Nostromo: a Tale of the Seaboard, by Joseph Conrad

Chapter Eleven

SULACO outstripped Nostromo’s prudence, growing rich swiftly on the hidden treasures of the earth, hovered over by the anxious spirits of good and evil, torn out by the labouring hands of the people. It was like a second youth, like a new life, full of promise, of unrest, of toil, scattering lavishly its wealth to the four corners of an excited world. Material changes swept along in the train of material interests. And other changes more subtle, outwardly unmarked, affected the minds and hearts of the workers. Captain Mitchell had gone home to live on his savings invested in the San Tome mine; and Dr. Monygham had grown older, with his head steel-grey and the unchanged expression of his face, living on the inexhaustible treasure of his devotion drawn upon in the secret of his heart like a store of unlawful wealth.

The Inspector-General of State Hospitals (whose maintenance is a charge upon the Gould Concession), Official Adviser on Sanitation to the Municipality, Chief Medical Officer of the San Tome Consolidated Mines (whose territory, containing gold, silver, copper, lead, cobalt, extends for miles along the foot-hills of the Cordillera), had felt poverty-stricken, miserable, and starved during the prolonged, second visit the Goulds paid to Europe and the United States of America. Intimate of the casa, proved friend, a bachelor without ties and without establishment (except of the professional sort), he had been asked to take up his quarters in the Gould house. In the eleven months of their absence the familiar rooms, recalling at every glance the woman to whom he had given all his loyalty, had grown intolerable. As the day approached for the arrival of the mail boat Hermes (the latest addition to the O. S. N. Co.‘s splendid fleet), the doctor hobbled about more vivaciously, snapped more sardonically at simple and gentle out of sheer nervousness.

He packed up his modest trunk with speed, with fury, with enthusiasm, and saw it carried out past the old porter at the gate of the Casa Gould with delight, with intoxication; then, as the hour approached, sitting alone in the great landau behind the white mules, a little sideways, his drawn-in face positively venomous with the effort of self-control, and holding a pair of new gloves in his left hand, he drove to the harbour.

His heart dilated within him so, when he saw the Goulds on the deck of the Hermes, that his greetings were reduced to a casual mutter. Driving back to town, all three were silent. And in the patio the doctor, in a more natural manner, said —

“I’ll leave you now to yourselves. I’ll call to-morrow if I may?”

“Come to lunch, dear Dr. Monygham, and come early,” said Mrs. Gould, in her travelling dress and her veil down, turning to look at him at the foot of the stairs; while at the top of the flight the Madonna, in blue robes and the Child on her arm, seemed to welcome her with an aspect of pitying tenderness.

“Don’t expect to find me at home,” Charles Gould warned him. “I’ll be off early to the mine.”

After lunch, Dona Emilia and the senor doctor came slowly through the inner gateway of the patio. The large gardens of the Casa Gould, surrounded by high walls, and the red-tile slopes of neighbouring roofs, lay open before them, with masses of shade under the trees and level surfaces of sunlight upon the lawns. A triple row of old orange trees surrounded the whole. Barefooted, brown gardeners, in snowy white shirts and wide calzoneras, dotted the grounds, squatting over flowerbeds, passing between the trees, dragging slender India-rubber tubes across the gravel of the paths; and the fine jets of water crossed each other in graceful curves, sparkling in the sunshine with a slight pattering noise upon the bushes, and an effect of showered diamonds upon the grass.

Dona Emilia, holding up the train of a clear dress, walked by the side of Dr. Monygham, in a longish black coat and severe black bow on an immaculate shirtfront. Under a shady clump of trees, where stood scattered little tables and wicker easy-chairs, Mrs. Gould sat down in a low and ample seat.

