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Winchesters at ‘ready' in their hands. would, no doubt, have been properly What we could see was just the horrified, had it not occurred to me steamer we were on, and that blurred that he and his chaps must be very as if on the point of dissolving, and a hungry; that they must have been misty strip of water, perhaps two feet growing increasingly hungry for at broad, around her-and that was all. least this month past. They had been The rest of the world was nowhere, as engaged for six months (I don't think far as our eyes and ears were CON- a single one of them had any clear idea cerned. Just nowhere. Cone, disap- of time as we, at the end of countless peared; swept off without leaving a ages, have. They still belonged to the whisper or a shadow behind.
beginnings of time—had no inherited “I went forward and ordered the experience to teach them, as it were), chain to be hauled in short, so as to be and of course as long as there was a ready to trip the anchor and move the piece of paper written over in accordsteamboat at once if necessary. 'Will ance with some farcical law or other they attack?' whispered an awed voice. made down the river, it didn't enter *We will be all butchered in this fog,' anybody's head to trouble how they murmured another. The faces twitched would live. Certainly they had brought with the strain, the hands trembled with them some rotten hippo meat slightly, the eyes forgot to wink. It which couldn't have lasted very long, was very curious to see the contrast of anyway, even if the pilgrims hadn't, expressions of the white men and of in the midst of a shocking hullabaloo, the black fellows of our crew, who thrown a considerable quantity of it were as much strangers to that part overboard. It looked like a high-handed of the river as we, though their homes proceeding; but it was really a case of were only 800 miles away. The whites, legitimate self-defence. You can't of course, greatly discomposed, had be- breathe dead hippo waking, sleeping sides a curious look of being painfully and eating, and at the same time keep shocked by such an outrageous row. your precarious grip on existence. BeThe others had an alert, naturally in- sides they had given them every week terested expression; but their faces three pieces of brass wire, each about were essentially quiet, even those of nine inches long; and the theory was the one or two who grinned as they they were to buy their provisions with hauled at the chain. Several exchanged that currency in riverside villages. You short, grunting phrases, which seemed can see how that worked. There were to settle the matter to their satisfac- either no villages or the people were tion. Their headman, a young, broad- hostile, or the director, who, like the chested black, severely draped in dark- rest of us, fed out of tins, with an occablue fringed cloths, with fierce nostrils sional old he-goat thrown in, didn't and his hair all done up artfully in oily want to stop the steamer for some more ringlets, stood near me. 'Aha!' I said, or less recondite reason. So, unless just for good fellowship's sake. "Catc they swallowed the wire itself, or made 'im,' he snapped, with a bloodshot wid- loops of it to share the fishes with, I ening of his eyes, and a flash of sharp don't see what good their extravagant teeth-'catch 'im. Give 'im to us.' "To salary could be to them. I must say it you, eh?' I asked; ‘what would you do was paid with a regularity worthy of with them? 'Eat 'im! he said, curtly, a large and honorable trading comand, leaning his elbow on the rail, pany. For the rest, the only things to looked out into the fog in a dignified eat—though it didn't look eatable in the and profoundly pensive attitude. I least-I saw in tbeir possession were a
THE HEART OF DARKNESS.
BY JOSEPH CONRAD.
leaped and the loud splash made me
jump as though a gun had been fired. "Toward the evening of the second When the sun rose there was a white day we judged ourselves about eight fog, very warm and clammy, and more miles from Kurtz's station. I wanted blinding than the night. It did not shift to push on, but the manager looked or drive; it was just there, standing all grave, and told me the navigation up round you, like something solid. At 8 there was so dangerous that it would or 9, perhaps, it lifted as a shutter lifts. be advisable, the sun being very low We had a glimpse of the towering mulalready, to wait where we were till titude of trees, of the immense matted next morning. Moreover, he pointed jungle, with the blazing little ball of out, that if the warning to approach the sun hanging over it-all perfectly cautiously was to be followed, we must still and then the white shutter came approach in daylight-not at dusk, or down again, smoothly, as if sliding in in the dark. This was sensible enough. greased grooves. I ordered the chain, Eight miles meant nearly three hours' which we had begun to heave in, to be steaming for us, and I could also see paid out again. It ran with a muffled suspicious ripples at the upper end of rattle, and then a cry, a very loud cry, the reach. Nevertheless, I was annoyed as of infinite desolation, soared slowly beyond expression at the delay, and in the opaque air. It ceased.
