Heart of Darkness
"I looked at him, lost in astonishment. There he was before me, in motley, as though he
had absconded from a troupe of mimes, enthusiastic, fabulous. His very existence was
improbable, inexplicable, and altogether bewildering. He was an insoluble problem. It
was inconceivable how he had existed, how he had succeeded in getting so far, how he
had managed to remain-- why he did not instantly disappear. `I went a little farther,' he
said, `then still a little farther--till I had gone so far that I don't know how I'll ever get
back. Never mind. Plenty time. I can manage. You take Kurtz away quick--quick--I tell
you.' The glamour of youth enveloped his particolored rags, his destitution, his
loneliness, the essential desolation of his futile wanderings. For months--for years--his
life hadn't been worth a day's purchase; and there he was gallantly, thoughtlessly alive,
to all appearance indestructible solely by the virtue of his few years and of his
unreflecting audacity. I was seduced into something like admiration-- like envy. Glamour
urged him on, glamour kept him unscathed. He surely wanted nothing from the
wilderness but space to breathe in and to push on through. His need was to exist, and
to move onwards at the greatest possible risk, and with a maximum of privation. If the
absolutely pure, uncalculating, unpractical spirit of adventure had ever ruled a human
being, it ruled this be-patched youth. I almost envied him the possession of this modest
and clear flame. It seemed to have consumed all thought of self so completely, that,
even while he was talking to you, you forgot that it was he--the man before your eyes--
who had gone through these things. I did not envy him his devotion to Kurtz, though. He
had not meditated over it. It came to him, and he accepted it with a sort of eager
fatalism. I must say that to me it appeared about the most dangerous thing in every way
he had come upon so far.
"They had come together unavoidably, like two ships becalmed near each other, and lay
rubbing sides at last. I suppose Kurtz wanted an audience, because on a certain
occasion, when encamped in the forest, they had talked all night, or more probably
Kurtz had talked. `We talked of everything,' he said, quite transported at the recollection.
`I forgot there was such a thing as sleep. The night did not seem to last an hour.
Everything! Everything! . . . Of love too.' `Ah, he talked to you of love!' I said, much
amused. `It isn't what you think,' he cried, almost passionately. `It was in general. He
made me see things--things.'
"He threw his arms up. We were on deck at the time, and the headman of my wood-
cutters, lounging near by, turned upon him his heavy and glittering eyes. I looked
around, and I don't know why, but I assure you that never, never before, did this land,
this river, this jungle, the very arch of this blazing sky, appear to me so hopeless and so
dark, so impenetrable to human thought, so pitiless to human weakness. `And, ever
since, you have been with him, of course?' I said.
"On the contrary. It appears their intercourse had been very much broken by various
causes. He had, as he informed me proudly, managed to nurse Kurtz through two
illnesses (he alluded to it as you would to some risky feat), but as a rule Kurtz wandered