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Chapter 9

  • Distracted between doubts and hopes, dismayed by the sound of bells pealin_ut the arrival of Pedrito Montero, Sotillo had spent the morning in battlin_ith his thoughts; a contest to which he was unequal, from the vacuity of hi_ind and the violence of his passions. Disappointment, greed, anger, and fea_ade a tumult, in the colonel's breast louder than the din of bells in th_own. Nothing he had planned had come to pass. Neither Sulaco nor the silve_f the mine had fallen into his hands. He had performed no military exploit t_ecure his position, and had obtained no enormous booty to make off with.
  • Pedrito Montero, either as friend or foe, filled him with dread. The sound o_ells maddened him.
  • Imagining at first that he might be attacked at once, he had made hi_attalion stand to arms on the shore. He walked to and fro all the length o_he room, stopping sometimes to gnaw the finger-tips of his right hand with _urid sideways glare fixed on the floor; then, with a sullen, repelling glanc_ll round, he would resume his tramping in savage aloofness. His hat, horsewhip, sword, and revolver were lying on the table. His officers, crowdin_he window giving the view of the town gate, disputed amongst themselves th_se of his field-glass bought last year on long credit from Anzani. It passe_rom hand to hand, and the possessor for the time being was besieged b_nxious inquiries.
  • "There is nothing; there is nothing to see!" he would repeat impatiently.
  • There was nothing. And when the picket in the bushes near the Casa Viola ha_een ordered to fall back upon the main body, no stir of life appeared on th_tretch of dusty and arid land between the town and the waters of the port.
  • But late in the afternoon a horseman issuing from the gate was made out ridin_p fearlessly. It was an emissary from Senor Fuentes. Being all alone he wa_llowed to come on. Dismounting at the great door he greeted the silen_ystanders with cheery impudence, and begged to be taken up at once to the
  • "muy valliente" colonel.
  • Senor Fuentes, on entering upon his functions of Gefe Politico, had turned hi_iplomatic abilities to getting hold of the harbour as well as of the mine.
  • The man he pitched upon to negotiate with Sotillo was a Notary Public, who_he revolution had found languishing in the common jail on a charge of forgin_ocuments. Liberated by the mob along with the other "victims of Blanc_yranny," he had hastened to offer his services to the new Government.
  • He set out determined to display much zeal and eloquence in trying to induc_otillo to come into town alone for a conference with Pedrito Montero. Nothin_as further from the colonel's intentions. The mere fleeting idea of trustin_imself into the famous Pedrito's hands had made him feel unwell severa_imes. It was out of the question—it was madness. And to put himself in ope_ostility was madness, too. It would render impossible a systematic search fo_hat treasure, for that wealth of silver which he seemed to feel somewher_bout, to scent somewhere near.
  • But where? Where? Heavens! Where? Oh! why had he allowed that doctor to go!
  • Imbecile that he was. But no! It was the only right course, he reflecte_istractedly, while the messenger waited downstairs chatting agreeably to th_fficers. It was in that scoundrelly doctor's true interest to return wit_ositive information. But what if anything stopped him? A general prohibitio_o leave the town, for instance! There would be patrols!
  • The colonel, seizing his head in his hands, turned in his tracks as if struc_ith vertigo. A flash of craven inspiration suggested to him an expedient no_nknown to European statesmen when they wish to delay a difficult negotiation.
  • Booted and spurred, he scrambled into the hammock with undignified haste. Hi_andsome face had turned yellow with the strain of weighty cares. The ridge o_is shapely nose had grown sharp; the audacious nostrils appeared mean an_inched. The velvety, caressing glance of his fine eyes seemed dead, and eve_ecomposed; for these almond-shaped, languishing orbs had becom_nappropriately bloodshot with much sinister sleeplessness. He addressed th_urprised envoy of Senor Fuentes in a deadened, exhausted voice. It cam_athetically feeble from under a pile of ponchos, which buried his elegan_erson right up to the black moustaches, uncurled, pendant, in sign of bodil_rostration and mental incapacity. Fever, fever—a heavy fever had overtake_he "muy valliente" colonel. A wavering wildness of expression, caused by th_assing spasms of a slight colic which had declared itself suddenly, and th_attling teeth of repressed panic, had a genuineness which impressed th_nvoy. It was a cold fit. The colonel explained that he was unable to think, to listen, to speak. With an appearance of superhuman effort the colone_asped out that he was not in a state to return a suitable reply or to execut_ny of his Excellency's orders. But to-morrow! To-morrow! Ah! to-morrow! Le_is Excellency Don Pedro be without uneasiness. The brave Esmeralda Regimen_eld the harbour, held—And closing his eyes, he rolled his aching head like _alf-delirious invalid under the inquisitive stare of the envoy, who wa_bliged to bend down over the hammock in order to catch the painful and broke_ccents. Meantime, Colonel Sotillo trusted that his Excellency's humanit_ould permit the doctor, the English doctor, to come out of town with his cas_f foreign remedies to attend upon him. He begged anxiously his worship th_aballero now present for the grace of looking in as he passed the Casa Gould, and informing the English doctor, who was probably there, that his service_ere immediately required by Colonel Sotillo, lying ill of fever in the Custo_ouse. Immediately. Most urgently required. Awaited with extreme impatience. _housand thanks. He closed his eyes wearily and would not open them again, lying perfectly still, deaf, dumb, insensible, overcome, vanquished, crushed, annihilated by the fell disease.
  • But as soon as the other had shut after him the door of the landing, th_olonel leaped out with a fling of both feet in an avalanche of woolle_overings. His spurs having become entangled in a perfect welter of ponchos h_early pitched on his head, and did not recover his balance till the middle o_he room. Concealed behind the half-closed jalousies he listened to what wen_n below.
  • The envoy had already mounted, and turning to the morose officers occupyin_he great doorway, took off his hat formally.
  • "Caballeros," he said, in a very loud tone, "allow me to recommend you to tak_reat care of your colonel. It has done me much honour and gratification t_ave seen you all, a fine body of men exercising the soldierly virtue o_atience in this exposed situation, where there is much sun, and no water t_peak of, while a town full of wine and feminine charms is ready to embrac_ou for the brave men you are. Caballeros, I have the honour to salute you.
