Joseph Conrad: Nostromo


THE next day was quiet in the morning, except for the faint sound
of firing to the northward, in the direction of Los Hatos.
Captain Mitchell had listened to it from his balcony anxiously.
The phrase, "In my delicate position as the only consular agent
then in the port, everything, sir, everything was a just cause
for anxiety," had its place in the more or less stereotyped
relation of the "historical events" which for the next few years
was at the service of distinguished strangers visiting Sulaco.
The mention of the dignity and neutrality of the flag, so
difficult to preserve in his position, "right in the thick of
these events between the lawlessness of that piratical villain
Sotillo and the more regularly established but scarcely less
atrocious tyranny of his Excellency Don Pedro Montero," came next
in order. Captain Mitchell was not the man to enlarge upon mere
dangers much. But he insisted that it was a memorable day. On
that day, towards dusk, he had seen "that poor fellow of
mine--Nostromo. The sailor whom I discovered, and, I may say,
made, sir. The man of the famous ride to Cayta, sir. An
historical event, sir!"

Regarded by the O. S. N. Company as an old and faithful servant,
Captain Mitchell was allowed to attain the term of his usefulness
in ease and dignity at the head of the enormously extended
service. The augmentation of the establishment, with its crowds
of clerks, an office in town, the old office in the harbour, the
division into departments--passenger, cargo, lighterage, and so
on--secured a greater leisure for his last years in the
regenerated Sulaco, the capital of the Occidental Republic.
Liked by the natives for his good nature and the formality of his
manner, self-important and simple, known for years as a "friend
of our country," he felt himself a personality of mark in the
town. Getting up early for a turn in the market-place while the
gigantic shadow of Higuerota was still lying upon the fruit and
flower stalls piled up with masses of gorgeous colouring,
attending easily to current affairs, welcomed in houses, greeted
by ladies on the Alameda, with his entry into all the clubs and a
footing in the Casa Gould, he led his privileged old bachelor,
man-about-town existence with great comfort and solemnity. But on
mail-boat days he was down at the Harbour Office at an early
hour, with his own gig, manned by a smart crew in white and blue,
ready to dash off and board the ship directly she showed her bows
between the harbour heads.

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