IT MIGHT have been said that there he was only protecting his own. From the
first he had been admitted to live in the intimacy of the family of the hotel-keeper
who was a countryman of his. Old Giorgio Viola, a Genoese with a shaggy white
leonine head--often called simply "the Garibaldino" (as Mohammedans are called
after their prophet)--was, to use Captain Mitchell's own words, the "respectable
married friend" by whose advice Nostromo had left his ship to try for a run of
shore luck in Costaguana.
The old man, full of scorn for the populace, as your austere republican so often
is, had disregarded the preliminary sounds of trouble. He went on that day as
usual pottering about the "casa" in his slippers, muttering angrily to himself his
contempt of the non-political nature of the riot, and shrugging his shoulders. In
the end he was taken unawares by the out-rush of the rabble. It was too late then
to remove his family, and, indeed, where could he have run to with the portly
Signora Teresa and two little girls on that great plain? So, barricading every
opening, the old man sat down sternly in the middle of the darkened cafe with an
old shot-gun on his knees. His wife sat on another chair by his side, muttering
pious invocations to all the saints of the calendar.
The old republican did not believe in saints, or in prayers, or in what he called
"priest's religion." Liberty and Garibaldi were his divinities; but he tolerated
"superstition" in women, preserving in these matters a lofty and silent attitude.
His two girls, the eldest fourteen, and the other two years younger, crouched on
the sanded floor, on each side of the Signora Teresa, with their heads on their
mother's lap, both scared, but each in her own way, the dark-haired Linda
indignant and angry, the fair Giselle, the younger, bewildered and resigned. The
Patrona removed her arms, which embraced her daughters, for a moment to
cross herself and wring her hands hurriedly. She moaned a little louder.
"Oh! Gian' Battista, why art thou not here? Oh! why art thou not here?"
She was not then invoking the saint himself, but calling upon Nostromo, whose
patron he was. And Giorgio, motionless on the chair by her side, would be
provoked by these reproachful and distracted appeals.
"Peace, woman! Where's the sense of it? There's his duty," he murmured in the
dark; and she would retort, panting--
"Eh! I have no patience. Duty! What of the woman who has been like a mother to
him? I bent my knee to him this morning; don't you go out, Gian' Battista--stop in
the house, Battistino--look at those two little innocent children!"
Mrs. Viola was an Italian, too, a native of Spezzia, and though considerably
younger than her husband, already middle-aged. She had a handsome face,
whose complexion had turned yellow because the climate of Sulaco did not suit
her at all. Her voice was a rich contralto. When, with her arms folded tight under
her ample bosom, she scolded the squat, thick-legged China girls handling linen,
plucking fowls, pounding corn in wooden mortars amongst the mud outbuildings
at the back of the house, she could bring out such an impassioned, vibrating,
sepulchral note that the chained watch-dog bolted into his kennel with a great