Heart of Darkness
Heart of Darkness
"One evening as I was lying flat on the deck of my steamboat, I heard voices approaching--and there were the nephew and the uncle strolling along the bank. I laid my head on my arm again, and had nearly lost myself in a doze, when somebody said in my ear, as it were: `I am as harmless as a little child, but I don't like to be dictated to. Am I the manager--or am I not? I was ordered to send him there. It's incredible.' . . . I became aware that the two were standing on the shore alongside the forepart of the steamboat, just below my head. I did not move; it did not occur to me to move: I was sleepy. `It IS unpleasant,' grunted the uncle. `He has asked the Administration to be sent there,' said the other, `with the idea of showing what he could do; and I was instructed accordingly. Look at the influence that man must have. Is it not frightful?' They both agreed it was frightful, then made several bizarre remarks: `Make rain and fine weather--one man--the Council--by the nose'-- bits of absurd sentences that got the better of my drowsiness, so that I had pretty near the whole of my wits about me when the uncle said, `The climate may do away with this difficulty for you. Is he alone there?' `Yes,' answered the manager; `he sent his assistant down the river with a note to me in these terms: "Clear this poor devil out of the country, and don't bother sending more of that sort. I had rather be alone than have the kind of men you can dispose of with me." It was more than a year ago. Can you imagine such impudence!' `Anything since then?' asked the other, hoarsely. `Ivory,' jerked the nephew; `lots of it--prime sort--lots--most annoying, from him.' `And with that?' questioned the heavy rumble. `Invoice,' was the reply fired out, so to speak. Then silence. They had been talking about Kurtz.
"I was broad awake by this time, but, lying perfectly at ease, remained still, having no inducement to change my position. `How did that ivory come all this way?' growled the elder man, who seemed very vexed. The other explained that it had come with a fleet of canoes in charge of an English half-caste clerk Kurtz had with him; that Kurtz had apparently intended to return himself, the station being by that time bare of goods and stores, but after coming three hundred miles, had suddenly decided to go back, which he started to do alone in a small dug-out with four paddlers, leaving the half-caste to continue down the river with the ivory. The two fellows there seemed astounded at anybody attempting such a thing. They were at a loss for an adequate motive. As to me, I seemed to see Kurtz for the first time. It was a distinct glimpse: the dug-out, four paddling savages, and the lone white man turning his back suddenly on the headquarters, on relief, on thoughts of home--perhaps; setting his face towards the depths of the wilderness, towards his empty and desolate station. I did not know the motive. Perhaps he was just simply a fine fellow who stuck to his work for its own sake. His name, you understand, had not been pronounced once. He was `that man.' The half-caste, who, as far as I could see, had conducted a difficult trip with great prudence and pluck, was invariably alluded to as `that scoundrel.' The `scoundrel' had reported that the `man' had been very ill--had recovered imperfectly. . . . The two below me moved away then a few paces, and strolled back and forth at some little distance. I heard: `Military post--doctor--two hundred miles--quite alone now-- unavoidable delays--nine months--no news--strange rumors.' They approached again, just as the manager was saying, `No one, as far as I know, unless a species of wandering trader-- a pestilential fellow, snapping ivory from the natives.' Who was it they were talking about now? I gathered in snatches that this was some man supposed to be in Kurtz's district, and of whom the manager did not approve. `We will not be free from unfair