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Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad

Chapter III

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"I had turned to the wilderness really, not to Mr. Kurtz, who, I was ready to admit, was as good as buried. And for a moment it seemed to me as if I also were buried in a vast grave full of unspeakable secrets. I felt an intolerable weight oppressing my breast, the smell of the damp earth, the unseen presence of victorious corruption, the darkness of an impenetrable night. . . . The Russian tapped me on the shoulder. I heard him mumbling and stammering something about `brother seaman--couldn't conceal-- knowledge of matters that would affect Mr. Kurtz's reputation.' I waited. For him evidently Mr. Kurtz was not in his grave; I suspect that for him Mr. Kurtz was one of the immortals. `Well!' said I at last, `speak out. As it happens, I am Mr. Kurtz's friend--in a way.'

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"He stated with a good deal of formality that had we not been `of the same profession,' he would have kept the matter to himself without regard to consequences. `He suspected there was an active ill-will towards him on the part of these white men that--' `You are right,' I said, remembering a certain conversation I had overheard. `The manager thinks you ought to be hanged.' He showed a concern at this intelligence which amused me at first. `I had better get out of the way quietly,' he said, earnestly. `I can do no more for Kurtz now, and they would soon find some excuse. What's to stop them? There's a military post three hundred miles from here.' `Well, upon my word,' said I, `perhaps you had better go if you have any friends amongst the savages near by.' `Plenty,' he said. `They are simple people--and I want nothing, you know.' He stood biting his lips, then: `I don't want any harm to happen to these whites here, but of course I was thinking of Mr. Kurtz's reputation--but you are a brother seaman and--' `All right,' said I, after a time. `Mr. Kurtz's reputation is safe with me.' I did not know how truly I spoke.

"He informed me, lowering his voice, that it was Kurtz who had ordered the attack to be made on the steamer. `He hated sometimes the idea of being taken away--and then again. . . . But I don't understand these matters. I am a simple man. He thought it would scare you away--that you would give it up, thinking him dead. I could not stop him. Oh, I had an awful time of it this last month.' `Very well,' I said. `He is all right now.' `Ye-e-es,' he muttered, not very convinced apparently. `Thanks,' said I; `I shall keep my eyes open.' `But quiet--eh?' he urged, anxiously. `It would be awful for his reputation if anybody here--' I promised a complete discretion with great gravity. `I have a canoe and three black fellows waiting not very far. I am off. Could you give me a few Martini-Henry cartridges?' I could, and did, with proper secrecy. He helped himself, with a wink at me, to a handful of my tobacco. `Between sailors-- you know--good English tobacco.' At the door of the pilot-house he turned round--' I say, haven't you a pair of shoes you could spare?' He raised one leg. `Look.' The soles were tied with knotted strings sandal-wise under his bare feet. I rooted out an old pair, at which he looked with admiration before tucking it under his left arm. One of his pockets (bright red) was bulging with cartridges, from the other (dark blue) peeped `Towson's Inquiry,' &c., &c. He seemed to think himself excellently well equipped for a renewed encounter with the wilderness. `Ah! I'll never, never meet such a man again. You ought to have heard him recite poetry-- his own too it was, he told me. Poetry!' He rolled his eyes at the recollection of these delights. `Oh, he enlarged my mind!' `Goodby,' said I. He shook hands and vanished in the night. Sometimes I ask myself whether I had ever really seen him-- whether it was possible to meet such a phenomenon! . . .

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Heart of Darkness
Joseph Conrad

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