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Almayer's Folly

Chapter 3
" . . . All idealisation makes life poorer. To beautify it is to take away its character
of complexity - it is to destroy it. Leave that to the moralists, my boy. History is
made by men, but they do not make it in their heads. The ideas that are born in
their consciousness play an insignificant part in the march of events. History is
dominated and determined by the tool and the production - by the force of
economic conditions. Capitalism has made socialism, and the laws made by the
capitalism for the protection of property are responsible for anarchism. No one
can tell what form the social organisation may take in the future. Then why
indulge in prophetic phantasies? At best they can only interpret the mind of the
prophet, and can have no objective value. Leave that pastime to the moralists,
my boy."
Michaelis, the ticket-of-leave apostle, was speaking in an even voice, a voice that
wheezed as if deadened and oppressed by the layer of fat on his chest. He had
come out of a highly hygienic prison round like a tub, with an enormous stomach
and distended cheeks of a pale, semi-transparent complexion, as though for
fifteen years the servants of an outraged society had made a point of stuffing him
with fattening foods in a damp and lightless cellar. And ever since he had never
managed to get his weight down as much as an ounce.
It was said that for three seasons running a very wealthy old lady had sent him
for a cure to Marienbad - where he was about to share the public curiosity once
with a crowned head - but the police on that occasion ordered him to leave within
twelve hours. His martyrdom was continued by forbidding him all access to the
healing waters. But he was resigned now.
With his elbow presenting no appearance of a joint, but more like a bend in a
dummy's limb, thrown over the back of a chair, he leaned forward slightly over his
short and enormous thighs to spit into the grate.
"Yes! I had the time to think things out a little," he added without emphasis.
"Society has given me plenty of time for meditation."
On the other side of the fireplace, in the horse-hair arm-chair where Mrs Verloc's
mother was generally privileged to sit, Karl Yundt giggled grimly, with a faint
black grimace of a toothless mouth. The terrorist, as he called himself, was old
and bald, with a narrow, snow-white wisp of a goatee hanging limply from his
chin. An extraordinary expression of underhand malevolence survived in his
extinguished eyes. When he rose painfully the thrusting forward of a skinny
groping hand deformed by gouty swellings suggested the effort of a moribund
murderer summoning all his remaining strength for a last stab. He leaned on a
thick stick, which trembled under his other hand.