“Don’t go yet,” she said to Dr. Monygham, who was unable to tear himself away from the spot. His chin nestling within the points of his collar, he devoured her stealthily with his eyes, which, luckily, were round and hard like clouded marbles, and incapable of disclosing his sentiments. His pitying emotion at the marks of time upon the face of that woman, the air of frailty and weary fatigue that had settled upon the eyes and temples of the “Never-tired Senora” (as Don Pepe years ago used to call her with admiration), touched him almost to tears. “Don’t go yet. To-day is all my own,” Mrs. Gould urged, gently. “We are not back yet officially. No one will come. It’s only to-morrow that the windows of the Casa Gould are to be lit up for a reception.”

The doctor dropped into a chair.

“Giving a tertulia?” he said, with a detached air.

“A simple greeting for all the kind friends who care to come.”

“And only to-morrow?”

“Yes. Charles would be tired out after a day at the mine, and so I—— It would be good to have him to myself for one evening on our return to this house I love. It has seen all my life.”

“Ah, yes!” snarled the doctor, suddenly. “Women count time from the marriage feast. Didn’t you live a little before?”

“Yes; but what is there to remember? There were no cares.”

Mrs. Gould sighed. And as two friends, after a long separation, will revert to the most agitated period of their lives, they began to talk of the Sulaco Revolution. It seemed strange to Mrs. Gould that people who had taken part in it seemed to forget its memory and its lesson.

“And yet,” struck in the doctor, “we who played our part in it had our reward. Don Pepe, though superannuated, still can sit a horse. Barrios is drinking himself to death in jovial company away somewhere on his fundacion beyond the Bolson de Tonoro. And the heroic Father Roman — I imagine the old padre blowing up systematically the San Tome mine, uttering a pious exclamation at every bang, and taking handfuls of snuff between the explosions — the heroic Padre Roman says that he is not afraid of the harm Holroyd’s missionaries can do to his flock, as long as he is alive.”

Mrs. Gould shuddered a little at the allusion to the destruction that had come so near to the San Tome mine.

“Ah, but you, dear friend?”

“I did the work I was fit for.”

“You faced the most cruel dangers of all. Something more than death.”

“No, Mrs. Gould! Only death — by hanging. And I am rewarded beyond my deserts.”

Noticing Mrs. Gould’s gaze fixed upon him, he dropped his eyes.

“I’ve made my career — as you see,” said the Inspector-General of State Hospitals, taking up lightly the lapels of his superfine black coat. The doctor’s self-respect marked inwardly by the almost complete disappearance from his dreams of Father Beron appeared visibly in what, by contrast with former carelessness, seemed an immoderate cult of personal appearance. Carried out within severe limits of form and colour, and in perpetual freshness, this change of apparel gave to Dr. Monygham an air at the same time professional and festive; while his gait and the unchanged crabbed character of his face acquired from it a startling force of incongruity.

“Yes,” he went on. “We all had our rewards — the engineer-in-chief, Captain Mitchell ——”

“We saw him,” interrupted Mrs. Gould, in her charming voice. “The poor dear man came up from the country on purpose to call on us in our hotel in London. He comported himself with great dignity, but I fancy he regrets Sulaco. He rambled feebly about ‘historical events’ till I felt I could have a cry.”

“H’m,” grunted the doctor; “getting old, I suppose. Even Nostromo is getting older — though he is not changed. And, speaking of that fellow, I wanted to tell you something ——”

For some time the house had been full of murmurs, of agitation. Suddenly the two gardeners, busy with rose trees at the side of the garden arch, fell upon their knees with bowed heads on the passage of Antonia Avellanos, who appeared walking beside her uncle.

Invested with the red hat after a short visit to Rome, where he had been invited by the Propaganda, Father Corbelan, missionary to the wild Indians, conspirator, friend and patron of Hernandez the robber, advanced with big, slow strides, gaunt and leaning forward, with his powerful hands clasped behind his back. The first Cardinal-Archbishop of Sulaco had preserved his fanatical and morose air; the aspect of a chaplain of bandits. It was believed that his unexpected elevation to the purple was a counter-move to the Protestant invasion of Sulaco organized by the Holroyd Missionary Fund. Antonia, the beauty of her face as if a little blurred, her figure slightly fuller, advanced with her light walk and her high serenity, smiling from a distance at Mrs. Gould. She had brought her uncle over to see dear Emilia, without ceremony, just for a moment before the siesta.

