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Heart of Darkness

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“The manager stood by the wheel murmuring confidentially about the necessity of getting well away down the river before dark at all events, when I saw in the distance a clearing on the riverside and the outlines of some sort of building. ‘What’s this?’ I asked. He clapped his hands in wonder. ‘The station!’ he cried. I edged in at once, still going half-speed. “The manager was standing next to me, saying something about how we had to start back down the river before dark, when I saw a building in a clearing on the riverbank. ‘What’s this?’ I asked. He clapped his hands in surprise. ‘The station!’ he cried. I steered the boat toward the shore.
“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 was half buried in the high grass; the large holes in the peaked roof gaped black from afar; the jungle and the woods made a background. There was no enclosure or fence of any kind; but there had been one apparently, for near the house half-a-dozen slim posts remained in a row, roughly trimmed, and with their upper ends ornamented with round carved balls. The rails, or whatever there had been between, had disappeared. Of course the forest surrounded all that. The river-bank was clear, and on the waterside I saw a white man under a hat like a cart-wheel beckoning persistently with his whole arm. Examining the edge of the forest above and below, I was almost certain I could see movements—human forms gliding here and there. I steamed past prudently, then stopped the engines and let her drift down. The man on the shore began to shout, urging us to land. ‘We have been attacked,’ screamed the manager. ‘I know—I know. It’s all right,’ yelled back the other, as cheerful as you please. ‘Come along. It’s all right. I am glad.’ “Through my binoculars I saw a hill that had been cleared of brush. There was a decaying building at the top, with high grass surrounding it and holes in the roof. There was no fence, but apparently there had been one once, since there still were posts in a line in front. They were topped with ornamental carvings, balls of some sort. The rails between the posts had disappeared. The forest surrounded the clearing. On the riverbank was a white man waving his arm like crazy. I was sure I could see human movements in the forest behind him. I sailed past, then cut the engines and let us drift back toward him. The man on shore yelled for us to land. ‘We’ve been attacked,’ screamed the manager. ‘I know, I know. It’s all right,’ the man on the shore cheerfully yelled back. ‘It’s all right. I’m glad.’
“His aspect reminded me of something I had seen—something funny I had seen somewhere. As I manoeuvred 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 been made of some stuff that was brown holland probably, but it was covered with patches all over, with bright patches, blue, red, and yellow—patches on the back, patches on the front, patches on elbows, on knees; coloured binding around his jacket, scarlet edging at the bottom of his trousers; and the sunshine made him look extremely gay and wonderfully neat withal, because you could see how beautifully all this patching had been done. A beardless, boyish face, very fair, no features to speak of, nose peeling, little blue eyes, smiles and frowns chasing each other over that open countenance like sunshine and shadow on a wind-swept plain. ‘Look out, captain!’ he cried; ‘there’s a snag lodged in here last night.’ What! Another snag? I confess I swore shamefully. I had nearly holed my cripple, to finish off that charming trip. The harlequin on the bank turned his little pug-nose up to me. ‘You English?’ he asked, all smiles. ‘Are you?’ I shouted from the wheel. The smiles vanished, and he shook his head as if sorry for my disappointment. Then he brightened up. ‘Never mind!’ he cried encouragingly. ‘Are we in time?’ I asked. ‘He is up there,’ he replied, with a toss of the head up the hill, and becoming gloomy all of a sudden. His face was like the autumn sky, overcast one moment and bright the next. “He reminded by of something funny I’d seen once. It took me a second to realize he looked like a clown. His clothes were covered with bright blue, red, and yellow patches. The sunshine made him look like he was dressed for some festive occasion, and it was clear that the patches had been carefully sewn on. He had a very young face, with fair skin and blue eyes. ‘Look out, captain!’ he cried, ‘there’s a snag near here.’ Another snag? I swore terribly. I nearly tore a hole in my already crippled boat. The clown on the riverbank looked up at me. ‘You English?’ he asked, smiling. ‘Are you?’ I shouted from the wheel. He stopped smiling and shook his head apologetically. Then he brightened up. ‘Never mind!’ he cried encouragingly. ‘Are we in time?’ I asked. ‘He’s up there,’ he replied, turning his head toward the hill and looking sad. His face was like the autumn sky, bright one minute and dark the next.

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