Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (2022)

by Joseph Conrad

First published in 1901.

I

The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutterof the sails, and was at rest. The flood had made, the wind was nearlycalm, and being bound down the river, the only thing for it was tocome to and wait for the turn of the tide.

The sea-reach of the Thames stretched before us like the beginningof an interminable waterway. In the offing the sea and the sky werewelded together without a joint, and in the luminous space the tannedsails of the barges drifting up with the tide seemed to stand still inred clusters of canvas sharply peaked, with gleams of varnishedsprits. A haze rested on the low shores that ran out to sea invanishing flatness. The air was dark above Gravesend, and fartherback still seemed condensed into a mournful gloom, brooding motionlessover the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth.

The Director of Companies was our captain and our host. We fouraffectionately watched his back as he stood in the bows looking toseaward. On the whole river there was nothing that looked half sonautical. He resembled a pilot, which to a seaman is trustworthinesspersonified. It was difficult to realize his work was not out there inthe luminous estuary, but behind him, within the brooding gloom.Between us there was, as I have already said somewhere, the bond ofthe sea. Besides holding our hearts together through long periods ofseparation, it had the effect of making us tolerant of each other'syarns -- and even convictions. The Lawyer -- the best of old fellows-- had, because of his many years and many virtues, the only cushionon deck, and was lying on the only rug. The Accountant had brought outalready a box of dominoes, and was toying architecturally with thebones. Marlow sat cross-legged right aft, leaning against themizzenmast. He had sunken cheeks, a yellow complexion, a straightback, an ascetic aspect, and, with his arms dropped, the palms ofhands outwards, resembled an idol. The Director, satisfied the anchorhad good hold, made his way aft and sat down amongst us. We exchangeda few words lazily. Afterwards there was silence on board theyacht. For some reason or other we did not begin that game ofdominoes. We felt meditative, and fit for nothing but placidstaring. The day was ending in a serenity of still and exquisitebrilliance. The water shone pacifically; the sky, without a speck, wasa benign immensity of unstained light; the very mist on the Essexmarsh was like a gauzy and radiant fabric, hung from the wooded risesinland, and draping the low shores in diaphanous folds. Only the gloomto the west, brooding over the upper reaches, became more sombre everyminute, as if angered by the approach of the sun.

And at last, in its curved and imperceptible fall, the sun sank low,and from glowing white changed to a dull red without rays and withoutheat, as if about to go out suddenly, stricken to death by the touchof that gloom brooding over a crowd of men.

Forthwith a change came over the waters, and the serenity becameless brilliant but more profound. The old river in its broad reachrested unruffled at the decline of day, after ages of good servicedone to the race that peopled its banks, spread out in the tranquildignity of a waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth. Welooked at the venerable stream not in the vivid flush of a short daythat comes and departs for ever, but in the august light of abidingmemories. And indeed nothing is easier for a man who has, as thephrase goes, "followed the sea" with reverence and affection, than toevoke the great spirit of the past upon the lower reaches of theThames. The tidal current runs to and fro in its unceasing service,crowded with memories of men and ships it had borne to the rest ofhome or to the battles of the sea. It had known and served all the menof whom the nation is proud, from Sir Francis Drake to Sir JohnFranklin, knights all, titled and untitled -- the great knights-errantof the sea. It had borne all the ships whose names are like jewelsflashing in the night of time, from the Golden Hind returning with herround flanks full of treasure, to be visited by the Queen's Highnessand thus pass out of the gigantic tale, to the Erebus and Terror,bound on other conquests -- and that never returned. It had known theships and the men. They had sailed from Deptford, from Greenwich, fromErith -- the adventurers and the settlers; kings' ships and the shipsof men on 'Change; captains, admirals, the dark "interlopers" of theEastern trade, and the commissioned "generals" of East Indiafleets. Hunters for gold or pursuers of fame, they all had gone out onthat stream, bearing the sword, and often the torch, messengers of themight within the land, bearers of a spark from the sacred fire. Whatgreatness had not floated on the ebb of that river into the mystery ofan unknown earth! . . . The dreams of men, the seed of commonwealths,the germs of empires.

The sun set; the dusk fell on the stream, and lights began to appearalong the shore. The Chapman lighthouse, a three-legged thing erect ona mud-flat, shone strongly. Lights of ships moved in the fairway -- agreat stir of lights going up and going down. And farther west on theupper reaches the place of the monstrous town was still markedominously on the sky, a brooding gloom in sunshine, a lurid glareunder the stars.

"And this also," said Marlow suddenly, "has been one of the darkplaces of the earth."

He was the only man of us who still "followed the sea." The worstthat could be said of him was that he did not represent his class. Hewas a seaman, but he was a wanderer, too, while most seamen lead, ifone may so express it, a sedentary life. Their minds are of thestay-at-home order, and their home is always with them -- the ship;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 changingimmensity of life, glide past, veiled not by a sense of mystery but bya slightly disdainful ignorance; for there is nothing mysterious to aseaman unless it be the sea itself, which is the mistress of hisexistence and as inscrutable as Destiny. For the rest, after his hoursof work, a casual stroll or a casual spree on shore suffices to unfoldfor him the secret of a whole continent, and generally he finds thesecret not worth knowing. The yarns of seamen have a directsimplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within the shell of acracked nut. But Marlow was not typical (if his propensity to spinyarns be excepted), and to him the meaning of an episode was notinside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought itout only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of thesemisty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectralilluminination of moonshine.

His remark did not seem at all surprising. It was just likeMarlow. It was accepted in silence. No one took the trouble to grunteven; and presently he said, very slow --

"I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans first came here,nineteen hundred years ago -- the other day.... Light came out of thisriver since -- you say Knights? Yes; but it is like a running blaze ona plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live in theflicker -- may it last as long as the old earth keeps rolling! Butdarkness was here yesterday. Imagine the feelings of a commander of afine -- what d'ye call 'em? -- trireme in the Mediterranean, orderedsuddenly to the north run overland across the Gauls in a hurry; put incharge of one of these craft the legionaries -- a wonderful lot ofhandy men they must have been, too -- used to build, apparently by thehundred, in a month or two, if we may believe what we read. Imaginehim here -- the very end of the world, a sea the colour of lead, a skythe colour of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a concertina --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. NoFalernian wine here, no going ashore. Here and there a military camplost in a wilderness, like a needle in a bundle of hay -- cold, fog,tempests, disease, exile, and death -- death skulking in the air, inthe water, in the bush. They must have been dying like flies here. Oh,yes -- he did it. Did it very well, too, no doubt, and withoutthinking much about it either, except afterwards to brag of what hehad gone through in his time, perhaps. They were men enough to facethe darkness. And perhaps he was cheered by keeping his eye on achance of promotion to the fleet at Ravenna by and by, if he had goodfriends in Rome and survived the awful climate. Or think of a decentyoung citizen in a toga -- perhaps too much dice, you know -- comingout here in the train of some prefect, or tax-gatherer, or tradereven, to mend his fortunes. Land in a swamp, march through the woods,and in some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, hadclosed round him -- all that mysterious life of the wilderness thatstirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men.There's no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live inthe midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable. And ithas a fascination, too, that goes to work upon him. The fascination ofthe abomination -- you know, imagine the growing regrets, the longingto escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate."

He paused.

"Mind," he began again, lifting one arm from the elbow, the palm ofthe hand outwards, so that, with his legs folded before him, he hadthe pose of a Buddha preaching in European clothes and without alotus-flower -- "Mind, none of us would feel exactly like this. Whatsaves us is efficiency -- the devotion to efficiency. But these chapswere not much account, really. They were no colonists; theiradministration was merely a squeeze, and nothing more, I suspect.They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force --nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just anaccident arising from the weakness of others. They grabbed what theycould get for the sake of what was to be got. It was just robbery withviolence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at itblind -- as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness. Theconquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away fromthose who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses thanourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. Whatredeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not asentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea-- something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer asacrifice to..."

He broke off. Flames glided in the river, small green flames, redflames, white flames, pursuing, overtaking, joining, crossing eachother -- then separating slowly or hastily. The traffic of the greatcity went on in the deepening night upon the sleepless river. Welooked on, waiting patiently -- there was nothing else to do till theend of the flood; but it was only after a long silence, when he said,in a hesitating voice, "I suppose you fellows remember I did once turnfresh water sailor for a bit," that we knew we were fated, before theebb began to run, to hear about one of Marlow's inconclusiveexperiences.

"I don't want to bother you much with what happened to mepersonally," he began, showing in this remark the weakness of manytellers of tales who seem so often unaware of what their audiencewould best like to hear; "yet to understand the effect of it on me youought 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 thefarthest point of navigation and the culminating point of myexperience. It seemed somehow to throw a kind of light on everythingabout me -- and into my thoughts. It was sombre enough, too -- andpitiful -- not extraordinary in any way -- not very clear either. No,not very clear. And yet it seemed to throw a kind of light.

"I had then, as you remember, just returned toLondon after a lot of Indian Ocean, Pacific, ChinaSeas a regular dose of the East -- six years or so, andI was loafing about, hindering you fellows in yourwork and invading your homes, just as though I hadgot a heavenly mission to civilize you. It was very finefor a time, but after a bit I did get tired of resting.Then I began to look for a ship -- I should think thehardest work on earth. But the ships wouldn't evenlook at me. And I got tired of that game, too.

"Now when I was a little chap I had a passion for maps. I would lookfor hours at South America, orAfrica, or Australia, and lose myself in all the gloriesof exploration. At that time there were many blankspaces on the earth, and when I saw one that lookedparticularly inviting on a map (but they all look that)I would put my finger on it and say, 'When I growup I will go there.' The North Pole was one of theseplaces, I remember. Well, I haven't been there yet,and shall not try now. The glamour's off. Other placeswere scattered about the Equator, and in every sort oflatitude all over the two hemispheres. I have been insome of them, and . . . well, we won't talk aboutthat. But there was one yet -- the biggest, the mostblank, so to speak -- that I had a hankering after.

"True, by this time it was not a blank space any more. It had gotfilled since my boyhood with rivers and lakes and names. It had ceasedto be a blank space of delightful mystery -- a white patch for a boyto dream gloriously over. It had become a place of darkness. But therewas in it one river especially, a mighty big river, that you could seeon the map, resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in thesea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its taillost in the depths of the land. And as I looked at the map of it in ashop-window, it fascinated me as a snake would a bird -- a sillylittle bird. Then I remembered there was a big concern, a Company fortrade 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'scheap and not so nasty as it looks, they say.

"I am sorry to own I began to worry them. This was already a freshdeparture for me. I was not used to get things that way, you know. Ialways went my own road and on my own legs where I had a mind to go. Iwouldn't have believed it of myself; but, then -- you see -- I feltsomehow I must get there by hook or by crook. So I worried them. Themen said 'My dear fellow,' and did nothing. Then -- would you believeit? -- I tried the women. I, Charlie Marlow, set the women to work --to get a job. Heavens! Well, you see, the notion drove me. I had anaunt, a dear enthusiastic soul. She wrote: 'It will be delightful. Iam ready to do anything, anything for you. It is a glorious idea. Iknow the wife of a very high personage in the Administration, and alsoa man who has lots of influence with,' etc., etc. She was determinedto make no end of fuss to get me appointed skipper of a riversteamboat, if such was my fancy.

"I got my appointment -- of course; and I got it very quick. Itappears the Company had received news that one of their captains hadbeen killed in a scuffle with the natives. This was my chance, and itmade me the more anxious to go. It was only months and monthsafterwards, when I made the attempt to recover what was left of thebody, that I heard the original quarrel arose from a misunderstandingabout some hens. Yes, two black hens. Fresleven -- that was thefellow's name, a Dane -- thought himself wronged somehow in thebargain, so he went ashore and started to hammer the chief of thevillage with a stick. Oh, it didn't surprise me in the least to hearthis, and at the same time to be told that Fresleven was the gentlest,quietest creature that ever walked on two legs. No doubt he was; buthe had been a couple of years already out there engaged in the noblecause, you know, and he probably felt the need at last of assertinghis self-respect in some way. Therefore he whacked the old niggermercilessly, while a big crowd of his people watched him,thunderstruck, till some man -- I was told the chief's son -- indesperation at hearing the old chap yell, made a tentative jab with aspear at the white man -- and of course it went quite easy between theshoulder-blades. Then the whole population cleared into the forest,expecting all kinds of calamities to happen, while, on the other hand,the steamer Fresleven commanded left also in a bad panic, in charge ofthe engineer, I believe. Afterwards nobody seemed to trouble muchabout Fresleven's remains, till I got out and stepped into hisshoes. I couldn't let it rest, though; but when an opportunity offeredat last to meet my predecessor, the grass growing through his ribs wastall enough to hide his bones. They were all there. The supernaturalbeing had not been touched after he fell. And the village wasdeserted, 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 hensI don't know either. I should think the cause of progress got them,anyhow. However, through this glorious affair I got my appointment,before I had fairly begun to hope for it.

"I flew around like mad to get ready, and beforeforty-eight hours I was crossing the Channel to snowmyself to my employers, and sign the contract. In avery few hours I arrived in a city that always makesme think of a whited sepulchre. Prejudice no doubt. Ihad no difficulty in finding the Company's offices. Itwas the biggest thing in the town, and everybody Imet was full of it. They were going to run an over seaempire, and make no end of coin by trade.

"A narrow and deserted street in deep shadow, highhouses, innumerable windows with venetian blinds, adead silence, grass sprouting between the stones, imposing carriagearchways right and left, immensedouble doors standing ponderously ajar. I slippedthrough one of these cracks, went up a swept and ungarnishedstaircase, as arid as a desert, and opened thefirst door I came to. Two women, one fat and theother slim, sat on straw-bottomed chairs, knitting blackwool. The slim one got up and walked straight at me-- still knitting with downcast eyes -- and only just asI began to think of getting out of her way, as youwould for a somnambulist, stood still, and looked up.Her dress was as plain as an umbrella-cover, and sheturned round without a word and preceded me into awaiting-room. I gave my name, and looked about.Deal table in the middle, plain chairs all round thewalls, on one end a large shining map, marked withall the colours of a rainbow. There was a vast amountof red -- good to see at any time, because one knowsthat some real work is done in there, a deuce of a lotof blue, a little green, smears of orange, and, onthe East Coast, a purple patch, to show where thejolly pioneers of progress drink the jolly lager-beer.However, I wasn't going into any of these. I wasgoing into the yellow. Dead in the centre. And theriver was there -- fascinating -- deadly -- like a snake.Ough! A door opened, a white-haired secretarial head,but wearing a compassionate expression, appeared, anda skinny forefinger beckoned me into the sanctuary. Itslight was dim, and a heavy writing-desk squatted inthe middle. From behind that structure came out animpression of pale plumpness in a frock-coat. Thegreat man himself. He was five feet six, I shouldjudge, and had his grip on the handle-end of ever somany millions. He shook hands, I fancy, murmuredvaguely, Was satisfied with my French. Bon voyage.

"In about forty-five seconds I found myself again inthe waiting-room with the compassionate secretary,who, full of desolation and sympathy, made me signsome document. I believe I undertook amongst otherthings not to disclose any trade secrets. Well, I amnot going to.

"I began to feel slightly uneasy. You know I amnot used to such ceremonies, and there was somethingominous in the atmosphere. It was just as though Ihad been let into some conspiracy -- I don't know --something not quite right; and I was glad to get out.In the outer room the two women knitted black woolfeverishly. People were arriving, and the younger onewas walking back and forth introducing them. Theold one sat on her chair. Her flat cloth slippers werepropped up on a foot-warmer, and a cat reposed on herlap. She wore a starched white affair on her head, hada wart on one cheek, and silver-rimmed spectacles hungon the tip of her nose. She glanced at me above theglasses. The swift and indifferent placidity of thatlook troubled me. Two youths with foolish and cheerycountenances were being piloted over, and she threw atthem the same quick glance of unconcerned wisdom.She seemed to know all about them and about me, too.An eerie feeling came over me. She seemed uncannyand fateful. Often far away there I thought of thesetwo, guarding the door of Darkness, knitting blackwool as for a warm pall, one introducing, introducingcontinuously to the unknown, the other scrutinizingthe cheery and foolish faces with unconcerned oldeyes. Ave! Old knittter of black wool. Morituri tesalutant. Not many of those she looked at ever sawher again -- not half, by a long way.

"There was yet a visit to the doctor. 'A simple formality,' assured me the secretary, with an air of takingan immense part in all my sorrows. Accordingly ayoung chap wearing his hat over the left eyebrow,some clerk I suppose -- there must have been clerksin the business, though the house was as still as ahouse in a city of the dead -- came from somewhereup-stairs, and led me forth. He was shabby and careless, withinkstains on the sleeves of his jacket, andhis cravat was large and billowy, under a chin shapedlike the toe of an old boot. It was a little too early forthe doctor, so I proposed a drink, and thereupon hedeveloped a vein of joviality. As we sat over our vermouths heglorified the Company's business, and byand by I expressed casually my surprise at him notgoing out there. He became very cool and collectedall at once. 'I am not such a fool as I look, quothPlato to his disciples,' he said sententiously, emptiedhis glass with great resolution, and we rose.

"The old doctor felt my pulse, evidently thinkingof something else the while. 'Good, good for there,' hemumbled, and then with a certain eagerness asked mewhether I would let him measure my head. Rathersurprised, I said Yes, when he produced a thing likecalipers and got the dimensions back and front andevery way, taking notes carefully. He was an unshaven little man in athreadbare coat like a gaberdine,with his feet in slippers, and I thought him a harmlessfool. 'I always ask leave, in the interests of science, tomeasure the crania of those going out there,' he said.'And when they come back, too?' I asked. 'Oh, I neversee them,' he remarked; 'and, moreover, the changestake 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, andmade another note. 'Ever any madness in your family?' he asked, in amatter-of-fact tone. I felt veryannoyed. 'Is that question in the interests of science,too?' 'It would be,' he said, without taking notice ofmy irritation, 'interesting for science to watch themental changes of individuals, on the spot, but . . .''Are you an alienist?' I interrupted. 'Every doctorshould be -- a little,' answered that original, imperturb-ably. 'I have a little theory which you messieurs whogo out there must help me to prove. This is my sharein the advantages my country shall reap from thepossession of such a magnificent dependency. Themere wealth I leave to others. Pardon my questions,but you are the first Englishman coming under myobservation . . .' I hastened to assure him I was notin the least typical. 'If I were,' said I, 'I wouldn't betalking like this with you.' 'What you say is ratherprofound, and probably erroneous,' he said, with alaugh. 'Avoid irritation more than exposure to thesun. Adieu. How do you English say, eh? Good-bye.Ah! Good-bye. Adieu. In the tropics one must beforeeverytlung keep calm.' . . . He lifted a warningforefinger. . . 'Du calme, du calme, Adieu.'

"One thing more remained to do -- say good-bye tomy excellent aunt. I found her triumphant. I had acup of tea -- the last decent cup of tea for many days --and in a room that most soothingly looked just as youwould expect a lady's drawing-room to look, we had along quiet chat by the fireside. In the course of theseconfidences it became quite plain to me I had beenrepresented to the wife of the high dignitary, andgoodness knows to how many more people besides, asan exceptional and gifted creature -- a piece of goodfortune for the Company -- a man you don't get holdof every day. Good heavens! and I was going to takecharge of a two-penny-half-penny river-steamboat witha penny whistle attached! It appeared, however, Iwas also one of the Workers, with a capital -- youknow. Something like an emissary of light, somethinglike a lower sort of apostle. There had been a lot ofsuch rot let loose in print and talk just about that time,and the excellent woman, living right in the rush ofall that humbug, got carried off her feet. She talkedabout 'weaning those ignorant millions from theirhorrid ways,' till, upon my word, she made me quiteuncomfortable. I ventured to hint that the Companywas run for profit.

" 'You forget, dear Charlie, that the labourer isworthy of his hire,' she said, brightly. It's queer howout of touch with truth women are. They live in aworld of their own, and there has never been anythinglike it, and never can be. It is too beautiful altogether,and if they were to set it up it would go to piecesbefore the first sunset. Some confounded fact we menhave been living contentedly with ever since the dayof creation would start up and knock the whole thingover.

"After this I got embraced, told to wear flannel, besure to write often, and so on -- and I left. In thestreet -- I don't know why -- a queer feeling came to methat I was an impostor. Odd thing that I, who used toclear out for any part of the world at twenty-fourhours' notice, with less thought than most men give tothe crossing of a street, had a moment -- I won't sayof hesitation, but of startled pause, before this commonplaceaffair. The best way I can explain it to youis by saying that, for a second or two, I felt as though,instead of going to the centre of a continent, I wereabout to set off for the centre of the earth.

