Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad - Part 2

Adapted by Tim Crook


This follows on from Heart of Darkness Part 1.


Voices of Manager and Manager's Uncle approaching.

Marlow: (narration) One evening I was lying flat on the deck of my steamboat and had nearly lost myself in a doze...

Manager: I am as harmless as a little child, but I don't like to be dictated to. Am I the manager- or am I not? I was ordered to send him there. It's incredible...

Uncle: It is unpleasant. He has asked the administration to be sent there with the idea of showing what he could do; and I was instructed accordingly. Look at the influence that man must have. Is it not frightful?

Manager: Oh indeed it is frightful...You find it wherever you turn...in the most unexpected of places and in the people they send here from Europe every day..

Uncle: Quite frightful...

Manager: It is extraordinary how one man can lead the council by the nose...

Uncle: But he is only one man...One man and one insect..here under my shoe...(Stamps and grinds his foot into the sand.) Gone...This influence in Europe...this difficulty we talk of has a purpose, of course...an object..Eradicate the object and the influence has no purpose.

Manager: What you say is easier said than done...

Uncle: The climate may do away with this difficulty for you. Is he alone there?

Manager: Yes. He sent his assistant down the river with a note to me in these terms: 'Clear this poor devil out of the country, and don't bother sending more of that sort. I had rather be alone than have the kind of men you can dispose of with me.' It was more than a year ago. Can you imagine such impudence!

Uncle: Anything since then?

Manager: Ivory. Lots of it. Prime sort. Lots. Most annoying..from him..

Uncle: And with that?

Manager: An invoice. That man never fails to send his invoice in...

Uncle: How did that ivory come all this way?

Manager: It came in a fleet of canoes..with that English half-caste he employs as a clerk. Apparently he was coming back himself because the station had run out of goods and stores..But after three hundred miles he went back...all alone in a small dugout canoe with four paddlers..

Uncle: The impudence of the man!

Manager: His half-caste clerk carried on and arrived here with the ivory..tons of it...More than all the other stations collect in a month. The clerk said he's been very ill, but has recovered imperfectly...

Uncle: The nearest military post must be two hundred miles..He obviously needs a doctor..

Manager: But he's quite alone now..We've tried reaching him but there have been unavoidable delays..

Uncle: How long since the scoundrel brought the ivory in?

Manager: Nine months..no news...just strange rumours..

Uncle: What do you mean?

Manager: He's not entirely alone..there's this creature in his district..Half-Russian...nothing to do with the company, but he's been trading for some time..I have to say we will not be free from unfair competition till one of these fellows is hanged as an example.

Uncle: Certainly..get him hanged! Why not? Anything..anything can be done in this country...That's what I say..nobody here, you understand, here..can endanger your position..And why?...You stand the climate..you outlast them all. The danger is in Europe; but there, before I left, I took care to prepare the ground..to explain that we are like the river here..there is an ebb and flow of life through disease and accident and that man is no more immune to it than the rest of us.

Manager: The extraordinary series of delays is not my fault..I did my best.

Uncle: Very sad.

Manager: And the pestiferous absurdity of his talk...He bothered me enough when he was here..'Each station should be like a beacon on the road towards better things, a centre for trade of course, but also for humanizing, improving, instructing.' Conceive you- that ass! And he wants to be manager! No...it's Begins coughing.

Uncle: Yes...you have been well since you came out this time?

Manager: Who? I? Oh! Like a charm- like a charm. But the rest- oh my goodness! All sick. They die so quick, too, that I haven't the time to send them out of the country- it's incredible!

Uncle: H'm. Just so....Ah! My boy. Trust to this..I say trust to all this..

Voice of Conrad: Short flipper of arm gesturing across forest, creek, mud and river. Beckoning with dishonouring flourish. Treacherous appeal to the lurking death,

Voice of Kurtz: To the hidden evil,

Voice of Conrad: Before the sunlit face of the land,

Voice of Kurtz: to the profound darkness of its heart.

