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Minggu, 11 Juni 2017

Enchanted Forest Coloring Book Pdf Free Download

Enchanted Forest Coloring Book Pdf Free Download

heart of darkness by joseph conrad i the nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to heranchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest. the flood hadmade, the wind was nearly calm, and being bound down the river, theonly thing for it was to come to and wait for the turn of the tide. the sea-reach of the thames stretched beforeus like the beginning of an interminable waterway. in the offing thesea and the sky were welded

together without a joint, and in the luminousspace the tanned sails of the barges drifting up with the tide seemedto stand still in red clusters of canvas sharply peaked, with gleamsof varnished sprits. a haze rested on the low shores that ran outto sea in vanishing flatness. the air was dark above gravesend, and fartherback still seemed condensed into a mournful gloom, broodingmotionless over the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth. the director of companies was our captainand our host. we four affectionately watched his back as he stoodin the bows looking to

seaward. on the whole river there was nothingthat looked half so nautical. he resembled a pilot, which to aseaman is trustworthiness personified. it was difficult to realize hiswork was not out there in the luminous estuary, but behind him, withinthe brooding gloom. between us there was, as i have already saidsomewhere, the bond of the sea. besides holding our hearts togetherthrough long periods of separation, it had the effect of making ustolerant of each other's yarns--and even convictions. the lawyer--thebest of old fellows--had, because of his many years and many virtues,the only cushion on deck,

and was lying on the only rug. the accountanthad brought out already a box of dominoes, and was toying architecturallywith the bones. marlow sat cross-legged right aft, leaning againstthe mizzen-mast. he had sunken cheeks, a yellow complexion, a straightback, an ascetic aspect, and, with his arms dropped, the palms of handsoutwards, resembled an idol. the director, satisfied the anchor hadgood hold, made his way aft and sat down amongst us. we exchangeda few words lazily. afterwards there was silence on board the yacht. forsome reason or other we did not begin that game of dominoes. we felt meditative,and fit for nothing

but placid staring. the day was ending ina serenity of still and exquisite brilliance. the water shone pacifically;the sky, without a speck, was a benign immensity of unstainedlight; the very mist on the essex marshes was like a gauzy and radiantfabric, hung from the wooded rises inland, and draping the low shores indiaphanous folds. only the gloom to the west, brooding over the upperreaches, became more somber every minute, as if angered by the approachof the sun. and at last, in its curved and imperceptiblefall, the sun sank low, and from glowing white changed to a dull red withoutrays and without heat,

as if about to go out suddenly, stricken todeath by the touch of that gloom brooding over a crowd of men. forthwith a change came over the waters, andthe serenity became less brilliant but more profound. the old riverin its broad reach rested unruffled at the decline of day, after agesof good service done to the race that peopled its banks, spread out inthe tranquil dignity of a waterway leading to the uttermost ends ofthe earth. we looked at the venerable stream not in the vivid flush ofa short day that comes and departs for ever, but in the august lightof abiding memories. and

indeed nothing is easier for a man who has,as the phrase goes, "followed the sea" with reverence and affection,than to evoke the great spirit of the past upon the lower reachesof the thames. the tidal current runs to and fro in its unceasing service,crowded with memories of men and ships it had borne to the restof home or to the battles of the sea. it had known and served all themen of whom the nation is proud, from sir francis drake to sir johnfranklin, knights all, titled and untitled--the great knights-errant ofthe sea. it had borne all the ships whose names are like jewels flashingin the night of time, from

the golden hind returning with her round flanksfull of treasure, to be visited by the queen's highness and thus passout of the gigantic tale, to the erebus and terror, bound on other conquests--andthat never returned. it had known the ships and the men.they had sailed from deptford, from greenwich, from erith--theadventurers and the settlers; kings' ships and the ships of men on 'change;captains, admirals, the dark "interlopers" of the eastern trade, andthe commissioned "generals" of east india fleets. hunters for gold orpursuers of fame, they all had gone out on that stream, bearing the sword,and often the torch,

messengers of the might within the land, bearersof a spark from the sacred fire. what greatness had not floatedon the ebb of that river into the mystery of an unknown earth! . . . thedreams of men, the seed of commonwealths, the germs of empires. the sun set; the dusk fell on the stream,and lights began to appear along the shore. the chapman lighthouse, athree-legged thing erect on a mud-flat, shone strongly. lights of shipsmoved in the fairway--a great stir of lights going up and going down. andfarther west on the upper reaches the place of the monstrous town wasstill marked ominously on

the sky, a brooding gloom in sunshine, a luridglare under the stars. "and this also," said marlow suddenly, "hasbeen one of the dark places of the earth." he was the only man of us who still "followedthe sea." the worst that could be said of him was that he did not representhis class. he was a seaman, but he was a wanderer, too, whilemost seamen lead, if one may so express it, a sedentary life. their mindsare of the stay-at-home order, and their home is always with them--theship; and so is their country--the sea. one ship is very much likeanother, and the sea is

always the same. in the immutability of theirsurroundings the foreign shores, the foreign faces, the changing immensityof life, glide past, veiled not by a sense of mystery but by aslightly disdainful ignorance; for there is nothing mysterious to a seamanunless it be the sea itself, which is the mistress of his existence andas inscrutable as destiny. for the rest, after his hours of work, a casualstroll or a casual spree on shore suffices to unfold for him the secretof a whole continent, and generally he finds the secret not worthknowing. the yarns of seamen have a direct simplicity, the whole meaningof which lies within the

shell of a cracked nut. but marlow was nottypical (if his propensity to spin yarns be excepted), and to him themeaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, envelopingthe tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in thelikeness of one of these misty halos that sometimes are made visibleby the spectral illumination of moonshine. his remark did not seem at all was just like marlow. it was accepted in silence. no one took thetrouble to grunt even; and presently he said, very slow--

"i was thinking of very old times, when theromans first came here, nineteen hundred years ago--the other day.. . . light came out of this river since--you say knights? yes; but itis like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in theclouds. we live in the flicker--may it last as long as the old earthkeeps rolling! but darkness was here yesterday. imagine the feelingsof a commander of a fine--what d'ye call 'em?--trireme in themediterranean, ordered suddenly to the north; run overland acrossthe gauls in a hurry; put in charge of one of these craft the legionaries,--awonderful lot of handy

men they must have been too--used to build,apparently by the hundred, in a month or two, if we may believe whatwe read. imagine him here--the very end of the world, a sea the color oflead, a sky the color of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as aconcertina--and going up this river with stores, or orders, or what youlike. sandbanks, marshes, forests, savages,--precious little to eatfit for a civilized man, nothing but thames water to drink. no falernianwine here, no going ashore. here and there a military camp lostin a wilderness, like a needle in a bundle of hay--cold, fog, tempests,disease, exile, and

death,--death skulking in the air, in thewater, in the bush. they must have been dying like flies here. oh yes--hedid it. did it very well, too, no doubt, and without thinking much aboutit either, except afterwards to brag of what he had gone throughin his time, perhaps. they were men enough to face the darkness.and perhaps he was cheered by keeping his eye on a chance of promotionto the fleet at ravenna by-and-by, if he had good friends in romeand survived the awful climate. or think of a decent young citizenin a toga--perhaps too much dice, you know--coming out here in thetrain of some prefect, or

tax-gatherer, or trader even, to mend hisfortunes. land in a swamp, march through the woods, and in some inlandpost feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him,--allthat mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in thejungles, in the hearts of wild men. there's no initiation either intosuch mysteries. he has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible,which is also detestable. and it has a fascination, too, that goes to workupon him. the fascination of the abomination--you know. imagine thegrowing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender,the hate."

he paused. "mind," he began again, lifting one arm fromthe elbow, the palm of the hand outwards, so that, with his legs foldedbefore him, he had the pose of a buddha preaching in european clothesand without a lotus-flower--"mind, none of us would feelexactly like this. what saves us is efficiency--the devotion to efficiency.but these chaps were not much account, really. they were no colonists;their administration was merely a squeeze, and nothing more, i suspect.they were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force--nothingto boast of, when you have

it, since your strength is just an accidentarising from the weakness of others. they grabbed what they could get forthe sake of what was to be got. it was just robbery with violence,aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind--as is veryproper for those who tackle a darkness. the conquest of the earth, whichmostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexionor slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thingwhen you look into it too much. what redeems it is the idea only. anidea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretense but an idea; and anunselfish belief in the

idea--something you can set up, and bow downbefore, and offer a sacrifice to. . . ." he broke off. flames glided in the river,small green flames, red flames, white flames, pursuing, overtaking,joining, crossing each other--then separating slowly or hastily.the traffic of the great city went on in the deepening night upon the sleeplessriver. we looked on, waiting patiently--there was nothing elseto do till the end of the flood; but it was only after a long silence,when he said, in a hesitating voice, "i suppose you fellowsremember i did once turn

fresh-water sailor for a bit," that we knewwe were fated, before the ebb began to run, to hear about one ofmarlow's inconclusive experiences. "i don't want to bother you much with whathappened to me personally," he began, showing in this remark the weaknessof many tellers of tales who seem so often unaware of what their audiencewould best like to hear; "yet to understand the effect of iton me you ought to know how i got out there, what i saw, how i went up thatriver to the place where i first met the poor chap. it was the farthestpoint of navigation and the

culminating point of my experience. it seemedsomehow to throw a kind of light on everything about me--and into mythoughts. it was somber enough too--and pitiful--not extraordinary in anyway--not very clear either. no, not very clear. and yet it seemed to throwa kind of light. "i had then, as you remember, just returnedto london after a lot of indian ocean, pacific, china seas--a regulardose of the east--six years or so, and i was loafing about, hinderingyou fellows in your work and invading your homes, just as though i hadgot a heavenly mission to civilize you. it was very fine for a time,but after a bit i did get

tired of resting. then i began to look fora ship--i should think the hardest work on earth. but the ships wouldn'teven look at me. and i got tired of that game too. "now when i was a little chap i had a passionfor maps. i would look for hours at south america, or africa, or australia,and lose myself in all the glories of exploration. at that time therewere many blank spaces on the earth, and when i saw one that lookedparticularly inviting on a map (but they all look that) i would put my fingeron it and say, 'when i grow up i will go there.' the north polewas one of these places, i

remember. well, i haven't been there yet,and shall not try now. the glamour's off. other places were scatteredabout the equator, and in every sort of latitude all over the two hemispheres.i have been in some of them, and . . . well, we won't talk aboutthat. but there was one yet--the biggest, the most blank, so to speak--thati had a hankering after. "true, by this time it was not a blank spaceany more. it had got filled since my boyhood with rivers and lakes andnames. it had ceased to be a blank space of delightful mystery--a whitepatch for a boy to dream

gloriously over. it had become a place ofdarkness. but there was in it one river especially, a mighty big river,that you could see on the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, withits head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country,and its tail lost in the depths of the land. and as i looked at themap of it in a shop-window, it fascinated me as a snake would a bird--asilly little bird. then i remembered there was a big concern, a companyfor trade on that river. dash it all! i thought to myself, they can'ttrade without using some kind of craft on that lot of fresh water--steamboats!why shouldn't i

try to get charge of one? i went on alongfleet street, but could not shake off the idea. the snake had charmedme. "you understand it was a continental concern,that trading society; but i have a lot of relations living on the continent,because it's cheap and not so nasty as it looks, they say. "i am sorry to own i began to worry them.this was already a fresh departure for me. i was not used to get thingsthat way, you know. i always went my own road and on my own legswhere i had a mind to go. i wouldn't have believed it of myself; but,then--you see--i felt somehow

i must get there by hook or by crook. so iworried them. the men said 'my dear fellow,' and did nothing. then--wouldyou believe it?--i tried the women. i, charlie marlow, set the womento work--to get a job. heavens! well, you see, the notion drove me.i had an aunt, a dear enthusiastic soul. she wrote: 'it will bedelightful. i am ready to do anything, anything for you. it is a gloriousidea. i know the wife of a very high personage in the administration,and also a man who has lots of influence with,' &c., &c. she was determinedto make no end of fuss to get me appointed skipper of a river steamboat,if such was my fancy.

"i got my appointment--of course; and i gotit very quick. it appears the company had received news that one oftheir captains had been killed in a scuffle with the natives. this was mychance, and it made me the more anxious to go. it was only months andmonths afterwards, when i made the attempt to recover what was leftof the body, that i heard the original quarrel arose from a misunderstandingabout some hens. yes, two black hens. fresleven--that was the fellow'sname, a dane--thought himself wronged somehow in the bargain, sohe went ashore and started to hammer the chief of the village with a stick.oh, it didn't surprise

me in the least to hear this, and at the sametime to be told that fresleven was the gentlest, quietest creaturethat ever walked on two legs. no doubt he was; but he had been a coupleof years already out there engaged in the noble cause, you know,and he probably felt the need at last of asserting his self-respectin some way. therefore he whacked the old nigger mercilessly, whilea big crowd of his people watched him, thunderstruck, till some man,--iwas told the chief's son,--in desperation at hearing the old chapyell, made a tentative jab with a spear at the white man--and of courseit went quite easy between

the shoulder-blades. then the whole populationcleared into the forest, expecting all kinds of calamities to happen,while, on the other hand, the steamer fresleven commanded left alsoin a bad panic, in charge of the engineer, i believe. afterwards nobodyseemed to trouble much about fresleven's remains, till i got outand stepped into his shoes. i couldn't let it rest, though; but when anopportunity offered at last to meet my predecessor, the grass growing throughhis ribs was tall enough to hide his bones. they were all there. thesupernatural being had not been touched after he fell. and the villagewas deserted, the huts gaped

black, rotting, all askew within the fallenenclosures. a calamity had come to it, sure enough. the people hadvanished. mad terror had scattered them, men, women, and children,through the bush, and they had never returned. what became of the hens idon't know either. i should think the cause of progress got them, anyhow.however, through this glorious affair i got my appointment, beforei had fairly begun to hope for it. "i flew around like mad to get ready, andbefore forty-eight hours i was crossing the channel to show myself tomy employers, and sign the

contract. in a very few hours i arrived ina city that always makes me think of a whited sepulcher. prejudice nodoubt. i had no difficulty in finding the company's offices. it was thebiggest thing in the town, and everybody i met was full of it. they weregoing to run an over-sea empire, and make no end of coin by trade. "a narrow and deserted street in deep shadow,high houses, innumerable windows with venetian blinds, a dead silence,grass sprouting between the stones, imposing carriage archways rightand left, immense double doors standing ponderously ajar. i slippedthrough one of these cracks,

went up a swept and ungarnished staircase,as arid as a desert, and opened the first door i came to. two women,one fat and the other slim, sat on straw-bottomed chairs, knitting blackwool. the slim one got up and walked straight at me--still knittingwith downcast eyes--and only just as i began to think of getting out ofher way, as you would for a somnambulist, stood still, and looked up.her dress was as plain as an umbrella-cover, and she turned round withouta word and preceded me into a waiting-room. i gave my name, and lookedabout. deal table in the middle, plain chairs all round the walls,on one end a large shining

map, marked with all the colors of a rainbow.there was a vast amount of red--good to see at any time, because oneknows that some real work is done in there, a deuce of a lot of blue,a little green, smears of orange, and, on the east coast, a purple patch,to show where the jolly pioneers of progress drink the jolly lager-beer.however, i wasn't going into any of these. i was going into the yellow.dead in the center. and the river was there--fascinating--deadly--likea snake. ough! a door opened, a white-haired secretarial head, butwearing a compassionate expression, appeared, and a skinny forefingerbeckoned me into the

sanctuary. its light was dim, and a heavywriting-desk squatted in the middle. from behind that structure cameout an impression of pale plumpness in a frock-coat. the great man himself.he was five feet six, i should judge, and had his grip on thehandle-end of ever so many millions. he shook hands, i fancy, murmuredvaguely, was satisfied with my french. bon voyage. "in about forty-five seconds i found myselfagain in the waiting-room with the compassionate secretary, who, fullof desolation and sympathy, made me sign some document. i believe i undertookamongst other things

not to disclose any trade secrets. well, iam not going to. "i began to feel slightly uneasy. you knowi am not used to such ceremonies, and there was something ominousin the atmosphere. it was just as though i had been let into someconspiracy--i don't know--something not quite right; and i wasglad to get out. in the outer room the two women knitted black wool feverishly.people were arriving, and the younger one was walking back and forthintroducing them. the old one sat on her chair. her flat cloth slipperswere propped up on a foot-warmer, and a cat reposed on her lap.she wore a starched

white affair on her head, had a wart on onecheek, and silver-rimmed spectacles hung on the tip of her nose. sheglanced at me above the glasses. the swift and indifferent placidityof that look troubled me. two youths with foolish and cheery countenanceswere being piloted over, and she threw at them the same quick glanceof unconcerned wisdom. she seemed to know all about them and about metoo. an eerie feeling came over me. she seemed uncanny and fateful. oftenfar away there i thought of these two, guarding the door of darkness,knitting black wool as for a warm pall, one introducing, introducingcontinuously to the unknown,

the other scrutinizing the cheery and foolishfaces with unconcerned old eyes. ave! old knitter of black wool. moriturite salutant. not many of those she looked at ever saw her again--nothalf, by a long way. "there was yet a visit to the doctor. 'a simpleformality,' assured me the secretary, with an air of taking an immensepart in all my sorrows. accordingly a young chap wearing his hat overthe left eyebrow, some clerk i suppose,--there must have been clerksin the business, though the house was as still as a house in a cityof the dead,--came from somewhere up-stairs, and led me forth. hewas shabby and careless, with

ink-stains on the sleeves of his jacket, andhis cravat was large and billowy, under a chin shaped like the toeof an old boot. it was a little too early for the doctor, so i proposeda drink, and thereupon he developed a vein of joviality. as we sat overour vermouths he glorified the company's business, and by-and-by i expressedcasually my surprise at him not going out there. he became verycool and collected all at once. 'i am not such a fool as i look, quothplato to his disciples,' he said sententiously, emptied his glass withgreat resolution, and we rose.

"the old doctor felt my pulse, evidently thinkingof something else the while. 'good, good for there,' he mumbled,and then with a certain eagerness asked me whether i would let himmeasure my head. rather surprised, i said yes, when he produced athing like calipers and got the dimensions back and front and every way,taking notes carefully. he was an unshaven little man in a threadbarecoat like a gaberdine, with his feet in slippers, and i thought him aharmless fool. 'i always ask leave, in the interests of science, to measurethe crania of those going out there,' he said. 'and when they come back,too?' i asked. 'oh, i

never see them,' he remarked; 'and, moreover,the changes take place inside, you know.' he smiled, as if at somequiet joke. 'so you are going out there. famous. interesting too.'he gave me a searching glance, and made another note. 'ever any madnessin your family?' he asked, in a matter-of-fact tone. i felt veryannoyed. 'is that question in the interests of science too?' 'it wouldbe,' he said, without taking notice of my irritation, 'interesting forscience to watch the mental changes of individuals, on the spot, but . . .' 'areyou an alienist?' i interrupted. 'every doctor should be--a little,'answered that original,

imperturbably. 'i have a little theory whichyou messieurs who go out there must help me to prove. this is my sharein the advantages my country shall reap from the possession ofsuch a magnificent dependency. the mere wealth i leave to others. pardonmy questions, but you are the first englishman coming under my observation.. . .' i hastened to assure him i was not in the least typical.'if i were,' said i, 'i wouldn't be talking like this with you.''what you say is rather profound, and probably erroneous,' he said,with a laugh. 'avoid irritation more than exposure to the sun.adieu. how do you english

say, eh? good-by. ah! good-by. adieu. in thetropics one must before everything keep calm.' . . . he lifted a warningforefinger. . . . 'du calme, du calme. adieu.' "one thing more remained to do--say good-byto my excellent aunt. i found her triumphant. i had a cup of tea--thelast decent cup of tea for many days--and in a room that most soothinglylooked just as you would expect a lady's drawing-room to look, we hada long quiet chat by the fireside. in the course of these confidencesit became quite plain to me i had been represented to the wife of thehigh dignitary, and goodness

knows to how many more people besides, asan exceptional and gifted creature--a piece of good fortune for thecompany--a man you don't get hold of every day. good heavens! and i wasgoing to take charge of a two-penny-halfpenny river-steamboat with apenny whistle attached! it appeared, however, i was also one of the workers,with a capital--you know. something like an emissary of light,something like a lower sort of apostle. there had been a lot of such rotlet loose in print and talk just about that time, and the excellent woman,living right in the rush of all that humbug, got carried off her feet.she talked about 'weaning

those ignorant millions from their horridways,' till, upon my word, she made me quite uncomfortable. i ventured tohint that the company was run for profit. "'you forget, dear charlie, that the laboreris worthy of his hire,' she said, brightly. it's queer how out of touchwith truth women are. they live in a world of their own, and there hadnever been anything like it, and never can be. it is too beautiful altogether,and if they were to set it up it would go to pieces before thefirst sunset. some confounded fact we men have been living contentedly withever since the day of

creation would start up and knock the wholething over. "after this i got embraced, told to wear flannel,be sure to write often, and so on--and i left. in the street--idon't know why--a queer feeling came to me that i was an impostor.odd thing that i, who used to clear out for any part of the world at twenty-fourhours' notice, with less thought than most men give to the crossingof a street, had a moment--i won't say of hesitation, but ofstartled pause, before this commonplace affair. the best way i can explainit to you is by saying that, for a second or two, i felt as though,instead of going to the