"I left in a French steamer, and she called in everyblamed port they have out there, for, as far as Icould see, the sole purpose of landing soldiers andcustom-house officers. I watched the coast. Watching acoast as it slips by the ship is like thinking about anenigma. There it is before you -- smiling, frowning,inviting, grand, mean, insipid, or savage, and alwaysmute with an air of whispering, 'Come and find out.'This one was almost featureless, as if still in the making, with anaspect of monotonous grimness. The edgeof a colossal jungle, so dark-green as to be almostblack, fringed with white surf, ran straight, like aruled line, far, far away along a blue sea whose glitterwas blurred by a creeping mist. The sun was fierce,the land seemed to glisten and drip with steam. Hereand there greyish-whitish specks showed up clusteredinside the white surf, with a flag fiying above themperhaps. Settlements some centuries old, and still nobigger than pinheads on the untouched expanse oftheir background. We pounded along, stopped, landedsoldiers; went on, landed custom-house clerks tolevy toll in what looked like a God-forsaken wilderness, with a tinshed and a flag-pole lost in it; landedmore soldiers to take care of the custom-house clerks,presumably. Some, I heard, got drowned in the surf;but whether they did or not, nobody seemed particularly to care. Theywere just flung out there, and onwe went. Every day the coast looked the same, asthough we had not moved; but we passed variousplaces -- trading places with names like Gran' Bassam, Little Popo;names that seemed to belong tosome sordid farce acted in front of a sinister back-cloth.The idleness of a passenger, my isolation amongst allthese men with whom I had no point of contact, theoily and languid sea, the uniform sombreness of thecoast, seemed to keep me away from the truth of things,within the toil of a mournful and senseless delusion.The voice of the surf heard now and then was a positive pleasure, likethe speech of a brother. It was something natural, that had itsreason, that had a meaningNow and then a boat from the shore gave one a momentary contact withreality. It was paddled byblack fellows. You could see from afar the white oftheir eyeballs glistening. They shouted, sang; theirbodies streamed with perspiration; they had faceslike grotesque masks -- these chaps; but they had bone,muscle, a wild vitality, an intense energy of movement, that was asnatural and true as the surf alongtheir coast. They wanted no excuse for being there.They were a great comfort to look at. For a time Iwould feel I belonged still to a world of straightforward facts; butthe feeling would not last long. Something would turn up to scare itaway. Once, I remem-ber, we came upon a man-of-war anchored off thecoast. There wasn't even a shed there, and she wasshelling the bush. It appears the French had one oftheir wars going on thereabouts. Her ensign droppedlimp like a rag; the muzzles of the long six-inch gunsstuck out all over the low hull; the greasy, slimy swellswung her up lazily and let her down, swaying herthin masts. In the empty immensity of earth, sky, andwater, there she was, incomprehensible, firing into acontinent. Pop, would go one of the six-inch guns; asmall flame would dart and vanish, a little white smokewould disappear, a tiny projectile would give a feeblescreech -- and nothing happened. Nothing could happen. There was atouch of insanity in the proceeding,a sense of lugubrious drollery in the sight; and it wasnot dissipated by somebody on board assuring meearnestly there was a camp of natives -- he called themenemies! -- hidden out of sight somewhere.

"We gave her her ktters (I heard the men in thatlonely ship were dying of fever at the rate of threea day) and went on. We called at some more placeswith farcical names, where the merry dance of deathand trade goes on in a still and earthy atmosphere asof an overheated catacomb; all along the formlesscoast bordered by dangerous surf, as if Nature herselfhad tried to ward off intruders; in and out of rivers,streams of death in life, whose banks were rotting intomud, whose waters, thickened into slime, invaded thecontorted mangroves, that seemed to writhe at usin the extremity of an impotent despair. Nowheredid we stop long enough to get a particularized impression, but thegeneral sense of vague and oppressive wonder grew upon me. It was ]ikea wearypilgrimage amongst hints for nightmares

"It was upward of thirty days before I saw themouth of the big river. We anchored off the seat ofthe government. But my work would not begin tillsome two hundred miles farther on. So as soon as Icould 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 aseaman, invited me on the bridge. He was a youngman, lean, fair, and morose, with lanky hair and ashuffling gait. As we left the miserable little wharf,he tossed his head contemptuously at the shore. 'Beenliving there?' he asked. I said, 'Yes.' 'Fine lot thesegovernment chaps -- are they not?' he went on, speaking English withgreat precision and considerable bitterness. 'It is funny what somepeople will do for afew francs a month. I wonder what becomes of thatkind when it goes upcountry?' I said to him I expectedto see that soon. 'So-o-o!' he exclaimed. He shuffledathwart, keeping one eye ahead vigilantly. 'Don't betoo sure,' he continued. 'The other day I took up aman who hanged himself on the road. He was aSwede, too.' 'Hanged himself! Why, in God's name?'I cried. He kept on looking out watchfully. 'Whoknows? The sun too much for him, or the countryperhaps.'

"At last we opened a reach. A rocky cliff appeared,mounds of turned-up earth by the shore, houses on ahill, others with iron roofs, amongst a waste of excavations, orhanging to the declivity. A continuous noiseof the rapids above hovered over this scene of inhabiteddevastation. A lot of people, mostly blackand naked, moved about like ants. A jetty projectedinto the river. A blinding sunlight drowned all thisat times in a sudden recrudescence of glare. 'There'syour Company's station,' said the Swede, pointing tothree wooden barrack-like structures on the rockyslope. 'I will send your things up. Four boxes did yousay? So. Farewell.'

"I came upon a boiler wallowing in the grass, thenfound a path leading up the hill. It turned aside forthe boulders, and also for an undersized railway-trucklying there on its back with its wheels in the air. Onewas off. The thing looked as dead as the carcass ofsome animal. I came upon more pieces of decayingmachinery, a stack of rusty rails. To the left a clumpof trees made a shady spot, where dark things seemedto stir feebly. I blinked, the path was steep. A horntooted to the right, and I saw the black people run. Aheavy and dull detonation shook the ground, a puffof smoke came out of the cliff, and that was all. Nochange appeared on the face of the rock. They werebuilding a railway. The cliff was not in the way oranything; but this objectless blasting was all the workgoing on.

"A slight clinking behind me made me turn myhead. Six black men advanced in a file, toiling up thepath. They walked erect and slow, balancing smallbaskets full of earth on their heads, and the clinkkept time with their footsteps. Black rags were woundround their loins, and the short ends behind waggledto and fro like tails. I could see every rib, the joints oftheir limbs were like knots in a rope; each had aniron collar on his neck, and all were connected togetherwith a chain whose bights swung between them,rhythmically clinking. Another report from the cliffmade me think suddenly of that ship of war I hadseen firing into a continent. It was the same kind ofominous voice; but these men could by no stretch ofimagination be called enemies. They were calledcriminals, and the outraged law, like the burstingshells, had come to them, an insoluble mystery fromthe sea. All their meagre breasts panted together, theviolently dilated nostrils quivered, the eyes staredstonily uphill. They passed me within six inches, without a glance,with that complete, deathlike indifferenceof 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 button off, andseeing a white man on the path, hoisted his weapon tohis shoulder with alacrity. This was simple prudence,white men being so much alike at a distance that hecould not tell who I might be. He was speedily reassured, and with alarge, white, rascally grin, and aglance at his charge, seemed to take me into partnership in hisexalted trust. After all, I also was a part ofthe great cause of these high and just proceedings.

"Instead of going up, I turned and descended to theleft. My idea was to let that chain-gang get out ofsight before I climbed the hilL You know I am notparticularly tender; I've had to strike and to fend off.I've had to resist and to attack sometimes -- that's onlyone way of resisting -- without counting the exact cost,according to the demands of such sort of life as I hadblundered into. I've seen the devil of violence, andthe devil of greed, and the devil 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 stood on this hillside, I foresaw that in theblinding sunshine of that land I would become acquainted with aflabby, pretending, weak-eyed devilof a rapacious and pitiless folly. How insidious hecould be, too, I was only to find out several monthslater and a thousand miles farther. For a moment Istood appalled, as though by a warning. Finally Idescended the hill, obliquely, towards the trees I hadseen.

"I avoided a vast artificial hole somebody had beendigging on the slope, the purpose of which I found itimpossible to divine. It wasn't a quarry or a sandpit,anyhow. It was just a hole. It might have been connected with thephilanthropic desire of giving thecriminals something to do. I don't know. Then Inearly fell into a very narrow ravine, almost no morethan a scar in the hillside. I discovered that a lot ofimported drainage-pipes for the settlement had beentumbled in there. There wasn't one that was notbroken. It was a wanton smash-up. At last I got underthe trees. My purpose was to stroll into the shade fora moment; but no sooner within than it seemed to meI had stepped into the gloomy circle of some Inferno.The rapids were near, and an uninterrupted, uniform,headlong, rushing noise filled the mournful stillnessof the grove, where not a breath stirred, not a leafmoved, with a mysterious sound -- as though the tearing pace of thelaunched earth had suddenly becomeaudible.

"Black shapes crouched, lay, sat between the treesleaning against the trunks, clinging to the earth, halfcoming out, half effased within the dim light, in allthe attitudes of pain, abandonment, and despair. Another mine on thecliff went off, followed by a slightshudder of the soil under my feet. The work wasgoing on. The work! And this was the place wheresome of the helpers had withdrawn to die.

"They were dying slowly -- it was very clear. Theywere not enemies, they were not criminals, they werenothing earthly now -- nothing but black shadows ofdisease and starvation, lying confusedly in the greenishgloom. Brought from all the recesses of the coastin all the legality of time contracts, lost in uncongenialsurroundings, fed on unfamiliar food, theysickened, became inefficient, and were then allowedto crawl away and rest. These moribund shapes werefree as air -- and nearly as thin. I began to distinguishthe gleam of the eyes under the trees. Then, glancingdown, I saw a face near my hand. The black bonesreclined at full length with one shoulder against thetree, and slowly the eyelids rose and the sunken eyeslooked up at me, enormous and vacant, a kind ofblind, white flicker in the depths of the orbs, whichdied out slowly. The man seemed young -- almost aboy -- but you know with them it's hard to tell. Ifound nothing else to do but to offer him one of mygood Swede's ship's biscuits I had in my pocket. Thefingers closed slowly on it and held -- there was noother movement and no other glance. He had tied abit of white worsted round his neck -- Why? Wheredid he get it? Was it a badge -- an ornament -- charm-- a propitiatory act? Was there any idea at all con-nected with it? It looked startling round his blackneck, 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 hischin propped on his knees, stared at nothing, in anintolerable and appalling manner: his brother phantom rested itsforehead, as if overcome with a greatweariness; and all about others were scattered inevery pose of contorted collapse, as in some picture ofa massacre or a pestilence. While I stood horrorstruck, one of thesecreatures rose to his hands andknees, and went off on all-fours towards the river todrink. He lapped out of his hand, then sat up in thesunlight, crossing his shins in front of him, and aftera time let his woolly head fall on his breastbone. "I didn't want any more loitering in the shade, andI made haste towards the station. When near thebuildings I met a white man, in such an unexpectedelegance of getup that in the first moment I took himfor a sort of vision. I saw a high starched collar,white cuffs, a light alpaca jacket, snowy trousers, aclean necktie, and varnished boots. No hat. Hairparted, brushed, oiled, under a green-lined parasolheld in a big white hand. He was amazing, and had apenholder behind his ear.

"I shook hands with this miracle, and I learned hewas the Company's chief accountant, and that all thebookkeeping was done at this station. He had comeout for a moment, he said, 'to get a breath of freshair.' The expression sounded wonderfully odd, withits suggestion of sedentary desk-life. I wouldn't havementioned the fellow to you at all, only it was fromhis lips that I first heard the name of the man who isso indissolubly connected with the memories of thattime. Moreover, I respected the fe]low. Yes; I respected his collars,his vast cuffs, his brushed hair. Hisappearance was certainly that of a hairdresser'sdummy; but in the great demoralization of the landhe kept up his appearance. That's backbone. Hisstarched collars and got-up shirt-fronts were achievements ofcharacter. He had been out nearly threeyears; and later, I could not help asking him how hemanaged to sport such linen. He had just the faintestblush, and said modestly, 'I've been teaching one ofthe native women about the station. It was difficult.She had a distaste for the work.' Thus this man hadverily 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 withsplay feet arrived and departed; a stream of manufactured goods,rubbishy cottons, beads, and brasswire set into the depths ofdarkness, and in returncame 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 ofthe chaos I would sometimes get into the accountant'soffice. It was built of horizontal planks, and so badlyput together that, as he bent over his high desk, hewas barred from neck to heels with narrow strips ofsunlight. There was no need to open the big shutter tosee. It was hot there, too; big flies buzzed fiendishly,and did not sting, but stabbed. I sat generally on thefloor, while, of faultless appearance (and even slightlyscented), perching on a high stool, he wrote, he wrote.Sometimes he stood up for exercise. When a truckle-bed with a sick man(some invalid agent from up-country) was put in there, he exhibited a gentle annoyance. 'Thegroans of this sick person,' he said,'distract my attention. And without that it is extremely difficult toguard against clerical errors inthis climate.'

"One day he remarked, without lifting his head,'In the interior you will no doubt meet Mr. Kurtz.'On my asking who Mr. Kurtz was, he said he was afirst-class agent; and seeing my disappointment atthis information, he added slowly, laying down hispen, 'He is a very remarkable person.' Further questions elicited fromhim that Mr. Kurtz was at presentin charge of a trading-post, a very important one, inthe true ivory-country, at 'the very bottom of there.Sends in as much ivory as all the others put together. . .' He began to write again. The sick man was tooill to groan. The flies buzzed in a great peace.

"Suddenly there was a growing murmur of voicesand a great tramping of feet. A caravan had come in.A violent babble of uncouth sounds burst out on theother side of the planks. All the carriers were speakingtogether, and in the midst of the uproar the lamentable voice of thechief agent was heard 'giving it up'tearfully for the twentieth time that day.... Herose slowly. 'What a frightful row,' he said. Hecrossed the room gently to look at the sick man, andreturning, said to me, 'He does not hear.' 'What!Dead?' I asked, startled. 'No, not yet,' he answered,with great composure. Then, alluding with a toss ofthe head to the tumult in the station-yard, 'When onehas got to make correct entries, one comes to hatethose savages -- hate them to the death.' He remainedthoughtful for a moment. 'When you see Mr. Kurtz'he went on, 'tell him from me that everything here' --he glanced at the deck -- 'is very satisfactory. I don'tlike to write to him -- with those messengers of oursyou never know who may get hold of your letter -- atthat Central Station.' He stared at me for a momentwith his mild, bulging eyes. 'Oho, he will go far, veryfar,' he began again. 'He will be a somebody in theAdministration before long. They, above -- the Coun-cil in Europe, you know -- mean him to be.'

"He turned to his work. The noise outside hadceased, and presently in going out I stopped at thedoor. In the steady buzz of flies the homeward-boundagent was lying flushed and insensible; the other,bent over his books, was making correct entries ofperfectly correct transactions; and fifty feet below thedoorstep I could see the still treetops of the grove ofdeath.

"Next day I left that station at last, with a caravanof sixty men, for a two-hundred-mile tramp.

"No use telling you much about that. Paths, paths,everywhere; a stamped-in network of paths spreadingover the empty land, through the long grass, throughburnt grass, through thickets, down and up chillyravines, up and down stony hills ablaze with heat;and a solitude, a solitude, nobody, not a hut. Thepopulation had cleared out a long time ago. Well, ifa lot of mysterious niggers armed with all kinds offearful weapons suddenly took to travelling on theroad between Deal and Gravesend, catching the yokels right and left tocarry heavy loads for them, Ifancy every farm and cottage thereabouts wouldget empty very soon. Only here the dwellings weregone, too. Still I passed through several abandonedvillages. There's something pathetically childish inthe ruins of grass walls. Day after day, with the stampand shuffle of sixty pair of bare feet behind me, eachpair under a 60-lb. load. Camp, cook, sleep, strikecamp, march. Now and then a carrier dead in harness,at rest in the long grass near the path, with an emptywater-gourd and his long staff lying by his side. Agreat silence around and above. Perhaps on somequiet night the tremor of far-off drums, sinking, swelling, a tremorvast, faint; a sound weird, appealing,suggestive, and wild -- and perhaps with as profounda meaning as the sound of bells in a Christian country.Once a white man in an unbuttoned uniform, campingon the path with an armed escort of lank Zanzibaris,very hospitable and festive -- not to say drunk. Waslooking after the upkeep of the road, he declared.Can't say I saw any road or any upkeep, unless thebody of a middle-aged negro, with a bullet-hole in theforehead, upon which I absolutely stumbled threemiles farther on, may be considered as a permanentimprovement. I had a white companion, too, not a badchap, but rather too fleshy and with the exasperatinghabit of fainting on the hot hillsides, miles away fromthe least bit of shade and water. Annoying, you know,to hold your own coat like a parasol over a man'shead while he is coming to. I couldn't help asking himonce what he meant by coming there at all. 'To makemoney, of course. What do you think?' he said, scornfully. Then he gotfever, and had to be carried in ahammock slung under a pole. As he weighed sixteenstone I had no end of rows with the carriers. Theyjibbed, ran away, sneaked off with their loads in thenight -- quite a mutiny. So, one evening, I made aspeech in English with gestures, not one of which waslost to the sixty pairs of eyes before me, and the nextmorning I started the hammock off in front all right.An hour afterwards I came upon the whole concernwrecked in a bush -- man, hammock, groans, blankets,horrors. The heavy pole had skinned his poor nose.He was very anxious for me to kill somebody, butthere wasn't the shadow of a carrier near. I remembered the old doctor-- 'It would be interesting forscience to watch the mental changes of individuals, onthe spot.' I felt I was becoming scientifically interesting. However,all that is to no purpose. On the fifteenth day I came in sight of thebig river again, andhobbled into the Central Station. It was on a backwater surrounded by scrub and forest, with a prettyborder of smelly mud on one side, and on the threeothers enclosed by a crazy fence of rushes. A neglected gap was allthe gate it had, and the first glanceat the place was enough to let you see the flabby devilwas running that show. White men with long staves intheir hands appeared languidly from amongst thebuildings, strolling up to take a look at me, and thenretired out of sight somewhere. One of them, a stout,excitable chap with black moustaches, informed mewith great volubility and many digressions, as soonas I told him who I was, that my steamer was at thebottom 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 andsee the general manager at once. He iswaiting!'

"I did not see the real significance of that wreck atonce. I fancy I see it now, but I am not sure not atall. Certainly the affair was too stupid -- when I thinkof it -- to be altogether natural. Still . . . But at themoment it presented itself simply as a confoundednuisance. The steamer was sunk. They had startedtwo days before in a sudden hurry up the river withthe manager on board, in charge of some volunteerskipper, and before they had been out three hoursthey tore the bottom out of her on stones, and shesank near the south bank. I asked myself what I wasto do there, now my boat was lost. As a matter of fact,I had plenty to do in fishing my command out of theriver. I had to set about it the very next day. That,and the repairs when I brought the pieces to the station, took somemonths.

"My first interview with the manager was curious.He did not ask me to sit down after my twenty-milewalk that morning. He was commonplace in complexion, in feature, inmanners, and in voice. He wasof middle size and of ordinary build. His eyes, of theusual blue, were perhaps remarkably cold, and hecertainly could make his glance fall on one as trenchant and heavy asan axe. But even at these times therest of his person seemed to disclaim the intention.Otherwise there was only an indefinable, faint expression of his lips,something stealthy -- a smile -- not asmile -- I remember it, but I can't explain. It was unconscious, thissmile was, though just after he hadsaid something it got intensified for an instant. Itcame at the end of his speeches like a seal applied onthe words to make the meaning of the commonestphrase appear absolutely inscrutable. He was a common trader, from hisyouth up employed in theseparts -- nothing more. He was obeyed, yet he inspiredneither love nor fear, nor even respect. He inspireduneasiness. That was it! Uneasiness. Not a definitemistrust -- just uneasiness -- nothing more. You haveno idea how effective such a . . . a . . . faculycan be. He had no genius for organizing, for initiative,or for order even. That was evident in such things asthe deplorable state of the station. He had no learning, and nointelligence. His position had come to him-- why? Perhaps because he was never ill . . . Hehad served three terms of three years out there . . .Because triumphant health in the general rout of constitutions is akind of power in itself. When he wenthome on leave he rioted on a large scale -- pompously.Jack ashore -- with a difference -- in externals only.This one could gather from his casual talk. He originated nothing, hecould keep the routine going --that's all. But he was great. He was great by this littlething that it was impossible to tell what could controlsuch a man. He never gave that secret away. Perhapsthere was nothing within him. Such a suspicion madeone pause -- for out there there were no externalchecks. Once when various tropical diseases had laidlow almost every 'agent' in the station, he was heardto say, 'Men who come out here should have no entrails.' He sealed theutterance with that smile of his,as though it had been a door opening into a darknesshe had in his keeping. You fancied you had seenthings -- but the seal was on. When annoyed at mealtimes by theconstant quarrels of the white men aboutprecedence, he ordered an immense round table to bemade, for which a special house had to be built. Thiswas the station's mess-room. Where he sat was thefirst place -- the rest were nowhere. One felt this to behis unalterable conviction. He was neither civil noruncivil. He was quiet. He allowed his 'boy' -- an overfed young negrofrom the coast -- to treat the whitemen, under his very eyes, with provoking insolence.

"He began to speak as soon as he saw me. I hadbeen very long on the road. He could not wait. Hadto start without me. The up-river stations had to berelieved. There had been so many delays already thathe did not know who was dead and who was alive, andhow they got on -- and so on, and so on. He paid noattention to my explanation, and, playing with a stickof sealing-wax, repeated several times that the situation was 'verygrave, very grave.' There were ru-mours that a very important station was in jeopardy,and its chief, Mr. Kurtz, was ill. Hoped it was nottrue. Mr. Kurtz was . . . I felt weary and irritable.Hang Kurtz, I thought. I interrupted him by sayingI had heard of Mr. Kurtz on the coast. 'Ah! So theytalk of him down there,' he murmured to himself.Then he began again, assuring me Mr. Kurtz was thebest agent he had, an exceptional man, of the greatestimportance to the Company; therefore I could understand hisanxiety. He was, he said, 'very, very uneasy.'Certainly he fidgeted on his chair a good deal, exclaimed, 'Ah,Mr. Kurtz!' broke the stick of sealing-wax and seemed dumbfounded bythe accident. Nextthing he wanted to know 'how long it would take to'

. . . I interrupted him again. Being hungry, youknow, and kept on my feet too, I was getting savage.'How can I tell?' I said. 'I haven't even seen thewreck yet -- some months, no doubt.' All this talkseemed to me so futile. 'Some months,' he said. "Well,let us say three months before we can make a start.Yes. That ought to do the affair.' I flung out of hishut (he lived all alone in a clay hut with a sort ofverandah) muttering to myself my opinion of him.He was a chattering idiot. Afterwards I took it backwhen it was borne in upon me startlingly with whatextreme nicety he had estimated the time requisite forthe 'affair.'

