فصل 01

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فصل 01

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  • زمان مطالعه 6 دقیقه
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CHAPTER ONE

It was evening, and the Nellie, a yawl, was anchored in the Thames. We looked down the river that flowed to the sea. London was behind us, a great black shape. The captain of the Nellie was a company director. The other guests included a lawyer, an accountant, myself - and of course Marlow. We all knew each other well, and we all shared a passion for the sea.

We looked out on the river and remembered its history. Famous men and famous ships had sailed out from here to perform famous deeds. They had sailed out to fight in battles, to conquer other countries, and make fortunes. The Thames had carried men to the places of their dreams, and it had carried men who were inspired by greed.

‘This has been a dark place as well,’ Marlow said suddenly.

Marlow was the only one of us who was still a professional sailor. He was like a lot of sailors in some ways. He liked telling stories, and he was more comfortable at sea than on land. He was also unlike most sailors in some ways. Marlow’s stories were not simple tales. He did not just describe exciting events. He tried to understand the people in his stories, and the places where the stories had taken place.

No one was surprised at Marlow’s remark. We did not say anything. We waited for him to continue. There was a silence on the Nellie for a few moments, and then Marlow went on.

‘I was thinking of the Romans,’ he said softly, ‘when they first sailed up this river. It was a dark place then, you can be sure of that - a dark, frightening place full of forests and dangerous savages. And they conquered it, the Romans did. Conquest is an ugly thing when you really consider it. It means strong men killing and robbing weak men. Of course, conquerors don’t see it like that. They usually have some idea, some ideal as well…’

He paused for a moment.

‘I once sailed along a great river,’ he reminded us. ‘It was an important experience for me,’ he said. ‘I’d better tell you how it all happened.’

Then we knew that Marlow had a story for us. We lay back in our chairs and prepared to listen to him.

‘It was after I got back from the East,’ he said. ‘I was here in England, and I had nothing to do. I used to come and see you fellows,’ he said affectionately, ‘and I expect I was a nuisance. You were all busy, and I had nothing to do - nothing at all.

‘I had the idea that I wanted to go to Africa,’ Marlow went on. ‘I wanted to explore the inside of that great continent. There was one huge river there that I wanted to see. I knew that there was a continental company that had trading posts along that river. I decided to find a job with that company.

‘In the end I was successful. I got the job. I have relatives who live on the continent, you see, and I asked them to use their influence with the company. It was my aunt who got me the job. One of the company’s men had been killed out there, you see. They needed another man to replace him.

‘I had to go to Brussels to sign the contract for the job. Everything went smoothly out there in the company’s offices, although they were grim and depressing. Then I went to see the company doctor for a medical examination. It was a mere formality, you understand. They had to be sure that I was strong and fit.

‘The company doctor was an old man. He felt my pulse. He wanted to know if there was any history of madness in my family. I thought the question was an odd one. Then he asked if he could measure my head. I was surprised by the question, but I gave him my permission. He measured it carefully, and wrote the measurements down in his notebook.

‘“I always ask the men who are going out there to let me measure their heads,” he explained.

‘“Do you measure them when they come back?” I asked him.

‘For a moment he looked surprised.

‘“I never see them,” he told me. “And then, the important changes take place inside the head,” he added with a smile.

‘Then he asked me some more questions. He told me he was interested in what happened to people’s minds when they went “out there”. I remember he gave me some rather odd advice.

‘“Don’t let yourself become angry when you’re out there,” he warned me. “Anger is more dangerous than the sun out there. Try to remember that, young man.”

‘And that was it. I had the job. I left the company offices.

‘Then I went to thank my aunt for the trouble she had taken to help me with the company. She was very kind to me. She had the idea that I was going to Africa to help civilisation, and all that sort of thing. She was enthusiastic about that. A lot of people were, in those days. I reminded her that the company was a trading business - it was interested in profit. My aunt was still enthusiastic about what I was doing. She imagined that I was some kind of apostle for civilisation.

‘Civilisation and profit!

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