Heart of Darkness

by: Joseph Conrad

  Part 2 Page 14

page Part 2: Page 14

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“Poor fool! If he had only left that shutter alone. He had no restraint, no restraint—just like Kurtz—a tree swayed by the wind. As soon as I had put on a dry pair of slippers, I dragged him out, after first jerking the spear out of his side, which operation I confess I performed with my eyes shut tight. His heels leaped together over the little doorstep; his shoulders were pressed to my breast; I hugged him from behind desperately. Oh! he was heavy, heavy; heavier than any man on earth, I should imagine. Then without more ado I tipped him overboard. The current snatched him as though he had been a wisp of grass, and I saw the body roll over twice before I lost sight of it for ever. All the pilgrims and the manager were then congregated on the awning-deck about the pilot-house, chattering at each other like a flock of excited magpies, and there was a scandalized murmur at my heartless promptitude. What they wanted to keep that body hanging about for I can’t guess. Embalm it, maybe. But I had also heard another, and a very ominous, murmur on the deck below. My friends the wood-cutters were likewise scandalized, and with a better show of reason—though I admit that the reason itself was quite inadmissible. Oh, quite! I had made up my mind that if my late helmsman was to be eaten, the fishes alone should have him. He had been a very second-rate helmsman while alive, but now he was dead he might have become a first-class temptation, and possibly cause some startling trouble. Besides, I was anxious to take the wheel, the man in pink pyjamas showing himself a hopeless duffer at the business. “Poor fool! If only he hadn’t opened the shutter. He had no restraint, just like Kurtz. He was like a tree swayed by the wind. After I changed my shoes, I dragged his body out and removed the spear. I carried his body close to mine. Oh, he was so heavy. Then without any fuss I dropped him overboard. The current carried him away like a blade of grass. His body rolled over twice before disappearing forever. All the agents and the manager were on the deck at the time, and some of them thought I was heartless for tossing his body over so quickly. I can’t imagine why they wanted to keep the body hanging around. Maybe they wanted to embalm it. I heard some complaints from below deck as well, from the native woodcutters. Too bad. I had made up my mind that if the helmsman was going to be eaten, it would be by fish, not men. I was worried that his body would be too much temptation to the men on board. Besides, I was anxious to take the wheel since the agent in pajamas was doing a terrible job at it.
“This I did directly the simple funeral was over. We were going half-speed, keeping right in the middle of the stream, and I listened to the talk about me. They had given up Kurtz, they had given up the station; Kurtz was dead, and the station had been burnt—and so on—and so on. The red-haired pilgrim was beside himself with the thought that at least this poor Kurtz had been properly avenged. ‘Say! We must have made a glorious slaughter of them in the bush. Eh? What do you think? Say?’ He positively danced, the bloodthirsty little gingery beggar. And he had nearly fainted when he saw the wounded man! I could not help saying, ‘You made a glorious lot of smoke, anyhow.’ I had seen, from the way the tops of the bushes rustled and flew, that almost all the shots had gone too high. You can’t hit anything unless you take aim and fire from the shoulder; but these chaps fired from the hip with their eyes shut. The retreat, I maintained—and I was right—was caused by the screeching of the steam whistle. Upon this they forgot Kurtz, and began to howl at me with indignant protests. “I returned to the wheel as soon as I was finished with the body. We were going right up the middle of the river. I listened to the agents nearby, who were certain that Kurtz was dead and the station burnt to the ground. The redheaded agent was just happy we’d avenged Kurtz by blasting away at the natives on the shore. He practically danced with glee at the ‘glorious slaughter’ we had caused. Of course, he had almost fainted when he saw the helmsman’s body. I couldn’t help saying, ‘You made a glorious amount of smoke, anyway.’ I could see that most of their shots had missed. They’d been shooting from the hip with their eyes shut. I knew that our attackers ran away because of the steam whistle. After I told them this, they forgot about Kurtz and started screaming at me in protest.