When all were seated again, Dr. Monygham, who had come to dislike heartily everybody who approached Mrs. Gould with any intimacy, kept aside, pretending to be lost in profound meditation. A louder phrase of Antonia made him lift his head.

“How can we abandon, groaning under oppression, those who have been our countrymen only a few years ago, who are our countrymen now?” Miss Avellanos was saying. “How can we remain blind, and deaf without pity to the cruel wrongs suffered by our brothers? There is a remedy.”

“Annex the rest of Costaguana to the order and prosperity of Sulaco,” snapped the doctor. “There is no other remedy.”

“I am convinced, senor doctor,” Antonia said, with the earnest calm of invincible resolution, “that this was from the first poor Martin’s intention.”

“Yes, but the material interests will not let you jeopardize their development for a mere idea of pity and justice,” the doctor muttered grumpily. “And it is just as well perhaps.”

The Cardinal-Archbishop straightened up his gaunt, bony frame.

“We have worked for them; we have made them, these material interests of the foreigners,” the last of the Corbelans uttered in a deep, denunciatory tone.

“And without them you are nothing,” cried the doctor from the distance. “They will not let you.”

“Let them beware, then, lest the people, prevented from their aspirations, should rise and claim their share of the wealth and their share of the power,” the popular Cardinal-Archbishop of Sulaco declared, significantly, menacingly.

A silence ensued, during which his Eminence stared, frowning at the ground, and Antonia, graceful and rigid in her chair, breathed calmly in the strength of her convictions. Then the conversation took a social turn, touching on the visit of the Goulds to Europe. The Cardinal-Archbishop, when in Rome, had suffered from neuralgia in the head all the time. It was the climate — the bad air.

When uncle and niece had gone away, with the servants again falling on their knees, and the old porter, who had known Henry Gould, almost totally blind and impotent now, creeping up to kiss his Eminence’s extended hand, Dr. Monygham, looking after them, pronounced the one word —

“Incorrigible!”

Mrs. Gould, with a look upwards, dropped wearily on her lap her white hands flashing with the gold and stones of many rings.

“Conspiring. Yes!” said the doctor. “The last of the Avellanos and the last of the Corbelans are conspiring with the refugees from Sta. Marta that flock here after every revolution. The Cafe Lambroso at the corner of the Plaza is full of them; you can hear their chatter across the street like the noise of a parrothouse. They are conspiring for the invasion of Costaguana. And do you know where they go for strength, for the necessary force? To the secret societies amongst immigrants and natives, where Nostromo — I should say Captain Fidanza — is the great man. What gives him that position? Who can say? Genius? He has genius. He is greater with the populace than ever he was before. It is as if he had some secret power; some mysterious means to keep up his influence. He holds conferences with the Archbishop, as in those old days which you and I remember. Barrios is useless. But for a military head they have the pious Hernandez. And they may raise the country with the new cry of the wealth for the people.”

“Will there be never any peace? Will there be no rest?” Mrs. Gould whispered. “I thought that we ——”

“No!” interrupted the doctor. “There is no peace and no rest in the development of material interests. They have their law, and their justice. But it is founded on expediency, and is inhuman; it is without rectitude, without the continuity and the force that can be found only in a moral principle. Mrs. Gould, the time approaches when all that the Gould Concession stands for shall weigh as heavily upon the people as the barbarism, cruelty, and misrule of a few years back.”

“How can you say that, Dr. Monygham?” she cried out, as if hurt in the most sensitive place of her soul.

“I can say what is true,” the doctor insisted, obstinately. “It’ll weigh as heavily, and provoke resentment, bloodshed, and vengeance, because the men have grown different. Do you think that now the mine would march upon the town to save their Senor Administrador? Do you think that?”

She pressed the backs of her entwined hands on her eyes and murmured hopelessly —

“Is it this we have worked for, then?”

