Part 9 out of 10
sir"--Captain Mitchell was talking of his Nostromo with true
warmth of feeling and a touch of wistful pride. "You may imagine,
sir, what an effect it produced on me. He had come round by sea
with Barrios, of course. And the first thing he told me after I
became fit to hear him was that he had picked up the lighter's
boat floating in the gulf! He seemed quite overcome by the
circumstance. And a remarkable enough circumstance it was, when
you remember that it was then sixteen days since the sinking of
the silver. At once I could see he was another man. He stared at
the wall, sir, as if there had been a spider or something running
about there. The loss of the silver preyed on his mind. The first
thing he asked me about was whether Dona Antonia had heard yet of
Decoud's death. His voice trembled. I had to tell him that Dona
Antonia, as a matter of fact, was not back in town yet. Poor
girl! And just as I was making ready to ask him a thousand
questions, with a sudden, 'Pardon me, senor,' he cleared out of
the office altogether. I did not see him again for three days. I
was terribly busy, you know. It seems that he wandered about in
and out of the town, and on two nights turned up to sleep in the
baracoons of the railway people. He seemed absolutely
indifferent to what went on. I asked him on the wharf, 'When are
you going to take hold again, Nostromo? There will be plenty of
work for the Cargadores presently.'
"'Senor,' says he, looking at me in a slow, inquisitive manner,
'would it surprise you to hear that I am too tired to work just
yet? And what work could I do now? How can I look my Cargadores
in the face after losing a lighter?'
"I begged him not to think any more about the silver, and he
smiled. A smile that went to my heart, sir. 'It was no mistake,'
I told him. 'It was a fatality. A thing that could not be
helped.' 'Si, si!" he said, and turned away. I thought it best to
leave him alone for a bit to get over it. Sir, it took him years
really, to get over it. I was present at his interview with Don
Carlos. I must say that Gould is rather a cold man. He had to
keep a tight hand on his feelings, dealing with thieves and
rascals, in constant danger of ruin for himself and wife for so
many years, that it had become a second nature. They looked at
each other for a long time. Don Carlos asked what he could do for
him, in his quiet, reserved way.
"'My name is known from one end of Sulaco to the other,' he said,
as quiet as the other. 'What more can you do for me?' That was
all that passed on that occasion. Later, however, there was a
very fine coasting schooner for sale, and Mrs. Gould and I put
our heads together to get her bought and presented to him. It
was done, but he paid all the price back within the next three
years. Business was booming all along this seaboard, sir.
Moreover, that man always succeeded in everything except in
saving the silver. Poor Dona Antonia, fresh from her terrible
experiences in the woods of Los Hatos, had an interview with him,
too. Wanted to hear about Decoud: what they said, what they did,
what they thought up to the last on that fatal night. Mrs. Gould
told me his manner was perfect for quietness and sympathy. Miss
Avellanos burst into tears only when he told her how Decoud had
happened to say that his plan would be a glorious success. . . .
And there's no doubt, sir, that it is. It is a success."
The cycle was about to close at last. And while the privileged
passenger, shivering with the pleasant anticipations of his
berth, forgot to ask himself, "What on earth Decoud's plan could
be?" Captain Mitchell was saying, "Sorry we must part so soon.
Your intelligent interest made this a pleasant day to me. I shall
see you now on board. You had a glimpse of the 'Treasure House of
the World.' A very good name that." And the coxswain's voice at
the door, announcing that the gig was ready, closed the cycle.
Nostromo had, indeed, found the lighter's boat, which he had left
on the Great Isabel with Decoud, floating empty far out in the
gulf. He was then on the bridge of the first of Barrios's
transports, and within an hour's steaming from Sulaco. Barrios,
always delighted with a feat of daring and a good judge of
courage, had taken a great liking to the Capataz. During the
passage round the coast the General kept Nostromo near his
person, addressing him frequently in that abrupt and boisterous
manner which was the sign of his high favour.
Nostromo's eyes were the first to catch, broad on the bow, the
tiny, elusive dark speck, which, alone with the forms of the
Three Isabels right ahead, appeared on the flat, shimmering
emptiness of the gulf. There are times when no fact should be
neglected as insignificant; a small boat so far from the land
might have had some meaning worth finding out. At a nod of
consent from Barrios the transport swept out of her course,
passing near enough to ascertain that no one manned the little
cockle-shell. It was merely a common small boat gone adrift with
her oars in her. But Nostromo, to whose mind Decoud had been
insistently present for days, had long before recognized with
excitement the dinghy of the lighter.
There could be no question of stopping to pick up that thing.
Every minute of time was momentous with the lives and futures of
a whole town. The head of the leading ship, with the General on
board, fell off to her course. Behind her, the fleet of
transports, scattered haphazard over a mile or so in the offing,
like the finish of an ocean race, pressed on, all black and
smoking on the western sky.
"Mi General," Nostromo's voice rang out loud, but quiet, from
behind a group of officers, "I should like to save that little
boat. Por Dios, I know her. She belongs to my Company."
"And, por Dios," guffawed Barrios, in a noisy, goodhumoured
voice, "you belong to me. I am going to make you a captain of
cavalry directly we get within sight of a horse again."
"I can swim far better than I can ride, mi General," cried
Nostromo, pushing through to the rail with a set
stare in his eyes. "Let me----"
"Let you? What a conceited fellow that is," bantered the General,
jovially, without even looking at him. "Let him go! Ha! ha! ha!
He wants me to admit that we cannot take Sulaco without him! Ha!
ha! ha! Would you like to swim off to her, my son?"
A tremendous shout from one end of the ship to the other stopped
his guffaw. Nostromo had leaped overboard; and his black head
bobbed up far away already from the ship. The General muttered an
appalled "Cielo! Sinner that I am!" in a thunderstruck tone. One
anxious glance was enough to show him that Nostromo was swimming
with perfect ease; and then he thundered terribly, "No! no! We
shall not stop to pick up this impertinent fellow. Let him
drown--that mad Capataz."
Nothing short of main force would have kept Nostromo from leaping
overboard. That empty boat, coming out to meet him mysteriously,
as if rowed by an invisible spectre, exercised the fascination of
some sign, of some warning, seemed to answer in a startling and
enigmatic way the persistent thought of a treasure and of a man's
fate. He would have leaped if there had been death in that
half-mile of water. It was as smooth as a pond, and for some
reason sharks are unknown in the Placid Gulf, though on the other
side of the Punta Mala the coastline swarms with them.
The Capataz seized hold of the stern and blew with force. A
queer, faint feeling had come over him while he swam. He had got
rid of his boots and coat in the water. He hung on for a time,
regaining his breath. In the distance the transports, more in a
bunch now, held on straight for Sulaco, with their air of
friendly contest, of nautical sport, of a regatta; and the united
smoke of their funnels drove like a thin, sulphurous fogbank
right over his head. It was his daring, his courage, his act that
had set these ships in motion upon the sea, hurrying on to save
the lives and fortunes of the Blancos, the taskmasters of the
people; to save the San Tome mine; to save the children.
With a vigorous and skilful effort he clambered over the stern.
The very boat! No doubt of it; no doubt whatever. It was the
dinghy of the lighter No. 3--the dinghy left with Martin Decoud
on the Great Isabel so that he should have some means to help
himself if nothing could be done for him from the shore. And here
she had come out to meet him empty and inexplicable. What had
become of Decoud? The Capataz made a minute examination. He
looked for some scratch, for some mark, for some sign. All he
discovered was a brown stain on the gunwale abreast of the
thwart. He bent his face over it and rubbed hard with his finger.
Then he sat down in the stern sheets, passive, with his knees
close together and legs aslant.
Streaming from head to foot, with his hair and whiskers hanging
lank and dripping and a lustreless stare fixed upon the bottom
boards, the Capataz of the Sulaco Cargadores resembled a drowned
corpse come up from the bottom to idle away the sunset hour in a
small boat. The excitement of his adventurous ride, the
excitement of the return in time, of achievement, of success, all
this excitement centred round the associated ideas of the great
treasure and of the only other man who knew of its existence, had
departed from him. To the very last moment he had been
cudgelling his brains as to how he could manage to visit the
Great Isabel without loss of time and undetected. For the idea of
secrecy had come to be connected with the treasure so closely
that even to Barrios himself he had refrained from mentioning the
existence of Decoud and of the silver on the island. The letters
he carried to the General, however, made brief mention of the
loss of the lighter, as having its bearing upon the situation in
Sulaco. In the circumstances, the one-eyed tiger-slayer, scenting
battle from afar, had not wasted his time in making inquiries
from the messenger. In fact, Barrios, talking with Nostromo,
assumed that both Don Martin Decoud and the ingots of San Tome
were lost together, and Nostromo, not questioned directly, had
kept silent, under the influence of some indefinable form of
resentment and distrust. Let Don Martin speak of everything with
his own lips--was what he told himself mentally.
And now, with the means of gaining the Great Isabel thrown thus
in his way at the earliest possible moment, his excitement had
departed, as when the soul takes flight leaving the body inert
upon an earth it knows no more. Nostromo did not seem to know the
gulf. For a long time even his eyelids did not flutter once upon
the glazed emptiness of his stare. Then slowly, without a limb
having stirred, without a twitch of muscle or quiver of an
eyelash, an expression, a living expression came upon the still
features, deep thought crept into the empty stare--as if an
outcast soul, a quiet, brooding soul, finding that untenanted
body in its way, had come in stealthily to take possession.
The Capataz frowned: and in the immense stillness of sea,
islands, and coast, of cloud forms on the sky and trails of light
upon the water, the knitting of that brow had the emphasis of a
powerful gesture. Nothing else budged for a long time; then the
Capataz shook his head and again surrendered himself to the
universal repose of all visible things. Suddenly he seized the
oars, and with one movement made the dinghy spin round, head-on
to the Great Isabel. But before he began to pull he bent once
more over the brown stain on the gunwale.
"I know that thing," he muttered to himself, with a sagacious
jerk of the head. "That's blood."
His stroke was long, vigorous, and steady. Now and then he looked
over his shoulder at the Great Isabel, presenting its low cliff
to his anxious gaze like an impenetrable face. At last the stem
touched the strand. He flung rather than dragged the boat up the
little beach. At once, turning his back upon the sunset, he
plunged with long strides into the ravine, making the water of
the stream spurt and fly upwards at every step, as if spurning
its shallow, clear, murmuring spirit with his feet. He wanted to
save every moment of daylight.
A mass of earth, grass, and smashed bushes had fallen down very
naturally from above upon the cavity under the leaning tree.