"I went to work the next day, turning, so to speak,my back on that station. In that way only it seemed tome I could keep my hold on the redeeming facts oflife. Still, one must look about sometimes; and then Isaw this station, these men strolling aimlessly about inthe sunshine of the yard. I asked myself sometimeswhat it all meant. They wandered here and there withtheir absurd long staves in their hands, like a lot offaithless pilgrims bewitched inside a rotten fence. Theword 'ivory' rang in the air, was whispered, wassighed. You would think they were praying to it. Ataint of imbecile rapacity blew through it all, like awhiff from some corpse. By Jove! I've never seenanything so unreal in my life. And outside, the silentwilderness surrounding this cleared speck on the earthstruck me as something great and invincible, like evilor truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of thisfantastic invasion.

"Oh, these months! Well, never mind. Variousthings happened. One evening a grass shed full ofcalico, cotton prints, beads, and I don't know whatelse, burst into a blaze so suddenly that you wouldhave thought the earth had opened to let an avengingfire consume all that trash. I was smoking my pipequietly by my dismantled steamer, and saw them allcutting capers in the light, with their arms lifted high,when the stout man with moustaches came tearingdown to the river, a tin pail in his hand, assured methat everybody was 'behaving splendidly, splendidly,'dipped about a quart of water and tore back again. Inoticed there was a hole in the bottom of his pail.

"I strolled up. There was no hurry. You see thething had gone off like a box of matches. It had beenhopeless from the very first. The flame had leapedhigh, driven everybody back, lighted up everything --and collapsed. The shed was already a heap of embersglowing fiercely. A nigger was being beaten near by.They said he had caused the fire in some way; be thatas it may, he was screeching most horribly. I saw him,later, for several days, sitting in a bit of shade lookingvery sick and trying to recover himself: afterwards hearose and went out -- and the wilderness without asound took him into its bosom again. As I approachedthe glow from the dark I found myself at the back oftwo men, talking. I heard the name of Kurtz pronounced, then thewords, 'take advantage of this unfortunate accident.' One of the menwas the manager. Iwished him a good evening. 'Did you ever see anythinglike it -- eh? it is incredible,' he said, and walked off.The other man remained. He was a first-class agent,young, gentlemanly, a bit reserved, with a forkedlittle beard and a hooked nose. He was stand-offishwith the other agents, and they on their side said hewas the manager's spy upon them. As to me, I hadhardly ever spoken to him before. We got into talk,and by and by we strolled away from the hissing ruins.Then he asked me to his room, which was in the mainbuilding of the station. He struck a match, and Iperceived that this young aristocrat had not only asilver-mounted dressing-case but also a whole candleall to himself. Just at that time the manager was theonly man supposed to have any right to candles.Native mats covered the clay walls; a collection ofspears, assegais, shields, knives was hung up in trophies. Thebusiness intrusted to this fellow was themaking of bricks -- so I had been informed; but therewasn't a fragment of a brick anywhere in the station,and he could not make bricks without something, Idon't know what -- straw maybe. Anyway, it could notbe found there and as it was not likely to be sent fromEurope, it did not appear clear to me what he waswaiting for. An act of special creation perhaps. However, they wereall waiting all the sixteen or twentypilgrims of them -- for something; and upon my wordit did not seem an uncongenial occupation, from theway they took it, though the only thing that evercame to them was disease -- as far as I could see. Theybeguiled the time by backbiting and intriguing againsteach other in a foolish kind of way. There was an airof plotting about that station, but nothing came of it,of course. It was as unreal as everything else -- as thephilanthropic pretence of the whole concern, as theirtalk, as their government, as their show of work. Theonly real feeling was a desire to get appointed to atrading-post where ivory was to be had, so that theycould earn percentages. They intrigued and slanderedand hated each other only on that account -- but as toeffectually lifting a little finger -- oh, no. By heavens!there is something after all in the world allowing oneman to steal a horse while another must not look at ahalter. Steal a horse straight out. Very well. He hasdone it. Perhaps he can ride. But there is a way oflooking at a halter that would provoke the most charitable of saintsinto a kick.

"I had no idea why he wanted to be sociable, but aswe chatted in there it suddenly oocurred to me thefellow was trying to get at something -- in fact, pumping me. Healluded constantly to Europe, to the people I was supposed to knowthere -- putting leadingquestions as to my acquaintances in the sepulchral city,and so on. His little eyes glittered like mica discs --with curiosity -- though he tried to keep up a bit ofsuperciliousness. At first I was astonished, but verysoon I became awfully curious to see what he wouldfind out from me. I couldn't possibly imagine what Ihad in me to make it worth his while. It was very prettyto see how he baffled himself, for in truth my body wasfull only of chills, and my head had nothing in it butthat wretched steamboat business. It was evident hetook me for a perfectly shameless prevaricator. At lasthe got angry, and, to conceal a movement of furiousannoyance, he yawned. I rose. Then I noticed a smallsketch in oils, on a panel, representing a woman,draped and blindfolded, carrying a lighted torch. Thebackground was sombre -- almost black. The movement of the woman wasstately, and the effect of thetorchlight on the face was sinister.

"It arrested me, and he stood by civilly, holding anempty half-pint champagne bottle (medical comforts)with the candle stuck in it. To my question he saidMr. Kurtz had painted this -- in this very station morethan 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 answered in ashort tone, looking away. 'Much obliged,' I said,laughing. 'And you are the brickmaker of the CentralStation. Every one knows that.' He was silent for awhile. 'He is a prodigy,' he said at last. 'He is anemissary of pity and science and progress, and devilknows what else. We want,' he began to declaim sud-denly, 'for the guidance of the cause intrusted to us byEurope, so to speak, higher intelligence, wide sympa-thies, a singleness of purpose.' 'Who says that?' Iasked. 'Lots of them,' he replied. 'Some even writethat; and so he comes here, a special being, as youought to know.' 'Why ought I to know?' I inter-rupted, really surprised. He paid no attention. 'Yes.Today he is chief of the best station, next year he willbe assistant-manager, two years more and . . . but Idaresay you know what he will be in two years' time.You are of the new gang -- the gang of virtue. Thesame people who sent him specially also recom-mended you. Oh, don't say no. I've my own eyes totrust.' Light dawned upon me. My dear aunt's influ-ential acquaintances were producing an unexpectedeffect upon that young man. I nearly burst into alaugh. 'Do you read the Company's confidential cor-respondence?' I asked. He hadn't a word to say. Itwas great fun. 'When Mr. Kurtz,' I continued, se-verely, 'is General Manager, you won't have the op-portunity.'

"He blew the candle out suddenly, and we wentoutside. The moon had risen. Black figures strolledabout listlessly, pouring water on the glow, whenceproceeded a sound of hissing; steam ascended in themoonlight, the beaten nigger groaned somewhere.'What a row the brute makes!' said the indefatigableman with the moustaches, appearing near us. 'Servehim right. Transgression -- punishment -- bang! Piti-less, pitiless. That's the only way. This will preventall conflagrations for the future. I was just telling themanager . . .' He noticed my companion, and be-came 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 on to theriverside, and the other followed me. I heard a scathing murmur at myear, 'Heap of muffs -- go to.' Thepilgrims could be seen in knots gesticulating, discussing. Several hadstill their staves in their hands. Iverily believe they took these sticks to bed with them.Beyond the fence the forest stood up spectrally in themoonlight, and through the dim stir, through thefaint sounds of that lamentable courtyard, the silenceof the land went home to one's very heart -- its mystery, its greatness, the amazing reality of its concealedlife. The hurt nigger moaned feebly somewhere nearby, and then fetched a deep sigh that made me mendmy pace away from there. I felt a hand introducingitself under my arm. 'My dear sir,' said the fellow, 'Idon't want to be misunderstood, and especially byyou, who will see Mr. Kurtz long before I can havethat pleasure. I wouldn't like him to get a false ideaof my disposition....'

"I let him run on, this papier-mache Mephistopheles, and it seemed to me that if I tried I could pokemy forefinger through him, and would find nothinginside 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. Hetalked precipitately, and I did not try to stop him. Ihad my shoulders against the wreck of my steamer,hauled up on the slope like a carcass of some big riveranimal. The smell of mud, of primeval mud, by Jove!was in my nostrils, the high stillness of primeval forest was beforemy eyes; there were shiny patches onthe black creek. The moon had spread over everything a thin layer ofsilver -- over the rank grass, overthe mud, upon the wall of matted vegetation standinghigher than the wall of a temple, over the great riverI could see through a sombre gap glittering, glittering, as it flowedbroadly by without a murmur. Allthis was great, expectant, mute, while the man jabbered abouthimself. I wondered whether the stillnesson the face of the immensity looking at us two weremeant as an appeal or as a menace. What were we whohad strayed in here? Could we handle that dumbthing, or would it handle us? I felt how big, howconfoundedly big, was that thing that couldn't talk,and perhaps was deaf as well. What was in there? Icould see a little ivory coming out from there, and Ihad heard Mr. Kurtz was in there. I had heardenough about it, too -- God knows! Yet somehow itdidn't bring any image with it -- no more than if I hadbeen told an angel or a fiend was in there. I believedit in the same way one of you might believe there areinhabitants in the planet Mars. I knew once a Scotchsailmaker who was certain, dead sure, there were people in Mars. Ifyou asked him for some idea how theylooked and behaved, he would get shy and muttersomething about 'walking on all-fours.' If you asmuch as smiled, he would -- though a man of sixty --offer to fight you. I would not have gone so far as tofight for Kurtz, but I went for him near enough tolie. You know I hate, detest, and can't bear a lie, notbecause I am straighter than the rest of us, but simplybecause it appalls me. There is a taint of death, aflavour of mortality in lies which is exactly what Ihate and detest in the world -- what I want to forget.It makes me miserable and sick, like biting somethingrotten would do. Temperament, I suppose. Well, Iwent near enough to it by letting the young fool therebelieve anything he liked to imagine as to my influence in Europe. Ibecame in an instant as much of apretence as the rest of the bewitched pilgrims. Thissimply because I had a notion it somehow would be ofhelp to that Kurtz whom at the time I did not seeyou understand. He was just a word for me. I didnot see the man in the name any more than youdo. Do you see him? Do you see the story? Do yousee anything? It seems to me I am trying to tell youa dream -- making a vain attempt, because no relationof a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that comingling of absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment ina tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of beingcaptured by the incredible which is of the very essenceof dreams...."

He was silent for a while.

". . . No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one's existence -- that which makes its truth, its meaning itssubtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. Welive, as we dream alone...."

He paused again again if reflesting, then added:

"Of course in this you fellows see more than Icould then. You see me, whom you know. . . ."

It had become so pitch dark that we listeners couldhardly see one another. For a long time already he,sitting apart, had been no more to us than a voice.There was not a word from anybody. The othersmight have been asleep, but I was awake. I listened, Ilistened on the watch for the sentence, for the word,that would give me the clue to the faint uneasiness inspired by thisnarrative that seemed to shapeitself without human lips in the heavy night-air of theriver.

". . . Yes -- I let him run on," Marlow beganagain, "and think what he pleased about the powersthat were behind me. I did! And there was nothingbehind me! There was nothing but that wretched,old, mangled steamboat I was leaning against, whilehe talked fluently about 'the necessity for every manto get on.' 'And when one comes out here, you conceive, it is not togaze at the moon.' Mr. Kurtz was a'universal genius,' but even a genius would find iteasier to work with 'adequate tools -- intelligent men.'He did not make bricks -- why, there was a physicalimpossibility in the way -- as I was well aware; and ifhe did secretarial work for the manager, it was because 'no sensibleman rejects wantonly the confidenceof his superiors.' Did I see it? I saw it. What more didI want? What I really wanted was rivets, by heaven!Rivets. To get on with the work -- to stop the hole.Rivets I wanted. There were cases of them down atthe coast cases piled up -- burst -- split! You kickeda loose rivet at every second step in that station-yardon the hillside. Rivets had rolled into the grove ofdeath. You could fill your pockets with rivets for thetrouble of stooping down -- and there wasn't one rivetto be found where it was wanted. We had plates thatwould to, but nothing to fasten them with. And everyweek the messenger, a lone negro, letterbag on shoulder and staff inhand, left our station for the coast.And several times a week a coast caravan came in withtrade goods -- ghastly glazed calico that made youshudder only to look at it, glass beads value about apenny a quart, confounded spotted cotton handkerchiefs. And norivets. Three carriers could havebrought all that was wanted to set that steamboatafloat.

"He was becoming confidential now, but I fancv myunresponsive attitude must have exasperated him atlast, for he judged it necessary to inform me he fearedneither God nor devil, let alone any mere man. I saidI could see that very well, but what I wanted was acertain quantity of rivets -- and rivets were what reallyMr. Kurtz wanted, if he had only known it. Nowletters went to the coast every week.... 'My dearsir,' he cried, 'I write from dictation.' I demandedrivets. There was a way -- for an intelligent man. Hechanged his manner; became very cold, and suddenlybegan to talk about a hippopotamus; wonderedwhether sleeping on board the steamer (I stuck tomy salvage night and day) I wasn't disturbed. Therewas an old hippo that had the bad habit of getting outon the bank and roaming at night over the stationgrounds. The pilgrims used to turn out in a body andempty every rifle they could lay hands on at him.Some even had sat up o' nights for him. All thisenergy was wasted, though. 'That animal has acharmed life,' he said; 'but you can say this only ofbrutes in this country. No man -- you apprehend me?-- no man here bears a charmed life.' He stood therefor a moment in the moonlight with his delicatehooked nose set a little askew, and his mica eyesglittering without a wink, then, with a curt Goodnight, he strodeoff. I could see he was disturbed andconsiderably puzzled, which made me feel more hopeful than I had beenfor days. It was a great comfortto turn from that chap to my influential friend, thebattered, twisted, ruined, tin-pot steamboat. I clambered onboard. She rang under my feet like an emptyHuntley & Palmer biscuit-tin kicked along a gutter;she was nothing so solid in make, and rather less prettyin shape, but I had expended enough hard work onher to make me love her. No infiuential friend wouldhave served me better. She had given me a chance tocome out a bit -- to find out what I could do. No, Idon't like work. I had rather laze about and think ofall the fine things that can be done. I don't like work-- no man does -- but I like what is in the work -- thechance to find yourself. Your own reality -- for yourself, not forothers -- what no other man can everknow. They can only see the mere show, and nevercan tell what it really means.

"I was not surprised to see somebody sitting aft, onthe deck, with his legs dangling over the mud. Yousee I rather chummed with the few mechanics therewere in that station, whom the other pilgrims naturally despised -- onaccount of their imperfect manners,I suppose. This was the foreman -- a boiler-maker bytrade -- a good worker. He was a lank, bony, yellow-faced man, withbig intense eyes. His aspect wasworried, and his head was as bald as the palm of myhand; but his hair in falling seemed to have stuck tohis chin, and had prospered in the new locality, forhis beard hung down to his waist. He was a widowerwith six young children (he had left them in chargeof a sister of his to come out there), and the passion ofhis life was pigeon-flying. He was an enthusiast anda connoisseur. He would rave about pigeons. Afterwork hours he used sometimes to come over from hishut for a talk about his children and his pigeons; atwork, when he had to crawl in the mud under thebottom of the steamboat, he would tie up that beardof his in a kind of white serviette he brought for thepurpose. It had loops to go over his ears. In the evening he could beseen squatted on the bank rinsing thatwrapper in the creek with great care, then spreadingit solemnly on a bush to dry.

"I slapped him on the back and shouted, 'We shallhave 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 knowwhy we behaved like lunatics. I put my finger to theside of my nose and nodded mysteriously. 'Good foryou!' he cried, snapped his fingers above his head,lifting one foot. I tried a jig. We capered on the irondeck. A frightful clatter came out of that hulk, andthe virgin forest on the other bank of the creek sentit back in a thundering roll upon the sleeping station.It must have made some of the pilgrims sit up in theirhovels. A dark figure obscured the lighted doorwayof the manager's hut, vanished, then, a second orso after, the doorway itself vanished, too. We stopped,and the silence driven away by the stamping of ourfeet flowed back again from the recesses of the land.The great wall of vegetation, an exuberant and entangled mass oftrunks, branches, leaves, boughs, festoons, motionless in themoonlight, was like a riotinginvasion of soundless life, a rolling wave of plants,piled up, crested, ready to topple over the creek, tosweep every little man of us out of his little existence.And it moved not. A deadened burst of mightysplashes and snorb reached us from afar, as thoughan ichthyosaurus had been taking a bath of glitter inthe great river. 'After all,' said the boiler-maker in areasonable tone, 'why shouldn't we get the rivets?'Why not, indeed! I did not know of any reason whywe shouldn't. 'They'll come in three weeks,' I said,confidently.

"But they didn't. Instead of rivets there came aninvasion, an infliction, a visitation. It came in sectionsduring the next three weeks, each section headed bya donkey carrying a white man in new clothes andtan shoes, bowing from that elevation right and leftto the impressed pilgrims. A quarrelsome band offootsore sulky niggers trod on the heels of the donkey; a lot oftents, campstools, tin boxes, white cases,brown bales would be shot down in the court-yard,and the air of mystery would deepen a little over themuddle of the station. Five such instalments came,with their absurd air of disorderly flight with theloot of innumerable outfit shops and provision stores,that, one would think, they were lugging, after araid, into the wilderness for equitable division. It wasan inextricable mess of things decent in themselvesbut that human folly made look like the spoils ofthieving.

"This devoted band called itself the EldoradoExploring Expedition, and I believe they were swornto secrecy. Their talk, however, was the talk of sordidbuccaneers: it was reckless without hardihood, greedywithout audacity, and cruel without courage; therewas not an atom of foresight or of serious intention inthe whole batch of them, and they did not seem awarethese things are wanted for the work of the world.To tear treasure out of the bowels of the land wastheir desire, with no more moral purpose at the backof it than there is in burglars breaking into a safe.Who paid the expenses of the noble enterprise I don'tknow; but the uncle of our manager was leader ofthat lot.

"In exterior he resembled a butcher in a poor neighbourhood, and his eyes had a look of sleepy cunning.He carried his fat paunch with ostentation on hisshort legs, and during the time his gang infested thestation spoke to no one but his nephew. You couldsee these two roaming about all day long with theirheads close together in an everlasting confab.

"I had given up worrying myself about the rivets.One's capacity for that kind of folly is more limitedthan you would suppose. I said Hang! -- and letthings slide. I had plenty of time for meditation, andnow and then I would give some thought to Kurtz.I wasn't very interested in him. No. Still, I was curiousto see whether this man, who had come out equippedwith moral ideas of some sort, would climb to the topafter all and how he would set about his work whenthere."

II


"One evening as I was lying flat on the deck of mysteamboat, I heard voices approaching -- and therewere the nephew and the uncle strolling along thebank. I laid my head on my arm again, and had nearlylost myself in a doze, when somebody said in my ear,as it were: 'I am as harmless as a little child, but Idon't like to be dictated to. Am I the manager -- or amI not? I was ordered to send him there. It's incredible.'. . . I became aware that the two were standingon the shore alongside the forepart of the steamboat,just below my head. I did not move; it did not occurto 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 hecould do; and I was instructed accordingly. Look at the influence thatman must have. Isit not frightful?' They both agreed it was frightful,then made several bizarre remarks: 'Make rain andfine weather -- one man -- the Council -- by the nose' --bits of absurd sentences that got the better of mydrowsiness, so that I had pretty near the whole of mywits about me when the uncle said, 'The climate maydo away with this difficulty for you. Is he alone there?''Yes,' answered the manager; 'he sent his assistantdown the river with a note to me in these terms:"Clear this poor devil out of the country, and don'tbother sending more of that sort. I had rather bealone than have the kind of men you can dispose ofwith me." It was more than a year ago. Can you imagine suchimpudence!' 'Anything since then?' askedthe other hoarsely. 'Ivory,' jerked the nephew; 'lotsof it -- prime sort -- lots -- most annoying, from him.''And with that?' questioned the heavy rumble. 'Invoice,' was the replyfired out, so to speak. Then silence. They had been talking aboutKurtz.