  • There will be much dancing to-night in Sulaco. Good-bye!"
  • But he reined in his horse and inclined his head sideways on seeing the ol_ajor step out, very tall and meagre, in a straight narrow coat coming down t_is ankles as it were the casing of the regimental colours rolled round thei_taff.
  • The intelligent old warrior, after enunciating in a dogmatic tone the genera_roposition that the "world was full of traitors," went on pronouncin_eliberately a panegyric upon Sotillo. He ascribed to him with leisurel_mphasis every virtue under heaven, summing it all up in an absur_olloquialism current amongst the lower class of Occidentals (especially abou_smeralda). "And," he concluded, with a sudden rise in the voice, "a man o_any teeth—'hombre de muchos dientes.' Si, senor. As to us," he pursued, portentous and impressive, "your worship is beholding the finest body o_fficers in the Republic, men unequalled for valour and sagacity, 'y hombre_e muchos dientes.'"
  • "What? All of them?" inquired the disreputable envoy of Senor Fuentes, with _aint, derisive smile.
  • "Todos. Si, senor," the major affirmed, gravely, with conviction. "Men of man_eeth."
  • The other wheeled his horse to face the portal resembling the high gate of _ismal barn. He raised himself in his stirrups, extended one arm. He was _acetious scoundrel, entertaining for these stupid Occidentals a feeling o_reat scorn natural in a native from the central provinces. The folly o_smeraldians especially aroused his amused contempt. He began an oration upo_edro Montero, keeping a solemn countenance. He flourished his hand as i_ntroducing him to their notice. And when he saw every face set, all the eye_ixed upon his lips, he began to shout a sort of catalogue of perfections:
  • "Generous, valorous, affable, profound"—(he snatched off his ha_nthusiastically)—"a statesman, an invincible chief of partisans—" He droppe_is voice startlingly to a deep, hollow note—"and a dentist."
  • He was off instantly at a smart walk; the rigid straddle of his legs, th_urned-out feet, the stiff back, the rakish slant of the sombrero above th_quare, motionless set of the shoulders expressing an infinite, awe-inspirin_mpudence.
  • Upstairs, behind the jalousies, Sotillo did not move for a long time. Th_udacity of the fellow appalled him. What were his officers saying below? The_ere saying nothing. Complete silence. He quaked. It was not thus that he ha_magined himself at that stage of the expedition. He had seen himsel_riumphant, unquestioned, appeased, the idol of the soldiers, weighing i_ecret complacency the agreeable alternatives of power and wealth open to hi_hoice. Alas! How different! Distracted, restless, supine, burning with fury, or frozen with terror, he felt a dread as fathomless as the sea creep upon hi_rom every side. That rogue of a doctor had to come out with his information.
  • That was clear. It would be of no use to him—alone. He could do nothing wit_t. Malediction! The doctor would never come out. He was probably under arres_lready, shut up together with Don Carlos. He laughed aloud insanely. Ha! ha!
  • ha! ha! It was Pedrito Montero who would get the information. Ha! ha! ha!
  • ha!—and the silver. Ha!
  • All at once, in the midst of the laugh, he became motionless and silent as i_urned into stone. He too, had a prisoner. A prisoner who must, must know th_eal truth. He would have to be made to speak. And Sotillo, who all that tim_ad not quite forgotten Hirsch, felt an inexplicable reluctance at the notio_f proceeding to extremities.
  • He felt a reluctance—part of that unfathomable dread that crept on all side_pon him. He remembered reluctantly, too, the dilated eyes of the hid_erchant, his contortions, his loud sobs and protestations. It was no_ompassion or even mere nervous sensibility. The fact was that though Sotill_id never for a moment believe his story—he could not believe it; nobody coul_elieve such nonsense—yet those accents of despairing truth impressed hi_isagreeably. They made him feel sick. And he suspected also that the ma_ight have gone mad with fear. A lunatic is a hopeless subject. Bah! _retence. Nothing but a pretence. He would know how to deal with that.
  • He was working himself up to the right pitch of ferocity. His fine eye_quinted slightly; he clapped his hands; a bare-footed orderly appeare_oiselessly, a corporal, with his bayonet hanging on his thigh and a stick i_is hand.
  • The colonel gave his orders, and presently the miserable Hirsch, pushed in b_everal soldiers, found him frowning awfully in a broad armchair, hat on head, knees wide apart, arms akimbo, masterful, imposing, irresistible, haughty, sublime, terrible.
  • Hirsch, with his arms tied behind his back, had been bundled violently int_ne of the smaller rooms. For many hours he remained apparently forgotten, stretched lifelessly on the floor. From that solitude, full of despair an_error, he was torn out brutally, with kicks and blows, passive, sunk i_ebetude. He listened to threats and admonitions, and afterwards made hi_sual answers to questions, with his chin sunk on his breast, his hands tie_ehind his back, swaying a little in front of Sotillo, and never looking up.
  • When he was forced to hold up his head, by means of a bayonet-point proddin_im under the chin, his eyes had a vacant, trance-like stare, and drops o_erspiration as big as peas were seen hailing down the dirt, bruises, an_cratches of his white face. Then they stopped suddenly.
  • Sotillo looked at him in silence. "Will you depart from your obstinacy, yo_ogue?" he asked. Already a rope, whose one end was fastened to Senor Hirsch'_rists, had been thrown over a beam, and three soldiers held the other end, waiting. He made no answer. His heavy lower lip hung stupidly. Sotillo made _ign. Hirsch was jerked up off his feet, and a yell of despair and agony burs_ut in the room, filled the passage of the great buildings, rent the ai_utside, caused every soldier of the camp along the shore to look up at th_indows, started some of the officers in the hall babbling excitedly, wit_hining eyes; others, setting their lips, looked gloomily at the floor.
  • Sotillo, followed by the soldiers, had left the room. The sentry on th_anding presented arms. Hirsch went on screaming all alone behind the half- closed jalousies while the sunshine, reflected from the water of the harbour, made an ever-running ripple of light high up on the wall. He screamed wit_plifted eyebrows and a wide-open mouth—incredibly wide, black, enormous, ful_f teeth—comical.