Decoud had attended to the concealment of the silver as
instructed, using the spade with some intelligence. But
Nostromo's half-smile of approval changed into a scornful curl of
the lip by the sight of the spade itself flung there in full
view, as if in utter carelessness or sudden panic, giving away
the whole thing. Ah! They were all alike in their folly, these
hombres finos that invented laws and governments and barren tasks
for the people.
The Capataz picked up the spade, and with the feel of the handle
in his palm the desire of having a look at the horse-hide boxes
of treasure came upon him suddenly. In a very few strokes he
uncovered the edges and corners of several; then, clearing away
more earth, became aware that one of them had been slashed with a
He exclaimed at that discovery in a stifled voice, and dropped on
his knees with a look of irrational apprehension over one
shoulder, then over the other. The stiff hide had closed, and he
hesitated before he pushed his hand through the long slit and
felt the ingots inside. There they were. One, two, three. Yes,
four gone. Taken away. Four ingots. But who? Decoud? Nobody
else. And why? For what purpose? For what cursed fancy? Let him
explain. Four ingots carried off in a boat, and--blood!
In the face of the open gulf, the sun, clear, unclouded,
unaltered, plunged into the waters in a grave and untroubled
mystery of self-immolation consummated far from all mortal eyes,
with an infinite majesty of silence and peace. Four ingots
The Capataz got up slowly.
"He might simply have cut his hand," he muttered. "But,
He sat down on the soft earth, unresisting, as if he had been
chained to the treasure, his drawn-up legs clasped in his hands
with an air of hopeless submission, like a slave set on guard.
Once only he lifted his head smartly: the rattle of hot musketry
fire had reached his ears, like pouring from on high a stream of
dry peas upon a drum. After listening for a while, he said, half
"He will never come back to explain."
And he lowered his head again.
"Impossible!" he muttered, gloomily.
The sounds of firing died out. The loom of a great conflagration
in Sulaco flashed up red above the coast, played on the clouds at
the head of the gulf, seemed to touch with a ruddy and sinister
reflection the forms of the Three Isabels. He never saw it,
though he raised his head.
"But, then, I cannot know," he pronounced, distinctly, and
remained silent and staring for hours.
He could not know. Nobody was to know. As might have been
supposed, the end of Don Martin Decoud never became a subject of
speculation for any one except Nostromo. Had the truth of the
facts been known, there would always have remained the question.
Why? Whereas the version of his death at the sinking of the
lighter had no uncertainty of motive. The young apostle of
Separation had died striving for his idea by an ever-lamented
accident. But the truth was that he died from solitude, the
enemy known but to few on this earth, and whom only the simplest
of us are fit to withstand. The brilliant Costaguanero of the
boulevards had died from solitude and want of faith in himself
For some good and valid reasons beyond mere human comprehension,
the sea-birds of the gulf shun the Isabels. The rocky head of
Azuera is their haunt, whose stony levels and chasms resound with
their wild and tumultuous clamour as if they were for ever
quarrelling over the legendary treasure.
At the end of his first day on the Great Isabel, Decoud, turning
in his lair of coarse grass, under the shade of a tree, said to
"I have not seen as much as one single bird all day."
And he had not heard a sound, either, all day but that one now of
his own muttering voice. It had been a day of absolute
silence--the first he had known in his life. And he had not slept
a wink. Not for all these wakeful nights and the days of
fighting, planning, talking; not for all that last night of
danger and hard physical toil upon the gulf, had he been able to
close his eyes for a moment. And yet from sunrise to sunset he
had been lying prone on the ground, either on his back or on his
He stretched himself, and with slow steps descended into the
gully to spend the night by the side of the silver. If Nostromo
returned--as he might have done at any moment--it was there that
he would look first; and night would, of course, be the proper
time for an attempt to communicate. He remembered with profound
indifference that he had not eaten anything yet since he had been
left alone on the island.
He spent the night open-eyed, and when the day broke he ate
something with the same indifference. The brilliant "Son
Decoud," the spoiled darling of the family, the lover of Antonia
and journalist of Sulaco, was not fit to grapple with himself
single-handed. Solitude from mere outward condition of existence
becomes very swiftly a state of soul in which the affectations of
irony and scepticism have no place. It takes possession of the
mind, and drives forth the thought into the exile of utter
unbelief. After three days of waiting for the sight of some human
face, Decoud caught himself entertaining a doubt of his own
individuality. It had merged into the world of cloud and water,
of natural forces and forms of nature. In our activity alone do
we find the sustaining illusion of an independent existence as
against the whole scheme of things of which we form a helpless
part. Decoud lost all belief in the reality of his action past
and to come. On the fifth day an immense melancholy descended
upon him palpably. He resolved not to give himself up to these
people in Sulaco, who had beset him, unreal and terrible, like
jibbering and obscene spectres. He saw himself struggling feebly
in their midst, and Antonia, gigantic and lovely like an
allegorical statue, looking on with scornful eyes at his
Not a living being, not a speck of distant sail, appeared within
the range of his vision; and, as if to escape from this solitude,
he absorbed himself in his melancholy. The vague consciousness of
a misdirected life given up to impulses whose memory left a
bitter taste in his mouth was the first moral sentiment of his
manhood. But at the same time he felt no remorse. What should he
regret? He had recognized no other virtue than intelligence, and
had erected passions into duties. Both his intelligence and his
passion were swallowed up easily in this great unbroken solitude
of waiting without faith. Sleeplessness had robbed his will of
all energy, for he had not slept seven hours in the seven days.
His sadness was the sadness of a sceptical mind. He beheld the
universe as a succession of incomprehensible images. Nostromo was
dead. Everything had failed ignominiously. He no longer dared to
think of Antonia. She had not survived. But if she survived he
could not face her. And all exertion seemed senseless.
On the tenth day, after a night spent without even dozing off
once (it had occurred to him that Antonia could not possibly have
ever loved a being so impalpable as himself), the solitude
appeared like a great void, and the silence of the gulf like a
tense, thin cord to which he hung suspended by both hands,
without fear, without surprise, without any sort of emotion
whatever. Only towards the evening, in the comparative relief of
coolness, he began to wish that this cord would snap. He imagined
it snapping with a report as of a pistol--a sharp, full crack.
And that would be the end of him. He contemplated that
eventuality with pleasure, because he dreaded the sleepless
nights in which the silence, remaining unbroken in the shape of a
cord to which he hung with both hands, vibrated with senseless
phrases, always the same but utterly incomprehensible, about
Nostromo, Antonia, Barrios, and proclamations mingled into an
ironical and senseless buzzing. In the daytime he could look at
the silence like a still cord stretched to breakingpoint, with
his life, his vain life, suspended to it like a weight.
"I wonder whether I would hear it snap before I fell," he asked
The sun was two hours above the horizon when he got up, gaunt,
dirty, white-faced, and looked at it with his red-rimmed eyes.
His limbs obeyed him slowly, as if full of lead, yet without
tremor; and the effect of that physical condition gave to his
movements an unhesitating, deliberate dignity. He acted as if
accomplishing some sort of rite. He descended into the gully; for
the fascination of all that silver, with its potential power,
survived alone outside of himself. He picked up the belt with the
revolver, that was lying there, and buckled it round his waist.
The cord of silence could never snap on the island. It must let
him fall and sink into the sea, he thought. And sink! He was
looking at the loose earth covering the treasure. In the sea!
His aspect was that of a somnambulist. He lowered himself down on
his knees slowly and went on grubbing with his fingers with
industrious patience till he uncovered one of the boxes. Without
a pause, as if doing some work done many times before, he slit it
open and took four ingots, which he put in his pockets. He
covered up the exposed box again and step by step came out of the
gully. The bushes closed after him with a swish.
It was on the third day of his solitude that he had dragged the
dinghy near the water with an idea of rowing away somewhere, but
had desisted partly at the whisper of lingering hope that
Nostromo would return, partly from conviction of utter
uselessness of all effort. Now she wanted only a slight shove to
be set afloat. He had eaten a little every day after the first,
and had some muscular strength left yet. Taking up the oars
slowly, he pulled away from the cliff of the Great Isabel, that
stood behind him warm with sunshine, as if with the heat of life,
bathed in a rich light from head to foot as if in a radiance of
hope and joy. He pulled straight towards the setting sun. When
the gulf had grown dark, he ceased rowing and flung the sculls
in. The hollow clatter they made in falling was the loudest noise
he had ever heard in his life. It was a revelation. It seemed to
recall him from far away, Actually the thought, "Perhaps I may
sleep to-night," passed through his mind. But he did not believe
it. He believed in nothing; and he remained sitting on the
The dawn from behind the mountains put a gleam into his unwinking
eyes. After a clear daybreak the sun appeared splendidly above
the peaks of the range. The great gulf burst into a glitter all
around the boat; and in this glory of merciless solitude the
silence appeared again before him, stretched taut like a dark,
His eyes looked at it while, without haste, he shifted his seat
from the thwart to the gunwale. They looked at it fixedly, while
his hand, feeling about his waist, unbuttoned the flap of the
leather case, drew the revolver, cocked it, brought it forward
pointing at his breast, pulled the trigger, and, with convulsive
force, sent the still-smoking weapon hurtling through the air.
His eyes looked at it while he fell forward and hung with his
breast on the gunwale and the fingers of his right hand hooked
under the thwart. They looked----
"It is done," he stammered out, in a sudden flow of blood. His
last thought was: "I wonder how that Capataz died." The stiffness
of the fingers relaxed, and the lover of Antonia Avellanos rolled
overboard without having heard the cord of silence snap in the
solitude of the Placid Gulf, whose glittering surface remained
untroubled by the fall of his body.
A victim of the disillusioned weariness which is the retribution
meted out to intellectual audacity, the brilliant Don Martin
Decoud, weighted by the bars of San Tome silver, disappeared
without a trace, swallowed up in the immense indifference of
things. His sleepless, crouching figure was gone from the side of
the San Tome silver; and for a time the spirits of good and evil
that hover near every concealed treasure of the earth might have
thought that this one had been forgotten by all mankind. Then,
after a few days, another form appeared striding away from the
setting sun to sit motionless and awake in the narrow black gully
all through the night, in nearly the same pose, in the same place
in which had sat that other sleepless man who had gone away for
ever so quietly in a small boat, about the time of sunset. And
the spirits of good and evil that hover about a forbidden
treasure understood well that the silver of San Tome was provided
now with a faithful and lifelong slave.
The magnificent Capataz de Cargadores, victim of the disenchanted
vanity which is the reward of audacious action, sat in the weary
pose of a hunted outcast through a night of sleeplessness as
tormenting as any known to Decoud, his companion in the most
desperate affair of his life. And he wondered how Decoud had
died. But he knew the part he had played himself. First a woman,
then a man, abandoned both in their last extremity, for the sake
of this accursed treasure. It was paid for by a soul lost and by
a vanished life. The blank stillness of awe was succeeded by a
gust of immense pride. There was no one in the world but Gian'
Battista Fidanza, Capataz de Cargadores, the incorruptible and
faithful Nostromo, to pay such a price.
