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Chapter 6

  • A profound stillness reigned in the Casa Gould. The master of the house, walking along the corredor, opened the door of his room, and saw his wif_itting in a big armchair—his own smoking armchair—thoughtful, contemplatin_er little shoes. And she did not raise her eyes when he walked in.
  • "Tired?" asked Charles Gould.
  • "A little," said Mrs. Gould. Still without looking up, she added with feeling,
  • "There is an awful sense of unreality about all this."
  • Charles Gould, before the long table strewn with papers, on which lay _unting crop and a pair of spurs, stood looking at his wife: "The heat an_ust must have been awful this afternoon by the waterside," he murmured, sympathetically. "The glare on the water must have been simply terrible."
  • "One could close one's eyes to the glare," said Mrs. Gould. "But, my dea_harley, it is impossible for me to close my eyes to our position; to thi_wful … "
  • She raised her eyes and looked at her husband's face, from which all sign o_ympathy or any other feeling had disappeared. "Why don't you tell m_omething?" she almost wailed.
  • "I thought you had understood me perfectly from the first," Charles Goul_aid, slowly. "I thought we had said all there was to say a long time ago.
  • There is nothing to say now. There were things to be done. We have done them; we have gone on doing them. There is no going back now. I don't suppose that, even from the first, there was really any possible way back. And, what's more, we can't even afford to stand still."
  • "Ah, if one only knew how far you mean to go," said his wife inwardl_rembling, but in an almost playful tone.
  • "Any distance, any length, of course," was the answer, in a matter-of-fac_one, which caused Mrs. Gould to make another effort to repress a shudder.
  • She stood up, smiling graciously, and her little figure seemed to b_iminished still more by the heavy mass of her hair and the long train of he_own.
  • "But always to success," she said, persuasively.
  • Charles Gould, enveloping her in the steely blue glance of his attentive eyes, answered without hesitation—
  • "Oh, there is no alternative."
  • He put an immense assurance into his tone. As to the words, this was all tha_is conscience would allow him to say.
  • Mrs. Gould's smile remained a shade too long upon her lips. She murmured—
  • "I will leave you; I've a slight headache. The heat, the dust, were indeed—_uppose you are going back to the mine before the morning?"
  • "At midnight," said Charles Gould. "We are bringing down the silver to-morrow.
  • Then I shall take three whole days off in town with you."
  • "Ah, you are going to meet the escort. I shall be on the balcony at fiv_'clock to see you pass. Till then, good-bye."
  • Charles Gould walked rapidly round the table, and, seizing her hands, ben_own, pressing them both to his lips. Before he straightened himself up agai_o his full height she had disengaged one to smooth his cheek with a ligh_ouch, as if he were a little boy.
  • "Try to get some rest for a couple of hours," she murmured, with a glance at _ammock stretched in a distant part of the room. Her long train swished softl_fter her on the red tiles. At the door she looked back.
  • Two big lamps with unpolished glass globes bathed in a soft and abundant ligh_he four white walls of the room, with a glass case of arms, the brass hilt o_enry Gould's cavalry sabre on its square of velvet, and the water-colou_ketch of the San Tome gorge. And Mrs. Gould, gazing at the last in its blac_ooden frame, sighed out—
  • "Ah, if we had left it alone, Charley!"
  • "No," Charles Gould said, moodily; "it was impossible to leave it alone."
  • "Perhaps it was impossible," Mrs. Gould admitted, slowly. Her lips quivered _ittle, but she smiled with an air of dainty bravado. "We have disturbed _ood many snakes in that Paradise, Charley, haven't we?"
  • "Yes, I remember," said Charles Gould, "it was Don Pepe who called the gorg_he Paradise of snakes. No doubt we have disturbed a great many. But remember, my dear, that it is not now as it was when you made that sketch." He waved hi_and towards the small water-colour hanging alone upon the great bare wall.
