Excerpt from “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” by B. Traven ~~Betrayal~~

picture-treasuresierramadre-travenCurtin sat down and, taking out his pipe, began to fill it. He did his best to seem unconcerned.
Dobbs remained standing and looked steadily at Curtin. Then he laughed derisively.
‘You’re right, my boy. Now I do know. I know now what you’re up to. And I’ve known it for some time.’
‘What have you known for some time?’ Curtin asked without looking up.
‘That you’ve had it in mind yourself to put a bullet through me tonight or tomorrow night, and bury me like a dead dog, and then make off with Howard’s lot and mine too, and laugh at us for a couple of fatheads.’
Curtin lowered his pipe, which he was just lighting, and looked up. His eyes were wide and vacant. This accusation robbed him of all power to give them any expression. He had never for a moment thought of acting the part that was foisted on to him. He did not call himself a pattern of integrity. He could help himself with the best, if it came to that, and he was not the victim of his conscience. Why should an insignificant creature like him have more exalted views and a more sensitive conscience than those who are pointed to as the great ones of the earth and extolled in newspapers, magazines and story books as the highest examples of energy, will-power and achievement? But, nevertheless, what Dobbs now attributed to him was more than he could stomach. Perhaps if he had thought of it himself he might not have thought so hardly of it. But thrown at him in this rancorous and disgusting way, he thought it the dirtiest action he had ever heard of. And if Dobbs thought him capable of it, it showed what Dobbs himself could sink to. How could he have thought it of anyone, unless it had been in his own mind? And in that case, Curtin was a dead man; for Dobbs would not think twice about destroying him in order to get the whole lot for himself. It was the consciousness of the peril he was in that deprived his eyes of all expression. He saw that from this peril there was no escape. He was helpless – about as helpless as a man can ever be. For what defence had he against Dobbs? They had four or five days’ journey before them. And even if they met anybody it would be no help. Dobbs had only to hint at the reward and he would have anyone they met on his side. And if they met no one, so much the better for Dobbs. Curtin could keep awake for one night and save his skin. But the next night he would only sleep the sounder. There would be no occasion for Dobbs to waste a bullet. He could tie him up and knock him on the head and bury him. He could even spare the knock on the head.
There was only one way out. Curtin had to do with Dobbs what Dobbs meant to do with him. Slay or be slain. There is no other law.
I won’t have his bronze, thought Curtin, but I must put him out of the way. The old man shall have his share and I shall have mine, and that swine’s I’ll bury with him. I won’t be the richer for him, but my life is worth as much as his.
His left hand with his pipe in it was on his left knee, and his right hand on the other. Now his right began to travel slowly to his hip pocket. But in the same moment Dobbs whipped out his revolver.
‘You stir, my boy. And I shoot,’ he shouted.
Curtin kept his hands still.
‘Up with ‘em!’
Curtin stretched his arms above his head.
‘I wasn’t far out,’ Dobbs jeered. ‘Your fine talk was only a smoke-screen. But you don’t get past me like that. Stand up!’ he said, coming nearer.
Curtin did not utter a word. His face had gone white. Dobbs went up to him and reached round to his hip pocket to disarm him. Curtin whipped round. Dobbs shot. But owing to Curtin’s sudden movement the bullet missed him; and before Dobbs could fire again Curtin laid him out with a powerful punch to the chin, and flinging himself on top took away his revolver. Then he jumped up and retreated a few steps.
‘The boot’s on the other foot, Dobbs,’ he said.

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1 Comment

Filed under Fiction, Literature

One response to “Excerpt from “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” by B. Traven ~~Betrayal~~

  1. Details of the author, B. Traven, are not confirmed. He is believed to have been born in Germany around 1882, and died in Mexico in 1969, presumably aged 87 years.
    ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’ was published in German in 1927, and in English in 1935.

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