Joseph Conrad: Nostromo


DISTRACTED between doubts and hopes, dismayed by the sound of
bells pealing out the arrival of Pedrito Montero, Sotillo had
spent the morning in battling with his thoughts; a contest to
which he was unequal, from the vacuity of his mind and the
violence of his passions. Disappointment, greed, anger, and fear
made a tumult, in the colonel's breast louder than the din of
bells in the town. Nothing he had planned had come to pass.
Neither Sulaco nor the silver of the mine had fallen into his
hands. He had performed no military exploit to secure his
position, and had obtained no enormous booty to make off with.
Pedrito Montero, either as friend or foe, filled him with dread.
The sound of bells maddened him.

Imagining at first that he might be attacked at once, he had made
his battalion stand to arms on the shore. He walked to and fro
all the length of the room, stopping sometimes to gnaw the
finger-tips of his right hand with a lurid sideways glare fixed
on the floor; then, with a sullen, repelling glance all round, he
would resume his tramping in savage aloofness. His hat,
horsewhip, sword, and revolver were lying on the table. His
officers, crowding the window giving the view of the town gate,
disputed amongst themselves the use of his field-glass bought
last year on long credit from Anzani. It passed from hand to
hand, and the possessor for the time being was besieged by
anxious inquiries.

"There is nothing; there is nothing to see!" he would repeat

There was nothing. And when the picket in the bushes near the
Casa Viola had been ordered to fall back upon the main body, no
stir of life appeared on the stretch of dusty and arid land
between the town and the waters of the port. But late in the
afternoon a horseman issuing from the gate was made out riding up
fearlessly. It was an emissary from Senor Fuentes. Being all
alone he was allowed to come on. Dismounting at the great door he
greeted the silent bystanders with cheery impudence, and begged
to be taken up at once to the "muy valliente" colonel.

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