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Chapter II.1
THROUGH good and evil report in the varying fortune of that struggle which Don
Jose had characterized in the phrase, "the fate of national honesty trembles in
the balance," the Gould Concession, "Imperium in Imperio," had gone on
working; the square mountain had gone on pouring its treasure down the wooden
shoots to the unresting batteries of stamps; the lights of San Tome had twinkled
night after night upon the great, limitless shadow of the Campo; every three
months the silver escort had gone down to the sea as if neither the war nor its
consequences could ever affect the ancient Occidental State secluded beyond its
high barrier of the Cordillera. All the fighting took place on the other side of that
mighty wall of serrated peaks lorded over by the white dome of Higuerota and as
yet unbreached by the railway, of which only the first part, the easy Campo part
from Sulaco to the Ivie Valley at the foot of the pass, had been laid. Neither did
the telegraph line cross the mountains yet; its poles, like slender beacons on the
plain, penetrated into the forest fringe of the foot-hills cut by the deep avenue of
the track; and its wire ended abruptly in the construction camp at a white deal
table supporting a Morse apparatus, in a long hut of planks with a corrugated iron
roof overshadowed by gigantic cedar trees--the quarters of the engineer in
charge of the advance section.
The harbour was busy, too, with the traffic in railway material, and with the
movements of troops along the coast. The O.S.N. Company found much
occupation for its fleet. Costaguana had no navy, and, apart from a few
coastguard cutters, there were no national ships except a couple of old merchant
steamers used as transports.
Captain Mitchell, feeling more and more in the thick of history, found time for an
hour or so during an afternoon in the drawing-room of the Casa Gould, where,
with a strange ignorance of the real forces at work around him, he professed
himself delighted to get away from the strain of affairs. He did not know what he
would have done without his invaluable Nostromo, he declared. Those
confounded Costaguana politics gave him more work--he confided to Mrs. Gould-
-than he had bargained for.
Don Jose Avellanos had displayed in the service of the endangered Ribiera
Government an organizing activity and an eloquence of which the echoes
reached even Europe. For, after the new loan to the Ribiera Government, Europe
had become interested in Costaguana. The Sala of the Provincial Assembly (in
the Municipal Buildings of Sulaco), with its portraits of the Liberators on the walls
and an old flag of Cortez preserved in a glass case above the President's chair,
had heard all these speeches--the early one containing the impassioned
declaration "Militarism is the enemy," the famous one of the "trembling balance"
delivered on the occasion of the vote for the raising of a second Sulaco regiment
in the defence of the reforming Government; and when the provinces again
displayed their old flags (proscribed in Guzman Bento's time) there was another
of those great orations, when Don Jose greeted these old emblems of the war of