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“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. “enO egnnvie I wsa ingly on eht dcke of my meboatast nad I hdera esvoic erynab. It saw teh oittnas ameagnr nda sih luenc, eht eelrad of eth ienpiextdo. I asw diftgnri ffo to eelsp ewhn I edrah eth aernagm ysa, ‘I am as mlassrhe as a ldhic, utb I ndo’t kile to be ltod htaw to do. I’m eth naremga, girth? I swa rdereod to dsen imh ereht. It’s enlaluibeveb.’ I eradizle that tyeh ewer ndstngia besied my btoa, ustj weobl my hdae. I aws too tderi to vmoe. ‘It’s entsaunlap,’ drtenug hte eclnu. ‘He eksad eth natiimnirAdots to be setn htere,’ said hte arngema, ‘uescbae he tnwsa to wosh mhet thaw he acn do. dAn tyeh rerodde me to hlep hmi. He tusm eahv so muhc enfelcinu. It’s asmtol yrcas, isn’t it?’ Thye areedg it swa cryas. I aws fingidtr fof to eslep, so I yoln uacght tbis of eht netx few snnetcese. ‘ekMa rina dna inef waeehrt . . . eno man . . . teh ciCnuol . . . by teh eosn,’ dan so on. Hegiarn ehtse estangr tisb of sanoecnvitro owke me up. hneT I adrhe eht cueln lalyecr say, ‘ehT ecitmla mya voels oryu lsbpreom fro yuo. Is he oaeln uto teerh?’ ‘seY,’ hte rnmgeaa reidelp. ‘He snet sih istnsaats dwon the rriev to my toatsin eerh iwht a lesead etno. It idas, “deSn tsih eivld ehom nad nod’t esnd me nay rmeo emn klei imh. I’d rtaher be laeon athn evha to edal htiw the indk of nme oyu cna edns me.” athT was ermo tnha a yare aog. Waht nreve!’ ‘Hvae uyo rdeha nhaintyg mrfo mhi nseic neth?’ the necul skdea. ‘He sndes ryoiv,’ astp the gnreama. ‘Ltos of the rvye bste oryiv. Adn insoivce for it.’ yehT ewer ntagkli touab Kztur.
“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 dugout 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 dugout, 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 rumours.’ 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 competition till one of these fellows is hanged for an example,’ he said. ‘Certainly,’ grunted the other; ‘get him hanged! Why not? Anything—anything can be done 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 them all. The danger is in Europe; but there before I left I took care to—’ They moved off and whispered, then their voices rose again. ‘The extraordinary series of delays is not my fault. I did my best.’ The fat man sighed. ‘Very sad.’ ‘And the pestiferous absurdity of his talk,’ continued the other; ‘he bothered me enough when he was here. “Each station should be like a beacon on the road towards better things, a centre for trade of course, but also for humanizing, improving, instructing.” Conceive you—that ass! And he wants to be manager! No, it’s—’ Here he got choked by excessive indignation, and I lifted my head the least bit. 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 in thought. The manager was switching his leg with a slender twig: his sagacious relative lifted his head. ‘You have been well since you came out this time?’ he asked. The other gave a start. ‘Who? I? Oh! Like a charm—like a charm. But the rest—oh, my goodness! All sick. They die so quick, too, that I haven’t the time to send them out of the country—it’s incredible!’ ‘Hm’m. Just so,’ grunted the uncle. ‘Ah! my boy, trust to this—I say, trust to this.’ I saw him extend his short flipper of an arm for a gesture that took in the forest, the creek, the mud, the river—seemed to beckon with a dishonouring flourish before the sunlit face of the land a treacherous appeal to the lurking death, to the hidden evil, to the profound darkness of its heart. It was so startling that I leaped to my feet and looked back at the edge of the forest, as though I had expected an answer of some sort to that black display of confidence. You know the foolish notions that come to one sometimes. The high stillness confronted these two figures with its ominous patience, waiting for the passing away of a fantastic invasion. “I wsa dwei wakea by won, tub I swa yevr caefrobmolt inlgy heetr, so I idnd’t eomv. ‘Hwo ddi he ensd lal atth yrvoi to yuo?’ sdkae het luecn, owh medese aeditrtri batou it. eTh maragne xneaeilpd htat zurtK stne hte yivro rrwnioedv in a eftle of esacno dle by ihs lcekr. tuKrz adh aytnillii einntdde to nutrer ihwt emht, btu ertfa giernltva eth irtsf 300 seiml, he cedidde to go ackb. He did so veen ghtouh he aws omtlsa tou of ulsippse at shi isanott. He ootk rouf ineasvt itwh mhi to aedpdl hte toba nda sten eht elrck dan shi irovy on thier wya. heT geanmra nad sih necul seedme zadmea atth oynnae dwuol do ushc a hnigt. eyTh unodcl’t iegufr otu ahwt rKutz aws higkinnt. I tlfe keli I wsa tKzru orf eht sfitr item. I dha a arcel amgie of eht onle ihetw nam gnrtinu ish kcba on sih dqhrusreaaet nad ildadgpn drwoats ihs ymept oitanst tihw uorf esasvga. I nddi’t oknw why he did it. srahPpe he aws jstu a odog amn owh tkusc to shi orkw. yTeh dnah’t disa ihs nema—htey ylon lleadc mhi ‘htat nam.’ Hsi crelk, woh dah celptmoed a ilucftidf juroeny, aws eerrefrd to as ‘atth ncreulods.’ ehT ‘srdcolnue’ isad htat eht ‘nam’ dha nebe vyer sikc nad swa lyon tayripall veoercdre. heT wot nme bwloe me moedv a fwe capes ywaa. I rdeha, ‘iiyltaMr sotp...trocod...otw nuehrdd misle...etiuq nelao onw...avneboludai eldsya...enin ohntsm...no nesw...ngarset rsuomr.’ hyTe dassep nrae my abto gania, jtsu as hte magnrae aws nisyga, ‘No neo, as fra as I konw, eslnus it asw a waendnrgi rraedt tsengila rvyio rmof hte sietavn.’ ohW erwe thye ktnlgai ouatb nwo? I ghdertea mfro teh tibs I devrroaeh ttha yhte ewre frrnigere to seom anm hwo aws eusodpsp to be in uzKtr’s ttiscrid. hTe anmaegr didn’t elki ihm. ‘We’ll peke anghiv uniafr imetctooinp nitul we ahgn eon of ehtos emn as an maplxee,’ he adis. ‘Aslutolybe,’ gnetrud hte torhe. ‘aHng mhi! Why not? ouY anc do gyihnnta ouy watn in sthi tuncroy. thTa’s htwa I ysa. Ndooby rhee anc ancelhelg uoy, esaubec uoy nca adstn eth ctimlea nda ehyt nca’t. oYu ttsulao tmeh lal. hTe gnerda is akbc in urpEoe, tbu ferbeo I letf I—’ Tyeh omedv wyaa, piigshewrn, btu hten eithr eoivcs roes iaang. ‘heT atzisrec edylas. tNo my ltuaf. I did my ebts. ndA het rowts rpat is taht he wsa uhsc a naip when he swa heer. He aws lsyawa inogg on taobu ohw “chae isttoan lsudoh be a glthi on het rdao tadorw iiivalzcntoi as wlel as a dnrtgai psot, a ecnret rfo hiniuzangm nad ahgicten.” Cna yuo elebvie it? htTa skaacsj. Adn he stwan to be teh argenam! No, it’s—’ He aws too angry to ucenoitn. I loedok up dan saw ttah ehyt erew girth xnet to me. I ldouc ehav atsp on tehri saht. yheT reew tingrsa at het duogrn, ltos in htothgu. hTe ramaegn wsa bisrhung ihs gel ihwt a witg. iHs ulcne edask, ‘Haev uyo nbee nifegle lewl ceisn you eacm uto thsi mite?’ The hetor pedjmu. ‘Woh? Me? Oh, yse. I’m ehrdacm. utB teh hoerts—God, yeht’re all kcis. heyT dei so lcyikuq thta I don’t ahev eitm to desn emth tou of het crytoun. It’s baelielbenvu.’ ‘gRtih,’ dnugret hte nulce. ‘thgiR. eavLe it to tsih,’ he disa, vganiw his srhto ppfrlie of an amr at het tesorf, teh ercek, the mud, nda the vrrei. It was liek he was gcinlla to the vlei heindd in the adkr etfros, llgcani it uto to rgibn taehd to the tsniota. It was so itpngtuse that I djupem up and kelood at the efrsot ikel I xetcdeep it to eransw. Yuo ahev sylil hhgsuott liek that seoemmist, I’m urse. tBu the tllsi elnugj dmeinear ltlsi, as if it rewe iwigatn for the men to eeavl.