an upright shape
nearly lost in the obscurity of the inner part of the room, that
with projecting head and shoulders, in ghastly immobility, seemed
intent on catching every word.
"Muy bien!" Nostromo muttered at last. "So be it. Teresa was
right. It is my own affair."
"Teresa is dead," remarked the doctor, absently, while his mind
followed a new line of thought suggested by what might have been
called Nostromo's return to life. "She died, the poor woman."
"Without a priest?" the Capataz asked, anxiously.
"What a question! Who could have got a priest for her last
"May God keep her soul!" ejaculated Nostromo, with a gloomy and
hopeless fervour which had no time to surprise Dr. Monygham,
before, reverting to their previous conversation, he continued in
a sinister tone, "Si, senor doctor. As you were saying, it is my
own affair. A very desperate affair."
"There are no two men in this part of the world that could have
saved themselves by swimming as you have done," the doctor said,
And again there was silence between those two men. They were
both reflecting, and the diversity of their natures made their
thoughts born from their meeting swing afar from each other. The
doctor, impelled to risky action by his loyalty to the Goulds,
wondered with thankfulness at the chain of accident which had
brought that man back where he would be of the greatest use in
the work of saving the San Tome mine. The doctor was loyal to the
mine. It presented itself to his fifty-years' old eyes in the
shape of a little woman in a soft dress with a long train, with a
head attractively overweighted by a great mass of fair hair and
the delicate preciousness of her inner worth, partaking of a gem
and a flower, revealed in every attitude of her person. As the
dangers thickened round the San Tome mine this illusion acquired
force, permanency, and authority. It claimed him at last! This
claim, exalted by a spiritual detachment from the usual sanctions
of hope and reward, made Dr. Monygham's thinking, acting,
individuality extremely dangerous to himself and to others, all
his scruples vanishing in the proud feeling that his devotion was
the only thing that stood between an admirable woman and a
It was a sort of intoxication which made him utterly indifferent
to Decoud's fate, but left his wits perfectly clear for the
appreciation of Decoud's political idea. It was a good idea--and
Barrios was the only instrument of its realization. The doctor's
soul, withered and shrunk by the shame of a moral disgrace,
became implacable in the expansion of its tenderness. Nostromo's
return was providential. He did not think of him humanely, as of
a fellow-creature just escaped from the jaws of death. The
Capataz for him was the only possible messenger to Cayta. The
very man. The doctor's misanthropic mistrust of mankind (the
bitterer because based on personal failure) did not lift him
sufficiently above common weaknesses. He was under the spell of
an established reputation. Trumpeted by Captain Mitchell, grown
in repetition, and fixed in general assent, Nostromo's
faithfulness had never been questioned by Dr. Monygham as a fact.
It was not likely to be questioned now he stood in desperate need
of it himself. Dr. Monygham was human; he accepted the popular
conception of the Capataz's incorruptibility simply because no
word or fact had ever contradicted a mere affirmation. It seemed
to be a part of the man, like his whiskers or his teeth. It was
impossible to conceive him otherwise. The question was whether he
would consent to go on such a dangerous and desperate errand. The
doctor was observant enough to have become aware from the first
of something peculiar in the man's temper. He was no doubt sore
about the loss of the silver.
"It will be necessary to take him into my fullest confidence," he
said to himself, with a certain acuteness of insight into the
nature he had to deal with.
On Nostromo's side the silence had been full of black
irresolution, anger, and mistrust. He was the first to break it,
"The swimming was no great matter," he said. "It is what went
before--and what comes after that--"
He did not quite finish what he meant to say, breaking off short,
as though his thought had butted against a solid obstacle. The
doctor's mind pursued its own schemes with Machiavellian
subtlety. He said as sympathetically as he was able--
"It is unfortunate, Capataz. But no one would think of blaming
you. Very unfortunate. To begin with, the treasure ought never to
have left the mountain. But it was Decoud who--however, he is
dead. There is no need to talk of him."
"No," assented Nostromo, as the doctor paused, "there is no need
to talk of dead men. But I am not dead yet."
"You are all right. Only a man of your intrepidity could have
In this Dr. Monygham was sincere. He esteemed highly the
intrepidity of that man, whom he valued but little, being
disillusioned as to mankind in general, because of the particular
instance in which his own manhood had failed. Having had to
encounter singlehanded during his period of eclipse many physical
dangers, he was well aware of the most dangerous element common
to them all: of the crushing, paralyzing sense of human
littleness, which is what really defeats a man struggling with
natural forces, alone, far from the eyes of his fellows. He was
eminently fit to appreciate the mental image he made for himself
of the Capataz, after hours of tension and anxiety, precipitated
suddenly into an abyss of waters and darkness, without earth or
sky, and confronting it not only with an undismayed mind, but
with sensible success. Of course, the man was an incomparable
swimmer, that was known, but the doctor judged that this instance
testified to a still greater intrepidity of spirit. It was
pleasing to him; he augured well from it for the success of the
arduous mission with which he meant to entrust the Capataz so
marvellously restored to usefulness. And in a tone vaguely
gratified, he observed--
"It must have been terribly dark!"
"It was the worst darkness of the Golfo," the Capataz assented,
briefly. He was mollified by what seemed a sign of some faint
interest in such things as had befallen him, and dropped a few
descriptive phrases with an affected and curt nonchalance. At
that moment he felt communicative. He expected the continuance of
that interest which, whether accepted or rejected, would have
restored to him his personality--the only thing lost in that
desperate affair. But the doctor, engrossed by a desperate
adventure of his own, was terrible in the pursuit of his idea. He
let an exclamation of regret escape him.
"I could almost wish you had shouted and shown a light."
This unexpected utterance astounded the Capataz by its character
of cold-blooded atrocity. It was as much as to say, "I wish you
had shown yourself a coward; I wish you had had your throat cut
for your pains." Naturally he referred it to himself, whereas it
related only to the silver, being uttered simply and with many
mental reservations. Surprise and rage rendered him speechless,
and the doctor pursued, practically unheard by Nostromo, whose
stirred blood was beating violently in his ears.
"For I am convinced Sotillo in possession of the silver would
have turned short round and made for some small port abroad.
Economically it would have been wasteful, but still less wasteful
than having it sunk. It was the next best thing to having it at
hand in some safe place, and using part of it to buy up Sotillo.
But I doubt whether Don Carlos would have ever made up his mind
to it. He is not fit for Costaguana, and that is a fact,
The Capataz had mastered the fury that was like a tempest in his
ears in time to hear the name of Don Carlos. He seemed to have
come out of it a changed man--a man who spoke thoughtfully in a
soft and even voice.
"And would Don Carlos have been content if I had surrendered this
"I should not wonder if they were all of that way of thinking
now," the doctor said, grimly. "I was never consulted. Decoud had
it his own way. Their eyes are opened by this time, I should
think. I for one know that if that silver turned up this moment
miraculously ashore I would give it to Sotillo. And, as things
stand, I would be approved."
"Turned up miraculously," repeated the Capataz very low; then
raised his voice. "That, senor, would be a greater miracle than
any saint could perform."
"I believe you, Capataz," said the doctor, drily.
He went on to develop his view of Sotillo's dangerous influence
upon the situation. And the Capataz, listening as if in a dream,
felt himself of as little account as the indistinct, motionless
shape of the dead man whom he saw upright under the beam, with
his air of listening also, disregarded, forgotten, like a
terrible example of neglect.
"Was it for an unconsidered and foolish whim that they came to
me, then?" he interrupted suddenly. "Had I not done enough for
them to be of some account, por Dios? Is it that the hombres
finos--the gentlemen--need not think as long as there is a man
of the people ready to risk his body and soul? Or, perhaps, we
have no souls--like dogs?"
"There was Decoud, too, with his plan," the doctor reminded him
"Si! And the rich man in San Francisco who had something to do
with that treasure, too--what do I know? No! I have heard too
many things. It seems to me that everything is permitted to the
"I understand, Capataz," the doctor began.
"What Capataz?" broke in Nostromo, in a forcible but even voice.
"The Capataz is undone, destroyed. There is no Capataz. Oh, no!
You will find the Capataz no more."
"Come, this is childish!" remonstrated the doctor; and the other
calmed down suddenly.
"I have been indeed like a little child," he muttered.
And as his eyes met again the shape of the murdered man suspended
in his awful immobility, which seemed the uncomplaining
immobility of attention, he asked, wondering gently--
"Why did Sotillo give the estrapade to this pitiful wretch? Do
you know? No torture could have been worse than his fear. Killing
I can understand. His anguish was intolerable to behold. But why
should he torment him like this? He could tell no more."
"No; he could tell nothing more. Any sane man would have seen
that. He had told him everything. But I tell you what it is,
Capataz. Sotillo would not believe what he was told. Not
"What is it he would not believe? I cannot understand."
"I can, because I have seen the man. He refuses to believe that
the treasure is lost."
"What?" the Capataz cried out in a discomposed tone.
"That startles you--eh?"
"Am I to understand, senor," Nostromo went on in a deliberate
and, as it were, watchful tone, "that Sotillo thinks the treasure
has been saved by some means?"
"No! no! That would be impossible," said the doctor, with
conviction; and Nostromo emitted a grunt in the dark. "That would
be impossible. He thinks that the silver was no longer in the
lighter when she was sunk. He has convinced himself that the
whole show of getting it away to sea is a mere sham got up to
deceive Gamacho and his Nationals, Pedrito Montero, Senor
Fuentes, our new Gefe Politico, and himself, too. Only, he says,
he is no such fool."
"But he is devoid of sense. He is the greatest imbecile that ever
called himself a colonel in this country of evil," growled
"He is no more unreasonable than many sensible men," said the
doctor. "He has convinced himself that the treasure can be found
because he desires passionately to possess himself of it. And he
is also afraid of his officers turning upon him and going over to
Pedrito, whom he has not the courage either to fight or trust. Do
you see that, Capataz? He need fear no desertion as long as some
hope remains of that enormous plunder turning up. I have made it
my business to keep this very hope up."
"You have?" the Capataz de Cargadores repeated cautiously. "Well,
that is wonderful. And how long do you think you are going to
keep it up?"
"As long as I can."
"What does that mean?"
"I can tell you exactly. As long as I live," the doctor retorted
in a stubborn voice. Then, in a few words, he described the story
of his arrest and the circumstances of his release. "I was going
back to that silly scoundrel when we met," he concluded.