He had made up his mind that nothing should be allowed now to rob
him of his bargain. Nothing. Decoud had died. But how? That he
was dead he had not a shadow of a doubt. But four ingots? . . .
What for? Did he mean to come for more--some other time?
The treasure was putting forth its latent power. It troubled the
clear mind of the man who had paid the price. He was sure that
Decoud was dead. The island seemed full of that whisper. Dead!
Gone! And he caught himself listening for the swish of bushes
and the splash of the footfalls in the bed of the brook. Dead!
The talker, the novio of Dona Antonia!
"Ha!" he murmured, with his head on his knees, under the livid
clouded dawn breaking over the liberated Sulaco and upon the gulf
as gray as ashes. "It is to her that he will fly. To her that he
And four ingots! Did he take them in revenge, to cast a spell,
like the angry woman who had prophesied remorse and failure, and
yet had laid upon him the task of saving the children? Well, he
had saved the children. He had defeated the spell of poverty and
starvation. He had done it all alone--or perhaps helped by the
devil. Who cared? He had done it, betrayed as he was, and saving
by the same stroke the San Tome mine, which appeared to him
hateful and immense, lording it by its vast wealth over the
valour, the toil, the fidelity of the poor, over war and peace,
over the labours of the town, the sea, and the Campo.
The sun lit up the sky behind the peaks of the Cordillera. The
Capataz looked down for a time upon the fall of loose earth,
stones, and smashed bushes, concealing the hiding-place of the
"I must grow rich very slowly," he meditated, aloud.
SULACO outstripped Nostromo's prudence, growing rich swiftly on
the hidden treasures of the earth, hovered over by the anxious
spirits of good and evil, torn out by the labouring hands of the
people. It was like a second youth, like a new life, full of
promise, of unrest, of toil, scattering lavishly its wealth to
the four corners of an excited world. Material changes swept
along in the train of material interests. And other changes more
subtle, outwardly unmarked, affected the minds and hearts of the
workers. Captain Mitchell had gone home to live on his savings
invested in the San Tome mine; and Dr. Monygham had grown older,
with his head steel-grey and the unchanged expression of his
face, living on the inexhaustible treasure of his devotion drawn
upon in the secret of his heart like a store of unlawful wealth.
The Inspector-General of State Hospitals (whose maintenance is a
charge upon the Gould Concession), Official Adviser on Sanitation
to the Municipality, Chief Medical Officer of the San Tome
Consolidated Mines (whose territory, containing gold, silver,
copper, lead, cobalt, extends for miles along the foot-hills of
the Cordillera), had felt poverty-stricken, miserable, and
starved during the prolonged, second visit the Goulds paid to
Europe and the United States of America. Intimate of the casa,
proved friend, a bachelor without ties and without establishment
(except of the professional sort), he had been asked to take up
his quarters in the Gould house. In the eleven months of
their absence the familiar rooms, recalling at every glance the
woman to whom he had given all his loyalty, had grown
intolerable. As the day approached for the arrival of the mail
boat Hermes (the latest addition to the O. S. N. Co.'s splendid
fleet), the doctor hobbled about more vivaciously, snapped more
sardonically at simple and gentle out of sheer nervousness.
He packed up his modest trunk with speed, with fury, with
enthusiasm, and saw it carried out past the old porter at the
gate of the Casa Gould with delight, with intoxication; then, as
the hour approached, sitting alone in the great landau behind the
white mules, a little sideways, his drawn-in face positively
venomous with the effort of self-control, and holding a pair of
new gloves in his left hand, he drove to the harbour.
His heart dilated within him so, when he saw the Goulds on the
deck of the Hermes, that his greetings were reduced to a casual
mutter. Driving back to town, all three were silent. And in the
patio the doctor, in a more natural manner, said--
"I'll leave you now to yourselves. I'll call to-morrow if I may?"
"Come to lunch, dear Dr. Monygham, and come early," said Mrs.
Gould, in her travelling dress and her veil down, turning to look
at him at the foot of the stairs; while at the top of the flight
the Madonna, in blue robes and the Child on her arm, seemed to
welcome her with an aspect of pitying tenderness.
"Don't expect to find me at home," Charles Gould warned him.
"I'll be off early to the mine."
After lunch, Dona Emilia and the senor doctor came slowly through
the inner gateway of the patio. The large gardens of the Casa
Gould, surrounded by high walls, and the red-tile slopes of
neighbouring roofs, lay open before them, with masses of shade
under the trees and level surfaces of sunlight upon the lawns. A
triple row of old orange trees surrounded the whole. Barefooted,
brown gardeners, in snowy white shirts and wide calzoneras,
dotted the grounds, squatting over flowerbeds, passing between
the trees, dragging slender India-rubber tubes across the gravel
of the paths; and the fine jets of water crossed each other in
graceful curves, sparkling in the sunshine with a slight
pattering noise upon the bushes, and an effect of showered
diamonds upon the grass.
Dona Emilia, holding up the train of a clear dress, walked by the
side of Dr. Monygham, in a longish black coat and severe black
bow on an immaculate shirtfront. Under a shady clump of trees,
where stood scattered little tables and wicker easy-chairs, Mrs.
Gould sat down in a low and ample seat.
"Don't go yet," she said to Dr. Monygham, who was unable to tear
himself away from the spot. His chin nestling within the points
of his collar, he devoured her stealthily with his eyes, which,
luckily, were round and hard like clouded marbles, and incapable
of disclosing his sentiments. His pitying emotion at the marks of
time upon the face of that woman, the air of frailty and weary
fatigue that had settled upon the eyes and temples of the
"Never-tired Senora" (as Don Pepe years ago used to call her with
admiration), touched him almost to tears. "Don't go yet. To-day
is all my own," Mrs. Gould urged, gently. "We are not back yet
officially. No one will come. It's only to-morrow that the
windows of the Casa Gould are to be lit up for a reception."
The doctor dropped into a chair.
"Giving a tertulia?" he said, with a detached air.
"A simple greeting for all the kind friends who care to come."
"And only to-morrow?"
"Yes. Charles would be tired out after a day at the mine, and so
I----It would be good to have him to myself for one evening on
our return to this house I love. It has seen all my life."
"Ah, yes!" snarled the doctor, suddenly. "Women count time from
the marriage feast. Didn't you live a little before?"
"Yes; but what is there to remember? There were no cares."
Mrs. Gould sighed. And as two friends, after a long separation,
will revert to the most agitated period of their lives, they
began to talk of the Sulaco Revolution. It seemed strange to
Mrs. Gould that people who had taken part in it seemed to forget
its memory and its lesson.
"And yet," struck in the doctor, "we who played our part in it
had our reward. Don Pepe, though superannuated, still can sit a
horse. Barrios is drinking himself to death in jovial company
away somewhere on his fundacion beyond the Bolson de Tonoro. And
the heroic Father Roman--I imagine the old padre blowing up
systematically the San Tome mine, uttering a pious exclamation at
every bang, and taking handfuls of snuff between the
explosions--the heroic Padre Roman says that he is not afraid of
the harm Holroyd's missionaries can do to his flock, as long as
he is alive."
Mrs. Gould shuddered a little at the allusion to the destruction
that had come so near to the San Tome mine.
"Ah, but you, dear friend?"
"I did the work I was fit for."
"You faced the most cruel dangers of all. Something more than
"No, Mrs. Gould! Only death--by hanging. And I am rewarded beyond
Noticing Mrs. Gould's gaze fixed upon him, he dropped his eyes.
"I've made my career--as you see," said the Inspector-General of
State Hospitals, taking up lightly the lapels of his superfine
black coat. The doctor's self-respect marked inwardly by the
almost complete disappearance from his dreams of Father Beron
appeared visibly in what, by contrast with former carelessness,
seemed an immoderate cult of personal appearance. Carried out
within severe limits of form and colour, and in perpetual
freshness, this change of apparel gave to Dr. Monygham an air at
the same time professional and festive; while his gait and the
unchanged crabbed character of his face acquired from it a
startling force of incongruity.
"Yes," he went on. "We all had our rewards--the
engineer-in-chief, Captain Mitchell----"
"We saw him," interrupted Mrs. Gould, in her charming voice. "The
poor dear man came up from the country on purpose to call on us
in our hotel in London. He comported himself with great dignity,
but I fancy he regrets Sulaco. He rambled feebly about
'historical events' till I felt I could have a cry."
"H'm," grunted the doctor; "getting old, I suppose. Even
Nostromo is getting older--though he is not changed. And,
speaking of that fellow, I wanted to tell you something----"
For some time the house had been full of murmurs, of agitation.
Suddenly the two gardeners, busy with rose trees at the side of
the garden arch, fell upon their knees with bowed heads on the
passage of Antonia Avellanos, who appeared walking beside her
Invested with the red hat after a short visit to Rome, where he
had been invited by the Propaganda, Father Corbelan, missionary
to the wild Indians, conspirator, friend and patron of Hernandez
the robber, advanced with big, slow strides, gaunt and leaning
forward, with his powerful hands clasped behind his back. The
first Cardinal-Archbishop of Sulaco had preserved his fanatical
and morose air; the aspect of a chaplain of bandits. It was
believed that his unexpected elevation to the purple was a
counter-move to the Protestant invasion of Sulaco organized by
the Holroyd Missionary Fund. Antonia, the beauty of her face as
if a little blurred, her figure slightly fuller, advanced with
her light walk and her high serenity, smiling from a distance at
Mrs. Gould. She had brought her uncle over to see dear Emilia,
without ceremony, just for a moment before the siesta.
When all were seated again, Dr. Monygham, who had come to dislike
heartily everybody who approached Mrs. Gould with any intimacy,
kept aside, pretending to be lost in profound meditation. A
louder phrase of Antonia made him lift his head.
"How can we abandon, groaning under oppression, those who have
been our countrymen only a few years ago, who are our countrymen
now?" Miss Avellanos was saying. "How can we remain blind, and
deaf without pity to the cruel wrongs suffered by our brothers?
There is a remedy."
"Annex the rest of Costaguana to the order and prosperity of
Sulaco," snapped the doctor. "There is no other remedy."
"I am convinced, senor doctor," Antonia said, with the earnest
calm of invincible resolution, "that this was from the first poor
"Yes, but the material interests will not let you jeopardize
their development for a mere idea of pity and justice," the
doctor muttered grumpily. "And it is just as well perhaps."
The Cardinal-Archbishop straightened up his gaunt, bony frame.