Uncle: It will bury the bastard..

Manager: May it damn him to hell!

Steamboat actuality through jungle.

Marlow in narration: I was then rather excited at the prospect of meeting Kurtz very soon. It was two months from the day we left the creek of the central station to when we came to the bank below his station:

Voice of Conrad: Steamboat up river, back to the earliest beginnings, when the green world rioted, when the big trees were kings. Up river on the empty stream, on the great silence. Air warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. Brilliant sunshine and no joy. Waterway running on and on. Gloom. Distance overshadowed and deserted by gloom. Hippos on the silvery sandbanks. Alligators sunning themselves. Broadening waters flowing through a mob of wooded islands.

Voice of Conrad: You lose your way as in a desert. You butt against the shoals of fish. You search for the channel. You are cut off from everything. You are somewhere far away. Another existence perhaps. The past returns in the shape of a noisy dream, unrestful. Where is the reality in this strange world of plants, and water, and silence? Silence and no peace. Life and stillness, but no peace. Force, implacable. Brooding. Intention, inscrutable. It looks at you, this silence, it looks at you vengeful. Find the channel. You have to find the channel and slip by the hidden banks, the sunken stones, sly old snags that shave the jugular. Reality, reality, and inner truth hidden. Stillness. Never forget the thump, that rips through tin and drowns the steamboat, the pilgrims and cannibals, and drowns the reality. The fist on the very heart, you remember it, you dream it, you wake up at night and hear that blow, that beats you hot and cold. Cannibals splashing and pushing, Cannibals chewing their hippo meat, rotten and dank, mystery of the wilderness in your nostrils.

Marlow (in narration): I had the manager on board and three or four pilgrims with their staves..They were all complete. We had enlisted the help of some chaps on the way for a crew. Fine fellows, these cannibals. They were men one could work with, and I am grateful to them..and after all, they did not eat each other before my face. Sometimes we came upon a station...

Voice of Conrad: Tumbledown hovel on the bankside, clinging to the skirts of the unknown, White men scuttling out, gestures of joy, surprise and welcome, Very strange..They are held there, captive by a spell.

Voice of Kurtz: Ivory..ivory..

Voice of Conrad: On and on up-river, into the silence, along empty reaches, round the still bends, between the high walls of our winding way, reverberating in hollow claps, the beat of the stern-wheel. Trees, trees, millions of trees. Massive, immense, running up high; and at their foot, hugging the bank against the stream of silence, the little begrimed steamboat, creeping, the sluggish beetle, crawling on the floor of a lofty portico. Where does it crawl? Where do the pilgrims imagine it crawls? To some place where they can get something..For Marlow it crawls towards Kurtz, exclusively...

Voice of Kurtz: Hahahahahahahahahahah.(Heavily echoed.)

Voice of Conrad: Reaches open and close behind, the forest steps leisurely across the water, Bush shutters, snuffing out the candle of light and the hope of return.

Voice of Conrad: Deeper and deeper, into the heart of darkness. It is quiet here. Night is the roll of drums, Running up-river sustained faintly, hovering in the air, high above our heads, What does it mean? War, peace, or prayer?

Voice of Kurtz: We cannot tell...

Voice of Conrad: Dawn is a descent of chill stillness.

Voice of Kurtz: We are wanderers on prehistoric earth.

Voice of Conrad: We are taking possession of an accursed inheritance. Steamboat struggling through olive broth of green water and black mud, glimpse of rush walls, peaked grass-roofs, burst of yells, whirl of black limbs, Mass of clapping hands, stamping feet, swaying bodies, eyes rolling, heavy and motionless foliage, drooping. Black and incomprehensible

Voice of Kurtz: Frenzy..ahahahahah!

Voice of Conrad: Prehistoric man?

Voice of Kurtz: Cursing you..ahahahahah!

Voice of Conrad: Welcoming us, praying to us, Who can tell? Steamboat gliding past like phantoms wondering and secretly appalled as sane men would be before an outbreak of applause in the madhouse. We cannot understand..