  • In the still burning air of the windless afternoon he made the waves of hi_gony travel as far as the O. S. N. Company's offices. Captain Mitchell on th_alcony, trying to make out what went on generally, had heard him faintly bu_istinctly, and the feeble and appalling sound lingered in his ears after h_ad retreated indoors with blanched cheeks. He had been driven off the balcon_everal times during that afternoon.
  • Sotillo, irritable, moody, walked restlessly about, held consultations wit_is officers, gave contradictory orders in this shrill clamour pervading th_hole empty edifice. Sometimes there would be long and awful silences. Severa_imes he had entered the torture-chamber where his sword, horsewhip, revolver, and field-glass were lying on the table, to ask with forced calmness, "Wil_ou speak the truth now? No? I can wait." But he could not afford to wait muc_onger. That was just it. Every time he went in and came out with a slam o_he door, the sentry on the landing presented arms, and got in return a black, venomous, unsteady glance, which, in reality, saw nothing at all, being merel_he reflection of the soul within—a soul of gloomy hatred, irresolution, avarice, and fury.
  • The sun had set when he went in once more. A soldier carried in two lighte_andles and slunk out, shutting the door without noise.
  • "Speak, thou Jewish child of the devil! The silver! The silver, I say! Wher_s it? Where have you foreign rogues hidden it? Confess or—"
  • A slight quiver passed up the taut rope from the racked limbs, but the body o_enor Hirsch, enterprising business man from Esmeralda, hung under the heav_eam perpendicular and silent, facing the colonel awfully. The inflow of th_ight air, cooled by the snows of the Sierra, spread gradually a deliciou_reshness through the close heat of the room.
  • "Speak—thief—scoundrel—picaro—or—"
  • Sotillo had seized the riding-whip, and stood with his arm lifted up. For _ord, for one little word, he felt he would have knelt, cringed, grovelled o_he floor before the drowsy, conscious stare of those fixed eyeballs startin_ut of the grimy, dishevelled head that drooped very still with its mout_losed askew. The colonel ground his teeth with rage and struck. The rop_ibrated leisurely to the blow, like the long string of a pendulum startin_rom a rest. But no swinging motion was imparted to the body of Senor Hirsch, the well-known hide merchant on the coast. With a convulsive effort of th_wisted arms it leaped up a few inches, curling upon itself like a fish on th_nd of a line. Senor Hirsch's head was flung back on his straining throat; hi_hin trembled. For a moment the rattle of his chattering teeth pervaded th_ast, shadowy room, where the candles made a patch of light round the tw_lames burning side by side. And as Sotillo, staying his raised hand, waite_or him to speak, with the sudden flash of a grin and a straining forward o_he wrenched shoulders, he spat violently into his face.
  • The uplifted whip fell, and the colonel sprang back with a low cry of dismay, as if aspersed by a jet of deadly venom. Quick as thought he snatched up hi_evolver, and fired twice. The report and the concussion of the shots seeme_o throw him at once from ungovernable rage into idiotic stupor. He stood wit_rooping jaw and stony eyes. What had he done, Sangre de Dios! What had h_one? He was basely appalled at his impulsive act, sealing for ever these lip_rom which so much was to be extorted. What could he say? How could h_xplain? Ideas of headlong flight somewhere, anywhere, passed through hi_ind; even the craven and absurd notion of hiding under the table occurred t_is cowardice. It was too late; his officers had rushed in tumultuously, in _reat clatter of scabbards, clamouring, with astonishment and wonder. Bu_ince they did not immediately proceed to plunge their swords into his breast, the brazen side of his character asserted itself. Passing the sleeve of hi_niform over his face he pulled himself together, His truculent glance turne_lowly here and there, checked the noise where it fell; and the stiff body o_he late Senor Hirsch, merchant, after swaying imperceptibly, made a hal_urn, and came to a rest in the midst of awed murmurs and uneasy shuffling.
  • A voice remarked loudly, "Behold a man who will never speak again." An_nother, from the back row of faces, timid and pressing, cried out—
  • "Why did you kill him, mi colonel?"
  • "Because he has confessed everything," answered Sotillo, with the hardihood o_esperation. He felt himself cornered. He brazened it out on the strength o_is reputation with very fair success. His hearers thought him very capable o_uch an act. They were disposed to believe his flattering tale. There is n_redulity so eager and blind as the credulity of covetousness, which, in it_niversal extent, measures the moral misery and the intellectual destitutio_f mankind. Ah! he had confessed everything, this fractious Jew, this bribon.
  • Good! Then he was no longer wanted. A sudden dense guffaw was heard from th_enior captain—a big-headed man, with little round eyes and monstrously fa_heeks which never moved. The old major, tall and fantastically ragged like _carecrow, walked round the body of the late Senor Hirsch, muttering t_imself with ineffable complacency that like this there was no need to guar_gainst any future treacheries of that scoundrel. The others stared, shiftin_rom foot to foot, and whispering short remarks to each other.
  • Sotillo buckled on his sword and gave curt, peremptory orders to hasten th_etirement decided upon in the afternoon. Sinister, impressive, his sombrer_ulled right down upon his eyebrows, he marched first through the door in suc_isorder of mind that he forgot utterly to provide for Dr. Monygham's possibl_eturn. As the officers trooped out after him, one or two looked back hastil_t the late Senor Hirsch, merchant from Esmeralda, left swinging rigidly a_est, alone with the two burning candles. In the emptiness of the room th_urly shadow of head and shoulders on the wall had an air of life.
  • Below, the troops fell in silently and moved off by companies without drum o_rumpet. The old scarecrow major commanded the rearguard; but the party h_eft behind with orders to fire the Custom House (and "burn the carcass of th_reacherous Jew where it hung") failed somehow in their haste to set th_taircase properly alight. The body of the late Senor Hirsch dwelt alone for _ime in the dismal solitude of the unfinished building, resounding weirdl_ith sudden slams and clicks of doors and latches, with rustling scurries o_orn papers, and the tremulous sighs that at each gust of wind passed unde_he high roof. The light of the two candles burning before the perpendicula_nd breathless immobility of the late Senor Hirsch threw a gleam afar ove_and and water, like a signal in the night. He remained to startle Nostromo b_is presence, and to puzzle Dr. Monygham by the mystery of his atrocious end.
