Joseph Conrad: Nostromo


IN THIS way only was the power of the local authorities
vindicated amongst the great body of strong-limbed foreigners who
dug the earth, blasted the rocks, drove the engines for the
"progressive and patriotic undertaking." In these very words
eighteen months before the Excellentissimo Senor don Vincente
Ribiera, the Dictator of Costaguana, had described the National
Central Railway in his great speech at the turning of the first

He had come on purpose to Sulaco, and there was a one-o'clock
dinner-party, a convite offered by the O.S.N. Company on board
the Juno after the function on shore. Captain Mitchell had
himself steered the cargo lighter, all draped with flags, which,
in tow of the Juno's steam launch, took the Excellentissimo from
the jetty to the ship. Everybody of note in Sulaco had been
invited--the one or two foreign merchants, all the
representatives of the old Spanish families then in town, the
great owners of estates on the plain, grave, courteous, simple
men, caballeros of pure descent, with small hands and feet,
conservative, hospitable, and kind. The Occidental Province was
their stronghold; their Blanco party had triumphed now; it was
their President-Dictator, a Blanco of the Blancos, who sat
smiling urbanely between the representatives of two friendly
foreign powers. They had come with him from Sta. Marta to
countenance by their presence the enterprise in which the capital
of their countries was engaged. The only lady of that company
was Mrs. Gould, the wife of Don Carlos, the administrator of the
San Tome silver mine. The ladies of Sulaco were not advanced
enough to take part in the public life to that extent. They had
come out strongly at the great ball at the Intendencia the
evening before, but Mrs. Gould alone had appeared, a bright spot
in the group of black coats behind the President-Dictator, on the
crimson cloth-covered stage erected under a shady tree on the
shore of the harbour, where the ceremony of turning the first sod
had taken place. She had come off in the cargo lighter, full of
notabilities, sitting under the flutter of gay flags, in the
place of honour by the side of Captain Mitchell, who steered, and
her clear dress gave the only truly festive note to the sombre
gathering in the long, gorgeous saloon of the Juno.

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