Nostromo had listened with profound attention. "You have made up
your mind, then, to a speedy death," he muttered through his
"Perhaps, my illustrious Capataz," the doctor said, testily. "You
are not the only one here who can look an ugly death in the
"No doubt," mumbled Nostromo, loud enough to be overheard. "There
may be even more than two fools in this place. Who knows?"
"And that is my affair," said the doctor, curtly.
"As taking out the accursed silver to sea was my affair,"
retorted Nostromo. "I see. Bueno! Each of us has his reasons. But
you were the last man I conversed with before I started, and you
talked to me as if I were a fool."
Nostromo had a great distaste for the doctor's sardonic treatment
of his great reputation. Decoud's faintly ironic recognition used
to make him uneasy; but the familiarity of a man like Don Martin
was flattering, whereas the doctor was a nobody. He could
remember him a penniless outcast, slinking about the streets of
Sulaco, without a single friend or acquaintance, till Don Carlos
Gould took him into the service of the mine.
"You may be very wise," he went on, thoughtfully, staring into
the obscurity of the room, pervaded by the gruesome enigma of the
tortured and murdered Hirsch. "But I am not such a fool as when
I started. I have learned one thing since, and that is that you
are a dangerous man."
Dr. Monygham was too startled to do more than exclaim--
"What is it you say?"
"If he could speak he would say the same thing," pursued
Nostromo, with a nod of his shadowy head silhouetted against the
"I do not understand you," said Dr. Monygham, faintly.
"No? Perhaps, if you had not confirmed Sotillo in his madness, he
would have been in no haste to give the estrapade to that
The doctor started at the suggestion. But his devotion, absorbing
all his sensibilities, had left his heart steeled against remorse
and pity. Still, for complete relief, he felt the necessity of
repelling it loudly and contemptuously.
"Bah! You dare to tell me that, with a man like Sotillo. I
confess I did not give a thought to Hirsch. If I had it would
have been useless. Anybody can see that the luckless wretch was
doomed from the moment he caught hold of the anchor. He was
doomed, I tell you! Just as I myself am doomed--most probably."
This is what Dr. Monygham said in answer to Nostromo's remark,
which was plausible enough to prick his conscience. He was not a
callous man. But the necessity, the magnitude, the importance of
the task he had taken upon himself dwarfed all merely humane
considerations. He had undertaken it in a fanatical spirit. He
did not like it. To lie, to deceive, to circumvent even the
basest of mankind was odious to him. It was odious to him by
training, instinct, and tradition. To do these things in the
character of a traitor was abhorrent to his nature and terrible
to his feelings. He had made that sacrifice in a spirit of
abasement. He had said to himself bitterly, "I am the only one
fit for that dirty work." And he believed this. He was not
subtle. His simplicity was such that, though he had no sort of
heroic idea of seeking death, the risk, deadly enough, to which
he exposed himself, had a sustaining and comforting effect. To
that spiritual state the fate of Hirsch presented itself as part
of the general atrocity of things. He considered that episode
practically. What did it mean? Was it a sign of some dangerous
change in Sotillo's delusion? That the man should have been
killed like this was what the doctor could not understand.
"Yes. But why shot?" he murmured to himself.
Nostromo kept very still.
DISTRACTED between doubts and hopes, dismayed by the sound of
bells pealing out the arrival of Pedrito Montero, Sotillo had
spent the morning in battling with his thoughts; a contest to
which he was unequal, from the vacuity of his mind and the
violence of his passions. Disappointment, greed, anger, and fear
made a tumult, in the colonel's breast louder than the din of
bells in the town. Nothing he had planned had come to pass.
Neither Sulaco nor the silver of the mine had fallen into his
hands. He had performed no military exploit to secure his
position, and had obtained no enormous booty to make off with.
Pedrito Montero, either as friend or foe, filled him with dread.
The sound of bells maddened him.
Imagining at first that he might be attacked at once, he had made
his battalion stand to arms on the shore. He walked to and fro
all the length of the room, stopping sometimes to gnaw the
finger-tips of his right hand with a lurid sideways glare fixed
on the floor; then, with a sullen, repelling glance all round, he
would resume his tramping in savage aloofness. His hat,
horsewhip, sword, and revolver were lying on the table. His
officers, crowding the window giving the view of the town gate,
disputed amongst themselves the use of his field-glass bought
last year on long credit from Anzani. It passed from hand to
hand, and the possessor for the time being was besieged by
"There is nothing; there is nothing to see!" he would repeat
There was nothing. And when the picket in the bushes near the
Casa Viola had been ordered to fall back upon the main body, no
stir of life appeared on the stretch of dusty and arid land
between the town and the waters of the port. But late in the
afternoon a horseman issuing from the gate was made out riding up
fearlessly. It was an emissary from Senor Fuentes. Being all
alone he was allowed to come on. Dismounting at the great door he
greeted the silent bystanders with cheery impudence, and begged
to be taken up at once to the "muy valliente" colonel.
Senor Fuentes, on entering upon his functions of Gefe Politico,
had turned his diplomatic abilities to getting hold of the
harbour as well as of the mine. The man he pitched upon to
negotiate with Sotillo was a Notary Public, whom the revolution
had found languishing in the common jail on a charge of forging
documents. Liberated by the mob along with the other "victims of
Blanco tyranny," he had hastened to offer his services to the new
He set out determined to display much zeal and eloquence in
trying to induce Sotillo to come into town alone for a conference
with Pedrito Montero. Nothing was further from the colonel's
intentions. The mere fleeting idea of trusting himself into the
famous Pedrito's hands had made him feel unwell several times.
It was out of the question--it was madness. And to put himself in
open hostility was madness, too. It would render impossible a
systematic search for that treasure, for that wealth of silver
which he seemed to feel somewhere about, to scent somewhere near.
But where? Where? Heavens! Where? Oh! why had he allowed that
doctor to go! Imbecile that he was. But no! It was the only
right course, he reflected distractedly, while the messenger
waited downstairs chatting agreeably to the officers. It was in
that scoundrelly doctor's true interest to return with positive
information. But what if anything stopped him? A general
prohibition to leave the town, for instance! There would be
The colonel, seizing his head in his hands, turned in his tracks
as if struck with vertigo. A flash of craven inspiration
suggested to him an expedient not unknown to European statesmen
when they wish to delay a difficult negotiation. Booted and
spurred, he scrambled into the hammock with undignified haste.
His handsome face had turned yellow with the strain of weighty
cares. The ridge of his shapely nose had grown sharp; the
audacious nostrils appeared mean and pinched. The velvety,
caressing glance of his fine eyes seemed dead, and even
decomposed; for these almond-shaped, languishing orbs had become
inappropriately bloodshot with much sinister sleeplessness. He
addressed the surprised envoy of Senor Fuentes in a deadened,
exhausted voice. It came pathetically feeble from under a pile of
ponchos, which buried his elegant person right up to the black
moustaches, uncurled, pendant, in sign of bodily prostration and
mental incapacity. Fever, fever--a heavy fever had overtaken the
"muy valliente" colonel. A wavering wildness of expression,
caused by the passing spasms of a slight colic which had declared
itself suddenly, and the rattling teeth of repressed panic, had a
genuineness which impressed the envoy. It was a cold fit. The
colonel explained that he was unable to think, to listen, to
speak. With an appearance of superhuman effort the colonel gasped
out that he was not in a state to return a suitable reply or to
execute any of his Excellency's orders. But to-morrow!
To-morrow! Ah! to-morrow! Let his Excellency Don Pedro be without
uneasiness. The brave Esmeralda Regiment held the harbour,
held--And closing his eyes, he rolled his aching head like a
half-delirious invalid under the inquisitive stare of the envoy,
who was obliged to bend down over the hammock in order to catch
the painful and broken accents. Meantime, Colonel Sotillo trusted
that his Excellency's humanity would permit the doctor, the
English doctor, to come out of town with his case of foreign
remedies to attend upon him. He begged anxiously his worship the
caballero now present for the grace of looking in as he passed
the Casa Gould, and informing the English doctor, who was
probably there, that his services were immediately required by
Colonel Sotillo, lying ill of fever in the Custom House.
Immediately. Most urgently required. Awaited with extreme
impatience. A thousand thanks. He closed his eyes wearily and
would not open them again, lying perfectly still, deaf, dumb,
insensible, overcome, vanquished, crushed, annihilated by the
But as soon as the other had shut after him the door of the
landing, the colonel leaped out with a fling of both feet in an
avalanche of woollen coverings. His spurs having become entangled
in a perfect welter of ponchos he nearly pitched on his head, and
did not recover his balance till the middle of the room.
Concealed behind the half-closed jalousies he listened to what
went on below.
The envoy had already mounted, and turning to the morose officers
occupying the great doorway, took off his hat formally.
"Caballeros," he said, in a very loud tone, "allow me to
recommend you to take great care of your colonel. It has done me
much honour and gratification to have seen you all, a fine body
of men exercising the soldierly virtue of patience in this
exposed situation, where there is much sun, and no water to speak
of, while a town full of wine and feminine charms is ready to
embrace you for the brave men you are. Caballeros, I have the
honour to salute you. There will be much dancing to-night in
But he reined in his horse and inclined his head sideways on
seeing the old major step out, very tall and meagre, in a
straight narrow coat coming down to his ankles as it were the
casing of the regimental colours rolled round their staff.
The intelligent old warrior, after enunciating in a dogmatic tone
the general proposition that the "world was full of traitors,"
went on pronouncing deliberately a panegyric upon Sotillo. He
ascribed to him with leisurely emphasis every virtue under
heaven, summing it all up in an absurd colloquialism current
amongst the lower class of Occidentals (especially about
Esmeralda). "And," he concluded, with a sudden rise in the
voice, "a man of many teeth--'hombre de muchos dientes.' Si,
senor. As to us," he pursued, portentous and impressive, "your
worship is beholding the finest body of officers in the Republic,
men unequalled for valour and sagacity, 'y hombres de muchos
"What? All of them?" inquired the disreputable envoy of Senor
Fuentes, with a faint, derisive smile.
"Todos. Si, senor," the major affirmed, gravely, with conviction.
"Men of many teeth."
The other wheeled his horse to face the portal resembling the
high gate of a dismal barn. He raised himself in his stirrups,
extended one arm. He was a facetious scoundrel, entertaining for
these stupid Occidentals a feeling of great scorn natural in a
native from the central provinces. The folly of Esmeraldians
especially aroused his amused contempt. He began an oration upon
Pedro Montero, keeping a solemn countenance. He flourished his
hand as if introducing him to their notice. And when he saw every
face set, all the eyes fixed upon his lips, he began to shout a
sort of catalogue of perfections: "Generous, valorous, affable,
profound"--(he snatched off his hat enthusiastically)--"a
statesman, an invincible chief of partisans--" He dropped his
voice startlingly to a deep, hollow note--"and a dentist."
