The declining sun had shifted the shadows from west to east amongst the house_f the town. It had shifted them upon the whole extent of the immense Campo,
with the white walls of its haciendas on the knolls dominating the gree_istances; with its grass-thatched ranches crouching in the folds of ground b_he banks of streams; with the dark islands of clustered trees on a clear se_f grass, and the precipitous range of the Cordillera, immense and motionless,
emerging from the billows of the lower forests like the barren coast of a lan_f giants. The sunset rays striking the snow-slope of Higuerota from afar gav_t an air of rosy youth, while the serrated mass of distant peaks remaine_lack, as if calcined in the fiery radiance. The undulating surface of th_orests seemed powdered with pale gold dust; and away there, beyond Rincon,
hidden from the town by two wooded spurs, the rocks of the San Tome gorge,
with the flat wall of the mountain itself crowned by gigantic ferns, took o_arm tones of brown and yellow, with red rusty streaks, and the dark gree_lumps of bushes rooted in crevices. From the plain the stamp sheds and th_ouses of the mine appeared dark and small, high up, like the nests of bird_lustered on the ledges of a cliff. The zigzag paths resembled faint tracing_cratched on the wall of a cyclopean blockhouse. To the two serenos of th_ine on patrol duty, strolling, carbine in hand, and watchful eyes, in th_hade of the trees lining the stream near the bridge, Don Pepe, descending th_ath from the upper plateau, appeared no bigger than a large beetle.
With his air of aimless, insect-like going to and fro upon the face of th_ock, Don Pepe's figure kept on descending steadily, and, when near th_ottom, sank at last behind the roofs of store-houses, forges, and workshops.
For a time the pair of serenos strolled back and forth before the bridge, o_hich they had stopped a horseman holding a large white envelope in his hand.
Then Don Pepe, emerging in the village street from amongst the houses, not _tone's throw from the frontier bridge, approached, striding in wide dar_rousers tucked into boots, a white linen jacket, sabre at his side, an_evolver at his belt. In this disturbed time nothing could find the Seno_obernador with his boots off, as the saying is.
At a slight nod from one of the serenos, the man, a messenger from the town,
dismounted, and crossed the bridge, leading his horse by the bridle.
Don Pepe received the letter from his other hand, slapped his left side an_is hips in succession, feeling for his spectacle case. After settling th_eavy silvermounted affair astride his nose, and adjusting it carefully behin_is ears, he opened the envelope, holding it up at about a foot in front o_is eyes. The paper he pulled out contained some three lines of writing. H_ooked at them for a long time. His grey moustache moved slightly up and down,
and the wrinkles, radiating at the corners of his eyes, ran together. H_odded serenely. "Bueno," he said. "There is no answer."
Then, in his quiet, kindly way, he engaged in a cautious conversation with th_an, who was willing to talk cheerily, as if something lucky had happened t_im recently. He had seen from a distance Sotillo's infantry camped along th_hore of the harbour on each side of the Custom House. They had done no damag_o the buildings. The foreigners of the railway remained shut up within th_ards. They were no longer anxious to shoot poor people. He cursed th_oreigners; then he reported Montero's entry and the rumours of the town. Th_oor were going to be made rich now. That was very good. More he did not know,
and, breaking into propitiatory smiles, he intimated that he was hungry an_hirsty. The old major directed him to go to the alcalde of the first village.
The man rode off, and Don Pepe, striding slowly in the direction of a littl_ooden belfry, looked over a hedge into a little garden, and saw Father Roma_itting in a white hammock slung between two orange trees in front of th_resbytery.
An enormous tamarind shaded with its dark foliage the whole white framehouse.
A young Indian girl with long hair, big eyes, and small hands and feet,
carried out a wooden chair, while a thin old woman, crabbed and vigilant,
watched her all the time from the verandah.
Don Pepe sat down in the chair and lighted a cigar; the priest drew in a_mmense quantity of snuff out of the hollow of his palm. On his reddish-brow_ace, worn, hollowed as if crumbled, the eyes, fresh and candid, sparkled lik_wo black diamonds.
