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 th_lave of a treasure with full self-knowledge is an occurrence rare an_entally disturbing. But it was also in a great part because of the difficult_f converting it into a form in which it could become available. The mere ac_f getting it away from the island piecemeal, little by little, was surrounde_y difficulties, by the dangers of imminent detection. He had to visit th_reat Isabel in secret, between his voyages along the coast, which were th_stensible source of his fortune. The crew of his own schooner were to b_eared as if they had been spies upon their dreaded captain. He did not dar_tay too long in port. When his coaster was unloaded, he hurried away o_nother 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 th_reasure. And that was all. A couple of ingots. He suffered through his fear_s much as through his prudence. To do things by stealth humiliated him. An_e suffered most from the concentration of his thought upon the treasure.
A transgression, a crime, entering a man's existence, eats it up like _alignant growth, consumes it like a fever. Nostromo had lost his peace; th_enuineness of all his qualities was destroyed. He felt it himself, and ofte_ursed the silver of San Tome. His courage, his magnificence, his leisure, hi_ork, everything was as before, only everything was a sham. But the treasur_as real. He clung to it with a more tenacious, mental grip. But he hated th_eel of the ingots. Sometimes, after putting away a couple of them in hi_abin—the fruit of a secret night expedition to the Great Isabel—he would loo_ixedly 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. Th_ecessity to go far afield made his coasting voyages long, and caused hi_isits to the Viola household to be rare and far between. He was fated to hav_is wife from there. He had said so once to Giorgio himself. But th_aribaldino had put the subject aside with a majestic wave of his hand, clutching a smouldering black briar-root pipe. There was plenty of time; h_as not the man to force his girls upon anybody.
As time went on, Nostromo discovered his preference for the younger of th_wo. They had some profound similarities of nature, which must exist fo_omplete confidence and understanding, no matter what outward differences o_emperament there may be to exercise their own fascination of contrast. Hi_ife would have to know his secret or else life would be impossible. He wa_ttracted 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 an_corn, a chip of the old block, true daughter of the austere republican, bu_ith Teresa's voice, inspired him with a deep-seated mistrust. Moreover, th_oor girl could not conceal her love for Gian' Battista. He could see it woul_e violent, exacting, suspicious, uncompromising—like her soul. Giselle, b_er fair but warm beauty, by the surface placidity of her nature holding _romise of submissiveness, by the charm of her girlish mysteriousness, excite_is passion and allayed his fears as to the future.
His absences from Sulaco were long. On returning from the longest of them, h_ade out lighters loaded with blocks of stone lying under the cliff of th_reat Isabel; cranes and scaffolding above; workmen's figures moving about, and a small lighthouse already rising from its foundations on the edge of th_liff.
At this unexpected, undreamt-of, startling sight, he thought himself los_rretrievably. What could save him from detection now? Nothing! He was struc_ith amazed dread at this turn of chance, that would kindle a far-reachin_ight 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. Al_f it but that thing which was beyond common comprehension; which stoo_etween him and the power that hears and gives effect to the evil intention o_urses. It was dark. Not every man had such a darkness. And they were going t_ut 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 Captai_idanza, the unquestioned patron of secret societies, a republican like ol_iorgio, and a revolutionist at heart (but in another manner), was on th_oint of jumping overboard from the deck of his own schooner. That man, subjective almost to insanity, looked suicide deliberately in the face. But h_ever lost his head. He was checked by the thought that this was no escape. H_magined himself dead, and the disgrace, the shame going on. Or, rather, properly speaking, he could not imagine himself dead. He was possessed to_trongly by the sense of his own existence, a thing of infinite duration i_ts 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 hi_urposes 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 exchang_ails with the workmen, shading their eyes on the edge of the sheer drop o_he cliff overhung by the jib-head of a powerful crane. He perceived that non_f them had any occasion even to approach the ravine where the silver la_idden; let alone to enter it. In the harbour he learned that no one slept o_he island. The labouring gangs returned to port every evening, singing choru_ongs in the empty lighters towed by a harbour tug. For the moment he ha_othing to fear.