center of a continent, i were about to setoff for the center of the earth. "i left in a french steamer, and she calledin every blamed port they have out there, for, as far as i could see,the sole purpose of landing soldiers and custom-house officers. i watchedthe coast. watching a coast as it slips by the ship is like thinkingabout an enigma. there it is before you--smiling, frowning, inviting,grand, mean, insipid, or savage, and always mute with an air of whispering,'come and find out.' this one was almost featureless, as if stillin the making, with

an aspect of monotonous grimness. the edgeof a colossal jungle, so dark-green as to be almost black, fringedwith white surf, ran straight, like a ruled line, far, far away along a bluesea whose glitter was blurred by a creeping mist. the sun was fierce,the land seemed to glisten and drip with steam. here and theregrayish-whitish specks showed up, clustered inside the white surf,with a flag flying above them perhaps. settlements some centuries old,and still no bigger than pin-heads on the untouched expanse of theirbackground. we pounded along, stopped, landed soldiers; went on,landed custom-house clerks to

levy toll in what looked like a god-forsakenwilderness, with a tin shed and a flag-pole lost in it; landed more soldiers--totake care of the custom-house clerks, presumably. some, i heard,got drowned in the surf; but whether they did or not, nobody seemedparticularly to care. they were just flung out there, and on we went.every day the coast looked the same, as though we had not moved;but we passed various places--trading places--with names like gran'bassam little popo, names that seemed to belong to some sordid farceacted in front of a sinister backcloth. the idleness of a passenger, myisolation amongst all these

men with whom i had no point of contact, theoily and languid sea, the uniform somberness of the coast, seemed tokeep me away from the truth of things, within the toil of a mournful andsenseless delusion. the voice of the surf heard now and then was apositive pleasure, like the speech of a brother. it was something natural,that had its reason, that had a meaning. now and then a boat from theshore gave one a momentary contact with reality. it was paddled by blackfellows. you could see from afar the white of their eyeballs glistening.they shouted, sang; their bodies streamed with perspiration; theyhad faces like grotesque

masks--these chaps; but they had bone, muscle,a wild vitality, an intense energy of movement, that was as naturaland true as the surf along their coast. they wanted no excuse forbeing there. they were a great comfort to look at. for a time i wouldfeel i belonged still to a world of straightforward facts; but thefeeling would not last long. something would turn up to scare it away.once, i remember, we came upon a man-of-war anchored off the coast. therewasn't even a shed there, and she was shelling the bush. it appears thefrench had one of their wars going on thereabouts. her ensign dropped limplike a rag; the muzzles

of the long eight-inch guns stuck out allover the low hull; the greasy, slimy swell swung her up lazily and let herdown, swaying her thin masts. in the empty immensity of earth, sky,and water, there she was, incomprehensible, firing into a continent.pop, would go one of the eight-inch guns; a small flame would dartand vanish, a little white smoke would disappear, a tiny projectilewould give a feeble screech--and nothing happened. nothing couldhappen. there was a touch of insanity in the proceeding, a sense oflugubrious drollery in the sight; and it was not dissipated by somebodyon board assuring me

earnestly there was a camp of natives--hecalled them enemies!--hidden out of sight somewhere. "we gave her her letters (i heard the menin that lonely ship were dying of fever at the rate of three a day) and wenton. we called at some more places with farcical names, where the merrydance of death and trade goes on in a still and earthy atmosphere asof an overheated catacomb; all along the formless coast bordered by dangeroussurf, as if nature herself had tried to ward off intruders; inand out of rivers, streams of death in life, whose banks were rottinginto mud, whose waters,

thickened into slime, invaded the contortedmangroves, that seemed to writhe at us in the extremity of an impotentdespair. nowhere did we stop long enough to get a particularized impression,but the general sense of vague and oppressive wonder grewupon me. it was like a weary pilgrimage amongst hints for nightmares. "it was upward of thirty days before i sawthe mouth of the big river. we anchored off the seat of the government.but my work would not begin till some two hundred miles farther on. soas soon as i could i made a start for a place thirty miles higher up.

"i had my passage on a little sea-going steamer.her captain was a swede, and knowing me for a seaman, invitedme on the bridge. he was a young man, lean, fair, and morose, with lankyhair and a shuffling gait. as we left the miserable little wharf, hetossed his head contemptuously at the shore. 'been living there?' he asked.i said, 'yes.' 'fine lot these government chaps--are they not?' hewent on, speaking english with great precision and considerable bitterness.'it is funny what some people will do for a few francs a month. iwonder what becomes of that kind when it goes up country?' i said to himi expected to see that

soon. 'so-o-o!' he exclaimed. he shuffledathwart, keeping one eye ahead vigilantly. 'don't be too sure,' he continued.'the other day i took up a man who hanged himself on the road. hewas a swede, too.' 'hanged himself! why, in god's name?' i cried.he kept on looking out watchfully. 'who knows? the sun too muchfor him, or the country perhaps.' "at last we opened a reach. a rocky cliffappeared, mounds of turned-up earth by the shore, houses on a hill, others,with iron roofs, amongst a waste of excavations, or hanging to the declivity.a continuous noise of

the rapids above hovered over this scene ofinhabited devastation. a lot of people, mostly black and naked, movedabout like ants. a jetty projected into the river. a blinding sunlightdrowned all this at times in a sudden recrudescence of glare. 'there'syour company's station,' said the swede, pointing to three wooden barrack-likestructures on the rocky slope. 'i will send your things up.four boxes did you say? so. farewell.' "i came upon a boiler wallowing in the grass,then found a path leading up the hill. it turned aside for thebowlders, and also for an

undersized railway-truck lying there on itsback with its wheels in the air. one was off. the thing looked asdead as the carcass of some animal. i came upon more pieces of decayingmachinery, a stack of rusty rails. to the left a clump of trees made ashady spot, where dark things seemed to stir feebly. i blinked, the pathwas steep. a horn tooted to the right, and i saw the black people run.a heavy and dull detonation shook the ground, a puff of smoke came outof the cliff, and that was all. no change appeared on the face of therock. they were building a railway. the cliff was not in the way or anything;but this objectless

blasting was all the work going on. "a slight clinking behind me made me turnmy head. six black men advanced in a file, toiling up the path. theywalked erect and slow, balancing small baskets full of earth on theirheads, and the clink kept time with their footsteps. black rags werewound round their loins, and the short ends behind wagged to and fro liketails. i could see every rib, the joints of their limbs were like knotsin a rope; each had an iron collar on his neck, and all were connectedtogether with a chain whose bights swung between them, rhythmicallyclinking. another report

from the cliff made me think suddenly of thatship of war i had seen firing into a continent. it was the same kindof ominous voice; but these men could by no stretch of imaginationbe called enemies. they were called criminals, and the outraged law,like the bursting shells, had come to them, an insoluble mystery fromover the sea. all their meager breasts panted together, the violentlydilated nostrils quivered, the eyes stared stonily uphill. they passedme within six inches, without a glance, with that complete, deathlikeindifference of unhappy savages. behind this raw matter one of thereclaimed, the product of

the new forces at work, strolled despondently,carrying a rifle by its middle. he had a uniform jacket with one buttonoff, and seeing a white man on the path, hoisted his weapon to hisshoulder with alacrity. this was simple prudence, white men being so muchalike at a distance that he could not tell who i might be. he was speedilyreassured, and with a large, white, rascally grin, and a glanceat his charge, seemed to take me into partnership in his exalted trust.after all, i also was a part of the great cause of these high and justproceedings. "instead of going up, i turned and descendedto the left. my idea was to

let that chain-gang get out of sight beforei climbed the hill. you know i am not particularly tender; i've had tostrike and to fend off. i've had to resist and to attack sometimes--that'sonly one way of resisting--without counting the exact cost,according to the demands of such sort of life as i had blundered into.i've seen the devil of violence, and the devil of greed, and thedevil of hot desire; but, by all the stars! these were strong, lusty, red-eyeddevils, that swayed and drove men--men, i tell you. but as i stoodon this hillside, i foresaw that in the blinding sunshine of thatland i would become

acquainted with a flabby, pretending, weak-eyeddevil of a rapacious and pitiless folly. how insidious he could be,too, i was only to find out several months later and a thousand milesfarther. for a moment i stood appalled, as though by a warning. finallyi descended the hill, obliquely, towards the trees i had seen. "i avoided a vast artificial hole somebodyhad been digging on the slope, the purpose of which i found it impossibleto divine. it wasn't a quarry or a sandpit, anyhow. it was justa hole. it might have been connected with the philanthropic desireof giving the criminals

something to do. i don't know. then i nearlyfell into a very narrow ravine, almost no more than a scar in thehillside. i discovered that a lot of imported drainage-pipes for the settlementhad been tumbled in there. there wasn't one that was not was a wanton smash-up. at last i got under the trees. my purposewas to stroll into the shade for a moment; but no sooner within than itseemed to me i had stepped into a gloomy circle of some inferno. therapids were near, and an uninterrupted, uniform, headlong, rushingnoise filled the mournful stillness of the grove, where not a breathstirred, not a leaf moved,

with a mysterious sound--as though the tearingpace of the launched earth had suddenly become audible. "black shapes crouched, lay, sat between thetrees, leaning against the trunks, clinging to the earth, half comingout, half effaced within the dim light, in all the attitudes of pain,abandonment, and despair. another mine on the cliff went off, followedby a slight shudder of the soil under my feet. the work was going on.the work! and this was the place where some of the helpers had withdrawnto die. "they were dying slowly--it was very clear.they were not enemies, they

were not criminals, they were nothing earthlynow,--nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation, lying confusedlyin the greenish gloom. brought from all the recesses of thecoast in all the legality of time contracts, lost in uncongenial surroundings,fed on unfamiliar food, they sickened, became inefficient, andwere then allowed to crawl away and rest. these moribund shapes werefree as air--and nearly as thin. i began to distinguish the gleam ofeyes under the trees. then, glancing down, i saw a face near my hand.the black bones reclined at full length with one shoulder against thetree, and slowly the eyelids

rose and the sunken eyes looked up at me,enormous and vacant, a kind of blind, white flicker in the depths of theorbs, which died out slowly. the man seemed young--almost a boy--but youknow with them it's hard to tell. i found nothing else to do but to offerhim one of my good swede's ship's biscuits i had in my pocket. the fingersclosed slowly on it and held--there was no other movement and no otherglance. he had tied a bit of white worsted round his neck--why?where did he get it? was it a badge--an ornament--a charm--a propitiatoryact? was there any idea at all connected with it? it looked startlinground his black neck, this

bit of white thread from beyond the seas. "near the same tree two more bundles of acuteangles sat with their legs drawn up. one, with his chin propped on hisknees, stared at nothing, in an intolerable and appalling manner: hisbrother phantom rested its forehead, as if overcome with a great weariness;and all about others were scattered in every pose of contortedcollapse, as in some picture of a massacre or a pestilence. while i stoodhorror-struck, one of these creatures rose to his hands and knees, andwent off on all-fours towards the river to drink. he lapped out of his hand,then sat up in the

sunlight, crossing his shins in front of him,and after a time let his woolly head fall on his breastbone. "i didn't want any more loitering in the shade,and i made haste towards the station. when near the buildings i meta white man, in such an unexpected elegance of get-up that in thefirst moment i took him for a sort of vision. i saw a high starched collar,white cuffs, a light alpaca jacket, snowy trousers, a clear necktie,and varnished boots. no hat. hair parted, brushed, oiled, under agreen-lined parasol held in a big white hand. he was amazing, and had apenholder behind his ear.

"i shook hands with this miracle, and i learnedhe was the company's chief accountant, and that all the bookkeepingwas done at this station. he had come out for a moment, he said, 'toget a breath of fresh air.' the expression sounded wonderfully odd, withits suggestion of sedentary desk-life. i wouldn't have mentioned the fellowto you at all, only it was from his lips that i first heard thename of the man who is so indissolubly connected with the memoriesof that time. moreover, i respected the fellow. yes; i respected hiscollars, his vast cuffs, his brushed hair. his appearance was certainlythat of a hairdresser's

dummy; but in the great demoralization ofthe land he kept up his appearance. that's backbone. his starchedcollars and got-up shirt-fronts were achievements of character.he had been out nearly three years; and, later on, i could not helpasking him how he managed to sport such linen. he had just the faintestblush, and said modestly, 'i've been teaching one of the native womenabout the station. it was difficult. she had a distaste for thework.' this man had verily accomplished something. and he was devotedto his books, which were in apple-pie order.

"everything else in the station was in a muddle,--heads,things, buildings. strings of dusty niggers with splayfeet arrived and departed; a stream of manufactured goods,rubbishy cottons, beads, and brass-wire set into the depths of darkness,and in return came a precious trickle of ivory. "i had to wait in the station for ten days--aneternity. i lived in a hut in the yard, but to be out of the chaosi would sometimes get into the accountant's office. it was built of horizontalplanks, and so badly put together that, as he bent over his highdesk, he was barred from

neck to heels with narrow strips of sunlight.there was no need to open the big shutter to see. it was hot theretoo; big flies buzzed fiendishly, and did not sting, but stabbed.i sat generally on the floor, while, of faultless appearance (andeven slightly scented), perching on a high stool, he wrote, he wrote.sometimes he stood up for exercise. when a truckle-bed with a sick man(some invalided agent from up-country) was put in there, he exhibiteda gentle annoyance. 'the groans of this sick person,' he said, distractmy attention. and without that it is extremely difficult to guard againstclerical errors in this

climate.' "one day he remarked, without lifting hishead, 'in the interior you will no doubt meet mr. kurtz.' on my askingwho mr. kurtz was, he said he was a first-class agent; and seeingmy disappointment at this information, he added slowly, layingdown his pen, 'he is a very remarkable person.' further questions elicitedfrom him that mr. kurtz was at present in charge of a trading post,a very important one, in the true ivory-country, at 'the very bottom ofthere. sends in as much ivory as all the others put together. . . .' hebegan to write again. the sick

man was too ill to groan. the flies buzzedin a great peace. "suddenly there was a growing murmur of voicesand a great tramping of feet. a caravan had come in. a violent babbleof uncouth sounds burst out on the other side of the planks. all thecarriers were speaking together, and in the midst of the uproar thelamentable voice of the chief agent was heard 'giving it up' tearfullyfor the twentieth time that day. . . . he rose slowly. 'what a frightfulrow,' he said. he crossed the room gently to look at the sickman, and returning, said to me, 'he does not hear.' 'what! dead?' i asked,startled. 'no, not yet,'

he answered, with great composure. then, alludingwith a toss of the head to the tumult in the station-yard, 'whenone has got to make correct entries, one comes to hate those savages--hatethem to the death.' he remained thoughtful for a moment.'when you see mr. kurtz,' he went on, 'tell him from me that everythinghere'--he glanced at the desk--'is very satisfactory. i don't liketo write to him--with those messengers of ours you never know who mayget hold of your letter--at that central station.' he stared at me fora moment with his mild, bulging eyes. 'oh, he will go far, very far,'he began again. 'he

will be a somebody in the administration beforelong. they, above--the council in europe, you know--mean him to be.' "he turned to his work. the noise outsidehad ceased, and presently in going out i stopped at the door. in thesteady buzz of flies the homeward-bound agent was lying flushed andinsensible; the other, bent over his books, was making correct entriesof perfectly correct transactions; and fifty feet below the doorstepi could see the still tree-tops of the grove of death. "next day i left that station at last, witha caravan of sixty men, for

a two-hundred-mile tramp. "no use telling you much about that. paths,paths, everywhere; a stamped-in network of paths spreading overthe empty land, through long grass, through burnt grass, through thickets,down and up chilly ravines, up and down stony hills ablaze withheat; and a solitude, a solitude, nobody, not a hut. the populationhad cleared out a long time ago. well, if a lot of mysterious niggersarmed with all kinds of fearful weapons suddenly took to travelingon the road between deal and gravesend, catching the yokels right and leftto carry heavy loads for

them, i fancy every farm and cottage thereaboutswould get empty very soon. only here the dwellings were gone too.still i passed through several abandoned villages. there's somethingpathetically childish in the ruins of grass walls. day after day, withthe stamp and shuffle of sixty pair of bare feet behind me, each pairunder a 60-lb. load. camp, cook, sleep, strike camp, march. now and thena carrier dead in harness, at rest in the long grass near the path, withan empty water-gourd and his long staff lying by his side. a greatsilence around and above. perhaps on some quiet night the tremor offar-off drums, sinking,

swelling, a tremor vast, faint; a sound weird,appealing, suggestive, and wild--and perhaps with as profound a meaningas the sound of bells in a christian country. once a white man inan unbuttoned uniform, camping on the path with an armed escort oflank zanzibaris, very hospitable and festive--not to say drunk.was looking after the upkeep of the road, he declared. can't say i sawany road or any upkeep, unless the body of a middle-aged negro, with a bullet-holein the forehead, upon which i absolutely stumbled three milesfarther on, may be considered as a permanent improvement. i hada white companion too, not

a bad chap, but rather too fleshy and withthe exasperating habit of fainting on the hot hillsides, miles awayfrom the least bit of shade and water. annoying, you know, to hold yourown coat like a parasol over a man's head while he is coming-to. i couldn'thelp asking him once what he meant by coming there at all. 'to makemoney, of course. what do you think?' he said, scornfully. then he got fever,and had to be carried in a hammock slung under a pole. as he weighedsixteen stone i had no end of rows with the carriers. they jibbed, ranaway, sneaked off with their loads in the night--quite a mutiny. so, oneevening, i made a speech in

english with gestures, not one of which waslost to the sixty pairs of eyes before me, and the next morning i startedthe hammock off in front all right. an hour afterwards i came uponthe whole concern wrecked in a bush--man, hammock, groans, blankets, horrors.the heavy pole had skinned his poor nose. he was very anxiousfor me to kill somebody, but there wasn't the shadow of a carrier near.i remembered the old doctor,--'it would be interesting for scienceto watch the mental changes of individuals, on the spot.' i felti was becoming scientifically interesting. however, all thatis to no purpose. on the

fifteenth day i came in sight of the big riveragain, and hobbled into the central station. it was on a back watersurrounded by scrub and forest, with a pretty border of smelly mudon one side, and on the three others inclosed by a crazy fence of rushes.a neglected gap was all the gate it had, and the first glance at the placewas enough to let you see the flabby devil was running that show. whitemen with long staves in their hands appeared languidly from amongstthe buildings, strolling up to take a look at me, and then retired outof sight somewhere. one of them, a stout, excitable chap with black mustaches,informed me with

great volubility and many digressions, assoon as i told him who i was, that my steamer was at the bottom of the river.i was thunderstruck. what, how, why? oh, it was 'all right.' the'manager himself' was there. all quite correct. 'everybody had behavedsplendidly! splendidly!'--'you must,' he said in agitation, 'go and see thegeneral manager at once. he is waiting!' "i did not see the real significance of thatwreck at once. i fancy i see it now, but i am not sure--not at all.certainly the affair was too stupid--when i think of it--to be altogethernatural. still. . . . but

at the moment it presented itself simply asa confounded nuisance. the steamer was sunk. they had started two daysbefore in a sudden hurry up the river with the manager on board, incharge of some volunteer skipper, and before they had been out threehours they tore the bottom out of her on stones, and she sank near thesouth bank. i asked myself what i was to do there, now my boat was a matter of fact, i had plenty to do in fishing my command out ofthe river. i had to set about it the very next day. that, and the repairswhen i brought the pieces to the station, took some months.