The doctor lowered his head. He could follow her silent thought. Was it for this that her life had been robbed of all the intimate felicities of daily affection which her tenderness needed as the human body needs air to breathe? And the doctor, indignant with Charles Gould’s blindness, hastened to change the conversation.

“It is about Nostromo that I wanted to talk to you. Ah! that fellow has some continuity and force. Nothing will put an end to him. But never mind that. There’s something inexplicable going on — or perhaps only too easy to explain. You know, Linda is practically the lighthouse keeper of the Great Isabel light. The Garibaldino is too old now. His part is to clean the lamps and to cook in the house; but he can’t get up the stairs any longer. The black-eyed Linda sleeps all day and watches the light all night. Not all day, though. She is up towards five in the afternoon, when our Nostromo, whenever he is in harbour with his schooner, comes out on his courting visit, pulling in a small boat.”

“Aren’t they married yet?” Mrs. Gould asked. “The mother wished it, as far as I can understand, while Linda was yet quite a child. When I had the girls with me for a year or so during the War of Separation, that extraordinary Linda used to declare quite simply that she was going to be Gian’ Battista’s wife.”

“They are not married yet,” said the doctor, curtly. “I have looked after them a little.”

“Thank you, dear Dr. Monygham,” said Mrs. Gould; and under the shade of the big trees her little, even teeth gleamed in a youthful smile of gentle malice. “People don’t know how really good you are. You will not let them know, as if on purpose to annoy me, who have put my faith in your good heart long ago.”

The doctor, with a lifting up of his upper lip, as though he were longing to bite, bowed stiffly in his chair. With the utter absorption of a man to whom love comes late, not as the most splendid of illusions, but like an enlightening and priceless misfortune, the sight of that woman (of whom he had been deprived for nearly a year) suggested ideas of adoration, of kissing the hem of her robe. And this excess of feeling translated itself naturally into an augmented grimness of speech.

“I am afraid of being overwhelmed by too much gratitude. However, these people interest me. I went out several times to the Great Isabel light to look after old Giorgio.”

He did not tell Mrs. Gould that it was because he found there, in her absence, the relief of an atmosphere of congenial sentiment in old Giorgio’s austere admiration for the “English signora — the benefactress”; in black-eyed Linda’s voluble, torrential, passionate affection for “our Dona Emilia — that angel”; in the white-throated, fair Giselle’s adoring upward turn of the eyes, which then glided towards him with a sidelong, half-arch, half-candid glance, which made the doctor exclaim to himself mentally, “If I weren’t what I am, old and ugly, I would think the minx is making eyes at me. And perhaps she is. I dare say she would make eyes at anybody.” Dr. Monygham said nothing of this to Mrs. Gould, the providence of the Viola family, but reverted to what he called “our great Nostromo.”

“What I wanted to tell you is this: Our great Nostromo did not take much notice of the old man and the children for some years. It’s true, too, that he was away on his coasting voyages certainly ten months out of the twelve. He was making his fortune, as he told Captain Mitchell once. He seems to have done uncommonly well. It was only to be expected. He is a man full of resource, full of confidence in himself, ready to take chances and risks of every sort. I remember being in Mitchell’s office one day, when he came in with that calm, grave air he always carries everywhere. He had been away trading in the Gulf of California, he said, looking straight past us at the wall, as his manner is, and was glad to see on his return that a lighthouse was being built on the cliff of the Great Isabel. Very glad, he repeated. Mitchell explained that it was the O. S. N. Co. who was building it, for the convenience of the mail service, on his own advice. Captain Fidanza was good enough to say that it was excellent advice. I remember him twisting up his moustaches and looking all round the cornice of the room before he proposed that old Giorgio should be made the keeper of that light.”

“I heard of this. I was consulted at the time,” Mrs. Gould said. “I doubted whether it would be good for these girls to be shut up on that island as if in a prison.”