"We have worked for them; we have made them, these material
interests of the foreigners," the last of the Corbelans uttered
in a deep, denunciatory tone.
"And without them you are nothing," cried the doctor from the
distance. "They will not let you."
"Let them beware, then, lest the people, prevented from their
aspirations, should rise and claim their share of the wealth and
their share of the power," the popular Cardinal-Archbishop of
Sulaco declared, significantly, menacingly.
A silence ensued, during which his Eminence stared, frowning at
the ground, and Antonia, graceful and rigid in her chair,
breathed calmly in the strength of her convictions. Then the
conversation took a social turn, touching on the visit of the
Goulds to Europe. The Cardinal-Archbishop, when in Rome, had
suffered from neuralgia in the head all the time. It was the
climate--the bad air.
When uncle and niece had gone away, with the servants again
falling on their knees, and the old porter, who had known Henry
Gould, almost totally blind and impotent now, creeping up to kiss
his Eminence's extended hand, Dr. Monygham, looking after them,
pronounced the one word--
Mrs. Gould, with a look upwards, dropped wearily on her lap her
white hands flashing with the gold and stones of many rings.
"Conspiring. Yes!" said the doctor. "The last of the Avellanos
and the last of the Corbelans are conspiring with the refugees
from Sta. Marta that flock here after every revolution. The Cafe
Lambroso at the corner of the Plaza is full of them; you can hear
their chatter across the street like the noise of a parrothouse.
They are conspiring for the invasion of Costaguana. And do you
know where they go for strength, for the necessary force? To the
secret societies amongst immigrants and natives, where
Nostromo--I should say Captain Fidanza--is the great man. What
gives him that position? Who can say? Genius? He has genius. He
is greater with the populace than ever he was before. It is as if
he had some secret power; some mysterious means to keep up his
influence. He holds conferences with the Archbishop, as in those
old days which you and I remember. Barrios is useless. But for a
military head they have the pious Hernandez. And they may raise
the country with the new cry of the wealth for the people."
"Will there be never any peace? Will there be no rest?" Mrs.
Gould whispered. "I thought that we----"
"No!" interrupted the doctor. "There is no peace and no rest in
the development of material interests. They have their law, and
their justice. But it is founded on expediency, and is inhuman;
it is without rectitude, without the continuity and the force
that can be found only in a moral principle. Mrs. Gould, the time
approaches when all that the Gould Concession stands for shall
weigh as heavily upon the people as the barbarism, cruelty, and
misrule of a few years back."
"How can you say that, Dr. Monygham?" she cried out, as if hurt
in the most sensitive place of her soul.
"I can say what is true," the doctor insisted, obstinately.
"It'll weigh as heavily, and provoke resentment, bloodshed, and
vengeance, because the men have grown different. Do you think
that now the mine would march upon the town to save their Senor
Administrador? Do you think that?"
She pressed the backs of her entwined hands on her eyes and
"Is it this we have worked for, then?"
The doctor lowered his head. He could follow her silent thought.
Was it for this that her life had been robbed of all the intimate
felicities of daily affection which her tenderness needed as the
human body needs air to breathe? And the doctor, indignant with
Charles Gould's blindness, hastened to change the conversation.
"It is about Nostromo that I wanted to talk to you. Ah! that
fellow has some continuity and force. Nothing will put an end to
him. But never mind that. There's something inexplicable going
on--or perhaps only too easy to explain. You know, Linda is
practically the lighthouse keeper of the Great Isabel light. The
Garibaldino is too old now. His part is to clean the lamps and to
cook in the house; but he can't get up the stairs any longer. The
black-eyed Linda sleeps all day and watches the light all night.
Not all day, though. She is up towards five in the afternoon,
when our Nostromo, whenever he is in harbour with his schooner,
comes out on his courting visit, pulling in a small boat."
"Aren't they married yet?" Mrs. Gould asked. "The mother wished
it, as far as I can understand, while Linda was yet quite a
child. When I had the girls with me for a year or so during the
War of Separation, that extraordinary Linda used to declare quite
simply that she was going to be Gian' Battista's wife."
"They are not married yet," said the doctor, curtly. "I have
looked after them a little."
"Thank you, dear Dr. Monygham," said Mrs. Gould; and under the
shade of the big trees her little, even teeth gleamed in a
youthful smile of gentle malice. "People don't know how really
good you are. You will not let them know, as if on purpose to
annoy me, who have put my faith in your good heart long ago."
The doctor, with a lifting up of his upper lip, as though he were
longing to bite, bowed stiffly in his chair. With the utter
absorption of a man to whom love comes late, not as the most
splendid of illusions, but like an enlightening and priceless
misfortune, the sight of that woman (of whom he had been deprived
for nearly a year) suggested ideas of adoration, of kissing the
hem of her robe. And this excess of feeling translated itself
naturally into an augmented grimness of speech.
"I am afraid of being overwhelmed by too much gratitude. However,
these people interest me. I went out several times to the Great
Isabel light to look after old Giorgio."
He did not tell Mrs. Gould that it was because he found there, in
her absence, the relief of an atmosphere of congenial sentiment
in old Giorgio's austere admiration for the "English signora--the
benefactress"; in black-eyed Linda's voluble, torrential,
passionate affection for "our Dona Emilia--that angel"; in the
white-throated, fair Giselle's adoring upward turn of the eyes,
which then glided towards him with a sidelong, half-arch,
half-candid glance, which made the doctor exclaim to himself
mentally, "If I weren't what I am, old and ugly, I would think
the minx is making eyes at me. And perhaps she is. I dare say she
would make eyes at anybody." Dr. Monygham said nothing of this to
Mrs. Gould, the providence of the Viola family, but reverted to
what he called "our great Nostromo."
"What I wanted to tell you is this: Our great Nostromo did not
take much notice of the old man and the children for some years.
It's true, too, that he was away on his coasting voyages
certainly ten months out of the twelve. He was making his
fortune, as he told Captain Mitchell once. He seems to have done
uncommonly well. It was only to be expected. He is a man full of
resource, full of confidence in himself, ready to take chances
and risks of every sort. I remember being in Mitchell's office
one day, when he came in with that calm, grave air he always
carries everywhere. He had been away trading in the Gulf of
California, he said, looking straight past us at the wall, as his
manner is, and was glad to see on his return that a lighthouse
was being built on the cliff of the Great Isabel. Very glad, he
repeated. Mitchell explained that it was the O. S. N. Co. who was
building it, for the convenience of the mail service, on his own
advice. Captain Fidanza was good enough to say that it was
excellent advice. I remember him twisting up his moustaches and
looking all round the cornice of the room before he proposed that
old Giorgio should be made the keeper of that light."
"I heard of this. I was consulted at the time," Mrs. Gould said.
"I doubted whether it would be good for these girls to be shut up
on that island as if in a prison."
"The proposal fell in with the old Garibaldino's humour. As to
Linda, any place was lovely and delightful enough for her as long
as it was Nostromo's suggestion. She could wait for her Gian'
Battista's good pleasure there as well as anywhere else. My
opinion is that she was always in love with that incorruptible
Capataz. Moreover, both father and sister were anxious to get
Giselle away from the attentions of a certain Ramirez."
"Ah!" said Mrs. Gould, interested. "Ramirez? What sort of man is
"Just a mozo of the town. His father was a Cargador. As a lanky
boy he ran about the wharf in rags, till Nostromo took him up and
made a man of him. When he got a little older, he put him into a
lighter and very soon gave him charge of the No. 3 boat--the boat
which took the silver away, Mrs. Gould. Nostromo selected that
lighter for the work because she was the best sailing and the
strongest boat of all the Company's fleet. Young Ramirez was one
of the five Cargadores entrusted with the removal of the treasure
from the Custom House on that famous night. As the boat he had
charge of was sunk, Nostromo, on leaving the Company's service,
recommended him to Captain Mitchell for his successor. He had
trained him in the routine of work perfectly, and thus Mr.
Ramirez, from a starving waif, becomes a man and the Capataz of
the Sulaco Cargadores."
"Thanks to Nostromo," said Mrs. Gould, with warm approval.
"Thanks to Nostromo," repeated Dr. Monygham. "Upon my word, the
fellow's power frightens me when I think of it. That our poor old
Mitchell was only too glad to appoint somebody trained to the
work, who saved him trouble, is not surprising. What is wonderful
is the fact that the Sulaco Cargadores accepted Ramirez for their
chief, simply because such was Nostromo's good pleasure. Of
course, he is not a second Nostromo, as he fondly imagined he
would be; but still, the position was brilliant enough. It
emboldened him to make up to Giselle Viola, who, you know, is the
recognized beauty of the town. The old Garibaldino, however, took
a violent dislike to him. I don't know why. Perhaps because he
was not a model of perfection like his Gian' Battista, the
incarnation of the courage, the fidelity, the honour of 'the
people.' Signor Viola does not think much of Sulaco natives. Both
of them, the old Spartan and that white-faced Linda, with her red
mouth and coal-black eyes, were looking rather fiercely after the
fair one. Ramirez was warned off. Father Viola, I am told,
threatened him with his gun once."
"But what of Giselle herself?" asked Mrs. Gould.
"She's a bit of a flirt, I believe," said the doctor. "I don't
think she cared much one way or another. Of course she likes
men's attentions. Ramirez was not the only one, let me tell you,
Mrs. Gould. There was one engineer, at least, on the railway
staff who got warned off with a gun, too. Old Viola does not
allow any trifling with his honour. He has grown uneasy and
suspicious since his wife died. He was very pleased to remove his
youngest girl away from the town. But look what happens, Mrs.
Gould. Ramirez, the honest, lovelorn swain, is forbidden the
island. Very well. He respects the prohibition, but naturally
turns his eyes frequently towards the Great Isabel. It seems as
though he had been in the habit of gazing late at night upon the
light. And during these sentimental vigils he discovers that
Nostromo, Captain Fidanza that is, returns very late from his
visits to the Violas. As late as midnight at times."
The doctor paused and stared meaningly at Mrs. Gould.
"Yes. But I don't understand," she began, looking puzzled.
"Now comes the strange part," went on Dr. Monygham. "Viola, who
is king on his island, will allow no visitor on it after dark.
Even Captain Fidanza has got to leave after sunset, when Linda
has gone up to tend the light. And Nostromo goes away obediently.