"my first interview with the manager was curious.he did not ask me to sit down after my twenty-mile walk that morning.he was commonplace in complexion, in features, in manners, and invoice. he was of middle size and of ordinary build. his eyes, of theusual blue, were perhaps remarkably cold, and he certainly could makehis glance fall on one as trenchant and heavy as an ax. but even atthese times the rest of his person seemed to disclaim the intention. otherwisethere was only an indefinable, faint expression of his lips,something stealthy--a smile--not a smile--i remember it, but i can'texplain. it was

unconscious, this smile was, though just afterhe had said something it got intensified for an instant. it came atthe end of his speeches like a seal applied on the words to make the meaningof the commonest phrase appear absolutely inscrutable. he was a commontrader, from his youth up employed in these parts--nothing more.he was obeyed, yet he inspired neither love nor fear, nor even respect. heinspired uneasiness. that was it! uneasiness. not a definite mistrust--justuneasiness--nothing more. you have no idea how effective sucha . . . a . . . faculty can be. he had no genius for organizing, for initiative,or for order even.

that was evident in such things as the deplorablestate of the station. he had no learning, and no intelligence. hisposition had come to him--why? perhaps because he was never ill. . . he had served three terms of three years out there . . . becausetriumphant health in the general rout of constitutions is a kind ofpower in itself. when he went home on leave he rioted on a large scale--pompously.jack ashore--with a difference--in externals only. this onecould gather from his casual talk. he originated nothing, he could keepthe routine going--that's all. but he was great. he was great by thislittle thing that it was

impossible to tell what could control sucha man. he never gave that secret away. perhaps there was nothing withinhim. such a suspicion made one pause--for out there there were noexternal checks. once when various tropical diseases had laid low almostevery 'agent' in the station, he was heard to say, 'men who comeout here should have no entrails.' he sealed the utterance with thatsmile of his, as though it had been a door opening into a darknesshe had in his keeping. you fancied you had seen things--but the sealwas on. when annoyed at meal-times by the constant quarrels of thewhite men about precedence,

he ordered an immense round table to be made,for which a special house had to be built. this was the station's mess-room.where he sat was the first place--the rest were nowhere. one feltthis to be his unalterable conviction. he was neither civil nor uncivil.he was quiet. he allowed his 'boy'--an overfed young negro from thecoast--to treat the white men, under his very eyes, with provoking insolence. "he began to speak as soon as he saw me. ihad been very long on the road. he could not wait. had to start withoutme. the up-river stations had to be relieved. there had been so manydelays already that he did

not know who was dead and who was alive, andhow they got on--and so on, and so on. he paid no attention to my explanations,and, playing with a stick of sealing-wax, repeated several timesthat the situation was 'very grave, very grave.' there were rumorsthat a very important station was in jeopardy, and its chief, mr.kurtz, was ill. hoped it was not true. mr. kurtz was . . . i felt wearyand irritable. hang kurtz, i thought. i interrupted him by saying i hadheard of mr. kurtz on the coast. 'ah! so they talk of him down there,'he murmured to himself. then he began again, assuring me mr. kurtzwas the best agent he had, an

exceptional man, of the greatest importanceto the company; therefore i could understand his anxiety. he was, hesaid, 'very, very uneasy.' certainly he fidgeted on his chair a gooddeal, exclaimed, 'ah, mr. kurtz!' broke the stick of sealing-wax andseemed dumbfounded by the accident. next thing he wanted to know 'howlong it would take to' . . . i interrupted him again. being hungry, youknow, and kept on my feet too, i was getting savage. 'how could i tell,'i said. 'i hadn't even seen the wreck yet--some months, no doubt.'all this talk seemed to me so futile. 'some months,' he said. 'well,let us say three months before

we can make a start. yes. that ought to dothe affair.' i flung out of his hut (he lived all alone in a clay hutwith a sort of veranda) muttering to myself my opinion of him. hewas a chattering idiot. afterwards i took it back when it was bornein upon me startlingly with what extreme nicety he had estimatedthe time requisite for the 'affair.' "i went to work the next day, turning, soto speak, my back on that station. in that way only it seemed to mei could keep my hold on the redeeming facts of life. still, one must lookabout sometimes; and then

i saw this station, these men strolling aimlesslyabout in the sunshine of the yard. i asked myself sometimes whatit all meant. they wandered here and there with their absurd long stavesin their hands, like a lot of faithless pilgrims bewitched inside a rottenfence. the word 'ivory' rang in the air, was whispered, was would think they were praying to it. a taint of imbecile rapacityblew through it all, like a whiff from some corpse. by jove! i've neverseen anything so unreal in my life. and outside, the silent wildernesssurrounding this cleared speck on the earth struck me as somethinggreat and invincible, like

evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passingaway of this fantastic invasion. "oh, these months! well, never mind. variousthings happened. one evening a grass shed full of calico, cottonprints, beads, and i don't know what else, burst into a blaze so suddenlythat you would have thought the earth had opened to let an avengingfire consume all that trash. i was smoking my pipe quietly by mydismantled steamer, and saw them all cutting capers in the light, withtheir arms lifted high, when the stout man with mustaches came tearingdown to the river, a tin

pail in his hand, assured me that everybodywas 'behaving splendidly, splendidly,' dipped about a quart of waterand tore back again. i noticed there was a hole in the bottom ofhis pail. "i strolled up. there was no hurry. you seethe thing had gone off like a box of matches. it had been hopeless fromthe very first. the flame had leaped high, driven everybody back, lightedup everything--and collapsed. the shed was already a heap ofembers glowing fiercely. a nigger was being beaten near by. they saidhe had caused the fire in some way; be that as it may, he was screechingmost horribly. i saw him,

later on, for several days, sitting in a bitof shade looking very sick and trying to recover himself: afterwardshe arose and went out--and the wilderness without a sound took him intoits bosom again. as i approached the glow from the dark i foundmyself at the back of two men, talking. i heard the name of kurtz pronounced,then the words, 'take advantage of this unfortunate accident.' oneof the men was the manager. i wished him a good evening. 'did you eversee anything like it--eh? it is incredible,' he said, and walked off. theother man remained. he was a first-class agent, young, gentlemanly, abit reserved, with a forked

little beard and a hooked nose. he was stand-offishwith the other agents, and they on their side said he wasthe manager's spy upon them. as to me, i had hardly ever spoken to himbefore. we got into talk, and by-and-by we strolled away from the hissingruins. then he asked me to his room, which was in the main building ofthe station. he struck a match, and i perceived that this young aristocrathad not only a silver-mounted dressing-case but also a wholecandle all to himself. just at that time the manager was the onlyman supposed to have any right to candles. native mats covered theclay walls; a collection of

spears, assegais, shields, knives was hungup in trophies. the business intrusted to this fellow was the making ofbricks--so i had been informed; but there wasn't a fragment of abrick anywhere in the station, and he had been there more than ayear--waiting. it seems he could not make bricks without something, idon't know what--straw maybe. anyways, it could not be found there, andas it was not likely to be sent from europe, it did not appear clearto me what he was waiting for. an act of special creation perhaps. however,they were all waiting--all the sixteen or twenty pilgrims of them--forsomething; and upon my word

it did not seem an uncongenial occupation,from the way they took it, though the only thing that ever came to themwas disease--as far as i could see. they beguiled the time by backbitingand intriguing against each other in a foolish kind of way. therewas an air of plotting about that station, but nothing came of it, of was as unreal as everything else--as the philanthropic pretenseof the whole concern, as their talk, as their government, as theirshow of work. the only real feeling was a desire to get appointed to atrading-post where ivory was to be had, so that they could earn percentages.they intrigued

and slandered and hated each other only onthat account,--but as to effectually lifting a little finger--oh, heavens! there is something after all in the world allowingone man to steal a horse while another must not look at a halter. steal ahorse straight out. very well. he has done it. perhaps he can ride.but there is a way of looking at a halter that would provoke the most charitableof saints into a kick. "i had no idea why he wanted to be sociable,but as we chatted in there it suddenly occurred to me the fellow wastrying to get at something--in

fact, pumping me. he alluded constantly toeurope, to the people i was supposed to know there--putting leading questionsas to my acquaintances in the sepulchral city, and so on. his littleeyes glittered like mica discs--with curiosity,--though he triedto keep up a bit of superciliousness. at first i was astonished,but very soon i became awfully curious to see what he would findout from me. i couldn't possibly imagine what i had in me to makeit worth his while. it was very pretty to see how he baffled himself,for in truth my body was full of chills, and my head had nothing in it butthat wretched steamboat

business. it was evident he took me for aperfectly shameless prevaricator. at last he got angry, and toconceal a movement of furious annoyance, he yawned. i rose. then i noticeda small sketch in oils, on a panel, representing a woman, draped andblindfolded, carrying a lighted torch. the background was somber--almostblack. the movement of the woman was stately, and the effect of thetorchlight on the face was sinister. "it arrested me, and he stood by civilly,holding a half-pint champagne bottle (medical comforts) with the candlestuck in it. to my question he

said mr. kurtz had painted this--in this verystation more than a year ago--while waiting for means to go to histrading-post. 'tell me, pray,' said i, 'who is this mr. kurtz?' "'the chief of the inner station,' he answeredin a short tone, looking away. 'much obliged,' i said, laughing. 'andyou are the brickmaker of the central station. everyone knows that.'he was silent for a while. 'he is a prodigy,' he said at last. 'he isan emissary of pity, and science, and progress, and devil knows whatelse. we want,' he began to declaim suddenly, 'for the guidance ofthe cause intrusted to us by

europe, so to speak, higher intelligence,wide sympathies, a singleness of purpose.' 'who says that?' i asked. 'lotsof them,' he replied. 'some even write that; and so _he_ comes here, aspecial being, as you ought to know.' 'why ought i to know?' i interrupted,really surprised. he paid no attention. 'yes. to-day he is chiefof the best station, next year he will be assistant-manager, two yearsmore and . . . but i dare say you know what he will be in two years'time. you are of the new gang--the gang of virtue. the same peoplewho sent him specially also recommended you. oh, don't say no. i've myown eyes to trust.' light

dawned upon me. my dear aunt's influentialacquaintances were producing an unexpected effect upon that young man.i nearly burst into a laugh. 'do you read the company's confidential correspondence?'i asked. he hadn't a word to say. it was great fun. 'whenmr. kurtz,' i continued severely, 'is general manager, you won't havethe opportunity.' "he blew the candle out suddenly, and we wentoutside. the moon had risen. black figures strolled about listlessly,pouring water on the glow, whence proceeded a sound of hissing;steam ascended in the moonlight, the beaten nigger groaned somewhere.'what a row the brute

makes!' said the indefatigable man with themustaches, appearing near us. 'serve him right. transgression--punishment--bang!pitiless, pitiless. that's the only way. this will preventall conflagrations for the future. i was just telling the manager. . .' he noticed my companion, and became crestfallen all at once.'not in bed yet,' he said, with a kind of servile heartiness;'it's so natural. ha! danger--agitation.' he vanished. i went onto the river-side, and the other followed me. i heard a scathingmurmur at my ear, 'heap of muffs--go to.' the pilgrims could be seenin knots gesticulating,

discussing. several had still their stavesin their hands. i verily believe they took these sticks to bed withthem. beyond the fence the forest stood up spectrally in the moonlight,and through the dim stir, through the faint sounds of that lamentablecourtyard, the silence of the land went home to one's very heart,--itsmystery, its greatness, the amazing reality of its concealed life.the hurt nigger moaned feebly somewhere near by, and then fetched a deepsigh that made me mend my pace away from there. i felt a hand introducingitself under my arm. 'my dear sir,' said the fellow, 'i don't wantto be misunderstood, and

especially by you, who will see mr. kurtzlong before i can have that pleasure. i wouldn't like him to get a falseidea of my disposition. . . .' "i let him run on, this _papier-mache_ mephistopheles,and it seemed to me that if i tried i could poke my forefingerthrough him, and would find nothing inside but a little loose dirt, maybe.he, don't you see, had been planning to be assistant-manager by-and-byunder the present man, and i could see that the coming of that kurtzhad upset them both not a little. he talked precipitately, and i didnot try to stop him. i had my

shoulders against the wreck of my steamer,hauled up on the slope like a carcass of some big river animal. the smellof mud, of primeval mud, by jove! was in my nostrils, the high stillnessof primeval forest was before my eyes; there were shiny patches onthe black creek. the moon had spread over everything a thin layer ofsilver--over the rank grass, over the mud, upon the wall of matted vegetationstanding higher than the wall of a temple, over the great riveri could see through a somber gap glittering, glittering, as it flowed broadlyby without a murmur. all this was great, expectant, mute, whilethe man jabbered about

himself. i wondered whether the stillnesson the face of the immensity looking at us two were meant as an appealor as a menace. what were we who had strayed in here? could we handle thatdumb thing, or would it handle us? i felt how big, how confoundedlybig, was that thing that couldn't talk, and perhaps was deaf as well.what was in there? i could see a little ivory coming out from there,and i had heard mr. kurtz was in there. i had heard enough about it too--godknows! yet somehow it didn't bring any image with it--no more thanif i had been told an angel or a fiend was in there. i believed it inthe same way one of you might

believe there are inhabitants in the planetmars. i knew once a scotch sailmaker who was certain, dead sure, therewere people in mars. if you asked him for some idea how they looked andbehaved, he would get shy and mutter something about 'walking on all-fours.'if you as much as smiled, he would--though a man of sixty--offerto fight you. i would not have gone so far as to fight for kurtz, buti went for him near enough to a lie. you know i hate, detest, and can'tbear a lie, not because i am straighter than the rest of us, but simplybecause it appalls me. there is a taint of death, a flavor of mortalityin lies,--which is

exactly what i hate and detest in the world--whati want to forget. it makes me miserable and sick, like bitingsomething rotten would do. temperament, i suppose. well, i went nearenough to it by letting the young fool there believe anything he likedto imagine as to my influence in europe. i became in an instant as muchof a pretense as the rest of the bewitched pilgrims. this simply becausei had a notion it somehow would be of help to that kurtz whom at thetime i did not see--you understand. he was just a word for me. i didnot see the man in the name any more than you do. do you see him? do yousee the story? do you see

anything? it seems to me i am trying to tellyou a dream--making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream canconvey the dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity, surprise, andbewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of being capturedby the incredible which is of the very essence of dreams. . . ." he was silent for a while. ". . . no, it is impossible; it is impossibleto convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one'sexistence,--that which makes its truth, its meaning--its subtle andpenetrating essence. it is

impossible. we live, as we dream--alone. . . ." he paused again as if reflecting, then added--"ofcourse in this you fellows see more than i could then. you seeme, whom you know. . . ." it had become so pitch dark that we listenerscould hardly see one another. for a long time already he, sittingapart, had been no more to us than a voice. there was not a word fromanybody. the others might have been asleep, but i was awake. i listened,i listened on the watch for the sentence, for the word, that wouldgive me the clew to the faint uneasiness inspired by this narrativethat seemed to shape itself

without human lips in the heavy night-airof the river. ". . . yes--i let him run on," marlow beganagain, "and think what he pleased about the powers that were behindme. i did! and there was nothing behind me! there was nothing but thatwretched, old, mangled steamboat i was leaning against, while hetalked fluently about 'the necessity for every man to get on.' 'and whenone comes out here, you conceive, it is not to gaze at the moon.'mr. kurtz was a 'universal genius,' but even a genius would find it easierto work with 'adequate tools--intelligent men.' he did not make bricks--why,there was a

physical impossibility in the way--as i waswell aware; and if he did secretarial work for the manager, it wasbecause 'no sensible man rejects wantonly the confidence of his superiors.'did i see it? i saw it. what more did i want? what i really wantedwas rivets, by heaven! rivets. to get on with the work--to stop thehole. rivets i wanted. there were cases of them down at thecoast--cases--piled up--burst--split! you kicked a loose rivetat every second step in that station yard on the hillside. rivets had rolledinto the grove of death. you could fill your pockets with rivets forthe trouble of stooping

down--and there wasn't one rivet to be foundwhere it was wanted. we had plates that would do, but nothing to fastenthem with. and every week the messenger, a lone negro, letter-bag onshoulder and staff in hand, left our station for the coast. and severaltimes a week a coast caravan came in with trade goods,--ghastly glazedcalico that made you shudder only to look at it, glass beads value abouta penny a quart, confounded spotted cotton handkerchiefs. and no rivets.three carriers could have brought all that was wanted to set that steamboatafloat. "he was becoming confidential now, but i fancymy unresponsive attitude

must have exasperated him at last, for hejudged it necessary to inform me he feared neither god nor devil, let aloneany mere man. i said i could see that very well, but what i wantedwas a certain quantity of rivets--and rivets were what really mr. kurtzwanted, if he had only known it. now letters went to the coast everyweek. . . . 'my dear sir,' he cried, 'i write from dictation.'i demanded rivets. there was a way--for an intelligent man. he changedhis manner; became very cold, and suddenly began to talk about a hippopotamus;wondered whether sleeping on board the steamer (i stuck tomy salvage night and day)

i wasn't disturbed. there was an old hippothat had the bad habit of getting out on the bank and roaming at nightover the station grounds. the pilgrims used to turn out in a body andempty every rifle they could lay hands on at him. some even had sat upo' nights for him. all this energy was wasted, though. 'that animal hasa charmed life,' he said; 'but you can say this only of brutes in thiscountry. no man--you apprehend me?--no man here bears a charmedlife.' he stood there for a moment in the moonlight with his delicatehooked nose set a little askew, and his mica eyes glittering withouta wink, then, with a curt

good night, he strode off. i could see hewas disturbed and considerably puzzled, which made me feel more hopeful thani had been for days. it was a great comfort to turn from that chapto my influential friend, the battered, twisted, ruined, tin-pot steamboat.i clambered on board. she rang under my feet like an empty huntley & palmerbiscuit-tin kicked along a gutter; she was nothing so solid inmake, and rather less pretty in shape, but i had expended enough hard workon her to make me love her. no influential friend would have servedme better. she had given me a chance to come out a bit--to find outwhat i could do. no, i don't

like work. i had rather laze about and thinkof all the fine things that can be done. i don't like work--no man does--buti like what is in the work,--the chance to find yourself. your ownreality--for yourself, not for others--what no other man can ever know.they can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means. "i was not surprised to see somebody sittingaft, on the deck, with his legs dangling over the mud. you see irather chummed with the few mechanics there were in that station, whomthe other pilgrims naturally despised--on account of their imperfect manners,i suppose. this was the

foreman--a boiler-maker by trade--a good worker.he was a lank, bony, yellow-faced man, with big intense eyes. hisaspect was worried, and his head was as bald as the palm of my hand; buthis hair in falling seemed to have stuck to his chin, and had prosperedin the new locality, for his beard hung down to his waist. he wasa widower with six young children (he had left them in charge of asister of his to come out there), and the passion of his life was pigeon-flying.he was an enthusiast and a connoisseur. he would raveabout pigeons. after work hours he used sometimes to come over fromhis hut for a talk about his

children and his pigeons; at work, when hehad to crawl in the mud under the bottom of the steamboat, he would tieup that beard of his in a kind of white serviette he brought for the had loops to go over his ears. in the evening he could be seensquatted on the bank rinsing that wrapper in the creek with great care,then spreading it solemnly on a bush to dry. "i slapped him on the back and shouted, 'weshall have rivets!' he scrambled to his feet exclaiming 'no! rivets!'as though he couldn't believe his ears. then in a low voice, 'you. . . eh?' i don't know why

we behaved like lunatics. i put my fingerto the side of my nose and nodded mysteriously. 'good for you!' he cried,snapped his fingers above his head, lifting one foot. i tried a jig.we capered on the iron deck. a frightful clatter came out of that hulk,and the virgin forest on the other bank of the creek sent it back ina thundering roll upon the sleeping station. it must have made some ofthe pilgrims sit up in their hovels. a dark figure obscured the lighteddoorway of the manager's hut, vanished, then, a second or so after, thedoorway itself vanished too. we stopped, and the silence driven away bythe stamping of our feet

flowed back again from the recesses of theland. the great wall of vegetation, an exuberant and entangled massof trunks, branches, leaves, boughs, festoons, motionless in the moonlight,was like a rioting invasion of soundless life, a rolling waveof plants, piled up, crested, ready to topple over the creek, to sweep everylittle man of us out of his little existence. and it moved not.a deadened burst of mighty splashes and snorts reached us from afar,as though an ichthyosaurus had been taking a bath of glitter in the greatriver. 'after all,' said the boiler-maker in a reasonable tone, 'why shouldn'twe get the rivets?'

