DIRECTLY they were alone, the colonel's severe official manner changed. He
rose and approached the doctor. His eyes shone with rapacity and hope; he
became confidential. "The silver might have been indeed put on board the lighter,
but it was not conceivable that it should have been taken out to sea." The doctor,
watching every word, nodded slightly, smoking with apparent relish the cigar
which Sotillo had offered him as a sign of his friendly intentions. The doctor's
manner of cold detachment from the rest of the Europeans led Sotillo on, till, from
conjecture to conjecture, he arrived at hinting that in his opinion this was a putup
job on the part of Charles Gould, in order to get hold of that immense treasure all
to himself. The doctor, observant and self-possessed, muttered, "He is very
capable of that."
Here Captain Mitchell exclaimed with amazement, amusement, and indignation,
"You said that of Charles Gould!" Disgust, and even some suspicion, crept into
his tone, for to him, too, as to other Europeans, there appeared to be something
dubious about the doctor's personality.
"What on earth made you say that to this watch-stealing scoundrel?" he asked.
"What's the object of an infernal lie of that sort? That confounded pick-pocket
was quite capable of believing you."
He snorted. For a time the doctor remained silent in the dark.
"Yes, that is exactly what I did say," he uttered at last, in a tone which would
have made it clear enough to a third party that the pause was not of a reluctant
but of a reflective character. Captain Mitchell thought that he had never heard
anything so brazenly impudent in his life.
"Well, well!" he muttered to himself, but he had not the heart to voice his
thoughts. They were swept away by others full of astonishment and regret. A
heavy sense of discomfiture crushed him: the loss of the silver, the death of
Nostromo, which was really quite a blow to his sensibilities, because he had
become attached to his Capataz as people get attached to their inferiors from
love of ease and almost unconscious gratitude. And when he thought of Decoud
being drowned, too, his sensibility was almost overcome by this miserable end.
What a heavy blow for that poor young woman! Captain Mitchell did not belong to
the species of crabbed old bachelors; on the contrary, he liked to see young men
paying attentions to young women. It seemed to him a natural and proper thing.
Proper especially. As to sailors, it was different; it was not their place to marry, he
maintained, but it was on moral grounds as a matter of self-denial, for, he
explained, life on board ship is not fit for a woman even at best, and if you leave
her on shore, first of all it is not fair, and next she either suffers from it or doesn't
care a bit, which, in both cases, is bad. He couldn't have told what upset him
most--Charles Gould's immense material loss, the death of Nostromo, which was
a heavy loss to himself, or the idea of that beautiful and accomplished young
woman being plunged into mourning.
"Yes," the doctor, who had been apparently reflecting, began again, "he believed
me right enough. I thought he would have hugged me. 'Si, si,' he said, 'he will