But what happens afterwards? What does he do in the gulf between
half-past six and midnight? He has been seen more than once at
that late hour pulling quietly into the harbour. Ramirez is
devoured by jealousy. He dared not approach old Viola; but he
plucked up courage to rail at Linda about it on Sunday morning as
she came on the mainland to hear mass and visit her mother's
grave. There was a scene on the wharf, which, as a matter of
fact, I witnessed. It was early morning. He must have been
waiting for her on purpose. I was there by the merest chance,
having been called to an urgent consultation by the doctor of the
German gunboat in the harbour. She poured wrath, scorn, and flame
upon Ramirez, who seemed out of his mind. It was a strange sight,
Mrs. Gould: the long jetty, with this raving Cargador in his
crimson sash and the girl all in black, at the end; the early
Sunday morning quiet of the harbour in the shade of the
mountains; nothing but a canoe or two moving between the ships at
anchor, and the German gunboat's gig coming to take me off. Linda
passed me within a foot. I noticed her wild eyes. I called out to
her. She never heard me. She never saw me. But I looked at her
face. It was awful in its anger and wretchedness."
Mrs. Gould sat up, opening her eyes very wide.
"What do you mean, Dr. Monygham? Do you mean to say that you
suspect the younger sister?"
"Quien sabe! Who can tell?" said the doctor, shrugging his
shoulders like a born Costaguanero. "Ramirez came up to me on
the wharf. He reeled--he looked insane. He took his head into his
hands. He had to talk to someone--simply had to. Of course for
all his mad state he recognized me. People know me well here. I
have lived too long amongst them to be anything else but the
evil-eyed doctor, who can cure all the ills of the flesh, and
bring bad luck by a glance. He came up to me. He tried to be
calm. He tried to make it out that he wanted merely to warn me
against Nostromo. It seems that Captain Fidanza at some secret
meeting or other had mentioned me as the worst despiser of all
the poor--of the people. It's very possible. He honours me with
his undying dislike. And a word from the great Fidanza may be
quite enough to send some fool's knife into my back. The Sanitary
Commission I preside over is not in favour with the populace.
'Beware of him, senor doctor. Destroy him, senor doctor,' Ramirez
hissed right into my face. And then he broke out. 'That man,' he
spluttered, 'has cast a spell upon both these girls.' As to
himself, he had said too much. He must run away now--run away and
hide somewhere. He moaned tenderly about Giselle, and then called
her names that cannot be repeated. If he thought she could be
made to love him by any means, he would carry her off from the
island. Off into the woods. But it was no good. . . . He strode
away, flourishing his arms above his head. Then I noticed an old
negro, who had been sitting behind a pile of cases, fishing from
the wharf. He wound up his lines and slunk away at once. But he
must have heard something, and must have talked, too, because
some of the old Garibaldino's railway friends, I suppose, warned
him against Ramirez. At any rate, the father has been warned. But
Ramirez has disappeared from the town."
"I feel I have a duty towards these girls," said Mrs. Gould,
uneasily. "Is Nostromo in Sulaco now?"
"He is, since last Sunday."
"He ought to be spoken to--at once."
"Who will dare speak to him? Even the love-mad Ramirez runs away
from the mere shadow of Captain Fidanza."
"I can. I will," Mrs. Gould declared. "A word will be enough for
a man like Nostromo."
The doctor smiled sourly.
"He must end this situation which lends itself to----I can't
believe it of that child," pursued Mrs. Gould.
"He's very attractive," muttered the doctor, gloomily.
"He'll see it, I am sure. He must put an end to all this by
marrying Linda at once," pronounced the first lady of Sulaco with
Through the garden gate emerged Basilio, grown fat and sleek,
with an elderly hairless face, wrinkles at the corners of his
eyes, and his jet-black, coarse hair plastered down smoothly.
Stooping carefully behind an ornamental clump of bushes, he put
down with precaution a small child he had been carrying on his
shoulder--his own and Leonarda's last born. The pouting, spoiled
Camerista and the head mozo of the Casa Gould had been married
for some years now.
He remained squatting on his heels for a time, gazing fondly at
his offspring, which returned his stare with imperturbable
gravity; then, solemn and respectable, walked down the path.
"What is it, Basilio?" asked Mrs. Gould.
"A telephone came through from the office of the mine. The master
remains to sleep at the mountain to-night."
Dr. Monygham had got up and stood looking away. A profound
silence reigned for a time under the shade of the biggest trees
in the lovely gardens of the Casa Gould.
"Very well, Basilio," said Mrs. Gould. She watched him walk away
along the path, step aside behind the flowering bush, and
reappear with the child seated on his shoulder. He passed through
the gateway between the garden and the patio with measured steps,
careful of his light burden.
The doctor, with his back to Mrs. Gould, contemplated a
flower-bed away in the sunshine. People believed him scornful and
soured. The truth of his nature consisted in his capacity for
passion and in the sensitiveness of his temperament. What he
lacked was the polished callousness of men of the world, the
callousness from which springs an easy tolerance for oneself and
others; the tolerance wide as poles asunder from true sympathy
and human compassion. This want of callousness accounted for his
sardonic turn of mind and his biting speeches.
In profound silence, and glaring viciously at the brilliant
flower-bed, Dr. Monygham poured mental imprecations on Charles
Gould's head. Behind him the immobility of Mrs. Gould added to
the grace of her seated figure the charm of art, of an attitude
caught and interpreted for ever. Turning abruptly, the doctor
took his leave.
Mrs. Gould leaned back in the shade of the big trees planted in a
circle. She leaned back with her eyes closed and her white hands
lying idle on the arms of her seat. The half-light under the
thick mass of leaves brought out the youthful prettiness of her
face; made the clear, light fabrics and white lace of her dress
appear luminous. Small and dainty, as if radiating a light of her
own in the deep shade of the interlaced boughs, she resembled a
good fairy, weary with a long career of well-doing, touched by
the withering suspicion of the uselessness of her labours, the
powerlessness of her magic.
Had anybody asked her of what she was thinking, alone in the
garden of the Casa, with her husband at the mine and the house
closed to the street like an empty dwelling, her frankness would
have had to evade the question. It had come into her mind that
for life to be large and full, it must contain the care of the
past and of the future in every passing moment of the present.
Our daily work must be done to the glory of the dead, and for the
good of those who come after. She thought that, and sighed
without opening her eyes--without moving at all. Mrs. Gould's
face became set and rigid for a second, as if to receive, without
flinching, a great wave of loneliness that swept over her head.
And it came into her mind, too, that no one would ever ask her
with solicitude what she was thinking of. No one. No one, but
perhaps the man who had just gone away. No; no one who could be
answered with careless sincerity in the ideal perfection of
The word "incorrigible"--a word lately pronounced by Dr.
Monygham--floated into her still and sad immobility.
Incorrigible in his devotion to the great silver mine was the
Senor Administrador! Incorrigible in his hard, determined service
of the material interests to which he had pinned his faith in the
triumph of order and justice. Poor boy! She had a clear vision of
the grey hairs on his temples. He was perfect--perfect. What
more could she have expected? It was a colossal and lasting
success; and love was only a short moment of forgetfulness, a
short intoxication, whose delight one remembered with a sense of
sadness, as if it had been a deep grief lived through. There was
something inherent in the necessities of successful action which
carried with it the moral degradation of the idea. She saw the
San Tome mountain hanging over the Campo, over the whole land,
feared, hated, wealthy; more soulless than any tyrant, more
pitiless and autocratic than the worst Government; ready to crush
innumerable lives in the expansion of its greatness. He did not
see it. He could not see it. It was not his fault. He was
perfect, perfect; but she would never have him to herself. Never;
not for one short hour altogether to herself in this old Spanish
house she loved so well! Incorrigible, the last of the Corbelans,
the last of the Avellanos, the doctor had said; but she saw
clearly the San Tome mine possessing, consuming, burning up the
life of the last of the Costaguana Goulds; mastering the
energetic spirit of the son as it had mastered the lamentable
weakness of the father. A terrible success for the last of the
Goulds. The last! She had hoped for a long, long time, that
perhaps----But no! There were to be no more. An immense
desolation, the dread of her own continued life, descended upon
the first lady of Sulaco. With a prophetic vision she saw herself
surviving alone the degradation of her young ideal of life, of
love, of work--all alone in the Treasure House of the World. The
profound, blind, suffering expression of a painful dream settled
on her face with its closed eyes. In the indistinct voice of an
unlucky sleeper. lying passive in the grip of a merciless
nightmare, she stammered out aimlessly the words--
NOSTROMO had been growing rich very slowly. It was an effect of
his prudence. He could command himself even when thrown off his
balance. And to become the slave of a treasure with full
self-knowledge is an occurrence rare and mentally disturbing. But
it was also in a great part because of the difficulty of
converting it into a form in which it could become available. The
mere act of getting it away from the island piecemeal, little by
little, was surrounded by difficulties, by the dangers of
imminent detection. He had to visit the Great Isabel in secret,
between his voyages along the coast, which were the ostensible
source of his fortune. The crew of his own schooner were to be
feared as if they had been spies upon their dreaded captain. He
did not dare stay too long in port. When his coaster was
unloaded, he hurried away on another trip, for he feared arousing
suspicion even by a day's delay. Sometimes during a week's stay,
or more, he could only manage one visit to the treasure. And that
was all. A couple of ingots. He suffered through his fears as
much as through his prudence. To do things by stealth humiliated
him. And he suffered most from the concentration of his thought
upon the treasure.
A transgression, a crime, entering a man's existence, eats it up
like a malignant growth, consumes it like a fever. Nostromo had
lost his peace; the genuineness of all his qualities was
destroyed. He felt it himself, and often cursed the silver of San
Tome. His courage, his magnificence, his leisure, his work,
everything was as before, only everything was a sham. But the
treasure was real. He clung to it with a more tenacious, mental
grip. But he hated the feel of the ingots. Sometimes, after
putting away a couple of them in his cabin--the fruit of a secret
night expedition to the Great Isabel--he would look fixedly at
his fingers, as if surprised they had left no stain on his skin.
He had found means of disposing of the silver bars in distant
ports. The necessity to go far afield made his coasting voyages
long, and caused his visits to the Viola household to be rare and
far between. He was fated to have his wife from there. He had
said so once to Giorgio himself. But the Garibaldino had put the
subject aside with a majestic wave of his hand, clutching a
smouldering black briar-root pipe. There was plenty of time; he
was not the man to force his girls upon anybody.