why not, indeed! i did not know of any reasonwhy we shouldn't. 'they'll come in three weeks,' i said confidently. "but they didn't. instead of rivets therecame an invasion, an infliction, a visitation. it came in sectionsduring the next three weeks, each section headed by a donkey carryinga white man in new clothes and tan shoes, bowing from that elevationright and left to the impressed pilgrims. a quarrelsome band offootsore sulky niggers trod on the heels of the donkeys; a lot of tents,camp-stools, tin boxes, white cases, brown bales would be shot down in thecourtyard, and the air of

mystery would deepen a little over the muddleof the station. five such installments came, with their absurd air ofdisorderly flight with the loot of innumerable outfit shops and provisionstores, that, one would think, they were lugging, after a raid,into the wilderness for equitable division. it was an inextricablemess of things decent in themselves but that human folly made looklike the spoils of thieving. "this devoted band called itself the eldoradoexploring expedition, and i believe they were sworn to secrecy. theirtalk, however, was the talk of sordid buccaneers: it was reckless withouthardihood, greedy without

audacity, and cruel without courage; therewas not an atom of foresight or of serious intention in the whole batchof them, and they did not seem aware these things are wanted for thework of the world. to tear treasure out of the bowels of the land wastheir desire, with no more moral purpose at the back of it than thereis in burglars breaking into a safe. who paid the expenses of the nobleenterprise i don't know; but the uncle of our manager was leader of thatlot. "in exterior he resembled a butcher in a poorneighborhood, and his eyes had a look of sleepy cunning. he carried hisfat paunch with ostentation

on his short legs, and during the time hisgang infested the station spoke to no one but his nephew. you couldsee these two roaming about all day long with their heads close togetherin an everlasting confab. "i had given up worrying myself about therivets. one's capacity for that kind of folly is more limited than youwould suppose. i said hang!--and let things slide. i had plentyof time for meditation, and now and then i would give some thoughtto kurtz. i wasn't very interested in him. no. still, i was curiousto see whether this man, who had come out equipped with moral ideas ofsome sort, would climb to the

top after all, and how he would set abouthis work when there." ii "one evening as i was lying flat on the deckof my steamboat, i heard voices approaching--and there were the nephewand the uncle strolling along the bank. i laid my head on my arm again,and had nearly lost myself in a doze, when somebody said in myear, as it were: 'i am as harmless as a little child, but i don't liketo be dictated to. am i the manager--or am i not? i was ordered to sendhim there. it's incredible.' . . . i became aware that the two were standingon the shore alongside

the forepart of the steamboat, just belowmy head. i did not move; it did not occur to me to move: i was sleepy.'it _is_ unpleasant,' grunted the uncle. 'he has asked the administrationto be sent there,' said the other, 'with the idea of showing what he coulddo; and i was instructed accordingly. look at the influence that manmust have. is it not frightful?' they both agreed it was frightful,then made several bizarre remarks: 'make rain and fine weather--oneman--the council--by the nose'--bits of absurd sentences that got thebetter of my drowsiness, so that i had pretty near the whole of mywits about me when the uncle

said, 'the climate may do away with this difficultyfor you. is he alone there?' 'yes,' answered the manager; 'he senthis assistant down the river with a note to me in these terms: "clearthis poor devil out of the country, and don't bother sending moreof that sort. i had rather be alone than have the kind of men you can disposeof with me." it was more than a year ago. can you imagine such impudence!''anything since then?' asked the other, hoarsely. 'ivory,'jerked the nephew; 'lots of it--prime sort--lots--most annoying, fromhim.' 'and with that?' questioned the heavy rumble. 'invoice,' wasthe reply fired out, so to

speak. then silence. they had been talkingabout kurtz. "i was broad awake by this time, but, lyingperfectly at ease, remained still, having no inducement to change my position.'how did that ivory come all this way?' growled the elder man,who seemed very vexed. the other explained that it had come with a fleetof canoes in charge of an english half-caste clerk kurtz had with him;that kurtz had apparently intended to return himself, the station beingby that time bare of goods and stores, but after coming three hundredmiles, had suddenly decided to go back, which he started to do alone ina small dug-out with four

paddlers, leaving the half-caste to continuedown the river with the ivory. the two fellows there seemed astoundedat anybody attempting such a thing. they were at a loss for an adequatemotive. as to me, i seemed to see kurtz for the first time. it was adistinct glimpse: the dug-out, four paddling savages, and the lone whiteman turning his back suddenly on the headquarters, on relief, on thoughtsof home--perhaps; setting his face towards the depths of the wilderness,towards his empty and desolate station. i did not know the motive.perhaps he was just simply a fine fellow who stuck to his work for itsown sake. his name, you

understand, had not been pronounced once.he was 'that man.' the half-caste, who, as far as i could see, hadconducted a difficult trip with great prudence and pluck, was invariablyalluded to as 'that scoundrel.' the 'scoundrel' had reported thatthe 'man' had been very ill--had recovered imperfectly. . . . thetwo below me moved away then a few paces, and strolled back and forth atsome little distance. i heard: 'military post--doctor--two hundred miles--quitealone now--unavoidable delays--nine months--no news--strange rumors.'they approached again, just as the manager was saying, 'no one, asfar as i know, unless a

species of wandering trader--a pestilentialfellow, snapping ivory from the natives.' who was it they were talkingabout now? i gathered in snatches that this was some man supposed tobe in kurtz's district, and of whom the manager did not approve. 'we willnot be free from unfair competition till one of these fellows is hangedfor an example,' he said. 'certainly,' grunted the other; 'gethim hanged! why not? anything--anything can be done in this country.that's what i say; nobody here, you understand, _here_, can endangeryour position. and why? you stand the climate--you outlast themall. the danger is in

europe; but there before i left i took careto--' they moved off and whispered, then their voices rose again. 'theextraordinary series of delays is not my fault. i did my possible.'the fat man sighed, 'very sad.' 'and the pestiferous absurdity of histalk,' continued the other; 'he bothered me enough when he was here. "eachstation should be like a beacon on the road towards better things,a center for trade of course, but also for humanizing, improving, instructing."conceive you--that ass! and he wants to be manager! no, it's--'here he got choked by excessive indignation, and i lifted my headthe least bit. i was

surprised to see how near they were--rightunder me. i could have spat upon their hats. they were looking on theground, absorbed in thought. the manager was switching his leg with a slendertwig: his sagacious relative lifted his head. 'you have been wellsince you came out this time?' he asked. the other gave a start. 'who?i? oh! like a charm--like a charm. but the rest--oh, my goodness! allsick. they die so quick, too, that i haven't the time to send themout of the country--it's incredible!' 'h'm. just so,' grunted the uncle.'ah! my boy, trust to this--i say, trust to this.' i saw him extendhis short flipper of

an arm for a gesture that took in the forest,the creek, the mud, the river,--seemed to beckon with a dishonoringflourish before the sunlit face of the land a treacherous appeal to thelurking death, to the hidden evil, to the profound darkness of itsheart. it was so startling that i leaped to my feet and looked back atthe edge of the forest, as though i had expected an answer of some sortto that black display of confidence. you know the foolish notions thatcome to one sometimes. the high stillness confronted these two figureswith its ominous patience, waiting for the passing away of a fantasticinvasion.

"they swore aloud together--out of sheer fright,i believe--then pretending not to know anything of my existence,turned back to the station. the sun was low; and leaning forwardside by side, they seemed to be tugging painfully uphill their two ridiculousshadows of unequal length, that trailed behind them slowly overthe tall grass without bending a single blade. "in a few days the eldorado expedition wentinto the patient wilderness, that closed upon it as the sea closes overa diver. long afterwards the news came that all the donkeys were dead.i know nothing as to the fate

of the less valuable animals. they, no doubt,like the rest of us, found what they deserved. i did not inquire. i wasthen rather excited at the prospect of meeting kurtz very soon. wheni say very soon i mean it comparatively. it was just two months fromthe day we left the creek when we came to the bank below kurtz's station. "going up that river was like traveling backto the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on theearth and the big trees were kings. an empty stream, a great silence, animpenetrable forest. the air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. there wasno joy in the brilliance of

sunshine. the long stretches of the waterwayran on, deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances. on silverysandbanks hippos and alligators sunned themselves side by side.the broadening waters flowed through a mob of wooded islands; you lostyour way on that river as you would in a desert, and butted all day longagainst shoals, trying to find the channel, till you thought yourselfbewitched and cut off for ever from everything you had known once--somewhere--faraway--in another existence perhaps. there were moments whenone's past came back to one, as it will sometimes when you have not a momentto spare to yourself;

but it came in the shape of an unrestful andnoisy dream, remembered with wonder amongst the overwhelming realitiesof this strange world of plants, and water, and silence. and this stillnessof life did not in the least resemble a peace. it was the stillnessof an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. itlooked at you with a vengeful aspect. i got used to it afterwards; i didnot see it any more; i had no time. i had to keep guessing at the channel;i had to discern, mostly by inspiration, the signs of hidden banks; iwatched for sunken stones; i was learning to clap my teeth smartly beforemy heart flew out, when i

shaved by a fluke some infernal sly old snagthat would have ripped the life out of the tin-pot steamboat and drownedall the pilgrims; i had to keep a look-out for the signs of dead woodwe could cut up in the night for next day's steaming. when you have toattend to things of that sort, to the mere incidents of the surface, thereality--the reality, i tell you--fades. the inner truth is hidden--luckily,luckily. but i felt it all the same; i felt often its mysteriousstillness watching me at my monkey tricks, just as it watches you fellowsperforming on your respective tight-ropes for--what is it? half-a-crowna tumble--"

"try to be civil, marlow," growled a voice,and i knew there was at least one listener awake besides myself. "i beg your pardon. i forgot the heartachewhich makes up the rest of the price. and indeed what does the pricematter, if the trick be well done? you do your tricks very well. and ididn't do badly either, since i managed not to sink that steamboat on myfirst trip. it's a wonder to me yet. imagine a blindfolded man set to drivea van over a bad road. i sweated and shivered over that businessconsiderably, i can tell you. after all, for a seaman, to scrape thebottom of the thing that's

supposed to float all the time under his careis the unpardonable sin. no one may know of it, but you never forgetthe thump--eh? a blow on the very heart. you remember it, you dream ofit, you wake up at night and think of it--years after--and go hot and coldall over. i don't pretend to say that steamboat floated all the time.more than once she had to wade for a bit, with twenty cannibals splashingaround and pushing. we had enlisted some of these chaps on theway for a crew. fine fellows--cannibals--in their place. they weremen one could work with, and i am grateful to them. and, after all,they did not eat each other

before my face: they had brought along a provisionof hippo-meat which went rotten, and made the mystery ofthe wilderness stink in my nostrils. phoo! i can sniff it now. i hadthe manager on board and three or four pilgrims with their staves--all complete.sometimes we came upon a station close by the bank, clinging to theskirts of the unknown, and the white men rushing out of a tumble-downhovel, with great gestures of joy and surprise and welcome, seemed verystrange,--had the appearance of being held there captive by a spell. theword ivory would ring in the air for a while--and on we went againinto the silence, along empty

reaches, round the still bends, between thehigh walls of our winding way, reverberating in hollow clapsthe ponderous beat of the stern-wheel. trees, trees, millions of trees,massive, immense, running up high; and at their foot, hugging the bankagainst the stream, crept the little begrimed steamboat, like a sluggishbeetle crawling on the floor of a lofty portico. it made you feelvery small, very lost, and yet it was not altogether depressing, thatfeeling. after all, if you were small, the grimy beetle crawled on--whichwas just what you wanted it to do. where the pilgrims imagined it crawledto i don't know.

to some place where they expected to get something,i bet! for me it crawled toward kurtz--exclusively; but whenthe steam-pipes started leaking we crawled very slow. the reachesopened before us and closed behind, as if the forest had stepped leisurelyacross the water to bar the way for our return. we penetrated deeperand deeper into the heart of darkness. it was very quiet there. at nightsometimes the roll of drums behind the curtain of trees would runup the river and remain sustained faintly, as if hovering in the airhigh over our heads, till the first break of day. whether it meant war,peace, or prayer we could

not tell. the dawns were heralded by the descentof a chill stillness; the woodcutters slept, their fires burnedlow; the snapping of a twig would make you start. we were wanderers ona prehistoric earth, on an earth that wore the aspect of an unknown planet.we could have fancied ourselves the first of men taking possessionof an accursed inheritance, to be subdued at the cost of profound anguishand of excessive toil. but suddenly, as we struggled round a bend, therewould be a glimpse of rush walls, of peaked grass-roofs, a burst of yells,a whirl of black limbs, a mass of hands clapping, of feet stamping,of bodies swaying, of eyes

rolling, under the droop of heavy and motionlessfoliage. the steamer toiled along slowly on the edge of a blackand incomprehensible frenzy. the prehistoric man was cursing us, prayingto us, welcoming us--who could tell? we were cut off from the comprehensionof our surroundings; we glided past like phantoms, wondering andsecretly appalled, as sane men would be before an enthusiastic outbreakin a madhouse. we could not understand, because we were too far and couldnot remember, because we were traveling in the night of first ages,of those ages that are gone, leaving hardly a sign--and no memories.

"the earth seemed unearthly. we are accustomedto look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there--thereyou could look at a thing monstrous and free. it was unearthly, andthe men were--no, they were not inhuman. well, you know, that was theworst of it--this suspicion of their not being inhuman. it would come slowlyto one. they howled, and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; butwhat thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity--like yours--thethought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar.ugly. yes, it was ugly enough; but if you were man enough you wouldadmit to yourself that

there was in you just the faintest trace ofa response to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion ofthere being a meaning in it which you--you so remote from the night offirst ages--could comprehend. and why not? the mind of man is capable ofanything--because everything is in it, all the past as well as all thefuture. what was there after all? joy, fear, sorrow, devotion, valor, rage--whocan tell?--but truth--truth stripped of its cloak of time.let the fool gape and shudder--the man knows, and can look on withouta wink. but he must at least be as much of a man as these on theshore. he must meet that

truth with his own true stuff--with his owninborn strength. principles? principles won't do. acquisitions, clothes,pretty rags--rags that would fly off at the first good shake. no; you wanta deliberate belief. an appeal to me in this fiendish row--is there?very well; i hear; i admit, but i have a voice too, and for good or evilmine is the speech that cannot be silenced. of course, a fool, whatwith sheer fright and fine sentiments, is always safe. who's that grunting?you wonder i didn't go ashore for a howl and a dance? well, no--ididn't. fine sentiments, you say? fine sentiments, be hanged! i had notime. i had to mess about with

white-lead and strips of woolen blanket helpingto put bandages on those leaky steam-pipes--i tell you. i hadto watch the steering, and circumvent those snags, and get the tin-potalong by hook or by crook. there was surface-truth enough in these thingsto save a wiser man. and between whiles i had to look after the savagewho was fireman. he was an improved specimen; he could fire up a verticalboiler. he was there below me, and, upon my word, to look at himwas as edifying as seeing a dog in a parody of breeches and a featherhat, walking on his hind-legs. a few months of training had done for thatreally fine chap. he squinted

at the steam-gauge and at the water-gaugewith an evident effort of intrepidity--and he had filed teeth too, thepoor devil, and the wool of his pate shaved into queer patterns, and threeornamental scars on each of his cheeks. he ought to have been clappinghis hands and stamping his feet on the bank, instead of which hewas hard at work, a thrall to strange witchcraft, full of improving knowledge.he was useful because he had been instructed; and what he knew wasthis--that should the water in that transparent thing disappear, the evilspirit inside the boiler would get angry through the greatness of histhirst, and take a terrible

vengeance. so he sweated and fired up andwatched the glass fearfully (with an impromptu charm, made of rags, tiedto his arm, and a piece of polished bone, as big as a watch, stuck flatwaysthrough his lower lip), while the wooded banks slipped past us slowly,the short noise was left behind, the interminable miles of silence--andwe crept on, towards kurtz. but the snags were thick, the waterwas treacherous and shallow, the boiler seemed indeed to have a sulky devilin it, and thus neither that fireman nor i had any time to peer intoour creepy thoughts. "some fifty miles below the inner stationwe came upon a hut of reeds,

an inclined and melancholy pole, with theunrecognizable tatters of what had been a flag of some sort flying fromit, and a neatly stacked woodpile. this was unexpected. we came tothe bank, and on the stack of firewood found a flat piece of board withsome faded pencil-writing on it. when deciphered it said: 'wood foryou. hurry up. approach cautiously.' there was a signature, but itwas illegible--not kurtz--a much longer word. 'hurry up.' where?up the river? 'approach cautiously.' we had not done so. but the warningcould not have been meant for the place where it could be onlyfound after approach.

something was wrong above. but what--and howmuch? that was the question. we commented adversely upon theimbecility of that telegraphic style. the bush around said nothing, and wouldnot let us look very far, either. a torn curtain of red twill hung inthe doorway of the hut, and flapped sadly in our faces. the dwelling wasdismantled; but we could see a white man had lived there not very longago. there remained a rude table--a plank on two posts; a heap of rubbishreposed in a dark corner, and by the door i picked up a book. it hadlost its covers, and the pages had been thumbed into a state of extremelydirty softness; but the

back had been lovingly stitched afresh withwhite cotton thread, which looked clean yet. it was an extraordinaryfind. its title was, 'an inquiry into some points of seamanship,' bya man tower, towson--some such name--master in his majesty's navy. thematter looked dreary reading enough, with illustrative diagramsand repulsive tables of figures, and the copy was sixty years old.i handled this amazing antiquity with the greatest possible tenderness,lest it should dissolve in my hands. within, towson or towser wasinquiring earnestly into the breaking strain of ships' chains and tackle,and other such matters. not

a very enthralling book; but at the firstglance you could see there a singleness of intention, an honest concernfor the right way of going to work, which made these humble pages, thoughtout so many years ago, luminous with another than a professionallight. the simple old sailor, with his talk of chains and purchases, mademe forget the jungle and the pilgrims in a delicious sensation of havingcome upon something unmistakably real. such a book being therewas wonderful enough; but still more astounding were the notes penciledin the margin, and plainly referring to the text. i couldn't believemy eyes! they were in cipher!

yes, it looked like cipher. fancy a man luggingwith him a book of that description into this nowhere and studyingit--and making notes--in cipher at that! it was an extravagant mystery. "i had been dimly aware for some time of aworrying noise, and when i lifted my eyes i saw the wood-pile was gone,and the manager, aided by all the pilgrims, was shouting at me fromthe river-side. i slipped the book into my pocket. i assure you to leaveoff reading was like tearing myself away from the shelter of an old andsolid friendship. "i started the lame engine ahead. 'it mustbe this miserable

trader--this intruder,' exclaimed the manager,looking back malevolently at the place we had left. 'he must be english,'i said. 'it will not save him from getting into trouble if he isnot careful,' muttered the manager darkly. i observed with assumed innocencethat no man was safe from trouble in this world. "the current was more rapid now, the steamerseemed at her last gasp, the stern-wheel flopped languidly, and i caughtmyself listening on tiptoe for the next beat of the boat, forin sober truth i expected the wretched thing to give up every moment. itwas like watching the last

flickers of a life. but still we crawled.sometimes i would pick out a tree a little way ahead to measure our progresstowards kurtz by, but i lost it invariably before we got keep the eyes so long on one thing was too much for human patience.the manager displayed a beautiful resignation. i fretted and fumedand took to arguing with myself whether or no i would talk openly withkurtz; but before i could come to any conclusion it occurred to me thatmy speech or my silence, indeed any action of mine, would be a merefutility. what did it matter what anyone knew or ignored? what did it matterwho was manager? one

gets sometimes such a flash of insight. theessentials of this affair lay deep under the surface, beyond my reach,and beyond my power of meddling. "towards the evening of the second day wejudged ourselves about eight miles from kurtz's station. i wanted to pushon; but the manager looked grave, and told me the navigation up therewas so dangerous that it would be advisable, the sun being very lowalready, to wait where we were till next morning. moreover, he pointedout that if the warning to approach cautiously were to be followed,we must approach in

daylight--not at dusk, or in the dark. thiswas sensible enough. eight miles meant nearly three hours' steaming forus, and i could also see suspicious ripples at the upper end of thereach. nevertheless, i was annoyed beyond expression at the delay, andmost unreasonably too, since one night more could not matter much afterso many months. as we had plenty of wood, and caution was the word,i brought up in the middle of the stream. the reach was narrow, straight,with high sides like a railway cutting. the dusk came gliding intoit long before the sun had set. the current ran smooth and swift, buta dumb immobility sat on

the banks. the living trees, lashed togetherby the creepers and every living bush of the undergrowth, might havebeen changed into stone, even to the slenderest twig, to the lightestleaf. it was not sleep--it seemed unnatural, like a state of trance.not the faintest sound of any kind could be heard. you looked on amazed,and began to suspect yourself of being deaf--then the night came suddenly,and struck you blind as well. about three in the morning some largefish leaped, and the loud splash made me jump as though a gun had beenfired. when the sun rose there was a white fog, very warm and clammy,and more blinding than the

night. it did not shift or drive; it was justthere, standing all round you like something solid. at eight or nine,perhaps, it lifted as a shutter lifts. we had a glimpse of the toweringmultitude of trees, of the immense matted jungle, with the blazinglittle ball of the sun hanging over it--all perfectly still--andthen the white shutter came down again, smoothly, as if sliding in greasedgrooves. i ordered the chain, which we had begun to heave in, tobe paid out again. before it stopped running with a muffled rattle, a cry,a very loud cry, as of infinite desolation, soared slowly in theopaque air. it ceased. a

complaining clamor, modulated in savage discords,filled our ears. the sheer unexpectedness of it made my hair stirunder my cap. i don't know how it struck the others: to me it seemedas though the mist itself had screamed, so suddenly, and apparently fromall sides at once, did this tumultuous and mournful uproar culminated in a hurried outbreak of almost intolerably excessive shrieking,which stopped short, leaving us stiffened in a variety of sillyattitudes, and obstinately listening to the nearly as appalling and excessivesilence. 'good god! what is the meaning--?' stammered at my elbowone of the pilgrims,--a

little fat man, with sandy hair and red whiskers,who wore side-spring boots, and pink pyjamas tucked into his socks.two others remained open-mouthed a whole minute, then dashed intothe little cabin, to rush out incontinently and stand darting scaredglances, with winchesters at 'ready' in their hands. what we could seewas just the steamer we were on, her outlines blurred as though shehad been on the point of dissolving, and a misty strip of water, perhapstwo feet broad, around her--and that was all. the rest of the worldwas nowhere, as far as our eyes and ears were concerned. just nowhere.gone, disappeared; swept off

without leaving a whisper or a shadow behind. "i went forward, and ordered the chain tobe hauled in short, so as to be ready to trip the anchor and move the steamboatat once if necessary. 'will they attack?' whispered an awed voice.'we will all be butchered in this fog,' murmured another. the facestwitched with the strain, the hands trembled slightly, the eyes forgot towink. it was very curious to see the contrast of expressions of thewhite men and of the black fellows of our crew, who were as much strangersto that part of the river as we, though their homes were onlyeight hundred miles away. the

whites, of course greatly discomposed, hadbesides a curious look of being painfully shocked by such an outrageousrow. the others had an alert, naturally interested expression; buttheir faces were essentially quiet, even those of the one or two who grinnedas they hauled at the chain. several exchanged short, grunting phrases,which seemed to settle the matter to their satisfaction. their headman,a young, broad-chested black, severely draped in dark-blue fringedcloths, with fierce nostrils and his hair all done up artfully in oilyringlets, stood near me. 'aha!' i said, just for good fellowship'ssake. 'catch 'im,' he snapped,

with a bloodshot widening of his eyes anda flash of sharp teeth--'catch 'im. give 'im to us.' 'to you, eh?' i asked;'what would you do with them?' 'eat 'im!' he said curtly, and, leaninghis elbow on the rail, looked out into the fog in a dignified andprofoundly pensive attitude. i would no doubt have been properly horrified,had it not occurred to me that he and his chaps must be very hungry:that they must have been growing increasingly hungry for at least thismonth past. they had been engaged for six months (i don't think a singleone of them had any clear idea of time, as we at the end of countlessages have. they still

belonged to the beginnings of time--had noinherited experience to teach them as it were), and of course, as long asthere was a piece of paper written over in accordance with some farcicallaw or other made down the river, it didn't enter anybody's head to troublehow they would live. certainly they had brought with them somerotten hippo-meat, which couldn't have lasted very long, anyway, evenif the pilgrims hadn't, in the midst of a shocking hullabaloo, throwna considerable quantity of it overboard. it looked like a high-handed proceeding;but it was really a case of legitimate self-defense. you can'tbreathe dead hippo waking,

sleeping, and eating, and at the same timekeep your precarious grip on existence. besides that, they had given themevery week three pieces of brass wire, each about nine inches long; andthe theory was they were to buy their provisions with that currency inriver-side villages. you can see how _that_ worked. there were either novillages, or the people were hostile, or the director, who like the restof us fed out of tins, with an occasional old he-goat thrown in, didn'twant to stop the steamer for some more or less recondite reason. so, unlessthey swallowed the wire itself, or made loops of it to snare the fisheswith, i don't see what

good their extravagant salary could be tothem. i must say it was paid with a regularity worthy of a large and honorabletrading company. for the rest, the only thing to eat--though itdidn't look eatable in the least--i saw in their possession was a fewlumps of some stuff like half-cooked dough, of a dirty lavender color,they kept wrapped in leaves, and now and then swallowed a pieceof, but so small that it seemed done more for the looks of the thingthan for any serious purpose of sustenance. why in the name of all thegnawing devils of hunger they didn't go for us--they were thirty to five--andhave a good tuck in for

once, amazes me now when i think of it. theywere big powerful men, with not much capacity to weigh the consequences,with courage, with strength, even yet, though their skins wereno longer glossy and their muscles no longer hard. and i saw that somethingrestraining, one of those human secrets that baffle probability,had come into play there. i looked at them with a swift quickening ofinterest--not because it occurred to me i might be eaten by them beforevery long, though i own to you that just then i perceived--ina new light, as it were--how unwholesome the pilgrims looked, and i hoped,yes, i positively hoped,

that my aspect was not so--what shall i say?--so--unappetizing:a touch of fantastic vanity which fitted well withthe dream-sensation that pervaded all my days at that time. perhapsi had a little fever too. one can't live with one's finger everlastinglyon one's pulse. i had often 'a little fever,' or a little touchof other things--the playful paw-strokes of the wilderness, the preliminarytrifling before the more serious onslaught which came in due course.yes; i looked at them as you would on any human being, with a curiosityof their impulses, motives, capacities, weaknesses, when brought to thetest of an inexorable

physical necessity. restraint! what possiblerestraint? was it superstition, disgust, patience, fear--orsome kind of primitive honor? no fear can stand up to hunger, no patiencecan wear it out, disgust simply does not exist where hunger is; andas to superstition, beliefs, and what you may call principles, they areless than chaff in a breeze. don't you know the devilry of lingering starvation,its exasperating torment, its black thoughts, its somber andbrooding ferocity? well, i do. it takes a man all his inborn strengthto fight hunger properly. it's really easier to face bereavement, dishonor,and the perdition of

one's soul--than this kind of prolonged hunger.sad, but true. and these chaps too had no earthly reason for any kindof scruple. restraint! i would just as soon have expected restraintfrom a hyena prowling amongst the corpses of a battlefield. but there wasthe fact facing me--the fact dazzling, to be seen, like the foam on thedepths of the sea, like a ripple on an unfathomable enigma, a mysterygreater--when i thought of it--than the curious, inexplicable noteof desperate grief in this savage clamor that had swept by us on theriver-bank, behind the blind whiteness of the fog.

