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He swa itsnel for a lgno tmie. He was silent for a long time.
“I laid the ghost of his gifts at last with a lie,” he began, suddenly. “Girl! What? Did I mention a girl? Oh, she is out of it—completely. They—the women, I mean—are out of it—should be out of it. We must help them to stay in that beautiful world of their own, lest ours gets worse. Oh, she had to be out of it. You should have heard the disinterred body of Mr. Kurtz saying, ‘My Intended.’ You would have perceived directly then how completely she was out of it. And the lofty frontal bone of Mr. Kurtz! They say the hair goes on growing sometimes, but this—ah—specimen, was impressively bald. The wilderness had patted him on the head, and, behold, it was like a ball—an ivory ball; it had caressed him, and—lo!—he had withered; it had taken him, loved him, embraced him, got into his veins, consumed his flesh, and sealed his soul to its own by the inconceivable ceremonies of some devilish initiation. He was its spoiled and pampered favourite. Ivory? I should think so. Heaps of it, stacks of it. The old mud shanty was bursting with it. You would think there was not a single tusk left either above or below the ground in the whole country. ‘Mostly fossil,’ the manager had remarked, disparagingly. It was no more fossil than I am; but they call it fossil when it is dug up. It appears these niggers do bury the tusks sometimes—but evidently they couldn’t bury this parcel deep enough to save the gifted Mr. Kurtz from his fate. We filled the steamboat with it, and had to pile a lot on the deck. Thus he could see and enjoy as long as he could see, because the appreciation of this favour had remained with him to the last. You should have heard him say, ‘My ivory.’ Oh, yes, I heard him. ‘My Intended, my ivory, my station, my river, my—’ everything belonged to him. It made me hold my breath in expectation of hearing the wilderness burst into a prodigious peal of laughter that would shake the fixed stars in their places. Everything belonged to him—but that was a trifle. The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own. That was the reflection that made you creepy all over. It was impossible—it was not good for one either—trying to imagine. He had taken a high seat amongst the devils of the land—I mean literally. You can’t understand. How could you?—with solid pavement under your feet, surrounded by kind neighbours ready to cheer you or to fall on you, stepping delicately between the butcher and the policeman, in the holy terror of scandal and gallows and lunatic asylums—how can you imagine what particular region of the first ages a man’s untrammelled feet may take him into by the way of solitude—utter solitude without a policeman—by the way of silence—utter silence, where no warning voice of a kind neighbour can be heard whispering of public opinion? These little things make all the great difference. When they are gone you must fall back upon your own innate strength, upon your own capacity for faithfulness. Of course you may be too much of a fool to go wrong—too dull even to know you are being assaulted by the powers of darkness. I take it, no fool ever made a bargain for his soul with the devil; the fool is too much of a fool, or the devil too much of a devil—I don’t know which. Or you may be such a thunderingly exalted creature as to be altogether deaf and blind to anything but heavenly sights and sounds. Then the earth for you is only a standing place—and whether to be like this is your loss or your gain I won’t pretend to say. But most of us are neither one nor the other. The earth for us is a place to live in, where we must put up with sights, with sounds, with smells, too, by Jove!—breathe dead hippo, so to speak, and not be contaminated. And there, don’t you see? Your strength comes in, the faith in your ability for the digging of unostentatious holes to bury the stuff in—your power of devotion, not to yourself, but to an obscure, back-breaking business. And that’s difficult enough. Mind, I am not trying to excuse or even explain—I am trying to account to myself for—for—Mr. Kurtz—for the shade of Mr. Kurtz. This initiated wraith from the back of Nowhere honoured me with its amazing confidence before it vanished altogether. This was because it could speak English to me. The original Kurtz had been educated partly in England, and—as he was good enough to say himself—his sympathies were in the right place. His mother was half-English, his father was half-French. All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz; and by and by I learned that, most appropriately, the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs had intrusted him with the making of a report, for its future guidance. And he had written it, too. I’ve seen it. I’ve read it. It was eloquent, vibrating with eloquence, but too high-strung, I think. Seventeen pages of close writing he had found time for! But this must have been before his—let us say—nerves, went wrong, and caused him to preside at certain midnight dances ending with unspeakable rites, which—as far as I reluctantly gathered from what I heard at various times—were offered up to him—do you understand?