"I was broad awake by this time, but, lying perfectly at ease, remained still, having no inducement tochange my position. 'How did that ivory come allthis way?' growled the elder man, who seemed veryvexed. The other explained that it had come with afleet of canoes in charge of an English half-casteclerk Kurtz had with him; that Kurtz had apparentlyintended to return himself, the station being by thattime bare of goods and stores, but after coming threehundred miles, had suddenly decided to go back,which he started to do alone in a small dugout withfour paddlers, leaving the half-caste to continue downthe river with the ivory. The two fellows there seemedastounded at anybody attempting such a thing. They were at a loss for an adequate motive. As to me, Iseemed to see Kurtz for the first time. It was a distinctglimpse: the dugout, four paddling savages, and thelone white man turning his back suddenly on theheadquarters, on relief, on thoughts of home -- perhaps; setting hisface towards the depths of the wilderness, towards his empty anddesolate station. Idid not know the motive. Perhaps he was just simplya fine fellow who stuck to his work for its own sake.His name, you understand, had not been pronouncedonce. He was 'that man.' The half caste, who, as faras I could see, had conducted a difficult trip with greatprudence and pluck, was invariably alluded to as'that scoundrel.' The 'scoundrel' had reported thatthe 'man' had been very ill -- had recovered imperfectly.... The twobelow me moved away then afew paces, and strolled back and forth at some littledistance. I heard: 'Military post -- doctor -- two hun-dred miles -- quite alone now -- unavoidable delays --nine months -- no news -- strange rumours.' They ap-proached again, just as the manager was saying, 'Noone, as far as I know, unless a species of wanderingtrader -- a pestilential fellow, snapping ivory from thenatives.' Who was it they were talking about now? Igathered in snatches that this was some man supposedto be in Kurtz's district, and of whom the managerdid not approve. 'We will not be free from unfaircompetition till one of these fellows is hanged for anexample,' he said. 'Certainly,' grunted the other; 'gethim hanged! Why not? Anything -- anything can bedone in this country. That's what I say; nobody here,you understand, here, can endanger your position.And why? You stand the climate -- you outlast themall. The danger is in Europe; but there before I leftI took care to --' They moved off and whispered,then their voices rose again. 'The extraordinary seriesof delays is not my fault. I did my best.' The fat mansighed. 'Very sad.' 'And the pestiferous absurdity ofhis talk,' continued the other; 'he bothered me enoughwhen he was here. "Each station should be like abeacon on the road towards better things, a centre fortrade of course, but also for humanizing, improving,instructing." Conceive you -- that ass! And he wantsto be manager! No, it's --' Here he got choked byexcessive indignation, and I lifted my head the leastbit. I was surprised to see how near they were --right under me. I could have spat upon their hats.They were looking on the ground, absorbed inthought. The manager was switching his leg with aslender twig: his sagacious relative lifted his head.'You have been well since you came out this time?' heasked. The other gave a start. 'Who? I? Oh! Like acharm -- like a charm. But the rest -- oh, my goodness!All sick. They die so quick, too, that I haven't thetime to send them out of the country -- it's incredible!''H'm. Just so,' grunted the uncle. 'Ah! my boy, trustto this -- I say, trust to this.' I saw him extend hisshort flipper of an arm for a gesture that took in theforest, the creek, the mud, the river -- seemed tobeckon with a dishonouring flourish before the sunlitface of the land a treacherous appeal to the lurkingdeath, to the hidden evil, to the profound darkness ofits heart. It was so startling that I leaped to my feetand looked back at the edge of the forest, as thoughI had expected an answer of some sort to that blackdisplay of confidence. You know the foolish notionsthat come to one sometimes. The high stillness confronted these twofigures with its ominous patience,waiting for the passing away of a fantastic invasion.

"They swore aloud together -- out of sheer fright,I believe -- then pretending not to know anything ofmy existence, turned back to the station. The sun waslow; and leaning forward side by side, they seemedto be tugging painfully uphill their two ridiculousshadows of unequal length, that trailed behind themslowly over the tall grass without bending a singleblade.

"In a few days the Eldorado Expedition went intothe patient wilderness, that dosed upon it as the seacloses over a diver. Long afterwards the news camethat all the donkeys were dead. I know nothing as tothe fate of the less valuable animals. They, no doubt,like the rest of us, found what they deserved. I did notinquire. I was then rather excited at the prospect ofmeeting Kurtz very soon. When I say very soon Imean it comparatively. It was just two months fromthe day we left the creek when we came to the bankbelow Kurtz's station.

"Going up that river was like travelling back to theearliest beginnings of the world, when vegetationrioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. Anempty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest.The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There wasno joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretchesof the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom ofover-shadowed distances. On silvery sandbanks hipposand alligators sunned themselves side by side. Thebroadening waters flowed through a mob of woodedislands; you lost your way on that river as you wouldin a desert, and butted all day long against shoals,trying to find the channel, till you thought yourselfbewitched and cut off for ever from everything youhad known once -- somewhere -- far away -- in anotherexistence perhaps. There were moments when one'spast came back to one, as it will sometimes when youhave not a moment to spare to yourself; but it came inthe shape of an unrestful and noisy dream, rememberedwith wonder amongst the overwhelming realitiesof this strange world of plants, and water, and silence.And this stillness of life did not in the least resemblea peace. It was the stillness of an implacable forcebrooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked atyou with a vengeful aspect. I got used to it afterwards;I did not see it any more; I had no time. I had to keepguessing at the channel; I had to discern, mostly byinspiration, the signs of hidden banks; I watched forsunken stones; I was learning to clap my teeth smartlybefore my heart flew out, when I shaved by a flukesome infernal sly old snag that would have ripped thelife out of the tin-pot steamboat and drowned all thepilgrims; I had to keep a lookout for the signs ofdead wood we could cut up in the night for next day'ssteaming. When you have to attend to things of thatsort, to the mere incidents of the surface, the reality --the reality, I tell you -- fades. The inner truth is hid-den -- luckily, luckily. But I felt it all the same; Ifelt often its mysterious stillness watching me at mymonkey tricks, just as it watches you fellows performing on yourrespective tight-ropes for -- what is it?half-a-crown a tumble --"

"Try to be civil, Marlow," growled a voice, and Iknew there was at least one listener awake besidesmyself.

"I beg your pardon. I forgot the heartache whichmakes up the rest of the price. And indeed what doesthe price matter, if the trick be well done? You doyour tricks very well. And I didn't do badly either,since I managed not to sink that steamboat on my firsttrip. It's a wonder to me yet. Imagine a blindfoldedman set to drive a van over a bad road. I sweated andshivered over that business considerably, I can tellyou. After all, for a seaman, to scrape the bottom ofthe thing that's supposed to float all the time underhis care is the unpardonable sin. No one may know ofit, but you never forget the thump -- eh? A blow onthe very heart. You remember it, you dream of it, youwake up at night and think of it -- years after -- and gohot and cold all over. I don't pretend to say thatsteamboat floated all the time. More than once shehad to wade for a bit, with twenty cannibals splashingaround and pushing. We had enlisted some of thesechaps on the way for a crew. Fine fellows -- cannibals-- in their place. They were men one could work with,and I am grateful to them. And, after all, they didnot eat each other before my face: they had broughtalong a provision of hippo-meat which went rotten,and made the mystery of the wilderness stink in mynostrils. Phoo! I can sniff it now. I had the manageron board and three or four pilgrims with their staves-- all complete. Sometimes we came upon a stationclose by the bank, clinging to the skirts of the unknown, and thewhite men rushing out of a tumble-down hovel, with great gestures ofjoy and surpriseand welcome, seemed very strange -- had the appearance of being heldthere captive by a spell. The wordivory would ring in the air for a while -- and on wewent again into the silence, along empty reaches,round the still bends, between the high walls of ourwinding way, reverberating in hollow claps the ponderous beat of thestern-wheel. Trees, trees, millionsof trees, massive, immense, running up high; andat their foot, hugging the bank against the stream,crept the little begrimed steamboat, like a sluggishbeetle crawling on the floor of a lofty portico. It madeyou feel very small, very lost, and yet it was not altogetherdepressing, that feeling. After all, if you weresmall, the grimy beetle crawled on -- which was justwhat you wanted it to do. Where the pilgrims imagined it crawled to Idon't know. To some placewhere they expected to get something. I bet! For meit crawled towards Kurtz -- exclusively; but when thesteam-pipes started leaking we crawled very slow.The reaches opened before us and closed behind, as ifthe forest had stepped leisurely across the water tobar the way for our return. We penetrated deeper anddeeper into the heart of darkness. It was very quietthere. At night sometimes the roll of drums behindthe curtain of trees would run up the river and remainsustained faintly, as if hovering in the air high overour heads, till the first break of day. Whether it meantwar, peace, or prayer we could not tell. The dawnswere heralded by the descent of a chill stillness; thewood-cutters slept, their fires burned low; the snapping of a twigwould make you start. We were wanderers on a prehistoric earth, on anearth that wore theaspect of an unknown planet. We could have fanciedourselves the first of men taking possession of an accursedinheritance, to be subdued at the cost of profound anguish and ofexcessive toil. But suddenly,as we struggled round a bend, there would be aglimpse of rush walls, of peaked grass-roofs, a burstof yells, a whirl of black limbs, a mass of hands clapping, of feetstamping, of bodies swaying, of eyesrolling, under the droop of heavy and motionlessfoliage. The steamer toiled along slowly on the edgeof a black and incomprehensible frenzy. The prehistoric man wascursing us, praying to us, welcoming us-- who could tell? We were cut off from the comprehension of oursurroundings; we glided past likephantoms, wondering and secretly appalled, as sanemen would be before an enthusiastic outbreak in amadhouse. We could not understand because we weretoo far and could not remember because we weretravelling in the night of first ages, of those ages thatare 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 --there you could look at a thing monstrous and free. It was unearthly,and the men were-- No, they were not inhuman. Well, you know,that was the worst of it -- this suspicion of their notbeing inhuman. It would come slowly to one. Theyhowled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces;but what thrilled you was just the thought of theirhumanity -- like yours -- the thought of your remotekinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly.Yes, it was ugly enough; but if you were man enoughyou would admit to yourself that there was in you justthe faintest trace of a response to the terrible frankness of thatnoise, a dim suspicion of there being ameaning in it which you -- you so remote from thenight of first ages -- could comprehend. And why not?The mind of man is capable of anything -- becauseeverything is in it, all the past as well as all the future.What was there after all? Joy, fear, sorrow, devotion,valour, rage -- who can tell? -- but truth -- truthstripped of its cloak of time. Let the fool gape andshudder -- the man knows, and can look on without awink. But he must at least be as much of a man asthese on the shore. He must meet that truth with hisown true stuff -- with his own inborn strength. Principles won'tdo. Acquisitions, clothes, pretty rags -- ragsthat would fly off at the first good shake. No; youwant a deliberate belief. An appeal to me in this fiendish row -- isthere? Very well; I hear; I admit, but Ihave a voice, too, and for good or evil mine is thespeech 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 ashorefor a howl and a dance? Well, no -- I didn't. Finesentiments, you say? Fine sentiments, be hanged! Ihad no time. I had to mess about with white-lead andstrips of woolen blanket helping to put bandages onthose leaky steampipes -- I tell you. I had to watchthe steering, and circumvent those snags, and get thetin-pot along by hook or by crook. There was surface-truth enough inthese things to save a wiser man. Andbetween whiles I had to look after the savage who wasfireman. He was an improved specimen; he could fireup a vertical boiler. He was there below me, and,upon my word, to look at him was as edifying asseeing a dog in a parody of breeches and a featherhat, walking on his hindlegs. A few months oftraining had done for that really fine chap. Hesquinted at the steam-gauge and at the water-guagewith an evident effort of intrepidity -- and he hadfiled teeth, too, the poor devil, and the wool of hispate shaved into queer patterns, and three ornamental scars on each ofhis cheeks. He ought to havebeen clapping his hands and stamping his feet on thebank, instead of which he was hard at work, a thrall tostrange witchcraft, full of improving knowledge. Hewas useful because he had been instructed; and whathe knew was this -- that should the water in that transparent thingdisappear, the evil spirit inside theboiler would get angry through the greatness of histhirst, and take a terrible vengeance. So he sweatedand watched the glass fearfully (with an impromptucharm, made of rags, tied to his arm, and a piece ofpolished bone, as big as a watch, stuck flatways throughhis lower lip), while the wooded banks slipped pastus slowly, the short noise was left behind, the interminable miles ofsilence -- and we crept on, towardsKurtz. But the snags were thick, the water was treacherous andshallow, the boiler seemed indeed to havea sulky devil in it, and thus neither that fireman norI had any time to peer into our creepy thoughts.

"Some fifty miles below the Inner Station we cameupon a hut of reeds, an inclined and melancholy pole,with the unrecognizable tatters of what had been aflag of some sort flying from it, and a neatly stackedwoodpile. This was unexpected. We came to the bank,and on the stack of firewood found a flat piece ofboard with some faded pencil-writing on it. When de-ciphered it said: 'Wood for you. Hurry up. Approachcautiously.' There was a signature, but it was illegible-- not Kurtz -- a much longer word. 'Hurry up.'Where? Up the river? 'Approach cautiously.' We hadnot done so. But the warning could not have beenmeant for the place where it could be only foundafter approach. Something was wrong above. Butwhat -- and how much? That was the question. Wecommented adversely upon the imbecility of thattelegraphic style. The bush around said nothing, andwould not let us look very far either. A torn curtainof red twill hung in the doorway of the hut, andflapped sadly in our faces. The dwelling was dismantled; but we couldsee a white man had livedthere not very long ago. There remained a rude table-- a plank on two posts; a heap of rubbish reposed ina dark corner, and by the door I picked up a book. Ithad lost its covers, and the pages had been thumbedinto a state of extremely dirty softness; but the backhad been lovingly stitched afresh with white cottonthread, which looked clean yet. It was an extraordinary find. Itstitle was, An Inquiry snto some Pointsof Seamanship, by a man Towser, Towson -- some suchname -- Master in his Majesty's Navy. The matterlooked dreary reading enough, with illustrative diagrams and repulsivetables of figures, and the copywas sixty years old. I handled this amazing antiquitywith the greatest possible tenderness, lest it shoulddissolve in my hands. Within, Towson or Towser wasinquiring earnestly into the breaking strain of ships'chains and tackle, and other such matters. Not a veryenthrailing book; but at the first glance you couldsee there a singleness of intention, an honest concernfor the right way of going to work, which made thesehumble pages, thought out so many years ago, luminous with anotherthan a professional light. Thesimple old sailor, with his talk of chains and purchases,made me forget the jungle and the pilgrims in a delicious sensation ofhaving come upon something unmistakably real. Such a book being therewas wonderfulenough but still more astounding were the notes pencilled in themargin, and plainly referring to the text.I couldn't believe my eyes! They were in cipher! Yes,it looked like cipher. Fancy a man lugging with hima book of that description into this nowhere andstudying it -- and making notes -- in cipher at that! Itwas an extravagant mystery.

"I had been dimly aware for some time of a worrying noise, and when I lifted my eyes I saw the wood-pile was gone, and the manager, aided by all the pilgrims, wasshouting at me from the riverside. Islipped the book into my pocket. I assure you to leaveoff reading was like tearing myself away from theshelter of an old and solid friendship.

"I started the lame engine ahead. 'It must be thismiserable trader -- this intruder,' exclaimed the manager, lookingback malevolently at the place we hadleft. 'He must be English,' I said. 'It will not savehim from getting into trouble if he is not careful,'muttered the manager darkly. I observed with assumed innocence that noman was safe from troublein this world.

"The current was more rapid now, the steamerseemed at her last gasp, the stern-wheel flopped languidly, and Icaught myself listening on tiptoe for thenext beat of the boat, for in sober truth I expected thewretched thing to give up every moment. It was likewatching the last flickers of a life. But still we crawled.Sometimes I would pick out a tree a little way aheadto measure our progress towards Kurtz by, but I lostit invariably before we got abreast. To keep the eyesso long on one thing was too much for human patience.The manager displayed a beautiful resignation. Ifretted and fumed and took to arguing with myselfwhether or no I would talk openly with Kurtz; butbefore I could come to any conclusion it occurred tome that my speech or my silence, indeed any actionof mine, would be a mere futility. What did it matterwhat any one knew or ignored? What did it matterwho was manager? One gets sometimes such a flashof insight. The essentials of this affair lay deep underthe surface, beyond my reach, and beyond my powerof meddling.

"Towards the evening of the second day we judgedourselves about eight miles from Kurtz's station. Iwanted to push on; but the manager looked grave,and told me the navigation up there was so dangerousthat it would be advisable, the sun being very lowalready, to wait where we were till next morning.Moreover, he pointed out that if the warning to approach cautiouslywere to be followed, we must approach in daylight -- not at dusk or inthe dark. Thiswas sensible enough. Eight miles meant nearly threehours' steaming for us, and I could also see suspiciousripples at the upper end of the reach. Nevertheless,I was annoyed beyond expression at the delay, andmost unreasonably, too, since one night more couldnot matter much after so many months. As we hadplenty of wood, and caution was the word, I broughtup in the middle of the stream. The reach was narrow,straight, with high sides like a railway cutting. Thedusk came gliding into it long before the sun had set.The current ran smooth and swift, but a dumb immobility sat on thebanks. The living trees, lashed to-gether by the creepers and every living bush of theundergrowth, might have been changed into stone,even to the slenderest twig, to the lightest leaf. Itwas not sleep -- it seemed unnatural, like a state oftrance. Not the faintest sound of any kind could beheard. You looked on amazed, and began to suspectyourself of being deaf-- then the night came suddenly, and struck youblind as well. About three in themorning some large fish leaped, and the loud splashmade me jump as though a gun had been fired. Whenthe sun rose there was a white fog, very warm andclammy, and more blinding than the night. It did notshift or drive; it was just there, standing all roundyou like something solid. At eight or nine, perhaps, itlifted as a shutter lifts. We had a glimpse of thetowering multitude of trees, of the immense mattedjungle, with the blazing little ball of the sun hangingover it -- all perfectly still -- and then the white shuttercame down again, smoothly, as if sliding in greasedgrooves. I ordered the chain, which we had begun toheave in, to be paid out again. Before it stopped running with amuffled rattle, a cry, a very loud cry, as ofinfinite desolation, soared slowly in the opaque air. Itceased. A complaining clamour, modulated in savagediscords, filled our ears. The sheer unexpectedness ofit made my hair stir under my cap. I don't know howit struck the others: to me it seemed as though themist itself had screamed, so suddenly, and apparentlyfrom all sides at once, did this tumultuous and mournful uproararise. It culminated in a hurried outbreakof almost intolerably escessive shrieking, whichstopped short, leaving us stiffened in a variety of sillyattitudes, and obstinately listening to the nearly asappalling and excessive silence. 'Good God! What isthe meaning --' stammered at my elbow one of thepilgrims -- a little fat man, with sandy hair and redwhiskers, who wore sidespring boots, and pink pyjamas tucked into hissocks. Two others remainedopen-mouthed a whole minute, then dashed into thelittle cabin, to rush out incontinently and stand darting scaredglances, with Winchesters at 'ready' intheir hands. What we could see was just the steamerwe were on, her outlines blurred as though she hadbeen on the point of dissolving, and a misty strip ofwater, perhaps two feet broad, around her -- and thatwas all. The rest of the world was nowhere, as far asour eyes and ears were concerned. Just nowhere.Gone, disappeared; swept off without leaving awhisper or a shadow behind.

"I went forward, and ordered the chain to behauled in short, so as to be ready to trip the anchorand move the steamboat at once if necessary. 'Willthey attack?' whispered an awed voice. 'We will beall butchered in this fog,' murmured another. Thefaces twitched with the strain, the hands trembledslightly, the eyes forgot to wink. It was very curiousto see the contrast of expressions of the white menand of the black fellows of our crew, who were asmuch strangers to that part of the river as we, thoughtheir homes were only eight hundred miles away.The whites, of course greatly discomposed, had besides a curious lookof being painfully shocked by suchan outrageous row. The others had an alert, naturallyinterested expression; but their faces were essentiallyquiet, even those of the one or two who grinned asthey hauled at the chain. Several exchanged short,grunting phrases, which seemed to settle the matterto their satisfaction. Their headman, a young, broadchested black,severely draped in darkblue fringedcloths, with fierce nostrils and his hair all done upartfully in oily ringlets, stood near me. 'Aha!' I said,just for good fellowship's sake. 'Catch 'im,' hesnapped, with a bloodshot widening of his eyes anda flash of sharp teeth -- 'catch 'im. Give 'im to us."Toyou, eh?' I asked; 'what would you do with them?''Eat 'im!' he said curtly, and, leaning his elbow on therail, looked out into the fog in a dignified and profoundly pensiveattitude. I would no doubt have beenproperly horrified, had it not occurred to me that heand his chaps must be very hungry: that they musthave been growing increasingly hungry for at leastthis month past. They had been engaged for sixmonths (I don't think a single one of them had anyclear idea of time, as we at the end of countless ageshave. They still belonged to the beginnings of time --had no inherited experience to teach them as it were),and of course, as long as there was a piece of paperwritten over in accordance with some farcical law orother made down the river, it didn't enter anybody'shead to trouble how they would live. Certainly theyhad brought with them some rotten hippo-meat, whichcouldn't have lasted very long, anyway, even if thepilgrims hadn't, in the midst of a shocking hullabaloo,thrown a considerable quantity of it overboard. Itlooked like a high-handed proceeding; but it wasreally a case of legitimate self-defence. You can'tbreathe dead hippo waking, sleeping, and eating, andat the same time keep your precarious grip on existence. Besides that,they had given them every weekthree pieces of brass wire, each about nine inches long;and the theory was they were to buy their provisionswith that currency in riverside villages. You can seehow that worked. There were either no villages, orthe people were hostile, or the director, who like therest of us fed out of tins, with an occasional old he-goatthrown in, didn't want to stop the steamer for somemore or less recondite reason. So, unless they swallowed the wireitself, or made loops of it to snare thefishes with, I don't see what good their extravagantsalary could be to them. I must say it was paid with aregularity worthy of a large and honourable tradingcompany. For the rest, the only thing to eat -- thoughit didn't look eatable in the least -- I saw in their possession was afew lumps of some stuff like half-cookeddough, of a dirty lavender colour, they kept wrappedin leaves, and now and then swallowed a piece of,but so small that it seemed done more for the looks ofthe thing than for any serious purpose of sustenance.Why in the name of all the gnawing devils of hungerthey didn't go for us -- they were thirty to five -- andhave a good tuck-in for once, amazes me now when Ithink of it. They were big powerful men, with notmuch 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 something restraining, one of thosehuman secrets that baffle probability, had come intoplay there. I looked at them with a swift quickening ofinterest -- not because it occurred to me I might beeaten by them before very long, though I own to youthat just then I perceived -- in a new light, as it were-- how unwholesome the pilgrims looked, and Ihoped, yes, I positively hoped, that my aspect was notso -- what shall I say? -- so -- unappetizing: a touch offantastic vanity which fitted well with the dream-sensation thatpervaded all my days at that time. PerhapsI had a little fever, too. One can't live with one's fingereverlastingly on one's pulse. I had often 'a littlefever,' or a little touch of other things -- the playfulpaw-strokes of the wilderness, the preliminary triflingbefore the more serious onslaught which came in duecourse. Yes; I looked at them as you would on anyhuman being, with a curiosity of their impulses,motives, capacities, weaknesses, when brought to thetest of an inexorable physical necessity. Restraint!What possible restraint? Was it superstition, disgust,patience, fear -- or some kind of primitive honour? Nofear can stand up to hunger, no patience can wear it out,disgust simply does not exist where hunger is; and asto superstition, beliefs, and what you may call principles, they areless than chaff in a breeze. Don't youknow the devilry of lingering starvation, its exasperating torment,its black thoughts, its sombre and brooding ferocity? Well, I do. Ittakes a man all his inbornstrength to fight hunger properly. It's really easier toface bereavement, dishonour, and the perdition ofone's soul -- than this kind of prolonged hunger. Sad,but true. And these chaps, too, had no earthly reasonfor any kind of scruple. Restraint! I would just assoon have expected restraint from a hyena prowlingamongst the corpses of a battlefield. But there was thefact facing me -- the fact dazzling, to be seen, like thefoam on the depths of the sea, like a ripple on an unfathomableenigma, a mystery greater -- when Ithought of it -- than the curious, inexplicable note ofdesperate grief in this savage clamour that had sweptby us on the river-bank, behind the blind whiteness ofthe fog.