"two pilgrims were quarreling in hurried whispersas to which bank. 'left.' 'no, no; how can you? right, right,of course.' 'it is very serious,' said the manager's voice behindme; 'i would be desolated if anything should happen to mr. kurtz beforewe came up.' i looked at him, and had not the slightest doubt he was sincere.he was just the kind of man who would wish to preserve appearances.that was his restraint. but when he muttered something about going onat once, i did not even take the trouble to answer him. i knew, and heknew, that it was impossible. were we to let go our hold of the bottom,we would be absolutely in

the air--in space. we wouldn't be able totell where we were going to--whether up or down stream, or across--tillwe fetched against one bank or the other,--and then we wouldn't knowat first which it was. of course i made no move. i had no mind fora smash-up. you couldn't imagine a more deadly place for a shipwreck.whether drowned at once or not, we were sure to perish speedily in oneway or another. 'i authorize you to take all the risks,' he said, aftera short silence. 'i refuse to take any,' i said shortly; which was justthe answer he expected, though its tone might have surprised him. 'well,i must defer to your judgment.

you are captain,' he said, with marked civility.i turned my shoulder to him in sign of my appreciation, and lookedinto the fog. how long would it last? it was the most hopeless look-out.the approach to this kurtz grubbing for ivory in the wretched bush wasbeset by as many dangers as though he had been an enchanted princess sleepingin a fabulous castle. 'will they attack, do you think?' asked themanager, in a confidential tone. "i did not think they would attack, for severalobvious reasons. the thick fog was one. if they left the bank intheir canoes they would get

lost in it, as we would be if we attemptedto move. still, i had also judged the jungle of both banks quite impenetrable--andyet eyes were in it, eyes that had seen us. the river-sidebushes were certainly very thick; but the undergrowth behind was evidentlypenetrable. however, during the short lift i had seenno canoes anywhere in the reach--certainly not abreast of the steamer.but what made the idea of attack inconceivable to me was the natureof the noise--of the cries we had heard. they had not the fierce characterboding of immediate hostile intention. unexpected, wild, and violent asthey had been, they had

given me an irresistible impression of sorrow.the glimpse of the steamboat had for some reason filled thosesavages with unrestrained grief. the danger, if any, i expounded, wasfrom our proximity to a great human passion let loose. even extremegrief may ultimately vent itself in violence--but more generally takesthe form of apathy. . . . "you should have seen the pilgrims stare!they had no heart to grin, or even to revile me; but i believe they thoughtme gone mad--with fright, maybe. i delivered a regular lecture. my dearboys, it was no good bothering. keep a look-out? well, you mayguess i watched the fog for

the signs of lifting as a cat watches a mouse;but for anything else our eyes were of no more use to us than if wehad been buried miles deep in a heap of cotton-wool. it felt like ittoo--choking, warm, stifling. besides, all i said, though it sounded extravagant,was absolutely true to fact. what we afterwards alluded toas an attack was really an attempt at repulse. the action was very farfrom being aggressive--it was not even defensive, in the usual sense:it was undertaken under the stress of desperation, and in its essencewas purely protective. "it developed itself, i should say, two hoursafter the fog lifted, and

its commencement was at a spot, roughly speaking,about a mile and a half below kurtz's station. we had just flounderedand flopped round a bend, when i saw an islet, a mere grassy hummockof bright green, in the middle of the stream. it was the onlything of the kind; but as we opened the reach more, i perceived it wasthe head of a long sandbank, or rather of a chain of shallow patches stretchingdown the middle of the river. they were discolored, just awash,and the whole lot was seen just under the water, exactly as a man's backboneis seen running down the middle of his back under the skin. now,as far as i did see, i could

go to the right or to the left of this. ididn't know either channel, of course. the banks looked pretty well alike,the depth appeared the same; but as i had been informed the station wason the west side, i naturally headed for the western passage. "no sooner had we fairly entered it than ibecame aware it was much narrower than i had supposed. to the leftof us there was the long uninterrupted shoal, and to the right a high,steep bank heavily overgrown with bushes. above the bush thetrees stood in serried ranks. the twigs overhung the current thickly, andfrom distance to distance a

large limb of some tree projected rigidlyover the stream. it was then well on in the afternoon, the face of theforest was gloomy, and a broad strip of shadow had already fallen onthe water. in this shadow we steamed up--very slowly, as you may imagine.i sheered her well inshore--the water being deepest near thebank, as the sounding-pole informed me. "one of my hungry and forbearing friends wassounding in the bows just below me. this steamboat was exactly likea decked scow. on the deck there were two little teak-wood houses, withdoors and windows. the

boiler was in the fore-end, and the machineryright astern. over the whole there was a light roof, supported onstanchions. the funnel projected through that roof, and in frontof the funnel a small cabin built of light planks served for a contained a couch, two camp-stools, a loaded martini-henry leaningin one corner, a tiny table, and the steering-wheel. it had a widedoor in front and a broad shutter at each side. all these were alwaysthrown open, of course. i spent my days perched up there on the extremefore-end of that roof, before the door. at night i slept, or triedto, on the couch. an

athletic black belonging to some coast tribe,and educated by my poor predecessor, was the helmsman. he sporteda pair of brass earrings, wore a blue cloth wrapper from the waist to theankles, and thought all the world of himself. he was the most unstablekind of fool i had ever seen. he steered with no end of a swagger whileyou were by; but if he lost sight of you, he became instantly the preyof an abject funk, and would let that cripple of a steamboat get the upperhand of him in a minute. "i was looking down at the sounding-pole,and feeling much annoyed to see at each try a little more of it stickout of that river, when i saw

my poleman give up the business suddenly,and stretch himself flat on the deck, without even taking the troubleto haul his pole in. he kept hold on it though, and it trailed in the the same time the fireman, whom i could also see below me, satdown abruptly before his furnace and ducked his head. i was amazed.then i had to look at the river mighty quick, because there was a snagin the fairway. sticks, little sticks, were flying about--thick: theywere whizzing before my nose, dropping below me, striking behind meagainst my pilot-house. all this time the river, the shore, the woods,were very quiet--perfectly

quiet. i could only hear the heavy splashingthump of the stern-wheel and the patter of these things. we clearedthe snag clumsily. arrows, by jove! we were being shot at! i stepped inquickly to close the shutter on the land side. that fool-helmsman, hishands on the spokes, was lifting his knees high, stamping his feet,champing his mouth, like a reined-in horse. confound him! and we werestaggering within ten feet of the bank. i had to lean right out to swingthe heavy shutter, and i saw a face amongst the leaves on the level withmy own, looking at me very fierce and steady; and then suddenly, as thougha veil had been removed

from my eyes, i made out, deep in the tangledgloom, naked breasts, arms, legs, glaring eyes,--the bush was swarmingwith human limbs in movement, glistening, of bronze color. thetwigs shook, swayed, and rustled, the arrows flew out of them, andthen the shutter came to. 'steer her straight,' i said to the helmsman.he held his head rigid, face forward; but his eyes rolled, he kepton lifting and setting down his feet gently, his mouth foamed a little.'keep quiet!' i said in a fury. i might just as well have ordered atree not to sway in the wind. i darted out. below me there was a great scuffleof feet on the iron

deck; confused exclamations; a voice screamed,'can you turn back?' i caught shape of a v-shaped ripple on thewater ahead. what? another snag! a fusillade burst out under my feet.the pilgrims had opened with their winchesters, and were simply squirtinglead into that bush. a deuce of a lot of smoke came up and droveslowly forward. i swore at it. now i couldn't see the ripple or the snageither. i stood in the doorway, peering, and the arrows came in swarms.they might have been poisoned, but they looked as though they wouldn'tkill a cat. the bush began to howl. our wood-cutters raised a warlikewhoop; the report of a

rifle just at my back deafened me. i glancedover my shoulder, and the pilot-house was yet full of noise and smokewhen i made a dash at the wheel. the fool-nigger had dropped everything,to throw the shutter open and let off that martini-henry. he stoodbefore the wide opening, glaring, and i yelled at him to come back,while i straightened the sudden twist out of that steamboat. therewas no room to turn even if i had wanted to, the snag was somewhere verynear ahead in that confounded smoke, there was no time to lose, so i justcrowded her into the bank--right into the bank, where i knew thewater was deep.

"we tore slowly along the overhanging bushesin a whirl of broken twigs and flying leaves. the fusillade below stoppedshort, as i had foreseen it would when the squirts got empty. i threwmy head back to a glinting whizz that traversed the pilot-house, in atone shutter-hole and out at the other. looking past that mad helmsman,who was shaking the empty rifle and yelling at the shore, i saw vagueforms of men running bent double, leaping, gliding, distinct, incomplete,evanescent. something big appeared in the air before the shutter,the rifle went overboard, and the man stepped back swiftly, looked atme over his shoulder in an

extraordinary, profound, familiar manner,and fell upon my feet. the side of his head hit the wheel twice, andthe end of what appeared a long cane clattered round and knocked overa little camp-stool. it looked as though after wrenching that thingfrom somebody ashore he had lost his balance in the effort. the thin smokehad blown away, we were clear of the snag, and looking ahead i couldsee that in another hundred yards or so i would be free to sheer off,away from the bank; but my feet felt so very warm and wet that i hadto look down. the man had rolled on his back and stared straight upat me; both his hands clutched

that cane. it was the shaft of a spear that,either thrown or lunged through the opening, had caught him in theside just below the ribs; the blade had gone in out of sight, after makinga frightful gash; my shoes were full; a pool of blood lay very still,gleaming dark-red under the wheel; his eyes shone with an amazing luster.the fusillade burst out again. he looked at me anxiously, grippingthe spear like something precious, with an air of being afraid i wouldtry to take it away from him. i had to make an effort to free my eyesfrom his gaze and attend to the steering. with one hand i felt abovemy head for the line of

the steam-whistle, and jerked out screechafter screech hurriedly. the tumult of angry and warlike yells was checkedinstantly, and then from the depths of the woods went out such a tremulousand prolonged wail of mournful fear and utter despair as may beimagined to follow the flight of the last hope from the earth. there wasa great commotion in the bush; the shower of arrows stopped, a fewdropping shots rang out sharply--then silence, in which the languidbeat of the stern-wheel came plainly to my ears. i put the helm hard a-starboardat the moment when the pilgrim in pink pyjamas, very hot andagitated, appeared in the

doorway. 'the manager sends me--' he beganin an official tone, and stopped short. 'good god!' he said, glaringat the wounded man. "we two whites stood over him, and his lustrousand inquiring glance enveloped us both. i declare it looked asthough he would presently put to us some question in an understandable language;but he died without uttering a sound, without moving a limb, withouttwitching a muscle. only in the very last moment, as though inresponse to some sign we could not see, to some whisper we could nothear, he frowned heavily, and that frown gave to his black death-maskan inconceivably somber,

brooding, and menacing expression. the lusterof inquiring glance faded swiftly into vacant glassiness. 'can you steer?'i asked the agent eagerly. he looked very dubious; but i madea grab at his arm, and he understood at once i meant him to steer whetheror no. to tell you the truth, i was morbidly anxious to changemy shoes and socks. 'he is dead,' murmured the fellow, immensely impressed.'no doubt about it,' said i, tugging like mad at the shoe-laces.'and, by the way, i suppose mr. kurtz is dead as well by this time.' "for the moment that was the dominant thought.there was a sense of

extreme disappointment, as though i had foundout i had been striving after something altogether without a substance.i couldn't have been more disgusted if i had traveled all thisway for the sole purpose of talking with mr. kurtz. talking with. . . . iflung one shoe overboard, and became aware that that was exactly whati had been looking forward to--a talk with kurtz. i made the strangediscovery that i had never imagined him as doing, you know, but as discoursing.i didn't say to myself, 'now i will never see him,' or 'nowi will never shake him by the hand,' but, 'now i will never hear him.'the man presented himself

as a voice. not of course that i did not connecthim with some sort of action. hadn't i been told in all the tonesof jealousy and admiration that he had collected, bartered, swindled,or stolen more ivory than all the other agents together? that was not thepoint. the point was in his being a gifted creature, and that of all hisgifts the one that stood out pre-eminently, that carried with it asense of real presence, was his ability to talk, his words--the gift ofexpression, the bewildering, the illuminating, the most exalted and themost contemptible, the pulsating stream of light, or the deceitfulflow from the heart of an

impenetrable darkness. "the other shoe went flying unto the devil-godof that river. i thought, 'by jove! it's all over. we are too late;he has vanished--the gift has vanished, by means of some spear, arrow, orclub. i will never hear that chap speak after all,'--and my sorrow hada startling extravagance of emotion, even such as i had noticed inthe howling sorrow of these savages in the bush. i couldn't have feltmore of lonely desolation somehow, had i been robbed of a belief orhad missed my destiny in life. . . . why do you sigh in this beastlyway, somebody? absurd? well,

absurd. good lord! mustn't a man ever--here,give me some tobacco." . . . there was a pause of profound stillness, thena match flared, and marlow's lean face appeared, worn, hollow,with downward folds and dropped eyelids, with an aspect of concentratedattention; and as he took vigorous draws at his pipe, it seemedto retreat and advance out of the night in the regular flicker of the tinyflame. the match went out. "absurd!" he cried. "this is the worst oftrying to tell. . . . here you all are, each moored with two good addresses,like a hulk with two anchors, a butcher round one corner, apoliceman round another,

excellent appetites, and temperature normal--youhear--normal from year's end to year's end. and you say, absurd!absurd be--exploded! absurd! my dear boys, what can you expectfrom a man who out of sheer nervousness had just flung overboard a pairof new shoes. now i think of it, it is amazing i did not shed tears. iam, upon the whole, proud of my fortitude. i was cut to the quick atthe idea of having lost the inestimable privilege of listening to thegifted kurtz. of course i was wrong. the privilege was waiting for me.oh yes, i heard more than enough. and i was right, too. a voice. hewas very little more than a

voice. and i heard--him--it--this voice--othervoices--all of them were so little more than voices--and the memoryof that time itself lingers around me, impalpable, like a dying vibrationof one immense jabber, silly, atrocious, sordid, savage, or simplymean, without any kind of sense. voices, voices--even the girl herself--now--" he was silent for a long time. "i laid the ghost of his gifts at last witha lie," he began suddenly. "girl! what? did i mention a girl? oh, sheis out of it--completely. they--the women, i mean--are out of it--shouldbe out of it. we must

help them to stay in that beautiful worldof their own, lest ours gets worse. oh, she had to be out of it. youshould have heard the disinterred body of mr. kurtz saying, 'myintended.' you would have perceived directly then how completely shewas out of it. and the lofty frontal bone of mr. kurtz! they say the hairgoes on growing sometimes, but this--ah specimen, was impressively bald.the wilderness had patted him on the head, and, behold, it was likea ball--an ivory ball; it had caressed him, and--lo!--he had withered; ithad taken him, loved him, embraced him, got into his veins, consumedhis flesh, and sealed

his soul to its own by the inconceivable ceremoniesof some devilish initiation. he was its spoiled and pamperedfavorite. ivory? i should think so. heaps of it, stacks of it. the oldmud shanty was bursting with it. you would think there was not a singletusk left either above or below the ground in the whole country.'mostly fossil,' the manager had remarked disparagingly. it was no morefossil than i am; but they call it fossil when it is dug up. it appearsthese niggers do bury the tusks sometimes--but evidently they couldn'tbury this parcel deep enough to save the gifted mr. kurtz fromhis fate. we filled the

steamboat with it, and had to pile a lot onthe deck. thus he could see and enjoy as long as he could see, becausethe appreciation of this favor had remained with him to the last. youshould have heard him say, 'my ivory.' oh yes, i heard him. 'my intended,my ivory, my station, my river, my--' everything belonged to him. itmade me hold my breath in expectation of hearing the wilderness burstinto a prodigious peal of laughter that would shake the fixed starsin their places. everything belonged to him--but that was a trifle. thething was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimedhim for their own. that

was the reflection that made you creepy allover. it was impossible--it was not good for one either--trying to imagine.he had taken a high seat amongst the devils of the land--i mean can't understand. how could you?--with solid pavement underyour feet, surrounded by kind neighbors ready to cheer you or to fall onyou, stepping delicately between the butcher and the policeman, inthe holy terror of scandal and gallows and lunatic asylums--how can you imaginewhat particular region of the first ages a man's untrammeled feetmay take him into by the way of solitude--utter solitude without a policeman--bythe way of silence,

utter silence, where no warning voice of akind neighbor can be heard whispering of public opinion? these littlethings make all the great difference. when they are gone you must fallback upon your own innate strength, upon your own capacity for faithfulness.of course you may be too much of a fool to go wrong--too dulleven to know you are being assaulted by the powers of darkness. i takeit, no fool ever made a bargain for his soul with the devil: the foolis too much of a fool, or the devil too much of a devil--i don't knowwhich. or you may be such a thunderingly exalted creature as to be altogetherdeaf and blind to

anything but heavenly sights and sounds. thenthe earth for you is only a standing place--and whether to be like thisis your loss or your gain i won't pretend to say. but most of us areneither one nor the other. the earth for us is a place to live in, wherewe must put up with sights, with sounds, with smells too, by jove!--breathedead hippo, so to speak, and not be contaminated. andthere, don't you see? your strength comes in, the faith in yourability for the digging of unostentatious holes to bury the stuff in--yourpower of devotion, not to yourself, but to an obscure, back-breakingbusiness. and that's

difficult enough. mind, i am not trying toexcuse or even explain--i am trying to account to myself for--for--mr.kurtz--for the shade of mr. kurtz. this initiated wraith from the backof nowhere honored me with its amazing confidence before it vanishedaltogether. this was because it could speak english to me. the originalkurtz had been educated partly in england, and--as he was good enoughto say himself--his sympathies were in the right place. his motherwas half-english, his father was half-french. all europe contributedto the making of kurtz; and by-and-by i learned that, most appropriately,the international

society for the suppression of savage customshad intrusted him with the making of a report, for its future guidance.and he had written it too. i've seen it. i've read it. it was eloquent,vibrating with eloquence, but too high-strung, i think. seventeen pagesof close writing he had found time for! but this must have been beforehis--let us say--nerves, went wrong, and caused him to preside at certainmidnight dances ending with unspeakable rites, which--as far as ireluctantly gathered from what i heard at various times--were offeredup to him--do you understand?--to mr. kurtz himself. but itwas a beautiful piece

of writing. the opening paragraph, however,in the light of later information, strikes me now as ominous. hebegan with the argument that we whites, from the point of developmentwe had arrived at, 'must necessarily appear to them [savages] in thenature of supernatural beings--we approach them with the might asof a deity,' and so on, and so on. 'by the simple exercise of our willwe can exert a power for good practically unbounded,' &c., &c. from thatpoint he soared and took me with him. the peroration was magnificent,though difficult to remember, you know. it gave me the notion of an exoticimmensity ruled by an

august benevolence. it made me tingle withenthusiasm. this was the unbounded power of eloquence--of words--ofburning noble words. there were no practical hints to interrupt the magiccurrent of phrases, unless a kind of note at the foot of the lastpage, scrawled evidently much later, in an unsteady hand, may be regardedas the exposition of a method. it was very simple, and at the endof that moving appeal to every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you,luminous and terrifying, like a flash of lightning in a serene sky:'exterminate all the brutes!' the curious part was that he had apparentlyforgotten all about that

valuable postscriptum, because, later on,when he in a sense came to himself, he repeatedly entreated me to takegood care of 'my pamphlet' (he called it), as it was sure to have inthe future a good influence upon his career. i had full information aboutall these things, and, besides, as it turned out, i was to have thecare of his memory. i've done enough for it to give me the indisputableright to lay it, if i choose, for an everlasting rest in the dust-binof progress, amongst all the sweepings and, figuratively speaking,all the dead cats of civilization. but then, you see, i can't choose.he won't be forgotten.

whatever he was, he was not common. he hadthe power to charm or frighten rudimentary souls into an aggravatedwitch-dance in his honor; he could also fill the small soulsof the pilgrims with bitter misgivings: he had one devoted friend at least,and he had conquered one soul in the world that was neither rudimentarynor tainted with self-seeking. no; i can't forget him, thoughi am not prepared to affirm the fellow was exactly worth the life we lostin getting to him. i missed my late helmsman awfully,--i missedhim even while his body was still lying in the pilot-house. perhapsyou will think it passing

strange this regret for a savage who was nomore account than a grain of sand in a black sahara. well, don't you see,he had done something, he had steered; for months i had him at my back--ahelp--an instrument. it was a kind of partnership. he steered forme--i had to look after him, i worried about his deficiencies, and thus asubtle bond had been created, of which i only became aware when it was suddenlybroken. and the intimate profundity of that look he gave mewhen he received his hurt remains to this day in my memory--like a claimof distant kinship affirmed in a supreme moment.