Voice of Kurtz: You are too far..

Voice of Conrad: We cannot remember..

Voice of Kurtz: You are travelling in the night of first ages, ages that are gone, leaving no sign. There are no memories.

Voice of Conrad: The earth is unearthly. No shackled form of conquered monster here, Monstrous darkness and free. No, they are not inhuman. Howling, leaping, These horrid faces are not inhuman.

Voice of Kurtz: Something thrills you..

Voice of Conrad: Wild and passionate uproar..

Voice of Kurtz: It is the thought of their humanity...Ugly, yes? but admit it..admit it...

Voice of Conrad: Admit what?

Voice of Kurtz: It is within you..

Voice of Conrad: What?

Voice of Kurtz: The mind of man is capable of anything.

Voice of Kurtz: Everything is in it, All the past and all the future.

Voice of Conrad: What is it? What is there after all?

Voice of Kurtz: You have the dim suspicion of meaning, You so remote from the night of first ages, You comprehend...

Voice of Conrad: Joy, fear and sorrow,

Voice of Kurtz: You comprehend...

Voice of Conrad: devotion, valour, rage..

Voice of Kurtz: Truth...You comprehend the truth.

Voice of Conrad: Who can tell?

Voice of Kurtz: Truth stripped of its cloak of time. Let the fool gape and shudder. The man knows...

Voice of Kurtz: Acquisitions, clothes, petty rags, rags that fly off with the first good shake. I have a voice too, Principles won't do, For good or evil, Mine is the speech that cannot be silenced.

Marlow in narration: I had so little time. I had to mess about with white lead and strips of woollen blanket to put bandages on those leaky steam-pipes, I can tell you..I had to watch the steering, and circumvent those snags beneath the surface and get the tin-pot along by hook or by crook..and I had to look after the savage who was fireman.

Voice of Kurtz: Dog in a parody of breeches and feather hat, walking on his hind-legs, squinting at the steam-gauge, wincing at the water-gauge, filed teeth and black hair shaved into queer patterns. Three ornamental scars carved on each cheek...

Voice of Conrad: Steamship creeping on, wooded banks slipping past, through the interminable silence, towards Kurtz, caressing thick snags, stroking the water, treacherous and shallow, with a sulky devil in the boiler. Hut of reeds, Inclined and melancholy pole, tatters of flag flying from it, and neatly stacked wood-pile.

Manager: Look!..some imbecile has written on this piece of board..Marlow..you have a gift for languages..what does it say?

Marlow: It's English..'Wood foooor you..Hurry up' That's strange!

Manager: What do you mean?

Marlow: It says 'approach cautiously.'

Manager: Who's written it?

Marlow: It's not Kurtz..Can't make out the signature..

Manager: What a load of nonsense. Hurry up. Where? Up river?

Marlow: Well something must be wrong..

Manager: But what? and how much?

Marlow: The bush around here has nothing to say..and we cannot see very far either..

Voice of Conrad: Torn curtain of red twill, hanging in the doorway, flapping sadly in the faces, Dismantled dwelling of white man, heap of rubbish resting in the dark corner.

Marlow as in narration: Near the door I picked up a book..no covers, but its back had been lovingly stitched with white cotton thread and its pages had been thumbed into a state of extremely dirty softness..Its title was 'An enquiry into some points of Seamanship.' Such a book being there was wonderful enough..but still more astounding were the notes pencilled in the margin...I couldn't believe my eyes..They were in cipher..What an extravagant mystery!

Manager: (Shouting from distance) Marlow! Marlow! We must get on. We've got all the wood. Marlow get a move on! What are you doing there?

Marlow: (Stepping aboard and starting the engine) Sorry..found a book..

Manager: What book?

Marlow: Oh nothing to worry about..Towson's points of Seamanship..All about the breaking strain of ship's chains and all that..For a moment I forgot I was here..

Manager: Must be this miserable trader..

Marlow: Who?