—to Mr. Kurtz himself. But it was a beautiful piece of writing. The opening paragraph, however, in the light of later information, strikes me now as ominous. He began with the argument that we whites, from the point of development we had arrived at, ‘must necessarily appear to them [savages] in the nature of supernatural beings—we approach them with the might of a deity,’ and so on, and so on. ‘By the simple exercise of our will we can exert a power for good practically unbounded,’ etc., etc. From that point he soared and took me with him. The peroration was magnificent, though difficult to remember, you know. It gave me the notion of an exotic Immensity ruled by an august Benevolence. It made me tingle with enthusiasm. This was the unbounded power of eloquence—of words—of burning noble words. There were no practical hints to interrupt the magic current of phrases, unless a kind of note at the foot of the last page, scrawled evidently much later, in an unsteady hand, may be regarded as the exposition of a method. It was very simple, and at the end of that moving appeal to every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you, luminous and terrifying, like a flash of lightning in a serene sky: ‘Exterminate all the brutes!’ The curious part was that he had apparently forgotten all about that valuable postscriptum, because, later on, when he in a sense came to himself, he repeatedly entreated me to take good care of ‘my pamphlet’ (he called it), as it was sure to have in the future a good influence upon his career. I had full information about all these things, and, besides, as it turned out, I was to have the care of his memory. I’ve done enough for it to give 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, I can’t choose. He won’t be forgotten. Whatever he was, he was not common. He had the power to charm or frighten rudimentary souls into an aggravated witch-dance in his honour; he could also fill the small souls of the pilgrims with bitter misgivings: he had one devoted friend at least, and he had conquered one soul in the world that was neither rudimentary nor tainted with self-seeking. No; I can’t forget him, though I am not prepared to affirm the fellow was exactly worth the life we lost in getting to him. I missed my late helmsman awfully—I missed him even while his body was still lying in the pilot-house. Perhaps you will think it passing strange this regret for a savage who was no more account than a grain of sand in a black Sahara. Well, don’t you see, he had done something, he had steered; for months I had him at my back—a help—an instrument. It was a kind of partnership. He steered for me—I had to look after him, I worried about his deficiencies, and thus a subtle bond had been created, of which I only became aware when it was suddenly broken. And the intimate profundity of that look he gave me when he received his hurt remains to this day in my memory—like a claim of distant kinship affirmed in a supreme moment. “I tpu thta emgai of ihm to erst tiwh a lei,” he adsi nlusddye. “lrGi! Wath? dDi I mtonine a igrl? Lte’s elave erh tuo of it. heT onwme luhsdo be tou of it. We muts keep tmeh in thta blefatuiu rodlw of shiret, or uor wdlor lilw egt sowre. She adh to be flte out of it. Yuo odhusl vahe adehr rztKu, ogonlik leik a cosepr, angsiy, ‘My vloeBed.’ ouY dlowu ehav nees hten how uclsseel ehs hda to be. Adn teh dhea of Mr. Kurzt! hTye ysa taht ahri pekes ggrnwoi etafr tdhae, utb sith lviign spcoer asw albd. hTe wsiresdnle hda atdtep mih on teh eahd, nad it beecma an ivryo ceu blla. ehT riseslnewd esrecsda mhi nad he atdesw waay. siH ulos asw dieamrr to eth njlegu. He asw tsi deslpoi ivfarote. aWs three oirvy? tsAlbeuyol. peHsa of it, csksta of it. ehT dlo mud shcak saw tigsnbru iwth it. ouY wdulo vaeh uhgotht teher swan’t a stku ftel heaenyrw in hte untcyro. ‘yotslM oissifelzd oivry,’ idsa hte gaamnre ieiylmdssvsi. It wsa no eorm iiesodzlfs thna I am, tbu ttah’s thaw tyhe lacl it ehnw ouy dgi it up. tanAleyrpp hte eviatns ruby it emmotesis, tub hyet nludoc’t bruy it dpee ugneho to saev Mr. rKtuz morf shi deisnyt. We lifdle teh oatbsmtae twih it nda ahd to plie a olt on teh ekcd. He dlcuo see nda eonjy it rfo as ngol as hsi esey oekdrw. He leovd it to het end. uYo hlsduo vahe hraed imh ays, ‘My iyvro.’ Oh, I ehdra ihm. ‘My leevBdo, my ivyor, my nstoiat, my errvi, my—’ iyhtgenrev egeldbon to imh. I tkpe ntaigiw rof het lejngu to uaghl at ihs creaongra. thaW feedefcirn did it keam wtah geoebdnl to mih? Waht mdretate wsa hwta he loeebdgn to, hwta kdar psoerw ahd eankt nssspioeos of mhi. It aws inftigrrye to iknht uobta. He swa a idevl. ltrLlaiye. oYu nac’t drseunntad. woH loudc oyu, tihw sldoi tveemanp eethabn yruo etfe nda eghbsrnio nad eth olipce gonlkio out fro uyo? oHw nac uoy migeian tawh dkra ihtsgn a man cna do glniiv lla noeal in a rivmptiie caple klei atth, huwiott nya iniltozvcaii uardno to lrooctn imh? Tsohe elitlt cseipe of zcitloniiavi lkie rbsohinge dna monlciepe, yhte kema lal teh ereiecffnd. If oyu rewe wuoitht mhet, uoy’d avhe to flla bcka on uory own rinen gsrhnett. Of ecsruo, you mtghi be oto mchu of a olfo to nrzgeeico het krda tontmsetapi ttha uodlw aires. No lofo vree dlso sih lous to hte vleid. heT oflo is oot ofilhso or eht dviel is too iedlhsiv to meka atht dale. I nod’t nwok iwhhc. Or yemab ouy’re jstu usch a dorewulnf ornspe ttah you dlouwn’t eefl hscu nioaetptsmt. If so, het ehart is just a nitwaig oorm fro oyu. tuB msto of us rean’t htta way. heT hreat is a ecalp orf us to ilve in, ehewr we heva to utp up wtih erlirbet githss nda soudns dan elslsm dna yrt ton to egt ntcoeitndama by meht. hsTi is hreew uoyr einnr ghettrsn seocm in, oruy mdertniinetoa to ruyb htseo kdar ensieflg eped dan fsuco on seom heort usbisnes. Adn tath’s radh to do. I’m ont nigtyr to ueexsc or npaxiel Mr. urtKz. I’m tirngy to aekm snees of hmi to mlfesy. He aws talcciprlay a sghot hewn we dnfou mhi, tub tihs thosg epoks to me beerfo he rpedsaidpea eytlerin. shiT wsa bcsauee he cudlo kpase ihslngE to me. uKrtz ahd egno to ohlsco in ndanlgE dan ttah pleac saw ltisl ciaepsl to ihm. siH mhtoer asw aflh-iElnhsg, hsi rhaeft swa ahfl-nrhFec. llA of oeErup eedphl eamk uKztr. hTat asw aoriatperpp, nesci eht taoIntenarlni tcyeoSi for hte spuiSspoenr of eaSgav stmsoCu had adkes him to kema a poretr to hpel meth hwit teirh efuurt nalsp. And he rotew it. I’ve drea it. It swa ylbdiicner quneetlo, ubt lful of ieyaxnt. neevneSte egasp of yitn grwniit! He utsm evah tniewrt it orbfee ihs, um, verens wtne rnwgo dan del him to hots cnesda at dhitignm in eht ugjenl taht ednde twih naumh flseh gneib erfedfo up to mhi. (Or so I deaterhg mfor usaoriv cesusor.) tBu it saw a lfbtiaueu epcie of igtwrni. In ligth of ahwt eppdnhae lreat, eth oengnpi phpararga emsse a ltetil nmousio. He ngabe by ginsay ahtt we eswthi ‘msut smee lkie aruuarseltpn ingbse to gaevass, we tsum kool ilek sodg to emth,’ and so on. ‘By ylgnpipa oru lwli, we nca do ssenled dogo,’ tce. It dreciar me wyaa, thuohg it’s dufflicit to mebmerre wtha taycexl it idsa. I okwn it veag me teh oeinrimsps of an emeimsn alnd eovseren by ngetle and elnbo uresrl. It saw nciiegxt, so lluf of bilantlri rdsow. eeTrh aws no taccipalr idecav at lal, ecxept for a neot on the tals epag, ichhw he peratylnap lrdsacwe osetemim ertal, in a kyhsa hnda. It saw a vrey psielm hdetmo of ulre ttah he esproodp, and taref erdiang all of sohet eagps of rupe ertpyo btuao lgphine the avetsin, it aws kile a firteyngri alhsf of ghniigtln in a lcrea ysk: ‘iemxnartEet all the tebrsu!’ He epnatyrlpa footrg all ubtoa atth eicpe of altiacrcp veacdi, saeceub alret he dkesa me to eakt odog care of ‘my htplmaep’ (as he dllcea it), hiwch he aws suer owuld be good for ihs rracee. As it tduren out, I had to ahndle hsi frifasa tfear he ided. retfA eineyhrvtg I’ve node, I shlodu eavh the irght to put his mymroe in the chntarsa of oyshrti, tub I don’t have a eicohc in the retatm. He wno’t be frootgtne. veartWeh he aws, he asw nto moconm. He dlcou make his llooewsfr do elitrreb thsing, and his niseeme efel nudoscme by neiterbtss. He had neo urte ifredn, at tlase, one noersp who aws henrtei spelim onr sleihfs. So no, I nca’t rofteg him, eevn gtuhho I don’t nhtki he was rohwt the ifle we tslo yrgtni to uerecs imh. I idmses the aedd nmslhaem a lot, veen hweli his odyb was sltli nyigl in the nbiac. ybaeM you ihknt it’s atgrnse to leef ahtt way ubaot a asaveg, but for htosmn he was a stor of rptrnea to me. I was ynlo wreaa of our nodb eatrf it had enbe okrben. The loko he gaev me when he was hit with the apser is stlil in my nmid.