A commost unreasonably, too, since one night plaining clamor, modulated in savage more could not matter much after so discord, filled our ears. The sheer unmany months. As we had plenty of expectedness of it made my hair stir wood, and caution was the word, I under my cap. I don't know how it brought up in the middle of the stream. struck the others; to me it seemed as The reach was narrow, straight, with though the mist itself had screamed, high sides like a railway cutting. The so suddenly, and apparently from all dusk came gliding into it long before sides at once did this tumultuous and the sun had set. The current ran mournful uproar arise. It culminated smooth and swift, but a dumb immobil- in a hurried outbreak of almost intolity sat on the banks. The living trees, erably excessive shrieking, which lashed together by the creepers, and stopped short, leaving us stiffened in a every living bush of the undergrowth, variety of attitudes, and obstinately might have been changed into stone, listening to the nearly as appalling and even to the slenderest twig, to the excessive silence. "Good God! What lightest leaf. It not sleep-it is the meaning?' stammered at my seemed unnatural, like a state of trance. elbow one of the pilgrims, a little, fat Not the faintest sound of any kind man, with sandy hair and red whiskers, could be heard. You looked on amazed, who wore side-spring boots and pink and began to suspect yourself of being pajamas tucked into his socks. Two deaf-then the night came suddenly, others remained open-mouthed a whole and struck you blind as well. About minute, then dashed into the little three in the morning some large fish cabin, to rush out incontinently and * Copyright by S. S. McClure & Co.
stand darting scared glances, with
imagine a more deadly place for a ship- vent itself in violence-but more genwreck. Whether drowned at once or erally takes the form of apathy. not, we were sure to perish speedily in "You should have seen the pilgrims one way or another. 'I authorize you stare! They had no heart to grin or to take all the risks,' he said, after a even to revile me; but I believe they short silence. 'I refuse to take any,' thought me gone mad—with fright, I said, shortly, which was just the an. maybe. I delivered a regular lecture. swer he expected, though its tone might My dear boys, it was no good botherhave surprised him. 'Well, I must de- ing. Keep a lookout? Well, you may fer to your judgment. You are cap- guess I watched the fog for the signs tain,' he said, with marked civility. I of lifting as a cat watches a mouse; turned my shoulder to him in sign of but for anything else our eyes were of my appreciation, and looked into the no more use to us than if we had been fog. How long would it last? It was buried miles deep in a heap of cotton the most hopeless lookout.
wool. It felt like it, too-choking, warm, proach to this Kurtz grubbing for ivory stilling. Besides, all I said, though it in the wretched bush was beset by as sounded extravagant, was absolutely many dangers as though he had been true to fact. What we afterwards alan enchanted princess sleeping in a luded to as an attack was really an fabulous castle. “Will they attack, do attempt at repulse. The action was you think? asked the manager, in a very far from being aggressive-it was confidential tone.
not even defensive, in the usual sense; "I did not think they would attack, it was undertaken under the stress of for several obvious reasons. The thick desperation, and in its essence was fog was one. If they left the bank in purely protective. their canoes they would get lost in it, "It developed itself, I should say, as we would be if we attempted to two hours after the fog lifted, and its move. Still, I had also judged the commencement was at a spot, roughly jungle on both banks quite impene speaking, about a mile and a half betrable--and yet eyes were in it, eyes low Kurtz's station. We had just that had seen us. The riverside bushes floundered and flopped round a bend, were certainly very thick; but the un- when I saw an islet, a mere grassy dergrowth behind was evidently pene- hummock of bright green, in the midtrable. However, during the short lift, dle of the stream. It was the only I had seen no canoes anywhere in the thing of the kind; but as we opened the reach--certainly not abreast of the reach more, I perceived it was the steamer. But what made the idea of head of a long sandbank, or rather of attack inconceivable to me was the na- shallow patches stretching in a chain ture of the noise-of the cries we had down the middle of the river. They heard. They had not the fierce char- were discolored, just awash, and the acter boding an immediate hostile in- whole lot was seen just under the watention. Unexpected, wild and violent ter, exactly as a man's backbone is as they had been, they had given me seen running down the middle of his an irresistible impression of sorrow. back under the skin. Now, as far as The glimpse of the steamboat bad, for I did see, I could go to the right or some reason, filled those savages with to the left of this. I didn't know either unrestrained grief. The danger, if any, channel, of course. The banks looked I expounded, was from our proximity pretty well alike, the depth appeared to a great human passion let loose. the same, but, as I had been informed Even extreme grief may ultimately the station was on the west side, I natu
rally headed for the western passage.
"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 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.
“One of my hungry and forbearing friends was sounding in the bows just below me. This steamboat was exactly liked 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 by 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.