But afterwards? he asked himself. Later, when a keeper came to live in th_ottage that was being built some hundred and fifty yards back from the lo_ighttower, and four hundred or so from the dark, shaded, jungly ravine, containing the secret of his safety, of his influence, of his magnificence, o_is power over the future, of his defiance of ill-luck, of every possibl_etrayal from rich and poor alike—what then? He could never shake off th_reasure. His audacity, greater than that of other men, had welded that vei_f silver into his life. And the feeling of fearful and ardent subjection, th_eeling of his slavery—so irremediable and profound that often, in hi_houghts, he compared himself to the legendary Gringos, neither dead no_live, bound down to their conquest of unlawful wealth on Azuera—weighe_eavily on the independent Captain Fidanza, owner and master of a coastin_chooner, whose smart appearance (and fabulous good-luck in trading) were s_ell known along the western seaboard of a vast continent.
Fiercely whiskered and grave, a shade less supple in his walk, the vigour an_ymmetry 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 o_he Compania Anzani, Captain Fidanza was seen in the streets of Sulac_ttending to his business, as usual, that trip. And, as usual, he allowed i_o get about that he had made a great profit on his cargo. It was a cargo o_alt fish, and Lent was approaching. He was seen in tramcars going to and fr_etween the town and the harbour; he talked with people in a cafe or two i_is measured, steady voice. Captain Fidanza was seen. The generation tha_ould know nothing of the famous ride to Cayta was not born yet.
Nostromo, the miscalled Capataz de Cargadores, had made for himself, under hi_ightful name, another public existence, but modified by the new conditions, less picturesque, more difficult to keep up in the increased size and varie_opulation of Sulaco, the progressive capital of the Occidental Republic.
Captain Fidanza, unpicturesque, but always a little mysterious, was recognize_uite sufficiently under the lofty glass and iron roof of the Sulaco railwa_tation. He took a local train, and got out in Rincon, where he visited th_idow 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 si_own and drink a glass of cool lemonade in the hut, while the woman, standin_p, poured a perfect torrent of words to which he did not listen. He left som_oney 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 th_oorway paused for a moment to look at the flat face of the San Tome mountai_ith a faint frown. This slight contraction of his bronzed brow casting _arked tinge of severity upon his usual unbending expression, was observed a_he Lodge which he attended—but went away before the banquet. He wore it a_he meeting of some good comrades, Italians and Occidentals, assembled in hi_onour under the presidency of an indigent, sickly, somewhat hunchbacke_ittle photographer, with a white face and a magnanimous soul dyed crimson b_ bloodthirsty hate of all capitalists, oppressors of the two hemispheres. Th_eroic Giorgio Viola, old revolutionist, would have understood nothing of hi_pening speech; and Captain Fidanza, lavishly generous as usual to some poo_omrades, made no speech at all. He had listened, frowning, with his mind fa_way, and walked off unapproachable, silent, like a man full of cares.
His frown deepened as, in the early morning, he watched the stone-masons g_ff 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 o_he work. One course per day.
And Captain Fidanza meditated. The presence of strangers on the island woul_ut him completely off the treasure. It had been difficult and dangerou_nough before. He was afraid, and he was angry. He thought with the resolutio_f 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 foun_t a critical moment was effective enough to alter the situation radically. H_ad the gift of evolving safety out of the very danger, this incomparabl_ostromo, this "fellow in a thousand." With Giorgio established on the Grea_sabel, 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 talkin_o the old Garibaldino. Then in the dark … Night after night … He would dar_o grow rich quicker now. He yearned to clasp, embrace, absorb, subjugate i_nquestioned possession this treasure, whose tyranny had weighed upon hi_ind, 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 th_aribaldino, something like the faint reflection, the dim ghost of a ver_ncient smile, stole under the white and enormous moustaches of the old hate_f kings and ministers. His daughters were the object of his anxious care. Th_ounger, especially. Linda, with her mother's voice, had taken more he_other's place. Her deep, vibrating "Eh, Padre?" seemed, but for the change o_he word, the very echo of the impassioned, remonstrating "Eh, Giorgio?" o_oor Signora Teresa. It was his fixed opinion that the town was no prope_lace for his girls. The infatuated but guileless Ramirez was the object o_is profound aversion, as resuming the sins of the country whose people wer_lind, vile esclavos.
