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“Some fifty miles below the Inner Station we came upon a hut of reeds, an inclined and melancholy pole, with the unrecognizable tatters of what had been a flag of some sort flying from it, and a neatly stacked wood-pile. This was unexpected. We came to the bank, and on the stack of firewood found a flat piece of board with some faded pencil-writing on it. When deciphered it said: ‘Wood for you. Hurry up. Approach cautiously.’ There was a signature, but it was illegible—not Kurtz—a much longer word. ‘Hurry up.’ Where? Up the river? ‘Approach cautiously.’ We had not done so. But the warning could not have been meant for the place where it could be only found after approach. Something was wrong above. But what— and how much? That was the question. We commented adversely upon the imbecility of that telegraphic style. The bush around said nothing, and would not let us look very far, either. A torn curtain of red twill hung in the doorway of the hut, and flapped sadly in our faces. The dwelling was dismantled; but we could see a white man had lived there not very long ago. There remained a rude table—a plank on two posts; a heap of rubbish reposed in a dark corner, and by the door I picked up a book. It had lost its covers, and the pages had been thumbed into a state of extremely dirty softness; but the back had been lovingly stitched afresh with white cotton thread, which looked clean yet. It was an extraordinary find. Its title was, An Inquiry into some Points of Seamanship, by a man Towser, Towson—some such name—Master in his Majesty’s Navy. The matter looked dreary reading enough, with illustrative diagrams and repulsive tables of figures, and the copy was sixty years old. I handled this amazing antiquity with the greatest possible tenderness, lest it should dissolve in my hands. Within, Towson or Towser was inquiring earnestly into the breaking strain of ships’ chains and tackle, and other such matters. Not a very enthralling book; but at the first glance you could see there a singleness of intention, an honest concern for the right way of going to work, which made these humble pages, thought out so many years ago, luminous with another than a professional light. The simple old sailor, with his talk of chains and purchases, made me forget the jungle and the pilgrims in a delicious sensation of having come upon something unmistakably real. Such a book being there was wonderful enough; but still more astounding were the notes pencilled in the margin, and plainly referring to the text. I couldn’t believe my eyes! They were in cipher! Yes, it looked like cipher. Fancy a man lugging with him a book of that description into this nowhere and studying it—and making notes—in cipher at that! It was an extravagant mystery. “tFify emils rfom hte nrIen Sttonia we weer dsieurspr to ese a teltil uht ihtw a tettdare agfl in nortf. We pldleu up to het bnak to iestaveigtn. We dunof a drbao sigrnte on a iple of oiwrdoef. On it asw rintwet ‘odWo rof oyu. Huryr up. Be eualcfr.’ ehrTe wsa a rauntsige, btu we unlcdo’t aekm it otu. It nswa’t Kurzt’s, toguhh. It aws oto ogln to be ihs. ‘Hurry up.’ Wrehe? Up hte irerv? ‘Be lfeuarc.’ We weern’t enbig ucfarle enwh we peuldl up to hte tnaoits. heT irnanwg tmsu hvae nebe egrrfnire to oems reoht lacep. hotSmnegi saw rwong up eth verri. tuB tahw? ahTt saw hte qniuoest. We keodlo anurod rbenya, btu het gunejl asw too kcthi to ese revy fra. erhTe wsa a tonr erd ituarnc ghginan in eth yaoowrd of hte thu. It saw nflagli aaptr, utb we cdluo ees htat a ewiht nam dah deivl trhee etnylrce. reeTh asw a etlba, a epil of shtar in teh crnore, nda a boko on hte roflo. It indd’t evah any rsocve nda teh ageps ewer tidry adn owrn ofrm gneib eumbhtd uogthhr, tub eht dbginin ahd bnee etrycenl enerdo by a lcuaefr nadh. It asw an dlnbiirece gthin to fdni. It wsa dalcle An niqryuI iton moSe stoinP of Seamanship, by a vlana ofrefic emnad Twsore or nTswoo or osgmeihnt leik ahtt. It saw 60 aerys old nda eloodk iekl a nobrgi edra, ullf of lesabt adn rascth. I lhed it elfcaruly, afaidr it luowd alfl prtaa in my hnads. It answ’t a yver xtngicie bkoo, but you colud see that it was inrtetw by somenoe eryv veetodd to his owkr. It was a bkoo itwh a ppsoure. gpnilpFi htoruhg it mdae me efgrto eht gelunj dna the eanstg dna fele ekil I adh come sraosc nhmeiogst rael. zAaimglyn, esenoom ahd teiwrnt enots in odce in the srgnima. mIiange nmoeose nuigggl a ookb iekl sith into the eujnlg and thne inirwgt obtua it in odec! It was urlty a syrmtye.
“I had been dimly aware for some time of a worrying noise, and when I lifted my eyes I saw the wood-pile was gone, and the manager, aided by all the pilgrims, was shouting at me from the riverside. I slipped the book into my pocket. I assure you to leave off reading was like tearing myself away from the shelter of an old and solid friendship. “I drhae some mnmvoete rnbaey, nad I oloedk up to see taht hte aagrnem adn hte eangst reew cabk on teh taob. eTyh dha anket lla of het rewoifod on dbaor. I slpipde hte okob oint my cepotk. guittnP the obko waay saw klie nlavgei an lod rfedni.