  • "It is no longer a Paradise of snakes. We have brought mankind into it, and w_annot turn our backs upon them to go and begin a new life elsewhere."
  • He confronted his wife with a firm, concentrated gaze, which Mrs. Goul_eturned with a brave assumption of fearlessness before she went out, closin_he door gently after her.
  • In contrast with the white glaring room the dimly lit corredor had a restfu_ysteriousness of a forest glade, suggested by the stems and the leaves of th_lants ranged along the balustrade of the open side. In the streaks of ligh_alling through the open doors of the reception-rooms, the blossoms, white an_ed and pale lilac, came out vivid with the brilliance of flowers in a strea_f sunshine; and Mrs. Gould, passing on, had the vividness of a figure seen i_he clear patches of sun that chequer the gloom of open glades in the woods.
  • The stones in the rings upon her hand pressed to her forehead glittered in th_amplight abreast of the door of the sala.
  • "Who's there?" she asked, in a startled voice. "Is that you, Basilio?" Sh_ooked in, and saw Martin Decoud walking about, with an air of having los_omething, amongst the chairs and tables.
  • "Antonia has forgotten her fan in here," said Decoud, with a strange air o_istraction; "so I entered to see."
  • But, even as he said this, he had obviously given up his search, and walke_traight towards Mrs. Gould, who looked at him with doubtful surprise.
  • "Senora," he began, in a low voice.
  • "What is it, Don Martin?" asked Mrs. Gould. And then she added, with a sligh_augh, "I am so nervous to-day," as if to explain the eagerness of th_uestion.
  • "Nothing immediately dangerous," said Decoud, who now could not conceal hi_gitation. "Pray don't distress yourself. No, really, you must not distres_ourself."
  • Mrs. Gould, with her candid eyes very wide open, her lips composed into _mile, was steadying herself with a little bejewelled hand against the side o_he door.
  • "Perhaps you don't know how alarming you are, appearing like thi_nexpectedly—"
  • "I! Alarming!" he protested, sincerely vexed and surprised. "I assure you tha_ am not in the least alarmed myself. A fan is lost; well, it will be foun_gain. But I don't think it is here. It is a fan I am looking for. I canno_nderstand how Antonia could—Well! Have you found it, amigo?"
  • "No, senor," said behind Mrs. Gould the soft voice of Basilio, the hea_ervant of the Casa. "I don't think the senorita could have left it in thi_ouse at all."
  • "Go and look for it in the patio again. Go now, my friend; look for it on th_teps, under the gate; examine every flagstone; search for it till I come dow_gain… . That fellow"—he addressed himself in English to Mrs. Gould—"is alway_tealing up behind one's back on his bare feet. I set him to look for that fa_irectly I came in to justify my reappearance, my sudden return."
  • He paused and Mrs. Gould said, amiably, "You are always welcome." She pause_or a second, too. "But I am waiting to learn the cause of your return."
  • Decoud affected suddenly the utmost nonchalance.
  • "I can't bear to be spied upon. Oh, the cause? Yes, there is a cause; there i_omething else that is lost besides Antonia's favourite fan. As I was walkin_ome after seeing Don Jose and Antonia to their house, the Capataz d_argadores, riding down the street, spoke to me."
  • "Has anything happened to the Violas?" inquired Mrs. Gould.
  • "The Violas? You mean the old Garibaldino who keeps the hotel where th_ngineers live? Nothing happened there. The Capataz said nothing of them; h_nly told me that the telegraphist of the Cable Company was walking on th_laza, bareheaded, looking out for me. There is news from the interior, Mrs.
  • Gould. I should rather say rumours of news."
  • "Good news?" said Mrs. Gould in a low voice.
  • "Worthless, I should think. But if I must define them, I would say bad. The_re to the effect that a two days' battle had been fought near Sta. Marta, an_hat the Ribierists are defeated. It must have happened a few days ago—perhap_ week. The rumour has just reached Cayta, and the man in charge of the cabl_tation there has telegraphed the news to his colleague here. We might just a_ell have kept Barrios in Sulaco."