On his return from his next voyage, Captain Fidanza found the Violas settle_n the light-keeper's cottage. His knowledge of Giorgio's idiosyncrasies ha_ot played him false. The Garibaldino had refused to entertain the idea of an_ompanion whatever, except his girls. And Captain Mitchell, anxious to pleas_is poor Nostromo, with that felicity of inspiration which only true affectio_an give, had formally appointed Linda Viola as under-keeper of the Isabel'_ight.
"The light is private property," he used to explain. "It belongs to m_ompany. I've the power to nominate whom I like, and Viola it shall be. It'_bout the only thing Nostromo—a man worth his weight in gold, mind you—ha_ver asked me to do for him."
Directly his schooner was anchored opposite the New Custom House, with it_ham air of a Greek temple, flatroofed, with a colonnade, Captain Fidanza wen_ulling his small boat out of the harbour, bound for the Great Isabel, openl_n the light of a declining day, before all men's eyes, with a sense of havin_astered the fates. He must establish a regular position. He would ask him fo_is 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'_oice.
He did not pull for the narrow strand where he had landed with Decoud, an_fterwards alone on his first visit to the treasure. He made for the beach a_he other end, and walked up the regular and gentle slope of the wedge-shape_sland. Giorgio Viola, whom he saw from afar, sitting on a bench under th_ront wall of the cottage, lifted his arm slightly to his loud hail. He walke_p. Neither of the girls appeared.
"It is good here," said the old man, in his austere, far-away manner.
Nostromo nodded; then, after a short silence—
"You saw my schooner pass in not two hours ago? Do you know why I am her_efore, so to speak, my anchor has fairly bitten into the ground of this por_f Sulaco?"
"You are welcome like a son," the old man declared, quietly, staring away upo_he sea.
"Ah! thy son. I know. I am what thy son would have been. It is well, viejo. I_s a very good welcome. Listen, I have come to ask you for——"
A sudden dread came upon the fearless and incorruptible Nostromo. He dared no_tter the name in his mind. The slight pause only imparted a marked weight an_olemnity to the changed end of the phrase.
"For my wife!" … His heart was beating fast. "It is time you——"
The Garibaldino arrested him with an extended arm. "That was left for you t_udge."
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 calle_ut in his strong voice—
Her answer came sharp and faint from within; and the appalled Nostromo stoo_p, too, but remained mute, gazing at the door. He was afraid. He was no_fraid of being refused the girl he loved—no mere refusal could stand betwee_im and a woman he desired—but the shining spectre of the treasure rose befor_im, claiming his allegiance in a silence that could not be gainsaid. He wa_fraid, because, neither dead nor alive, like the Gringos on Azuera, h_elonged body and soul to the unlawfulness of his audacity. He was afraid o_eing forbidden the island. He was afraid, and said nothing.
Seeing the two men standing up side by side to await her, Linda stopped in th_oorway. Nothing could alter the passionate dead whiteness of her face; bu_er black eyes seemed to catch and concentrate all the light of the low sun i_ flaming spark within the black depths, covered at once by the slow descen_f heavy eyelids.
"Behold thy husband, master, and benefactor." Old Viola's voice resounded wit_ force that seemed to fill the whole gulf.
She stepped forward with her eyes nearly closed, like a sleep-walker in _eatific dream.
Nostromo made a superhuman effort. "It is time, Linda, we two were betrothed,"
he said, steadily, in his level, careless, unbending tone.
She put her hand into his offered palm, lowering her head, dark with bronz_lints, upon which her father's hand rested for a moment.
"And so the soul of the dead is satisfied."
This came from Giorgio Viola, who went on talking for a while of his dea_ife; while the two, sitting side by side, never looked at each other. The_he 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 … Battistino."
She pronounced the name exactly with her mother's intonation. A gloom as o_he grave covered Nostromo's heart.
"Yes. I knew," he said.
The heroic Garibaldino sat on the same bench bowing his hoary head, his ol_oul dwelling alone with its memories, tender and violent, terrible an_reary—solitary on the earth full of men.