  • "But why shot?" the doctor again asked himself, audibly. This time he wa_nswered by a dry laugh from Nostromo.
  • "You seem much concerned at a very natural thing, senor doctor. I wonder why?
  • It is very likely that before long we shall all get shot one after another, i_ot by Sotillo, then by Pedrito, or Fuentes, or Gamacho. And we may even ge_he estrapade, too, or worse—quien sabe?—with your pretty tale of the silve_ou put into Sotillo's head."
  • "It was in his head already," the doctor protested. "I only—"
  • "Yes. And you only nailed it there so that the devil himself—"
  • "That is precisely what I meant to do," caught up the doctor.
  • "That is what you meant to do. Bueno. It is as I say. You are a dangerou_an."
  • Their voices, which without rising had been growing quarrelsome, cease_uddenly. The late Senor Hirsch, erect and shadowy against the stars, seeme_o be waiting attentive, in impartial silence.
  • But Dr. Monygham had no mind to quarrel with Nostromo. At this supremel_ritical point of Sulaco's fortunes it was borne upon him at last that thi_an was really indispensable, more indispensable than ever the infatuation o_aptain Mitchell, his proud discoverer, could conceive; far beyond wha_ecoud's best dry raillery about "my illustrious friend, the unique Capataz d_argadores," had ever intended. The fellow was unique. He was not "one in _housand." He was absolutely the only one. The doctor surrendered. There wa_omething in the genius of that Genoese seaman which dominated the destinie_f great enterprises and of many people, the fortunes of Charles Gould, th_ate of an admirable woman. At this last thought the doctor had to clear hi_hroat before he could speak.
  • In a completely changed tone he pointed out to the Capataz that, to begi_ith, he personally ran no great risk. As far as everybody knew he was dead.
  • It was an enormous advantage. He had only to keep out of sight in the Cas_iola, where the old Garibaldino was known to be alone—with his dead wife. Th_ervants had all run away. No one would think of searching for him there, o_nywhere else on earth, for that matter.
  • "That would be very true," Nostromo spoke up, bitterly, "if I had not me_ou."
  • For a time the doctor kept silent. "Do you mean to say that you think I ma_ive you away?" he asked in an unsteady voice. "Why? Why should I do that?"
  • "What do I know? Why not? To gain a day perhaps. It would take Sotillo a da_o give me the estrapade, and try some other things perhaps, before he puts _ullet through my heart—as he did to that poor wretch here. Why not?"
  • The doctor swallowed with difficulty. His throat had gone dry in a moment. I_as not from indignation. The doctor, pathetically enough, believed that h_ad forfeited the right to be indignant with any one—for anything. It wa_imple dread. Had the fellow heard his story by some chance? If so, there wa_n end of his usefulness in that direction. The indispensable man escaped hi_nfluence, because of that indelible blot which made him fit for dirty work. _eeling as of sickness came upon the doctor. He would have given anything t_now, but he dared not clear up the point. The fanaticism of his devotion, fe_n the sense of his abasement, hardened his heart in sadness and scorn.
  • "Why not, indeed?" he reechoed, sardonically. "Then the safe thing for you i_o kill me on the spot. I would defend myself. But you may just as well know _m going about unarmed."
  • "Por Dios!" said the Capataz, passionately. "You fine people are all alike.
  • All dangerous. All betrayers of the poor who are your dogs."
  • "You do not understand," began the doctor, slowly.
  • "I understand you all!" cried the other with a violent movement, as shadowy t_he doctor's eyes as the persistent immobility of the late Senor Hirsch. "_oor man amongst you has got to look after himself. I say that you do not car_or those that serve you. Look at me! After all these years, suddenly, here _ind myself like one of these curs that bark outside the walls—without _ennel or a dry bone for my teeth. Caramba!" But he relented with _ontemptuous fairness. "Of course," he went on, quietly, "I do not suppos_hat you would hasten to give me up to Sotillo, for example. It is not that.
  • It is that I am nothing! Suddenly—" He swung his arm downwards. "Nothing t_ny one," he repeated.
  • The doctor breathed freely. "Listen, Capataz," he said, stretching out his ar_lmost affectionately towards Nostromo's shoulder. "I am going to tell you _ery simple thing. You are safe because you are needed. I would not give yo_way for any conceivable reason, because I want you."
  • In the dark Nostromo bit his lip. He had heard enough of that. He knew wha_hat meant. No more of that for him. But he had to look after himself now, h_hought. And he thought, too, that it would not be prudent to part in ange_rom his companion. The doctor, admitted to be a great healer, had, amongs_he populace of Sulaco, the reputation of being an evil sort of man. It wa_ased solidly on his personal appearance, which was strange, and on his roug_ronic manner—proofs visible, sensible, and incontrovertible of the doctor'_alevolent disposition. And Nostromo was of the people. So he only grunte_ncredulously.
  • "You, to speak plainly, are the only man," the doctor pursued. "It is in you_ower to save this town and … everybody from the destructive rapacity of me_ho—"
  • "No, senor," said Nostromo, sullenly. "It is not in my power to get th_reasure back for you to give up to Sotillo, or Pedrito, or Gamacho. What do _now?"
  • "Nobody expects the impossible," was the answer.
  • "You have said it yourself—nobody," muttered Nostromo, in a gloomy, threatening tone.
  • But Dr. Monygham, full of hope, disregarded the enigmatic words and th_hreatening tone. To their eyes, accustomed to obscurity, the late Seno_irsch, growing more distinct, seemed to have come nearer. And the docto_owered his voice in exposing his scheme as though afraid of being overheard.
  • He was taking the indispensable man into his fullest confidence. Its implie_lattery and suggestion of great risks came with a familiar sound to th_apataz. His mind, floating in irresolution and discontent, recognized it wit_itterness. He understood well that the doctor was anxious to save the Sa_ome mine from annihilation. He would be nothing without it. It was hi_nterest. Just as it had been the interest of Senor Decoud, of the Blancos, and of the Europeans to get his Cargadores on their side. His thought becam_rrested upon Decoud. What would happen to him?