“The proposal fell in with the old Garibaldino’s humour. As to Linda, any place was lovely and delightful enough for her as long as it was Nostromo’s suggestion. She could wait for her Gian’ Battista’s good pleasure there as well as anywhere else. My opinion is that she was always in love with that incorruptible Capataz. Moreover, both father and sister were anxious to get Giselle away from the attentions of a certain Ramirez.”

“Ah!” said Mrs. Gould, interested. “Ramirez? What sort of man is that?”

“Just a mozo of the town. His father was a Cargador. As a lanky boy he ran about the wharf in rags, till Nostromo took him up and made a man of him. When he got a little older, he put him into a lighter and very soon gave him charge of the No. 3 boat — the boat which took the silver away, Mrs. Gould. Nostromo selected that lighter for the work because she was the best sailing and the strongest boat of all the Company’s fleet. Young Ramirez was one of the five Cargadores entrusted with the removal of the treasure from the Custom House on that famous night. As the boat he had charge of was sunk, Nostromo, on leaving the Company’s service, recommended him to Captain Mitchell for his successor. He had trained him in the routine of work perfectly, and thus Mr. Ramirez, from a starving waif, becomes a man and the Capataz of the Sulaco Cargadores.”

“Thanks to Nostromo,” said Mrs. Gould, with warm approval.

“Thanks to Nostromo,” repeated Dr. Monygham. “Upon my word, the fellow’s power frightens me when I think of it. That our poor old Mitchell was only too glad to appoint somebody trained to the work, who saved him trouble, is not surprising. What is wonderful is the fact that the Sulaco Cargadores accepted Ramirez for their chief, simply because such was Nostromo’s good pleasure. Of course, he is not a second Nostromo, as he fondly imagined he would be; but still, the position was brilliant enough. It emboldened him to make up to Giselle Viola, who, you know, is the recognized beauty of the town. The old Garibaldino, however, took a violent dislike to him. I don’t know why. Perhaps because he was not a model of perfection like his Gian’ Battista, the incarnation of the courage, the fidelity, the honour of ‘the people.’ Signor Viola does not think much of Sulaco natives. Both of them, the old Spartan and that white-faced Linda, with her red mouth and coal-black eyes, were looking rather fiercely after the fair one. Ramirez was warned off. Father Viola, I am told, threatened him with his gun once.”

“But what of Giselle herself?” asked Mrs. Gould.

“She’s a bit of a flirt, I believe,” said the doctor. “I don’t think she cared much one way or another. Of course she likes men’s attentions. Ramirez was not the only one, let me tell you, Mrs. Gould. There was one engineer, at least, on the railway staff who got warned off with a gun, too. Old Viola does not allow any trifling with his honour. He has grown uneasy and suspicious since his wife died. He was very pleased to remove his youngest girl away from the town. But look what happens, Mrs. Gould. Ramirez, the honest, lovelorn swain, is forbidden the island. Very well. He respects the prohibition, but naturally turns his eyes frequently towards the Great Isabel. It seems as though he had been in the habit of gazing late at night upon the light. And during these sentimental vigils he discovers that Nostromo, Captain Fidanza that is, returns very late from his visits to the Violas. As late as midnight at times.”

The doctor paused and stared meaningly at Mrs. Gould.

“Yes. But I don’t understand,” she began, looking puzzled.

“Now comes the strange part,” went on Dr. Monygham. “Viola, who is king on his island, will allow no visitor on it after dark. Even Captain Fidanza has got to leave after sunset, when Linda has gone up to tend the light. And Nostromo goes away obediently. But what happens afterwards? What does he do in the gulf between half-past six and midnight? He has been seen more than once at that late hour pulling quietly into the harbour. Ramirez is devoured by jealousy. He dared not approach old Viola; but he plucked up courage to rail at Linda about it on Sunday morning as she came on the mainland to hear mass and visit her mother’s grave. There was a scene on the wharf, which, as a matter of fact, I witnessed. It was early morning. He must have been waiting for her on purpose. I was there by the merest chance, having been called to an urgent consultation by the doctor of the German gunboat in the harbour. She poured wrath, scorn, and flame upon Ramirez, who seemed out of his mind. It was a strange sight, Mrs. Gould: the long jetty, with this raving Cargador in his crimson sash and the girl all in black, at the end; the early Sunday morning quiet of the harbour in the shade of the mountains; nothing but a canoe or two moving between the ships at anchor, and the German gunboat’s gig coming to take me off. Linda passed me within a foot. I noticed her wild eyes. I called out to her. She never heard me. She never saw me. But I looked at her face. It was awful in its anger and wretchedness.”