Don Pepe, in a mild and humorous voice, informed Father Roman that Pedrit_ontero, by the hand of Senor Fuentes, had asked him on what terms he woul_urrender the mine in proper working order to a legally constituted commissio_f patriotic citizens, escorted by a small military force. The priest cast hi_yes up to heaven. However, Don Pepe continued, the mozo who brought th_etter said that Don Carlos Gould was alive, and so far unmolested.
Father Roman expressed in a few words his thankfulness at hearing of the Seno_dministrador's safety.
The hour of oration had gone by in the silvery ringing of a bell in the littl_elfry. The belt of forest closing the entrance of the valley stood like _creen between the low sun and the street of the village. At the other end o_he rocky gorge, between the walls of basalt and granite, a forest-cla_ountain, hiding all the range from the San Tome dwellers, rose steeply,
lighted up and leafy to the very top. Three small rosy clouds hung motionles_verhead in the great depth of blue. Knots of people sat in the street betwee_he wattled huts. Before the casa of the alcalde, the foremen of the night-
shift, already assembled to lead their men, squatted on the ground in a circl_f leather skull-caps, and, bowing their bronze backs, were passing round th_ourd of mate. The mozo from the town, having fastened his horse to a woode_ost before the door, was telling them the news of Sulaco as the blackene_ourd of the decoction passed from hand to hand. The grave alcalde himself, i_ white waistcloth and a flowered chintz gown with sleeves, open wide upon hi_aked stout person with an effect of a gaudy bathing robe, stood by, wearing _ough beaver hat at the back of his head, and grasping a tall staff with _ilver knob in his hand. These insignia of his dignity had been conferred upo_im by the Administration of the mine, the fountain of honour, of prosperity,
and peace. He had been one of the first immigrants into this valley; his son_nd sons-in-law worked within the mountain which seemed with its treasures t_our down the thundering ore shoots of the upper mesa, the gifts of well-
being, security, and justice upon the toilers. He listened to the news fro_he town with curiosity and indifference, as if concerning another world tha_is own. And it was true that they appeared to him so. In a very few years th_ense of belonging to a powerful organization had been developed in thes_arassed, half-wild Indians. They were proud of, and attached to, the mine. I_ad secured their confidence and belief. They invested it with a protectin_nd invincible virtue as though it were a fetish made by their own hands, fo_hey were ignorant, and in other respects did not differ appreciably from th_est of mankind which puts infinite trust in its own creations. It neve_ntered the alcalde's head that the mine could fail in its protection an_orce. Politics were good enough for the people of the town and the Campo. Hi_ellow, round face, with wide nostrils, and motionless in expression,
resembled a fierce full moon. He listened to the excited vapourings of th_ozo without misgivings, without surprise, without any active sentimen_hatever.
Padre Roman sat dejectedly balancing himself, his feet just touching th_round, his hands gripping the edge of the hammock. With less confidence, bu_s ignorant as his flock, he asked the major what did he think was going t_appen now.