  • Nostromo's prolonged silence made the doctor uneasy. He pointed out, quit_nnecessarily, that though for the present he was safe, he could not liv_oncealed for ever. The choice was between accepting the mission to Barrios, with all its dangers and difficulties, and leaving Sulaco by stealth, ingloriously, in poverty.
  • "None of your friends could reward you and protect you just now, Capataz. No_ven Don Carlos himself."
  • "I would have none of your protection and none of your rewards. I only wish _ould trust your courage and your sense. When I return in triumph, as you say, with Barrios, I may find you all destroyed. You have the knife at your throa_ow."
  • It was the doctor's turn to remain silent in the contemplation of horribl_ontingencies.
  • "Well, we would trust your courage and your sense. And you, too, have a knif_t your throat."
  • "Ah! And whom am I to thank for that? What are your politics and your mines t_e—your silver and your constitutions—your Don Carlos this, and Don Jos_hat—"
  • "I don't know," burst out the exasperated doctor. "There are innocent peopl_n danger whose little finger is worth more than you or I and all th_ibierists together. I don't know. You should have asked yourself before yo_llowed Decoud to lead you into all this. It was your place to think like _an; but if you did not think then, try to act like a man now. Did you imagin_ecoud cared very much for what would happen to you?"
  • "No more than you care for what will happen to me," muttered the other.
  • "No; I care for what will happen to you as little as I care for what wil_appen to myself."
  • "And all this because you are such a devoted Ribierist?" Nostromo said in a_ncredulous tone.
  • "All this because I am such a devoted Ribierist," repeated Dr. Monygham, grimly.
  • Again Nostromo, gazing abstractedly at the body of the late Senor Hirsch, remained silent, thinking that the doctor was a dangerous person in more tha_ne sense. It was impossible to trust him.
  • "Do you speak in the name of Don Carlos?" he asked at last.
  • "Yes. I do," the doctor said, loudly, without hesitation. "He must com_orward now. He must," he added in a mutter, which Nostromo did not catch.
  • "What did you say, senor?"
  • The doctor started. "I say that you must be true to yourself, Capataz. I_ould be worse than folly to fail now."
  • "True to myself," repeated Nostromo. "How do you know that I would not be tru_o myself if I told you to go to the devil with your propositions?"
  • "I do not know. Maybe you would," the doctor said, with a roughness of ton_ntended to hide the sinking of his heart and the faltering of his voice. "Al_ know is, that you had better get away from here. Some of Sotillo's men ma_urn up here looking for me."
  • He slipped off the table, listening intently. The Capataz, too, stood up.
  • "Suppose I went to Cayta, what would you do meantime?" he asked.
  • "I would go to Sotillo directly you had left—in the way I am thinking of."
  • "A very good way—if only that engineer-in-chief consents. Remind him, senor, that I looked after the old rich Englishman who pays for the railway, and tha_ saved the lives of some of his people that time when a gang of thieves cam_rom the south to wreck one of his pay-trains. It was I who discovered it al_t the risk of my life, by pretending to enter into their plans. Just as yo_re doing with Sotillo."
  • "Yes. Yes, of course. But I can offer him better arguments," the doctor said, hastily. "Leave it to me."
  • "Ah, yes! True. I am nothing."
  • "Not at all. You are everything."
  • They moved a few paces towards the door. Behind them the late Senor Hirsc_reserved the immobility of a disregarded man.
  • "That will be all right. I know what to say to the engineer," pursued th_octor, in a low tone. "My difficulty will be with Sotillo."
  • And Dr. Monygham stopped short in the doorway as if intimidated by th_ifficulty. He had made the sacrifice of his life. He considered this _itting opportunity. But he did not want to throw his life away too soon. I_is quality of betrayer of Don Carlos' confidence, he would have ultimately t_ndicate the hiding-place of the treasure. That would be the end of hi_eception, and the end of himself as well, at the hands of the infuriate_olonel. He wanted to delay him to the very last moment; and he had bee_acking his brains to invent some place of concealment at once plausible an_ifficult of access.
  • He imparted his trouble to Nostromo, and concluded—
  • "Do you know what, Capataz? I think that when the time comes and som_nformation must be given, I shall indicate the Great Isabel. That is the bes_lace I can think of. What is the matter?"
  • A low exclamation had escaped Nostromo. The doctor waited, surprised, an_fter a moment of profound silence, heard a thick voice stammer out, "Utte_olly," and stop with a gasp.
  • "Why folly?"
  • "Ah! You do not see it," began Nostromo, scathingly, gathering scorn as h_ent on. "Three men in half an hour would see that no ground had bee_isturbed anywhere on that island. Do you think that such a treasure can b_uried without leaving traces of the work—eh! senor doctor? Why! you would no_ain half a day more before having your throat cut by Sotillo. The Isabel!
  • What stupidity! What miserable invention! Ah! you are all alike, you fine me_f intelligence. All you are fit for is to betray men of the people int_ndertaking deadly risks for objects that you are not even sure about. If i_omes off you get the benefit. If not, then it does not matter. He is only _og. Ah! Madre de Dios, I would—" He shook his fists above his head.
  • The doctor was overwhelmed at first by this fierce, hissing vehemence.
  • "Well! It seems to me on your own showing that the men of the people are n_ean fools, too," he said, sullenly. "No, but come. You are so clever. Hav_ou a better place?"
  • Nostromo had calmed down as quickly as he had flared up.
  • "I am clever enough for that," he said, quietly, almost with indifference.
  • "You want to tell him of a hiding-place big enough to take days i_ansacking—a place where a treasure of silver ingots can be buried withou_eaving a sign on the surface."
  • "And close at hand," the doctor put in.
  • "Just so, senor. Tell him it is sunk."
  • "This has the merit of being the truth," the doctor said, contemptuously. "H_ill not believe it."
  • "You tell him that it is sunk where he may hope to lay his hands on it, and h_ill believe you quick enough. Tell him it has been sunk in the harbour i_rder to be recovered afterwards by divers. Tell him you found out that I ha_rders from Don Carlos Gould to lower the cases quietly overboard somewhere i_ line between the end of the jetty and the entrance. The depth is not to_reat there. He has no divers, but he has a ship, boats, ropes, chains, sailors—of a sort. Let him fish for the silver. Let him set his fools to dra_ackwards and forwards and crossways while he sits and watches till his eye_rop out of his head."
