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Chapter III.4
CHARLES GOULD turned towards the town. Before him the jagged peaks of the
Sierra came out all black in the clear dawn. Here and there a muffled lepero
whisked round the corner of a grass-grown street before the ringing hoofs of his
horse. Dogs barked behind the walls of the gardens; and with the colourless light
the chill of the snows seemed to fall from the mountains upon the disjointed
pavements and the shuttered houses with broken cornices and the plaster
peeling in patches between the flat pilasters of the fronts. The daybreak
struggled with the gloom under the arcades on the Plaza, with no signs of
country people disposing their goods for the day's market, piles of fruit, bundles
of vegetables ornamented with flowers, on low benches under enormous mat
umbrellas; with no cheery early morning bustle of villagers, women, children, and
loaded donkeys. Only a few scattered knots of revolutionists stood in the vast
space, all looking one way from under their slouched hats for some sign of news
from Rincon. The largest of those groups turned about like one man as Charles
Gould passed, and shouted, "Viva la libertad!" after him in a menacing tone.
Charles Gould rode on, and turned into the archway of his house. In the patio
littered with straw, a practicante, one of Dr. Monygham's native assistants, sat on
the ground with his back against the rim of the fountain, fingering a guitar
discreetly, while two girls of the lower class, standing up before him, shuffled
their feet a little and waved their arms, humming a popular dance tune.
Most of the wounded during the two days of rioting had been taken away already
by their friends and relations, but several figures could be seen sitting up
balancing their bandaged heads in time to the music. Charles Gould dismounted.
A sleepy mozo coming out of the bakery door took hold of the horse's bridle; the
practicante endeavoured to conceal his guitar hastily; the girls, unabashed,
stepped back smiling; and Charles Gould, on his way to the staircase, glanced
into a dark corner of the patio at another group, a mortally wounded Cargador
with a woman kneeling by his side; she mumbled prayers rapidly, trying at the
same time to force a piece of orange between the stiffening lips of the dying man.
The cruel futility of things stood unveiled in the levity and sufferings of that
incorrigible people; the cruel futility of lives and of deaths thrown away in the vain
endeavour to attain an enduring solution of the problem. Unlike Decoud, Charles
Gould could not play lightly a part in a tragic farce. It was tragic enough for him in
all conscience, but he could see no farcical element. He suffered too much under
a conviction of irremediable folly. He was too severely practical and too idealistic
to look upon its terrible humours with amusement, as Martin Decoud, the
imaginative materialist, was able to do in the dry light of his scepticism. To him,
as to all of us, the compromises with his conscience appeared uglier than ever in
the light of failure. His taciturnity, assumed with a purpose, had prevented him
from tampering openly with his thoughts; but the Gould Concession had
insidiously corrupted his judgment. He might have known, he said to himself,
leaning over the balustrade of the corredor, that Ribierism could never come to
anything. The mine had corrupted his judgment by making him sick of bribing and