He was off instantly at a smart walk; the rigid straddle of his
legs, the turned-out feet, the stiff back, the rakish slant of
the sombrero above the square, motionless set of the shoulders
expressing an infinite, awe-inspiring impudence.
Upstairs, behind the jalousies, Sotillo did not move for a long
time. The audacity of the fellow appalled him. What were his
officers saying below? They were saying nothing. Complete
silence. He quaked. It was not thus that he had imagined himself
at that stage of the expedition. He had seen himself triumphant,
unquestioned, appeased, the idol of the soldiers, weighing in
secret complacency the agreeable alternatives of power and wealth
open to his choice. Alas! How different! Distracted, restless,
supine, burning with fury, or frozen with terror, he felt a dread
as fathomless as the sea creep upon him from every side. That
rogue of a doctor had to come out with his information. That was
clear. It would be of no use to him--alone. He could do nothing
with it. Malediction! The doctor would never come out. He was
probably under arrest already, shut up together with Don Carlos.
He laughed aloud insanely. Ha! ha! ha! ha! It was Pedrito Montero
who would get the information. Ha! ha! ha! ha!--and the silver.
All at once, in the midst of the laugh, he became motionless and
silent as if turned into stone. He too, had a prisoner. A
prisoner who must, must know the real truth. He would have to be
made to speak. And Sotillo, who all that time had not quite
forgotten Hirsch, felt an inexplicable reluctance at the notion
of proceeding to extremities.
He felt a reluctance--part of that unfathomable dread that crept
on all sides upon him. He remembered reluctantly, too, the
dilated eyes of the hide merchant, his contortions, his loud sobs
and protestations. It was not compassion or even mere nervous
sensibility. The fact was that though Sotillo did never for a
moment believe his story--he could not believe it; nobody could
believe such nonsense--yet those accents of despairing truth
impressed him disagreeably. They made him feel sick. And he
suspected also that the man might have gone mad with fear. A
lunatic is a hopeless subject. Bah! A pretence. Nothing but a
pretence. He would know how to deal with that.
He was working himself up to the right pitch of ferocity. His
fine eyes squinted slightly; he clapped his hands; a bare-footed
orderly appeared noiselessly, a corporal, with his bayonet
hanging on his thigh and a stick in his hand.
The colonel gave his orders, and presently the miserable Hirsch,
pushed in by several soldiers, found him frowning awfully in a
broad armchair, hat on head, knees wide apart, arms akimbo,
masterful, imposing, irresistible, haughty, sublime, terrible.
Hirsch, with his arms tied behind his back, had been bundled
violently into one of the smaller rooms. For many hours he
remained apparently forgotten, stretched lifelessly on the floor.
From that solitude, full of despair and terror, he was torn out
brutally, with kicks and blows, passive, sunk in hebetude. He
listened to threats and admonitions, and afterwards made his
usual answers to questions, with his chin sunk on his breast, his
hands tied behind his back, swaying a little in front of Sotillo,
and never looking up. When he was forced to hold up his head, by
means of a bayonet-point prodding him under the chin, his eyes
had a vacant, trance-like stare, and drops of perspiration as big
as peas were seen hailing down the dirt, bruises, and scratches
of his white face. Then they stopped suddenly.
Sotillo looked at him in silence. "Will you depart from your
obstinacy, you rogue?" he asked. Already a rope, whose one end
was fastened to Senor Hirsch's wrists, had been thrown over a
beam, and three soldiers held the other end, waiting. He made no
answer. His heavy lower lip hung stupidly. Sotillo made a sign.
Hirsch was jerked up off his feet, and a yell of despair and
agony burst out in the room, filled the passage of the great
buildings, rent the air outside, caused every soldier of the camp
along the shore to look up at the windows, started some of the
officers in the hall babbling excitedly, with shining eyes;
others, setting their lips, looked gloomily at the floor.
Sotillo, followed by the soldiers, had left the room. The sentry
on the landing presented arms. Hirsch went on screaming all alone
behind the half-closed jalousies while the sunshine, reflected
from the water of the harbour, made an ever-running ripple of
light high up on the wall. He screamed with uplifted eyebrows and
a wide-open mouth--incredibly wide, black, enormous, full of
In the still burning air of the windless afternoon he made the
waves of his agony travel as far as the O. S. N. Company's
offices. Captain Mitchell on the balcony, trying to make out what
went on generally, had heard him faintly but distinctly, and the
feeble and appalling sound lingered in his ears after he had
retreated indoors with blanched cheeks. He had been driven off
the balcony several times during that afternoon.
Sotillo, irritable, moody, walked restlessly about, held
consultations with his officers, gave contradictory orders in
this shrill clamour pervading the whole empty edifice. Sometimes
there would be long and awful silences. Several times he had
entered the torture-chamber where his sword, horsewhip, revolver,
and field-glass were lying on the table, to ask with forced
calmness, "Will you speak the truth now? No? I can wait." But he
could not afford to wait much longer. That was just it. Every
time he went in and came out with a slam of the door, the sentry
on the landing presented arms, and got in return a black,
venomous, unsteady glance, which, in reality, saw nothing at all,
being merely the reflection of the soul within--a soul of gloomy
hatred, irresolution, avarice, and fury.
The sun had set when he went in once more. A soldier carried in
two lighted candles and slunk out, shutting the door without
"Speak, thou Jewish child of the devil! The silver! The silver,
I say! Where is it? Where have you foreign rogues hidden it?
A slight quiver passed up the taut rope from the racked limbs,
but the body of Senor Hirsch, enterprising business man from
Esmeralda, hung under the heavy beam perpendicular and silent,
facing the colonel awfully. The inflow of the night air, cooled
by the snows of the Sierra, spread gradually a delicious
freshness through the close heat of the room.
Sotillo had seized the riding-whip, and stood with his arm lifted
up. For a word, for one little word, he felt he would have knelt,
cringed, grovelled on the floor before the drowsy, conscious
stare of those fixed eyeballs starting out of the grimy,
dishevelled head that drooped very still with its mouth closed
askew. The colonel ground his teeth with rage and struck. The
rope vibrated leisurely to the blow, like the long string of a
pendulum starting from a rest. But no swinging motion was
imparted to the body of Senor Hirsch, the well-known hide
merchant on the coast. With a convulsive effort of the twisted
arms it leaped up a few inches, curling upon itself like a fish
on the end of a line. Senor Hirsch's head was flung back on his
straining throat; his chin trembled. For a moment the rattle of
his chattering teeth pervaded the vast, shadowy room, where the
candles made a patch of light round the two flames burning side
by side. And as Sotillo, staying his raised hand, waited for him
to speak, with the sudden flash of a grin and a straining forward
of the wrenched shoulders, he spat violently into his face.
The uplifted whip fell, and the colonel sprang back with a low
cry of dismay, as if aspersed by a jet of deadly venom. Quick as
thought he snatched up his revolver, and fired twice. The report
and the concussion of the shots seemed to throw him at once from
ungovernable rage into idiotic stupor. He stood with drooping jaw
and stony eyes. What had he done, Sangre de Dios! What had he
done? He was basely appalled at his impulsive act, sealing for
ever these lips from which so much was to be extorted. What could
he say? How could he explain? Ideas of headlong flight somewhere,
anywhere, passed through his mind; even the craven and absurd
notion of hiding under the table occurred to his cowardice. It
was too late; his officers had rushed in tumultuously, in a great
clatter of scabbards, clamouring, with astonishment and wonder.
But since they did not immediately proceed to plunge their swords
into his breast, the brazen side of his character asserted
itself. Passing the sleeve of his uniform over his face he pulled
himself together, His truculent glance turned slowly here and
there, checked the noise where it fell; and the stiff body of the
late Senor Hirsch, merchant, after swaying imperceptibly, made a
half turn, and came to a rest in the midst of awed murmurs and
A voice remarked loudly, "Behold a man who will never speak
again." And another, from the back row of faces, timid and
pressing, cried out--
"Why did you kill him, mi colonel?"
"Because he has confessed everything," answered Sotillo, with the
hardihood of desperation. He felt himself cornered. He brazened
it out on the strength of his reputation with very fair success.
His hearers thought him very capable of such an act. They were
disposed to believe his flattering tale. There is no credulity so
eager and blind as the credulity of covetousness, which, in its
universal extent, measures the moral misery and the intellectual
destitution of mankind. Ah! he had confessed everything, this
fractious Jew, this bribon. Good! Then he was no longer wanted. A
sudden dense guffaw was heard from the senior captain--a
big-headed man, with little round eyes and monstrously fat cheeks
which never moved. The old major, tall and fantastically ragged
like a scarecrow, walked round the body of the late Senor Hirsch,
muttering to himself with ineffable complacency that like this
there was no need to guard against any future treacheries of that
scoundrel. The others stared, shifting from foot to foot, and
whispering short remarks to each other.
Sotillo buckled on his sword and gave curt, peremptory orders to
hasten the retirement decided upon in the afternoon. Sinister,
impressive, his sombrero pulled right down upon his eyebrows, he
marched first through the door in such disorder of mind that he
forgot utterly to provide for Dr. Monygham's possible return. As
the officers trooped out after him, one or two looked back
hastily at the late Senor Hirsch, merchant from Esmeralda, left
swinging rigidly at rest, alone with the two burning candles. In
the emptiness of the room the burly shadow of head and shoulders
on the wall had an air of life.
Below, the troops fell in silently and moved off by companies
without drum or trumpet. The old scarecrow major commanded the
rearguard; but the party he left behind with orders to fire the
Custom House (and "burn the carcass of the treacherous Jew where
it hung") failed somehow in their haste to set the staircase
properly alight. The body of the late Senor Hirsch dwelt alone
for a time in the dismal solitude of the unfinished building,
resounding weirdly with sudden slams and clicks of doors and
latches, with rustling scurries of torn papers, and the tremulous
sighs that at each gust of wind passed under the high roof. The
light of the two candles burning before the perpendicular and
breathless immobility of the late Senor Hirsch threw a gleam afar
over land and water, like a signal in the night. He remained to
startle Nostromo by his presence, and to puzzle Dr. Monygham by
the mystery of his atrocious end.