Manager: This intruder!

Marlow: Well...he must be English then..

Manager: It will not save him from getting into trouble if he is not careful..

Voice of Conrad: Water currents more rapid, Steamboat drawing its last gasp, listening on tiptoe for the last beat, like watching the last flickers of life, But still they crawl...

Marlow: God I expect this wretched thing to give up at any moment..

Manager: Keep your patience, Marlow..we are getting there and even if the boiler blows..you can have another three months to mend it...

Marlow in narration: I took to fretting and fuming to myself whether I should talk openly to Kurtz..but it occurred to me that my speech, or my silence, indeed any action of mine would be a mere futility. What did it matter what anyone knew, or ignored? What did it matter who was manager?...

Marlow: It's eight miles now...eight miles from Kurtz's station..Shall I push on?

Manager: The navigation up there is too dangerous..The sun is very low..perhaps we should wait here until the morning..

Marlow: Eight miles! Only three hours away?

Manager: If we are going to follow this note to approach cautiously, we must approach in daylight. Not at dusk, or in the dark..

Marlow: Alright..alright..one night cannot matter after all these months..I'll bring it up in the middle here.

Voice of Conrad: Narrow reach, straight with high sides, like a railway cutting. Dusk gliding in before the sun sets. Water currents running smooth and swift. On the banks, dumb immobility. Living trees, lashed by the creepers and every living bush to the slenderest twig, to the lightest leaf, changed to stone. Not a sound. This is not sleep, This is nature in a trance. You begin to believe your deafness, then the night strikes you blind. At three in the morning, a large fish leaps with a loud splash as though a gun fired. Sun rises with white fog, warm and clammy and more blinding than the night. Standing around you like the mottled milky pillars of an arctic cathedral. At eight or nine it lifts and unwraps the glimpse of towering trees, and matted jungle with the blazing little ball of sun hanging over it, all perfectly still, and then the white pillars of fog descend as if sliding in greased groves.

Loud cry of infinite desolation, soaring. Then a gradually increasing clamour. Intolerably excessive shrieking that stops suddenly.

Voice of Conrad: The mist screams, soaring slowly through the opaque air.

Manager: Good god! What is the meaning?

Pilgrim1: Get the carbines. (Sound of feet rushing through doors)

Marlow: Haul the chain short!

Manager: What happens next?

Marlow: I could trip the anchor and move at once..

Pilgrim1: We will all be butchered in this fog.

Manager: Will they attack?

Voice of Conrad: Just the steamer and misty strip of water, the rest of the world nowhere. Just nowhere, Gone, disappeared. Swept off without a whisper, without a shadow. Faces twitching, fingers trembling. Cannibals grunting, Headman, broad-chested, draped in dark-blue cloths, Fierce nostrils and hair in oily ringlets.

Marlow: Aha!..Mr Headman..How are you this morning?

Headman: Catch'im...

Marlow: I'm sorry?

Headman: Catch'im...Give'im to us.

Marlow: To you, eh? What would you do with them?

Headman: Eat'im!

Marlow: How charming!

Manager: (Panting) Here..I've brought you a Winchester..

Marlow: Ah thank you, but my hands are well occupied with the challenges of navigation..

Manager: What are the savages grunting about?

Marlow: They are humming a rhapsody for their next meal..

Manager: What are you talking about, Marlow?

Marlow: They wish that your carbines will provide them with a more wholesome diet than the three pieces of brass wire you give them every week..

Manager: Disgusting niggers!

Marlow: I don't imagine for one minute that it has occurred to you that even savages need to eat more than the rotten hippo-meat that your colleagues tipped over the side the other night.

Manager: We've been breathing dead hippo every waking, sleeping and eating hour since we left the central station..It had to go..Anyway they get their wire..they can trade it in the villages..

Marlow: Indeed, they can trade it in the villages we have not seen, with the friendly people who are currently shaking hands with the point of your rifle..Unless they swallow that confounded wire, or make loops of it to snare the fishes with, I am at a loss to think of a way of feeding them..