As time went on, Nostromo discovered his preference for the
younger of the two. They had some profound similarities of
nature, which must exist for complete confidence and
understanding, no matter what outward differences of temperament
there may be to exercise their own fascination of contrast. His
wife would have to know his secret or else life would be
impossible. He was attracted by Giselle, with her candid gaze
and white throat, pliable, silent, fond of excitement under her
quiet indolence; whereas Linda, with her intense, passionately
pale face, energetic, all fire and words, touched with gloom and
scorn, a chip of the old block, true daughter of the austere
republican, but with Teresa's voice, inspired him with a
deep-seated mistrust. Moreover, the poor girl could not conceal
her love for Gian' Battista. He could see it would be violent,
exacting, suspicious, uncompromising--like her soul. Giselle, by
her fair but warm beauty, by the surface placidity of her nature
holding a promise of submissiveness, by the charm of her girlish
mysteriousness, excited his passion and allayed his fears as to
His absences from Sulaco were long. On returning from the longest
of them, he made out lighters loaded with blocks of stone lying
under the cliff of the Great Isabel; cranes and scaffolding
above; workmen's figures moving about, and a small lighthouse
already rising from its foundations on the edge of the cliff.
At this unexpected, undreamt-of, startling sight, he thought
himself lost irretrievably. What could save him from detection
now? Nothing! He was struck with amazed dread at this turn of
chance, that would kindle a far-reaching light upon the only
secret spot of his life; that life whose very essence, value,
reality, consisted in its reflection from the admiring eyes of
men. All of it but that thing which was beyond common
comprehension; which stood between him and the power that hears
and gives effect to the evil intention of curses. It was dark.
Not every man had such a darkness. And they were going to put a
light there. A light! He saw it shining upon disgrace, poverty,
contempt. Somebody was sure to. . . . Perhaps somebody had
already. . . .
The incomparable Nostromo, the Capataz, the respected and feared
Captain Fidanza, the unquestioned patron of secret societies, a
republican like old Giorgio, and a revolutionist at heart (but in
another manner), was on the point of jumping overboard from the
deck of his own schooner. That man, subjective almost to
insanity, looked suicide deliberately in the face. But he never
lost his head. He was checked by the thought that this was no
escape. He imagined himself dead, and the disgrace, the shame
going on. Or, rather, properly speaking, he could not imagine
himself dead. He was possessed too strongly by the sense of his
own existence, a thing of infinite duration in its changes, to
grasp the notion of finality. The earth goes on for ever.
And he was courageous. It was a corrupt courage, but it was as
good for his purposes as the other kind. He sailed close to the
cliff of the Great Isabel, throwing a penetrating glance from the
deck at the mouth of the ravine, tangled in an undisturbed growth
of bushes. He sailed close enough to exchange hails with the
workmen, shading their eyes on the edge of the sheer drop of the
cliff overhung by the jib-head of a powerful crane. He perceived
that none of them had any occasion even to approach the ravine
where the silver lay hidden; let alone to enter it. In the
harbour he learned that no one slept on the island. The labouring
gangs returned to port every evening, singing chorus songs in the
empty lighters towed by a harbour tug. For the moment he had
nothing to fear.
But afterwards? he asked himself. Later, when a keeper came to
live in the cottage that was being built some hundred and fifty
yards back from the low lighttower, and four hundred or so from
the dark, shaded, jungly ravine, containing the secret of his
safety, of his influence, of his magnificence, of his power over
the future, of his defiance of ill-luck, of every possible
betrayal from rich and poor alike--what then? He could never
shake off the treasure. His audacity, greater than that of other
men, had welded that vein of silver into his life. And the
feeling of fearful and ardent subjection, the feeling of his
slavery--so irremediable and profound that often, in his
thoughts, he compared himself to the legendary Gringos, neither
dead nor alive, bound down to their conquest of unlawful wealth
on Azuera--weighed heavily on the independent Captain Fidanza,
owner and master of a coasting schooner, whose smart appearance
(and fabulous good-luck in trading) were so well known along the
western seaboard of a vast continent.
Fiercely whiskered and grave, a shade less supple in his walk,
the vigour and symmetry of his powerful limbs lost in the
vulgarity of a brown tweed suit, made by Jews in the slums of
London, and sold by the clothing department of the Compania
Anzani, Captain Fidanza was seen in the streets of Sulaco
attending to his business, as usual, that trip. And, as usual, he
allowed it to get about that he had made a great profit on his
cargo. It was a cargo of salt fish, and Lent was approaching. He
was seen in tramcars going to and fro between the town and the
harbour; he talked with people in a cafe or two in his measured,
steady voice. Captain Fidanza was seen. The generation that
would know nothing of the famous ride to Cayta was not born yet.
Nostromo, the miscalled Capataz de Cargadores, had made for
himself, under his rightful name, another public existence, but
modified by the new conditions, less picturesque, more difficult
to keep up in the increased size and varied population of Sulaco,
the progressive capital of the Occidental Republic.
Captain Fidanza, unpicturesque, but always a little mysterious,
was recognized quite sufficiently under the lofty glass and iron
roof of the Sulaco railway station. He took a local train, and
got out in Rincon, where he visited the widow of the Cargador who
had died of his wounds (at the dawn of the New Era, like Don Jose
Avellanos) in the patio of the Casa Gould. He consented to sit
down and drink a glass of cool lemonade in the hut, while the
woman, standing up, poured a perfect torrent of words to which he
did not listen. He left some money with her, as usual. The
orphaned children, growing up and well schooled, calling him
uncle, clamoured for his blessing. He gave that, too; and in the
doorway paused for a moment to look at the flat face of the San
Tome mountain with a faint frown. This slight contraction of his
bronzed brow casting a marked tinge of severity upon his usual
unbending expression, was observed at the Lodge which he attended
--but went away before the banquet. He wore it at the meeting of
some good comrades, Italians and Occidentals, assembled in his
honour under the presidency of an indigent, sickly, somewhat
hunchbacked little photographer, with a white face and a
magnanimous soul dyed crimson by a bloodthirsty hate of all
capitalists, oppressors of the two hemispheres. The heroic
Giorgio Viola, old revolutionist, would have understood nothing
of his opening speech; and Captain Fidanza, lavishly generous as
usual to some poor comrades, made no speech at all. He had
listened, frowning, with his mind far away, and walked off
unapproachable, silent, like a man full of cares.
His frown deepened as, in the early morning, he watched the
stone-masons go off to the Great Isabel, in lighters loaded with
squared blocks of stone, enough to add another course to the
squat light-tower. That was the rate of the work. One course per
And Captain Fidanza meditated. The presence of strangers on the
island would cut him completely off the treasure. It had been
difficult and dangerous enough before. He was afraid, and he was
angry. He thought with the resolution of a master and the cunning
of a cowed slave. Then he went ashore.
He was a man of resource and ingenuity; and, as usual, the
expedient he found at a critical moment was effective enough to
alter the situation radically. He had the gift of evolving safety
out of the very danger, this incomparable Nostromo, this "fellow
in a thousand." With Giorgio established on the Great Isabel,
there would be no need for concealment. He would be able to go
openly, in daylight, to see his daughters--one of his
daughters--and stay late talking to the old Garibaldino. Then in
the dark . . . Night after night . . . He would dare to grow rich
quicker now. He yearned to clasp, embrace, absorb, subjugate in
unquestioned possession this treasure, whose tyranny had weighed
upon his mind, his actions, his very sleep.
He went to see his friend Captain Mitchell--and the thing was
done as Dr. Monygham had related to Mrs. Gould. When the project
was mooted to the Garibaldino, something like the faint
reflection, the dim ghost of a very ancient smile, stole under
the white and enormous moustaches of the old hater of kings and
ministers. His daughters were the object of his anxious care.
The younger, especially. Linda, with her mother's voice, had
taken more her mother's place. Her deep, vibrating "Eh, Padre?"
seemed, but for the change of the word, the very echo of the
impassioned, remonstrating "Eh, Giorgio?" of poor Signora Teresa.
It was his fixed opinion that the town was no proper place for
his girls. The infatuated but guileless Ramirez was the object of
his profound aversion, as resuming the sins of the country whose
people were blind, vile esclavos.
On his return from his next voyage, Captain Fidanza found the
Violas settled in the light-keeper's cottage. His knowledge of
Giorgio's idiosyncrasies had not played him false. The
Garibaldino had refused to entertain the idea of any companion
whatever, except his girls. And Captain Mitchell, anxious to
please his poor Nostromo, with that felicity of inspiration which
only true affection can give, had formally appointed Linda Viola
as under-keeper of the Isabel's Light.
"The light is private property," he used to explain. "It belongs
to my Company. I've the power to nominate whom I like, and Viola
it shall be. It's about the only thing Nostromo--a man worth his
weight in gold, mind you--has ever asked me to do for him."
Directly his schooner was anchored opposite the New Custom House,
with its sham air of a Greek temple, flatroofed, with a
colonnade, Captain Fidanza went pulling his small boat out of the
harbour, bound for the Great Isabel, openly in the light of a
declining day, before all men's eyes, with a sense of having
mastered the fates. He must establish a regular position. He
would ask him for his daughter now. He thought of Giselle as he
pulled. Linda loved him, perhaps, but the old man would be glad
to keep the elder, who had his wife's voice.
He did not pull for the narrow strand where he had landed with
Decoud, and afterwards alone on his first visit to the treasure.
He made for the beach at the other end, and walked up the regular
and gentle slope of the wedge-shaped island. Giorgio Viola, whom
he saw from afar, sitting on a bench under the front wall of the
cottage, lifted his arm slightly to his loud hail. He walked up.
Neither of the girls appeared.
"It is good here," said the old man, in his austere, far-away
Nostromo nodded; then, after a short silence--
"You saw my schooner pass in not two hours ago? Do you know why
I am here before, so to speak, my anchor has fairly bitten into
the ground of this port of Sulaco?"
"You are welcome like a son," the old man declared, quietly,
staring away upon the sea.
"Ah! thy son. I know. I am what thy son would have been. It is
well, viejo. It is a very good welcome. Listen, I have come to
ask you for----"
A sudden dread came upon the fearless and incorruptible Nostromo.
He dared not utter the name in his mind. The slight pause only
imparted a marked weight and solemnity to the changed end of the
"For my wife!" . . . His heart was beating fast." It is time
The Garibaldino arrested him with an extended arm. "That was
left for you to judge."
He got up slowly. His beard, unclipped since Teresa's death,
thick, snow-white, covered his powerful chest. He turned his head
to the door, and called out in his strong voice--
Her answer came sharp and faint from within; and the appalled
Nostromo stood up, too, but remained mute, gazing at the door. He
was afraid. He was not afraid of being refused the girl he
loved--no mere refusal could stand between him and a woman he
desired--but the shining spectre of the treasure rose before him,
claiming his allegiance in a silence that could not be gainsaid.
He was afraid, because, neither dead nor alive, like the Gringos
on Azuera, he belonged body and soul to the unlawfulness of his
audacity. He was afraid of being forbidden the island. He was
afraid, and said nothing.