Mrs. Gould sat up, opening her eyes very wide.

“What do you mean, Dr. Monygham? Do you mean to say that you suspect the younger sister?”

“Quien sabe! Who can tell?” said the doctor, shrugging his shoulders like a born Costaguanero. “Ramirez came up to me on the wharf. He reeled — he looked insane. He took his head into his hands. He had to talk to someone — simply had to. Of course for all his mad state he recognized me. People know me well here. I have lived too long amongst them to be anything else but the evil-eyed doctor, who can cure all the ills of the flesh, and bring bad luck by a glance. He came up to me. He tried to be calm. He tried to make it out that he wanted merely to warn me against Nostromo. It seems that Captain Fidanza at some secret meeting or other had mentioned me as the worst despiser of all the poor — of the people. It’s very possible. He honours me with his undying dislike. And a word from the great Fidanza may be quite enough to send some fool’s knife into my back. The Sanitary Commission I preside over is not in favour with the populace. ‘Beware of him, senor doctor. Destroy him, senor doctor,’ Ramirez hissed right into my face. And then he broke out. ‘That man,’ he spluttered, ‘has cast a spell upon both these girls.’ As to himself, he had said too much. He must run away now — run away and hide somewhere. He moaned tenderly about Giselle, and then called her names that cannot be repeated. If he thought she could be made to love him by any means, he would carry her off from the island. Off into the woods. But it was no good. . . . He strode away, flourishing his arms above his head. Then I noticed an old negro, who had been sitting behind a pile of cases, fishing from the wharf. He wound up his lines and slunk away at once. But he must have heard something, and must have talked, too, because some of the old Garibaldino’s railway friends, I suppose, warned him against Ramirez. At any rate, the father has been warned. But Ramirez has disappeared from the town.”

“I feel I have a duty towards these girls,” said Mrs. Gould, uneasily. “Is Nostromo in Sulaco now?”

“He is, since last Sunday.”

“He ought to be spoken to — at once.”

“Who will dare speak to him? Even the love-mad Ramirez runs away from the mere shadow of Captain Fidanza.”

“I can. I will,” Mrs. Gould declared. “A word will be enough for a man like Nostromo.”

The doctor smiled sourly.

“He must end this situation which lends itself to —— I can’t believe it of that child,” pursued Mrs. Gould.

“He’s very attractive,” muttered the doctor, gloomily.

“He’ll see it, I am sure. He must put an end to all this by marrying Linda at once,” pronounced the first lady of Sulaco with immense decision.

Through the garden gate emerged Basilio, grown fat and sleek, with an elderly hairless face, wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, and his jet-black, coarse hair plastered down smoothly. Stooping carefully behind an ornamental clump of bushes, he put down with precaution a small child he had been carrying on his shoulder — his own and Leonarda’s last born. The pouting, spoiled Camerista and the head mozo of the Casa Gould had been married for some years now.

He remained squatting on his heels for a time, gazing fondly at his offspring, which returned his stare with imperturbable gravity; then, solemn and respectable, walked down the path.

“What is it, Basilio?” asked Mrs. Gould.

“A telephone came through from the office of the mine. The master remains to sleep at the mountain to-night.”

Dr. Monygham had got up and stood looking away. A profound silence reigned for a time under the shade of the biggest trees in the lovely gardens of the Casa Gould.