“I was looking down at the soundingpole, and feeling much annoyed to see at each try a little more of it stick out of that river, when I saw my poleman give up the business suddenly, and stretch himself flat on the deck, without even taking the trouble to haul his pole in. He kept hold on it, though, and it trailed in the water. At the same time the fireman, whom I could also see below me, sat down abruptly before his furnace and ducked his head. I was amazed. Then I had to look at the river mighty quick, because there was a snag in the fairway. Sticks, little sticks, were flying about-thick; they were whizzing before my nose, dropping below me, striking behind me against my pilot-house. All this time the river, the shore, the woods, were very quiet-perfectly quiet. I could only hear the heavy splashing thump of the stern-wheel and the patter of these things. We cleared the snag clumsily. Arrows, by Jove! We were being shot at. I stepped in quickly to close the shutter on the land side. That fool-helmsman, his hands on the spokes, was lifting his knees high, stamping his feet, champing his mouth, like a reined-in horse. Confound him. And we were staggering within 10 feet of the bank. I had to lean right out to swing the heavy shutter, and I saw a face amongst the leaves on a level with my own, looking at me very fierce and steady; and then suddenly, as though a veil had been removed from my eyes, I made out deep in the tangled gloom, naked breasts, arms, legs, glaring eyes ---the bush was swarming with human limbs in movement, glistening, of bronze color. The twigs shook, swayed
and rustled, the arrows flew out of them, and then the shutter came to. 'Steer her straight,' I said to the helmsman. He held his head rigid, face forward; but his eyes rolled, he kept lifting and setting down his feet gently, his mouth foamed a little. 'Keep quiet,' I said, in a fury. I might just as well have ordered a tree not to sway in the • wind. I darted out. Below me there was a great scuffle of feet on the iron deck, exclamations; a voice screamed, "Can you turn back? I caught sight of a V-shaped ripple on the water ahead. What? Another snag! A fusilade burst out under my feet. The pilgrims had opened fire with their Winchesters, and were simply squirting lead into that bush at a great rate. A deuce of a lot of smoke came up and drove slowly forward. I swore at it. Now, I couldn't see the ripple or the snag either. I stood in the doorway peering, and the arrows came in swarms. They might have been poisoned, but they looked as though they wouldn't kill a cat. The bush began to howl. Our woodcutters raised a warlike whoop; the report of a rifle just at my back deafened me. 'I glanced over my shoulder, and the pilot-house was yet full of noise and smoke when I made a dash at the wheel. The fool nigger had dropped everything to throw the shutter open and let off that Martini-Henry. He stood before the wide opening, glaring, and I yelled at him to come back while I straightened the sudden twist out of that steamboat. There was no room to turn, even if I had wanted to. The snag was somewhere very near ahead in that confounded smoke; there was no time to lose, so I just crowded her into the bank-right into the bank, where I knew the water was deep.
"We tore slowly along the overhanging bushes in a whirl of broken twigs and flying leaves. The fusilade below stopped short, as I had foreseen it would when the squirts got empty. I
threw my head back to a glinting whizz that traversed the pilot-house, in at one shutter-hole and out at the other. Looking past that mad helmsman who was shaking the empty rifle and yelling at the shore, I saw vague forms of men running bent double, leaping, gliding, distinct, incomplete, evanescent. Something big appeared in the air before the shutter, the rifle went overboard, and the man stepped back swiftly, looked at me over his shoulder in an extraordinary, profound, familiar manner, and fell upon my feet. The side of his head hit the wheel twice and the end of what appeared a long cane clattered round and knocked over a little campstool. It looked as though after wrenching that thing from somebody ashore, he had lost his balance in the effort. The thin smoke had blown away, we were clear of the snag, and looking ahead I could see that in another 100 yards or so I would be free to sheer off, away from the bank; but my feet felt so very warm and wet that I had to look down. The man had rolled on his back and stared straight up at me; both his hands clutched that cane. It was the shaft of a spear that, either thrown or lunged through the opening, had caught him in the side just below the ribs; the blade had gone in out of sight, after making a frightful gash; my shoes were full; a pool of blood lay very still, gleaming dark red under the wheel; his eyes shone with an amazing lustre. The fusilade burst out again. He looked at me anxiously, gripping the spear like something precious, with an air of being afraid I would try to take it away from him. I had to make an effort to free my eyes from his gaze and attend to the steering. With one hand I felt above my head for the line of the steam whistle and jerked out screech after screech hurriedly. The tumult of angry and warlike yells was checked instantly, and then from the depths of the woods went out such a