Joseph Conrad: Nostromo


AT ABOUT that time, in the Intendencia of Sulaco, Charles Gould
was assuring Pedrito Montero, who had sent a request for his
presence there, that he would never let the mine pass out of his
hands for the profit of a Government who had robbed him of it.
The Gould Concession could not be resumed. His father had not
desired it. The son would never surrender it. He would never
surrender it alive. And once dead, where was the power capable of
resuscitating such an enterprise in all its vigour and wealth out
of the ashes and ruin of destruction? There was no such power in
the country. And where was the skill and capital abroad that
would condescend to touch such an ill-omened corpse? Charles
Gould talked in the impassive tone which had for many years
served to conceal his anger and contempt. He suffered. He was
disgusted with what he had to say. It was too much like heroics.
In him the strictly practical instinct was in profound discord
with the almost mystic view he took of his right. The Gould
Concession was symbolic of abstract justice. Let the heavens
fall. But since the San Tome mine had developed into world-wide
fame his threat had enough force and effectiveness to reach the
rudimentary intelligence of Pedro Montero, wrapped up as it was
in the futilities of historical anecdotes. The Gould Concession
was a serious asset in the country's finance, and, what was more,
in the private budgets of many officials as well. It was
traditional. It was known. It was said. It was credible. Every
Minister of Interior drew a salary from the San Tome mine. It was
natural. And Pedrito intended to be Minister of the Interior and
President of the Council in his brother's Government. The Duc de
Morny had occupied those high posts during the Second French
Empire with conspicuous advantage to himself.

A table, a chair, a wooden bedstead had been procured for His
Excellency, who, after a short siesta, rendered absolutely
necessary by the labours and the pomps of his entry into Sulaco,
had been getting hold of the administrative machine by making
appointments, giving orders, and signing proclamations. Alone
with Charles Gould in the audience room, His Excellency managed
with his well-known skill to conceal his annoyance and
consternation. He had begun at first to talk loftily of
confiscation, but the want of all proper feeling and mobility in
the Senor Administrador's features ended by affecting adversely
his power of masterful expression. Charles Gould had repeated:
"The Government can certainly bring about the destruction of the
San Tome mine if it likes; but without me it can do nothing
else." It was an alarming pronouncement, and well calculated to
hurt the sensibilities of a politician whose mind is bent upon
the spoils of victory. And Charles Gould said also that the
destruction of the San Tome mine would cause the ruin of other
undertakings, the withdrawal of European capital, the
withholding, most probably, of the last instalment of the foreign
loan. That stony fiend of a man said all these things (which were
accessible to His Excellency's intelligence) in a coldblooded
manner which made one shudder.

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