"But why shot?" the doctor again asked himself, audibly. This
time he was answered by a dry laugh from Nostromo.
"You seem much concerned at a very natural thing, senor doctor. I
wonder why? It is very likely that before long we shall all get
shot one after another, if not by Sotillo, then by Pedrito, or
Fuentes, or Gamacho. And we may even get the estrapade, too, or
worse--quien sabe?--with your pretty tale of the silver you put
into Sotillo's head."
"It was in his head already," the doctor protested. "I only--"
"Yes. And you only nailed it there so that the devil himself--"
"That is precisely what I meant to do," caught up the doctor.
"That is what you meant to do. Bueno. It is as I say. You are a
Their voices, which without rising had been growing quarrelsome,
ceased suddenly. The late Senor Hirsch, erect and shadowy against
the stars, seemed to be waiting attentive, in impartial silence.
But Dr. Monygham had no mind to quarrel with Nostromo. At this
supremely critical point of Sulaco's fortunes it was borne upon
him at last that this man was really indispensable, more
indispensable than ever the infatuation of Captain Mitchell, his
proud discoverer, could conceive; far beyond what Decoud's best
dry raillery about "my illustrious friend, the unique Capataz de
Cargadores," had ever intended. The fellow was unique. He was not
"one in a thousand." He was absolutely the only one. The doctor
surrendered. There was something in the genius of that Genoese
seaman which dominated the destinies of great enterprises and of
many people, the fortunes of Charles Gould, the fate of an
admirable woman. At this last thought the doctor had to clear his
throat before he could speak.
In a completely changed tone he pointed out to the Capataz that,
to begin with, he personally ran no great risk. As far as
everybody knew he was dead. It was an enormous advantage. He had
only to keep out of sight in the Casa Viola, where the old
Garibaldino was known to be alone--with his dead wife. The
servants had all run away. No one would think of searching for
him there, or anywhere else on earth, for that matter.
"That would be very true," Nostromo spoke up, bitterly, "if I had
not met you."
For a time the doctor kept silent. "Do you mean to say that you
think I may give you away?" he asked in an unsteady voice. "Why?
Why should I do that?"
"What do I know? Why not? To gain a day perhaps. It would take
Sotillo a day to give me the estrapade, and try some other things
perhaps, before he puts a bullet through my heart--as he did to
that poor wretch here. Why not?"
The doctor swallowed with difficulty. His throat had gone dry in
a moment. It was not from indignation. The doctor, pathetically
enough, believed that he had forfeited the right to be indignant
with any one--for anything. It was simple dread. Had the fellow
heard his story by some chance? If so, there was an end of his
usefulness in that direction. The indispensable man escaped his
influence, because of that indelible blot which made him fit for
dirty work. A feeling as of sickness came upon the doctor. He
would have given anything to know, but he dared not clear up the
point. The fanaticism of his devotion, fed on the sense of his
abasement, hardened his heart in sadness and scorn.
"Why not, indeed?" he reechoed, sardonically. "Then the safe
thing for you is to kill me on the spot. I would defend myself.
But you may just as well know I am going about unarmed."
"Por Dios!" said the Capataz, passionately. "You fine people are
all alike. All dangerous. All betrayers of the poor who are your
"You do not understand," began the doctor, slowly.
"I understand you all!" cried the other with a violent movement,
as shadowy to the doctor's eyes as the persistent immobility of
the late Senor Hirsch. "A poor man amongst you has got to look
after himself. I say that you do not care for those that serve
you. Look at me! After all these years, suddenly, here I find
myself like one of these curs that bark outside the walls
--without a kennel or a dry bone for my teeth. (Caramba!" But he
relented with a contemptuous fairness. "Of course," he went on,
quietly, "I do not suppose that you would hasten to give me up to
Sotillo, for example. It is not that. It is that I am nothing!
Suddenly--" He swung his arm downwards. "Nothing to any one," he
The doctor breathed freely. "Listen, Capataz," he said,
stretching out his arm almost affectionately towards Nostromo's
shoulder. "I am going to tell you a very simple thing. You are
safe because you are needed. I would not give you away for any
conceivable reason, because I want you."
In the dark Nostromo bit his lip. He had heard enough of that. He
knew what that meant. No more of that for him. But he had to look
after himself now, he thought. And he thought, too, that it would
not be prudent to part in anger from his companion. The doctor,
admitted to be a great healer, had, amongst the populace of
Sulaco, the reputation of being an evil sort of man. It was based
solidly on his personal appearance, which was strange, and on his
rough ironic manner--proofs visible, sensible, and
incontrovertible of the doctor's malevolent disposition. And
Nostromo was of the people. So he only grunted incredulously.
"You, to speak plainly, are the only man," the doctor pursued.
"It is in your power to save this town and . . . everybody from
the destructive rapacity of men who--"
"No, senor," said Nostromo, sullenly. "It is not in my power to
get the treasure back for you to give up to Sotillo, or Pedrito,
or Gamacho. What do I know?"
"Nobody expects the impossible," was the answer.
"You have said it yourself--nobody," muttered Nostromo, in a
gloomy, threatening tone.
But Dr. Monygham, full of hope, disregarded the enigmatic words
and the threatening tone. To their eyes, accustomed to obscurity,
the late Senor Hirsch, growing more distinct, seemed to have come
nearer. And the doctor lowered his voice in exposing his scheme
as though afraid of being overheard.
He was taking the indispensable man into his fullest confidence.
Its implied flattery and suggestion of great risks came with a
familiar sound to the Capataz. His mind, floating in irresolution
and discontent, recognized it with bitterness. He understood well
that the doctor was anxious to save the San Tome mine from
annihilation. He would be nothing without it. It was his
interest. Just as it had been the interest of Senor Decoud, of
the Blancos, and of the Europeans to get his Cargadores on their
side. His thought became arrested upon Decoud. What would happen
Nostromo's prolonged silence made the doctor uneasy. He pointed
out, quite unnecessarily, that though for the present he was
safe, he could not live concealed for ever. The choice was
between accepting the mission to Barrios, with all its dangers
and difficulties, and leaving Sulaco by stealth, ingloriously, in
"None of your friends could reward you and protect you just now,
Capataz. Not even Don Carlos himself."
"I would have none of your protection and none of your rewards. I
only wish I could trust your courage and your sense. When I
return in triumph, as you say, with Barrios, I may find you all
destroyed. You have the knife at your throat now."
It was the doctor's turn to remain silent in the contemplation of
"Well, we would trust your courage and your sense. And you, too,
have a knife at your throat."
"Ah! And whom am I to thank for that? What are your politics and
your mines to me--your silver and your constitutions--your Don
Carlos this, and Don Jose that--"
"I don't know," burst out the exasperated doctor. "There are
innocent people in danger whose little finger is worth more than
you or I and all the Ribierists together. I don't know. You
should have asked yourself before you allowed Decoud to lead you
into all this. It was your place to think like a man; but if you
did not think then, try to act like a man now. Did you imagine
Decoud cared very much for what would happen to you?"
"No more than you care for what will happen to me," muttered the
"No; I care for what will happen to you as little as I care for
what will happen to myself."
"And all this because you are such a devoted Ribierist?" Nostromo
said in an incredulous tone.
"All this because I am such a devoted Ribierist," repeated Dr.
Again Nostromo, gazing abstractedly at the body of the late Senor
Hirsch, remained silent, thinking that the doctor was a dangerous
person in more than one sense. It was impossible to trust him.
"Do you speak in the name of Don Carlos?" he asked at last.
"Yes. I do," the doctor said, loudly, without hesitation. "He
must come forward now. He must," he added in a mutter, which
Nostromo did not catch.
"What did you say, senor?"
The doctor started. "I say that you must be true to yourself,
Capataz. It would be worse than folly to fail now."
"True to myself," repeated Nostromo. "How do you know that I
would not be true to myself if I told you to go to the devil with
"I do not know. Maybe you would," the doctor said, with a
roughness of tone intended to hide the sinking of his heart and
the faltering of his voice. "All I know is, that you had better
get away from here. Some of Sotillo's men may turn up here
looking for me."
He slipped off the table, listening intently. The Capataz, too,
"Suppose I went to Cayta, what would you do meantime?" he asked.
"I would go to Sotillo directly you had left--in the way I am
"A very good way--if only that engineer-in-chief consents. Remind
him, senor, that I looked after the old rich Englishman who pays
for the railway, and that I saved the lives of some of his people
that time when a gang of thieves came from the south to wreck one
of his pay-trains. It was I who discovered it all at the risk of
my life, by pretending to enter into their plans. Just as you are
doing with Sotillo."
"Yes. Yes, of course. But I can offer him better arguments," the
doctor said, hastily. " Leave it to me."
"Ah, yes! True. I am nothing."
"Not at all. You are everything."
They moved a few paces towards the door. Behind them the late
Senor Hirsch preserved the immobility of a disregarded man.
"That will be all right. I know what to say to the engineer,"
pursued the doctor, in a low tone. "My difficulty will be with
And Dr. Monygham stopped short in the doorway as if intimidated
by the difficulty. He had made the sacrifice of his life. He
considered this a fitting opportunity. But he did not want to
throw his life away too soon. In his quality of betrayer of Don
Carlos' confidence, he would have ultimately to indicate the
hiding-place of the treasure. That would be the end of his
deception, and the end of himself as well, at the hands of the
infuriated colonel. He wanted to delay him to the very last
moment; and he had been racking his brains to invent some place
of concealment at once plausible and difficult of access.
He imparted his trouble to Nostromo, and concluded--
"Do you know what, Capataz? I think that when the time comes and
some information must be given, I shall indicate the Great
Isabel. That is the best place I can think of. What is the
A low exclamation had escaped Nostromo. The doctor waited,
surprised, and after a moment of profound silence, heard a thick
voice stammer out, "Utter folly," and stop with a gasp.
"Ah! You do not see it," began Nostromo, scathingly, gathering
scorn as he went on. "Three men in half an hour would see that no
ground had been disturbed anywhere on that island. Do you think
that such a treasure can be buried without leaving traces of the
work--eh! senor doctor? Why! you would not gain half a day more
before having your throat cut by Sotillo. The Isabel! What
stupidity! What miserable invention! Ah! you are all alike, you
fine men of intelligence. All you are fit for is to betray men of
the people into undertaking deadly risks for objects that you are
not even sure about. If it comes off you get the benefit. If not,
then it does not matter. He is only a dog. Ah! Madre de Dios, I
would--" He shook his fists above his head.
