« AnteriorContinuar »
We called at some more is funny what some people will places with farcical names, where do for a few francs a-month. the merry dance of death and I wonder what becomes of that trade goes
in a still and kind when it goes up country ?' earthy atmosphere as of an I said to him I expected to see overheated catacomb; all along that soon. • So-0-0!'he exthe formless coast bordered by claimed. He shuffled athwart, dangerous surf, as if Nature her- keeping one eye ahead vigilself had tried to ward off in- antly. Don't be too sure, truders; in and out of rivers, he continued.
he continued. The other day streams of death in life, whose I took up a man who hanged banks were rotting into mud, himself on the road. He was a whose waters, thickened into Swede, too.' 'Hanged himself! slime, invaded the contorted Why, in God's name?' I cried. mangroves, that seemed to He kept on looking out watchwrithe at us in the extremity fully. Who knows? The sun of an impotent despair. No too much for him, or the country where did we stop long enough perhaps.' to get a particularised impres “At last we turned a bend. sion, but the general sense of A rocky cliff appeared, mounds vague and oppressive wonder of turned-up earth by the shore, , grew upon me. It was like a houses on a hill, others, with weary pilgrimage amongst hints iron roofs, amongst a waste of for nightmares.
excavations, or hanging to the “It was upward of thirty declivity. A continuous noise days before I saw the mouth of the rapids above hovered over of the big river. We anchored this scene of inhabited devastaoff the seat of the government. tion. A lot of people, mostly But my work would not begin black and naked, moved about till some two hundred miles like ants. A jetty projected farther on.
So as soon as I into the river. A blinding suncould I made a start for a place light drowned all this at times in thirty miles higher up.
a sudden recrudescence of glare. “I had my passage on a little "There's your Company's stasea-going steamer. Her cap- tion,' said the Swede, pointing tain was a Swede, and knowing to three wooden barrack-like me for a seaman, invited me on structures on the rocky slope. the bridge. He was a young 'I will send your things up. man, lean, fair, and morose, Four boxes did you say? So. with lanky hair and a shuffling Farewell.' gait. As we left the miserable “I came upon a boiler wallittle wharf, he tossed his head lowing in the grass, then found contemptuously at the shore. a path leading up the hill. It 'Been living there?' he asked. turned aside for the boulders, I said, "Yes.' Fine lot these and also for an undersized railgovernment chaps — are they way-truck lying there on its not ?' he went on, speaking back with its wheels in the air. English with great precision One was off. The thing looked and considerable bitterness. It as dead as the carcass of some
animal. I came upon more All their meagre breasts panted pieces of decaying machinery, together, the violently dilated a stack of rusty rails. To the nostrils quivered, the
eyes left a clump of trees made a stared stonily up-hill. They shady spot, where dark things passed me within six inches, seemed to stir feebly. I without a glance, with that blinked, the path was steep. complete, deathlike indifference A horn tooted to the right, and of unhappy savages.
Behind I saw the black people run. this raw matter one of the A heavy and dull detonation reclaimed, the product of the shook the ground, a puff of new forces at work, strolled smoke came out of the cliff, despondently, carrying a rifle by and that was all. No change its middle. He had a uniform appeared on the face of the jacket with a button off, and rock. They were building a seeing a white
on the railway. The cliff was not in path, hoisted his weapon to his the way or anything; but this shoulder with alacrity. This objectless blasting was all the was simple prudence, white work going on.
men being so much alike at a “A slight clinking behind me distance that he could not tell made me turn my head. Six who I might be.
