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"The earth seemed unearthly. We are accustomed to look
upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, but there--
there you could look at a thing monstrous and free.
It was unearthly, and the men were--No, they were not inhuman.
Well, you know, that was the worst of it--this suspicion
of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one.
They howled, and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces;
but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity--
like yours--the thought of your remote kinship with this
wild and passionate uproar. Ugly. Yes, it was ugly enough;
but if you were man enough you would admit to yourself
that there was in you just the faintest trace of a response
to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion
of there being a meaning in it which you--you so remote from
the night of first ages--could comprehend. And why not?
The mind of man is capable of anything--because everything is in it,
all the past as well as all the future. What was there after all?
Joy, fear, sorrow, devotion, valor, rage--who can tell?--
but truth--truth stripped of its cloak of time. Let the fool
gape and shudder--the man knows, and can look on without a wink.
But he must at least be as much of a man as these on the shore.
He must meet that truth with his own true stuff--with his
own inborn strength. Principles? Principles won't do.
Acquisitions, clothes, pretty rags--rags that would fly off
at the first good shake. No; you want a deliberate belief.
An appeal to me in this fiendish row--is there? Very well;
I hear; I admit, but I have a voice too, and for good or evil
mine is the speech that cannot be silenced. Of course, a fool,
what with sheer fright and fine sentiments, is always safe.
Who's that grunting? You wonder I didn't go ashore for a howl
and a dance? Well, no--I didn't. Fine sentiments, you say?
Fine sentiments, be hanged! I had no time. I had to mess
about with white-lead and strips of woolen blanket helping
to put bandages on those leaky steam-pipes--I tell you.
I had to watch the steering, and circumvent those snags,
and get the tin-pot along by hook or by crook. There was
surface-truth enough in these things to save a wiser man.
And between whiles I had to look after the savage who was fireman.
He was an improved specimen; he could fire up a vertical boiler.
He was there below me, and, upon my word, to look at him
was as edifying as seeing a dog in a parody of breeches
and a feather hat, walking on his hind-legs. A few
months of training had done for that really fine chap.
He squinted at the steam-gauge and at the water-gauge with an
evident effort of intrepidity--and he had filed teeth too,
the poor devil, and the wool of his pate shaved into queer
patterns, and three ornamental scars on each of his cheeks.
He ought to have been clapping his hands and stamping his
feet on the bank, instead of which he was hard at work,
a thrall to strange witchcraft, full of improving knowledge.
He was useful because he had been instructed; and what he knew
was this--that should the water in that transparent thing disappear,
the evil spirit inside the boiler would get angry through
the greatness of his thirst, and take a terrible vengeance.
So he sweated and fired up and watched the glass fearfully
(with an impromptu charm, made of rags, tied to his arm, and a
piece of polished bone, as big as a watch, stuck flatways through
his lower lip), while the wooded banks slipped past us slowly,
the short noise was left behind, the interminable miles of silence--
and we crept on, towards Kurtz. But the snags were thick,
the water was treacherous and shallow, the boiler seemed indeed
to have a sulky devil in it, and thus neither that fireman nor
I had any time to peer into our creepy thoughts.