Seeing the two men standing up side by side to await her, Linda
stopped in the doorway. Nothing could alter the passionate dead
whiteness of her face; but her black eyes seemed to catch and
concentrate all the light of the low sun in a flaming spark
within the black depths, covered at once by the slow descent of
"Behold thy husband, master, and benefactor." Old Viola's voice
resounded with a force that seemed to fill the whole gulf.
She stepped forward with her eyes nearly closed, like a
sleep-walker in a beatific dream.
Nostromo made a superhuman effort. "It is time, Linda, we two
were betrothed," he said, steadily, in his level, careless,
She put her hand into his offered palm, lowering her head, dark
with bronze glints, upon which her father's hand rested for a
"And so the soul of the dead is satisfied."
This came from Giorgio Viola, who went on talking for a while of
his dead wife; while the two, sitting side by side, never looked
at each other. Then the old man ceased; and Linda, motionless,
began to speak.
"Ever since I felt I lived in the world, I have lived for you
alone, Gian' Battista. And that you knew! You knew it . . .
She pronounced the name exactly with her mother's intonation. A
gloom as of the grave covered Nostromo's heart.
"Yes. I knew," he said.
The heroic Garibaldino sat on the same bench bowing his hoary
head, his old soul dwelling alone with its memories, tender and
violent, terrible and dreary--solitary on the earth full of men.
And Linda, his best-loved daughter, was saying, "I was yours ever
since I can remember. I had only to think of you for the earth to
become empty to my eyes. When you were there, I could see no one
else. I was yours. Nothing is changed. The world belongs to you,
and you let me live in it." . . . She dropped her low, vibrating
voice to a still lower note, and found other things to
say--torturing for the man at her side. Her murmur ran on ardent
and voluble. She did not seem to see her sister, who came out
with an altar-cloth she was embroidering in her hands, and passed
in front of them, silent, fresh, fair, with a quick glance and a
faint smile, to sit a little away on the other side of Nostromo.
The evening was still. The sun sank almost to the edge of a
purple ocean; and the white lighthouse, livid against the
background of clouds filling the head of the gulf, bore the
lantern red and glowing, like a live ember kindled by the fire of
the sky. Giselle, indolent and demure, raised the altar-cloth
from time to time to hide nervous yawns, as of a young panther.
Suddenly Linda rushed at her sister, and seizing her head,
covered her face with kisses. Nostromo's brain reeled. When she
left her, as if stunned by the violent caresses, with her hands
lying in her lap, the slave of the treasure felt as if he could
shoot that woman. Old Giorgio lifted his leonine head.
"Where are you going, Linda?"
"To the light, padre mio."
"Si, si--to your duty."
He got up, too, looked after his eldest daughter; then, in a tone
whose festive note seemed the echo of a mood lost in the night of
"I am going in to cook something. Aha! Son! The old man knows
where to find a bottle of wine, too."
He turned to Giselle, with a change to austere tenderness.
"And you, little one, pray not to the God of priests and slaves,
but to the God of orphans, of the oppressed, of the poor, of
little children, to give thee a man like this one for a husband."
His hand rested heavily for a moment on Nostromo's shoulder; then
he went in. The hopeless slave of the San Tome silver felt at
these words the venomous fangs of jealousy biting deep into his
heart. He was appalled by the novelty of the experience, by its
force, by its physical intimacy. A husband! A husband for her!
And yet it was natural that Giselle should have a husband at some
time or other. He had never realized that before. In discovering
that her beauty could belong to another he felt as though he
could kill this one of old Giorgio's daughters also. He muttered
"They say you love Ramirez."
She shook her head without looking at him. Coppery glints rippled
to and fro on the wealth of her gold hair. Her smooth forehead
had the soft, pure sheen of a priceless pearl in the splendour of
the sunset, mingling the gloom of starry spaces, the purple of
the sea, and the crimson of the sky in a magnificent stillness.
"No," she said, slowly. "I never loved him. I think I never . . .
He loves me--perhaps."
The seduction of her slow voice died out of the air, and her
raised eyes remained fixed on nothing, as if indifferent and
"Ramirez told you he loved you?" asked Nostromo, restraining
"Ah! once--one evening . . ."
"The miserable . . . Ha!"
He had jumped up as if stung by a gad-fly, and stood before her
mute with anger.
"Misericordia Divina! You, too, Gian' Battista! Poor wretch that
I am!" she lamented in ingenuous tones. "I told Linda, and she
scolded--she scolded. Am I to live blind, dumb, and deaf in this
world? And she told father, who took down his gun and cleaned it.
Poor Ramirez! Then you came, and she told you."
He looked at her. He fastened his eyes upon the hollow of her
white throat, which had the invincible charm of things young,
palpitating, delicate, and alive. Was this the child he had
known? Was it possible? It dawned upon him that in these last
years he had really seen very little--nothing--of her. Nothing.
She had come into the world like a thing unknown. She had come
upon him unawares. She was a danger. A frightful danger. The
instinctive mood of fierce determination that had never failed
him before the perils of this life added its steady force to the
violence of his passion. She, in a voice that recalled to him the
song of running water, the tinkling of a silver bell, continued--
"And between you three you have brought me here into this
captivity to the sky and water. Nothing else. Sky and water. Oh,
Sanctissima Madre. My hair shall turn grey on this tedious
island. I could hate you, Gian' Battista!"
He laughed loudly. Her voice enveloped him like a caress. She
bemoaned her fate, spreading unconsciously, like a flower its
perfume in the coolness of the evening, the indefinable seduction
of her person. Was it her fault that nobody ever had admired
Linda? Even when they were little, going out with their mother to
Mass, she remembered that people took no notice of Linda, who was
fearless, and chose instead to frighten her, who was timid, with
their attention. It was her hair like gold, she supposed.
He broke out--
"Your hair like gold, and your eyes like violets, and your lips
like the rose; your round arms, your white throat." . . .
Imperturbable in the indolence of her pose, she blushed deeply
all over to the roots of her hair. She was not conceited. She was
no more self-conscious than a flower. But she was pleased. And
perhaps even a flower loves to hear itself praised. He glanced
down, and added, impetuously--
"Your little feet!"
Leaning back against the rough stone wall of the cottage, she
seemed to bask languidly in the warmth of the rosy flush. Only
her lowered eyes glanced at her little feet.
"And so you are going at last to marry our Linda. She is
terrible. Ah! now she will understand better since you have told
her you love her. She will not be so fierce."
"Chica!" said Nostromo, "I have not told her anything."
"Then make haste. Come to-morrow. Come and tell her, so that I
may have some peace from her scolding and--perhaps--who knows . .
"Be allowed to listen to your Ramirez, eh? Is that it? You . . ."
"Mercy of God! How violent you are, Giovanni," she said,
unmoved. "Who is Ramirez . . . Ramirez . . . Who is he?"
she repeated, dreamily, in the dusk and gloom of the clouded
gulf, with a low red streak in the west like a hot bar of glowing
iron laid across the entrance of a world sombre as a cavern,
where the magnificent Capataz de Cargadores had hidden his
conquests of love and wealth.
"Listen, Giselle," he said, in measured tones; "I will tell no
word of love to your sister. Do you want to know why?"
"Alas! I could not understand perhaps, Giovanni. Father says you
are not like other men; that no one had ever understood you
properly; that the rich will be surprised yet. . . . Oh! saints
in heaven! I am weary."
She raised her embroidery to conceal the lower part of her face,
then let it fall on her lap. The lantern was shaded on the land
side, but slanting away from the dark column of the lighthouse
they could see the long shaft of light, kindled by Linda, go out
to strike the expiring glow in a horizon of purple and red.
Giselle Viola, with her head resting against the wall of the
house, her eyes half closed, and her little feet, in white
stockings and black slippers, crossed over each other, seemed to
surrender herself, tranquil and fatal, to the gathering dusk. The
charm of her body, the promising mysteriousness of her indolence,
went out into the night of the Placid Gulf like a fresh and
intoxicating fragrance spreading out in the shadows, impregnating
the air. The incorruptible Nostromo breathed her ambient
seduction in the tumultuous heaving of his breast. Before leaving
the harbour he had thrown off the store clothing of Captain
Fidanza, for greater ease in the long pull out to the islands. He
stood before her in the red sash and check shirt as he used to
appear on the Company's wharf--a Mediterranean sailor come ashore
to try his luck in Costaguana. The dusk of purple and red
enveloped him, too--close, soft, profound, as no more than fifty
yards from that spot it had gathered evening after evening about
the self-destructive passion of Don Martin Decoud's utter
scepticism, flaming up to death in solitude.
"You have got to hear," he began at last, with perfect
self-control. "I shall say no word of love to your sister, to
whom I am betrothed from this evening, because it is you that I
love. It is you!" . . .
The dusk let him see yet the tender and voluptuous smile that
came instinctively upon her lips shaped for love and kisses,
freeze hard in the drawn, haggard lines of terror. He could not
restrain himself any longer. While she shrank from his approach,
her arms went out to him, abandoned and regal in the dignity of
her languid surrender. He held her head in his two hands, and
showered rapid kisses upon the upturned face that gleamed in the
purple dusk. Masterful and tender, he was entering slowly upon
the fulness of his possession. And he perceived that she was
crying. Then the incomparable Capataz, the man of careless loves,
became gentle and caressing, like a woman to the grief of a
child. He murmured to her fondly. He sat down by her and nursed
her fair head on his breast. He called her his star and his
It had grown dark. From the living-room of the light-keeper's
cottage, where Giorgio, one of the Immortal Thousand, was bending
his leonine and heroic head over a charcoal fire, there came the
sound of sizzling and the aroma of an artistic frittura.
In the obscure disarray of that thing, happening like a
cataclysm, it was in her feminine head that some gleam of reason
survived. He was lost to the world in their embraced stillness.
But she said, whispering into his ear--
"God of mercy! What will become of me--here--now--between this
sky and this water I hate? Linda, Linda--I see her!" . . . She
tried to get out of his arms, suddenly relaxed at the sound of
that name. But there was no one approaching their black shapes,
enlaced and struggling on the white background of the wall.
"Linda! Poor Linda! I tremble! I shall die of fear before my poor
sister Linda, betrothed to-day to Giovanni--my lover! Giovanni,
you must have been mad! I cannot understand you! You are not like
other men! I will not give you up--never--only to God himself!
But why have you done this blind, mad, cruel, frightful thing?"
Released, she hung her head, let fall her hands. The altar-cloth,
as if tossed by a great wind, lay far away from them, gleaming
white on the black ground.
"From fear of losing my hope of you," said Nostromo.
"You knew that you had my soul! You know everything! It was made
for you! But what could stand between you and me? What? Tell me!"
she repeated, without impatience, in superb assurance.
"Your dead mother," he said, very low.