  • "What's to be done now?" murmured Mrs. Gould.
  • "Nothing. He's at sea with the troops. He will get to Cayta in a couple o_ays' time and learn the news there. What he will do then, who can say? Hol_ayta? Offer his submission to Montero? Disband his army—this last mos_ikely, and go himself in one of the O.S.N. Company's steamers, north o_outh—to Valparaiso or to San Francisco, no matter where. Our Barrios has _reat practice in exiles and repatriations, which mark the points in th_olitical game."
  • Decoud, exchanging a steady stare with Mrs. Gould, added, tentatively, as i_ere, "And yet, if we had could have been done."
  • "Montero victorious, completely victorious!" Mrs. Gould breathed out in a ton_f unbelief.
  • "A canard, probably. That sort of bird is hatched in great numbers in suc_imes as these. And even if it were true? Well, let us put things at thei_orst, let us say it is true."
  • "Then everything is lost," said Mrs. Gould, with the calmness of despair.
  • Suddenly she seemed to divine, she seemed to see Decoud's tremendou_xcitement under its cloak of studied carelessness. It was, indeed, becomin_isible in his audacious and watchful stare, in the curve, half-reckless, half-contemptuous, of his lips. And a French phrase came upon them as if, fo_his Costaguanero of the Boulevard, that had been the only forcible language—
  • "Non, Madame. Rien n'est perdu."
  • It electrified Mrs. Gould out of her benumbed attitude, and she said, vivaciously—
  • "What would you think of doing?"
  • But already there was something of mockery in Decoud's suppressed excitement.
  • "What would you expect a true Costaguanero to do? Another revolution, o_ourse. On my word of honour, Mrs. Gould, I believe I am a true hijo del pays, a true son of the country, whatever Father Corbelan may say. And I'm not s_uch of an unbeliever as not to have faith in my own ideas, in my ow_emedies, in my own desires."
  • "Yes," said Mrs. Gould, doubtfully.
  • "You don't seem convinced," Decoud went on again in French. "Say, then, in m_assions."
  • Mrs. Gould received this addition unflinchingly. To understand it thoroughl_he did not require to hear his muttered assurance—
  • "There is nothing I would not do for the sake of Antonia. There is nothing _m not prepared to undertake. There is no risk I am not ready to run."
  • Decoud seemed to find a fresh audacity in this voicing of his thoughts. "Yo_ould not believe me if I were to say that it is the love of the countr_hich—"
  • She made a sort of discouraged protest with her arm, as if to express that sh_ad given up expecting that motive from any one.
  • "A Sulaco revolution," Decoud pursued in a forcible undertone. "The Grea_ause may be served here, on the very spot of its inception, in the place o_ts birth, Mrs. Gould."
  • Frowning, and biting her lower lip thoughtfully, she made a step away from th_oor.
  • "You are not going to speak to your husband?" Decoud arrested her anxiously.
  • "But you will need his help?"
  • "No doubt," Decoud admitted without hesitation. "Everything turns upon the Sa_ome mine, but I would rather he didn't know anything as yet of my—my hopes."
  • A puzzled look came upon Mrs. Gould's face, and Decoud, approaching, explaine_onfidentially—
  • "Don't you see, he's such an idealist."
  • Mrs. Gould flushed pink, and her eyes grew darker at the same time.
  • "Charley an idealist!" she said, as if to herself, wonderingly. "What on eart_o you mean?"
  • "Yes," conceded Decoud, "it's a wonderful thing to say with the sight of th_an Tome mine, the greatest fact in the whole of South America, perhaps, before our very eyes. But look even at that, he has idealized this fact to _oint—" He paused. "Mrs. Gould, are you aware to what point he has idealize_he existence, the worth, the meaning of the San Tome mine? Are you aware o_t?"
  • He must have known what he was talking about.
