Heart of Darkness
"One evening as I was lying flat on the deck of my steamboat, I heard voices
approaching--and there were the nephew and the uncle strolling along the bank. I laid
my head on my arm again, and had nearly lost myself in a doze, when somebody said
in my ear, as it were: `I am as harmless as a little child, but I don't like to be dictated to.
Am I the manager--or am I not? I was ordered to send him there. It's incredible.' . . . I
became aware that the two were standing on the shore alongside the forepart of the
steamboat, just below my head. I did not move; it did not occur to me to move: I was
sleepy. `It IS unpleasant,' grunted the uncle. `He has asked the Administration to be
sent there,' said the other, `with the idea of showing what he could do; and I was
instructed accordingly. Look at the influence that man must have. Is it not frightful?'
They both agreed it was frightful, then made several bizarre remarks: `Make rain and
fine weather--one man--the Council--by the nose'-- bits of absurd sentences that got the
better of my drowsiness, so that I had pretty near the whole of my wits about me when
the uncle said, `The climate may do away with this difficulty for you. Is he alone there?'
`Yes,' answered the manager; `he sent his assistant down the river with a note to me in
these terms: "Clear this poor devil out of the country, and don't bother sending more of
that sort. I had rather be alone than have the kind of men you can dispose of with me." It
was more than a year ago. Can you imagine such impudence!' `Anything since then?'
asked the other, hoarsely. `Ivory,' jerked the nephew; `lots of it--prime sort--lots--most
annoying, from him.' `And with that?' questioned the heavy rumble. `Invoice,' was the
reply fired out, so to speak. Then silence. They had been talking about Kurtz.
"I was broad awake by this time, but, lying perfectly at ease, remained still, having no
inducement to change my position. `How did that ivory come all this way?' growled the
elder man, who seemed very vexed. The other explained that it had come with a fleet of
canoes in charge of an English half-caste clerk Kurtz had with him; that Kurtz had
apparently intended to return himself, the station being by that time bare of goods and
stores, but after coming three hundred miles, had suddenly decided to go back, which
he started to do alone in a small dug-out with four paddlers, leaving the half-caste to
continue down the river with the ivory. The two fellows there seemed astounded at
anybody attempting such a thing. They were at a loss for an adequate motive. As to me,
I seemed to see Kurtz for the first time. It was a distinct glimpse: the dug-out, four
paddling savages, and the lone white man turning his back suddenly on the
headquarters, on relief, on thoughts of home--perhaps; setting his face towards the
depths of the wilderness, towards his empty and desolate station. I did not know the
motive. Perhaps he was just simply a fine fellow who stuck to his work for its own sake.
His name, you understand, had not been pronounced once. He was `that man.' The
half-caste, who, as far as I could see, had conducted a difficult trip with great prudence
and pluck, was invariably alluded to as `that scoundrel.' The `scoundrel' had reported
that the `man' had been very ill--had recovered imperfectly. . . . The two below me
moved away then a few paces, and strolled back and forth at some little distance. I
heard: `Military post--doctor--two hundred miles--quite alone now-- unavoidable delays--
nine months--no news--strange rumors.' They approached again, just as the manager