Manager: These savages know how to survive..

Marlow: I don't doubt that, Monsieur Le Directeur..Why in the name of all the gnawing devils of hunger they don't go for us and have a good tuck in for once, amazes me now I think of it..

Manager: Don't be absurd, Marlow..This is not the time for sarcasm..

Marlow: I am perfectly serious..There are five of us and thirty of them...thirty big powerful men..Well perhaps we don't look all that wholesome..and I have had a touch of the fever lately..We are not worth the indigestion.

Pilgrim1: Left...the closer bank is on the left side.

Pilgrim2: No, No..how can you? Right, Right of course..

Manager: It is very serious...I would be desolated if anything should happen to Mr Kurtz before we came up.

Marlow: Of course you would, Monsieur le Directeur..

Manager: So we'd better get going at once..

Marlow: The problem as I see it..is that we cannot tell where we are going, whether up-stream or down-stream, or across..I feel there is the danger of wrecking the vessel..

Manager: I authorize you to take all the risks...

Marlow: I refuse to take any.

Manager: Well, I must defer to your judgement. You are captain. Will they attack do you think?

Marlow: I don't think so, Monsieur Le Directeur. The thick fog you see. If they left the bank in their canoes they would get lost in it, as we would if we attempted to move. In addition during the short lift of the fog this morning, I had not seen any canoes anywhere in the reach. Lastly I would refer to the nature of the noise that we have heard...It would appear to me that although the cries were wild, and yes..violent..they had not the fierce character of hostile intention..I would be so bold as to suggest that the cries have given me an irresistible impression of sorrow...If there is any danger..it would arise from our close proximity to a great human passion let loose..I suppose even extreme grief may ultimately vent itself in violence..but more generally it takes the form of apathy...So my dear boys..there is no use in you strangling your rifles and thrusting them into the fog..

Manager: Your point is taken Marlow..Perhaps you would be good enough to keep a look-out?

Marlow: My pleasure, Monsieur le Directeur..my pleasure..

Marlow in Narration: Two hours after the fog had lifted we were a mile and a half from Kurtz's station. There was a chain of shallow sand banks down the middle of the river like a man's backbone running down the middle of his back under the skin. As I had been informed the station was on the west side, I naturally headed for the western passage...

Voice of Conrad: High steep bank, overgrown with bushes, gloomy forest face, in the afternoon shadow falling on the water...Black helmsman, in blue cloth wrapper, from waist to ankles, sporting brass earrings, thought all the world of himself and steered with no end of swagger.

Marlow in Narration: I was looking down at the sounding-pole, and feeling much annoyed to see at each try a little more of it stick out of that river, when I saw the poleman give up the business suddenly, and stretch himself flat on the deck, without even taking the trouble to haul the pole in...At the same time the fireman sat down abruptly before his furnace and ducked his head..

Sound of arrows hitting the hard surfaces of the boat.

Marlow: Sticks! Bloody sticks...(Shouting) We're being shot at..Bloody arrows! You! Helmsman. What the hell do you think you're doing..stop stamping man! We're ten feet from the bank..Steer her straight! Good god man out of the way and keep quiet!

Pilgrim1: Can you turn back?

Marlow:Turning back's the least of our problems..there's a snag coming up.

Fusillade of shots.

Marlow: Blast you squirting out lead..I can't see snags or ripples for your bloody smoke!

Howling in the bush. More dense clatter of arrows.

Marlow: I've no choice...I've got to crowd her into the bank..the water's deep there..

More gunfire.

Voice of Conrad: Face amongst the leaves, face fierce and steady, naked breasts, arms, legs and glaring eyes, in the naked bush, swarming human limbs glistening bronze in the tangled gloom..Tearing through whirl of broken twigs and leaves the mad helmsman shaking his empty rifle, and yelling at the shore..

Marlow: Close that shutter..you fool..Close it!