And Linda, his best-loved daughter, was saying, "I was yours ever since I ca_emember. 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—torturin_or the man at her side. Her murmur ran on ardent and voluble. She did no_eem to see her sister, who came out with an altar-cloth she was embroiderin_n her hands, and passed in front of them, silent, fresh, fair, with a quic_lance 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; an_he white lighthouse, livid against the background of clouds filling the hea_f the gulf, bore the lantern red and glowing, like a live ember kindled b_he fire of the sky. Giselle, indolent and demure, raised the altar-cloth fro_ime to time to hide nervous yawns, as of a young panther.
Suddenly Linda rushed at her sister, and seizing her head, covered her fac_ith kisses. Nostromo's brain reeled. When she left her, as if stunned by th_iolent caresses, with her hands lying in her lap, the slave of the treasur_elt 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 whos_estive note seemed the echo of a mood lost in the night of ages—
"I am going in to cook something. Aha! Son! The old man knows where to find _ottle 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 th_od of orphans, of the oppressed, of the poor, of little children, to giv_hee 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 venomou_angs of jealousy biting deep into his heart. He was appalled by the novelt_f the experience, by its force, by its physical intimacy. A husband! _usband for her! And yet it was natural that Giselle should have a husband a_ome time or other. He had never realized that before. In discovering that he_eauty could belong to another he felt as though he could kill this one of ol_iorgio's daughters also. He muttered moodily—
"They say you love Ramirez."
She shook her head without looking at him. Coppery glints rippled to and fr_n the wealth of her gold hair. Her smooth forehead had the soft, pure shee_f a priceless pearl in the splendour of the sunset, mingling the gloom o_tarry spaces, the purple of the sea, and the crimson of the sky in _agnificent stillness.
"No," she said, slowly. "I never loved him. I think I never … He love_e—perhaps."
The seduction of her slow voice died out of the air, and her raised eye_emained fixed on nothing, as if indifferent and without thought.
"Ramirez told you he loved you?" asked Nostromo, restraining himself.
"Ah! once—one evening … "
"The miserable … Ha!"
He had jumped up as if stung by a gad-fly, and stood before her mute wit_nger.
"Misericordia Divina! You, too, Gian' Battista! Poor wretch that I am!" sh_amented in ingenuous tones. "I told Linda, and she scolded—she scolded. Am _o live blind, dumb, and deaf in this world? And she told father, who too_own 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, an_live. Was this the child he had known? Was it possible? It dawned upon hi_hat 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 upo_im unawares. She was a danger. A frightful danger. The instinctive mood o_ierce determination that had never failed him before the perils of this lif_dded its steady force to the violence of his passion. She, in a voice tha_ecalled 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 sk_nd water. Nothing else. Sky and water. Oh, Sanctissima Madre. My hair shal_urn grey on this tedious island. I could hate you, Gian' Battista!"
He laughed loudly. Her voice enveloped him like a caress. She bemoaned he_ate, spreading unconsciously, like a flower its perfume in the coolness o_he evening, the indefinable seduction of her person. Was it her fault tha_obody ever had admired Linda? Even when they were little, going out wit_heir mother to Mass, she remembered that people took no notice of Linda, wh_as fearless, and chose instead to frighten her, who was timid, with thei_ttention. 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 th_oots of her hair. She was not conceited. She was no more self-conscious tha_ flower. But she was pleased. And perhaps even a flower loves to hear itsel_raised. He glanced down, and added, impetuously—
"Your little feet!"
Leaning back against the rough stone wall of the cottage, she seemed to bas_anguidly in the warmth of the rosy flush. Only her lowered eyes glanced a_er little feet.
"And so you are going at last to marry our Linda. She is terrible. Ah! now sh_ill understand better since you have told her you love her. She will not b_o 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 som_eace 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 i_amirez … Ramirez … Who is he?" she repeated, dreamily, in the dusk and gloo_f the clouded gulf, with a low red streak in the west like a hot bar o_lowing iron laid across the entrance of a world sombre as a cavern, where th_agnificent 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 t_our sister. Do you want to know why?"
"Alas! I could not understand perhaps, Giovanni. Father says you are not lik_ther men; that no one had ever understood you properly; that the rich will b_urprised yet… . Oh! saints in heaven! I am weary."
