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Joseph Conrad: Heart of Darkness
1. PART I (continued)
He was silent for a while.
". . . No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one's existence,--that which makes its truth, its meaning--its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream--alone. . . ."
He paused again as if reflecting, then added--
"Of course in this you fellows see more than I could then. You see me, whom you know. . . ."
It had become so pitch dark that we listeners could hardly see one another. For a long time already he, sitting apart, had been no more to us than a voice. There was not a word from anybody. The others might have been asleep, but I was awake. I listened, I listened on the watch for the sentence, for the word, that would give me the clew to the faint uneasiness inspired by this narrative that seemed to shape itself without human lips in the heavy night-air of the river.
". . . Yes--I let him run on," Marlow began again, "and think what he pleased about the powers that were behind me. I did! And there was nothing behind me! There was nothing but that wretched, old, mangled steamboat I was leaning against, while he talked fluently about `the necessity for every man to get on.' `And when one comes out here, you conceive, it is not to gaze at the moon.' Mr. Kurtz was a `universal genius,' but even a genius would find it easier to work with `adequate tools--intelligent men.' He did not make bricks--why, there was a physical impossibility in the way--as I was well aware; and if he did secretarial work for the manager, it was because `no sensible man rejects wantonly the confidence of his superiors.' Did I see it? I saw it. What more did I want? What I really wanted was rivets, by heaven! Rivets. To get on with the work--to stop the hole. Rivets I wanted. There were cases of them down at the coast-- cases--piled up--burst--split! You kicked a loose rivet at every second step in that station yard on the hillside. Rivets had rolled into the grove of death. You could fill your pockets with rivets for the trouble of stooping down-- and there wasn't one rivet to be found where it was wanted. We had plates that would do, but nothing to fasten them with. And every week the messenger, a lone negro, letter-bag on shoulder and staff in hand, left our station for the coast. And several times a week a coast caravan came in with trade goods,-- ghastly glazed calico that made you shudder only to look at it, glass beads value about a penny a quart, confounded spotted cotton handkerchiefs. And no rivets. Three carriers could have brought all that was wanted to set that steamboat afloat.
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