  • The effect he expected was produced. Mrs. Gould, ready to take fire, gave i_p suddenly with a low little sound that resembled a moan.
  • "What do you know?" she asked in a feeble voice.
  • "Nothing," answered Decoud, firmly. "But, then, don't you see, he's a_nglishman?"
  • "Well, what of that?" asked Mrs. Gould.
  • "Simply that he cannot act or exist without idealizing every simple feeling, desire, or achievement. He could not believe his own motives if he did no_ake them first a part of some fairy tale. The earth is not quite good enoug_or him, I fear. Do you excuse my frankness? Besides, whether you excuse it o_ot, it is part of the truth of things which hurts the—what do you cal_hem?—the Anglo-Saxon's susceptibilities, and at the present moment I don'_eel as if I could treat seriously either his conception of things or—if yo_llow me to say so—or yet yours."
  • Mrs. Gould gave no sign of being offended. "I suppose Antonia understands yo_horoughly?"
  • "Understands? Well, yes. But I am not sure that she approves. That, however, makes no difference. I am honest enough to tell you that, Mrs. Gould."
  • "Your idea, of course, is separation," she said.
  • "Separation, of course," declared Martin. "Yes; separation of the whol_ccidental Province from the rest of the unquiet body. But my true idea, th_nly one I care for, is not to be separated from Antonia."
  • "And that is all?" asked Mrs. Gould, without severity.
  • "Absolutely. I am not deceiving myself about my motives. She won't leav_ulaco for my sake, therefore Sulaco must leave the rest of the Republic t_ts fate. Nothing could be clearer than that. I like a clearly define_ituation. I cannot part with Antonia, therefore the one and indivisibl_epublic of Costaguana must be made to part with its western province.
  • Fortunately it happens to be also a sound policy. The richest, the mos_ertile part of this land may be saved from anarchy. Personally, I car_ittle, very little; but it's a fact that the establishment of Montero i_ower would mean death to me. In all the proclamations of general pardon whic_ have seen, my name, with a few others, is specially excepted. The brother_ate me, as you know very well, Mrs. Gould; and behold, here is the rumour o_hem having won a battle. You say that supposing it is true, I have plenty o_ime to run away."
  • The slight, protesting murmur on the part of Mrs. Gould made him pause for _oment, while he looked at her with a sombre and resolute glance.
  • "Ah, but I would, Mrs. Gould. I would run away if it served that which a_resent is my only desire. I am courageous enough to say that, and to do it, too. But women, even our women, are idealists. It is Antonia that won't ru_way. A novel sort of vanity."
  • "You call it vanity," said Mrs. Gould, in a shocked voice.
  • "Say pride, then, which. Father Corbelan would tell you, is a mortal sin. Bu_ am not proud. I am simply too much in love to run away. At the same time _ant to live. There is no love for a dead man. Therefore it is necessary tha_ulaco should not recognize the victorious Montero."
  • "And you think my husband will give you his support?"
  • "I think he can be drawn into it, like all idealists, when he once sees _entimental basis for his action. But I wouldn't talk to him. Mere clear fact_on't appeal to his sentiment. It is much better for him to convince himsel_n his own way. And, frankly, I could not, perhaps, just now pay sufficien_espect to either his motives or even, perhaps, to yours, Mrs. Gould."
  • It was evident that Mrs. Gould was very determined not to be offended. Sh_miled vaguely, while she seemed to think the matter over. As far as she coul_udge from the girl's half-confidences, Antonia understood that young man.
  • Obviously there was promise of safety in his plan, or rather in his idea.
  • Moreover, right or wrong, the idea could do no harm. And it was quit_ossible, also, that the rumour was false.
  • "You have some sort of a plan," she said.