“Very well, Basilio,” said Mrs. Gould. She watched him walk away along the path, step aside behind the flowering bush, and reappear with the child seated on his shoulder. He passed through the gateway between the garden and the patio with measured steps, careful of his light burden.

The doctor, with his back to Mrs. Gould, contemplated a flower-bed away in the sunshine. People believed him scornful and soured. The truth of his nature consisted in his capacity for passion and in the sensitiveness of his temperament. What he lacked was the polished callousness of men of the world, the callousness from which springs an easy tolerance for oneself and others; the tolerance wide as poles asunder from true sympathy and human compassion. This want of callousness accounted for his sardonic turn of mind and his biting speeches.

In profound silence, and glaring viciously at the brilliant flower-bed, Dr. Monygham poured mental imprecations on Charles Gould’s head. Behind him the immobility of Mrs. Gould added to the grace of her seated figure the charm of art, of an attitude caught and interpreted for ever. Turning abruptly, the doctor took his leave.

Mrs. Gould leaned back in the shade of the big trees planted in a circle. She leaned back with her eyes closed and her white hands lying idle on the arms of her seat. The half-light under the thick mass of leaves brought out the youthful prettiness of her face; made the clear, light fabrics and white lace of her dress appear luminous. Small and dainty, as if radiating a light of her own in the deep shade of the interlaced boughs, she resembled a good fairy, weary with a long career of well-doing, touched by the withering suspicion of the uselessness of her labours, the powerlessness of her magic.

Had anybody asked her of what she was thinking, alone in the garden of the Casa, with her husband at the mine and the house closed to the street like an empty dwelling, her frankness would have had to evade the question. It had come into her mind that for life to be large and full, it must contain the care of the past and of the future in every passing moment of the present. Our daily work must be done to the glory of the dead, and for the good of those who come after. She thought that, and sighed without opening her eyes — without moving at all. Mrs. Gould’s face became set and rigid for a second, as if to receive, without flinching, a great wave of loneliness that swept over her head. And it came into her mind, too, that no one would ever ask her with solicitude what she was thinking of. No one. No one, but perhaps the man who had just gone away. No; no one who could be answered with careless sincerity in the ideal perfection of confidence.

The word “incorrigible”— a word lately pronounced by Dr. Monygham — floated into her still and sad immobility. Incorrigible in his devotion to the great silver mine was the Senor Administrador! Incorrigible in his hard, determined service of the material interests to which he had pinned his faith in the triumph of order and justice. Poor boy! She had a clear vision of the grey hairs on his temples. He was perfect — perfect. What more could she have expected? It was a colossal and lasting success; and love was only a short moment of forgetfulness, a short intoxication, whose delight one remembered with a sense of sadness, as if it had been a deep grief lived through. There was something inherent in the necessities of successful action which carried with it the moral degradation of the idea. She saw the San Tome mountain hanging over the Campo, over the whole land, feared, hated, wealthy; more soulless than any tyrant, more pitiless and autocratic than the worst Government; ready to crush innumerable lives in the expansion of its greatness. He did not see it. He could not see it. It was not his fault. He was perfect, perfect; but she would never have him to herself. Never; not for one short hour altogether to herself in this old Spanish house she loved so well! Incorrigible, the last of the Corbelans, the last of the Avellanos, the doctor had said; but she saw clearly the San Tome mine possessing, consuming, burning up the life of the last of the Costaguana Goulds; mastering the energetic spirit of the son as it had mastered the lamentable weakness of the father. A terrible success for the last of the Goulds. The last! She had hoped for a long, long time, that perhaps —— But no! There were to be no more. An immense desolation, the dread of her own continued life, descended upon the first lady of Sulaco. With a prophetic vision she saw herself surviving alone the degradation of her young ideal of life, of love, of work — all alone in the Treasure House of the World. The profound, blind, suffering expression of a painful dream settled on her face with its closed eyes. In the indistinct voice of an unlucky sleeper. lying passive in the grip of a merciless nightmare, she stammered out aimlessly the words —

“Material interest.”

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 13:06