ePub 版




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

of have been dying like flies here. would feel exactly like this. Oh yes—he 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 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, a great scale, and men going at trader even, to mend his for- it blind -as is very proper for tunes. Land in

swamp, 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, it away 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

a has to live in the midst of the sentimental pretence but 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,

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,





an was

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 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


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 so often 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 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 boy. throw 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


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, 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,




[ocr errors]

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- 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. It 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 to worry them.


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 - you see

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 a 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



[ocr errors]



lation cleared into the forest, 6 A

and deserted expecting all kinds of calamities street in deep shadow, high to happen, while, on the other houses, innumerable windows hand, the steamer Fresleven com- with venetian blinds, a dead manded left also in a bad panic, silence, grass sprouting bein charge of the engineer, I tween the stones, imposing believe.

Afterwards nobody carriage archways right and seemed to trouble much about left, immense double doors Fresleven's remains, till I got out standing ponderously ajar. I and stepped into his shoes. I slipped through one of these couldn't let it rest, though ; but cracks, went up a swept and when an opportuity offered at ungarnished staircase, as arid last to meet my predecessor, the as a desert, and opened the grass growing through his ribs first door I came to. Two was tall enough to hide his women, one fat and the other bones. They were all there. slim, sat on straw - bottomed The supernatural being had not chairs, knitting black wool. been touched after he fell. And The slim one got up

got up and the village was deserted, the walked straight at me — still huts gaped black, rotting, all knitting with downcast eyes askew within the fallen enclos- -and only just as I began ures. A calamity had come to to think of getting out of it, sure enough. The people her way, as you would for a had vanished. Mad terror had somnambulist, stood still, and scattered them, men, women, looked up. Her dress was as and children, through the bush, plain as

umbrella - cover, and they had never returned. and she turned round withWhat became of the hens I out a word and preceded me don't know either. I should into a waiting-room. I gave think the cause of progress my name, and looked about. got them, anyhow. However, Deal table in the middle, through this glorious affair I plain chairs all round the got my appointment, before I walls, on end a large had fairly begun to hope for it. shining map, marked with all

“I flew around like mad to the colours of rainbow. get ready, and before forty- There was a vast amount of eight hours I was crossing the red - good to at

any Channel to show myself to my time, because one knows that employers, and sign the con- some real work is done in tract. In a very few hours there, a deuce of a lot of I arrived in a city that always blue, makes me think of a whited of orange, and, on the East sepulchre. Prejudice no doubt. Coast, purple patch, to I had no difficulty in finding show where the jolly pionthe Company's offices. It was

of progress drink the the biggest thing in the town, jolly lager - beer. However, I and everybody I met was full wasn't going into of it. They were going to run these. I was going into the an over-sea empire, and make' yellow. Dead in the centre. no end of coin by trade. And the river






little green,


[ocr errors]


any of


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« 上一頁繼續 »