Joseph Conrad: Nostromo

4. CHAPTER FOUR (continued)

The spirit of self-forgetfulness, the simple devotion to a vast
humanitarian idea which inspired the thought and stress of that
revolutionary time, had left its mark upon Giorgio in a sort of
austere contempt for all personal advantage. This man, whom the
lowest class in Sulaco suspected of having a buried hoard in his
kitchen, had all his life despised money. The leaders of his
youth had lived poor, had died poor. It had been a habit of his
mind to disregard to-morrow. It was engendered partly by an
existence of excitement, adventure, and wild warfare. But mostly
it was a matter of principle. It did not resemble the
carelessness of a condottiere, it was a puritanism of conduct,
born of stern enthusiasm like the puritanism of religion.

This stern devotion to a cause had cast a gloom upon Giorgio's
old age. It cast a gloom because the cause seemed lost. Too many
kings and emperors flourished yet in the world which God had
meant for the people. He was sad because of his simplicity.
Though always ready to help his countrymen, and greatly respected
by the Italian emigrants wherever he lived (in his exile he
called it), he could not conceal from himself that they cared
nothing for the wrongs of down-trodden nations. They listened to
his tales of war readily, but seemed to ask themselves what he
had got out of it after all. There was nothing that they could
see. "We wanted nothing, we suffered for the love of all
humanity!" he cried out furiously sometimes, and the powerful
voice, the blazing eyes, the shaking of the white mane, the
brown, sinewy hand pointing upwards as if to call heaven to
witness, impressed his hearers. After the old man hadbroken off
abruptly with a jerk of the head and a movement of the arm,
meaning clearly, "But what's the good of talking to you?" they
nudged each other. There was in old Giorgio an energy of
feeling, a personal quality of conviction, something they called
"terribilita"--"an old lion," they used to say of him. Some
slight incident, a chance word would set him off talking on the
beach to the Italian fishermen of Maldonado, in the little shop
he kept afterwards (in Valparaiso) to his countrymen customers;
of an evening, suddenly, in the cafe at one end of the Casa Viola
(the other was reserved for the English engineers) to the select
clientele of engine-drivers and foremen of the railway shops.

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