Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad
No Fear Part 3 Page 11
No Fear Part 3: Page 11

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“Kurtz discoursed. A voice! a voice! It rang deep to the very last. It survived his strength to hide in the magnificent folds of eloquence the barren darkness of his heart. Oh, he struggled! he struggled! The wastes of his weary brain were haunted by shadowy images now—images of wealth and fame revolving obsequiously round his unextinguishable gift of noble and lofty expression. My Intended, my station, my career, my ideas—these were the subjects for the occasional utterances of elevated sentiments. The shade of the original Kurtz frequented the bedside of the hollow sham, whose fate it was to be buried presently in the mould of primeval earth. But both the diabolic love and the unearthly hate of the mysteries it had penetrated fought for the possession of that soul satiated with primitive emotions, avid of lying fame, of sham distinction, of all the appearances of success and power. “Kurtz’s voice was strong to the end. It was still powerful enough to hide the darkness in his heart. He was struggling with hallucinations of fame and wealth, rambling on about ‘My Intended,’ ‘My station,’ ‘My career,’ ‘My ideas,’ and so on. It was like the ghost of Kurtz as he was in the prime of life was there alongside his body as it wasted away. He loved and hated the dark and primitive emotions he had felt in the jungle, and these feelings warred in his soul.
“Sometimes he was contemptibly childish. He desired to have kings meet him at railway-stations on his return from some ghastly Nowhere, where he intended to accomplish great things. ‘You show them you have in you something that is really profitable, and then there will be no limits to the recognition of your ability,’ he would say. ‘Of course you must take care of the motives—right motives—always.’ The long reaches that were like one and the same reach, monotonous bends that were exactly alike, slipped past the steamer with their multitude of secular trees looking patiently after this grimy fragment of another world, the forerunner of change, of conquest, of trade, of massacres, of blessings. I looked ahead—piloting. ‘Close the shutter,’ said Kurtz suddenly one day; ‘I can’t bear to look at this.’ I did so. There was a silence. ‘Oh, but I will wring your heart yet!’ he cried at the invisible wilderness. “Sometimes he was shamefully childish. He wanted kings to meet him on his return. ‘Show them that you have something inside you that is really profitable, and there will be no limits on how your abilities are recognized,’ he said. ‘But you must always have the right motives.’ The monotonous river passed by out the windows. The jungle watched our boat patiently, seeing it as a fragment of another world, carrying change, conquest, trade, massacres, and blessings. ‘Close the shutter,’ Kurtz said. ‘I can’t bear to look at this.’ I closed it. ‘I’ll wring your heart!’ he cried at the wilderness that he could no longer see.
“We broke down—as I had expected—and had to lie up for repairs at the head of an island. This delay was the first thing that shook Kurtz’s confidence. One morning he gave me a packet of papers and a photograph—the lot tied together with a shoe-string. ‘Keep this for me,’ he said. ‘This noxious fool’ (meaning the manager) ‘is capable of prying into my boxes when I am not looking.’ In the afternoon I saw him. He was lying on his back with closed eyes, and I withdrew quietly, but I heard him mutter, ‘Live rightly, die, die...’ I listened. There was nothing more. Was he rehearsing some speech in his sleep, or was it a fragment of a phrase from some newspaper article? He had been writing for the papers and meant to do so again, ‘for the furthering of my ideas. It’s a duty.’ “Unsurprisingly, the boat broke down and we had to stop at a small island to repair it. This delay shook Kurtz’s confidence. He handed me a packet of papers and a photograph. ‘Keep this for me,’ he said. ‘That fool of a manager will pry into my things when I’m not looking.’ In the afternoon I saw him speaking to himself with his eyes closed, muttering ‘Live rightly, die, die. . . . ’ Was he rehearsing some speech in his sleep, or was it a phrase from some article he had written long ago? He intended to write again someday, ‘to further my ideas. It’s my duty.’
“His was an impenetrable darkness. I looked at him as you peer down at a man who is lying at the bottom of a precipice where the sun never shines. But I had not much time to give him, because I was helping the engine-driver to take to pieces the leaky cylinders, to straighten a bent connecting-rod, and in other such matters. I lived in an infernal mess of rust, filings, nuts, bolts, spanners, hammers, ratchet-drills—things I abominate, because I don’t get on with them. I tended the little forge we fortunately had aboard; I toiled wearily in a wretched scrap-heap—unless I had the shakes too bad to stand. “He looked like a man lying at the bottom of a cliff where the sun never shines. I couldn’t spend too much time with him because I had to work on the engine. I was surrounded by rust, nuts, bolts, hammers, and drills, which I hate. I worked until I shook so badly I couldn’t stand.