She raised her embroidery to conceal the lower part of her face, then let i_all on her lap. The lantern was shaded on the land side, but slanting awa_rom 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 purpl_nd red.
Giselle Viola, with her head resting against the wall of the house, her eye_alf closed, and her little feet, in white stockings and black slippers, crossed over each other, seemed to surrender herself, tranquil and fatal, t_he gathering dusk. The charm of her body, the promising mysteriousness of he_ndolence, went out into the night of the Placid Gulf like a fresh an_ntoxicating fragrance spreading out in the shadows, impregnating the air. Th_ncorruptible Nostromo breathed her ambient seduction in the tumultuou_eaving of his breast. Before leaving the harbour he had thrown off the stor_lothing of Captain Fidanza, for greater ease in the long pull out to th_slands. He stood before her in the red sash and check shirt as he used t_ppear on the Company's wharf—a Mediterranean sailor come ashore to try hi_uck 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 evenin_fter evening about the self-destructive passion of Don Martin Decoud's utte_cepticism, flaming up to death in solitude.
"You have got to hear," he began at last, with perfect self-control. "I shal_ay 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 cam_nstinctively upon her lips shaped for love and kisses, freeze hard in th_rawn, haggard lines of terror. He could not restrain himself any longer.
While she shrank from his approach, her arms went out to him, abandoned an_egal in the dignity of her languid surrender. He held her head in his tw_ands, and showered rapid kisses upon the upturned face that gleamed in th_urple dusk. Masterful and tender, he was entering slowly upon the fulness o_is possession. And he perceived that she was crying. Then the incomparabl_apataz, the man of careless loves, became gentle and caressing, like a woma_o the grief of a child. He murmured to her fondly. He sat down by her an_ursed her fair head on his breast. He called her his star and his littl_lower.
It had grown dark. From the living-room of the light-keeper's cottage, wher_iorgio, one of the Immortal Thousand, was bending his leonine and heroic hea_ver a charcoal fire, there came the sound of sizzling and the aroma of a_rtistic frittura.
In the obscure disarray of that thing, happening like a cataclysm, it was i_er feminine head that some gleam of reason survived. He was lost to the worl_n 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 wate_ hate? Linda, Linda—I see her!" … She tried to get out of his arms, suddenl_elaxed at the sound of that name. But there was no one approaching thei_lack shapes, enlaced and struggling on the white background of the wall.
"Linda! Poor Linda! I tremble! I shall die of fear before my poor siste_inda, betrothed to-day to Giovanni—my lover! Giovanni, you must have bee_ad! I cannot understand you! You are not like other men! I will not give yo_p—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 tosse_y 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! Bu_hat could stand between you and me? What? Tell me!" she repeated, withou_mpatience, in superb assurance.
"Your dead mother," he said, very low.
"Ah! … Poor mother! She has always … She is a saint in heaven now, and _annot give you up to her. No, Giovanni. Only to God alone. You were mad—bu_t 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. Yo_ust take me away—at once—this instant—in the little boat. Giovanni, carry m_ff to-night, from my fear of Linda's eyes, before I have to look at he_gain."
She nestled close to him. The slave of the San Tome silver felt the weight a_f chains upon his limbs, a pressure as of a cold hand upon his lips. H_truggled against the spell.
"I cannot," he said. "Not yet. There is something that stands between us tw_nd the freedom of the world."
She pressed her form closer to his side with a subtle and naive instinct o_eduction.
"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 ver_eavy."
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 thi_ight 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 quie_nd wily. "What can there be?" she asked, coaxingly.
He felt her warm, breathing, alive, quivering in the hollow of his arm. In th_xulting consciousness of his strength, and the triumphant excitement of hi_ind, he struck out for his freedom.
"A treasure," he said. All was still. She did not understand. "A treasure. _reasure 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 he_ace, of her hair, her lips, the dimples on her cheeks—seeing the fascinatio_f her person in the night of the gulf as if in the blaze of noonday. He_onchalant and seductive voice trembled with the excitement of admiring aw_nd ungovernable curiosity.
"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 blo_hat he burst out—
"Like a thief!"
The densest blackness of the Placid Gulf seemed to fall upon his head. H_ould 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 wa_er face.
"I love you! I love you!"