He was black men advanced in a file, speedily reassured, and with a toiling up the path. They large, white, rascally grin, and walked erect and slow, balanc a glance at his charge, seemed ing small baskets full of earth to take me into partnership in on their heads, and the clink his exalted trust. After all, I kept time with their footsteps. also was a part of the great Black rags were wound round cause of these high and just their loins, and the short ends proceedings. behind wagged to and fro like “Instead of going up, I turned tails. I could see every rib, and descended to the left. My the joints of their limbs were idea was to let that chain-gang like knots in a rope; each had get out of sight before I climbed an iron collar on his neck, and the hill. You know I am not all were connected together with particularly tender; I've had to a chain whose bights swung be- strike and to fend off. I've had tween them, rhythmically clink- to resist and to attack someing. Another report from the times—that's only one way of cliff made me think suddenly of resisting—without counting the that ship of war I had seen exact cost, according to the firing into a continent. It was demands of such sort of life as the same kind of ominous voice; I had blundered into. I've seen but these men could by no the devil of violence, and the stretch of imagination be called devil of greed, and the devil of enemies. They
called hot desire ; but, by all the stars! criminals, and the outraged these were strong, lusty, redlaw, like the bursting shells, eyed devils, that swayed and had come to them, an insoluble drove men men, I tell you. mystery from over the
But as I stood on this hillside,
ness, like a needle in a bundle of so that, with his legs folded behay—cold, fog, tempests, dis- fore him, he had the pose of a ease, exile, and death,—death Buddha preaching in European skulking in the air, in the clothes and without a lotuswater, in the bush. They must flower “ Mind, none have been dying like flies here. would feel exactly like this. Oh yes
Che did it. Did it very What us is efficiency well, too, no doubt, and with - the devotion to efficiency. out thinking much about it But these chaps were not much either, except afterwards
afterwards to account, really. They were no brag of what he had gone colonists; their administration through in his time, perhaps. was merely a squeeze, and noThey were men enough to face thing more, I suspect. They the darkness. And perhaps he were conquerors, and for that was cheered by keeping his eye you want only brute forceon a chance of promotion to the nothing to boast of, when you fleet at Ravenna by-and-by, if have it, since your strength is he had good friends in Rome just an accident arising from and survived the awful climate. the weakness of others. They Or think of a decent young grabbed what they could get citizen in a toga—perhaps too for the sake of what was to be much dice, you know-coming got. It was just robbery with out here in the train of some violence, aggravated murder on prefect, or tax - gatherer, or a great scale, and men going at trader even, to mend his for- it blind—as is very proper for tunes. Land in
those who tackle a darkness. march through the woods, and The conquest of the earth, in some inland post feel the which mostly means the taking savagery, the utter savagery,
from those who have a had closed round him,—all that different complexion or slightly mysterious life of the wilderness flatter noses than ourselves, is that stirs in the forest, in the not a pretty thing when you jungles, in the hearts of wild look into it too much. What
There's initiation redeems it is the idea only. An either into such mysteries. He idea at the back of it; not a has to live in the midst of the sentimental pretence but an incomprehensible, which is also idea; and an unselfish belief in detestable. And it has a fas- the idea - something you can cination, too, that goes to work set up, and bow down before, upon him. The fascination of and offer a sacrifice to.. the abomination — you know. He broke off. Flames glided Imagine the growing regrets, in the river, small green flames, the longing to escape, the red flames, white flames, purpowerless disgust, the sur- suing, overtaking, joining, crossrender, the hate."
ing each other—then separating He paused.
slowly or hastily. The traffic “Mind," he began again, lift- of the great city went on in ing one arm from the elbow, the deepening night upon the the palm of the hand outwards, sleepless river. We looked on,
waiting patiently, there was tired of resting. Then I began nothing else to do till the end to look for a ship-I should of the flood; but it was only think the hardest work
work on after a long silence, when he earth. But the ships wouldn't said, in a hesitating voice, "I even look at me. And I got suppose you fellows remember tired of that game too. I did once turn fresh - water “Now when I was a little sailor for a bit,” that we knew chap I had a passion for maps. we were fated, before the ebb I would look for hours at began to run, to hear about South America, or Africa, or one of Marlow's inconclusive Australia, and lose myself in experiences.
all the glories of exploration. “I don't want to bother you At that time there were many much with what happened to blank spaces on the earth, and me personally,” he began, show- when I saw one that looked ing in this remark the weak- particularly inviting on a map ness of many tellers of tales (but they all look that) I would who seem
unaware put my finger on it and say, of what their audience would When I
grow up I will go best like to hear; “yet to
there. The North Pole was understand the effect of it on one of these places, I remember. me you ought to know how Well, I haven't been there yet, I got out there, what I saw, and shall not try now.