"Two pilgrims were quarrelling in hurried whispers as to which bank. 'Left.' 'No, no; how can you?Right, right, of course.' 'It is very serious,' said themanager's voice behind me; 'I would be desolated ifanything should happen to Mr. Kurtz before we cameup.' I looked at him, and had not the slightest doubthe was sincere. He was just the kind of man whowould wish to preserve appearances. That was his restraint. But whenhe muttered something about goingon at once, I did not even take the trouble to answerhim. I knew, and he knew, that it was impossible.Were we to let go our hold of the bottom, we wouldbe absolutely in the air -- in space. We wouldn't beable to tell where we were going to -- whether up ordown stream, or across -- till we fetched against onebank or the other -- and then we wouldn't know atfirst which it was. Of course I made no move. I hadno mind for a smash-up. You couldn't imagine a moredeadly place for a shipwreck. Whether drowned atonce or not, we were sure to perish speedily in oneway or another. 'I authorize you to take all the risks,'he said, after a short silence. 'I refuse to take any,' Isaid shortly; which was just the answer he expected,though its tone might have surprised him. 'Well, Imust defer to your judgment. You are captain,' hesaid with marked civility. I turned my shoulder to himin sign of my appreciation, and looked into the fog.How long would it last? It was the most hopelesslookout. The approach to this Kurtz grubbing forivory in the wretched bush was beset by as many dangers as though hehad been an enchanted princesssleeping in a fabulous castle. 'Will they attack, do youthink?' asked the manager, in a confidential tone.

"I did not think they would attack, for severalobvious reasons. The thick fog was one. If they leftthe bank in their canoes they would get lost in it, aswe would be if we attempted to move. Still, I hadalso judged the jungle of both banks quite impenetrable -- and yeteyes were in it, eyes that had seen us.The riverside bushes were certainly very thick; butthe undergrowth behind was evidently penetrable.However, during the short lift I had seen no canoesanywhere in the reach -- certainly not abreast of thesteamer. But what made the idea of attack inconceivable to me was thenature of the noise -- of the crieswe had heard. They had not the fierce characterboding immediate hostile intention. Unexpected,wild, and violent as they had been, they had givenme an irresistible impression of sorrow. The glimpseof the steamboat had for some reason filled thosesavages with unrestrained grief. The danger, if any,I expounded, was from our proximity to a greathuman passion let loose. Even extreme grief may ultimately vent itselfin violence -- but more generallytakes the form of apathy....

"You should have seen the pilgrims stare! Theyhad 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 dear boys, it was nogood bothering. Keep a lookout? Well, you may guessI watched the fog for the signs of lifting as a catwatches a mouse; but for anything else our eyes wereof no more use to us than if we had been buried milesdeep in a heap of cotton-wool. It feIt like it, too --choking, warm, stifling. Besides, all I said, though itsounded extravagant, was absolutely true to fact.What we afterwards alluded to as an attack wasreally an attempt at repulse. The action was very farfrom being aggressive -- it was not even defensive, inthe usual sense: it was undertaken under the stress ofdesperation, and in its essence was purely protective.

"It developed itself, I should say, two hours afterthe fog lifted, and its commencement was at a spot,roughly speaking, about a mile and a half belowKurtz's station. We had just floundered and floppedround a bend, when I saw an islet, a mere grassy hummock of brightgreen, in the middle of the stream.It was the only thing of the kind; but as we openedthe reach more, I perceived it was the head of a longsand-bank, or rather of a chain of shallow patchesstretching down the middle of the river. They werediscoloured, just awash, and the whole lot was seenjust under the water, exactly as a man's backbone isseen running down the middle of his back under theskin. Now, as far as I did see, I could go to the rightor to the left of this. I didn't know either channel, ofcourse. The banks looked pretty well alike, the depthappeared the same; but as I had been informed thestation was on the west side, I naturally headed forthe western passage.

"No sooner had we fairly entered it than I becameaware it was much narrower than I had supposed. Tothe left of us there was the long uninterrupted shoal,and to the right a high, steep bank heavily overgrownwith bushes. Above the bush the trees stood in serriedranks. The twigs overhung the current thickly, andfrom distance to distance a large limb of some treeprojected rigidly over the stream. It was then well onin the afternoon, the face of the forest was gloomy,and a broad strip of shadow had already fallen on thewater. In this shadow we steamed up -- very slowly, asyou may imagine. I sheered her well inshore -- thewater being deepest near the bank, as the sounding-pole informedme.

"One of my hungry and forbearing friends wassounding in the bows just below me. This steamboatwas exactly like a decked scow. On the deck, therewere two little teakwood houses, with doors and windows. The boilerwas in the fore-end, and the machinery right astern. Over the wholethere was a lightroof, supported on stanchions. The funnel projectedthrough that roof, and in front of the funnel a smallcabin built of light planks served for a pilot-house. Itcontained a couch, two camp-stools, a loaded Martini-Henry leaning inone corner, a tiny table, and thesteering-wheel. It had a wide door in front and abroad shutter at each side. All these were alwaysthrown open, of course. I spent my days perched upthere on the extreme fore-end of that roof, before thedoor. At night I slept, or tried to, on the couch. Anathletic black belonging to some coast tribe and educated by my poorpredecessor, was the helmsman. Hesported a pair of brass earrings, wore a blue clothwrapper from the waist to the ankles, and thought allthe world of himself. He was the most unstable kindof fool I had ever seen. He steered with no end of aswagger while you were by; but if he lost sight ofyou, he became instantly the prey of 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, andfeeling much annoyed to see at each try a little moreof it stick out of that river, when I saw my polemangive up the business suddenly, and stretch himself flaton the deck, without even taking the trouble to haul hispole in. He kept hold on it though, and it trailed inthe water. At the same time the fireman, whom Icould also see below me, sat down abruptly before hisfurnace and ducked his head. I was amazed. Then Ihad to look at the river mighty quick, because therewas a snag in the fairway. Sticks, little sticks, wereflying about -- thick: they were whizzing before mynose, dropping below me, striking behind me againstmy pilot-house. All this time the river, the shore, thewoods, were very quiet -- perfectly quiet. I could onlyhear the heavy splashing thump of the stern-wheeland the patter of these things. We cleared the snagclumsily. Arrows, by Jove! We were being shot at!I stepped in quickly to close the shutter on the landside. Thatfool-helmsman, his hands on the spokes,was lifting his knees high, stamping his feet, champinghis mouth, like a reined-in horse. Confound him! Andwe were staggering within ten feet of the bank. Ihad to lean right out to swing the heavy shutter, and Isaw a face amongst the leaves on the level with myown, looking at me very fierce and steady; and thensuddenly, as though a veil had been removed frommy eyes, I made out, deep in the tangled gloom,naked breasts, arms, legs, glaring eyes -- the bush wasswarming with human limbs in movement, glistening,of bronze colour. The twigs shook, swayed, andrustled, the arrows flew out of them, and then theshutter came to. 'Steer her straight,' I said to thehelmsman. He held his head rigid, face forward; buthis eyes rolled, he kept on lifting and setting downhis feet gently, his mouth foamed a little. 'Keepquiet!' I said in a fury. I might just as well haveordered a tree not to sway in the wind. I darted out.Below me there was a great scuffle of feet on the irondeck; confused exclamations; a voice screamed, 'Canyou turn back?' I caught sight of a V-shaped ripple onthe water ahead. What? Another snag! A fusilladeburst out under my feet. The pilgrims had openedwith their Winchesters, and were simply squirtinglead into that bush. A deuce of a lot of smoke cameup and drove slowly forward. I swore at it. Now Icouldn't see the ripple or the snag either. I stood inthe doorway, peering, and the arrows came in swarms.They might have been poisoned, but they looked asthough they wouldn't kill a cat. The bush began tohowl. Our wood-cutters raised a warlike whoop; thereport of a rifle just at my back deafened me. I glancedover my shoulder, and the pilot-house was yet full ofnoise and smoke when I made a dash at the wheel.The fool-nigger had dropped everything, to throwthe shutter open and let off that Martini-Henry. Hestood before the wide opening, glaring, and I yelledat him to come back, while I straightened the suddentwist out of that steamboat. There was no room toturn even if I had wanted to, the snag was somewherevery near ahead in that confounded smoke, there wasno time to lose, so I just crowded her into the bank --right into the bank, where I knew the water was deep."We tore slowly along the overhanging bushes ina whirl of broken twigs and flying leaves. The fusillade below stoppedshort, as I had foreseen it wouldwhen the squirts got empty. I threw my head back toa glinting whizz that traversed the pilot-house, in atone shutter-hole and out at the other. Looking past thatmad helmsman, who was shaking the empty rifle andyelling at the shore, I saw vague forms of men running bent double,leaping, gliding, distinct, incomplete, evanescent. Something bigappeared in the airbefore the shutter, the rifle went overboard, and theman stepped back swiftly, looked at me over hisshoulder in an extraordinary, profound, familiar manner, and fell uponmy feet. The side of his head hitthe wheel twice, and the end of what appeared a longcane clattered round and knocked over a little campstool. It looked asthough after wrenching that thingfrom somebody ashore he had lost his balance in theeffort. The thin smoke had blown away, we were clearof the snag, and looking ahead I could see that inanother hundred yards or so I would be free to sheeroff, away from the bank; but my feet felt so verywarm and wet that I had to look down. The man hadrolled on his back and stared straight up at me; bothhis hands clutched that cane. It was the shaft of aspear that, either thrown or lunged through the opening, had caughthim in the side just below the ribs;the blade had gone in out of sight, after making afrightful gash; my shoes were full; a pool of bloodlay very still, gleaming dark-red under the wheel; hiseyes shone with an amazing lustre. The fusillade burstout again. He looked at me anxiously, gripping thespear like something precious, with an air of beingafraid I would try to take it away from him. I had tomake an effort to free my eyes from his gaze andattend to the steering. With one hand I felt above myhead for the line of the steam whistle, and jerked outscreech after screech hurriedly. The tumult of angryand warlike yells was checked instantly, and then fromthe depths of the woods went out such a tremulousand prolonged wail of mournful fear and utter despairas may be imagined to follow the flight of the lasthope from the earth. There was a great commotion inthe bush; the shower of arrows stopped, a few dropping shots rang outsharply -- then silence, in whichthe languid beat of the stern-wheel came plainly tomy ears. I put the helm hard a-starboard at the moment when thepilgrim in pink pyjamas, very hot andagitated, appeared in the doorway. 'The managersends me --' he began in an official tone, and stoppedshort. 'Good God!' he said, glaring at the woundedman.

"We two whites stood over him, and his lustrousand inquiring glance enveloped us both. I declare itlooked as though he would presently put to us somequestion in an understandable language; but he diedwithout uttering a sound, without moving a limb,without twitching a muscle. Only in the very lastmoment, as though in response to some sign we couldnot see, to some whisper we could not hear, hefrowned heavily, and that frown gave to his blackdeath-mask an inconceivably sombre, brooding, andmenacing expression. The lustre of inquiring glancefaded swiftly into vacant glassiness. 'Can you steer?'I asked the agent eagerly. He looked very dubious; butI made a grab at his arm, and he understood at onceI meant him to steer whether or no. To tell you thetruth, I was morbidly anxious to change my shoes andsocks. 'He is dead,' murmured the fellow, immenselyimpressed. 'No doubt about it,' said I, tugging likemad 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, asthough I had found out I had been striving after something altogetherwithout a substance. I couldn't havebeen more disgusted if I had travelled all this wayfor the sole purpose of talking with Mr. Kurtz. Talking with . . . Iflung one shoe overboard, and becameaware that that was exactly what I had been lookingforward 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 'Now I will never shakehim by the hand,' but, 'Now I will never hear him.'The man presented himself as a voice. Not of coursethat I did not connect him with some sort of action.Hadn't I been told in all the tones of jealousy andadmiration that he had collected, bartered, swindled,or stolen more ivory than all the other agents together? That was notthe point. The point was in hisbeing a gifted creature, and that of all his gifts theone that stood out preeminently, that carried with ita sense of real presence, was his ability to talk, hiswords -- the gift of expression, the bewildering, theilluminating, the most exalted and the most contemptible, thepulsating stream of light, or the deceit-ful flow from the heart of an impenetrable darkness.

"The other shoe went flying unto the devil-god ofthat river. I thought, 'By Jove! it's all over. We aretoo late; he has vanished -- the gift has vanished, bymeans of some spear, arrow, or club. I will never hearthat chap speak after all' -- and my sorrow had a startlingextravagance of emotion, even such as I hadnoticed in the howling sorrow of these savages in thebush. I couldn't have felt more of lonely desolationsomehow, had I been robbed of a belief or had missedmy destiny in lite.... Why do you sigh in thisbeastly way, somebody? Absurd? Well, absurd. GoodLord! mustn't a man ever -- Here, give me sometobacco."...

There was a pause of profourd stillness, then amatch flared, and Marlow's lean face appeared, worn,hollow, with downward folds and dropped eyelids,with an aspect of concentrated abtention; and as hetook vigorous draws at his pipe, it seemed to retreatand advance out of the night in the regular flicker oftiny flame. The match went out.

"Absurd!" he cried. "This is the worst of trying totell.... Here you all are, each moored with twogood addresses, like a hulk with two anchors, a butcherround one corner, a policeman round another, excellent appetites, andtemperature normal -- you hear --normal from year's end to year~s end. And you say,Absurd! Absurd be -- exploded! Absurd! My dearboys, what can you expect from a man who out ofsheer nervousness had just flung overboard a pair ofnew shoes! Now I think of it, it is amazing I did notshed tears. I am, upon the whole, proud of my fortitude. I was cut tothe quick at the idea of having lostthe inestimable privilege of listening to the giftedKurtz. Of course I was wrong. The privilege waswaiting for me. Oh, yes, I heard more than enough.And I was right, too. A voice. He was very little morethan a voice. And I heard -- him -- it -- this voice -- othervoices -- all of them were so little more than voices --and the memory of that time itself lingers around me,impalpable, like a dying vibration of one immensejabber, silly, atrocious, sordid, savage, or simply mean,without any kind of sense. Voices, voices -- even thegirl herself -- now --"

He was silent for a long time.

"I laid the ghost of his gifts at last with a lie," hebegan, suddenly. "Girl! What? Did I mention a girl?Oh, she is out of it -- completely. They -- the womenI mean -- are out of it -- should be out of it. We musthelp them to stay in that beautiful world of their own,lest ours gets worse. Oh, she had to be out of it. Youshould have heard the disinterred body of Mr. Kurtzsaying, 'My Intended.' You would have perceiveddirectly then how completely she was out of it. Andthe lofty frontal bone of Mr. Kurtz! They say thehair goes on growing sometimes, but this -- ah -- speci-men, was impressively bald. The wilderness hadpatted him on the head, and, behold, it was like a ball-- an ivory ball; it had caressed him, and -- lo! -- hehad withered; it had taken him, loved him, embracedhim, got into his veins, consumed his flesh, and sealedhis soul to its own by the inconceivable ceremonies ofsome devilish initiation. He was its spoiled and pamperedfavourite. Ivory? I should think so. Heaps ofit, stacks of it. The old mud shanty was bursting withit. You would think there was not a single tusk lefteither above or below the ground in the wholecountry. 'Mostly fossil,' the manager had remarked,disparagingly. It was no more fossil than I am; butthey call it fossil when it is dug up. It appears theseniggers do bury the tusks sometimes -- but evidentlythey couldn't bury this parcel deep enough to save thegifted Mr. Kurtz from his fate. We filled the steamboat with it, andhad to pile a lot on the deck. Thushe could see and enjoy as long as he could see, becausethe appreciation of this favour had remained with himto the last. You should have heard him say, 'Myivory.' Oh, yes, I heard him. 'My Intended, my ivory,my station, my river, my --' everything belongedto him. It made me hold my breath in expectation ofhearing the wilderness burst into a prodigious pealof laughter that would shake the fixed stars in theirplaces. Everything belonged to him -- but that was atrifle. The thing was to know what he belonged to,how many powers of darkness claimed him for theirown. 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 amongstthe devils of the land -- I mean literally. You can'tunderstand. How could you? -- with solid pavementunder your feet, surrounded by kind neighboursready to cheer you or to fall on you, stepping delicately between thebutcher and the policeman, inthe holy terror of scandal and gallows and lunaticasylums -- how can you imagine what particular regionof the first ages a man's untrammelled feet may takehim into by the way of solitude -- utter solitudewithout a policeman -- by the way of silence -- uttersilence, where no warning voice of a kind neighbourcan be heard whispering of public opinion? Theselittle things make all the great difference. When theyare gone you must fall back upon your own innatestrength, upon your own capacity for faithfulness. Ofcourse you may be too much of a fool to go wrong -- too dull even to know you are being assulted by thepowers of darkness. I take it, no fool ever made abargain for his soul with the devil; the fool is toomuch of a fool, or the devil too much of a devil-- I don't know which. Or you may be such athunderingly exalted creature as to be altogetherdeaf and blind to anything but heavenly sights andsounds. Then the earth for you is only a standingplace -- and whether to be like this is your loss oryour gain I won't pretend to say. But most of us areneither one nor the other. The earth for us is aplace to live in, where we 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, thefaith in your ability for the digging of unostentatiousholes to bury the stuff in -- your power of devotion,not to yourself, but to an obscure back-breaking business. And that'sdifficult enough. Mind, I am nottrying to excuse or even explain -- I am trying to account to myselffor -- for -- Mr. Kurtz -- for the shadeof Mr. Kurtz. This initiated wraith from the back ofNowhere honoured me with its amazing confidencebefore it vanished altogether. This was because itcould speak English to me. The original Kurtz hadbeen educated partly in England, and -- as he wasgood enough to say himself -- his sympathies were inthe right place. His mother was half-English, hisfather was half-French. All Europe contributed tothe making of Kurtz; and by and by I learnedthat, most appropriately, the International Societyfor the Suppression of Savage Customs had intrustedhim with the making of a report, for its future guidance. And he hadwritten it, too. I've seen it. I'veread it. It was eloquent, vibrating with eloquence,but too high-strung, I think. Seventeen pages ofclose writing he had found time for! But this musthave been before his -- let us say -- nerves, wentwrong, and caused him to preside at certain midnightdances ending with unspeakable rites, which -- as faras I reluctantly gathered from what I heard at varioustimes -- were offered up to him -- do you understand? -- to Mr. Kurtzhimself. But it was a beautifulpiece of writing. The opening paragraph, however,in the light of later information, strikes me now asominous. He began with the argument that we whites,from the point of development we had arrived at,'must necessarily appear to them [savages] in thenature of supernatural beings -- we approach themwith the might as of a deity,' and so on, and so on. 'Bythe simple exercise of our will we can exert a powerfor good practically unbounded,' etc., etc. From thatpoint he soared and took me with him. The perorationwas magnificent, though difficult to remember, youknow. It gave me the notion of an exotic Immensityruled by an august Benevolence. It made me tinglewith enthusiasm. This was the unbounded power ofeloquence -- of words -- of burning noble words. Therewere no practical hints to interrupt the magic currentof phrases, unless a kind of note at the foot of the lastpage, scrawled evidently much later, in an unsteadyhand, may be regarded as the exposition of a method.It was very simple, and at the end of that movingappeal to every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you,luminous and terrifying, like a flash of lightning in aserene sky: 'Exterminate all the brutes!' The curiouspart was that he had apparently forgotten all aboutthat valuable postscriptum, because, later on, when hein a sense came to himself, he repeatedly entreated meto take good care of 'my pamphlet' (he called it), as itwas sure to have in the future a good influence uponhis career. I had full information about all thesethings, and, besides, as it turned out, I was to havethe care of his memory. I've done enough for it togive me the indisputable right to lay it, if I choose,for an everlasting rest in the dust-bin of progress,amongst all the sweepings and, figuratively speaking,all the dead cats of civilization. But then, you see, Ican't choose. He won't be forgotten. Whatever hewas, he was not common. He had the power to charmor frighten rudimentary souls into an aggravatedwitch-dance in his honour; he could also fill the smallsouls of the pilgrims with bitter misgivings: he hadone devoted friend at least, and he had conquered onesoul in the world that was neither rudimentary nortainted with self-seeking. No; I can't forget him,though I am not prepared to affirm the fellow wasexactly worth the life we lost in getting to him. Imissed my late helmsman awfully -- I missed himeven while his body was still lying in the pilot-house.Perhaps you will think it passing strange this regretfor a savage who was no more account than a grain ofsand in a black Sahara. Well, don't you see, he haddone something, he had steered; for months I hadhim at my back -- a help -- an instrument. It was a kindof partnership. He steered for me -- I had to look afterhim, I worried about his deficiencies, and thus a subtlebond had been created, of which I only became awarewhen it was suddenly broken. And the intimate profundity of that lookhe gave me when he received hishurt 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 shutter alone.He had no restraint, no restraint just like Kurtz -- atree swayed by the wind. As soon as I had put on a drypair of slippers, I dragged him out, after first jerkingthe spear out of his side, which operation I confess Iperformed with my eyes shut tight. His heels leapedtogether over the little doorstep; his shoulders werepressed to my breast; I hugged him from behind desperately. Oh! he washeavy, heavy; heavier than anyman on earth, I should imagine. Then without moreado I tipped him overboard. The current snatchedhim as though he had been a wisp of grass, and I sawthe body roll over twice before I lost sight of it forever. All the pilgrims and the manager were thencongregated on the awning-deck about the pilot-house,chattering at each other like a flock of excited magpies,and there was a scandalized murmur at my heartlesspromptitude. What they wanted to keep that bodyhanging about 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 woodcutters were likewisescandalized, and with a bettershow of reason -- though I admit that the reason itselfwas quite inadmissible. Oh, quite! I had made up mymind that if my late helmsman was to be eaten, thefishes alone should have him. He had been a verysecond-rate helmsman while alive, but now he wasdead he might have become a first-class temptation,and possibly cause some startling trouble. Besides, Iwas anxious to take the wheel, the man in pink pyjamas showing himselfa hopeless duffer at the business.

