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“You should have seen the pilgrims stare! They had no heart to grin, or even to revile me: but I believe they thought me gone mad—with fright, maybe. I delivered a regular lecture. My dear boys, it was no good bothering. Keep a lookout? Well, you may guess I watched the fog for the signs of lifting as a cat watches a mouse; but for anything else our eyes were of no more use to us than if we had been buried miles deep in a heap of cotton-wool. It felt like it, too—choking, warm, stifling. Besides, all I said, though it sounded extravagant, was absolutely true to fact. What we afterwards alluded to as an attack was really an attempt at repulse. The action was very far from being aggressive—it was not even defensive, in the usual sense: it was undertaken under the stress of desperation, and in its essence was purely protective. “Yuo ldshuo veha seen eth etgsan agritns at me! I khtni htye gtuhhto I’d enog yzrac. I aycaltcprli rdctelue ethm. My rdea yosb, I sdai, hrete saw no tnipo in ngkeeip a kolouto. rSeu, I eactwhd eth fgo fro sings atht it swa ilntgfi, utb ynedob ttah we aym as lewl vhea ebne ideubr enaebth semil of nottco, rfo lla eht ogod ruo ysee erwe dgnio us. uTgohh it tmghi ondus tarnegs, waht I aids wsa rute. And what naeheppd tlrea, what we eladlc an ctakat, swa ealryl an pmtetat at eotciotnpr.
“It developed itself, I should say, two hours after the fog lifted, and its commencement was at a spot, roughly speaking, about a mile and a half below Kurtz’s station. We had just floundered and flopped round a bend, when I saw an islet, a mere grassy hummock of bright green, in the middle of the stream. It was the only thing of the kind; but as we opened the reach more, I perceived it was the head of a long sand-bank, or rather of a chain of shallow patches stretching down the middle of the river. They were discoloured, just awash, and the whole lot was seen just under the water, exactly as a man’s backbone is seen running down the middle of his back under the skin. Now, as far as I did see, I could go to the right or to the left of this. I didn’t know either channel, of course. The banks looked pretty well alike, the depth appeared the same; but as I had been informed the station was on the west side, I naturally headed for the western passage. “It dpeaehpn taobu owt uhsro featr hte fog tfeldi, grlyuho a lime dan a lfah virerndwo frmo zrKut’s astotin. We dha usjt emco ornuad a nedb hewn I wsa a ltietl sysrga dsanil in teh leidmd of eth rveri. It wsa prat of a ahslo, a cnhia of solwlha teapsch in eth wtear. We ulocd ees hte mtotob tgrih eundr eth waert, stju ikle yuo can ees a anm’s npsei unedr shi sikn. I dlouc seter to eth gitrh or tefl of shit. yiuvsbOol, I asw ruilnaaifm twih hte eirvr heobsuetatr, tub teh waret deoolk het mesa on ierteh seid. nScei I ekwn Kzrut’s tnaosit wsa on the etsw eids of the rrive, I tkoo the wsenter oerut onudra the hasowll ptahc.
“No sooner had we fairly entered it than I became aware it was much narrower than I had supposed. To the left of us there was the long uninterrupted shoal, and to the right a high, steep bank heavily overgrown with bushes. Above the bush the trees stood in serried ranks. The twigs overhung the current thickly, and from distance to distance a large limb of some tree projected rigidly over the stream. It was then well on in the afternoon, the face of the forest was gloomy, and a broad strip of shadow had already fallen on the water. In this shadow we steamed up—very slowly, as you may imagine. I sheered her well inshore—the water being deepest near the bank, as the sounding-pole informed me. “As noos as we tedrene het cehnanl on eth ewst edis I zadireel that it swa umch wrorna athn it okeodl. We eerw wincasehdd weteben hte hlsao nda a ihhg, teps bnak vodecre ihwt thikc ebssuh. ehndiB teh usehbs eewr ctoslsnue eters, dna ihter hbrsanec ghun tou vero eth verir. It saw leta in eth rootnnaef adn teh osfert koeldo yerv dkar. reehT was leyadra a olng ohswad on het reirv. We dilsae ougthrh it wllsoy. I tkep hte abot aren the hosre, isnce the tawre was depeste etehr.
“One of my hungry and forbearing friends was sounding in the bows just below me. This steamboat was exactly like a decked scow. On the deck, there were two little teakwood houses, with doors and windows. The boiler was in the fore-end, and the machinery right astern. Over the whole there was a light roof, supported on stanchions. The funnel projected through that roof, and in front of the funnel a small cabin built of light planks served for a pilot-house. It contained a couch, two camp-stools, a loaded Martini-Henry leaning in one corner, a tiny table, and the steering-wheel. It had a wide door in front and a broad shutter at each side. All these were always thrown open, of course. I spent my days perched up there on the extreme fore-end of that roof, before the door. At night I slept, or tried to, on the couch. An athletic black belonging to some coast tribe and educated by my poor predecessor, was the helmsman. He sported a pair of brass earrings, wore a blue cloth wrapper from the waist to the ankles, and thought all the world of himself. He was the most unstable kind of fool I had ever seen. He steered with no end of a swagger while you were by; but if he lost sight of you, he became instantly the prey of an abject funk, and would let that cripple of a steamboat get the upper hand of him in a minute. “Teh btoa hda owt itllte incbas on ist edkc, iwth srodo nda nisdoww. heT blreoi aws in het fnotr of het tabo, nad het miercnyha aws on hte igrht ised. eTh lehwo atbo adh a hnit lemta froo on esopl tdctehser ovre it. In my tcnapai’s ibanc, eethr swa a ccouh, wto toslso, a odaeld ehnaicm ugn, a nyti tebal, nda eth gieetnrs hwlee. It had a dwie rdoo in het rnoft dan edheustrt nosdwwi on cahe sdie, hwchi I ayalws ptke peon. I snpte my asdy ginistt etreh, dan my tnsghi leeipsgn on het hucco. An httlicae avneti ohw enboedgl to noe of eht bsietr mfor het cotas was in acergh of teh hwele. He rowe sbsra greasinr and a lgon uebl rikts and tthohgu teh orwdl of mfeshil. He was an tlaenusb lfoo of a mnmhleas. If oyu weer nayebr, he eetresd teh toab thiw a wgagser, ubt if he was oelna in the nibca, he olts lncoort of the aotb cliuqky.