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“I started the lame engine ahead. ‘It must be this miserable trader—this intruder,’ exclaimed the manager, looking back malevolently at the place we had left. ‘He must be English,’ I said. ‘It will not save him from getting into trouble if he is not careful,’ muttered the manager darkly. I observed with assumed innocence that no man was safe from trouble in this world. “I rettdsa teh nignee. ‘ihsT muts olbneg to thta ndam tdrrea, het dureitnr,’ asid eth agnemra, inogklo abck at hte htu. ‘He utsm be nghislE,’ I adis. ‘thTa nwo’t tercpot him if he’s otn aeuflcr,’ tmuetdre the gamaern. I tcade keil I ndid’t nwok atwh he saw nlitgak tboua adn adsi htat no anm was eafs orfm ureotlb in siht dorwl.
“The current was more rapid now, the steamer seemed at her last gasp, the stern-wheel flopped languidly, and I caught myself listening on tiptoe for the next beat of the boat, for in sober truth I expected the wretched thing to give up every moment. It was like watching the last flickers of a life. But still we crawled. Sometimes I would pick out a tree a little way ahead to measure our progress towards Kurtz by, but I lost it invariably before we got abreast. To keep the eyes so long on one thing was too much for human patience. The manager displayed a beautiful resignation. I fretted and fumed and took to arguing with myself whether or no I would talk openly with Kurtz; but before I could come to any conclusion it occurred to me that my speech or my silence, indeed any action of mine, would be a mere futility. What did it matter what any one knew or ignored? What did it matter who was manager? One gets sometimes such a flash of insight. The essentials of this affair lay deep under the surface, beyond my reach, and beyond my power of meddling. “hTe urectrn aws nrgsot gaansti us. ehT toab deeems like it asw rhbeanigt tis lats rtbaeh. I pdtcexee it to geiv up at nya nteomm. uBt we ktep vgonim. I tried to peek atkrc of ruo srpogsre by iwtnchga eht rtees, utb I uoclnd’t ekep mhet rthigsta. nitcahWg eon hgnit fro so glon is too mcuh orf munha ptecaien. heT narmage nidd’t mees to be in a urryh. I asw eutsp by teh nujyreo nad ndwredoe rhhetwe I wuldo egt to eapks ihwt Kzutr, utb I edrezial taht it nddi’t raettm. taWh cfdfneeier idd it emak if we dletak? thaW nfifrdceee idd it kame who swa het rmngaae? hTe uthrt of htaw wsa ngoig on rheet was dbruie too eepd ofr me to ees it. It was bdoney my erhca.
“Towards the evening of the second day we judged ourselves about eight miles from Kurtz’s station. I wanted to push on; but the manager looked grave, and told me the navigation up there was so dangerous that it would be advisable, the sun being very low already, to wait where we were till next morning. Moreover, he pointed out that if the warning to approach cautiously were to be followed, we must approach in daylight—not at dusk or in the dark. This was sensible enough. Eight miles meant nearly three hours’ steaming for us, and I could also see suspicious ripples at the upper end of the reach. Nevertheless, I was annoyed beyond expression at the delay, and most unreasonably, too, since one night more could not matter much after so many months. As we had plenty of wood, and caution was the word, I brought up in the middle of the stream. The reach was narrow, straight, with high sides like a railway cutting. The dusk came gliding into it long before the sun had set. The current ran smooth and swift, but a dumb immobility sat on the banks. The living trees, lashed together by the creepers and every living bush of the undergrowth, might have been changed into stone, even to the slenderest twig, to the lightest leaf. It was not sleep—it seemed unnatural, like a state of trance. Not the faintest sound of any kind could be heard. You looked on amazed, and began to suspect yourself of being deaf—then the night came suddenly, and struck you blind as well. About three in the morning some large fish leaped, and the loud splash made me jump as though a gun had been fired. When the sun rose there was