  • "Really, this is an admirable idea," muttered the doctor.
  • "Si. You tell him that, and see whether he will not believe you! He will spen_ays in rage and torment—and still he will believe. He will have no though_or anything else. He will not give up till he is driven off—why, he may eve_orget to kill you. He will neither eat nor sleep. He—"
  • "The very thing! The very thing!" the doctor repeated in an excited whisper.
  • "Capataz, I begin to believe that you are a great genius in your way."
  • Nostromo had paused; then began again in a changed tone, sombre, speaking t_imself as though he had forgotten the doctor's existence.
  • "There is something in a treasure that fastens upon a man's mind. He will pra_nd blaspheme and still persevere, and will curse the day he ever heard of it, and will let his last hour come upon him unawares, still believing that h_issed it only by a foot. He will see it every time he closes his eyes. H_ill never forget it till he is dead—and even then——Doctor, did you ever hea_f the miserable gringos on Azuera, that cannot die? Ha! ha! Sailors lik_yself. There is no getting away from a treasure that once fastens upon you_ind."
  • "You are a devil of a man, Capataz. It is the most plausible thing."
  • Nostromo pressed his arm.
  • "It will be worse for him than thirst at sea or hunger in a town full o_eople. Do you know what that is? He shall suffer greater torments than h_nflicted upon that terrified wretch who had no invention. None! none! No_ike me. I could have told Sotillo a deadly tale for very little pain."
  • He laughed wildly and turned in the doorway towards the body of the late Seno_irsch, an opaque long blotch in the semi-transparent obscurity of the roo_etween the two tall parallelograms of the windows full of stars.
  • "You man of fear!" he cried. "You shall be avenged by me—Nostromo. Out of m_ay, doctor! Stand aside—or, by the suffering soul of a woman dead withou_onfession, I will strangle you with my two hands."
  • He bounded downwards into the black, smoky hall. With a grunt of astonishment, Dr. Monygham threw himself recklessly into the pursuit. At the bottom of th_harred stairs he had a fall, pitching forward on his face with a force tha_ould have stunned a spirit less intent upon a task of love and devotion. H_as up in a moment, jarred, shaken, with a queer impression of the terrestria_lobe having been flung at his head in the dark. But it wanted more than tha_o stop Dr. Monygham's body, possessed by the exaltation of self-sacrifice; _easonable exaltation, determined not to lose whatever advantage chance pu_nto its way. He ran with headlong, tottering swiftness, his arms going like _indmill in his effort to keep his balance on his crippled feet. He lost hi_at; the tails of his open gaberdine flew behind him. He had no mind to los_ight of the indispensable man. But it was a long time, and a long way fro_he Custom House, before he managed to seize his arm from behind, roughly, ou_f breath.
  • "Stop! Are you mad?"
  • Already Nostromo was walking slowly, his head dropping, as if checked in hi_ace by the weariness of irresolution.
  • "What is that to you? Ah! I forgot you want me for something. Always. Siempr_ostromo."
  • "What do you mean by talking of strangling me?" panted the doctor.
  • "What do I mean? I mean that the king of the devils himself has sent you ou_f this town of cowards and talkers to meet me to-night of all the nights o_y life."
  • Under the starry sky the Albergo d'ltalia Una emerged, black and low, breakin_he dark level of the plain. Nostromo stopped altogether.
  • "The priests say he is a tempter, do they not?" he added, through his clenche_eeth.
  • "My good man, you drivel. The devil has nothing to do with this. Neither ha_he town, which you may call by what name you please. But Don Carlos Gould i_either a coward nor an empty talker. You will admit that?" He waited. "Well?"
  • "Could I see Don Carlos?"
  • "Great heavens! No! Why? What for?" exclaimed the doctor in agitation. "I tel_ou it is madness. I will not let you go into the town for anything."
  • "I must."
  • "You must not!" hissed the doctor, fiercely, almost beside himself with th_ear of the man doing away with his usefulness for an imbecile whim of som_ort. "I tell you you shall not. I would rather——"
  • He stopped at loss for words, feeling fagged out, powerless, holding on t_ostromo's sleeve, absolutely for support after his run.
  • "I am betrayed!" muttered the Capataz to himself; and the doctor, wh_verheard the last word, made an effort to speak calmly.
  • "That is exactly what would happen to you. You would be betrayed."
  • He thought with a sickening dread that the man was so well known that he coul_ot escape recognition. The house of the Senor Administrador was beset b_pies, no doubt. And even the very servants of the casa were not to b_rusted. "Reflect, Capataz," he said, impressively… . "What are you laughin_t?"
  • "I am laughing to think that if somebody that did not approve of my presenc_n town, for instance—you understand, senor doctor—if somebody were to give m_p to Pedrito, it would not be beyond my power to make friends even with him.
  • It is true. What do you think of that?"
  • "You are a man of infinite resource, Capataz," said Dr. Monygham, dismally. "_ecognize that. But the town is full of talk about you; and those fe_argadores that are not in hiding with the railway people have been shouting
  • 'Viva Montero' on the Plaza all day."
  • "My poor Cargadores!" muttered Nostromo. "Betrayed! Betrayed!"
  • "I understand that on the wharf you were pretty free in laying about you wit_ stick amongst your poor Cargadores," the doctor said in a grim tone, whic_howed that he was recovering from his exertions. "Make no mistake. Pedrito i_urious at Senor Ribiera's rescue, and at having lost the pleasure of shootin_ecoud. Already there are rumours in the town of the treasure having bee_pirited away. To have missed that does not please Pedrito either; but let m_ell you that if you had all that silver in your hand for ransom it would no_ave you."
  • Turning swiftly, and catching the doctor by the shoulders, Nostromo thrust hi_ace close to his.
  • "Maladetta! You follow me speaking of the treasure. You have sworn my ruin.
  • You were the last man who looked upon me before I went out with it. And Sidon_he engine-driver says you have an evil eye."
  • "He ought to know. I saved his broken leg for him last year," the doctor said, stoically. He felt on his shoulders the weight of these hands famed amongs_he populace for snapping thick ropes and bending horseshoes. "And to you _ffer the best means of saving yourself—let me go—and of retrieving your grea_eputation. You boasted of making the Capataz de Cargadores famous from on_nd of America to the other about this wretched silver. But I bring you _etter opportunity—let me go, hombre!"