  • "Simplicity itself. Barrios has started, let him go on then; he will hol_ayta, which is the door of the sea route to Sulaco. They cannot send _ufficient force over the mountains. No; not even to cope with the band o_ernandez. Meantime we shall organize our resistance here. And for that, thi_ery Hernandez will be useful. He has defeated troops as a bandit; he will n_oubt accomplish the same thing if he is made a colonel or even a general. Yo_now the country well enough not to be shocked by what I say, Mrs. Gould. _ave heard you assert that this poor bandit was the living, breathing exampl_f cruelty, injustice, stupidity, and oppression, that ruin men's souls a_ell as their fortunes in this country. Well, there would be some poetica_etribution in that man arising to crush the evils which had driven an hones_anchero into a life of crime. A fine idea of retribution in that, isn'_here?"
  • Decoud had dropped easily into English, which he spoke with precision, ver_orrectly, but with too many z sounds.
  • "Think also of your hospitals, of your schools, of your ailing mothers an_eeble old men, of all that population which you and your husband have brough_nto the rocky gorge of San Tome. Are you not responsible to your conscienc_or all these people? Is it not worth while to make another effort, which i_ot at all so desperate as it looks, rather than—"
  • Decoud finished his thought with an upward toss of the arm, suggestin_nnihilation; and Mrs. Gould turned away her head with a look of horror.
  • "Why don't you say all this to my husband?" she asked, without looking a_ecoud, who stood watching the effect of his words.
  • "Ah! But Don Carlos is so English," he began. Mrs. Gould interrupted—
  • "Leave that alone, Don Martin. He's as much a Costaguanero—No! He's more of _ostaguanero than yourself."
  • "Sentimentalist, sentimentalist," Decoud almost cooed, in a tone of gentle an_oothing deference. "Sentimentalist, after the amazing manner of your people.
  • I have been watching El Rey de Sulaco since I came here on a fool's errand, and perhaps impelled by some treason of fate lurking behind the unaccountabl_urns of a man's life. But I don't matter, I am not a sentimentalist, I canno_ndow my personal desires with a shining robe of silk and jewels. Life is no_or me a moral romance derived from the tradition of a pretty fairy tale. No, Mrs. Gould; I am practical. I am not afraid of my motives. But, pardon me, _ave been rather carried away. What I wish to say is that I have bee_bserving. I won't tell you what I have discovered—"
  • "No. That is unnecessary," whispered Mrs. Gould, once more averting her head.
  • "It is. Except one little fact, that your husband does not like me. It's _mall matter, which, in the circumstances, seems to acquire a perfectl_idiculous importance. Ridiculous and immense; for, clearly, money is require_or my plan," he reflected; then added, meaningly, "and we have tw_entimentalists to deal with."
  • "I don't know that I understand you, Don Martin," said Mrs. Gould, coldly, preserving the low key of their conversation. "But, speaking as if I did, wh_s the other?"
  • "The great Holroyd in San Francisco, of course," Decoud whispered, lightly. "_hink you understand me very well. Women are idealists; but then they are s_erspicacious."
  • But whatever was the reason of that remark, disparaging and complimentary a_he same time, Mrs. Gould seemed not to pay attention to it. The name o_olroyd had given a new tone to her anxiety.
  • "The silver escort is coming down to the harbour tomorrow; a whole six months'
  • working, Don Martin!" she cried in dismay.
  • "Let it come down, then," breathed out Decoud, earnestly, almost into her ear.
  • "But if the rumour should get about, and especially if it turned out true, troubles might break out in the town," objected Mrs. Gould.
  • Decoud admitted that it was possible. He knew well the town children of th_ulaco Campo: sullen, thievish, vindictive, and bloodthirsty, whatever grea_ualities their brothers of the plain might have had. But then there was tha_ther sentimentalist, who attached a strangely idealistic meaning to concret_acts. This stream of silver must be kept flowing north to return in the for_f financial backing from the great house of Holroyd. Up at the mountain i_he strong room of the mine the silver bars were worth less for his purpos_han so much lead, from which at least bullets may be run. Let it come down t_he harbour, ready for shipment.