"This I did directly the simple funeral was over.We were going half-speed, keeping right in the middleof the stream, and I listened to the talk about me.They had given up Kurtz, they had given up thestation; Kurtz was dead, and the station had beenburnt -- and so on -- and so on. The red-haired pilgrimwas beside himself with the thought that at least thispoor Kurtz had been properly avenged. 'Say! Wemust have made a glorious slaughter of them in thebush. Eh? What do you think? Say?' He positivelydanced, the bloodthirsty little gingery beggar. Andhe had nearly fainted when he saw the wounded man!I could not help saying, 'You made a glorious lot ofsmoke, anyhow.' I had seen, from the way the topsof the bushes rustled and flew, that almost all theshots had gone too high. You can't hit anything unlessyou take aim and fire from the shoulder; but thesechaps fired from the hip with their eyes shut. Theretreat, I maintained -- and I was right -- was causedby the screeching of the steam whistle. Upon thisthey forgot Kurtz, and began to howl at me withindignant protests.

"The manager stood by the wheel murmuring confidentially about the necessity of getting well awaydown the river before dark at all events, when I sawin the distance a clearing on the riverside and theoutlines of some sort of building. 'What's this?' Iasked. He clapped his hands in wonder. 'The station!'he cried. I edged in at once, still going half-speed.

"Through my glasses I saw the slope of a hill interspersed with rare trees and perfectly free from undergrowth. A long decaying building on the summit washalf buried in the high grass; the large holes in thepeaked roof gaped black from afar; the jungle andthe woods made a background. There was no enclosure or fence of any kind; but there had been oneapparently, for near the house half-a-dozen slim postsremained in a row, roughly trimmed, and with theirupper ends ornamented with round carved balls. Therails, or whatever there had been between, had disappeared. Of coursethe forest surrounded all that.The river-bank was clear, and on the waterside I sawa white man under a hat like a cartwheel beckoningpersistently with his whole arm. Examinig the edgeof the forest above and below, I was almost certain Icould see movements -- human forms gliding here andthere. I steamed past prudently, then stopped theengines and let her drift down. The man on the shorebegan to shout, urging us to land. 'We have been attacked,' screamedthe manager. 'I know -- I know. It'sall right,' yelled back the other, as cheerful as youplease. 'Come along. It's all right. I am glad.'

"His aspect reminded me of something I had seen-- something funny I had seen somewhere. As Imanoeuvred to get alongside, I was asking myself,'What does this fellow look like?' Suddenly I got it.He looked like a harlequin. His clothes had beenmade of some stuff that was brown holland probably,but it was covered with patches all over, with brightpatches, blue, red, and yellow -- patches on the back,patches on the front, patches on elbows, on knees;coloured binding around his jacket, scarlet edging atthe bottom of his trousers; and the sunshine madehim look extremely gay and wonderfully neat withal,because you could see how beautifully all this patchinghad been done. A beardless, boyish face, very fair, nofeatures to speak of, nose peeling, little blue eyes,smiles and frowns chasing each other over that opencountenance like sunshine and shadow on a wind-swept plain. 'Look out,captain!' he cried; 'there's asnag lodged in here last night.' What! Another snag?I confess I swore shamefully. I had nearly holed mycripple, to finish off that charming trip. The harlequinon the bank turned his little pug-nose up to me. 'YouEnglish?' he asked, all smiles. 'Are you?' I shoutedfrom the wheel. The smiles vanished, and he shookhis head as if sorry for my disappointment. Then hebrightened 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 autumnsky, overcast one moment and bright the next.

"When the manager, escorted by the pilgrims, allof them armed to the teeth, had gone to the housethis chap came on board. 'I say, I don't like this.These natives are in the bush,' I said. He assured meearnestly it was all right. 'They are simple people,' headded; 'well, I am glad you came. It took me all mytime to keep them off.' 'But you said it was all right,'I cried. 'Oh, they meant no harm,' he said; and as Istared he corrected himself, 'Not exactly.' Then vivaciously, 'Myfaith, your pilot-house wants a clean-up!'In the next breath he advised me to keep enoughsteam on the boiler to blow the whistle in case ofany trouble. 'One good screech will do more for youthan all your rifles. They are simple people,' herepeated. He rattled away at such a rate he quite overwhelmed me. Heseemed to be trying to make up forlots of silence, and actually hinted, laughing, thatsuch was the case. 'Don't you talk with Mr. Kurtz?' Isaid. 'You don't talk with that man -- you listen to him,'he exclaimed with severe exaltation. 'But now --' Hewaved his arm, and in the twinkling of an eye was inthe uttermost depths of despondency. In a moment hecame up again with a jump, possessed himself of bothmy hands, shook them continuously, while hegabbled: 'Brother sailor . . . honour . . . pleasure. . . delight . . .introduce myself . . . Russian . . .son of an arch-priest . . . Government of Tambov. . . What? Tobacco! English tobacco; the excellentEnglish tobacco! Now, that's brotherly. Smoke?Where's a sailor that does not smoke?'

"The pipe soothed him, and gradually I made outhe had run away from school, had gone to sea in aRussian ship; ran away again; served some time inEnglish ships; was now reconciled with the archpriest. He made a pointof that. 'But when one isyoung one must see things, gather experience, ideas;enlarge the mind.' 'Here!' I interrupted. 'You cannever tell! Here I met Mr. Kurtz,' he said, youthfully solemn and reproachful. I held my tongue afterthat. It appears he had persuaded a Dutch tradinghouse on the coast tofit him out with stores and goods,and had started for the interior with a light heartand no more idea of what would happen to him thana baby. He had been wandering about that river fornearly two years alone, cut off from everybody andeverything. 'I am not so young as I look. I am twenty-five,' hesaid. 'At first old Van Shuyten would tell meto go to the devil,' he narrated with keen enjoyment;'but I stuck to him, and talked and talked, till at lasthe got afraid I would talk the hind-leg off his favourite dog, so hegave me some cheap things and a fewguns, and told me he hoped he would never see myface again. Good old Dutchman, Van Shuyten. I'vesent him one small lot of ivory a year ago, so that hecan't call me a little thief when I get back. I hope hegot it. And for the rest I don't care. I had some woodstacked for you. That was my old house. Did you see?'

"I gave him Towson's book. He made as though hewould kiss me, but restrained himself. 'The only bookI had left, and I thought I had lost it,' he said, lookingat it ecstatically. 'So many accidents happen to a mangoing about alone, you know. Canoes get upset sometimes -- andsometimes 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. 'Ithought they were written in cipher,' I said. Helaughed, then became serious. 'I had lots of troubleto keep these people off,' he said. 'Did they want tokill you?' I asked. 'Oh, no!' he cried, and checkedhimself. 'Why did they attack us?' I pursued. Hehesitated, then said shamefacedly, 'They don't wanthim to go.'Don't they?' I said curiously. He noddeda nod full of mystery and wisdom. 'I tell you,' hecried, 'this man has enlarged my mind.' He openedhis arms wide, staring at me with his little blue eyesthat were perfectly round."

III


"I looked at him, lost in astonishment. There hewas before me, in motley, as though he had abscondedfrom a troupe of mimes, enthusiastic, fabulous. Hisvery existence was improbable, inexplicable, and altogetherbewildering. He was an insoluble problem. Itwas inconceivable how he had existed, how he hadsucceeded in getting so far, how he had managed toremain -- why he did not instantly disappear. 'I wenta little farther,' he said, 'then still a little farther --till I had gone so far that I don't know how I'll everget back. Never mind. Plenty time. I can manage.You take Kurtz away quick -- quick -- I tell you.' Theglamour of youth enveloped his parti-coloured rags,his destitution, his loneliness, the essential desolationof his futile wanderings. For months -- for years -- hislife hadn't been worth a day's purchase; and there hewas gallantly, thoughtlessly alive, to all appearanceindestructible solely by the virtue of his few years andof his unreflecting audacity. I was seduced into something likeadmiration -- like envy. Glamour urged himon, glamour kept him unscathed. He surely wantednothing from the wilderness but space to breathe inand to push on through. His need was to exist, and tomove onwards at the greatest possible risk, and witha maximum of privation. If the absolutely pure, uncalculating,unpractical spirit of adventure had everruled a human being, it ruled this bepatched youth.I almost envied him the possession of this modest andclear flame. It seemed to have consumed all thoughtof self so completely, that even while he was talkingto you, you forgot that it was he -- the man beforeyour eyes -- who had gone through these things. Idid not envy him his devotion to Kurtz, though. Hehad not meditated over it. It came to him, and he accepted it with asort of eager fatalism. I must say thatto me it appeared about the most dangerous thing inevery way he had come upon so far.

"They had come together unavoidably, like twoships becalmed near each other, and lay rubbing sidesat last. I suppose Kurtz wanted an audience, becauseon a certain occasion, when encamped in the forest,they had talked all night, or more probably Kurtzhad talked. 'We talked of everything,' he said, quitetransported at the recollection. 'I forgot there wassuch a thing as sleep. The night did not seem to lastan hour. Everything! Everything! . . . Of love,too.' 'Ah, he talked to you of love!' I said, muchamused. 'It isn't what you think,' he cried, almostpassionately. 'It was in general. He made me seethings -- things.'

"He threw his arms up. We were on deck at thetime, and the headman of my wood cutters, loungingnear by, turned upon him his heavy and glitteringeyes. I looked around, and I don't know why, but Iassure you that never, never before, did this land,this river, this jungle, the very arch of this blazingsky, appear to me so hopeless and so dark, so impenetrable to humanthought, so pitiless to human weakness. 'And, ever since, you havebeen with him, ofcourse?' I said.

"On the contrary. It appears their intercourse hadbeen very much broken by various causes. He had, ashe informed me proudly, managed to nurse Kurtzthrough two illnesses (he alluded to it as you wouldto some risky feat), but as a rule Kurtz wanderedalone, far in the depths of the forest. 'Very oftencoming to this station, I had to wait days and daysbefore he would turn up,' he said. 'Ah, it was worthwaiting for! -- sometimes.' 'What was he doing? exploring or what?' Iasked. 'Oh, yes, of course', hehad discovered lots of villages, a lake, too -- he did notknow exactly in what direction; it was dangerous toinquire too much -- but mostly his expeditions hadbeen for ivory. 'But he had no goods to trade with bythat time,' I objected. 'There's a good lot of cartridgesleft even yet,' he answered, looking away. 'To speakplainly, he raided the country,' I said. He nodded.'Not alone, surely!' He muttered something aboutthe villages round that lake. 'Kurtz got the tribe tofollow 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 curious to see his mingled eagerness and reluctance to speak ofKurtz. The man filled his life, occupied his thoughts, swayed hisemotions. 'What canyou expect?' he burst out; 'he came to them withthunder and lightning, you know -- and they had neverseen anything like it -- and very terrible. He could bevery terrible. You can't judge Mr. Kurtz as youwould an ordinary man. No, no, no! Now -- just togive you an idea -- I don't mind telling you, he wantedto shoot me, too, one day -- but I don't judge him.''Shoot you!' I cried 'What for?' 'Well, I had a smalllot of ivory the chief of that village near my housegave me. You see I used to shoot game for them.Well, he wanted it, and wouldn't hear reason. Hedeclared he would shoot me unless I gave him theivory and then cleared out of the country, becausehe could do so, and had a fancy for it, and there wasnothing on earth to prevent him killing whom hejolly well pleased. And it was true, too. I gave himthe ivory. What did I care! But I didn't clear out.No, no. I couldn't leave him. I had to be careful,of course, till we got friendly again for a time. Hehad his second illness then. Afterwards I had tokeep out of the way; but I didn't mind. He wasliving for the most part in those villages on the lake.When he came down to the river, sometimes he wouldtake to me, and sometimes it was better for me to becareful. This man suffered too much. He hated allthis, and somehow he couldn't get away. When I hada chance I begged him to try and leave while there wastime; I offered to go back with him. And he wouldsay yes, and then he would remain; go off on anotherivory hunt; disappear for weeks; forget himselfamongst these people -- forget himself -- you know.''Why! he's mad,' I said. He protested indignantly.Mr. Kurtz couldn't be mad. If I hald heard him talk,only two days ago, I wouldn't dare hint at such athing. . . . I had taken up my binoculars while wetalked, and was looking at the shore, sweeping thelimit of the forest at each side and at the back of thehouse. The consciousness of there being people in thatbush, so silent, so quiet -- as silent and quiet as theruined house on the hill -- made me uneasy. There wasno sign on the face of nature of this amazing tale thatwas not so much told as suggested to me in desolateexclamations, completed by shrugs, in interruptedphrases, in hints ending in deep sighs. The woodswere unmoved, like a mask -- heavy, like the closeddoor of a prison -- they looked with their air of hiddenknowledge, of patient expectation, of unapproachablesilence. The Russian was explaining to me that it wasonly lately that Mr. Kurtz had come down to theriver, bringing along with him all the fighting menof that lake tribe. He had been absent for severalmonths -- getting himself adored, I suppose -- and hadcome down unexpectedly, with the intention to allappearance of making a raid either across the river ordown stream. Evidently the appetite for more ivoryhad got the better of the -- what shall I say? -- lessmaterial aspirations. However he had got much worsesuddenly. 'I heard he was lying helpless, and so Icame up -- took my chance,' said the Russian. 'Oh, heis bad, very bad.' I directed my glass to the house.There were no signs of life, but there was the ruinedroof, the long mud wall peeping above the grass,with three little square window-holes, no two of thesame size; all this brought within reach of my hand,as it were. And then I made a brusque movement, andone of the remaining posts of that vanished fenceleaped up in the field of my glass. You remember Itold you I had been struck at the distance by certainattempts at ornamentation, rather remarkable in theruinous aspect of the place. Now I had suddenly anearer view, and its first result was to make me throwmy head back as if before a blow. Then I went carefully from post topost with my glass, and I saw mymistake. These round knobs were not ornamental butsymbolic; they were expressive and puzzling, strikingand disturbing -- food for thought and also for vultures if there hadbeen any looking down from thesky; but at all events for such ants as were industriousenough to ascend the pole. They would have beeneven more impressive, those heads on the stakes, iftheir faces had not been turned to the house. Onlyone, the first I had made out, was facing my way. Iwas not so shocked as you may think. The start backI had given was really nothing but a movement ofsurprise. I had expected to see a knob of wood there,you know. I returned deliberately to the first I hadseen -- and there it was, black, dried, sunken, withdosed eyelids -- a head that seemed to sleep at the topof that pole, and, with the shrunken dry lips showinga narrow white line of the teeth, was smiling, too,smiling continuously at some endless and jocosedream of that eternal slumber.

"I am not disclosing any trade secrets. In fact, themanager said afretwards that Mr. Kurtz's methodshad ruined the district. I have no opinion on thatpoint, but I want you clearly to understand that therewas nothing exactly profitable in these heads beingthere. They only showed that Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint in thegratification of his various lusts, thatthere was something wanting in him -- some smallmatter which, when the pressing need arose, could notbe found under his magnificent eloquence. Whetherhe knew of his deficiency himself I can't say. I thinkthe knowledge came to him at last -- only at the verylast. But the wilderness had found him out early, andhad taken on him a terrible vegeance for the fantasticinvasion. I think it had whispered to him things abouthimself which he did not know, things of which hehad no conception till he took counsel with this greatsolitude -- and the whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating. Itechoed loudly within him because he washollow at the core.... I put down the glass, andthe head that had appeared near enough to be spokento seemed at once to have leaped away from me intoinaccessible distance.

"The admirer of Mr. Kurtz was a bit crestfallen. Ina hurried, indistinct voice he began to assure me he hadnot dared to take these -- say, symbols -- down. He wasnot afraid of the natives; they would not stir till Mr.Kurtz gave the word. His ascendancy was extraordinary. The camps ofthe people surrounded theplace, and the chiefs came every day to see him. Theywould crawl.... 'I don't want to know anything ofthe ceremonies used when approaching Mr. Kurtz,'I shouted. Curious, this feeling that came over methat such details would be more intolerable thanthose heads drying on the stakes under Mr. Kurtz'swindows. After a]l, that was only a savage sight, whileI seemed at one bound to have been transported intosome lightless region of subtle horrors, where pure,uncomplicated savagery was a positive relief, beingsomething that had a right to exist -- obviously -- in thesunshine. The young man looked at me with surprise.I suppose it did not occur to him that Mr. Kurtz wasno idol of mine. He forgot I hadn't heard any of thesesplendid monologues on, what was it? on love, justice, conduct of life-- or what not. If it had come tocrawling before Mr. Kurtz, he crawled as much as theveriest savage of them all. I had no idea of the conditions, he said:these heads were the heads of rebels. Ishocked him excessively by laughing. Rebels! Whatwould be the next definition I was to hear? There hadbeen enemies, criminals, workers -- and these wererebels. Those rebellious heads looked very subdued tome on their sticks. 'You don't know how such a lifetries a man like Kurtz,' cried Kurtz's last disciple.'Well, and you?' I said. 'I! I! I am a simple man. Ihave no great thoughts. I want nothing from anybody.How can you compare me to . . . ?' His feelingswere too much for speech, and suddenly he brokedown. 'I don't understand,' he groaned. 'I've beendoing my best to keep him alive, and that's enough.I had no hand in all this. I have no abilities. Therehasn't been a drop of medicine or a mouthful of invalid food formonths here. He was shamefully abandoned. A man like this, with suchideas. Shamefully!Shamefully! I -- I -- haven't slept for the last tennights . . .'

"His voice lost itself in the calm of the evening.The long shadows of the forest had slipped downhillwhile we talked, had gone far beyond the ruinedhovel, beyond the symbolic row of stakes. All thiswas in the gloom, while we down there were yet inthe sunshine, and the stretch of the river abreast ofthe clearing glittered in a still and dazzling splendour,with a murky and overshadowed bend above andbelow. Not a living soul was seen on the shore. Thebushes did not rustle.

"Suddenly round the corner of the house a groupof men appeared, as though they had come up fromthe ground. They waded waist-deep in the grass, in acompact body, bearing an improvised stretcher in theirmidst. Instantly, in the emptiness of the landscape, acry arose whose shrillness pierced the still air like asharp arrow flying straight to the very heart of theland; and, as if by enchantment, streams of humanbeings -- of naked human beings -- with spears in theirhands, with bows, with shields, with wild glances andsavage movements, were poured into the dearing bythe dark-faced and pensive forest. The bushes shook,the grass swayed for a time, and then everythingstood still in attentive immobility.