"poor fool! if he had only left that shutteralone. he had no restraint, no restraint--just like kurtz--a tree swayedby the wind. as soon as i had put on a dry pair of slippers, i draggedhim out, after first jerking the spear out of his side, which operationi confess i performed with my eyes shut tight. his heels leapedtogether over the little door-step; his shoulders were pressed to mybreast; i hugged him from behind desperately. oh! he was heavy, heavy;heavier than any man on earth, i should imagine. then without moreado i tipped him overboard. the current snatched him as though he hadbeen a wisp of grass, and i

saw the body roll over twice before i lostsight of it for ever. all the pilgrims and the manager were then congregatedon the awning-deck about the pilot-house, chattering at eachother like a flock of excited magpies, and there was a scandalized murmurat my heartless promptitude. what they wanted to keep that body hangingabout for i can't guess. embalm it, maybe. but i had also heard another,and a very ominous, murmur on the deck below. my friends the wood-cutterswere likewise scandalized, and with a better show of reason--thoughi admit that the reason itself was quite inadmissible. oh,quite! i had made up my mind

that if my late helmsman was to be eaten,the fishes alone should have him. he had been a very second-rate helmsmanwhile alive, but now he was dead he might have become a first-class temptation,and possibly cause some startling trouble. besides, i was anxiousto take the wheel, the man in pink pyjamas showing himself a hopelessduffer at the business. "this i did directly the simple funeral wasover. we were going half-speed, keeping right in the middle ofthe stream, and i listened to the talk about me. they had given up kurtz,they had given up the station; kurtz was dead, and the station hadbeen burnt--and so on--and

so on. the red-haired pilgrim was beside himselfwith the thought that at least this poor kurtz had been properlyrevenged. 'say! we must have made a glorious slaughter of them in the what do you think? say?' he positively danced, the bloodthirstylittle gingery beggar. and he had nearly fainted when he saw thewounded man! i could not help saying, 'you made a glorious lot of smoke,anyhow.' i had seen, from the way the tops of the bushes rustled and flew,that almost all the shots had gone too high. you can't hit anythingunless you take aim and fire from the shoulder; but these chaps fired fromthe hip with their eyes

shut. the retreat, i maintained--and i wasright--was caused by the screeching of the steam-whistle. upon thisthey forgot kurtz, and began to howl at me with indignant protests. "the manager stood by the wheel murmuringconfidentially about the necessity of getting well away down the riverbefore dark at all events, when i saw in the distance a clearing on theriver-side and the outlines of some sort of building. 'what's this?' iasked. he clapped his hands in wonder. 'the station!' he cried. i edgedin at once, still going half-speed.

"through my glasses i saw the slope of a hillinterspersed with rare trees and perfectly free from undergrowth.a long decaying building on the summit was half buried in the high grass;the large holes in the peaked roof gaped black from afar; the jungleand the woods made a background. there was no inclosure or fenceof any kind; but there had been one apparently, for near the house half-a-dozenslim posts remained in a row, roughly trimmed, and with theirupper ends ornamented with round carved balls. the rails, or whateverthere had been between, had disappeared. of course the forest surroundedall that. the river-bank

was clear, and on the water-side i saw a whiteman under a hat like a cart-wheel beckoning persistently with hiswhole arm. examining the edge of the forest above and below, i wasalmost certain i could see movements--human forms gliding here and there.i steamed past prudently, then stopped the engines and let her driftdown. the man on the shore began to shout, urging us to land. 'we havebeen attacked,' screamed the manager. 'i know--i know. it's all right,'yelled back the other, as cheerful as you please. 'come along. it'sall right. i am glad.' "his aspect reminded me of something i hadseen--something funny i had

seen somewhere. as i maneuvered to get alongside,i was asking myself, 'what does this fellow look like?' suddenlyi got it. he looked like a harlequin. his clothes had been made ofsome stuff that was brown holland probably, but it was covered withpatches all over, with bright patches, blue, red, and yellow,--patches onthe back, patches on front, patches on elbows, on knees; colored bindinground his jacket, scarlet edging at the bottom of his trousers; andthe sunshine made him look extremely gay and wonderfully neat withal,because you could see how beautifully all this patching had been done.a beardless, boyish face,

very fair, no features to speak of, nose peeling,little blue eyes, smiles and frowns chasing each other overthat open countenance like sunshine and shadow on a windswept plain.'look out, captain!' he cried; 'there's a snag lodged in here lastnight.' what! another snag? i confess i swore shamefully. i had nearly holedmy cripple, to finish off that charming trip. the harlequin on the bankturned his little pug nose up to me. 'you english?' he asked, all smiles.'are you?' i shouted from the wheel. the smiles vanished, and he shookhis head as if sorry for my disappointment. then he brightened up.'never mind!' he cried

encouragingly. 'are we in time?' i asked.'he is up there,' he replied, with a toss of the head up the hill, and becominggloomy all of a sudden. his face was like the autumn sky,overcast one moment and bright the next. "when the manager, escorted by the pilgrims,all of them armed to the teeth, had gone to the house, this chap cameon board. 'i say, i don't like this. these natives are in thebush,' i said. he assured me earnestly it was all right. 'they are simplepeople,' he added; 'well, i am glad you came. it took me all my timeto keep them off.' 'but you

said it was all right,' i cried. 'oh, theymeant no harm,' he said; and as i stared he corrected himself, 'not exactly.'then vivaciously, 'my faith, your pilot-house wants a clean up!'in the next breath he advised me to keep enough steam on the boiler to blowthe whistle in case of any trouble. 'one good screech will do more foryou than all your rifles. they are simple people,' he repeated. he rattledaway at such a rate he quite overwhelmed me. he seemed to be tryingto make up for lots of silence, and actually hinted, laughing, thatsuch was the case. 'don't you talk with mr. kurtz?' i said. 'you don'ttalk with that man--you

listen to him,' he exclaimed with severe exaltation.'but now--' he waved his arm, and in the twinkling of aneye was in the uttermost depths of despondency. in a moment he cameup again with a jump, possessed himself of both my hands, shookthem continuously, while he gabbled: 'brother sailor . . . honor . . . pleasure. . . delight . . . introduce myself . . . russian . . . son ofan arch-priest . . . government of tambov . . . what? tobacco!english tobacco; the excellent english tobacco! now, that's brotherly. smoke?where's a sailor that does not smoke?'

"the pipe soothed him, and gradually i madeout he had run away from school, had gone to sea in a russian ship;ran away again; served some time in english ships; was now reconciledwith the arch-priest. he made a point of that. 'but when one is young onemust see things, gather experience, ideas; enlarge the mind.' 'here!'i interrupted. 'you can never tell! here i have met mr. kurtz,' hesaid, youthfully solemn and reproachful. i held my tongue after appears he had persuaded a dutch trading-house on the coast to fit himout with stores and goods, and had started for the interior with a lightheart, and no more idea of

what would happen to him than a baby. he hadbeen wandering about that river for nearly two years alone, cut offfrom everybody and everything. 'i am not so young as i look. i am twenty-five,'he said. 'at first old van shuyten would tell me to go to the devil,'he narrated with keen enjoyment; 'but i stuck to him, and talkedand talked, till at last he got afraid i would talk the hind-leg off hisfavorite dog, so he gave me some cheap things and a few guns, and toldme he hoped he would never see my face again. good old dutchman, vanshuyten. i've sent him one small lot of ivory a year ago, so that hecan't call me a little thief

when i get back. i hope he got it. and forthe rest i don't care. i had some wood stacked for you. that was my oldhouse. did you see?' "i gave him towson's book. he made as thoughhe would kiss me, but restrained himself. 'the only book i had left,and i thought i had lost it,' he said, looking at it ecstatically.'so many accidents happen to a man going about alone, you know. canoesget upset sometimes--and sometimes you've got to clear out so quickwhen the people get angry.' he thumbed the pages. 'you made notes in russian?'i asked. he nodded. 'i thought they were written in cipher,' isaid. he laughed, then became

serious. 'i had lots of trouble to keep thesepeople off,' he said. 'did they want to kill you?' i asked. 'oh no!'he cried, and checked himself. 'why did they attack us?' i pursued.he hesitated, then said shamefacedly, 'they don't want him togo.' 'don't they?' i said, curiously. he nodded a nod full of mysteryand wisdom. 'i tell you,' he cried, 'this man has enlarged my mind.' heopened his arms wide, staring at me with his little blue eyes that wereperfectly round." iii "i looked at him, lost in astonishment. therehe was before me, in

motley, as though he had absconded from atroupe of mimes, enthusiastic, fabulous. his very existence was improbable,inexplicable, and altogether bewildering. he was an insolubleproblem. it was inconceivable how he had existed, how he hadsucceeded in getting so far, how he had managed to remain--why hedid not instantly disappear. 'i went a little farther,' he said, 'thenstill a little farther--till i had gone so far that i don't know how i'llever get back. never mind. plenty time. i can manage. you take kurtzaway quick--quick--i tell you.' the glamour of youth enveloped his particoloredrags, his

destitution, his loneliness, the essentialdesolation of his futile wanderings. for months--for years--his lifehadn't been worth a day's purchase; and there he was gallantly, thoughtlesslyalive, to all appearance indestructible solely by the virtueof his few years and of his unreflecting audacity. i was seducedinto something like admiration--like envy. glamour urged him on,glamour kept him unscathed. he surely wanted nothing from the wildernessbut space to breathe in and to push on through. his need was to exist,and to move onwards at the greatest possible risk, and with a maximumof privation. if the

absolutely pure, uncalculating, unpracticalspirit of adventure had ever ruled a human being, it ruled this be-patchedyouth. i almost envied him the possession of this modest and clearflame. it seemed to have consumed all thought of self so completely,that, even while he was talking to you, you forgot that it was he--theman before your eyes--who had gone through these things. i did not envyhim his devotion to kurtz, though. he had not meditated over it. it cameto him, and he accepted it with a sort of eager fatalism. i must saythat to me it appeared about the most dangerous thing in every way he hadcome upon so far.

"they had come together unavoidably, liketwo ships becalmed near each other, and lay rubbing sides at last.i suppose kurtz wanted an audience, because on a certain occasion, whenencamped in the forest, they had talked all night, or more probablykurtz had talked. 'we talked of everything,' he said, quite transportedat the recollection. 'i forgot there was such a thing as sleep. thenight did not seem to last an hour. everything! everything! . . . oflove too.' 'ah, he talked to you of love!' i said, much amused. 'it isn'twhat you think,' he cried, almost passionately. 'it was in general. hemade me see things--things.'

"he threw his arms up. we were on deck atthe time, and the headman of my wood-cutters, lounging near by, turnedupon him his heavy and glittering eyes. i looked around, and i don'tknow why, but i assure you that never, never before, did this land, thisriver, this jungle, the very arch of this blazing sky, appear to meso hopeless and so dark, so impenetrable to human thought, so pitilessto human weakness. 'and, ever since, you have been with him, of course?'i said. "on the contrary. it appears their intercoursehad been very much broken by various causes. he had, as he informedme proudly, managed to nurse

kurtz through two illnesses (he alluded toit as you would to some risky feat), but as a rule kurtz wandered alone,far in the depths of the forest. 'very often coming to this station,i had to wait days and days before he would turn up,' he said. 'ah,it was worth waiting for!--sometimes.' 'what was he doing? exploringor what?' i asked. 'oh yes, of course;' he had discovered lots ofvillages, a lake too--he did not know exactly in what direction; itwas dangerous to inquire too much--but mostly his expeditions had beenfor ivory. 'but he had no goods to trade with by that time,' i objected.'there's a good lot of

cartridges left even yet,' he answered, lookingaway. 'to speak plainly, he raided the country,' i said. he nodded.'not alone, surely!' he muttered something about the villages roundthat lake. 'kurtz got the tribe to follow him, did he?' i suggested.he fidgeted a little. 'they adored him,' he said. the tone of these wordswas so extraordinary that i looked at him searchingly. it was curiousto see his mingled eagerness and reluctance to speak of kurtz. the manfilled his life, occupied his thoughts, swayed his emotions. 'what can youexpect?' he burst out; 'he came to them with thunder and lightning, youknow--and they had never

seen anything like it--and very terrible.he could be very terrible. you can't judge mr. kurtz as you would anordinary man. no, no, no! now--just to give you an idea--i don't mindtelling you, he wanted to shoot me too one day--but i don't judge him.''shoot you!' i cried. 'what for?' 'well, i had a small lot of ivorythe chief of that village near my house gave me. you see i used to shootgame for them. well, he wanted it, and wouldn't hear reason. hedeclared he would shoot me unless i gave him the ivory and then clearedout of the country, because he could do so, and had a fancy for it, andthere was nothing on earth

to prevent him killing whom he jolly wellpleased. and it was true too. i gave him the ivory. what did i care! buti didn't clear out. no, no. i couldn't leave him. i had to be careful, ofcourse, till we got friendly again for a time. he had his second illnessthen. afterwards i had to keep out of the way; but i didn't mind. hewas living for the most part in those villages on the lake. when he camedown to the river, sometimes he would take to me, and sometimes it wasbetter for me to be careful. this man suffered too much. he hated all this,and somehow he couldn't get away. when i had a chance i begged himto try and leave while there

was time; i offered to go back with him. andhe would say yes, and then he would remain; go off on another ivory hunt;disappear for weeks; forget himself amongst these people--forgethimself--you know.' 'why! he's mad,' i said. he protested kurtz couldn't be mad. if i had heard him talk, only two days ago,i wouldn't dare hint at such a thing. . . . i had taken up my binocularswhile we talked and was looking at the shore, sweeping the limit ofthe forest at each side and at the back of the house. the consciousnessof there being people in that bush, so silent, so quiet--as silentand quiet as the ruined house

on the hill--made me uneasy. there was nosign on the face of nature of this amazing tale that was not so muchtold as suggested to me in desolate exclamations, completed by shrugs,in interrupted phrases, in hints ending in deep sighs. the woods wereunmoved, like a mask--heavy, like the closed door of a prison--they lookedwith their air of hidden knowledge, of patient expectation, of unapproachablesilence. the russian was explaining to me that it was onlylately that mr. kurtz had come down to the river, bringing along withhim all the fighting men of that lake tribe. he had been absent for severalmonths--getting himself

adored, i suppose--and had come down unexpectedly,with the intention to all appearance of making a raid either acrossthe river or down stream. evidently the appetite for more ivory hadgot the better of the--what shall i say?--less material aspirations. howeverhe had got much worse suddenly. 'i heard he was lying helpless,and so i came up--took my chance,' said the russian. 'oh, he is bad,very bad.' i directed my glass to the house. there were no signs oflife, but there was the ruined roof, the long mud wall peeping abovethe grass, with three little square window-holes, no two of thesame size; all this brought

within reach of my hand, as it were. and theni made a brusque movement, and one of the remaining posts of that vanishedfence leaped up in the field of my glass. you remember i told youi had been struck at the distance by certain attempts at ornamentation,rather remarkable in the ruinous aspect of the place. now i had suddenlya nearer view, and its first result was to make me throw my headback as if before a blow. then i went carefully from post to post with myglass, and i saw my mistake. these round knobs were not ornamental butsymbolic; they were expressive and puzzling, striking and disturbing--foodfor thought and also for

the vultures if there had been any lookingdown from the sky; but at all events for such ants as were industrious enoughto ascend the pole. they would have been even more impressive,those heads on the stakes, if their faces had not been turned to the house.only one, the first i had made out, was facing my way. i was not soshocked as you may think. the start back i had given was really nothingbut a movement of surprise. i had expected to see a knob of wood there,you know. i returned deliberately to the first i had seen--andthere it was, black, dried, sunken, with closed eyelids,--a head thatseemed to sleep at the top of

that pole, and, with the shrunken dry lipsshowing a narrow white line of the teeth, was smiling too, smiling continuouslyat some endless and jocose dream of that eternal slumber. "i am not disclosing any trade secrets. infact the manager said afterwards that mr. kurtz's methods had ruinedthe district. i have no opinion on that point, but i want you clearlyto understand that there was nothing exactly profitable in these headsbeing there. they only showed that mr. kurtz lacked restraint inthe gratification of his various lusts, that there was something wantingin him--some small

matter which, when the pressing need arose,could not be found under his magnificent eloquence. whether he knewof this deficiency himself i can't say. i think the knowledge came to himat last--only at the very last. but the wilderness had found him outearly, and had taken on him a terrible vengeance for the fantastic invasion.i think it had whispered to him things about himself which he did notknow, things of which he had no conception till he took counsel withthis great solitude--and the whisper had proved irresistibly echoed loudly within him because he was hollow at the core. . . . iput down the glass, and the

head that had appeared near enough to be spokento seemed at once to have leaped away from me into inaccessibledistance. "the admirer of mr. kurtz was a bit a hurried, indistinct voice he began to assure me hehad not dared to take these--say, symbols--down. he was not afraidof the natives; they would not stir till mr. kurtz gave the word. hisascendency was extraordinary. the camps of these people surrounded the place,and the chiefs came every day to see him. they would crawl. . . . 'idon't want to know anything of the ceremonies used when approachingmr. kurtz,' i shouted.

curious, this feeling that came over me thatsuch details would be more intolerable than those heads drying on thestakes under mr. kurtz's windows. after all, that was only a savagesight, while i seemed at one bound to have been transported into somelightless region of subtle horrors, where pure, uncomplicated savagerywas a positive relief, being something that had a right to exist--obviously--inthe sunshine. the young man looked at me with surprise. i supposeit did not occur to him mr. kurtz was no idol of mine. he forgot ihadn't heard any of these splendid monologues on, what was it? on love,justice, conduct of

life--or what not. if it had come to crawlingbefore mr. kurtz, he crawled as much as the veriest savage of themall. i had no idea of the conditions, he said: these heads were theheads of rebels. i shocked him excessively by laughing. rebels! what wouldbe the next definition i was to hear? there had been enemies, criminals,workers--and these were rebels. those rebellious heads lookedvery subdued to me on their sticks. 'you don't know how such a life triesa man like kurtz,' cried kurtz's last disciple. 'well, and you?' isaid. 'i! i! i am a simple man. i have no great thoughts. i want nothingfrom anybody. how can

you compare me to . . .?' his feelings weretoo much for speech, and suddenly he broke down. 'i don't understand,'he groaned. 'i've been doing my best to keep him alive, and that'senough. i had no hand in all this. i have no abilities. there hasn'tbeen a drop of medicine or a mouthful of invalid food for months here.he was shamefully abandoned. a man like this, with such ideas. shamefully!shamefully! i--i--haven't slept for the last ten nights. . . .' "his voice lost itself in the calm of theevening. the long shadows of the forest had slipped down hill while wetalked, had gone far beyond

the ruined hovel, beyond the symbolic rowof stakes. all this was in the gloom, while we down there were yet in thesunshine, and the stretch of the river abreast of the clearing glitteredin a still and dazzling splendor, with a murky and over-shadowed bendabove and below. not a living soul was seen on the shore. the bushesdid not rustle. "suddenly round the corner of the house agroup of men appeared, as though they had come up from the ground. theywaded waist-deep in the grass, in a compact body, bearing an improvisedstretcher in their midst. instantly, in the emptiness of thelandscape, a cry arose whose

shrillness pierced the still air like a sharparrow flying straight to the very heart of the land; and, as if byenchantment, streams of human beings--of naked human beings--with spearsin their hands, with bows, with shields, with wild glances and savagemovements, were poured into the clearing by the dark-faced and pensiveforest. the bushes shook, the grass swayed for a time, and then everythingstood still in attentive immobility. "'now, if he does not say the right thingto them we are all done for,' said the russian at my elbow. the knot ofmen with the stretcher had

stopped too, half-way to the steamer, as ifpetrified. i saw the man on the stretcher sit up, lank and with an upliftedarm, above the shoulders of the bearers. 'let us hope that the manwho can talk so well of love in general will find some particular reasonto spare us this time,' i said. i resented bitterly the absurd dangerof our situation, as if to be at the mercy of that atrocious phantomhad been a dishonoring necessity. i could not hear a sound, but throughmy glasses i saw the thin arm extended commandingly, the lowerjaw moving, the eyes of that apparition shining darkly far in itsbony head that nodded with

grotesque jerks. kurtz--kurtz--that meansshort in german--don't it? well, the name was as true as everything elsein his life--and death. he looked at least seven feet long. his coveringhad fallen off, and his body emerged from it pitiful and appallingas from a winding-sheet. i could see the cage of his ribs all astir,the bones of his arm waving. it was as though an animated image of deathcarved out of old ivory had been shaking its hand with menaces at a motionlesscrowd of men made of dark and glittering bronze. i saw him openhis mouth wide--it gave him a weirdly voracious aspect, as though he hadwanted to swallow all the

air, all the earth, all the men before him.a deep voice reached me faintly. he must have been shouting. hefell back suddenly. the stretcher shook as the bearers staggered forwardagain, and almost at the same time i noticed that the crowd ofsavages was vanishing without any perceptible movement of retreat, as ifthe forest that had ejected these beings so suddenly had drawn them inagain as the breath is drawn in a long aspiration. "some of the pilgrims behind the stretchercarried his arms--two shot-guns, a heavy rifle, and a light revolver-carbine--thethunderbolts

of that pitiful jupiter. the manager bentover him murmuring as he walked beside his head. they laid him downin one of the little cabins--just a room for a bed-place and acamp-stool or two, you know. we had brought his belated correspondence,and a lot of torn envelopes and open letters littered his bed. his handroamed feebly amongst these papers. i was struck by the fire of his eyesand the composed languor of his expression. it was not so much the exhaustionof disease. he did not seem in pain. this shadow looked satiatedand calm, as though for the moment it had had its fill of all the emotions.

