Joseph Conrad: Nostromo


IT WAS part of what Decoud would have called his sane materialism
that he did not believe in the possibility of friendship between
man and woman.

The one exception he allowed confirmed, he maintained, that
absolute rule. Friendship was possible between brother and
sister, meaning by friendship the frank unreserve, as before
another human being, of thoughts and sensations; all the
objectless and necessary sincerity of one's innermost life trying
to re-act upon the profound sympathies of another existence.

His favourite sister, the handsome, slightly arbitrary and
resolute angel, ruling the father and mother Decoud in the
first-floor apartments of a very fine Parisian house, was the
recipient of Martin Decoud's confidences as to his thoughts,
actions, purposes, doubts, and even failures. . . .

"Prepare our little circle in Paris for the birth of another
South American Republic. One more or less, what does it matter?
They may come into the world like evil flowers on a hotbed of
rotten institutions; but the seed of this one has germinated in
your brother's brain, and that will be enough for your devoted
assent. I am writing this to you by the light of a single
candle, in a sort of inn, near the harbour, kept by an Italian
called Viola, a protege of Mrs. Gould. The whole building, which,
for all I know, may have been contrived by a Conquistador farmer
of the pearl fishery three hundred years ago, is perfectly
silent. So is the plain between the town and the harbour; silent,
but not so dark as the house, because the pickets of Italian
workmen guarding the railway have lighted little fires all along
the line. It was not so quiet around here yesterday. We had an
awful riot--a sudden outbreak of the populace, which was not
suppressed till late today. Its object, no doubt, was loot, and
that was defeated, as you may have learned already from the
cablegram sent via San Francisco and New York last night, when
the cables were still open. You have read already there that the
energetic action of the Europeans of the railway has saved the
town from destruction, and you may believe that. I wrote out the
cable myself. We have no Reuter's agency man here. I have also
fired at the mob from the windows of the club, in company with
some other young men of position. Our object was to keep the
Calle de la Constitucion clear for the exodus of the ladies and
children, who have taken refuge on board a couple of cargo ships
now in the harbour here. That was yesterday. You should also have
learned from the cable that the missing President, Ribiera, who
had disappeared after the battle of Sta. Marta, has turned up
here in Sulaco by one of those strange coincidences that are
almost incredible, riding on a lame mule into the very midst of
the street fighting. It appears that he had fled, in company of
a muleteer called Bonifacio, across the mountains from the
threats of Montero into the arms of an enraged mob.

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