These words gave him an unwonted sense of freedom; they cast a spell stronge_han the accursed spell of the treasure; they changed his weary subjection t_hat dead thing into an exulting conviction of his power. He would cheris_er, he said, in a splendour as great as Dona Emilia's. The rich lived o_ealth stolen from the people, but he had taken from the rich nothing—nothin_hat was not lost to them already by their folly and their betrayal. For h_ad been betrayed—he said—deceived, tempted. She believed him… . He had kep_he treasure for purposes of revenge; but now he cared nothing for it. H_ared only for her. He would put her beauty in a palace on a hill crowned wit_live trees—a white palace above a blue sea. He would keep her there like _ewel in a casket. He would get land for her—her own land fertile with vine_nd corn—to set her little feet upon. He kissed them… . He had already pai_or it all with the soul of a woman and the life of a man… . The Capataz d_argadores tasted the supreme intoxication of his generosity. He flung th_astered treasure superbly at her feet in the impenetrable darkness of th_ulf, in the darkness defying—as men said—the knowledge of God and the wit o_he 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 u_rom 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, fo_ 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 o_er love. She promised to be brave in order to be loved always—far away in _hite palace upon a hill above a blue sea. Then with a timid, tentativ_agerness 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 ha_ept him dumb before so many people falling upon his lips again wit_nimpaired force. Not even to her. Not even to her. It was too dangerous. "_orbid thee to ask," he cried at her, deadening cautiously the anger of hi_oice.
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 _inger on its pale lips. His soul died within him at the vision of himsel_reeping in presently along the ravine, with the smell of earth, of dam_oliage in his nostrils—creeping in, determined in a purpose that numbed hi_reast, and creeping out again loaded with silver, with his ears alert t_very 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 muttere_ommand—
"Tell him I would not stay," and was gone suddenly from her, silent, withou_s much as a footfall in the dark night.
She sat still, her head resting indolently against the wall, and her littl_eet in white stockings and black slippers crossed over each other. Ol_iorgio, coming out, did not seem to be surprised at the intelligence as muc_s she had vaguely feared. For she was full of inexplicable fear now—fear o_verything and everybody except of her Giovanni and his treasure. But that wa_ncredible.
The heroic Garibaldino accepted Nostromo's abrupt departure with a sagaciou_ndulgence. He remembered his own feelings, and exhibited a masculin_enetration 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, an_on Gian' Battista is not tame." He seemed to be instructing the motionles_nd scared Giselle… . "A man should not be tame," he added, dogmatically ou_f the doorway. Her stillness and silence seemed to displease him. "Do no_ive way to the enviousness of your sister's lot," he admonished her, ver_rave, in his deep voice.
Presently he had to come to the door again to call in his younger daughter. I_as late. He shouted her name three times before she even moved her head. Lef_lone, she had become the helpless prey of astonishment. She walked into th_edroom she shared with Linda like a person profoundly asleep. That aspect wa_o 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 a_nce by the open window. Linda, stealing down from the tower in the exuberanc_f her happiness, found her with a lighted candle at her back, facing th_lack night full of sighing gusts of wind and the sound of distant showers—_rue night of the gulf, too dense for the eye of God and the wiles of th_evil. She did not turn her head at the opening of the door.
There was something in that immobility which reached Linda in the depths o_er paradise. The elder sister guessed angrily: the child is thinking of tha_retched 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 wa_eady to die with terror. Not for anything in the world would she have turne_er head to face her sister. Her heart was beating madly. She said wit_ubdued 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. Th_opeless 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 ou_f 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 th_eaboard, she saw the slave of the San Tome silver, as if by an extraordinar_ower of a miracle. She accepted his return as if henceforth the world coul_old no surprise for all eternity.
She rose, compelled and rigid, and began to speak long before the light fro_ithin fell upon the face of the approaching man.
"You have come back to carry me off. It is well! Open thy arms, Giovanni, m_over. I am coming."
His prudent footsteps stopped, and with his eyes glistening wildly, he spok_n 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 lover."
"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 th_nlawful treasure. The light in the room went out, and weighted with silver, the magnificent Capataz clasped her round her white neck in the darkness o_he gulf as a drowning man clutches at a straw.