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 impatiently.
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.
Senor Fuentes, on entering upon his functions of Gefe Politico, had turned his
diplomatic abilities to getting hold of the harbour as well as of the mine. The man
he pitched upon to negotiate with Sotillo was a Notary Public, whom the
revolution had found languishing in the common jail on a charge of forging
documents. Liberated by the mob along with the other "victims of Blanco
tyranny," he had hastened to offer his services to the new Government.
He set out determined to display much zeal and eloquence in trying to induce
Sotillo to come into town alone for a conference with Pedrito Montero. Nothing
was further from the colonel's intentions. The mere fleeting idea of trusting
himself into the famous Pedrito's hands had made him feel unwell several times.
It was out of the question--it was madness. And to put himself in open hostility
was madness, too. It would render impossible a systematic search for that
treasure, for that wealth of silver which he seemed to feel somewhere about, to
scent somewhere near.
But where? Where? Heavens! Where? Oh! why had he allowed that doctor to go!
Imbecile that he was. But no! It was the only right course, he reflected