Joseph Conrad: Nostromo

5. CHAPTER FIVE (continued)

The head of the chairman of the railway board (from London),
handsome and pale in a silvery mist of white hair and clipped
beard, hovered near her shoulder attentive, smiling, and
fatigued. The journey from London to Sta. Marta in mail boats and
the special carriages of the Sta. Marta coast-line (the only
railway so far) had been tolerable--even pleasant--quite
tolerable. But the trip over the mountains to Sulaco was another
sort of experience, in an old diligencia over impassable roads
skirting awful precipices.

"We have been upset twice in one day on the brink of very deep
ravines," he was telling Mrs. Gould in an undertone. "And when we
arrived here at last I don't know what we should have done
without your hospitality. What an out-of-the-way place Sulaco
is!--and for a harbour, too! Astonishing!"

"Ah, but we are very proud of it. It used to be historically
important. The highest ecclesiastical court for two
viceroyalties, sat here in the olden time," she instructed him
with animation.

"I am impressed. I didn't mean to be disparaging. You seem very

"The place is lovable, if only by its situation. Perhaps you
don't know what an old resident I am."

"How old, I wonder," he murmured, looking at her with a slight
smile. Mrs. Gould's appearance was made youthful by the mobile
intelligence of her face. "We can't give you your ecclesiastical
court back again; but you shall have more steamers, a railway, a
telegraph-cable--a future in the great world which is worth
infinitely more than any amount of ecclesiastical past. You
shall be brought in touch with something greater than two
viceroyalties. But I had no notion that a place on a sea-coast
could remain so isolated from the world. If it had been a
thousand miles inland now--most remarkable! Has anything ever
happened here for a hundred years before to-day?"

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