The doctor was overwhelmed at first by this fierce, hissing
"Well! It seems to me on your own showing that the men of the
people are no mean fools, too," he said, sullenly. "No, but
come. You are so clever. Have you a better place?"
Nostromo had calmed down as quickly as he had flared up.
"I am clever enough for that," he said, quietly, almost with
indifference. "You want to tell him of a hiding-place big enough
to take days in ransacking--a place where a treasure of silver
ingots can be buried without leaving a sign on the surface."
"And close at hand," the doctor put in.
"Just so, senor. Tell him it is sunk."
"This has the merit of being the truth," the doctor said,
contemptuously. "He will not believe it."
"You tell him that it is sunk where he may hope to lay his hands
on it, and he will believe you quick enough. Tell him it has
been sunk in the harbour in order to be recovered afterwards by
divers. Tell him you found out that I had orders from Don Carlos
Gould to lower the cases quietly overboard somewhere in a line
between the end of the jetty and the entrance. The depth is not
too great there. He has no divers, but he has a ship, boats,
ropes, chains, sailors--of a sort. Let him fish for the silver.
Let him set his fools to drag backwards and forwards and
crossways while he sits and watches till his eyes drop out of his
"Really, this is an admirable idea," muttered the doctor.
"Si. You tell him that, and see whether he will not believe you!
He will spend days in rage and torment--and still he will
believe. He will have no thought for anything else. He will not
give up till he is driven off--why, he may even forget to kill
you. He will neither eat nor sleep. He--"
"The very thing! The very thing!" the doctor repeated in an
excited whisper. "Capataz, I begin to believe that you are a
great genius in your way."
Nostromo had paused; then began again in a changed tone, sombre,
speaking to himself as though he had forgotten the doctor's
"There is something in a treasure that fastens upon a man's mind.
He will pray and blaspheme and still persevere, and will curse
the day he ever heard of it, and will let his last hour come upon
him unawares, still believing that he missed it only by a foot.
He will see it every time he closes his eyes. He will never
forget it till he is dead--and even then----Doctor, did you ever
hear of the miserable gringos on Azuera, that cannot die? Ha! ha!
Sailors like myself. There is no getting away from a treasure
that once fastens upon your mind."
"You are a devil of a man, Capataz. It is the most plausible
Nostromo pressed his arm.
"It will be worse for him than thirst at sea or hunger in a town
full of people. Do you know what that is? He shall suffer
greater torments than he inflicted upon that terrified wretch who
had no invention. None! none! Not like me. I could have told
Sotillo a deadly tale for very little pain."
He laughed wildly and turned in the doorway towards the body of
the late Senor Hirsch, an opaque long blotch in the
semi-transparent obscurity of the room between the two tall
parallelograms of the windows full of stars.
"You man of fear!" he cried. "You shall be avenged by
me--Nostromo. Out of my way, doctor! Stand aside--or, by the
suffering soul of a woman dead without confession, I will
strangle you with my two hands."
He bounded downwards into the black, smoky hall. With a grunt of
astonishment, Dr. Monygham threw himself recklessly into the
pursuit. At the bottom of the charred stairs he had a fall,
pitching forward on his face with a force that would have stunned
a spirit less intent upon a task of love and devotion. He was up
in a moment, jarred, shaken, with a queer impression of the
terrestrial globe having been flung at his head in the dark. But
it wanted more than that to stop Dr. Monygham's body, possessed
by the exaltation of self-sacrifice; a reasonable exaltation,
determined not to lose whatever advantage chance put into its
way. He ran with headlong, tottering swiftness, his arms going
like a windmill in his effort to keep his balance on his crippled
feet. He lost his hat; the tails of his open gaberdine flew
behind him. He had no mind to lose sight of the indispensable
man. But it was a long time, and a long way from the Custom
House, before he managed to seize his arm from behind, roughly,
out of breath.
"Stop! Are you mad?"
Already Nostromo was walking slowly, his head dropping, as if
checked in his pace by the weariness of irresolution.
"What is that to you? Ah! I forgot you want me for something.
Always. Siempre Nostromo."
"What do you mean by talking of strangling me?" panted the
"What do I mean? I mean that the king of the devils himself has
sent you out of this town of cowards and talkers to meet me
to-night of all the nights of my life."
Under the starry sky the Albergo d'ltalia Una emerged, black and
low, breaking the dark level of the plain. Nostromo stopped
"The priests say he is a tempter, do they not?" he added, through
his clenched teeth.
"My good man, you drivel. The devil has nothing to do with this.
Neither has the town, which you may call by what name you please.
But Don Carlos Gould is neither a coward nor an empty talker. You
will admit that?" He waited. "Well?"
"Could I see Don Carlos?"
"Great heavens! No! Why? What for?" exclaimed the doctor in
agitation. "I tell you it is madness. I will not let you go into
the town for anything."
"You must not!" hissed the doctor, fiercely, almost beside
himself with the fear of the man doing away with his usefulness
for an imbecile whim of some sort. "I tell you you shall not. I
He stopped at loss for words, feeling fagged out, powerless,
holding on to Nostromo's sleeve, absolutely for support after his
"I am betrayed!" muttered the Capataz to himself; and the doctor,
who overheard the last word, made an effort to speak calmly.
"That is exactly what would happen to you. You would be
He thought with a sickening dread that the man was so well known
that he could not escape recognition. The house of the Senor
Administrador was beset by spies, no doubt. And even the very
servants of the casa were not to be trusted. "Reflect, Capataz,"
he said, impressively. . . . "What are you laughing at?"
"I am laughing to think that if somebody that did not approve of
my presence in town, for instance--you understand, senor
doctor--if somebody were to give me up to Pedrito, it would not
be beyond my power to make friends even with him. It is true.
What do you think of that?"
"You are a man of infinite resource, Capataz," said Dr. Monygham,
dismally. "I recognize that. But the town is full of talk about
you; and those few Cargadores that are not in hiding with the
railway people have been shouting 'Viva Montero' on the Plaza all
"My poor Cargadores!" muttered Nostromo. "Betrayed! Betrayed!"
"I understand that on the wharf you were pretty free in laying
about you with a stick amongst your poor Cargadores," the doctor
said in a grim tone, which showed that he was recovering from his
exertions. "Make no mistake. Pedrito is furious at Senor
Ribiera's rescue, and at having lost the pleasure of shooting
Decoud. Already there are rumours in the town of the treasure
having been spirited away. To have missed that does not please
Pedrito either; but let me tell you that if you had all that
silver in your hand for ransom it would not save you."
Turning swiftly, and catching the doctor by the shoulders,
Nostromo thrust his face close to his.
"Maladetta! You follow me speaking of the treasure. You have
sworn my ruin. You were the last man who looked upon me before I
went out with it. And Sidoni the engine-driver says you have an
"He ought to know. I saved his broken leg for him last year," the
doctor said, stoically. He felt on his shoulders the weight of
these hands famed amongst the populace for snapping thick ropes
and bending horseshoes. "And to you I offer the best means of
saving yourself--let me go--and of retrieving your great
reputation. You boasted of making the Capataz de Cargadores
famous from one end of America to the other about this wretched
silver. But I bring you a better opportunity--let me go, hombre!"
Nostromo released him abruptly, and the doctor feared that the
indispensable man would run off again. But he did not. He walked
on slowly. The doctor hobbled by his side till, within a stone's
throw from the Casa Viola, Nostromo stopped again.
Silent in inhospitable darkness, the Casa Viola seemed to have
changed its nature; his home appeared to repel him with an air of
hopeless and inimical mystery. The doctor said--
"You will be safe there. Go in, Capataz."
"How can I go in?" Nostromo seemed to ask himself in a low,
inward tone. "She cannot unsay what she said, and I cannot undo
what I have done."
"I tell you it is all right. Viola is all alone in there. I
looked in as I came out of the town. You will be perfectly safe
in that house till you leave it to make your name famous on the
Campo. I am going now to arrange for your departure with the
engineer-in-chief, and I shall bring you news here long before
Dr. Monygham, disregarding, or perhaps fearing to penetrate the
meaning of Nostromo's silence, clapped him lightly on the
shoulder, and starting off with his smart, lame walk, vanished
utterly at the third or fourth hop in the direction of the
railway track. Arrested between the two wooden posts for people
to fasten their horses to, Nostromo did not move, as if he, too,
had been planted solidly in the ground. At the end of half an
hour he lifted his head to the deep baying of the dogs at the
railway yards, which had burst out suddenly, tumultuous and
deadened as if coming from under the plain. That lame doctor with
the evil eye had got there pretty fast.
Step by step Nostromo approached the Albergo d'Italia Una, which
he had never known so lightless, so silent, before. The door, all
black in the pale wall, stood open as he had left it twenty-four
hours before, when he had nothing to hide from the world. He
remained before it, irresolute, like a fugitive, like a man
betrayed. Poverty, misery, starvation! Where had he heard these
words? The anger of a dying woman had prophesied that fate for
his folly. It looked as if it would come true very quickly. And
the leperos would laugh--she had said. Yes, they would laugh if
they knew that the Capataz de Cargadores was at the mercy of the
mad doctor whom they could remember, only a few years ago, buying
cooked food from a stall on the Plaza for a copper coin--like one
At that moment the notion of seeking Captain Mitchell passed
through his mind. He glanced in the direction of the jetty and
saw a small gleam of light in the O.S.N. Company's building. The
thought of lighted windows was not attractive. Two lighted
windows had decoyed him into the empty Custom House, only to fall
into the clutches of that doctor. No! He would not go near
lighted windows again on that night. Captain Mitchell was there.
And what could he be told? That doctor would worm it all out of
him as if he were a child.
On the threshold he called out "Giorgio!" in an undertone. Nobody
answered. He stepped in. "Ola! viejo! Are you there? . . ." In
the impenetrable darkness his head swam with the illusion that
the obscurity of the kitchen was as vast as the Placid Gulf, and
that the floor dipped forward like a sinking lighter. "Ola!
viejo!" he repeated, falteringly, swaying where he stood. His
hand, extended to steady himself, fell upon the table. Moving a
step forward, he shifted it, and felt a box of matches under his
fingers. He fancied he had heard a quiet sigh. He listened for a
moment, holding his breath; then, with trembling hands, tried to
strike a light.
