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Chapter III.10
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,
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.
It would be into the Harbour Office that he would lead some privileged passenger
he had brought off in his own boat, and invite him to take a seat for a moment
while he signed a few papers. And Captain Mitchell, seating himself at his desk,
would keep on talking hospitably--
"There isn't much time if you are to see everything in a day. We shall be off in a
moment. We'll have lunch at the Amarilla Club--though I belong also to the
Anglo-American--mining engineers and business men, don't you know--and to
the Mirliflores as well, a new club--English, French, Italians, all sorts--lively young
fellows mostly, who wanted to pay a compliment to an old resident, sir. But we'll
lunch at the Amarilla. Interest you, I fancy. Real thing of the country. Men of the
first families. The President of the Occidental Republic himself belongs to it, sir.