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Chapter I.6
AT THAT time Nostromo had been already long enough in the country to raise to
the highest pitch Captain Mitchell's opinion of the extraordinary value of his
discovery. Clearly he was one of those invaluable subordinates whom to possess
is a legitimate cause of boasting. Captain Mitchell plumed himself upon his eye
for men--but he was not selfish--and in the innocence of his pride was already
developing that mania for "lending you my Capataz de Cargadores" which was to
bring Nostromo into personal contact, sooner or later, with every European in
Sulaco, as a sort of universal factotum--a prodigy of efficiency in his own sphere
of life.
"The fellow is devoted to me, body and soul!" Captain Mitchell was given to
affirm; and though nobody, perhaps, could have explained why it should be so, it
was impossible on a survey of their relation to throw doubt on that statement,
unless, indeed, one were a bitter, eccentric character like Dr. Monygham--for
instance--whose short, hopeless laugh expressed somehow an immense
mistrust of mankind. Not that Dr. Monygham was a prodigal either of laughter or
of words. He was bitterly taciturn when at his best. At his worst people feared the
open scornfulness of his tongue. Only Mrs. Gould could keep his unbelief in
men's motives within due bounds; but even to her (on an occasion not connected
with Nostromo, and in a tone which for him was gentle), even to her, he had said
once, "Really, it is most unreasonable to demand that a man should think of other
people so much better than he is able to think of himself."
And Mrs. Gould had hastened to drop the subject. There were strange rumours
of the English doctor. Years ago, in the time of Guzman Bento, he had been
mixed up, it was whispered, in a conspiracy which was betrayed and, as people
expressed it, drowned in blood. His hair had turned grey, his hairless, seamed
face was of a brick-dust colour; the large check pattern of his flannel shirt and his
old stained Panama hat were an established defiance to the conventionalities of
Sulaco. Had it not been for the immaculate cleanliness of his apparel he might
have been taken for one of those shiftless Europeans that are a moral eyesore to
the respectability of a foreign colony in almost every exotic part of the world. The
young ladies of Sulaco, adorning with clusters of pretty faces the balconies along
the Street of the Constitution, when they saw him pass, with his limping gait and
bowed head, a short linen jacket drawn on carelessly over the flannel check shirt,
would remark to each other, "Here is the Senor doctor going to call on Dona
Emilia. He has got his little coat on." The inference was true. Its deeper meaning
was hidden from their simple intelligence. Moreover, they expended no store of
thought on the doctor. He was old, ugly, learned--and a little "loco"--mad, if not a
bit of a sorcerer, as the common people suspected him of being. The little white
jacket was in reality a concession to Mrs. Gould's humanizing influence. The
doctor, with his habit of sceptical, bitter speech, had no other means of showing
his profound respect for the character of the woman who was known in the
country as the English Senora. He presented this tribute very seriously indeed; it