She bore a whole two months of wandering very well; she had that power of resistance of fatigue which one discovers here and there in some quite frail-looking women with surprise--like a state of possession by a remarkably stubborn spirit. Don Pepe--the old Costaguana major--after much display of solicitude for the delicate lady, had ended by conferring upon her the name of the `Never-tired Senora'. Mrs Gould was indeed becoming a Costaguanera. Having acquired in southern Europe a knowledge of true peasantry, she was able to appreciate the great worth of the people. She saw the man under the silent, sad-eyed beast of burden. She saw them on the road carrying loads, lonely figures upon the plain, toiling under great straw hats, with their white clothing flapping about their limbs in the wind; she remembered the villages by some group of Indian women at the fountain impressed upon her memory, by the face of some young Indian girl with a melancholy and sensual profile, raising an earthenware vessel of cool water at the door of a dark hut with a wooden porch cumbered with great brown jars. The solid wooden wheels of an ox-cart, halted with its shafts in the dust, showed the strokes of the axe; and a party of charcoal carriers, with each man's load resting above his head on the top of the low mud wall, slept stretched in a row within the strip of shade.

The heavy stonework of bridges and churches left by the conquerors proclaimed the disregard of human labour, the tribute-labour of vanished nations. The power of king and church was gone, but at the sight of some heavy ruinous pile overtopping from a knoll the low mud walls of a village, Don Pepe would interrupt the tale of his campaigns to exclaim:

`Poor Costaguana! Before, it was everything for the padres, nothing for the people; and now it is everything for these great politicos in Sta Marta, for Negroes and thieves.'

Charles talked with the alcaldes, with the fiscales, with the principal people in towns, and with the caballeros on the estates. The comandantes of the districts offered him escorts--for he could show an authorization from the Sulaco political chief of the day. How much the document had cost him in gold twenty-dollar pieces was a secret between himself, a great man in the United States (who condescended to answer the Sulaco mail with his own hand), and a great man of another sort, with a dark olive complexion and shifty eyes, inhabiting then the Palace of the Intendencia in Sulaco, and who piqued himself on his culture and Europeanism generally in a rather French style because he had lived in Europe for some years--in exile, he said. However, it was pretty well known that just before this exile he had incautiously gambled away all the cash in the Custom House of a small port where a friend in power had procured for him the post of sub-collector. That youthful indiscretion had, amongst other inconveniences, obliged him to earn his living for a time as a cafe waiter in Madrid; but his talents must have been great, after all, since they had enabled him to retrieve his political fortunes so splendidly. Charles Gould, exposing his business with an imperturbable steadiness, called him Excellency.

The provincial Excellency assumed a weary superiority, tilting his chair far back near an open window in the true Costaguana manner. The military band happened to be braying operatic selections on the plaza just then, and twice he raised his hand imperatively for silence in order to listen to a favourite passage.

`Exquisite, delicious!' he murmured; while Charles Gould waited, standing by with inscrutable patience. `Lucia, Lucia di Lammermoor! I am passionate for music. It transports me. Ha! the divine--ha!--Mozart, Si! divine . . . What is it you were saying?'

Of course, rumours had reached him already of the new-comer's intentions. Besides, he had received an official warning from Sta Marta. His manner was intended simply to conceal his curiosity and impress his visitor. But after he had locked up something valuable in the drawer of a large writing-desk in a distant part of the room, he became very affable, and walked back to his chair smartly.

`If you intend to build villages and assemble a population near the mine, you shall require a decree of the Minister of the Interior for that,' he suggested in a businesslike manner.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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