The Republic of Costaguana is in a state of revolt. Under the leadership of Pedrito Montero, rebel troops have taken control of the eastern part of the country. When news of the revolt reaches Sulaco, the principal town of the western section, which is separated from the rest of the country by a mountain range, the leaders begin to lay defense plans. The chief interest of the town is the San Tomé silver mine in the nearby mountains, a mine managed by Charles Gould, an Englishman who, although educated in England, was born in Sulaco, his father having been manager before him. Gould has made a great success of the mine. The semiannual shipment of silver has just come down from the mine to the customhouse when the telegraph operator in Esmeralda, on the eastern side of the mountains, sends word that troops have embarked on a transport under the command of General Sotillo and that the rebels plan to capture the silver ingots as well as Sulaco.
Gould decides to load the ingots onto a lighter, a barge used for loading and unloading ships’ cargo, and set it afloat in the gulf pending the arrival of a ship that will take the cargo to the United States. The man to guide the lighter will be Gian’ Battista, known in Sulaco as Nostromo—our man—for he is considered incorruptible. His companion will be Martin Decoud, editor of the local newspaper, who has been drawn from Paris and kept in Sulaco by the European-educated Antonia Avellanos, to whom he has just become engaged. Decoud has incurred the anger of Montero by denouncing the revolutionists in his paper; he has also conceived a plan for making the country around Sulaco an independent state, the Occidental Republic.
When Nostromo and Decoud set out in the black of night, Sotillo’s ship, approaching the port without lights, bumps into their lighter. Nostromo steers the lighter to a nearby uninhabited island, the Great Isabel, where he buries the treasure. He then leaves Decoud behind and rows the lighter to the middle of the harbor, pulls a plug, and sinks it. He swims the remaining mile to the mainland.
Upon discovering that the silver has been spirited away, Sotillo takes possession of the customhouse, where he conducts an inquiry. The next day, Sulaco is seized by Montero, who considers Sotillo of little worth.
When the Europeans and highborn natives who have not fled the town discover that Nostromo is back, they take it for granted that the silver has been lost in the harbor. They ask Nostromo to take a message to Barrios, who commands the loyalist troops on the eastern side of the mountains. After a spectacular engine ride up the side of the mountain and a subsequent six-day horseback journey through the mountain passes, Nostromo succeeds in delivering the message, and Barrios sets out with his troops by boat to relieve the town of Sulaco.
Coming into the harbor with the troops, Nostromo sights a boat that he recognizes as the small craft that had been attached to the lighter that had carried him and Decoud to Great Isabel. He dives...
(The entire section is 1245 words.)