"Ah! . . . Poor mother! She has always . . . She is a saint in
heaven now, and I cannot give you up to her. No, Giovanni. Only
to God alone. You were mad--but it is done. Oh! what have you
done? Giovanni, my beloved, my life, my master, do not leave me
here in this grave of clouds. You cannot leave me now. You must
take me away--at once--this instant--in the little boat.
Giovanni, carry me off to-night, from my fear of Linda's eyes,
before I have to look at her again."
She nestled close to him. The slave of the San Tome silver felt
the weight as of chains upon his limbs, a pressure as of a cold
hand upon his lips. He struggled against the spell.
"I cannot," he said. "Not yet. There is something that stands
between us two and the freedom of the world."
She pressed her form closer to his side with a subtle and naive
instinct of seduction.
"You rave, Giovanni--my lover!" she whispered, engagingly. "What
can there be? Carry me off--in thy very hands--to Dona
Emilia--away from here. I am not very heavy."
It seemed as though she expected him to lift her up at once in
his two palms. She had lost the notion of all impossibility.
Anything could happen on this night of wonder. As he made no
movement, she almost cried aloud--
"I tell you I am afraid of Linda!" And still he did not move. She
became quiet and wily. "What can there be?" she asked, coaxingly.
He felt her warm, breathing, alive, quivering in the hollow of
his arm. In the exulting consciousness of his strength, and the
triumphant excitement of his mind, he struck out for his freedom.
"A treasure," he said. All was still. She did not understand. "A
treasure. A treasure of silver to buy a gold crown for thy brow."
"A treasure?" she repeated in a faint voice, as if from the
depths of a dream. "What is it you say?"
She disengaged herself gently. He got up and looked down at her,
aware of her face, of her hair, her lips, the dimples on her
cheeks--seeing the fascination of her person in the night of the
gulf as if in the blaze of noonday. Her nonchalant and seductive
voice trembled with the excitement of admiring awe and
"A treasure of silver!" she stammered out. Then pressed on
faster: "What? Where? How did you get it, Giovanni?"
He wrestled with the spell of captivity. It was as if striking a
heroic blow that he burst out--
"Like a thief!"
The densest blackness of the Placid Gulf seemed to fall upon his
head. He could not see her now. She had vanished into a long,
obscure abysmal silence, whence her voice came back to him after
a time with a faint glimmer, which was her face.
"I love you! I love you!"
These words gave him an unwonted sense of freedom; they cast a
spell stronger than the accursed spell of the treasure; they
changed his weary subjection to that dead thing into an exulting
conviction of his power. He would cherish her, he said, in a
splendour as great as Dona Emilia's. The rich lived on wealth
stolen from the people, but he had taken from the rich nothing
--nothing that was not lost to them already by their folly and
their betrayal. For he had been betrayed--he said--deceived,
tempted. She believed him. . . . He had kept the treasure for
purposes of revenge; but now he cared nothing for it. He cared
only for her. He would put her beauty in a palace on a hill
crowned with olive trees--a white palace above a blue sea. He
would keep her there like a jewel in a casket. He would get land
for her--her own land fertile with vines and corn--to set her
little feet upon. He kissed them. . . . He had already paid for
it all with the soul of a woman and the life of a man. . . . The
Capataz de Cargadores tasted the supreme intoxication of his
generosity. He flung the mastered treasure superbly at her feet
in the impenetrable darkness of the gulf, in the darkness
defying--as men said--the knowledge of God and the wit of the
devil. But she must let him grow rich first--he warned her.
She listened as if in a trance. Her fingers stirred in his hair.
He got up from his knees reeling, weak, empty, as though he had
flung his soul away.
"Make haste, then," she said. "Make haste, Giovanni, my lover, my
master, for I will give thee up to no one but God. And I am
afraid of Linda."
He guessed at her shudder, and swore to do his best. He trusted
the courage of her love. She promised to be brave in order to be
loved always--far away in a white palace upon a hill above a blue
sea. Then with a timid, tentative eagerness she murmured--
"Where is it? Where? Tell me that, Giovanni."
He opened his mouth and remained silent--thunderstruck.
"Not that! Not that!" he gasped out, appalled at the spell of
secrecy that had kept him dumb before so many people falling upon
his lips again with unimpaired force. Not even to her. Not even
to her. It was too dangerous. "I forbid thee to ask," he cried at
her, deadening cautiously the anger of his voice.
He had not regained his freedom. The spectre of the unlawful
treasure arose, standing by her side like a figure of silver,
pitiless and secret, with a finger on its pale lips. His soul
died within him at the vision of himself creeping in presently
along the ravine, with the smell of earth, of damp foliage in his
nostrils--creeping in, determined in a purpose that numbed his
breast, and creeping out again loaded with silver, with his ears
alert to every sound. It must be done on this very night--that
work of a craven slave!
He stooped low, pressed the hem of her skirt to his lips, with a
"Tell him I would not stay," and was gone suddenly from her,
silent, without as much as a footfall in the dark night.
She sat still, her head resting indolently against the wall, and
her little feet in white stockings and black slippers crossed
over each other. Old Giorgio, coming out, did not seem to be
surprised at the intelligence as much as she had vaguely feared.
For she was full of inexplicable fear now--fear of everything and
everybody except of her Giovanni and his treasure. But that was
The heroic Garibaldino accepted Nostromo's abrupt departure with
a sagacious indulgence. He remembered his own feelings, and
exhibited a masculine penetration of the true state of the case.
"Va bene. Let him go. Ha! ha! No matter how fair the woman, it
galls a little. Liberty, liberty. There's more than one kind! He
has said the great word, and son Gian' Battista is not tame." He
seemed to be instructing the motionless and scared Giselle. . .
. "A man should not be tame," he added, dogmatically out of the
doorway. Her stillness and silence seemed to displease him. "Do
not give way to the enviousness of your sister's lot," he
admonished her, very grave, in his deep voice.
Presently he had to come to the door again to call in his younger
daughter. It was late. He shouted her name three times before she
even moved her head. Left alone, she had become the helpless prey
of astonishment. She walked into the bedroom she shared with
Linda like a person profoundly asleep. That aspect was so marked
that even old Giorgio, spectacled, raising his eyes from the
Bible, shook his head as she shut the door behind her.
She walked right across the room without looking at anything, and
sat down at once by the open window. Linda, stealing down from
the tower in the exuberance of her happiness, found her with a
lighted candle at her back, facing the black night full of
sighing gusts of wind and the sound of distant showers--a true
night of the gulf, too dense for the eye of God and the wiles of
the devil. She did not turn her head at the opening of the door.
There was something in that immobility which reached Linda in the
depths of her paradise. The elder sister guessed angrily: the
child is thinking of that wretched Ramirez. Linda longed to talk.
She said in her arbitrary voice, "Giselle!" and was not answered
by the slightest movement.
The girl that was going to live in a palace and walk on ground of
her own was ready to die with terror. Not for anything in the
world would she have turned her head to face her sister. Her
heart was beating madly. She said with subdued haste--
"Do not speak to me. I am praying."
Linda, disappointed, went out quietly; and Giselle sat on
unbelieving, lost, dazed, patient, as if waiting for the
confirmation of the incredible. The hopeless blackness of the
clouds seemed part of a dream, too. She waited.
She did not wait in vain. The man whose soul was dead within him,
creeping out of the ravine, weighted with silver, had seen the
gleam of the lighted window, and could not help retracing his
steps from the beach.
On that impenetrable background, obliterating the lofty mountains
by the seaboard, she saw the slave of the San Tome silver, as if
by an extraordinary power of a miracle. She accepted his return
as if henceforth the world could hold no surprise for all
She rose, compelled and rigid, and began to speak long before the
light from within fell upon the face of the approaching man.
"You have come back to carry me off. It is well! Open thy arms,
Giovanni, my lover. I am coming."
His prudent footsteps stopped, and with his eyes glistening
wildly, he spoke in a harsh voice:
"Not yet. I must grow rich slowly." . . . A threatening note came
into his tone. "Do not forget that you have a thief for your
"Yes! Yes!" she whispered, hastily. "Come nearer! Listen! Do not
give me up, Giovanni! Never, never! . . . I will be patient! . . ."
Her form drooped consolingly over the low casement towards the
slave of the unlawful treasure. The light in the room went out,
and weighted with silver, the magnificent Capataz clasped her
round her white neck in the darkness of the gulf as a drowning
man clutches at a straw.
ON THE day Mrs. Gould was going, in Dr. Monygham's words, to
"give a tertulia," Captain Fidanza went down the side of his
schooner lying in Sulaco harbour, calm, unbending, deliberate in
the way he sat down in his dinghy and took up his sculls. He was
later than usual. The afternoon was well advanced before he
landed on the beach of the Great Isabel, and with a steady pace
climbed the slope of the island.
From a distance he made out Giselle sitting in a chair tilted
back against the end of the house, under the window of the girl's
room. She had her embroidery in her hands, and held it well up to
her eyes. The tranquillity of that girlish figure exasperated the
feeling of perpetual struggle and strife he carried in his
breast. He became angry. It seemed to him that she ought to hear
the clanking of his fetters--his silver fetters, from afar. And
while ashore that day, he had met the doctor with the evil eye,
who had looked at him very hard.
The raising of her eyes mollified him. They smiled in their
flower-like freshness straight upon his heart. Then she frowned.
It was a warning to be cautious. He stopped some distance away,
and in a loud, indifferent tone, said--
"Good day, Giselle. Is Linda up yet?"
"Yes. She is in the big room with father."
He approached then, and, looking through the window into the
bedroom for fear of being detected by Linda returning there for
some reason, he said, moving only his lips--
"You love me?"
"More than my life." She went on with her embroidery under his
contemplating gaze and continued to speak, looking at her work,
"Or I could not live. I could not, Giovanni. For this life is
like death. Oh, Giovanni, I shall perish if you do not take me
He smiled carelessly. "I will come to the window when it's dark,"
"No, don't, Giovanni. Not-to-night. Linda and father have been
talking together for a long time today."
"Ramirez, I fancy I heard. I do not know. I am afraid. I am
always afraid. It is like dying a thousand times a day. Your love
is to me like your treasure to you. It is there, but I can never
get enough of it."
He looked at her very still. She was beautiful. His desire had
grown within him. He had two masters now. But she was incapable
of sustained emotion. She was sincere in what she said, but she
slept placidly at night. When she saw him she flamed up always.
Then only an increased taciturnity marked the change in her. She
was afraid of betraying herself. She was afraid of pain, of
bodily harm, of sharp words, of facing anger, and witnessing
violence. For her soul was light and tender with a pagan
sincerity in its impulses. She murmured--
"Give up the palazzo, Giovanni, and the vineyard on the hills,
for which we are starving our love."