The tiny piece of wood flamed up quite blindingly at the end of
his fingers, raised above his blinking eyes. A concentrated
glare fell upon the leonine white head of old Giorgio against the
black fire-place--showed him leaning forward in a chair in
staring immobility, surrounded, overhung, by great masses of
shadow, his legs crossed, his cheek in his hand, an empty pipe in
the corner of his mouth. It seemed hours before he attempted to
turn his face; at the very moment the match went out, and he
disappeared, overwhelmed by the shadows, as if the walls and roof
of the desolate house had collapsed upon his white head in
Nostromo heard him stir and utter dispassionately the words--
"It may have been a vision."
"No," he said, softly. "It is no vision, old man."
A strong chest voice asked in the dark--
"Is that you I hear, Giovann' Battista?"
"Si, viejo. Steady. Not so loud."
After his release by Sotillo, Giorgio Viola, attended to the very
door by the good-natured engineer-in-chief, had reentered his
house, which he had been made to leave almost at the very moment
of his wife's death. All was still. The lamp above was burning.
He nearly called out to her by name; and the thought that no call
from him would ever again evoke the answer of her voice, made him
drop heavily into the chair with a loud groan, wrung out by the
pain as of a keen blade piercing his breast.
The rest of the night he made no sound. The darkness turned to
grey, and on the colourless, clear, glassy dawn the jagged sierra
stood out flat and opaque, as if cut out of paper.
The enthusiastic and severe soul of Giorgio Viola, sailor,
champion of oppressed humanity, enemy of kings, and, by the grace
of Mrs. Gould, hotel-keeper of the Sulaco harbour, had descended
into the open abyss of desolation amongst the shattered vestiges
of his past. He remembered his wooing between two campaigns, a
single short week in the season of gathering olives. Nothing
approached the grave passion of that time but the deep,
passionate sense of his bereavement. He discovered all the extent
of his dependence upon the silenced voice of that woman. It was
her voice that he missed. Abstracted, busy, lost in inward
contemplation, he seldom looked at his wife in those later years.
The thought of his girls was a matter of concern, not of
consolation. It was her voice that he would miss. And he
remembered the other child--the little boy who died at sea. Ah! a
man would have been something to lean upon. And, alas! even Gian'
Battista--he of whom, and of Linda, his wife had spoken to him so
anxiously before she dropped off into her last sleep on earth, he
on whom she had called aloud to save the children, just before
she died--even he was dead!
And the old man, bent forward, his head in his hand, sat through
the day in immobility and solitude. He never heard the brazen
roar of the bells in town. When it ceased the earthenware filter
in the corner of the kitchen kept on its swift musical drip, drip
into the great porous jar below.
Towards sunset he got up, and with slow movements disappeared up
the narrow staircase. His bulk filled it; and the rubbing of his
shoulders made a small noise as of a mouse running behind the
plaster of a wall. While he remained up there the house was as
dumb as a grave. Then, with the same faint rubbing noise, he
descended. He had to catch at the chairs and tables to regain
his seat. He seized his pipe off the high mantel of the
fire-place--but made no attempt to reach the tobacco--thrust it
empty into the corner of his mouth, and sat down again in the
same staring pose. The sun of Pedrito's entry into Sulaco, the
last sun of Senor Hirsch's life, the first of Decoud's solitude
on the Great Isabel, passed over the Albergo d'ltalia Una on its
way to the west. The tinkling drip, drip of the filter had
ceased, the lamp upstairs had burnt itself out, and the night
beset Giorgio Viola and his dead wife with its obscurity and
silence that seemed invincible till the Capataz de Cargadores,
returning from the dead, put them to flight with the splutter and
flare of a match.
"Si, viejo. It is me. Wait."
Nostromo, after barricading the door and closing the shutters
carefully, groped upon a shelf for a candle, and lit it.
Old Viola had risen. He followed with his eyes in the dark the
sounds made by Nostromo. The light disclosed him standing without
support, as if the mere presence of that man who was loyal,
brave, incorruptible, who was all his son would have been, were
enough for the support of his decaying strength.
He extended his hand grasping the briar-wood pipe, whose bowl was
charred on the edge, and knitted his bushy eyebrows heavily at
"You have returned," he said, with shaky dignity. "Ah! Very
He broke off. Nostromo, leaning back against the table, his arms
folded on his breast, nodded at him slightly.
"You thought I was drowned! No! The best dog of the rich, of the
aristocrats, of these fine men who can only talk and betray the
people, is not dead yet."
The Garibaldino, motionless, seemed to drink in the sound of the
well-known voice. His head moved slightly once as if in sign of
approval; but Nostromo saw clearly that the old man understood
nothing of the words. There was no one to understand; no one he
could take into the confidence of Decoud's fate, of his own, into
the secret of the silver. That doctor was an enemy of the
people--a tempter. . . .
Old Giorgio's heavy frame shook from head to foot with the effort
to overcome his emotion at the sight of that man, who had shared
the intimacies of his domestic life as though he had been a
"She believed yon would return," he said, solemnly.
Nostromo raised his head.
"She was a wise woman. How could I fail to come back----?"
He finished the thought mentally: "Since she has prophesied for
me an end of poverty, misery, and starvation." These words of
Teresa's anger, from the circumstances in which they had been
uttered, like the cry of a soul prevented from making its peace
with God, stirred the obscure superstition of personal fortune
from which even the greatest genius amongst men of adventure and
action is seldom free. They reigned over Nostromo's mind with the
force of a potent malediction. And what a curse it was that which
her words had laid upon him! He had been orphaned so young that
he could remember no other woman whom he called mother.
Henceforth there would be no enterprise in which he would not
fail. The spell was working already. Death itself would elude him
now. . . . He said violently--
"Come, viejo! Get me something to eat. I am hungry! Sangre de
Dios! The emptiness of my belly makes me lightheaded."
With his chin dropped again upon his bare breast above his folded
arms, barefooted, watching from under a gloomy brow the movements
of old Viola foraging amongst the cupboards, he seemed as if
indeed fallen under a curse--a ruined and sinister Capataz.
Old Viola walked out of a dark corner, and, without a word,
emptied upon the table out of his hollowed palms a few dry crusts
of bread and half a raw onion.
While the Capataz began to devour this beggar's fare, taking up
with stony-eyed voracity piece after piece lying by his side, the
Garibaldino went off, and squatting down in another corner filled
an earthenware mug with red wine out of a wicker-covered
demijohn. With a familiar gesture, as when serving customers in
the cafe, he had thrust his pipe between his teeth to have his
The Capataz drank greedily. A slight flush deepened the bronze of
his cheek. Before him, Viola, with a turn of his white and
massive head towards the staircase, took his empty pipe out of
his mouth, and pronounced slowly--
"After the shot was fired down here, which killed her as surely
as if the bullet had struck her oppressed heart, she called upon
you to save the children. Upon you, Gian' Battista."
The Capataz looked up.
"Did she do that, Padrone? To save the children! They are with
the English senora, their rich benefactress. Hey! old man of the
people. Thy benefactress. . . ."
"I am old," muttered Giorgio Viola. "An Englishwoman was allowed
to give a bed to Garibaldi lying wounded in prison. The greatest
man that ever lived. A man of the people, too--a sailor. I may
let another keep a roof over my head. Si . . . I am old. I may
let her. Life lasts too long sometimes."
"And she herself may not have a roof over her head before many
days are out, unless I . . . What do you say? Am I to keep a roof
over her head? Am I to try--and save all the Blancos together
"You shall do it," said old Viola in a strong voice. "You shall
do it as my son would have. . . ."
"Thy son, viejo! .. .. There never has been a man like thy son.
Ha, I must try. . . . But what if it were only a part of the
curse to lure me on? . . . And so she called upon me to
"She spoke no more." The heroic follower of Garibaldi, at the
thought of the eternal stillness and silence fallen upon the
shrouded form stretched out on the bed upstairs, averted his face
and raised his hand to his furrowed brow. "She was dead before I
could seize her hands," he stammered out, pitifully.
Before the wide eyes of the Capataz, staring at the doorway of
the dark staircase, floated the shape of the Great Isabel, like a
strange ship in distress, freighted with enormous wealth and the
solitary life of a man. It was impossible for him to do
anything. He could only hold his tongue, since there was no one
to trust. The treasure would be lost, probably--unless Decoud.
. . . And his thought came abruptly to an end. He perceived that
he could not imagine in the least what Decoud was likely to do.
Old Viola had not stirred. And the motionless Capataz dropped his
long, soft eyelashes, which gave to the upper part of his fierce,
black-whiskered face a touch of feminine ingenuousness. The
silence had lasted for a long time.
"God rest her soul!" he murmured, gloomily.
THE next day was quiet in the morning, except for the faint sound
of firing to the northward, in the direction of Los Hatos.
Captain Mitchell had listened to it from his balcony anxiously.
The phrase, "In my delicate position as the only consular agent
then in the port, everything, sir, everything was a just cause
for anxiety," had its place in the more or less stereotyped
relation of the "historical events" which for the next few years
was at the service of distinguished strangers visiting Sulaco.
The mention of the dignity and neutrality of the flag, so
difficult to preserve in his position, "right in the thick of
these events between the lawlessness of that piratical villain
Sotillo and the more regularly established but scarcely less
atrocious tyranny of his Excellency Don Pedro Montero," came next
in order. Captain Mitchell was not the man to enlarge upon mere
dangers much. But he insisted that it was a memorable day. On
that day, towards dusk, he had seen "that poor fellow of
mine--Nostromo. The sailor whom I discovered, and, I may say,
made, sir. The man of the famous ride to Cayta, sir. An
historical event, sir!"
Regarded by the O. S. N. Company as an old and faithful servant,
Captain Mitchell was allowed to attain the term of his usefulness
in ease and dignity at the head of the enormously extended
service. The augmentation of the establishment, with its crowds
of clerks, an office in town, the old office in the harbour, the
division into departments--passenger, cargo, lighterage, and so
on--secured a greater leisure for his last years in the
regenerated Sulaco, the capital of the Occidental Republic.
Liked by the natives for his good nature and the formality of his
manner, self-important and simple, known for years as a "friend
of our country," he felt himself a personality of mark in the
town. Getting up early for a turn in the market-place while the
gigantic shadow of Higuerota was still lying upon the fruit and
flower stalls piled up with masses of gorgeous colouring,
attending easily to current affairs, welcomed in houses, greeted
by ladies on the Alameda, with his entry into all the clubs and a
footing in the Casa Gould, he led his privileged old bachelor,
man-about-town existence with great comfort and solemnity. But on
mail-boat days he was down at the Harbour Office at an early
hour, with his own gig, manned by a smart crew in white and blue,
ready to dash off and board the ship directly she showed her bows
between the harbour heads.
