Joseph Conrad: Nostromo


IT MIGHT have been said that there he was only protecting his
own. From the first he had been admitted to live in the intimacy
of the family of the hotel-keeper who was a countryman of his.
Old Giorgio Viola, a Genoese with a shaggy white leonine
head--often called simply "the Garibaldino" (as Mohammedans are
called after their prophet)--was, to use Captain Mitchell's own
words, the "respectable married friend" by whose advice Nostromo
had left his ship to try for a run of shore luck in Costaguana.

The old man, full of scorn for the populace, as your austere
republican so often is, had disregarded the preliminary sounds of
trouble. He went on that day as usual pottering about the "casa"
in his slippers, muttering angrily to himself his contempt of the
non-political nature of the riot, and shrugging his shoulders.
In the end he was taken unawares by the out-rush of the rabble.
It was too late then to remove his family, and, indeed, where
could he have run to with the portly Signora Teresa and two
little girls on that great plain? So, barricading every opening,
the old man sat down sternly in the middle of the darkened cafe
with an old shot-gun on his knees. His wife sat on another chair
by his side, muttering pious invocations to all the saints of the

The old republican did not believe in saints, or in prayers, or
in what he called "priest's religion." Liberty and Garibaldi were
his divinities; but he tolerated "superstition" in women,
preserving in these matters a lofty and silent attitude.

His two girls, the eldest fourteen, and the other two years
younger, crouched on the sanded floor, on each side of the
Signora Teresa, with their heads on their mother's lap, both
scared, but each in her own way, the dark-haired Linda indignant
and angry, the fair Giselle, the younger, bewildered and
resigned. The Patrona removed her arms, which embraced her
daughters, for a moment to cross herself and wring her hands
hurriedly. She moaned a little louder.

"Oh! Gian' Battista, why art thou not here? Oh! why art thou not

She was not then invoking the saint himself, but calling upon
Nostromo, whose patron he was. And Giorgio, motionless on the
chair by her side, would be provoked by these reproachful and
distracted appeals.

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