  • Nostromo released him abruptly, and the doctor feared that the indispensabl_an would run off again. But he did not. He walked on slowly. The docto_obbled by his side till, within a stone's throw from the Casa Viola, Nostrom_topped again.
  • Silent in inhospitable darkness, the Casa Viola seemed to have changed it_ature; his home appeared to repel him with an air of hopeless and inimica_ystery. The doctor said—
  • "You will be safe there. Go in, Capataz."
  • "How can I go in?" Nostromo seemed to ask himself in a low, inward tone. "Sh_annot unsay what she said, and I cannot undo what I have done."
  • "I tell you it is all right. Viola is all alone in there. I looked in as _ame out of the town. You will be perfectly safe in that house till you leav_t to make your name famous on the Campo. I am going now to arrange for you_eparture with the engineer-in-chief, and I shall bring you news here lon_efore daybreak."
  • Dr. Monygham, disregarding, or perhaps fearing to penetrate the meaning o_ostromo's silence, clapped him lightly on the shoulder, and starting off wit_is smart, lame walk, vanished utterly at the third or fourth hop in th_irection of the railway track. Arrested between the two wooden posts fo_eople to fasten their horses to, Nostromo did not move, as if he, too, ha_een planted solidly in the ground. At the end of half an hour he lifted hi_ead to the deep baying of the dogs at the railway yards, which had burst ou_uddenly, tumultuous and deadened as if coming from under the plain. That lam_octor with the evil eye had got there pretty fast.
  • Step by step Nostromo approached the Albergo d'Italia Una, which he had neve_nown so lightless, so silent, before. The door, all black in the pale wall, stood open as he had left it twenty-four hours before, when he had nothing t_ide from the world. He remained before it, irresolute, like a fugitive, lik_ man betrayed. Poverty, misery, starvation! Where had he heard these words?
  • The anger of a dying woman had prophesied that fate for his folly. It looke_s if it would come true very quickly. And the leperos would laugh—she ha_aid. Yes, they would laugh if they knew that the Capataz de Cargadores was a_he mercy of the mad doctor whom they could remember, only a few years ago, buying cooked food from a stall on the Plaza for a copper coin—like one o_hemselves.
  • At that moment the notion of seeking Captain Mitchell passed through his mind.
  • He glanced in the direction of the jetty and saw a small gleam of light in th_.S.N. Company's building. The thought of lighted windows was not attractive.
  • Two lighted windows had decoyed him into the empty Custom House, only to fal_nto the clutches of that doctor. No! He would not go near lighted window_gain on that night. Captain Mitchell was there. And what could he be told?
  • That doctor would worm it all out of him as if he were a child.
  • On the threshold he called out "Giorgio!" in an undertone. Nobody answered. H_tepped in. "Ola! viejo! Are you there? … " In the impenetrable darkness hi_ead swam with the illusion that the obscurity of the kitchen was as vast a_he Placid Gulf, and that the floor dipped forward like a sinking lighter.
  • "Ola! viejo!" he repeated, falteringly, swaying where he stood. His hand, extended to steady himself, fell upon the table. Moving a step forward, h_hifted it, and felt a box of matches under his fingers. He fancied he ha_eard a quiet sigh. He listened for a moment, holding his breath; then, wit_rembling hands, tried to strike a light.
  • The tiny piece of wood flamed up quite blindingly at the end of his fingers, raised above his blinking eyes. A concentrated glare fell upon the leonin_hite head of old Giorgio against the black fire-place—showed him leanin_orward in a chair in staring immobility, surrounded, overhung, by grea_asses of shadow, his legs crossed, his cheek in his hand, an empty pipe i_he corner of his mouth. It seemed hours before he attempted to turn his face; at the very moment the match went out, and he disappeared, overwhelmed by th_hadows, as if the walls and roof of the desolate house had collapsed upon hi_hite head in ghostly silence.
  • Nostromo heard him stir and utter dispassionately the words—
  • "It may have been a vision."
  • "No," he said, softly. "It is no vision, old man."
  • A strong chest voice asked in the dark—
  • "Is that you I hear, Giovann' Battista?"
  • "Si, viejo. Steady. Not so loud."
  • After his release by Sotillo, Giorgio Viola, attended to the very door by th_ood-natured engineer-in-chief, had reentered his house, which he had bee_ade to leave almost at the very moment of his wife's death. All was still.
  • The lamp above was burning. He nearly called out to her by name; and th_hought that no call from him would ever again evoke the answer of her voice, made him drop heavily into the chair with a loud groan, wrung out by the pai_s of a keen blade piercing his breast.
  • The rest of the night he made no sound. The darkness turned to grey, and o_he colourless, clear, glassy dawn the jagged sierra stood out flat an_paque, as if cut out of paper.
  • The enthusiastic and severe soul of Giorgio Viola, sailor, champion o_ppressed humanity, enemy of kings, and, by the grace of Mrs. Gould, hotel- keeper of the Sulaco harbour, had descended into the open abyss of desolatio_mongst the shattered vestiges of his past. He remembered his wooing betwee_wo campaigns, a single short week in the season of gathering olives. Nothin_pproached the grave passion of that time but the deep, passionate sense o_is bereavement. He discovered all the extent of his dependence upon th_ilenced voice of that woman. It was her voice that he missed. Abstracted, busy, lost in inward contemplation, he seldom looked at his wife in thos_ater years. The thought of his girls was a matter of concern, not o_onsolation. It was her voice that he would miss. And he remembered the othe_hild—the little boy who died at sea. Ah! a man would have been something t_ean upon. And, alas! even Gian' Battista—he of whom, and of Linda, his wif_ad spoken to him so anxiously before she dropped off into her last sleep o_arth, he on whom she had called aloud to save the children, just before sh_ied—even he was dead!
  • And the old man, bent forward, his head in his hand, sat through the day i_mmobility and solitude. He never heard the brazen roar of the bells in town.
  • When it ceased the earthenware filter in the corner of the kitchen kept on it_wift musical drip, drip into the great porous jar below.
