Marlow swung his legs out, got up quickly, and staggered a little, as though he
had been set down after a rush through space. He leaned his back against the
balustrade and faced a disordered array of long cane chairs. The bodies prone in
them seemed startled out of their torpor by his movement. One or two sat up as if
alarmed; here and there a cigar glowed yet; Marlow looked at them all with the
eyes of a man returning from the excessive remoteness of a dream. A throat was
cleared; a calm voice encouraged negligently, 'Well.'
'Nothing,' said Marlow with a slight start. 'He had told her--that's all. She did not
believe him--nothing more. As to myself, I do not know whether it be just, proper,
decent for me to rejoice or to be sorry. For my part, I cannot say what I believed--
indeed I don't know to this day, and never shall probably. But what did the poor
devil believe himself? Truth shall prevail--don't you know Magna est veritas el . . .
Yes, when it gets a chance. There is a law, no doubt--and likewise a law
regulates your luck in the throwing of dice. It is not Justice the servant of men,
but accident, hazard, Fortune--the ally of patient Time--that holds an even and
scrupulous balance. Both of us had said the very same thing. Did we both speak
the truth--or one of us did--or neither? . . .'
Marlow paused, crossed his arms on his breast, and in a changed tone--
'She said we lied. Poor soul! Well--let's leave it to Chance, whose ally is Time,
that cannot be hurried, and whose enemy is Death, that will not wait. I had
retreated--a little cowed, I must own. I had tried a fall with fear itself and got
thrown--of course. I had only succeeded in adding to her anguish the hint of
some mysterious collusion, of an inexplicable and incomprehensible conspiracy
to keep her for ever in the dark. And it had come easily, naturally, unavoidably,
by his act, by her own act! It was as though I had been shown the working of the
implacable destiny of which we are the victims--and the tools. It was appalling to
think of the girl whom I had left standing there motionless; Jim's footsteps had a
fateful sound as he tramped by, without seeing me, in his heavy laced boots.
"What? No lights!" he said in a loud, surprised voice. "What are you doing in the
dark--you two?" Next moment he caught sight of her, I suppose. "Hallo, girl!" he
cried cheerily. "Hallo, boy!" she answered at once, with amazing pluck.
'This was their usual greeting to each other, and the bit of swagger she would put
into her rather high but sweet voice was very droll, pretty, and childlike. It
delighted Jim greatly. This was the last occasion on which I heard them
exchange this familiar hail, and it struck a chill into my heart. There was the high
sweet voice, the pretty effort, the swagger; but it all seemed to die out
prematurely, and the playful call sounded like a moan. It was too confoundedly