  • The next north-going steamer would carry it off for the very salvation of th_an Tome mine, which had produced so much treasure. And, moreover, the rumou_as probably false, he remarked, with much conviction in his hurried tone.
  • "Besides, senora," concluded Decoud, "we may suppress it for many days. I hav_een talking with the telegraphist in the middle of the Plaza Mayor; thus I a_ertain that we could not have been overheard. There was not even a bird i_he air near us. And also let me tell you something more. I have been makin_riends with this man called Nostromo, the Capataz. We had a conversation thi_ery evening, I walking by the side of his horse as he rode slowly out of th_own just now. He promised me that if a riot took place for any reason—eve_or the most political of reasons, you understand—his Cargadores, an importan_art of the populace, you will admit, should be found on the side of th_uropeans."
  • "He has promised you that?" Mrs. Gould inquired, with interest. "What made hi_ake that promise to you?"
  • "Upon my word, I don't know," declared Decoud, in a slightly surprised tone.
  • "He certainly promised me that, but now you ask me why, I could not tell yo_is reasons. He talked with his usual carelessness, which, if he had bee_nything else but a common sailor, I would call a pose or an affectation."
  • Decoud, interrupting himself, looked at Mrs. Gould curiously.
  • "Upon the whole," he continued, "I suppose he expects something to hi_dvantage from it. You mustn't forget that he does not exercise hi_xtraordinary power over the lower classes without a certain amount o_ersonal risk and without a great profusion in spending his money. One mus_ay in some way or other for such a solid thing as individual prestige. H_old me after we made friends at a dance, in a Posada kept by a Mexican jus_utside the walls, that he had come here to make his fortune. I suppose h_ooks upon his prestige as a sort of investment."
  • "Perhaps he prizes it for its own sake," Mrs. Gould said in a tone as if sh_ere repelling an undeserved aspersion. "Viola, the Garibaldino, with whom h_as lived for some years, calls him the Incorruptible."
  • "Ah! he belongs to the group of your proteges out there towards the harbour, Mrs. Gould. Muy bien. And Captain Mitchell calls him wonderful. I have hear_o end of tales of his strength, his audacity, his fidelity. No end of fin_hings. H'm! incorruptible! It is indeed a name of honour for the Capataz o_he Cargadores of Sulaco. Incorruptible! Fine, but vague. However, I suppos_e's sensible, too. And I talked to him upon that sane and practica_ssumption."
  • "I prefer to think him disinterested, and therefore trustworthy," Mrs. Goul_aid, with the nearest approach to curtness it was in her nature to assume.
  • "Well, if so, then the silver will be still more safe. Let it come down, senora. Let it come down, so that it may go north and return to us in th_hape of credit."
  • Mrs. Gould glanced along the corredor towards the door of her husband's room.
  • Decoud, watching her as if she had his fate in her hands, detected an almos_mperceptible nod of assent. He bowed with a smile, and, putting his hand int_he breast pocket of his coat, pulled out a fan of light feathers set upo_ainted leaves of sandal-wood. "I had it in my pocket," he murmured, triumphantly, "for a plausible pretext." He bowed again. "Good-night, senora."
  • Mrs. Gould continued along the corredor away from her husband's room. The fat_f the San Tome mine was lying heavy upon her heart. It was a long time no_ince she had begun to fear it. It had been an idea. She had watched it wit_isgivings turning into a fetish, and now the fetish had grown into _onstrous and crushing weight. It was as if the inspiration of their earl_ears had left her heart to turn into a wall of silver-bricks, erected by th_ilent work of evil spirits, between her and her husband. He seemed to dwel_lone within a circumvallation of precious metal, leaving her outside with he_chool, her hospital, the sick mothers and the feeble old men, mer_nsignificant vestiges of the initial inspiration. "Those poor people!" sh_urmured to herself.
  • Below she heard the voice of Martin Decoud in the patio speaking loudly:
  • "I have found Dona Antonia's fan, Basilio. Look, here it is!"