Joseph Conrad: Nostromo

4. CHAPTER FOUR (continued)

The cruel futility of things stood unveiled in the levity and
sufferings of that incorrigible people; the cruel futility of
lives and of deaths thrown away in the vain endeavour to attain
an enduring solution of the problem. Unlike Decoud, Charles
Gould could not play lightly a part in a tragic farce. It was
tragic enough for him in all conscience, but he could see no
farcical element. He suffered too much under a conviction of
irremediable folly. He was too severely practical and too
idealistic to look upon its terrible humours with amusement, as
Martin Decoud, the imaginative materialist, was able to do in the
dry light of his scepticism. To him, as to all of us, the
compromises with his conscience appeared uglier than ever in the
light of failure. His taciturnity, assumed with a purpose, had
prevented him from tampering openly with his thoughts; but the
Gould Concession had insidiously corrupted his judgment. He
might have known, he said to himself, leaning over the balustrade
of the corredor, that Ribierism could never come to anything. The
mine had corrupted his judgment by making him sick of bribing and
intriguing merely to have his work left alone from day to day.
Like his father, he did not like to be robbed. It exasperated
him. He had persuaded himself that, apart from higher
considerations, the backing up of Don Jose's hopes of reform was
good business. He had gone forth into the senseless fray as his
poor uncle, whose sword hung on the wall of his study, had gone
forth--in the defence of the commonest decencies of organized
society. Only his weapon was the wealth of the mine, more
far-reaching and subtle than an honest blade of steel fitted into
a simple brass guard.

More dangerous to the wielder, too, this weapon of wealth,
double-edged with the cupidity and misery of mankind, steeped in
all the vices of self-indulgence as in a concoction of poisonous
roots, tainting the very cause for which it is drawn, always
ready to turn awkwardly in the hand. There was nothing for it now
but to go on using it. But he promised himself to see it
shattered into small bits before he let it be wrenched from his

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