It would be into the Harbour Office that he would lead some
privileged passenger he had brought off in his own boat, and
invite him to take a seat for a moment while he signed a few
papers. And Captain Mitchell, seating himself at his desk, would
keep on talking hospitably--
"There isn't much time if you are to see everything in a day. We
shall be off in a moment. We'll have lunch at the Amarilla
Club--though I belong also to the Anglo-American--mining
engineers and business men, don't you know--and to the
Mirliflores as well, a new club--English, French, Italians, all
sorts--lively young fellows mostly, who wanted to pay a
compliment to an old resident, sir. But we'll lunch at the
Amarilla. Interest you, I fancy. Real thing of the country. Men
of the first families. The President of the Occidental Republic
himself belongs to it, sir. Fine old bishop with a broken nose in
the patio. Remarkable piece of statuary, I believe. Cavaliere
Parrochetti--you know Parrochetti, the famous Italian
sculptor--was working here for two years--thought very highly of
our old bishop. . . . There! I am very much at your service now."
Proud of his experience, penetrated by the sense of historical
importance of men, events, and buildings, he talked pompously in
jerky periods, with slight sweeps of his short, thick arm,
letting nothing "escape the attention" of his privileged captive.
"Lot of building going on, as you observe. Before the Separation
it was a plain of burnt grass smothered in clouds of dust, with
an ox-cart track to our Jetty. Nothing more. This is the Harbour
Gate. Picturesque, is it not? Formerly the town stopped short
there. We enter now the Calle de la Constitucion. Observe the
old Spanish houses. Great dignity. Eh? I suppose it's just as it
was in the time of the Viceroys, except for the pavement. Wood
blocks now. Sulaco National Bank there, with the sentry boxes
each side of the gate. Casa Avellanos this side, with all the
ground-floor windows shuttered. A wonderful woman lives
there--Miss Avellanos--the beautiful Antonia. A character, sir!
A historical woman! Opposite--Casa Gould. Noble gateway. Yes,
the Goulds of the original Gould Concession, that all the world
knows of now. I hold seventeen of the thousand-dollar shares in
the Consolidated San Tome mines. All the poor savings of my
lifetime, sir, and it will be enough to keep me in comfort to the
end of my days at home when I retire. I got in on the
ground-floor, you see. Don Carlos, great friend of mine.
Seventeen shares--quite a little fortune to leave behind one,
too. I have a niece--married a parson--most worthy man, incumbent
of a small parish in Sussex; no end of children. I was never
married myself. A sailor should exercise self-denial. Standing
under that very gateway, sir, with some young engineer-fellows,
ready to defend that house where we had received so much kindness
and hospitality, I saw the first and last charge of Pedrito's
horsemen upon Barrios's troops, who had just taken the Harbour
Gate. They could not stand the new rifles brought out by that
poor Decoud. It was a murderous fire. In a moment the street
became blocked with a mass of dead men and horses. They never
came on again."
And all day Captain Mitchell would talk like this to his more or
less willing victim--
"The Plaza. I call it magnificent. Twice the area of Trafalgar
From the very centre, in the blazing sunshine, he pointed out the
"The Intendencia, now President's Palace--Cabildo, where the
Lower Chamber of Parliament sits. You notice the new houses on
that side of the Plaza? Compania Anzani, a great general store,
like those cooperative things at home. Old Anzani was murdered by
the National Guards in front of his safe. It was even for that
specific crime that the deputy Gamacho, commanding the Nationals,
a bloodthirsty and savage brute, was executed publicly by
garrotte upon the sentence of a court-martial ordered by Barrios.
Anzani's nephews converted the business into a company. All that
side of the Plaza had been burnt; used to be colonnaded before. A
terrible fire, by the light of which I saw the last of the
fighting, the llaneros flying, the Nationals throwing their arms
down, and the miners of San Tome, all Indians from the Sierra,
rolling by like a torrent to the sound of pipes and cymbals,
green flags flying, a wild mass of men in white ponchos and green
hats, on foot, on mules, on donkeys. Such a sight, sir, will
never be seen again. The miners, sir, had marched upon the town,
Don Pepe leading on his black horse, and their very wives in the
rear on burros, screaming encouragement, sir, and beating
tambourines. I remember one of these women had a green parrot
seated on her shoulder, as calm as a bird of stone. They had just
saved their Senor Administrador; for Barrios, though he ordered
the assault at once, at night, too, would have been too late.
Pedrito Montero had Don Carlos led out to be shot--like his uncle
many years ago--and then, as Barrios said afterwards, 'Sulaco
would not have been worth fighting for.' Sulaco without the
Concession was nothing; and there were tons and tons of dynamite
distributed all over the mountain with detonators arranged, and
an old priest, Father Roman, standing by to annihilate the San
Tome mine at the first news of failure. Don Carlos had made up
his mind not to leave it behind, and he had the right men to see
to it, too."
Thus Captain Mitchell would talk in the middle of the Plaza,
holding over his head a white umbrella with a green lining; but
inside the cathedral, in the dim light, with a faint scent of
incense floating in the cool atmosphere, and here and there a
kneeling female figure, black or all white, with a veiled head,
his lowered voice became solemn and impressive.
"Here," he would say, pointing to a niche in the wall of the
dusky aisle, "you see the bust of Don Jose Avellanos, 'Patriot
and Statesman,' as the inscription says, 'Minister to Courts of
England and Spain, etc., etc., died in the woods of Los Hatos
worn out with his lifelong struggle for Right and Justice at the
dawn of the New Era.' A fair likeness. Parrochetti's work from
some old photographs and a pencil sketch by Mrs. Gould. I was
well acquainted with that distinguished Spanish-American of the
old school, a true Hidalgo, beloved by everybody who knew him.
The marble medallion in the wall, in the antique style,
representing a veiled woman seated with her hands clasped loosely
over her knees, commemorates that unfortunate young gentleman who
sailed out with Nostromo on that fatal night, sir. See, 'To the
memory of Martin Decoud, his betrothed Antonia Avellanos.' Frank,
simple, noble. There you have that lady, sir, as she is. An
exceptional woman. Those who thought she would give way to
despair were mistaken, sir. She has been blamed in many quarters
for not having taken the veil. It was expected of her. But Dona
Antonia is not the stuff they make nuns of. Bishop Corbelan, her
uncle, lives with her in the Corbelan town house. He is a fierce
sort of priest, everlastingly worrying the Government about the
old Church lands and convents. I believe they think a lot of him
in Rome. Now let us go to the Amarilla Club, just across the
Plaza, to get some lunch."
Directly outside the cathedral on the very top of the noble
flight of steps, his voice rose pompously, his arm found again
its sweeping gesture.
"Porvenir, over there on that first floor, above those French
plate-glass shop-fronts; our biggest daily. Conservative, or,
rather, I should say, Parliamentary. We have the Parliamentary
party here of which the actual Chief of the State, Don Juste
Lopez, is the head; a very sagacious man, I think. A first-rate
intellect, sir. The Democratic party in opposition rests mostly,
I am sorry to say, on these socialistic Italians, sir, with their
secret societies, camorras, and such-like. There are lots of
Italians settled here on the railway lands, dismissed navvies,
mechanics, and so on, all along the trunk line. There are whole
villages of Italians on the Campo. And the natives, too, are
being drawn into these ways . . . American bar? Yes. And over
there you can see another. New Yorkers mostly frequent that
one----Here we are at the Amarilla. Observe the bishop at the
foot of the stairs to the right as we go in."
And the lunch would begin and terminate its lavish and leisurely
course at a little table in the gallery, Captain Mitchell
nodding, bowing, getting up to speak for a moment to different
officials in black clothes, merchants in jackets, officers in
uniform, middle-aged caballeros from the Campo--sallow, little,
nervous men, and fat, placid, swarthy men, and Europeans or North
Americans of superior standing, whose faces looked very white
amongst the majority of dark complexions and black, glistening
Captain Mitchell would lie back in the chair, casting around
looks of satisfaction, and tender over the table a case full of
"Try a weed with your coffee. Local tobacco. The black coffee you
get at the Amarilla, sir, you don't meet anywhere in the world.
We get the bean from a famous cafeteria in the foot-hills, whose
owner sends three sacks every year as a present to his fellow
members in remembrance of the fight against Gamacho's Nationals,
carried on from these very windows by the caballeros. He was in
town at the time, and took part, sir, to the bitter end. It
arrives on three mules--not in the common way, by rail; no
fear!--right into the patio, escorted by mounted peons, in charge
of the Mayoral of his estate, who walks upstairs, booted and
spurred, and delivers it to our committee formally with the
words, 'For the sake of those fallen on the third of May.' We
call it Tres de Mayo coffee. Taste it."
Captain Mitchell, with an expression as though making ready to
hear a sermon in a church, would lift the tiny cup to his lips.
And the nectar would be sipped to the bottom during a restful
silence in a cloud of cigar smoke.
"Look at this man in black just going out," he would begin,
leaning forward hastily. "This is the famous Hernandez, Minister
of War. The Times' special correspondent, who wrote that striking
series of letters calling the Occidental Republic the 'Treasure
House of the World,' gave a whole article to him and the force he
has organized--the renowned Carabineers of the Campo."
Captain Mitchell's guest, staring curiously, would see a figure
in a long-tailed black coat walking gravely, with downcast
eyelids in a long, composed face, a brow furrowed horizontally, a
pointed head, whose grey hair, thin at the top, combed down
carefully on all sides and rolled at the ends, fell low on the
neck and shoulders. This, then, was the famous bandit of whom
Europe had heard with interest. He put on a high-crowned sombrero
with a wide flat brim; a rosary of wooden beads was twisted about
his right wrist. And Captain Mitchell would proceed--
"The protector of the Sulaco refugees from the rage of Pedrito.
As general of cavalry with Barrios he distinguished himself at
the storming of Tonoro, where Senor Fuentes was killed with the
last remnant of the Monterists. He is the friend and humble
servant of Bishop Corbelan. Hears three Masses every day. I bet
you he will step into the cathedral to say a prayer or two on his
way home to his siesta."
He took several puffs at his cigar in silence; then, in his most
important manner, pronounced:
"The Spanish race, sir, is prolific of remarkable characters in
every rank of life. . . . I propose we go now into the
billiard-room, which is cool, for a quiet chat. There's never
anybody there till after five. I could tell you episodes of the
Separationist revolution that would astonish you. When the great
heat's over, we'll take a turn on the Alameda."