Voice of Conrad: Mad helmsman falling back swiftly, face frozen with familiar, profound gaze, rifle over-board, head hitting the wheel twice, feet warm and wet, helmsman on his back, staring straight up, hands clutching long cane, shaft of spear thrown or lunged blade buried below his ribs, pool of blood lying there very still, gleaming dark red under the wheel, eyes shining with amazing lustre.

Fusillade of guns.

Marlow in narration: He looked at me anxiously, gripping the spear like something precious, with an air of being afraid I would try to take it away from him. (More arrows, cries and gunfire)

Pilgrim1: This is hopeless. We'll not make it..There are too many!

Marlow: Rubbish! I can try this!

Loud piercing steam-whistle. Screech after screech. Angry, war-like yells checked and changed to 'Tremulous and prolonged wail of fear and despair'.

Fewer arrows and shots dying out.

Pilgrim2: (Panting) The manager sends me..Good god!..Your helmsman is dying..

Marlow: It would appear so..

Pilgrim2: I think he's still alive..

Marlow: Wait..Let me look..so he is..It seems he would like to ask some question of us..

Pilgrim2: Ah!...the moment...he's frowning..I think he's going now..yes..that's it..not a twitch or sound..(Clapping hands in front of helmsman's eyes) Yes...the nigger's dead now..eyes like marbles..

Marlow: Can you steer?

Pilgrim2: Ah! the manager would..

Marlow: Steer...there's a good chap.

Pilgrim2: Well..he is dead.

Marlow: No doubt about it..the blood in my shoes and socks has gone quite cold..and by the way, I suppose Mr Kurtz is dead as well by this time...

Marlow: No use for this shoe now...

Splash.

Marlow in narration: There was a sense of extreme disappointment. I had been looking forward to a talk with Kurtz..He was a voice..

Pilgrim2: Mr Kurtz dead! Well that would be something..he's collected, bartered, swindled and stolen more ivory than all the other agents together!

Voice of Conrad: ..gifted voice, flow of words, of talk, bewildering, illuminating, most exalted and most contemptible voice, stream of light pulsating, deceitful flow from the heart of impenetrable..

Voice of Kurtz: darkness....

Another splash.

Marlow: Well it's all over. We are too late..

Voice of Conrad: Voice, the dying vibration of one immense jabber, silly, atrocious, sordid,

Voice of Kurtz: savage,

Voice of Conrad: or simply mean...

Marlow in narration: I missed my helmsman awfully..even while his body was still lying in the pilot-house. For the pilgrims he was of no more account than a grain of sand in a black Sahara. But you see he had done something, he had steered for months. It was a kind of partnership..I had to look after him..and the intimate profundity of that look he gave me when he received the spear through his heart..remains this day in my memory..like a claim of distant kinship affirmed in a supreme moment.

Marlow: Poor fool! If he had only left that shutter alone..No restraint...no restraint..Are you going to help me or not?

Pilgrim1: What are you going to do with him?

Marlow: Over the side dear boy..

Pilgrim1: So soon?

Marlow: Well if we leave him here another day he'll start reeking like the cannibals' hippo-meat..which I seem to recall you thought appropriate for the river-bed...It would help if you pulled that out.

Pilgrim1: Oh nooo!

Marlow: Here...let me...uggh..you've got to jerk it out with the same force it went in..Ahhh..that's it.

Pilgrim1: Excuse me!...(He's sick over the side of the boat)

Marlow: When you've finished feeding the fishes would you mind giving me a hand..he's rather heavy..God!..He's heavy..

Pilgrim1: What do you want me to do..

Marlow: Stop his heels leaping all over the place...

Manager: I say Marlow..you're not going to tip him over just like that?

Pilgrim2: Heartless I say..Quite heartless...and without any consideration of religious decorum..

Marlow: (Straining) What do you want to keep a body hanging about here for? Embalm it maybe? Eh?

Pilgrim2: The man's got no feeling..

Marlow: Go on! Take his behind..I've got his shoulders..My god, he's heavier than any man on earth!