"he rustled one of the letters, and lookingstraight in my face said, 'i am glad.' somebody had been writing tohim about me. these special recommendations were turning up again. thevolume of tone he emitted without effort, almost without the troubleof moving his lips, amazed me. a voice! a voice! it was grave, profound,vibrating, while the man did not seem capable of a whisper. however,he had enough strength in him--factitious no doubt--to very nearly makean end of us, as you shall hear directly. "the manager appeared silently in the doorway;i stepped out at once

and he drew the curtain after me. the russian,eyed curiously by the pilgrims, was staring at the shore. i followedthe direction of his glance. "dark human shapes could be made out in thedistance, flitting indistinctly against the gloomy border ofthe forest, and near the river two bronze figures, leaning on tall spears,stood in the sunlight under fantastic headdresses of spotted skins, warlikeand still in statuesque repose. and from right to left along the lightedshore moved a wild and gorgeous apparition of a woman.

"she walked with measured steps, draped instriped and fringed cloths, treading the earth proudly, with a slightjingle and flash of barbarous ornaments. she carried her head high; herhair was done in the shape of a helmet; she had brass leggings to the knee,brass wire gauntlets to the elbow, a crimson spot on her tawny cheek,innumerable necklaces of glass beads on her neck; bizarre things, charms,gifts of witch-men, that hung about her, glittered and trembledat every step. she must have had the value of several elephant tusks uponher. she was savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnificent; there wassomething ominous and

stately in her deliberate progress. and inthe hush that had fallen suddenly upon the whole sorrowful land, theimmense wilderness, the colossal body of the fecund and mysteriouslife seemed to look at her, pensive, as though it had been looking atthe image of its own tenebrous and passionate soul. "she came abreast of the steamer, stood still,and faced us. her long shadow fell to the water's edge. her facehad a tragic and fierce aspect of wild sorrow and of dumb pain mingledwith the fear of some struggling, half-shaped resolve. she stoodlooking at us without a

stir and like the wilderness itself, withan air of brooding over an inscrutable purpose. a whole minute passed,and then she made a step forward. there was a low jingle, a glint ofyellow metal, a sway of fringed draperies, and she stopped as if herheart had failed her. the young fellow by my side growled. the pilgrimsmurmured at my back. she looked at us all as if her life had dependedupon the unswerving steadiness of her glance. suddenly she openedher bared arms and threw them up rigid above her head, as though inan uncontrollable desire to touch the sky, and at the same time the swiftshadows darted out on the

earth, swept around on the river, gatheringthe steamer into a shadowy embrace. a formidable silence hung over thescene. "she turned away slowly, walked on, followingthe bank, and passed into the bushes to the left. once only her eyesgleamed back at us in the dusk of the thickets before she disappeared. "'if she had offered to come aboard i reallythink i would have tried to shoot her,' said the man of patches, nervously.'i had been risking my life every day for the last fortnight to keepher out of the house. she got in one day and kicked up a row about thosemiserable rags i picked

up in the storeroom to mend my clothes with.i wasn't decent. at least it must have been that, for she talked likea fury to kurtz for an hour, pointing at me now and then. i don't understandthe dialect of this tribe. luckily for me, i fancy kurtz felttoo ill that day to care, or there would have been mischief. i don't understand.. . . no--it's too much for me. ah, well, it's all over now.' "at this moment i heard kurtz's deep voicebehind the curtain, 'save me!--save the ivory, you mean. don't tellme. save _me!_ why, i've had to save you. you are interrupting my plansnow. sick! sick! not so sick

as you would like to believe. never mind.i'll carry my ideas out yet--i will return. i'll show you what canbe done. you with your little peddling notions--you are interfering withme. i will return. i . . .' "the manager came out. he did me the honorto take me under the arm and lead me aside. 'he is very low, very low,'he said. he considered it necessary to sigh, but neglected to be consistentlysorrowful. 'we have done all we could for him--haven't we? butthere is no disguising the fact, mr. kurtz has done more harm than goodto the company. he did not see the time was not ripe for vigorousaction. cautiously,

cautiously--that's my principle. we must becautious yet. the district is closed to us for a time. deplorable! uponthe whole, the trade will suffer. i don't deny there is a remarkablequantity of ivory--mostly fossil. we must save it, at all events--butlook how precarious the position is--and why? because the method isunsound.' 'do you,' said i, looking at the shore, 'call it "unsound method"?''without doubt,' he exclaimed, hotly. 'don't you?' . . . 'no methodat all,' i murmured after a while. 'exactly,' he exulted. 'i anticipatedthis. shows a complete want of judgment. it is my duty topoint it out in the proper

quarter.' 'oh,' said i, 'that fellow--what'shis name?--the brickmaker, will make a readable report for you.' he appearedconfounded for a moment. it seemed to me i had never breathedan atmosphere so vile, and i turned mentally to kurtz for relief--positivelyfor relief. 'nevertheless i think mr. kurtz is a remarkableman,' i said with emphasis. he started, dropped on me a coldheavy glance, said very quietly, 'he _was_,' and turned his back onme. my hour of favor was over; i found myself lumped along with kurtzas a partisan of methods for which the time was not ripe: i was unsound!ah! but it was something

to have at least a choice of nightmares. "i had turned to the wilderness really, notto mr. kurtz, who, i was ready to admit, was as good as buried. andfor a moment it seemed to me as if i also were buried in a vast grave fullof unspeakable secrets. i felt an intolerable weight oppressing my breast,the smell of the damp earth, the unseen presence of victorious corruption,the darkness of an impenetrable night. . . . the russian tappedme on the shoulder. i heard him mumbling and stammering something about'brother seaman--couldn't conceal--knowledge of matters that would affectmr. kurtz's reputation.'

i waited. for him evidently mr. kurtz wasnot in his grave; i suspect that for him mr. kurtz was one of the immortals.'well!' said i at last, 'speak out. as it happens, i am mr. kurtz'sfriend--in a way.' "he stated with a good deal of formality thathad we not been 'of the same profession,' he would have kept the matterto himself without regard to consequences. 'he suspected therewas an active ill-will towards him on the part of these white menthat--' 'you are right,' i said, remembering a certain conversation ihad overheard. 'the manager thinks you ought to be hanged.' he showeda concern at this intelligence

which amused me at first. 'i had better getout of the way quietly,' he said, earnestly. 'i can do no more for kurtznow, and they would soon find some excuse. what's to stop them? there'sa military post three hundred miles from here.' 'well, upon my word,'said i, 'perhaps you had better go if you have any friends amongstthe savages near by.' 'plenty,' he said. 'they are simple people--andi want nothing, you know.' he stood biting his lips, then: 'idon't want any harm to happen to these whites here, but of course i wasthinking of mr. kurtz's reputation--but you are a brother seaman and--''all right,' said i,

after a time. 'mr. kurtz's reputation is safewith me.' i did not know how truly i spoke. "he informed me, lowering his voice, thatit was kurtz who had ordered the attack to be made on the steamer. 'hehated sometimes the idea of being taken away--and then again. . . . buti don't understand these matters. i am a simple man. he thought itwould scare you away--that you would give it up, thinking him dead. i couldnot stop him. oh, i had an awful time of it this last month.' 'very well,'i said. 'he is all right now.' 'ye-e-es,' he muttered, not very convincedapparently. 'thanks,'

said i; 'i shall keep my eyes open.' 'butquiet--eh?' he urged, anxiously. 'it would be awful for his reputationif anybody here--' i promised a complete discretion with greatgravity. 'i have a canoe and three black fellows waiting not very far.i am off. could you give me a few martini-henry cartridges?' i could, anddid, with proper secrecy. he helped himself, with a wink at me, to a handfulof my tobacco. 'between sailors--you know--good english tobacco.'at the door of the pilot-house he turned round--' i say, haven't you a pairof shoes you could spare?' he raised one leg. 'look.' the soles weretied with knotted strings

sandal-wise under his bare feet. i rootedout an old pair, at which he looked with admiration before tucking it underhis left arm. one of his pockets (bright red) was bulging with cartridges,from the other (dark blue) peeped 'towson's inquiry,' &c., &c.he seemed to think himself excellently well equipped for a renewed encounterwith the wilderness. 'ah! i'll never, never meet such a man ought to have heard him recite poetry--his own too it was, hetold me. poetry!' he rolled his eyes at the recollection of these delights.'oh, he enlarged my mind!' 'goodby,' said i. he shook hands andvanished in the night.

sometimes i ask myself whether i had everreally seen him--whether it was possible to meet such a phenomenon! . . . "when i woke up shortly after midnight hiswarning came to my mind with its hint of danger that seemed, in the starreddarkness, real enough to make me get up for the purpose of having alook round. on the hill a big fire burned, illuminating fitfully a crookedcorner of the station-house. one of the agents with a picketof a few of our blacks, armed for the purpose, was keeping guard overthe ivory; but deep within the forest, red gleams that wavered, thatseemed to sink and rise from

the ground amongst confused columnar shapesof intense blackness, showed the exact position of the camp where mr. kurtz'sadorers were keeping their uneasy vigil. the monotonous beatingof a big drum filled the air with muffled shocks and a lingering vibration.a steady droning sound of many men chanting each to himself some weirdincantation came out from the black, flat wall of the woods as the hummingof bees comes out of a hive, and had a strange narcotic effectupon my half-awake senses. i believe i dozed off leaning over the rail,till an abrupt burst of yells, an overwhelming outbreak of a pent-upand mysterious frenzy, woke

me up in a bewildered wonder. it was cut shortall at once, and the low droning went on with an effect of audibleand soothing silence. i glanced casually into the little cabin. alight was burning within, but mr. kurtz was not there. "i think i would have raised an outcry ifi had believed my eyes. but i didn't believe them at first--the thing seemedso impossible. the fact is i was completely unnerved by a sheer blankfright, pure abstract terror, unconnected with any distinct shapeof physical danger. what made this emotion so overpowering was--howshall i define it?--the moral

shock i received, as if something altogethermonstrous, intolerable to thought and odious to the soul, had been thrustupon me unexpectedly. this lasted of course the merest fractionof a second, and then the usual sense of commonplace, deadly danger,the possibility of a sudden onslaught and massacre, or something of thekind, which i saw impending, was positively welcome and composing. it pacifiedme, in fact, so much, that i did not raise an alarm. "there was an agent buttoned up inside anulster and sleeping on a chair on deck within three feet of me. the yellshad not awakened him; he

snored very slightly; i left him to his slumbersand leaped ashore. i did not betray mr. kurtz--it was ordered ishould never betray him--it was written i should be loyal to the nightmareof my choice. i was anxious to deal with this shadow by myselfalone,--and to this day i don't know why i was so jealous of sharingwith anyone the peculiar blackness of that experience. "as soon as i got on the bank i saw a trail--abroad trail through the grass. i remember the exultation with whichi said to myself, 'he can't walk--he is crawling on all-fours--i've gothim.' the grass was wet

with dew. i strode rapidly with clenched fists.i fancy i had some vague notion of falling upon him and giving hima drubbing. i don't know. i had some imbecile thoughts. the knitting oldwoman with the cat obtruded herself upon my memory as a most improperperson to be sitting at the other end of such an affair. i saw a row ofpilgrims squirting lead in the air out of winchesters held to the hip.i thought i would never get back to the steamer, and imagined myself livingalone and unarmed in the woods to an advanced age. such silly things--youknow. and i remember i confounded the beat of the drum with thebeating of my heart, and was

pleased at its calm regularity. "i kept to the track though--then stoppedto listen. the night was very clear: a dark blue space, sparkling with dewand starlight, in which black things stood very still. i thought icould see a kind of motion ahead of me. i was strangely cocksure of everythingthat night. i actually left the track and ran in a widesemicircle (i verily believe chuckling to myself) so as to get in frontof that stir, of that motion i had seen--if indeed i had seen anything.i was circumventing kurtz as though it had been a boyish game.

"i came upon him, and, if he had not heardme coming, i would have fallen over him too, but he got up in time.he rose, unsteady, long, pale, indistinct, like a vapor exhaled bythe earth, and swayed slightly, misty and silent before me; whileat my back the fires loomed between the trees, and the murmur of manyvoices issued from the forest. i had cut him off cleverly; but when actuallyconfronting him i seemed to come to my senses, i saw the danger inits right proportion. it was by no means over yet. suppose he began toshout? though he could hardly stand, there was still plenty of vigor inhis voice. 'go away--hide

yourself,' he said, in that profound was very awful. i glanced back. we were within thirty yards from thenearest fire. a black figure stood up, strode on long black legs, wavinglong black arms, across the glow. it had horns--antelope horns, i think--onits head. some sorcerer, some witch-man, no doubt: it looked fiend-likeenough. 'do you know what you are doing?' i whispered. 'perfectly,'he answered, raising his voice for that single word: it sounded to me faroff and yet loud, like a hail through a speaking-trumpet. 'if he makes arow we are lost,' i thought to myself. this clearly was not a case forfisticuffs, even apart from

the very natural aversion i had to beat thatshadow--this wandering and tormented thing. 'you will be lost,' i said--'utterlylost.' one gets sometimes such a flash of inspiration, youknow. i did say the right thing, though indeed he could not have beenmore irretrievably lost than he was at this very moment, when the foundationsof our intimacy were being laid--to endure--to endure--even tothe end--even beyond. "'i had immense plans,' he muttered irresolutely.'yes,' said i; 'but if you try to shout i'll smash your head with--'there was not a stick or a stone near. 'i will throttle you for good,'i corrected myself. 'i was

on the threshold of great things,' he pleaded,in a voice of longing, with a wistfulness of tone that made my bloodrun cold. 'and now for this stupid scoundrel--' 'your success ineurope is assured in any case,' i affirmed, steadily. i did not wantto have the throttling of him, you understand--and indeed it would havebeen very little use for any practical purpose. i tried to break thespell--the heavy, mute spell of the wilderness--that seemed to draw himto its pitiless breast by the awakening of forgotten and brutal instincts,by the memory of gratified and monstrous passions. this alone, i wasconvinced, had driven him out

to the edge of the forest, to the bush, towardsthe gleam of fires, the throb of drums, the drone of weird incantations;this alone had beguiled his unlawful soul beyond the bounds of permittedaspirations. and, don't you see, the terror of the position was notin being knocked on the head--though i had a very lively sense ofthat danger too--but in this, that i had to deal with a being to whom icould not appeal in the name of anything high or low. i had, evenlike the niggers, to invoke him--himself his own exalted and incredibledegradation. there was nothing either above or below him, and i knewit. he had kicked himself

loose of the earth. confound the man! he hadkicked the very earth to pieces. he was alone, and i before him didnot know whether i stood on the ground or floated in the air. i'vebeen telling you what we said--repeating the phrases we pronounced,--butwhat's the good? they were common everyday words,--the familiar,vague sounds exchanged on every waking day of life. but what of that?they had behind them, to my mind, the terrific suggestiveness of wordsheard in dreams, of phrases spoken in nightmares. soul! if anybody hadever struggled with a soul, i am the man. and i wasn't arguing with alunatic either. believe me

or not, his intelligence was perfectly clear--concentrated,it is true, upon himself with horrible intensity, yetclear; and therein was my only chance--barring, of course, the killing himthere and then, which wasn't so good, on account of unavoidable noise.but his soul was mad. being alone in the wilderness, it had looked withinitself, and, by heavens! i tell you, it had gone mad. i had--for my sins,i suppose--to go through the ordeal of looking into it myself. no eloquencecould have been so withering to one's belief in mankind as hisfinal burst of sincerity. he struggled with himself, too. i saw it,--iheard it. i saw the

inconceivable mystery of a soul that knewno restraint, no faith, and no fear, yet struggling blindly with itself.i kept my head pretty well; but when i had him at last stretched on thecouch, i wiped my forehead, while my legs shook under me as though i hadcarried half a ton on my back down that hill. and yet i had only supportedhim, his bony arm clasped round my neck--and he was not muchheavier than a child. "when next day we left at noon, the crowd,of whose presence behind the curtain of trees i had been acutely consciousall the time, flowed out of the woods again, filled the clearing, coveredthe slope with a mass

of naked, breathing, quivering, bronze bodies.i steamed up a bit, then swung down-stream, and two thousand eyes followedthe evolutions of the splashing, thumping, fierce river-demonbeating the water with its terrible tail and breathing black smoke intothe air. in front of the first rank, along the river, three men, plasteredwith bright red earth from head to foot, strutted to and fro restlessly.when we came abreast again, they faced the river, stamped theirfeet, nodded their horned heads, swayed their scarlet bodies; they shooktowards the fierce river-demon a bunch of black feathers, a mangyskin with a pendent

tail--something that looked like a dried gourd;they shouted periodically together strings of amazing wordsthat resembled no sounds of human language; and the deep murmurs ofthe crowd, interrupted suddenly, were like the response of some sataniclitany. "we had carried kurtz into the pilot-house:there was more air there. lying on the couch, he stared through theopen shutter. there was an eddy in the mass of human bodies, and thewoman with helmeted head and tawny cheeks rushed out to the very brinkof the stream. she put out her hands, shouted something, and all that wildmob took up the shout in a

roaring chorus of articulated, rapid, breathlessutterance. "'do you understand this?' i asked. "he kept on looking out past me with fiery,longing eyes, with a mingled expression of wistfulness and hate. he madeno answer, but i saw a smile, a smile of indefinable meaning, appearon his colorless lips that a moment after twitched convulsively.'do i not?' he said slowly, gasping, as if the words had been torn outof him by a supernatural power. "i pulled the string of the whistle, and idid this because i saw the

pilgrims on deck getting out their rifleswith an air of anticipating a jolly lark. at the sudden screech there wasa movement of abject terror through that wedged mass of bodies. 'don't!don't you frighten them away,' cried someone on deck disconsolately.i pulled the string time after time. they broke and ran, theyleaped, they crouched, they swerved, they dodged the flying terror ofthe sound. the three red chaps had fallen flat, face down on the shore, asthough they had been shot dead. only the barbarous and superb womandid not so much as flinch, and stretched tragically her bare arms afterus over the somber and

glittering river. "and then that imbecile crowd down on thedeck started their little fun, and i could see nothing more for smoke. "the brown current ran swiftly out of theheart of darkness, bearing us down towards the sea with twice the speedof our upward progress; and kurtz's life was running swiftly too, ebbing,ebbing out of his heart into the sea of inexorable time. the managerwas very placid, he had no vital anxieties now, he took us both inwith a comprehensive and satisfied glance: the 'affair' had come offas well as could be wished.

i saw the time approaching when i would beleft alone of the party of 'unsound method.' the pilgrims looked uponme with disfavor. i was, so to speak, numbered with the dead. it isstrange how i accepted this unforeseen partnership, this choice of nightmaresforced upon me in the tenebrous land invaded by these mean and greedyphantoms. "kurtz discoursed. a voice! a voice! it rangdeep to the very last. it survived his strength to hide in the magnificentfolds of eloquence the barren darkness of his heart. oh, he struggled!he struggled! the wastes of his weary brain were haunted by shadowyimages now--images of wealth

and fame revolving obsequiously round hisunextinguishable gift of noble and lofty expression. my intended, mystation, my career, my ideas--these were the subjects for the occasionalutterances of elevated sentiments. the shade of the original kurtzfrequented the bedside of the hollow sham, whose fate it was to be buriedpresently in the mold of primeval earth. but both the diabolic loveand the unearthly hate of the mysteries it had penetrated fought forthe possession of that soul satiated with primitive emotions, avidof lying fame, of sham distinction, of all the appearances of successand power.