" 'Now, if he does not say the right thing to themwe are all done for,' said the Russian at my elbow.The knot of men with the stretcher had stopped, too,halfway to the steamer, as if petrified. I saw the manon the stretcher sit up, lank and with an uplifted arm,above the shoulders of the bearers. 'Let us hope thatthe man who can talk so well of love in general willfind some particular reason to spare us this time,' Isaid. I resented bitterly the absurd danger of our situation, as if tobe at the mercy of that atrocious phantom had been a dishonouringnecessity. I could nothear a sound, but through my glasses I saw the thinarm extended commandingly, the lower jaw moving,the eyes of that apparition shining darkly far in itsbony head that nodded with grotesque jerks. Kurtz --Kurtz -- that means short in German -- don't it? Well,the name was as true as everything else in his life --and death. He looked at least seven feet long. Hiscovering had fallen off, and his body emerged from itpitiful and appalling as from a winding-sheet. I couldsee the cage of his ribs all astir, the bones of his armwaving. It was as though an animated image of deathcarved out of old ivory had been shaking its hand withmenaces at a motionless crowd of men made of darkand glittering bronze. I saw him open his mouth wide-- it gave him a weirdly voracious aspect, as though hehad wanted to swallow all the air, all the earth, all themen before him. A deep voice reached me faintly. Hemust have been shouting. He fell back suddenly. Thestretcher shook as the bearers staggered forwardagain, and almost at the same time I noticed that thecrowd of savages was vanishing without any perceptible movement ofretreat, as if the forest that hadejected these beings so suddenly had drawn them inagain as the breath is drawn in a long aspiration.

"Some of the pilgrims behind the stretcher carriedhis arms -- two shot-guns, a heavy rifle, and a lightrevolver-carbine -- the thunderbolts of that pitifulJupiter. The manager bent over him murmuring ashe walked beside his head. They laid him down in oneof the little cabins -- just a room for a bed place and acamp-stool or two, you know. We had brought hisbelated correspondence, and a lot of torn envelopesand open letters littered his bed. His hand roamedfeebly amongst these papers. I was struck by the fireof his eyes and the composed languor of his expression. It was not somuch the exhaustion of disease. Hedid not seem in pain. This shadow looked satiated andcalm, as though for the moment it had had its fill ofall the emotions.

"He rustled one of the letters, and looking straightin my face said, 'I am glad.' Somebody had been writing to him aboutme. These special recommendationswere turning up again. The volume of tone he emittedwithout effort, almost without the trouble of movinghis lips, amazed me. A voice! a voice! It was grave,profound, vibrating, while the man did not seem capable of awhisper. However, he had enough strengthin him -- factitious no doubt -- to very nearly make anend of us, as you shall hear directly.

"The manager appeared silently in the doorway; Istepped out at once and he drew the curtain after me.The Russian, eyed curiously by the pilgrims, was staring at theshore. I followed the direction of his glance.

"Dark human shapes could be made out in the distance, flitting indistinctly against the gloomy borderof the forest, and near the river two bronze figures,leaning on tall spears, stood in the sunlight under fantastichead-dresses of spotted skins, warlike and still instatuesque repose. And from right to left along thelighted shore moved a wild and gorgeous apparitionof a woman.

"She walked with measured steps, draped in stripedand fringed clothes, treading the earth proudly, witha slight jingle and flash of barbarous ornaments. Shecarried her head high; her hair was done in the shapeof a helmet; she had brass leggings to the knee, brasswire gauntlets to the elbow, a crimson spot on hertawny cheek, innumerable necklaces of glass beads onher neck; bizarre things, charms, gifts of witch-men,that hung about her, glittered and trembled at everystep. She must have had the value of several elephanttusks upon her. She was savage and superb, wild-eyedand magnificent; there was something ominous andstately in her deliberate progress. And in the hushthat had fallen suddenly upon the whole sorrowfulland, the immense wilderness, the colossal body of thefecund and mysterious life seemed to look at her,pensive, as though it had been looking at the image ofits own tenebrous and passionate soul.

"She came abreast of the steamer, stood still, andfaced us. Her long shadow fell to the water's edge.Her face had a tragic and fierce aspect of wild sorrowand of dumb pain mingled with the fear of somestruggling, half-shaped resolve. She stood looking atus without a stir, and like the wilderness itself, with anair of brooding over an inscrutable purpose. A wholeminute passed, and then she made a step forward.There was a low jingle, a glint of yellow metal, asway of fringed draperies, and she stopped as if herheart had failed her. The young fellow by my sidegrowled. The pilgrims murmured at my back. Shelooked at us all as if her life had depended upon theunswerving steadiness of her glance. Suddenly sheopened her bared arms and threw them up rigidabove her head, as though in an uncontrollable desireto touch the sky, and at the same time the swift shadows darted out onthe earth, swept around on theriver, gathering the steamer into a shadowy embrace.A formidable silence hung over the scene.

"She turned away slowly, walked on, following thebank, and passed into the bushes to the left. Onceonly her eyes gleamed back at us in the dusk of thethickets before she disappeared.

" 'If she had offered to come aboard I really thinkI would have tried to shoot her,' said the man ofpatches, nervously. 'I have been risking my life everyday for the last fortnight to keep her out of the house.She got in one day and kicked up a row about thosemiserable rags I picked up in the storeroom to mendmy clothes with. I wasn't decent. At least it must havebeen that, for she talked like a fury to Kurtz for anhour, pointing at me now and then. I don't understand the dialect ofthis tribe. Luckily for me, I fancyKurtz felt too ill that day to care, or there would havebeen mischief. I don't understand.... No -- it's toomuch for me. Ah, well, it's all over now.'

"At this moment I heard Kurtz's deep voice behindthe curtain: 'Save me! -- save the ivory, you mean.Don't tell me. Save me! Why, I've had to save you.You are interrupting my plans now. Sick! Sick! Notso sick as you would like to believe. Never mind. I'llcarry my ideas out yet -- I will return. I'll show youwhat can be done. You with your little peddling notions -- you areinterfering with me. I will return.I....'

"The manager came out. He did me the honour totake me under the arm and lead me aside. 'He is verylow, very low,' he said. He considered it necessary tosigh, but neglected to be consistently sorrowful. 'Wehave done all we could for him -- haven't we? Butthere is no disguising the fact, Mr. Kurtz has donemore harm than good to the Company. He did notsee the time was not ripe for vigorous action. Cautiously, cautiously-- that's my principle. We must becautious yet. The district is closed to us for a time.Deplorable! Upon the whole, the trade will suffer.I don't deny there is a remarkable quantity of ivory --mostly fossil. We must save it, at all events -- but lookhow precarious the position is -- and why? Because themethod is unsound.' 'Do you,' said I, looking at theshore, 'call it "unsound method?" ' 'Without doubt,'he exclaimed hotly. 'Don't you?' . . . 'No method atall,' I murmured after a while. 'Exactly,' he exulted.'I anticipated this. Shows a complete want of judgment. It is my dutyto point it out in the proper quarter.' 'Oh,' said I, 'that fellow --what's his name? -- thebrickmaker, will make a readable report for you.' Heappeared confounded for a moment. It seemed to meI had never breathed an atmosphere so vile, and Iturned mentally to Kurtz for relief -- positively forrelief. 'Nevertheless I think Mr. Kurtz is a remarkable man,' I saidwith emphasis. He started, droppedon me a cold heavy glance, said very quietly, 'he wasand turned his back on me. My hour of favour wasover; I found myself lumped along with Kurtz as apartisan of methods for which the time was not ripe:I was unsound! Ah! but it was something to have atleast a choice of nightmares.

"I had turned to the wilderness really, not to Mr.Kurtz, who, I was ready to admit, was as good asburied. And for a moment it seemed to me as if I alsowere buried in a vast grave full of unspeakable secrets.I felt an intolerable weight oppressing my breast, thesmell of the damp earth, the unseen presence of victorious corruption,the darkness of an impenetrablenight.... The Russian tapped me on the shoulder.I heard him mumbling and stammering somethingabout 'brother seaman -- couldn't conceal -- knowledgeof matters that would affect Mr. Kurtz's reputation.'I waited. For him evidently Mr. Kurtz was not in hisgrave; I suspect that for him Mr. Kuutz was one ofthe immortals. 'Well!' said I at last, 'speak out. As ithappens, I am Mr. Kurtz's friend -- in a way.'

"He stated with a good deal of formality that hadwe not been 'of the same profession,' he would havekept the matter to himself without regard to consequences. 'Hesuspected there was an active ill will to-wards him on the part of these white men that --''You are right,' I said, remembering a certain conversation I hadoverheard. 'The manager thinks youought to be hanged.' He showed a concern at thisintelligence which amused me at first. 'I had betterget out of the way quietly,' he said earnestly. 'I can dono more for Kurtz now, and they would soon findsome excuse. What's to stop them? There's a militarypost three hundred miles from here.' 'Well, upon myword,' said I, 'perhaps you had better go if you haveany friends amongst the savages near by.' 'Plenty,' hesaid. 'They are simple people -- and I want nothing,you know.' He stood biting his lip, then: 'I didn't wantany harm to happen to these whites here, but of courseI was thinking of Mr. Kurtz's reputation -- but youare a brother seaman and --' 'All right,' said I, aftera time. 'Mr. Kurtz's reputation is safe with me.' I didnot know how truly I spoke.

"He informed me, lowering his voice, that it wasKurtz who had ordered the attack to be made on thesteamer. 'He hated sometimes the idea of being takenaway -- and then again.... But I don't understandthese matters. I am a simple man. He thought itwould scare you away -- that you would give it up,thinking him dead. I could not stop him. Oh, I had anawful time of it this last month.' 'Very well,' I said.'He is all right now.' 'Ye-e-es,' he muttered, not veryconvinced apparently. 'Thanks,' said I; 'I shall keepmy eyes open.' 'But quiet -- eh?' he urged anxiously.'It would be awful for his reputation if anybodyhere --' I promised a complete discretion with greatgravity. 'I have a canoe and three black fellows waiting not veryfar. I am off. Could you give me a fewMartini-Henry cartridges?' I could, and did, withproper secrecy. He helped himself, with a wink at me,to a handful of my tobacco. 'Between sailors -- youknow -- good English tobacco.' At the door of thepilot-house he turned round -- 'I say, haven't you apair of shoes you could spare?' He raised one leg.'Look' The soles were tied with knotted strings sandalwise under hisbare feet. I rooted out an old pair,at which he looked with admiration before tucking itunder his left arm. One of his pockets (bright red)was bulging with cartridges, from the other (darkblue) peeped 'Towson's Inquiry,' ctc., etc. He seemedto think himself excellently well equipped for a renewed encounterwith the wilderness. 'Ah! I'll never,never meet such a man again. You ought to haveheard him recite poetry -- his own, too, it was, he toldme. Poetry!' He rolled his eyes at the recollection ofthese delights. 'Oh, he enlarged my mind!' 'Goodbye,' said I. He shookhands and vanished in thenight. Sometimes I ask myself whether I had everreally seen him -- whether it was possible to meet sucha phenomenon! . . .

"When I woke up shortly after midnight his warning came to my mind with its hint of danger thatseemed, in the starred darkness, real enough to makeme get up for the purpose of having a look round. Onthe hill a big fire burned, illuminating fitfully acrooked corner of the station-house. One of the agentswith a picket of a few of our blacks, armed for thepurpose, was keeping guard over the ivory; but deepwithin the forest, red gleams that wavered, thatseemed to sink and rise from the ground amongstconfused columnar shapes of intense blackness, showedthe exact position of the camp where Mr. Kurtz'sadorers were keeping their uneasy vigil. The monotonous beating of abig drum filled the air with muffled shocks and a lingeringvibration. A steadydroning sound of many men chanting each to himselfsome weird incantation came out from the black, flatwall of the woods as the humming of bees comes outof a hive, and had a strange narcotic effect upon myhalf-awake senses. I believe I dozed off leaning overthe rail, till an abrupt burst of yells, an overwhelmingoutbreak of a pent-up and mysterious frenzy, woke meup in a bewildered wonder. It was cut short all atonce, and the low droning went on with an effect ofaudible and soothing silence. I glanced casually intothe little cabin. A light was burning within, but Mr.Kurtz was not there.

"I think I would have raised an outcry if I hadbelieved my eyes. But I didn't believe them at first --the thing seemed so impossible. The fact is I was completely unnervedby a sheer blank fright, pure abstractterror, unconnected with any distinct shape of physicaldanger. What made this emotion so overpoweringwas -- how shall I define it? -- the moral shock I received, as ifsomething altogether monstrous, intoler-able to thought and odious to the soul, had beenthrust upon me unexpectedly. This lasted of coursethe merest fraction of a second, and then the usualsense of commonplace, deadly danger, the possibilityof a sudden onslaught and massacre, or something ofthe kind, which I saw impending, was positively welcome andcomposing. It pacified me, in fact, so muchthat I did not raise an alarm.

"There was an agent buttoned up inside an ulsterand sleeping on a chair on deck within three feet ofme. The yells had not awakened him; he snored veryslightly; I left him to his slumbers and leaped ashore.I did not betray Mr. Kurtz -- it was ordered I shouldnever betray him -- it was written I should be loyal tothe nightmare of my choice. I was anxious to dealwith this shadow by myself alone -- and to this day Idon't know why I was so jealous of sharing with anyone the peculiar blackness of that experience.

"As soon as I got on the bank I saw a trail -- a broadtrail through the grass. I remember the exultationwith which I said to myself, 'He can't walk -- he iscrawling on all-fours -- I've got him.' The grass waswet with dew. I strode rapidly with clenched fists. Ifancy I had some vague notion of falling upon himand giving him a drubbing. I don't know. I had someimbecile thoughts. The knitting old woman with thecat obtruded herself upon my memory as a most improper person to besitting at the other end of such anaffair. I saw a row of pilgrims squirting lead in the airout of Winchesters held to the hip. I thought I wouldnever get back to the steamer, and imagined myselfliving alone and unarmed in the woods to an advancedage. Such silly things -- you know. And I remember Iconfounded the beat of the drum with the beating ofmy heart, and was pleased at its calm regularity.

"I kept to the track though -- then stopped to listen.The night was very clear; a dark blue space, sparklingwith dew and starlight, in which black things stoodvery still. I thought I could see a kind of motionahead 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 asto get in front of that stir, of that motion I had seen-- if indeed I had seen anything. I was circumventingKurtz as though it had been a boyish game.

"I came upon him, and, if he had not heard mecoming, I would have fallen over him, too, but he gotup in time. He rose, unsteady, long, pale, indistinct,like a vapour exhaled by the earth, and swayedslightly, misty and silent before me; while at my backthe fires loomed between the trees, and the murmurof many voices issued from the forest. I had cut himoff cleverly; but when actually confronting him Iseemed to come to my senses, I saw the danger in itsright proportion. It was by no means over yet. Suppose he began toshout? Though he could hardlystand, there was still plenty of vigour in his voice. 'Goaway -- hide yourself,' he said, in that profound tone.It was very awful. I glanced back. We were withinthirty yards from the nearest fire. A black figure stoodup, strode on long black legs, waving long black arms,across the glow. It had horns -- antelope horns, I think-- on its head. Some sorcerer, some witch-man, nodoubt: it looked fiendlike enough. 'Do you know whatyou are doing?' I whispered. 'Perfectly,' he answered,raising his voice for that single word: it sounded to mefar off and yet loud, like a hail through a speaking-trumpet. 'If hemakes a row we are lost,' I thought tomyself. This clearly was not a case for fisticuffs, evenapart from the very natural aversion I had to beatthat Shadow -- this wandering and tormented thing.'You will be lost,' I said -- 'utterly lost.' One getssometimes such a flash of inspiration, you know. I didsay the right thing, though indeed he could not havebeen more irretrievably lost than he was at this verymoment, when the foundations of our intimacy werebeing laid -- to endure -- to endure -- even to the end --even beyond.

" 'I had irnmense plans,' he muttered irresolutely.'Yes,' said I; 'but if you try to shout I'll smash yourhead with --' There was not a stick or a stone near.'I will throttle you for good,' I corrected myself. 'Iwas on the threshold of great things,' he pleaded, in avoice of longing, with a wistfulness of tone that mademy blood run cold. 'And now for this stupid scoundrel --' 'Yoursuccess in Europe is assured in anycase,' I affirmed steadily, I did not want to have thethrottling of him, you understand -- and indeed itwould have been very little use for any practical purpose. I tried tobreak the spell -- the heavy, mute spellof the wilderness -- that seemed to draw him to itspitiless breast by the awakening of forgotten andbrutal instincts, by the memory of gratified and monstrouspassions. This alone, I was convinced, haddriven him out to the edge of the forest, to the bush,towards the gleam of fires, the throb of drums, thedrone of weird incantations; this alone had beguiledhis unlawful soul beyond the bounds of permittedaspirations. And, don't you see, the terror of the position was not inbeing knocked on the head -- though Ihad a very lively sense of that danger, too -- but inthis, that I had to deal with a being to whom I couldnot appeal in the name of anything high or low. I had,even like the niggers, to invoke him -- himself -- hisown exalted and incredible degradation. There wasnothing either above or below him, and I knew it. Hehad kicked himself loose of the earth. Confound theman! he had kicked the very earth to pieces. He wasalone, and I before him did not know whether I stoodon the ground or floated in the air. I've been tellingyou what we said -- repeating the phrases we pronounced -- but what'sthe good? They were commoneveryday words -- the familiar, vague sounds exchanged on every wakingday of life. But what ofthat? They had behind them, to my mind, the terrificsuggestiveness of words heard in dreams, of phrasesspoken in nightmares. Soul! If anybody ever struggledwith a soul, I am the man. And I wasn't arguing witha lunatic either. Believe me or not, his intelligence wasperfectly clear concentrated, it is true, upon himselfwith horrible intensity, yet clear; and therein was myonly chance -- barring, of course, the killing him thereand then, which wasn't so good, on account of unavoidable noise. Buthis soul was mad. Being alone inthe wilderness, it had looked within itself, and, byheavens! I tell you, it had gone mad. I had -- for mysins, I suppose -- to go through the ordeal of lookinginto it myself. No eloquence could have been sowithering to one's belief in mankind as his final burstof sincerity. He struggled with himself, too. I saw it --I heard it. I saw the inconceivable mystery of a soulthat knew no restraint, no faith, and no fear, yet struggling blindlywith itself. I kept my head pretty well;but when I had him at last stretched on the couch, Iwiped my forehead, while my legs shook under me asthough I had carried half a ton on my back down thathill. And yet I had only supported him, his bony armclasped round my neck -- and he was not much heavierthan a child.

"When next day we left at noon, the crowd, ofwhose presence behind the curtain of trees I had beenacutely conscious all the time, flowed out of the woodsagain, filled the clearing, covered the slope with amass of naked, breathing, quivering, bronze bodies. Isteamed up a bit, then swung down stream, and twothousand eyes followed the evolutions of the splashing, thumping,fierce river-demon beating the waterwith its terrible tail and breathing black smoke intothe air. In front of the first rank, along the river,three men, plastered with bright red earth from headto foot, strutted to and fro restlessly. When we cameabreast again, they faced the river, stamped their feet,nodded their horned heads, swayed their scarlet bodies; they shooktowards the fierce river-demon abunch of black feathers, a mangy skin with a pendenttail -- something that looked like a dried gourd; theyshouted periodically together strings of amazing wordsthat resembled no sounds of human language; andthe deep murmurs of the crowd, interrupted suddenly, were like theresponses of some satanic litany.

"We had carried Kurtz into the pilot-house: therewas more air there. Lying on the couch, he staredthrough the open shutter. There was an eddy in themass of human bodies, and the woman with helmetedhead and tawny cheeks rushed out to the very brinkof the stream. She put out her hands, shouted something, and all thatwild mob took up the shout in aroaring chorus of articulated, rapid, breathless utterance.

" 'Do you understand this?' I asked. "He kept on looking out past me with fiery, longing eyes, with a mingled expression of wistfulness andhate. He made no answer, but I saw a smile, a smile ofindefinable meaning, appearing on his colourless lipsthat a moment after twitched convulsively. 'Do Inot?' he said slowly, gasping, as if the words had beentorn out of him by a supernatural power.

"I pulled the string of the whistle, and I did thisbecause I saw the pilgrims on deck getting out theirrifles with an air of anticipating a jolly lark. At thesudden screech there was a movement of abject terrorthrough that wedged mass of bodies. 'Don't! don't youfrighten them away,' cried some one on deck disconsolately. I pulledthe string time after time. Theybroke and ran, they leaped, they crouched, theyswerved, they dodged the flying terror of the sound.The three red chaps had fallen flat, face down on theshore, as though they had been shot dead. Only thebarbarous and superb woman did not so much asflinch, and stretched tragically her bare arms after usover the sombre and glittering river.

"And then that imbecile crowd down on the deckstarted their little fun, and I could see nothing morefor smoke.


"The brown current ran swiftly out of the heart ofdarkness, bearing us down towards the sea with twicethe speed of our upward progress; and Kurtz's lifewas running swiftly, too, ebbing, ebbing out of hisheart into the sea of inexorable time. The managerwas very placid, he had no vital anxieties now, he tookus both in with a comprehensive and satisfied glance:the 'affair' had come off as well as could be wished. Isaw the time approaching when I would be left aloneof the party of 'unsound method.' The pilgrimslooked upon me with disfavour. I was, so to speak,numbered with the dead. It is strange how I acceptedthis unforeseen partnership, this choice of nightmaresforced upon me in the tenebrous land invaded bythese mean and greedy phantoms.

