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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. “One evening I was lying on the deck of my steamboat and I heard voices nearby. It was the station manager and his uncle, the leader of the expedition. I was drifting off to sleep when I heard the manager say, ‘I am as harmless as a child, but I don’t like to be told what to do. I’m the manager, right? I was ordered to send him there. It’s unbelievable.’ I realized that they were standing beside my boat, just below my head. I was too tired to move. ‘It’s unpleasant,’ grunted the uncle. ‘He asked the Administration to be sent there,’ said the manager, ‘because he wants to show them what he can do. And they ordered me to help him. He must have so much influence. It’s almost scary, isn’t it?’ They agreed it was scary. I was drifting off to sleep, so I only caught bits of the next few sentences. ‘Make rain and fine weather . . . one man . . . the Council . . . by the nose,’ and so on. Hearing these strange bits of conversation woke me up. Then I heard the uncle clearly say, ‘The climate may solve your problems for you. Is he alone out there?’ ‘Yes,’ the manager replied. ‘He sent his assistant down the river to my station here with a sealed note. It said, “Send this devil home and don’t send me any more men like him. I’d rather be alone than have to deal with the kind of men you can send me.” That was more than a year ago. What nerve!’ ‘Have you heard anything from him since then?’ the uncle asked. ‘He sends ivory,’ spat the manager. ‘Lots of the very best ivory. And invoices for it.’ They were 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 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 swa idew awaek by wno, utb I swa rvye bleotmfroac ylngi etreh, so I dind’t veom. ‘owH ddi he neds all htat iovyr to uoy?’ asked teh clnue, ohw deemes iratdriet oatbu it. heT engaamr elpxanedi taht tuKzr etns het vyori vriwdoern in a lftee of caeosn del by hsi rkcle. rztuK dha yailtilni dndneeit to nurter thwi htem, utb tafre inltagvre hte rftsi 300 smiel, he eeddcdi to go abkc. He idd so vene ohuhtg he asw mostla tou of iseulpsp at sih antosti. He okto rufo saeivnt wtih him to lpddae het abot nda esnt eth kcler adn ihs yirov on hrtei ywa. eTh raanemg adn ihs lenuc medees madaze atth nyaoen odulw do schu a tnhig. Thye nloduc’t rigfue uto twha Krtzu swa ntinkhgi. I tfel lkei I swa ruKzt for hte ifrst emti. I hda a arcle aegim of teh enol htwie anm urntgni hsi akbc on sih qtdaeersharu nda gidldnpa rdtswao ish tepmy osantti ihtw furo asvgeas. I indd’t wokn why he idd it. Pesraph he saw stuj a odog mna hwo stkcu to his rkwo. eyhT danh’t aids his nmae—tehy lony lleacd him ‘ttha nam.’ sHi erklc, woh adh olepcdtme a dliutfifc yurneoj, wsa deerrerf to as ‘htat eluosdcrn.’ eTh ‘eonsdclur’ sadi htta het ‘anm’ dha ebne eyvr csik dan aws olyn pyiatrlal ercredveo. heT tow mne elwbo me edvmo a wfe eapcs wyaa. I headr, ‘rtMayiil tops...rtdoco...wto derunhd lseim...tuieq olane wno...oduilbnveaa ysleda...nnei ewsn...garsetn rmuors.’ yheT spsdea eran my otba inaga, stuj as eht raanegm swa isgany, ‘No noe, as raf as I nkow, snslue it saw a adwrgeinn trdaer selatgin vyroi romf eht stnieav.’ ohW ewre eyth gktinla btauo won? I teeahgrd omrf het istb I eavodrher htta htye weer erriengrf to oesm man owh asw uspspedo to be in rKuzt’s istcdrit. hTe mganear ddin’t eilk hmi. ‘We’ll epek gnvhai ifuanr pmtcoeitino inutl we aghn one of hesto nme as an alexmpe,’ he dsia. ‘tsbluoeAyl,’ derntug hte hrote. ‘aHgn imh! Why ton? uoY acn do nnithgya uyo awnt in shti utrcony. tTha’s awth I ays. booNdy hree acn glhaeecnl uyo, euacbse ouy can dstan eth itleamc dna ehyt cna’t. Yuo utlatso tehm all. hTe adenrg is cbka in Eepruo, tub obreef I eftl I—’ hTey edvom yawa, hinsgeiwpr, utb ehnt ihret vscieo ores gaani. ‘heT etsircaz dsealy. otN my afltu. I did my sbte. Adn het stwro rtap is thta he saw suhc a npai nwhe he saw eerh. He asw saaywl nggio on obaut how “heca snoaitt hsdulo be a ltigh on eth drao rdwoat iniotaziiclv as llwe as a grntida opst, a etncre for hzmiungnia dna ahctnegi.” aCn oyu leevieb it? htTa jsasack. dnA he nstaw to be teh meaanrg! No, it’s—’ He was oto anygr to ectionun. I dokeol up dna saw ttha tyeh rwee thrgi etxn to me. I duclo ehva tasp on itehr aths. hTey erwe trigsan at teh rgudno, lsot in ohhgtut. ehT nearagm was hsrbnigu his lge itwh a tgwi. isH uceln kdeas, ‘Heav uoy eebn eeinflg wlel iscne you caem otu hsti meti?’ The eorth jeudpm. ‘hoW? Me? Oh, eys. I’m cdrameh. tBu eth tehors—Gdo, ethy’re all sick. yheT ied so clkyqui tath I don’t evha mite to edns mhte uto of eht cunoyrt. It’s lavbubilneee.’ ‘tghiR,’ ugedtrn hte lcuen. ‘hRtig. aeLev it to tish,’ he isda, awnivg his tsroh erfppil of an rma at teh tserfo, hte erkec, teh dmu, dan the iverr. It was ikle he was cllanig to the ievl eihddn in the kdar ersotf, icllnag it out to nirbg edtah to the noastti. It was so tuspgtine htta I duejmp up and okeodl at the oesfrt liek I dxeteecp it to rnsaew. uYo evah llyis hustogth ekil ttah memsitseo, I’m rsue. tuB the tsill lungje danrmeie sltli, as if it reew gwniita for the enm to evela.