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Chapter II.5
THE Gould carriage was the first to return from the harbour to the empty town.
On the ancient pavement, laid out in patterns, sunk into ruts and holes, the portly
Ignacio, mindful of the springs of the Parisian-built landau, had pulled up to a
walk, and Decoud in his corner contemplated moodily the inner aspect of the
gate. The squat turreted sides held up between them a mass of masonry with
bunches of grass growing at the top, and a grey, heavily scrolled, armorial shield
of stone above the apex of the arch with the arms of Spain nearly smoothed out
as if in readiness for some new device typical of the impending progress.
The explosive noise of the railway trucks seemed to augment Decoud's irritation.
He muttered something to himself, then began to talk aloud in curt, angry
phrases thrown at the silence of the two women. They did not look at him at all;
while Don Jose, with his semi-translucent, waxy complexion, overshadowed by
the soft grey hat, swayed a little to the jolts of the carriage by the side of Mrs.
"This sound puts a new edge on a very old truth."
Decoud spoke in French, perhaps because of Ignacio on the box above him; the
old coachman, with his broad back filling a short, silver-braided jacket, had a big
pair of ears, whose thick rims stood well away from his cropped head.
"Yes, the noise outside the city wall is new, but the principle is old."
He ruminated his discontent for a while, then began afresh with a sidelong glance
at Antonia--
"No, but just imagine our forefathers in morions and corselets drawn up outside
this gate, and a band of adventurers just landed from their ships in the harbour
there. Thieves, of course. Speculators, too. Their expeditions, each one, were
the speculations of grave and reverend persons in England. That is history, as
that absurd sailor Mitchell is always saying."
"Mitchell's arrangements for the embarkation of the troops were excellent!"
exclaimed Don Jose.
"That!--that! oh, that's really the work of that Genoese seaman! But to return to
my noises; there used to be in the old days the sound of trumpets outside that
gate. War trumpets! I'm sure they were trumpets. I have read somewhere that
Drake, who was the greatest of these men, used to dine alone in his cabin on
board ship to the sound of trumpets. In those days this town was full of wealth.
Those men came to take it. Now the whole land is like a treasure-house, and all
these people are breaking into it, whilst we are cutting each other's throats. The
only thing that keeps them out is mutual jealousy. But they'll come to an
agreement some day--and by the time we've settled our quarrels and become
decent and honourable, there'll be nothing left for us. It has always been the
same. We are a wonderful people, but it has always been our fate to be"--he did
not say "robbed," but added, after a pause--"exploited!"
Mrs. Gould said, "Oh, this is unjust!" And Antonia interjected, "Don't answer him,
Emilia. He is attacking me."
"You surely do not think I was attacking Don Carlos!" Decoud answered.