Joseph Conrad: Nostromo


DURING the night the expectant populace had taken possession of
all the belfries in the town in order to welcome Pedrito Montero,
who was making his entry after having slept the night in Rincon.
And first came straggling in through the land gate the armed mob
of all colours, complexions, types, and states of raggedness,
calling themselves the Sulaco National Guard, and commanded by
Senor Gamacho. Through the middle of the street streamed, like a
torrent of rubbish, a mass of straw hats, ponchos, gun-barrels,
with an enormous green and yellow flag flapping in their midst,
in a cloud of dust, to the furious beating of drums. The
spectators recoiled against the walls of the houses shouting
their Vivas! Behind the rabble could be seen the lances of the
cavalry, the "army" of Pedro Montero. He advanced between
Senores Fuentes and Gamacho at the head of his llaneros, who had
accomplished the feat of crossing the Paramos of the Higuerota in
a snow-storm. They rode four abreast, mounted on confiscated
Campo horses, clad in the heterogeneous stock of roadside stores
they had looted hurriedly in their rapid ride through the
northern part of the province; for Pedro Montero had been in a
great hurry to occupy Sulaco. The handkerchiefs knotted loosely
around their bare throats were glaringly new, and all the right
sleeves of their cotton shirts had been cut off close to the
shoulder for greater freedom in throwing the lazo. Emaciated
greybeards rode by the side of lean dark youths, marked by all
the hardships of campaigning, with strips of raw beef twined round
the crowns of their hats, and huge iron spurs fastened to their
naked heels. Those that in the passes of the mountain had lost
their lances had provided themselves with the goads used by the
Campo cattlemen: slender shafts of palm fully ten feet long, with
a lot of loose rings jingling under the ironshod point. They were
armed with knives and revolvers. A haggard fearlessness
characterized the expression of all these sun-blacked
countenances; they glared down haughtily with their scorched eyes
at the crowd, or, blinking upwards insolently, pointed out to
each other some particular head amongst the women at the windows.
When they had ridden into the Plaza and caught sight of the
equestrian statue of the King dazzlingly white in the sunshine,
towering enormous and motionless above the surges of the crowd,
with its eternal gesture of saluting, a murmur of surprise ran
through their ranks. "What is that saint in the big hat?" they
asked each other.

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