"sometimes he was contemptibly childish. hedesired to have kings meet him at railway-stations on his return fromsome ghastly nowhere, where he intended to accomplish great things. 'youshow them you have in you something that is really profitable, and thenthere will be no limits to the recognition of your ability,' he wouldsay. 'of course you must take care of the motives--right motives--always.'the long reaches that were like one and the same reach, monotonous bendsthat were exactly alike, slipped past the steamer with their multitudeof secular trees looking patiently after this grimy fragment of anotherworld, the forerunner

of change, of conquest, of trade, of massacres,of blessings. i looked ahead--piloting. 'close the shutter,' saidkurtz suddenly one day; 'i can't bear to look at this.' i did so. therewas a silence. 'oh, but i will wring your heart yet!' he cried at theinvisible wilderness. "we broke down--as i had expected--and hadto lie up for repairs at the head of an island. this delay was the firstthing that shook kurtz's confidence. one morning he gave mea packet of papers and a photograph,--the lot tied together with ashoe-string. 'keep this for me,' he said. 'this noxious fool' (meaningthe manager) 'is capable of

prying into my boxes when i am not looking.'in the afternoon i saw him. he was lying on his back with closed eyes,and i withdrew quietly, but i heard him mutter, 'live rightly, die, die. . .' i listened. there was nothing more. was he rehearsing some speechin his sleep, or was it a fragment of a phrase from some newspaper article?he had been writing for the papers and meant to do so again, 'forthe furthering of my ideas. it's a duty.' "his was an impenetrable darkness. i lookedat him as you peer down at a man who is lying at the bottom of a precipicewhere the sun never

shines. but i had not much time to give him,because i was helping the engine-driver to take to pieces the leakycylinders, to straighten a bent connecting-rod, and in other such matters.i lived in an infernal mess of rust, filings, nuts, bolts,spanners, hammers, ratchet-drills--things i abominate, becausei don't get on with them. i tended the little forge we fortunately hadaboard; i toiled wearily in a wretched scrap-heap--unless i had the shakestoo bad to stand. "one evening coming in with a candle i wasstartled to hear him say a little tremulously, 'i am lying here in thedark waiting for death.'

the light was within a foot of his eyes. iforced myself to murmur, 'oh, nonsense!' and stood over him as if transfixed. "anything approaching the change that cameover his features i have never seen before, and hope never to see again.oh, i wasn't touched. i was fascinated. it was as though a veilhad been rent. i saw on that ivory face the expression of somber pride,of ruthless power, of craven terror--of an intense and hopeless despair.did he live his life again in every detail of desire, temptation, andsurrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge? he cried ina whisper at some image, at

some vision,--he cried out twice, a cry thatwas no more than a breath-- "'the horror! the horror!' "i blew the candle out and left the cabin.the pilgrims were dining in the mess-room, and i took my place oppositethe manager, who lifted his eyes to give me a questioning glance, whichi successfully ignored. he leaned back, serene, with that peculiarsmile of his sealing the unexpressed depths of his meanness. a continuousshower of small flies streamed upon the lamp, upon the cloth, uponour hands and faces. suddenly the manager's boy put his insolentblack head in the doorway,

and said in a tone of scathing contempt-- "'mistah kurtz--he dead.' "all the pilgrims rushed out to see. i remained,and went on with my dinner. i believe i was considered brutallycallous. however, i did not eat much. there was a lamp in there--light,don't you know--and outside it was so beastly, beastly dark. i went nomore near the remarkable man who had pronounced a judgment upon the adventuresof his soul on this earth. the voice was gone. what else had beenthere? but i am of course aware that next day the pilgrims buried somethingin a muddy hole.

"and then they very nearly buried me. "however, as you see, i did not go to joinkurtz there and then. i did not. i remained to dream the nightmare outto the end, and to show my loyalty to kurtz once more. destiny. mydestiny! droll thing life is--that mysterious arrangement of mercilesslogic for a futile purpose. the most you can hope from it is some knowledgeof yourself--that comes too late--a crop of unextinguishable regrets.i have wrestled with death. it is the most unexciting contest youcan imagine. it takes place in an impalpable grayness, with nothing underfoot,with nothing around,

without spectators, without clamor, withoutglory, without the great desire of victory, without the great fearof defeat, in a sickly atmosphere of tepid skepticism, without muchbelief in your own right, and still less in that of your adversary.if such is the form of ultimate wisdom, then life is a greater riddlethan some of us think it to be. i was within a hair's-breadth ofthe last opportunity for pronouncement, and i found with humiliationthat probably i would have nothing to say. this is the reason whyi affirm that kurtz was a remarkable man. he had something to say. hesaid it. since i had peeped

over the edge myself, i understand betterthe meaning of his stare, that could not see the flame of the candle, butwas wide enough to embrace the whole universe, piercing enough to penetrateall the hearts that beat in the darkness. he had summed up--hehad judged. 'the horror!' he was a remarkable man. after all, this wasthe expression of some sort of belief; it had candor, it had conviction,it had a vibrating note of revolt in its whisper, it had the appallingface of a glimpsed truth--the strange commingling of desire andhate. and it is not my own extremity i remember best--a vision of graynesswithout form filled

with physical pain, and a careless contemptfor the evanescence of all things--even of this pain itself. no! it ishis extremity that i seem to have lived through. true, he had made thatlast stride, he had stepped over the edge, while i had been permittedto draw back my hesitating foot. and perhaps in this is the whole difference;perhaps all the wisdom, and all truth, and all sincerity,are just compressed into that inappreciable moment of time in which we stepover the threshold of the invisible. perhaps! i like to think my summing-upwould not have been a word of careless contempt. better his cry--muchbetter. it was

an affirmation, a moral victory paid for byinnumerable defeats, by abominable terrors, by abominable satisfactions.but it was a victory! that is why i have remained loyal to kurtzto the last, and even beyond, when a long time after i heard once more,not his own voice, but the echo of his magnificent eloquence thrownto me from a soul as translucently pure as a cliff of crystal. "no, they did not bury me, though there isa period of time which i remember mistily, with a shuddering wonder,like a passage through some inconceivable world that had no hope in itand no desire. i found myself

back in the sepulchral city resenting thesight of people hurrying through the streets to filch a little moneyfrom each other, to devour their infamous cookery, to gulp their unwholesomebeer, to dream their insignificant and silly dreams. they trespassedupon my thoughts. they were intruders whose knowledge of life wasto me an irritating pretense, because i felt so sure they could not possiblyknow the things i knew. their bearing, which was simply the bearingof commonplace individuals going about their business in the assuranceof perfect safety, was offensive to me like the outrageous flauntingsof folly in the face of

a danger it is unable to comprehend. i hadno particular desire to enlighten them, but i had some difficultyin restraining myself from laughing in their faces, so full of stupidimportance. i dare say i was not very well at that time. i tottered aboutthe streets--there were various affairs to settle--grinning bitterlyat perfectly respectable persons. i admit my behavior was inexcusable,but then my temperature was seldom normal in these days. my dear aunt'sendeavors to 'nurse up my strength' seemed altogether beside themark. it was not my strength that wanted nursing, it was my imaginationthat wanted soothing. i kept

the bundle of papers given me by kurtz, notknowing exactly what to do with it. his mother had died lately, watchedover, as i was told, by his intended. a clean-shaved man, with anofficial manner and wearing gold-rimmed spectacles, called on me one dayand made inquiries, at first circuitous, afterwards suavely pressing,about what he was pleased to denominate certain 'documents.' i was notsurprised, because i had had two rows with the manager on the subjectout there. i had refused to give up the smallest scrap out of thatpackage, and i took the same attitude with the spectacled man. he becamedarkly menacing at last,

and with much heat argued that the companyhad the right to every bit of information about its 'territories.' and,said he, 'mr. kurtz's knowledge of unexplored regions must havebeen necessarily extensive and peculiar--owing to his great abilitiesand to the deplorable circumstances in which he had been placed:therefore'--i assured him mr. kurtz's knowledge, however extensive, didnot bear upon the problems of commerce or administration. he invokedthen the name of science. 'it would be an incalculable loss if,' &c., &c.i offered him the report on the 'suppression of savage customs,' withthe postscriptum torn off. he

took it up eagerly, but ended by sniffingat it with an air of contempt. 'this is not what we had a right to expect,'he remarked. 'expect nothing else,' i said. 'there are only privateletters.' he withdrew upon some threat of legal proceedings, andi saw him no more; but another fellow, calling himself kurtz's cousin,appeared two days later, and was anxious to hear all the details abouthis dear relative's last moments. incidentally he gave me to understandthat kurtz had been essentially a great musician. 'there was themaking of an immense success,' said the man, who was an organist,i believe, with lank gray

hair flowing over a greasy coat-collar. ihad no reason to doubt his statement; and to this day i am unableto say what was kurtz's profession, whether he ever had any--whichwas the greatest of his talents. i had taken him for a painter whowrote for the papers, or else for a journalist who could paint--but eventhe cousin (who took snuff during the interview) could not tell me whathe had been--exactly. he was a universal genius--on that point i agreedwith the old chap, who thereupon blew his nose noisily into a largecotton handkerchief and withdrew in senile agitation, bearing offsome family letters and

memoranda without importance. ultimately ajournalist anxious to know something of the fate of his 'dear colleague'turned up. this visitor informed me kurtz's proper sphere ought tohave been politics 'on the popular side.' he had furry straight eyebrows,bristly hair cropped short, an eye-glass on a broad ribbon, and,becoming expansive, confessed his opinion that kurtz really couldn'twrite a bit--'but heavens! how that man could talk! he electrifiedlarge meetings. he had faith--don't you see?--he had the faith. hecould get himself to believe anything--anything. he would have been a splendidleader of an extreme

party.' 'what party?' i asked. 'any party,'answered the other. 'he was an--an--extremist.' did i not think so?i assented. did i know, he asked, with a sudden flash of curiosity, 'whatit was that had induced him to go out there?' 'yes,' said i, and forthwithhanded him the famous report for publication, if he thoughtfit. he glanced through it hurriedly, mumbling all the time, judged 'itwould do,' and took himself off with this plunder. "thus i was left at last with a slim packetof letters and the girl's portrait. she struck me as beautiful--i meanshe had a beautiful

expression. i know that the sunlight can bemade to lie too, yet one felt that no manipulation of light and posecould have conveyed the delicate shade of truthfulness upon thosefeatures. she seemed ready to listen without mental reservation, withoutsuspicion, without a thought for herself. i concluded i would go and giveher back her portrait and those letters myself. curiosity? yes;and also some other feeling perhaps. all that had been kurtz's had passedout of my hands: his soul, his body, his station, his plans, his ivory,his career. there remained only his memory and his intended--and i wantedto give that up too to

the past, in a way,--to surrender personallyall that remained of him with me to that oblivion which is the lastword of our common fate. i don't defend myself. i had no clear perceptionof what it was i really wanted. perhaps it was an impulse of unconsciousloyalty, or the fulfillment of one of these ironic necessitiesthat lurk in the facts of human existence. i don't know. i can't tell.but i went. "i thought his memory was like the other memoriesof the dead that accumulate in every man's life,--a vague impresson the brain of shadows that had fallen on it in their swift and finalpassage; but before the

high and ponderous door, between the tallhouses of a street as still and decorous as a well-kept alley in a cemetery,i had a vision of him on the stretcher, opening his mouth voraciously,as if to devour all the earth with all its mankind. he lived thenbefore me; he lived as much as he had ever lived--a shadow insatiableof splendid appearances, of frightful realities; a shadow darker thanthe shadow of the night, and draped nobly in the folds of a gorgeous eloquence.the vision seemed to enter the house with me--the stretcher, thephantom-bearers, the wild crowd of obedient worshipers, the gloom ofthe forests, the glitter of

the reach between the murky bends, the beatof the drum, regular and muffled like the beating of a heart--the heartof a conquering darkness. it was a moment of triumph for the wilderness,an invading and vengeful rush which, it seemed to me, i would haveto keep back alone for the salvation of another soul. and the memoryof what i had heard him say afar there, with the horned shapes stirringat my back, in the glow of fires, within the patient woods, those brokenphrases came back to me, were heard again in their ominous andterrifying simplicity. i remembered his abject pleading, his abjectthreats, the colossal scale

of his vile desires, the meanness, the torment,the tempestuous anguish of his soul. and later on i seemed to seehis collected languid manner, when he said one day, 'this lot of ivory nowis really mine. the company did not pay for it. i collected it myselfat a very great personal risk. i am afraid they will try to claim it as theirsthough. h'm. it is a difficult case. what do you think i oughtto do--resist? eh? i want no more than justice.' . . . he wanted no morethan justice--no more than justice. i rang the bell before a mahoganydoor on the first floor, and while i waited he seemed to stare at me outof the glassy panel--stare

with that wide and immense stare embracing,condemning, loathing all the universe. i seemed to hear the whispered cry,'the horror! the horror!' "the dusk was falling. i had to wait in alofty drawing-room with three long windows from floor to ceiling that werelike three luminous and bedraped columns. the bent gilt legs and backsof the furniture shone in indistinct curves. the tall marble fireplacehad a cold and monumental whiteness. a grand piano stood massively ina corner, with dark gleams on the flat surfaces like a somber and polishedsarcophagus. a high door opened--closed. i rose.

"she came forward, all in black, with a palehead, floating towards me in the dusk. she was in mourning. it wasmore than a year since his death, more than a year since the news came;she seemed as though she would remember and mourn for ever. she tookboth my hands in hers and murmured, 'i had heard you were coming.' inoticed she was not very young--i mean not girlish. she had a maturecapacity for fidelity, for belief, for suffering. the room seemed tohave grown darker, as if all the sad light of the cloudy evening had takenrefuge on her forehead. this fair hair, this pale visage, this purebrow, seemed surrounded by

an ashy halo from which the dark eyes lookedout at me. their glance was guileless, profound, confident, and trustful.she carried her sorrowful head as though she were proud of that sorrow,as though she would say, 'i--i alone know how to mourn for him as hedeserves. but while we were still shaking hands, such a look of awfuldesolation came upon her face that i perceived she was one of thosecreatures that are not the playthings of time. for her he had died onlyyesterday. and, by jove! the impression was so powerful that for metoo he seemed to have died only yesterday--nay, this very minute. i sawher and him in the same

instant of time--his death and her sorrow--isaw her sorrow in the very moment of his death. do you understand? isaw them together--i heard them together. she had said, with a deep catchof the breath, 'i have survived;' while my strained ears seemed tohear distinctly, mingled with her tone of despairing regret, the summing-upwhisper of his eternal condemnation. i asked myself whati was doing there, with a sensation of panic in my heart as though ihad blundered into a place of cruel and absurd mysteries not fit fora human being to behold. she motioned me to a chair. we sat down. i laidthe packet gently on the

little table, and she put her hand over it.. . . 'you knew him well,' she murmured, after a moment of mourning silence. "'intimacy grows quick out there,' i said.'i knew him as well as it is possible for one man to know another.' "'and you admired him,' she said. 'it wasimpossible to know him and not to admire him. was it?' "'he was a remarkable man,' i said, unsteadily.then before the appealing fixity of her gaze, that seemedto watch for more words on my lips, i went on, 'it was impossible not to--'

"'love him,' she finished eagerly, silencingme into an appalled dumbness. 'how true! how true! but when youthink that no one knew him so well as i! i had all his noble confidence.i knew him best.' "'you knew him best,' i repeated. and perhapsshe did. but with every word spoken the room was growing darker, andonly her forehead, smooth and white, remained illumined by the unextinguishablelight of belief and love. "'you were his friend,' she went on. 'hisfriend,' she repeated, a little louder. 'you must have been, if hehad given you this, and sent

you to me. i feel i can speak to you--andoh! i must speak. i want you--you who have heard his last words--toknow i have been worthy of him. . . . it is not pride. . . . yes! i amproud to know i understood him better than anyone on earth--he told meso himself. and since his mother died i have had no one--no one--to--to--' "i listened. the darkness deepened. i wasnot even sure whether he had given me the right bundle. i rather suspecthe wanted me to take care of another batch of his papers which, afterhis death, i saw the manager examining under the lamp. and the girl talked,easing her pain in the

certitude of my sympathy; she talked as thirstymen drink. i had heard that her engagement with kurtz had been disapprovedby her people. he wasn't rich enough or something. and indeedi don't know whether he had not been a pauper all his life. he had givenme some reason to infer that it was his impatience of comparativepoverty that drove him out there. "'. . . who was not his friend who had heardhim speak once?' she was saying. 'he drew men towards him by what wasbest in them.' she looked at me with intensity. 'it is the gift of thegreat,' she went on, and

the sound of her low voice seemed to havethe accompaniment of all the other sounds, full of mystery, desolation,and sorrow, i had ever heard--the ripple of the river, the soughingof the trees swayed by the wind, the murmurs of wild crowds, the faintring of incomprehensible words cried from afar, the whisper of a voicespeaking from beyond the threshold of an eternal darkness. 'but youhave heard him! you know!' she cried. "'yes, i know,' i said with something likedespair in my heart, but bowing my head before the faith that was inher, before that great and

saving illusion that shone with an unearthlyglow in the darkness, in the triumphant darkness from which i couldnot have defended her--from which i could not even defend myself. "'what a loss to me--to us!'--she correctedherself with beautiful generosity; then added in a murmur, 'to theworld.' by the last gleams of twilight i could see the glitter of hereyes, full of tears--of tears that would not fall. "'i have been very happy--very fortunate--veryproud,' she went on. 'too fortunate. too happy for a little while. andnow i am unhappy for--for

life.' "she stood up; her fair hair seemed to catchall the remaining light in a glimmer of gold. i rose too. "'and of all this,' she went on, mournfully,'of all his promise, and of all his greatness, of his generous mind,of his noble heart, nothing remains--nothing but a memory. you and i--' "'we shall always remember him,' i said, hastily. "'no!' she cried. 'it is impossible that allthis should be lost--that such a life should be sacrificed to leavenothing--but sorrow. you

know what vast plans he had. i knew of themtoo--i could not perhaps understand,--but others knew of them. somethingmust remain. his words, at least, have not died.' "'his words will remain,' i said. "'and his example,' she whispered to herself.'men looked up to him,--his goodness shone in every act. hisexample--' "'true,' i said; 'his example too. yes, hisexample. i forgot that.' "'but i do not. i cannot--i cannot believe--notyet. i cannot believe that i shall never see him again, that nobodywill see him again, never,

never, never.' "she put out her arms as if after a retreatingfigure, stretching them black and with clasped pale hands across thefading and narrow sheen of the window. never see him! i saw him clearlyenough then. i shall see this eloquent phantom as long as i live, andi shall see her too, a tragic and familiar shade, resembling in thisgesture another one, tragic also, and bedecked with powerless charms,stretching bare brown arms over the glitter of the infernal stream,the stream of darkness. she said suddenly very low, 'he died as helived.'

"'his end,' said i, with dull anger stirringin me, 'was in every way worthy of his life.' "'and i was not with him,' she murmured. myanger subsided before a feeling of infinite pity. "'everything that could be done--' i mumbled. "'ah, but i believed in him more than anyoneon earth--more than his own mother, more than--himself. he neededme! me! i would have treasured every sigh, every word, every sign, everyglance.' "i felt like a chill grip on my chest. 'don't,'i said, in a muffled

voice. "'forgive me. i--i--have mourned so long insilence--in silence. . . . you were with him--to the last? i think ofhis loneliness. nobody near to understand him as i would have understood.perhaps no one to hear. . . .' "'to the very end,' i said, shakily. 'i heardhis very last words. . . .' i stopped in a fright. "'repeat them,' she said in a heart-brokentone. 'i want--i want--something--something--to--to live with.'

"i was on the point of crying at her, 'don'tyou hear them?' the dusk was repeating them in a persistent whisperall around us, in a whisper that seemed to swell menacingly like the firstwhisper of a rising wind. 'the horror! the horror!' "'his last word--to live with,' she murmured.'don't you understand i loved him--i loved him--i loved him!' "i pulled myself together and spoke slowly. "'the last word he pronounced was--your name.' "i heard a light sigh, and then my heart stoodstill, stopped dead short

by an exulting and terrible cry, by the cryof inconceivable triumph and of unspeakable pain. 'i knew it--i was sure!'. . . she knew. she was sure. i heard her weeping; she had hiddenher face in her hands. it seemed to me that the house would collapsebefore i could escape, that the heavens would fall upon my head. but nothinghappened. the heavens do not fall for such a trifle. would theyhave fallen, i wonder, if i had rendered kurtz that justice which washis due? hadn't he said he wanted only justice? but i couldn't. i couldnot tell her. it would have been too dark--too dark altogether. . . ."

marlow ceased, and sat apart, indistinct andsilent, in the pose of a meditating buddha. nobody moved for a time."we have lost the first of the ebb," said the director, suddenly. i raisedmy head. the offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and thetranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowedsomber under an overcast sky--seemed to lead into the heart of an immensedarkness.

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