The programme went on relentless, like a law of Nature. The turn
on the Alameda was taken with slow steps and stately remarks.
"All the great world of Sulaco here, sir." Captain Mitchell bowed
right and left with no end of formality; then with animation,
"Dona Emilia, Mrs. Gould's carriage. Look. Always white mules.
The kindest, most gracious woman the sun ever shone upon. A great
position, sir. A great position. First lady in Sulaco--far before
the President's wife. And worthy of it." He took off his hat;
then, with a studied change of tone, added, negligently, that the
man in black by her side, with a high white collar and a scarred,
snarly face, was Dr. Monygham, Inspector of State Hospitals,
chief medical officer of the Consolidated San Tome mines. "A
familiar of the house. Everlastingly there. No wonder. The Goulds
made him. Very clever man and all that, but I never liked him.
Nobody does. I can recollect him limping about the streets in a
check shirt and native sandals with a watermelon under his
arm--all he would get to eat for the day. A big-wig now, sir, and
as nasty as ever. However . . . There's no doubt he played his
part fairly well at the time. He saved us all from the deadly
incubus of Sotillo, where a more particular man might have
His arm went up.
"The equestrian statue that used to stand on the pedestal over
there has been removed. It was an anachronism," Captain Mitchell
commented, obscurely. "There is some talk of replacing it by a
marble shaft commemorative of Separation, with angels of peace at
the four corners, and bronze Justice holding an even balance, all
gilt, on the top. Cavaliere Parrochetti was asked to make a
design, which you can see framed under glass in the Municipal
Sala. Names are to be engraved all round the base. Well! They
could do no better than begin with the name of Nostromo. He has
done for Separation as much as anybody else, and," added Captain
Mitchell, "has got less than many others by it--when it comes to
that." He dropped on to a stone seat under a tree, and tapped
invitingly at the place by his side. "He carried to Barrios the
letters from Sulaco which decided the General to abandon Cayta
for a time, and come back to our help here by sea. The
transports were still in harbour fortunately. Sir, I did not even
know that my Capataz de Cargadores was alive. I had no idea. It
was Dr. Monygham who came upon him, by chance, in the Custom
House, evacuated an hour or two before by the wretched Sotillo.
I was never told; never given a hint, nothing--as if I were
unworthy of confidence. Monygham arranged it all. He went to the
railway yards, and got admission to the engineer-in-chief, who,
for the sake of the Goulds as much as for anything else,
consented to let an engine make a dash down the line, one hundred
and eighty miles, with Nostromo aboard. It was the only way to
get him off. In the Construction Camp at the railhead, he
obtained a horse, arms, some clothing, and started alone on that
marvellous ride--four hundred miles in six days, through a
disturbed country, ending by the feat of passing through the
Monterist lines outside Cayta. The history of that ride, sir,
would make a most exciting book. He carried all our lives in his
pocket. Devotion, courage, fidelity, intelligence were not
enough. Of course, he was perfectly fearless and incorruptible.
But a man was wanted that would know how to succeed. He was that
man, sir. On the fifth of May, being practically a prisoner in
the Harbour Office of my Company, I suddenly heard the whistle of
an engine in the railway yards, a quarter of a mile away. I could
not believe my ears. I made one jump on to the balcony, and
beheld a locomotive under a great head of steam run out of the
yard gates, screeching like mad, enveloped in a white cloud, and
then, just abreast of old Viola's inn, check almost to a
standstill. I made out, sir, a man--I couldn't tell who--dash
out of the Albergo d'ltalia Una, climb into the cab, and then,
sir, that engine seemed positively to leap clear of the house,
and was gone in the twinkling of an eye. As you blow a candle
out, sir! There was a first-rate driver on the foot-plate, sir, I
can tell you. They were fired heavily upon by the National Guards
in Rincon and one other place. Fortunately the line had not been
torn up. In four hours they reached the Construction Camp.
Nostromo had his start. . . . The rest you know. You've got only
to look round you. There are people on this Alameda that ride in
their carriages, or even are alive at all to-day, because years
ago I engaged a runaway Italian sailor for a foreman of our wharf
simply on the strength of his looks. And that's a fact. You can't
get over it, sir. On the seventeenth of May, just twelve days
after I saw the man from the Casa Viola get on the engine, and
wondered what it meant, Barrios's transports were entering this
harbour, and the 'Treasure House of the World,' as The Times man
calls Sulaco in his book, was saved intact for civilization--for
a great future, sir. Pedrito, with Hernandez on the west, and the
San Tome miners pressing on the land gate, was not able to oppose
the landing. He had been sending messages to Sotillo for a week
to join him. Had Sotillo done so there would have been massacres
and proscription that would have left no man or woman of position
alive. But that's where Dr. Monygham comes in. Sotillo, blind and
deaf to everything, stuck on board his steamer watching the
dragging for silver, which he believed to be sunk at the bottom
of the harbour. They say that for the last three days he was out
of his mind raving and foaming with disappointment at getting
nothing, flying about the deck, and yelling curses at the boats
with the drags, ordering them in, and then suddenly stamping his
foot and crying out, 'And yet it is there! I see it! I feel it!'
"He was preparing to hang Dr. Monygham (whom he had on board) at
the end of the after-derrick, when the first of Barrios's
transports, one of our own ships at that, steamed right in, and
ranging close alongside opened a small-arm fire without as much
preliminaries as a hail. It was the completest surprise in the
world, sir. They were too astounded at first to bolt below. Men
were falling right and left like ninepins. It's a miracle that
Monygham, standing on the after-hatch with the rope already round
his neck, escaped being riddled through and through like a sieve.
He told me since that he had given himself up for lost, and kept
on yelling with all the strength of his lungs: 'Hoist a white
flag! Hoist a white flag!' Suddenly an old major of the Esmeralda
regiment, standing by, unsheathed his sword with a shriek: 'Die,
perjured traitor!' and ran Sotillo clean through the body, just
before he fell himself shot through the head."
Captain Mitchell stopped for a while.
"Begad, sir! I could spin you a yarn for hours. But it's time we
started off to Rincon. It would not do for you to pass through
Sulaco and not see the lights of the San Tome mine, a whole
mountain ablaze like a lighted palace above the dark Campo. It's
a fashionable drive. . . . But let me tell you one little
anecdote, sir; just to show you. A fortnight or more later, when
Barrios, declared Generalissimo, was gone in pursuit of Pedrito
away south, when the Provisional Junta, with Don Juste Lopez at
its head, had promulgated the new Constitution, and our Don
Carlos Gould was packing up his trunks bound on a mission to San
Francisco and Washington (the United States, sir, were the first
great power to recognize the Occidental Republic)--a fortnight
later, I say, when we were beginning to feel that our heads were
safe on our shoulders, if I may express myself so, a prominent
man, a large shipper by our line, came to see me on business,
and, says he, the first thing: 'I say, Captain Mitchell, is that
fellow' (meaning Nostromo) 'still the Capataz of your Cargadores
or not?' 'What's the matter?' says I. 'Because, if he is, then I
don't mind; I send and receive a good lot of cargo by your ships;
but I have observed him several days loafing about the wharf, and
just now he stopped me as cool as you please, with a request for
a cigar. Now, you know, my cigars are rather special, and I can't
get them so easily as all that.' 'I hope you stretched a point,'
I said, very gently. 'Why, yes. But it's a confounded nuisance.
The fellow's everlastingly cadging for smokes.' Sir, I turned my
eyes away, and then asked, 'Weren't you one of the prisoners in
the Cabildo?' 'You know very well I was, and in chains, too,'
says he. 'And under a fine of fifteen thousand dollars?' He
coloured, sir, because it got about that he fainted from fright
when they came to arrest him, and then behaved before Fuentes in
a manner to make the very policianos, who had dragged him there
by the hair of his head, smile at his cringing. 'Yes,' he says,
in a sort of shy way. 'Why?' 'Oh, nothing. You stood to lose a
tidy bit,' says I, 'even if you saved your life. . . . But what
can I do for you?' He never even saw the point. Not he. And
that's how the world wags, sir."
He rose a little stiffly, and the drive to Rincon would be taken
with only one philosophical remark, uttered by the merciless
cicerone, with his eyes fixed upon the lights of San Tome, that
seemed suspended in the dark night between earth and heaven.
"A great power, this, for good and evil, sir. A great power."
And the dinner of the Mirliflores would be eaten, excellent as to
cooking, and leaving upon the traveller's mind an impression that
there were in Sulaco many pleasant, able young men with salaries
apparently too large for their discretion, and amongst them a
few, mostly Anglo-Saxon, skilled in the art of, as the saying is,
"taking a rise" out of his kind host.
With a rapid, jingling drive to the harbour in a twowheeled
machine (which Captain Mitchell called a curricle) behind a fleet
and scraggy mule beaten all the time by an obviously Neapolitan
driver, the cycle would be nearly closed before the lighted-up
offices of the O. S. N. Company, remaining open so late because
of the steamer. Nearly--but not quite.
"Ten o'clock. Your ship won't be ready to leave till half-past
twelve, if by then. Come in for a brandy-and-soda and one more
And in the superintendent's private room the privileged passenger
by the Ceres, or Juno, or Pallas, stunned and as it were
annihilated mentally by a sudden surfeit of sights, sounds,
names, facts, and complicated information imperfectly
apprehended, would listen like a tired child to a fairy tale;
would hear a voice, familiar and surprising in its pompousness,
tell him, as if from another world, how there was "in this very
harbour" an international naval demonstration, which put an end
to the Costaguana-Sulaco War. How the United States cruiser,
Powhattan, was the first to salute the Occidental flag--white,
with a wreath of green laurel in the middle encircling a yellow
amarilla flower. Would hear how General Montero, in less than a
month after proclaiming himself Emperor of Costaguana, was shot
dead (during a solemn and public distribution of orders and
crosses) by a young artillery officer, the brother of his then
"The abominable Pedrito, sir, fled the country," the voice would
say. And it would continue: "A captain of one of our ships told
me lately that he recognized Pedrito the Guerrillero, arrayed in
purple slippers and a velvet smoking-cap with a gold tassel,
keeping a disorderly house in one of the southern ports."
"Abominable Pedrito! Who the devil was he?" would wonder the
distinguished bird of passage hovering on the confines of waking
and sleep with resolutely open eyes and a faint but amiable curl
upon his lips, from between which stuck out the eighteenth or
twentieth cigar of that memorable day.
"He appeared to me in this very room like a haunting ghost,