فصل 09

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فصل 09

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Chapter nine

A group of men suddenly appeared near the house. They were carrying a stretcher. Suddenly the jungle broke into a great cry. A vast number of naked black figures came out of the darkness. They ran towards the figure on the stretcher. They were carrying spears, bows and shields with them.

‘“If he says the wrong thing now, they’ll kill us all,” the Russian said.

‘The group of men carrying the stretcher stopped when they saw the natives coming towards them. The figure on the stretcher sat up and raised his arm. I could not hear what he was saying, but there was no doubt that he was giving orders. He spoke briefly, and then he fell back on the stretcher exhausted. The men carrying him moved forward again. The crowd of natives disappeared into the forest again.

The pilgrims and the manager carried Kurtz into the steamer. They put him gently down in one of the cabins. They put some of his papers next to him. I saw his hands touch the papers.

‘I looked out at the riverbank, and saw an extraordinary sight. There were two natives with spears standing near the bank, and a beautiful, wild woman was walking up and down.

‘She walked with enormous pride, and her clothes were rich and decorative. She was savage, superb and magnificent. She came close to the steamer and stood still. For a moment there was complete silence while she looked at us. Then she turned and walked proudly away from the steamer.

‘The manager came out from the cabin, where he had been talking to Kurtz.

‘“He’s very ill” he said. “We’ve done everything we could have done, haven’t we? Still,” he went on, “his methods were bad ones. His actions have harmed the company.”

‘The manager’s greed and ambition disgusted me.

‘“Kurtz is a remarkable man,” I told him coldly.

‘The Russian stepped forward now and began speaking hurriedly.

‘“You’re a fellow sailor,” he told me, “and I can trust you. I want to protect Mr Kurtz’s reputation. These men” - he indicated the pilgrims and the manager - “they want to damage his name.”

‘I smiled. I had suddenly remembered a conversation back at the manager’s station.

‘“And they want to hang you,” I told him.

‘“They might succeed,” the Russian said.

‘“Perhaps you should go, if you have friends in the forest,” I told him.

‘“Oh, yes, I have friends,” he said calmly. “They’re simple people. And I don’t want anything from them. But about Mr Kurtz -“

‘He told me that Kurtz had organised the attack on the steamer.

‘“He wanted to frighten you away,” the Russian explained. “I couldn’t stop him.”

‘“I won’t tell anyone,” I promised.

‘Then I gave the Russian some guns and tobacco, and he went back into the forest alone. He was not afraid of the wilderness at all.

‘I woke up at about midnight. There was a light in Mr Kurtz’s cabin, but he was not there. He had left the steamer. I went ashore without telling anyone what had happened. It was my destiny not to betray him - never to betray him.

‘I saw marks on the grass where Kurtz had crawled along. I followed the marks, and then I made a quick circle to come out ahead of him. I waited for him to reach me. Kurtz came crawling along, weak and ill. It was a dangerous moment. I knew that if Kurtz shouted, the natives would come and kill me.

‘When he saw me he stood up.

‘“Go away,” he ordered. “Hide yourself.”

We stood facing each other in the darkness. Then I spoke to him.

‘“You will be lost,” I said. “You will be utterly lost.”

‘I don’t know why I said that. It was a sudden inspiration, and it worked. Kurtz paused and studied my face.

‘“I had such plans -“ he said.

‘“If you shout, I’ll kill you,” I told him.

‘“I was going to do great things -“ he told me. “And now this idiot -“ He meant the manager.

‘I did not want to kill him, you understand. I wanted to shock him. He was in the power of the wilderness. The jungle had woken his real desires, and he could not resist them. He had gone too far. Now he was alone. His soul had gone mad, that was the truth. I don’t mean his intelligence. That was clear enough. He was still a rational creature. But his soul had been alone in the wilderness. It had looked at itself, and it had gone mad.

‘He had struggled against that madness of his soul, I’m sure of it. But his soul knew no fear, recognised no limits - and it had no faith in anything.

‘I carried him back to the steamer.’

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