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Chapter III.12
NOSTROMO had been growing rich very slowly. It was an effect of his prudence.
He could command himself even when thrown off his balance. And to become
the slave of a treasure with full self-knowledge is an occurrence rare and
mentally disturbing. But it was also in a great part because of the difficulty of
converting it into a form in which it could become available. The mere act of
getting it away from the island piecemeal, little by little, was surrounded by
difficulties, by the dangers of imminent detection. He had to visit the Great Isabel
in secret, between his voyages along the coast, which were the ostensible
source of his fortune. The crew of his own schooner were to be feared as if they
had been spies upon their dreaded captain. He did not dare stay too long in port.
When his coaster was unloaded, he hurried away on another trip, for he feared
arousing suspicion even by a day's delay. Sometimes during a week's stay, or
more, he could only manage one visit to the treasure. And that was all. A couple
of ingots. He suffered through his fears as much as through his prudence. To do
things by stealth humiliated him. And he suffered most from the concentration of
his thought upon the treasure.
A transgression, a crime, entering a man's existence, eats it up like a malignant
growth, consumes it like a fever. Nostromo had lost his peace; the genuineness
of all his qualities was destroyed. He felt it himself, and often cursed the silver of
San Tome. His courage, his magnificence, his leisure, his work, everything was
as before, only everything was a sham. But the treasure was real. He clung to it
with a more tenacious, mental grip. But he hated the feel of the ingots.
Sometimes, after putting away a couple of them in his cabin--the fruit of a secret
night expedition to the Great Isabel--he would look fixedly at his fingers, as if
surprised they had left no stain on his skin.
He had found means of disposing of the silver bars in distant ports. The
necessity to go far afield made his coasting voyages long, and caused his visits
to the Viola household to be rare and far between. He was fated to have his wife
from there. He had said so once to Giorgio himself. But the Garibaldino had put
the subject aside with a majestic wave of his hand, clutching a smouldering black
briar-root pipe. There was plenty of time; he was not the man to force his girls
upon anybody.
As time went on, Nostromo discovered his preference for the younger of the two.
They had some profound similarities of nature, which must exist for complete
confidence and understanding, no matter what outward differences of
temperament there may be to exercise their own fascination of contrast. His wife
would have to know his secret or else life would be impossible. He was attracted
by Giselle, with her candid gaze and white throat, pliable, silent, fond of
excitement under her quiet indolence; whereas Linda, with her intense,
passionately pale face, energetic, all fire and words, touched with gloom and
scorn, a chip of the old block, true daughter of the austere republican, but with
Teresa's voice, inspired him with a deep-seated mistrust. Moreover, the poor girl
could not conceal her love for Gian' Battista. He could see it would be violent,
exacting, suspicious, uncompromising--like her soul. Giselle, by her fair but warm