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Chapter II.7
IT WAS part of what Decoud would have called his sane materialism that he did
not believe in the possibility of friendship between man and woman.
The one exception he allowed confirmed, he maintained, that absolute rule.
Friendship was possible between brother and sister, meaning by friendship the
frank unreserve, as before another human being, of thoughts and sensations; all
the objectless and necessary sincerity of one's innermost life trying to re-act upon
the profound sympathies of another existence.
His favourite sister, the handsome, slightly arbitrary and resolute angel, ruling the
father and mother Decoud in the first-floor apartments of a very fine Parisian
house, was the recipient of Martin Decoud's confidences as to his thoughts,
actions, purposes, doubts, and even failures. . . .
"Prepare our little circle in Paris for the birth of another South American Republic.
One more or less, what does it matter? They may come into the world like evil
flowers on a hotbed of rotten institutions; but the seed of this one has germinated
in your brother's brain, and that will be enough for your devoted assent. I am
writing this to you by the light of a single candle, in a sort of inn, near the harbour,
kept by an Italian called Viola, a protege of Mrs. Gould. The whole building,
which, for all I know, may have been contrived by a Conquistador farmer of the
pearl fishery three hundred years ago, is perfectly silent. So is the plain between
the town and the harbour; silent, but not so dark as the house, because the
pickets of Italian workmen guarding the railway have lighted little fires all along
the line. It was not so quiet around here yesterday. We had an awful riot--a
sudden outbreak of the populace, which was not suppressed till late today. Its
object, no doubt, was loot, and that was defeated, as you may have learned
already from the cablegram sent via San Francisco and New York last night,
when the cables were still open. You have read already there that the energetic
action of the Europeans of the railway has saved the town from destruction, and
you may believe that. I wrote out the cable myself. We have no Reuter's agency
man here. I have also fired at the mob from the windows of the club, in company
with some other young men of position. Our object was to keep the Calle de la
Constitucion clear for the exodus of the ladies and children, who have taken
refuge on board a couple of cargo ships now in the harbour here. That was
yesterday. You should also have learned from the cable that the missing
President, Ribiera, who had disappeared after the battle of Sta. Marta, has
turned up here in Sulaco by one of those strange coincidences that are almost
incredible, riding on a lame mule into the very midst of the street fighting. It
appears that he had fled, in company of a muleteer called Bonifacio, across the
mountains from the threats of Montero into the arms of an enraged mob.
"The Capataz of Cargadores, that Italian sailor of whom I have written to you
before, has saved him from an ignoble death. That man seems to have a
particular talent for being on the spot whenever there is something picturesque to
be done.