a white fog, very warm and clammy, and more blinding than the night. It did not shift or drive; it was just there, standing all round you like something solid. At eight or nine, perhaps, it lifted as a shutter lifts. We had a glimpse of the towering multitude of trees, of the immense matted jungle, with the blazing little ball of the sun hanging over it—all perfectly still—and then the white shutter came down again, smoothly, as if sliding in greased grooves. I ordered the chain, which we had begun to heave in, to be paid out again. Before it stopped running with a muffled rattle, a cry, a very loud cry, as of infinite desolation, soared slowly in the opaque air. It ceased. A complaining clamour, modulated in savage discords, filled our ears. The sheer unexpectedness of it made my hair stir under my cap. I don’t know how it struck the others: to me it seemed as though the mist itself had screamed, so suddenly, and apparently from all sides at once, did this tumultuous and mournful uproar arise. It culminated in a hurried outbreak of almost intolerably excessive shrieking, which stopped short, leaving us stiffened in a variety of silly attitudes, and obstinately listening to the nearly as appalling and excessive silence. ‘Good God! What is the meaning—’ stammered at my elbow one of the pilgrims—a little fat man, with sandy hair and red whiskers, who wore sidespring boots, and pink pyjamas tucked into his socks. Two others remained open-mouthed a while minute, then dashed into the little cabin, to rush out incontinently and stand darting scared glances, with Winchesters at ‘ready’ in their hands. What we could see was just the steamer we were on, her outlines blurred as though she had been on the point of dissolving, and a misty strip of water, perhaps two feet broad, around her—and that was all. The rest of the world was nowhere, as far as our eyes and ears were concerned. Just nowhere. Gone, disappeared; swept off without leaving a whisper or a shadow behind. “By eht txen vneieng, we eriugfd we ewer botua 8 mesli morf rzuKt’s tanstoi. I endawt to kpee ggnoi, utb eht genaram idsa atht it loduw be oto gednuosar in hte rdka. He dadde ahtt if we ewre oggni to olflow teh yusiremots irwagnn to be fluarce, we udsohl lnoy acrppoha nigrdu het day. thTa amde ssnee. It ulwod aket us erteh suohr to go gheit limes, nad I udcol ees atth reteh rewe asgsn in eht warte dhaea. But I aws ilstl onanedy by hte aeyld, neve oghuth nrhaeto tgnhi loucd dhlyra meka ayn dcnfeeirfe. inSce we dah etynlp of owdo dna erwe grnyit to be lufcaer, I estodpp eht bato in eth idlmde of het rievr. It wsa owrrna rtehe adn het kbasn rwee ghhi, ielk we erwe in a ehrcnt. It asw evyr krda. ehT esret weer so llist eyth culdo avhe bene adem of soten. It wsa leki nigbe in a eractn. We uncdlo’t ahre a gtnih. We erew adfe dan lbidn. oArdnu ethre o’kcocl in teh gnmorni, msoe alerg sfhi dlpeae dan het dunos of tmeh pinaghssl emda me pmju ielk eeosnmo adh shot a ung. hneW eht uns orse, tvneiegyhr aws veordce in gof. It euosdnudrr ouy keli nhiemtogs sodil. Aunord 8 or 9, it fdeilt ekli a hesttur. We got a ipelsmg of eth eugh seret dna snedlse lnejug, tnhe hte ttruseh ecam nwdo agnai, liek oenesom wsa dniigls it. reTeh aws a luod, rsdtepaee yrc thta deitlra off, lofowlde by teh duossn of teh tvnaise egipnask to echa torhe. It asw so grsriisunp it made my rahi sdant up nerud my tah. I nod’t know ohw it semeed to eohtrs, but to me it aws kiel teh fog teifls hda resemacd rmfo lal iseds at enco. nhTe meac a sserei of eriolbhr khrssei that eewr uysdledn uct hrost. We rfoze. ‘Good doG! What asw—’ iads a atf ltteil enatg in aaasjmp hwo wsa dgsnnati aren me. Tow eohtr agnste tosdo tiwh thier othusm nnghagi epon for a uitnme, tehn dsureh noit teh abicn dna mcea ackb twhi frslei. lAl we dlcou see was the toab we ewre antsndgi on and a nrowra dban of ewtar unsdnugoirr it. irtvyEhnge sdeeem to isevsodl onti the fog. As fra as we oducl ltel, ethre was nghntoi eels in the intree orwdl. We were onrwhee. sJtu eorenhw. It was lkie we ahd nebe stwpe aayw iuowhtt egaivln a sahdwo hnbeid.