  • Towards sunset he got up, and with slow movements disappeared up the narro_taircase. His bulk filled it; and the rubbing of his shoulders made a smal_oise as of a mouse running behind the plaster of a wall. While he remained u_here the house was as dumb as a grave. Then, with the same faint rubbin_oise, he descended. He had to catch at the chairs and tables to regain hi_eat. He seized his pipe off the high mantel of the fire-place—but made n_ttempt to reach the tobacco—thrust it empty into the corner of his mouth, an_at down again in the same staring pose. The sun of Pedrito's entry int_ulaco, the last sun of Senor Hirsch's life, the first of Decoud's solitude o_he Great Isabel, passed over the Albergo d'ltalia Una on its way to the west.
  • The tinkling drip, drip of the filter had ceased, the lamp upstairs had burn_tself out, and the night beset Giorgio Viola and his dead wife with it_bscurity and silence that seemed invincible till the Capataz de Cargadores, returning from the dead, put them to flight with the splutter and flare of _atch.
  • "Si, viejo. It is me. Wait."
  • Nostromo, after barricading the door and closing the shutters carefully, groped upon a shelf for a candle, and lit it.
  • Old Viola had risen. He followed with his eyes in the dark the sounds made b_ostromo. The light disclosed him standing without support, as if the mer_resence of that man who was loyal, brave, incorruptible, who was all his so_ould have been, were enough for the support of his decaying strength.
  • He extended his hand grasping the briar-wood pipe, whose bowl was charred o_he edge, and knitted his bushy eyebrows heavily at the light.
  • "You have returned," he said, with shaky dignity. "Ah! Very well! I——"
  • He broke off. Nostromo, leaning back against the table, his arms folded on hi_reast, nodded at him slightly.
  • "You thought I was drowned! No! The best dog of the rich, of the aristocrats, of these fine men who can only talk and betray the people, is not dead yet."
  • The Garibaldino, motionless, seemed to drink in the sound of the well-know_oice. His head moved slightly once as if in sign of approval; but Nostrom_aw clearly that the old man understood nothing of the words. There was no on_o understand; no one he could take into the confidence of Decoud's fate, o_is own, into the secret of the silver. That doctor was an enemy of th_eople—a tempter… .
  • Old Giorgio's heavy frame shook from head to foot with the effort to overcom_is emotion at the sight of that man, who had shared the intimacies of hi_omestic life as though he had been a grown-up son.
  • "She believed you would return," he said, solemnly.
  • Nostromo raised his head.
  • "She was a wise woman. How could I fail to come back——?"
  • He finished the thought mentally: "Since she has prophesied for me an end o_overty, misery, and starvation." These words of Teresa's anger, from th_ircumstances in which they had been uttered, like the cry of a soul prevente_rom making its peace with God, stirred the obscure superstition of persona_ortune from which even the greatest genius amongst men of adventure an_ction is seldom free. They reigned over Nostromo's mind with the force of _otent malediction. And what a curse it was that which her words had laid upo_im! He had been orphaned so young that he could remember no other woman who_e called mother. Henceforth there would be no enterprise in which he woul_ot fail. The spell was working already. Death itself would elude him now… .
  • He said violently—
  • "Come, viejo! Get me something to eat. I am hungry! Sangre de Dios! Th_mptiness of my belly makes me lightheaded."
  • With his chin dropped again upon his bare breast above his folded arms, barefooted, watching from under a gloomy brow the movements of old Viol_oraging amongst the cupboards, he seemed as if indeed fallen under a curse—_uined and sinister Capataz.
  • Old Viola walked out of a dark corner, and, without a word, emptied upon th_able out of his hollowed palms a few dry crusts of bread and half a ra_nion.
  • While the Capataz began to devour this beggar's fare, taking up with stony- eyed voracity piece after piece lying by his side, the Garibaldino went off, and squatting down in another corner filled an earthenware mug with red win_ut of a wicker-covered demijohn. With a familiar gesture, as when servin_ustomers in the cafe, he had thrust his pipe between his teeth to have hi_ands free.
  • The Capataz drank greedily. A slight flush deepened the bronze of his cheek.
  • Before him, Viola, with a turn of his white and massive head towards th_taircase, took his empty pipe out of his mouth, and pronounced slowly—
  • "After the shot was fired down here, which killed her as surely as if th_ullet had struck her oppressed heart, she called upon you to save th_hildren. Upon you, Gian' Battista."
  • The Capataz looked up.
  • "Did she do that, Padrone? To save the children! They are with the Englis_enora, their rich benefactress. Hey! old man of the people. Thy benefactress… ."
  • "I am old," muttered Giorgio Viola. "An Englishwoman was allowed to give a be_o Garibaldi lying wounded in prison. The greatest man that ever lived. A ma_f the people, too—a sailor. I may let another keep a roof over my head. Si … I am old. I may let her. Life lasts too long sometimes."
  • "And she herself may not have a roof over her head before many days are out, unless I … What do you say? Am I to keep a roof over her head? Am I to try—an_ave all the Blancos together with her?"
  • "You shall do it," said old Viola in a strong voice. "You shall do it as m_on would have… ."
  • "Thy son, viejo! … . There never has been a man like thy son. Ha, I must try… . But what if it were only a part of the curse to lure me on? … And so sh_alled upon me to save—and then——?"
  • "She spoke no more." The heroic follower of Garibaldi, at the thought of th_ternal stillness and silence fallen upon the shrouded form stretched out o_he bed upstairs, averted his face and raised his hand to his furrowed brow.
  • "She was dead before I could seize her hands," he stammered out, pitifully.
  • Before the wide eyes of the Capataz, staring at the doorway of the dar_taircase, floated the shape of the Great Isabel, like a strange ship i_istress, freighted with enormous wealth and the solitary life of a man. I_as impossible for him to do anything. He could only hold his tongue, sinc_here was no one to trust. The treasure would be lost, probably—unless Decoud… . And his thought came abruptly to an end. He perceived that he could no_magine in the least what Decoud was likely to do.
  • Old Viola had not stirred. And the motionless Capataz dropped his long, sof_yelashes, which gave to the upper part of his fierce, black-whiskered face _ouch of feminine ingenuousness. The silence had lasted for a long time.
  • "God rest her soul!" he murmured, gloomily.