The how I went up that river to glamour's off. Other places the place where I first met the were scattered about the Equapoor chap. It was the farthest tor, and in every sort of latipoint of navigation and the cul- tude all over the two hemiminating point of my experi- spheres. I have been in some ence. It seemed somehow to of them, and .. well, we throw a kind of light on every- won't talk about that. But thing about me—and into my there was one yet—the biggest, thoughts. It
sombre the most blank, so to speakenough too-and pitiful—not that I had a hankering after. extraordinary in any way—not “True, by this time it was very clear either. No, not very not a blank space any more. clear. And yet it seemed to It had got filled since my boythrow a kind of light.
hood with rivers and lakes and “I had then, as you remem names. It had ceased to be ber, just returned to London a blank space of delightful after a lot of Indian Ocean, mystery — a white patch for Pacific, China Seas—a regular a boy to dream gloriously over. dose of the East—six years or It had become a place of darkso, and I was loafing about, ness. But there was in it one hindering you fellows in your river especially,
river especially, a mighty big work and invading your homes, river, that you could see on the just as though I had got a map, resembling an immense heavenly mission to civilise snake uncoiled, with its head you. It was very fine for a in the sea, its body at rest curvtime, but after a bit I did get ing afar over a vast country,
VOL. CLXV.NO. M.
and its tail lost in the depths also a man who has lots of of the land. And as I looked influence with,' &c., &c. She at the map of it in a shop
of it in a shop- was determined to make no end window, it fascinated me of fuss to get me appointed a snake would a bird—a silly skipper of a river steam-boat, little bird. Then I remem if such was my fancy. bered there was a big concern, “I got my appointment—of a Company for trade on that course; and I got it very quick. river. Dash it all! I thought It appears the Company had to myself, they can't trade received news that one of their without using some kind of captains had been killed in a craft on that lot of fresh water scuffle with the natives. This -steam-boats! Why shouldn't was my chance, and it made I try to get charge of one. I me the more anxious to go. went on along Fleet Street, but was only months and months could not shake off the idea. afterwards, when I made the The snake had charmed me. attempt to recover what was
“ You understand it was a left of the body, that I heard Continental concern, that Trad- the original quarrel arose from ing society; but I have a lot a misunderstanding about some of relations living on the Con- hens. Yes, two black hens. tinent, because it's cheap and Fresleven — that was the felnot so nasty as it looks, they low's name, a Dane—thought say.
himself wronged somehow in “I am sorry to own I began the bargain, so he went ashore them. This was
and started to hammer the already a fresh departure for chief of the village with a stick.
I was not used to get Oh, it didn't surprise me in the things that way, you know. least to hear this, and at the I always went my own road same time to be told that Fresand on my own legs where I leven was the gentlest, quietest had a mind to go. I wouldn't creature that ever walked on have believed it of myself; but, two legs. No doubt he was ; then
I felt some but he had been a couple of how I must get there by hook years already out there engaged or by crook. So I worried in the noble cause, you know, them. The men said “My dear and he probably felt the need fellow,' and did nothing. Then at last of asserting his self-would
you believe it ?-I tried respect in some way. Therefore the women. I, Charlie Marlow, he whacked the old nigger set the women to work—to get mercilessly, while a big crowd à job. Heavens ! Well, you of his people watched him, see, the notion drove me. I thunderstruck, till some man, had an aunt, a dear enthusi- -I was told the chief's son, astic soul. She wrote: 'It will in desperation at hearing the be delightful. I am ready to old chap yell, made a tentative do anything, anything for you. jab with a spear at the white It is a glorious idea. I know
and of course it went the wife of a very high person- quite easy between the shoulderage in the Administration, and blades.
Then the whole popu