Don Pepe, bolt upright in the chair, folded his hands peacefully on the hil_f his sword, standing perpendicular between his thighs, and answered that h_id not know. The mine could be defended against any force likely to be sen_o take possession. On the other hand, from the arid character of the valley,
when the regular supplies from the Campo had been cut off, the population o_he three villages could be starved into submission. Don Pepe exposed thes_ontingencies with serenity to Father Roman, who, as an old campaigner, wa_ble to understand the reasoning of a military man. They talked wit_implicity and directness. Father Roman was saddened at the idea of his floc_eing scattered or else enslaved. He had no illusions as to their fate, no_rom penetration, but from long experience of political atrocities, whic_eemed to him fatal and unavoidable in the life of a State. The working of th_sual public institutions presented itself to him most distinctly as a serie_f calamities overtaking private individuals and flowing logically from eac_ther through hate, revenge, folly, and rapacity, as though they had been par_f a divine dispensation. Father Roman's clear-sightedness was served by a_ninformed intelligence; but his heart, preserving its tenderness amongs_cenes of carnage, spoliation, and violence, abhorred these calamities th_ore as his association with the victims was closer. He entertained toward_he Indians of the valley feelings of paternal scorn. He had been marrying,
baptizing, confessing, absolving, and burying the workers of the San Tome min_ith dignity and unction for five years or more; and he believed in th_acredness of these ministrations, which made them his own in a spiritua_ense. They were dear to his sacerdotal supremacy. Mrs. Gould's earnes_nterest in the concerns of these people enhanced their importance in th_riest's eyes, because it really augmented his own. When talking over with he_he innumerable Marias and Brigidas of the villages, he felt his own humanit_xpand. Padre Roman was incapable of fanaticism to an almost reprehensibl_egree. The English senora was evidently a heretic; but at the same time sh_eemed to him wonderful and angelic. Whenever that confused state of hi_eelings occurred to him, while strolling, for instance, his breviary unde_is arm, in the wide shade of the tamarind, he would stop short to inhale wit_ strong snuffling noise a large quantity of snuff, and shake his hea_rofoundly. At the thought of what might befall the illustrious senor_resently, he became gradually overcome with dismay. He voiced it in a_gitated murmur. Even Don Pepe lost his serenity for a moment. He leane_orward stiffly.
"Listen, Padre. The very fact that those thieving macaques in Sulaco ar_rying to find out the price of my honour proves that Senor Don Carlos and al_n the Casa Gould are safe. As to my honour, that also is safe, as every man,
woman, and child knows. But the negro Liberals who have snatched the town b_urprise do not know that. Bueno. Let them sit and wait. While they wait the_an do no harm."
And he regained his composure. He regained it easily, because whateve_appened his honour of an old officer of Paez was safe. He had promise_harles Gould that at the approach of an armed force he would defend the gorg_ust long enough to give himself time to destroy scientifically the whol_lant, buildings, and workshops of the mine with heavy charges of dynamite;
block with ruins the main tunnel, break down the pathways, blow up the dam o_he water-power, shatter the famous Gould Concession into fragments, flyin_ky high out of a horrified world. The mine had got hold of Charles Gould wit_ grip as deadly as ever it had laid upon his father. But this extrem_esolution had seemed to Don Pepe the most natural thing in the world. Hi_easures had been taken with judgment. Everything was prepared with a carefu_ompleteness. And Don Pepe folded his hands pacifically on his sword hilt, an_odded at the priest. In his excitement, Father Roman had flung snuff i_andfuls at his face, and, all besmeared with tobacco, round-eyed, and besid_imself, had got out of the hammock to walk about, uttering exclamations.
Don Pepe stroked his grey and pendant moustache, whose fine ends hung fa_elow the clean-cut line of his jaw, and spoke with a conscious pride in hi_eputation.
"So, Padre, I don't know what will happen. But I know that as long as I a_ere Don Carlos can speak to that macaque, Pedrito Montero, and threaten th_estruction of the mine with perfect assurance that he will be take_eriously. For people know me."
He began to turn the cigar in his lips a little nervously, and went on—
"But that is talk—good for the politicos. I am a military man. I do not kno_hat may happen. But I know what ought to be done—the mine should march upo_he town with guns, axes, knives tied up to sticks—por Dios. That is wha_hould be done. Only—"
His folded hands twitched on the hilt. The cigar turned faster in the corne_f his lips.
"And who should lead but I? Unfortunately—observe—I have given my word o_onour to Don Carlos not to let the mine fall into the hands of these thieves.
In war—you know this, Padre—the fate of battles is uncertain, and whom could _eave here to act for me in case of defeat? The explosives are ready. But i_ould require a man of high honour, of intelligence, of judgment, of courage,
to carry out the prepared destruction. Somebody I can trust with my honour a_ can trust myself. Another old officer of Paez, for instance. Or—or—perhap_ne of Paez's old chaplains would do."
He got up, long, lank, upright, hard, with his martial moustache and the bon_tructure of his face, from which the glance of the sunken eyes seemed t_ransfix the priest, who stood still, an empty wooden snuff-box held upsid_own in his hand, and glared back, speechless, at the governor of the mine.