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“When next day we left at noon, the crowd, of whose presence behind the curtain of trees I had been acutely conscious all the time, flowed out of the woods again, filled the clearing, covered the slope with a mass of naked, breathing, quivering, bronze bodies. I steamed up a bit, then swung down stream, and two thousand eyes followed the evolutions of the splashing, thumping, fierce river-demon beating the water with its terrible tail and breathing black smoke into the air. In front of the first rank, along the river, three men, plastered with bright red earth from head to foot, strutted to and fro restlessly. When we came abreast again, they faced the river, stamped their feet, nodded their horned heads, swayed their scarlet bodies; they shook towards the fierce river-demon a bunch of black feathers, a mangy skin with a pendent tail—something that looked a dried gourd; they shouted periodically together strings of amazing words that resembled no sounds of human language; and the deep murmurs of the crowd, interrupted suddenly, were like the responses of some satanic litany. “When we left the next day at noon, the crowd of natives came out of the woods again. As I turned the boat downstream, 2,000 eyes followed it, watching the river-demon beat the water with its tail and breathe black smoke into the air. Three men wearing horns and covered in bright red mud paced back and forth along the bank. As we passed, they shook black feathers, a mangy skin, and a dried gourd, while making strange noises that sounded nothing like human language. The rest of the crowd murmured along, like participants in some Satanic mass.
“We had carried Kurtz into the pilot-house: there was more air there. Lying on the couch, he stared through the open shutter. There was an eddy in the mass of human bodies, and the woman with helmeted head and tawny cheeks rushed out to the very brink of the stream. She put out her hands, shouted something, and all that wild mob took up the shout in a roaring chorus of articulated, rapid, breathless utterance. “Kurtz was lying on the cot and staring through the open shutter. The woman with all of the jewelry ran out to the river’s edge. She held out her hands and shouted something, and the whole mob started shouting wildly.
“‘Do you understand this?’ I asked. “‘Do you understand them?’ I asked Kurtz.
“He kept on looking out past me with fiery, longing eyes, with a mingled expression of wistfulness and hate. He made no answer, but I saw a smile, a smile of indefinable meaning, appear on his colourless lips that a moment after twitched convulsively. ‘Do I not?’ he said slowly, gasping, as if the words had been torn out of him by a supernatural power. “He stared out the window with a mix of hatred and longing. He smiled strangely and his lips twitched. ‘Do I not?’ he said slowly, gasping as if the words were being torn out of him by some magical force.
“I pulled the string of the whistle, and I did this because I saw the pilgrims on deck getting out their rifles with an air of anticipating a jolly lark. At the sudden screech there was a movement of abject terror through that wedged mass of bodies. ‘Don’t! don’t you frighten them away,’ cried some one on deck disconsolately. I pulled the string time after time. They broke and ran, they leaped, they crouched, they swerved, they dodged the flying terror of the sound. The three red chaps had fallen flat, face down on the shore, as though they had been shot dead. Only the barbarous and superb woman did not so much as flinch, and stretched tragically her bare arms after us over the sombre and glittering river. “I saw the agents picking up their rifles, so I blew the boat’s whistle, which terrified the natives gathered on shore. ‘Don’t scare them away,’ said one of the agents. I blew the whistle over and over, sending them running into the forest. The three men covered in red mud fell to the ground. Only the woman didn’t flinch. She stretched her bare arms toward us.
“And then that imbecile crowd down on the deck started their little fun, and I could see nothing more for smoke. “And then the idiots on deck started firing and I couldn’t see anything through the smoke of their rifles.
“The brown current ran swiftly out of the heart of darkness, bearing us down towards the sea with twice the speed of our upward progress; and Kurtz’s life was running swiftly, too, ebbing, ebbing out of his heart into the sea of inexorable time. The manager was very placid, he had no vital anxieties now, he took us both in with a comprehensive and satisfied glance: the ‘affair’ had come off as well as could be wished. I saw the time approaching when I would be left alone of the party of ‘unsound method.’ The pilgrims looked upon me with disfavour. I was, so to speak, numbered with the dead. It is strange how I accepted this unforeseen partnership, this choice of nightmares forced upon me in the tenebrous land invaded by these mean and greedy phantoms. “The brown current of the river carried us quickly out of the heart of darkness. We sailed back the way we had come at twice the speed. Kurtz’s life was running swiftly too, flowing out of his heart and into the sea of time. The manager was very satisfied with this result. I saw that I would soon be an outcast on my own boat. It’s strange how I accepted this partnership with Kurtz, how I chose this nightmare out of all the others happening there.