"Kurtz discoursed. A voice! a voice! It rang deep tothe very last. It survived his strength to hide in themagnificent folds of eloquence the barren darkness ofhis heart. Oh, he struggled! he struggled! The wastesof his weary brain were haunted by shadowy imagesnow -- images of wealth and fame revolving obsequiously round hisunextinguishable gift of noble andlofty expression. My Intended, my station, my career,my ideas -- these were the subjects for the occasionalutterances of elevated sentiments. The shade of theoriginal Kurtz frequented the bedside of the hollowsham, whose fate it was to be buried presently in themould of primeval earth. But both the diabolic loveand the unearthly hate of the mysteries it had penetrated fought forthe possession of that soul satiatedwith primitive emotions, avid of lying fame, of shamdistinction, of all the appearances of success and power.

"Sometimes he was contemptibly childish. He desired to have kings meet him at railway-stations on hisreturn from some ghastly Nowhere, where he intended to accomplishgreat things. 'You show themyou have in you something that is really profitable,and then there will be no limits to the recognition ofyour ability,' he would say. 'Of course you must takecare of the motives -- right motives -- always.' Thelong reaches that were like one and the same reach,monotonous bends that were exactly alike, slippedpast the steamer with their multitude of secular treeslooking patiently after this grimy fragment of another world, theforerunner of change, of conquest,of trade, of massacres, of blessings. I looked ahead --piloting. 'Close the shutter,' said Kurtz suddenly oneday; 'I can't bear to look at this.' I did so. There wasa silence. 'Oh, but I will wring your heart yet!' hecried at the invisible wilderness.

"We broke down -- as I had expected -- and had tolie up for repairs at the head of an island. This delaywas the first thing that shook Kurtz's confidence. Onemorning he gave me a packet of papers and a photograph -- the lot tiedtogether with a shoe-string. 'Keepthis for me,' he said. 'This noxious fool' (meaning themanager) 'is capable of prying into my boxes when Iam not looking.' In the afternoon I saw him. He waslying on his back with closed eyes, and I withdrewquietly, but I heard him mutter, 'Live rightly, die, die. . .' I listened. There was nothing more. Was herehearsing some speech in his sleep, or was it a fragment of a phrasefrom some newspaper article? Hehad been writing for the papers and meant to do soagain, 'for the furthering of my ideas. It's a duty.'

"His was an impenetrable darkness. I looked at himas you peer down at a man who is lying at the bottomof a precipice where the sun never shines. But I hadnot much time to give him, because I was helping theengine-driver to take to pieces the leaky cylinders, tostraighten a bent connecting-rod, and in other suchmatters. I lived in an infernal mess of rust, filings,nuts, bolts, spanners, hammers, ratchet drills -- thingsI abominate, because I don't get on with them. Itended the little forge we fortunately had aboard; Itoiled wearily in a wretched scrap-heap -- unless I hadthe shakes too bad to stand.

"One evening coming in with a candle I was startled to hear him say a little tremulously, 'I am lyinghere in the dark waiting for death.' The light waswithin a foot of his eyes. I forced myself to murmur,'Oh, nonsense!' and stood over him as if transfixed.

"Anything approaching the change that came overhis features I have never seen before, and hope neverto see again. Oh, I wasn't touched. I was fascinated.It was as though a veil had been rent. I saw on thativory face the expression of sombre pride, of ruthlesspower, of craven terror -- of an intense and hopelessdespair. Did he live his life again in every detail ofdesire, temptation, and surrender during that supreme moment ofcomplete knowledge? He cried ina whisper at some image, at some vision -- he cried outtwice, a cry that was 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 myplace opposite the manager, who lifted his eyes togive me a questioning glance, which I successfully ignored. He leanedback, serene, with that peculiarsmile of his sealing the unexpressed depths of hismeanness. A continuous shower of small flies streamedupon the lamp, upon the cloth, upon our hands andfaces. Suddenly the manager's boy put his insolentblack head in the doorway, and said in a tone of scathingcontempt:

" 'Mistah Kurtz -- he dead.'

"All the pilgrims rushed out to see. I remained,and went on with my dinner. I believe that 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 pronounceda judgment upon the adventures of his soul on thisearth. The voice was gone. What else had been there?But I am of course aware that next day the pilgrimsburied something in a muddy hole.

"And then they very nearly buried me.

"However, as you see, I did not go to join Kurtzthere and then. I did not. I remained to dream thenightmare out to the end, and to show my loyalty toKurtz once more. Destiny. My destiny! Droll thinglife is -- that mysterious arrangement of merciless logicfor a futile purpose. The most you can hope from itis some knowledge of yourself -- that comes too late --a crop of unextinguishable regrets. I have wrestledwith death. It is the most unexciting contest you canimagine. It takes place in an impalpable greyness,with nothing underfoot, with nothing around, withoutspectators, without clamour, without glory, withoutthe great desire of victory, without the great fear ofdefeat, in a sickly atmosphere of tepid scepticism,without much belief in your own right, and still lessin that of your adversary. If such is the form of ultimate wisdom,then life is a greater riddle than someof us think it to be. I was within a hair's breadth of thelast opportunity for pronouncement, and I found withhumiliation that probably I would have nothing tosay. This is the reason why I affirm that Kurtz was aremarkable man. He had something to say. He saidit. Since I had peeped over the edge myself, I understand better themeaning of his stare, that could notsee the flame of the candle, but was wide enough toembrace the whole universe, piercing enough to penetrate all thehearts that beat in the darkness. He hadsummed up -- he had judged. 'The horror!' He was aremarkable man. After all, this was the expression ofsome sort of belief; it had candour, it had conviction,it had a vibrating note of revolt in its whisper, it hadthe appalling face of a glimpsed truth -- the strangecommingling of desire and hate. And it is not my ownextremity I remember best -- a vision of greyness without form filledwith physical pain, and a careless contempt for the evanescence of allthings -- even of thispain itself. No! It is his extremity that I seem to havelived through. True, he had made that last stride, hehad stepped over the edge, while I had been permitted to draw back myhesitating foot. And perhaps inthis is the whole difference; perhaps all the wisdom,and all truth, and all sincerity, are just compressedinto that inappreciable moment of time in which westep over the threshold of the invisible. Perhaps! Ilike to think my summing-up would not have been aword of careless contempt. Better his cry -- much better. It was anaffirmation, a moral victory paid for byinnumerable defeats, by abominable terrors, by abominablesatisfactions. But it was a victory! That is why Ihave remained loyal to Kurtz to the last, and evenbeyond, when a long time after I heard once more,not his own voice, but the echo of his magnificent eloquence thrown tome from a soul as translucently pureas a cliff of crystal.

"No, they did not bury me, though there is a periodof time which I remember mistily, with a shudderingwonder, like a passage through some inconceivableworld that had no hope in it and no desire. I foundmyself back in the sepulchral city resenting the sightof people hurrying through the streets to filch a littlemoney from each other, to devour their infamouscookery, to gulp their unwholesome beer, to dreamtheir insignificant and silly dreams. They trespassedupon my thoughts. They were intruders whose knowledge of life was tome an irritating pretence, because Ifelt so sure they could not possibly know the things Iknew. Their bearing, which was simply the bearing ofcommonplace individuals going about their business inthe assurance of perfect safety, was offensive to melike the outrageous flauntings of folly in the face of adanger it is unable to comprehend. I had no particulardesire to enlighten them, but I had some difficulty inrestraining myself from laughing in their faces so fullof stupid importance. I daresay I was not very well atthat time. I tottered about the streets -- there werevarious affairs to settle -- grinning bitterly at perfectlyrespectable persons. I atmit my behaviour was inexcusable, but then mytemperature was seldom normalin these days. My dear aunt's endeavours to 'nurse upmy strength' seemed altogether beside the mark. Itwas not my strength that wanted nursing, it was myimagination that wanted soothing. I kept the bundleof papers given me by Kurtz, not knowing exactlywhat to do with it. His mother had died lately,watched over, as I was told, by his Intended. A clean-shaved man, withan official manner and wearinggold-rimmed spectacles, called on me one day andmade inquiries, at first circuitous, afterwards suavelypressing, about what he was pleased to denominatecertain 'documents.' I was not surprised, because I hadhad two rows with the manager on the subject outthere. I had refused to give up the smallest scrap outof that package, and I took the same attitude with thespectacled man. He became darkly menacing at Last,and with much heat argued that the Company had theright to every bit of information about its 'territories.'And said he, 'Mr. Kurtz's knowkdge of unexploredregions must have been necessarily extensive and peculiar -- owing tohis great abilities and to the deplorable circumstances in which hehad been placed:therefore --' I assured him Mr. Kurtz's knowledge,however extensive, did not bear upon the problems ofcommerce or administration. He invoked then thename of science. 'It would be an incalculable loss if,'etc., etc. I offered him the report on the 'Suppressionof Savage Customs,' with the postscriptum torn off.He took it up eagerly, but ended by sniffing at it withan air of contempt. 'This is not what we had a right toexpect,' he remarked. 'Expect nothing else,' I said.'There are only private letters.' He withdrew uponsome threat of legal proceedings, and I saw him nomore; but another fellow, calling himself Kurtz'scousin, appeared two days later, and was anxious tohear all the details about his dear relative's lastmoments. Incidentally he gave me to understand thatKurtz had been essentially a great musician. 'Therewas the making of an immense success,' said the man,who was an organist, I believe, with lank grey hairflowing over a greasy coat-collar. I had no reason todoubt his statement, and to this day I am unable tosay what was Kurtz's profession, whether he ever hadany -- which was the greatest of his talents. I had takenhim for a painter who wrote for the papers, or else fora journalist who could paint -- but even the cousin(who took snuff during the interview) could not tellme what he had been -- exactly. He was a universalgenius -- on that point I agreed with the old chap, whothereupon blew his nose noisily into a large cottonhandkerchief and withdrew in senile agitation, bearing off some familyletters and memoranda withoutimportance. Ultimately a journalist anxious to knowsomething of the fate of his 'dear colleague' turnedup. This visitor informed me Kurtz's proper sphereought to have been politics 'on the popular side.' Hehad furry straight eyebrows, bristly hair croppedshort, an eyeglass on a broad ribbon, and, becomingexpansive, confessed his opinion that Kurtz reallycouldn't write a bit -- 'but heavens! how that mancould talk. He electrified large meetings. He hadfaith -- don't you see? -- he had the faith. He could gethimself to believe anything -- anything. He wouldhave been a splendid leader of an extreme party.''What party?' I asked. 'Any party,' answered theother. 'He was an -- an -- extremist.' Did I not thinkso? I assented. Did I know, he asked, with a suddenflash of curiosity, 'what it was that had induced himto go out there?' 'Yes,' said I, and forthwith handedhim the famous Report for publication, if he thoughtfit. He glanced through it hurriedly, mumbling allthe time, judged 'it would do,' and took himself offwith this plunder.

"Thus I was left at last with a slim packet of letters and the girl's portrait. She struck me as beautiful-- I mean she had a beautiful expression. I know thatthe sunlight can be made to lie, too, yet one felt thatno manipulation of light and pose could have conveyed the delicateshade of truthfulness upon thosefeatures. She seemed ready to listen without mentalreservation, without suspicion, without a thought forherself. I conclucled I would go and give her back herportrait and those letters myself. Curiosity? Yes; andalso some other feeling perhaps. All that had beenKurtz's had passed out of my hands: his soul, hisbody, his station, his plans, his ivory, his career. Thereremained only his memory and his Intended -- and Iwanted to give that up, too, to the past, in a way -- tosurrender personally all that remained of him withme to that oblivion which is the last word of ourcommon fate. I don't defend myself. I had no clearperception of what it was I really wanted. Perhaps itwas an impulse of unconscious loyalty, or the fulfilment of one ofthose ironic necessities that lurk in thefacts of human existence. I don't know. I can't tell.But I went.

"I thought his memory was like the other memories of the dead that accumulate in every man's life --a vague impress on the brain of shadows that hadfallen on it in their swift and final passage; but beforethe high and ponderous door, between the tall housesof a street as still and decorous as a well-kept alley ina cemetery, I had a vision of him on the stretcher,opening his mouth voraciously, as if to devour all theearth with all its mankind. He lived then before me;he lived as much as he had ever lived -- a shadow insatiable ofsplendid appearances, of frightful realities;a shadow darker than the shadow of the night, anddraped nobly in the folds of a gorgeous eloquence.The vision seemed to enter the house with me -- thestretcher, the phantom-bearers, the wild crowd ofobedient worshippers, the gloom of the forests, theglitter of the reach between the murky bends, the beatof thle drum, regular and muffled like the beating of aheart -- the heart of a conquering darkness. It was amoment of triumph for the wilderness, an invadingand vengeful rush which, it seemed to me, I wouldhave to keep back alone for the salvation of anothersoul. And the memory of what I had heard him sayafar there, with the horned shapes stirring at my back,in the glow of fires, within the patient woods, thosebroken phrases came back to me, were heard again intheir ominous and terrifying simplicity. I remembered his abjectpleading, his abject threats, the colossal scale of his vile desires,the meanness, the torment,the tempestuous anguish of his soul. And later on Iseemed to see his collected languid manner, when hesaid one day, 'This lot of ivory now is really mine.The Company did not pay for it. I collected it myselfat a very great personal risk. I am afraid they will tryto claim it as theirs though. H'm. It is a difficult case.What do you think I ought to do -- resist? Eh? I wantno more than justice.' . . . He wanted no more thanjustice -- no more than justice. I rang the bell before amahogany door on the first floor, and while I waitedhe seemed to stare at me out of the glassy panel -- starewith that wide and immense stare embracing, condemning, loathing allthe universe. I seemed to hearthe whispered cry, 'The horror! The horror! '

"The dusk was falling. I had to wait in a loftydrawingroom with three long windows from floor toceiling that were like three luminous and bedrapedcolumns. The bent gilt legs and backs of the furnitureshone in indistinct curves. The tall marble fireplacehad a cold and monumental whiteness. A grand pianostood massively in a corner; with dark gleams on theflat surfaces like a sombre and polished sarcophagus.A high door opened closed I rose.

"She came forward, all in black, with a pale head,floating towards me in the dusk. She was in mourning.It was more than a year since his death, more than ayear since the news came; she seemed as though shewould remember and mourn forever. She took bothmy hands in hers and murmured, 'I had heard youwere coming.' I noticed she was not very young -- Imean not girlish. She had a mature capacity for fidelity, for belief,for suffering. The room seemed to havegrown darker, as if all the sad light of the cloudy evening had takenrefuge on her forehead. This fair hair,this pale visage, this pure brow, seemed surroundedby an ashy halo from which the dark eyes looked outat me. Their glance was guileless, profound, confident, andtrustful. She carried her sorrowful head asthough she were proud of that sorrow, as though shewould say, 'I -- I alone know how to mourn for himas he deserves.' But while we were still shaking hands,such a look of awful desolation came upon her facethat I perceived she was one of those creatures thatare not the playthings of Time. For her he had diedonly yesterday. And, by Jove! the impression was sopowerful that for me, too, he seemed to have diedonly yesterday -- nay, this very minute. I saw her andhim in the same instant of time -- his death and hersorrow -- I saw her sorrow in the very moment of hisdeath. Do you understand? I saw them together - Iheard them together. She had said, with a deep catchof the breath, 'I have survived' while my strained earsseemed to hear distinctly, mingled with her tone ofdespairing regret, the summing up whisper of hiseternal condemnation. I asked myself what I wasdoing there, with a sensation of panic in my heart asthough I had blundered into a place of cruel andabsurd mysteries not fit for a human being to behold.She motioned me to a chair. We sat down. I laid thepacket gently on the little table, and she put her handover it.... 'You knew him well,' she murmured,after a moment of mourning silence.

" 'Intimacy grows quickly out there,' I said. 'Iknew him as well as it is possible for one man to knowanother.'

" 'And you admired him,' she said. 'It was impossible 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, thatseemed to watch for more words on my lips, I wenton, 'It was impossible not to --'

" 'Love him,' she finished eagerly, silencing meinto an appalled dumbness. 'How true! How true.But when you think that no one knew him so well asI! 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 wasgrowing darker, and only her forehead, smooth andwhite, remained illumined by the unextinguishablelight of belief and love.

" 'You were his friend,' she went on. 'His friend,'she repeated, a little louder. 'You must have been, ifhe had given you this, and sent you to me. I feel I canspeak to you -- and oh! I must speak. I want you -- youwho have heard his last words -- to know I have beenworthy of him.... It is not pride.... Yes! I amproud to know I understood him better than any oneon earth -- he told me so himself. And since his motherdied I have had no one -- no one -- to -- to --'

"I listened. The darkness deepened. I was not evensure whether he had given me the right bundle. Irather suspect he wanted me to take care of anotherbatch of his papers which, after his death, I saw themanager examining under the lamp. And the girltalked, easing her pain in the certitude of my sympathy; she talked asthirsty men drink. I had heard thather engagement with Kurtz had been disapproved byher people. He wasn't rich enough or something. Andindeed I don't know whether he had not been a pauper all his life. Hehad given me some reason to inferthat it was his impatience of comparative poverty thatdrove him out there.

" '. . . Who was not his friend who had heard himspeak once?' she was saying. 'He drew men towardshim by what was best in them.' She looked at me withintensity. 'It is the gift of the great,' she went on, andthe sound of her low voice seemed to have the accompaniment of all theother sounds, full of mystery,desolation, and sorrow, I had ever heard -- the rippleof the river, the soughing of the trees swayed by thewind, the murmurs of the crowds, the faint ring ofincomprehensible words cried from afar, the whisperof a voice speaking from beyond the threshold of aneternal darkness. 'But you have heard him! Youknow!' she cried.

" 'Yes, I know,' I said with something like despairin my heart, but bowing my head before the faith thatwas in her, before that great and saving illusionthat shone with an unearthly glow in the darkness, inthe triumphant darkness from which I could not havedefended her -- from which I could not even defendmyself.

" 'What a loss to me -- to us!' -- she corrected herself with beautiful generosity; then added in a mur-mur, 'To the world.' By the last gleams of twilight Icould see the glitter of her eyes, full of tears -- of tearsthat would not fall.

" 'I have been very happy -- very fortunate -- veryproud,' she went on. 'Too fortunate. Too happy for alittle while. And now I am unhappy for -- for life.'

"She stood up; her fair hair seemed to catch all theremaining light in a glimmer of gold. I rose, too.

" 'And of all this,' she went on mournfully, 'of allhis promise, and of all his greatness, of his generousmind, of his noble heart, nothing remains -- nothingbut a memory. You and I --'

" 'We shall always remember him,' I said hastily.

" 'No!' she cried. 'It is impossible that all thisshould be lost -- that such a life should be sacrificed toleave nothing -- but sorrow. You know what vast planshe had. I knew of them, too -- I could not perhapsunderstand -- 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. 'Menlooked up to him -- his goodness shone in every act.His example --'

" 'True,' I said; 'his example, too. Yes, his example.I forgot that.'

" 'But I do not. I cannot -- I cannot believe -- notyet. I cannot believe that I sha]l never see him again,that nobody will see him again, never, never, never.' "She put out her arms as if after a retreating figure,stretching them back and with clasped pale handsacross the fading and narrow sheen of the window.Never see him! I saw him clearly enough then. Ishall see this eloquent phantom as long as I live, andI shall see her, too, a tragic and familiar Shade,resembling in this gesture another one, tragic also,and bedecked with powerless charms, stretching barebrown arms over the glitter cf the infernal stream,the stream of darkness. She said suddenly very low,'He died as he lived.'

" 'His end,' said I, with dull anger stirring in 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 any one onearth -- more than his own mother, more than -- himself. He needed me!Me! I would have treasuredevery sigh, every word, every sign, every glance.'

"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 thelast? I think of his loneliness. Nobody near to understand him as Iwould have understood. Perhaps noone to hear....'

" 'To the very end,' I said, shakily. 'I heard hisvery last words....' I stopped in a fright.

" 'Repeat them,' she murmured in a heart-brokentone. 'I want -- I want -- something -- something -- to --to live with.'

"I was on the point of crying at her, 'Don't youhear them?' The dusk was repeating them in a persistent whisper allaround us, in a whisper that seemedto swell menacingly like the first whisper of a risingwind. 'The horror! The horror!'

" 'His last word -- to live with,' she insisted. 'Don'tyou understand I loved him -- I loved him -- I lovedhim!'

"I pulled myself together and spoke slowly.

" 'The last word he pronounced was -- your name.'

"I heard a light sigh and then my heart stood still,stopped dead short by an exulting and terrible cry, bythe cry of inconceivable triumph and of unspeakablepain. 'I knew it -- I was sure!' . . . She knew. She wassure. I heard her weeping; she had hidden her facein her hands. It seemed to me that the house wouldcollapse before I could escape, that the heavenswould fall upon my head. But nothing happened. Theheavens do not fall for such a trifle. Would they havefallen, I wonder, if I had rendered Kurtz that justicewhich was his due? Hadn't he said he wanted onlyjustice? But I couldn't. I could not tell her. It wouldhave been too dark -- too dark altogether...."

Marlow ceased, and sat apart, indistinct and silent,in the pose of a meditating Buddha. Nobody movedfor a time. "We have lost the first of the ebb," saidthe Director suddenly. I raised my head. The offingwas barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterwayleading to the uttermost ends of theearth flowed sombre under an overcast sky -- seemedto lead into the heart of an immense darkness.

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