Marlow and Pilgrim2: (With great exertion) Ahhhh! At last!

Loud splash as body hits the water and disappears. Murmuring sounds of protest from the cannibals.

Manager: Marlow..what's all this racket from the crew..

Marlow: Our cannibal friends are as scandalized as you I should think..

Manager: Well I should think so..tossing him into the water like that..You know our civilisation depends on some basic decencies which you appear to be lacking in Marlow..It's not a very good example..

Marlow: I had made up my mind that if my late helmsman should be eaten..the fishes alone should have him...He was rather second rate when alive..but now dead he would have made a first class meal..

Pilgrim2: I say, Monsieur Le Directeur..we've elected to give him a simple funeral..a little late we do admit, but he was despatched with a rather callous rapidity..and we've only just found a bible at the bottom of my old kit-bag..

Manager: That is very honourable of you..I am sure the poor chap would have appreciated it...

Marlow: I take it you have given up on Mr Kurtz?

Manager: Kurtz is dead no doubt and the station burnt to the ground..

Pilgrim1: At least we've avenged the poor man properly!

Marlow: What on earth are you talking about?

Pilgrim1: Say! We must have made a glorious slaughter of them in the bush. Eh? What do you think? Our Winchesters must have massacred them? What do you say?

Marlow: You made a glorious lot of smoke anyhow!

Pilgrim1: How dare you! What are you suggesting?

Marlow: I had seen quite clearly from the way the tops of the bushes rustled and flew, that almost all the shots went far too high..

Pilgrim2: Preposterous..

Pilgrim1: You can't talk..We saw how eager you were with a gun..

Marlow: My dear chap you can't hit anything unless you take aim and fire from the shoulder, but you were firing from the hip with your bloody eyes shut!

Pilgrim1: You're yellow Marlow..Yellow..Too much of a coward to have a go yourself!

Marlow: You can talk- you bloodthirsty little beggar..You nearly fainted when you saw my wounded helmsman!

Manager: Quiet! Quiet! Pipe down for god's sake..They'll be hearing this at the Central station..

Marlow: My dear boys..the retreat you so readily claim was brought about by your lousy shooting, was in fact caused by the screeching of my steam-whistle!

Manager: Now Marlow you've gone too far!

Pilgrim1: The liar!

Pilgrim2: Withdraw that!

Indignant protests continue and die down.

Voice of Conrad: Slope of hill with trees free from undergrowth. Long decaying building on the summit, half buried in the high grass. Large holes in peaked roof gaping black, jungle and woods in the background. Half dozen slim posts in a row, roughly trimmed with upper ends, ornamented with round carved balls. White man on the river-bank under a hat, beckoning like a cartwheel..human forms in the forest gliding here and there above and below...

Marlow: What's this..there's a clearing..

Manager: (Clapping hands) The station! It's the inner station!

Marlow: Half-speed..Engine half-speed I say!

Russian: (Shouting) Hey! Hellooo! Hellooo! Hellooo!

Manager: (Shouting) We have been attacked!

Russian: I know...I know...It's all right...Come along...It's all right..I am glad.

Marlow: Stop all engines! Let her drift down!

Voice of Conrad: Brown Holland clothes, covered in patches all over, bright patches, blue, red and yellow, patches on the back, patches on the front, on the elbows, knees coloured binding on the jacket, scarlet edging on the trousers. Gay in the sunshine, This Harlequin of patches, Beardless, boyish face, fair hair, nose peeling, little eyes blue, smiles and frowns chasing each other on the countenance like sunshine and shadow on a wind-swept plain.

Russian: Look out captain! There's a snag lodged in here last night!

Marlow: What! Another snag? Bugger it! Turn to starboard! Faster you oaf!

Russian: (From river bank) You English?

Marlow: Are you?

Russian: No...Never mind!

Marlow: Are we in time?

Russian: He is up there....Behind..

Manager: Right..come on men..take your guns. (Clambering out into the bush)

Marlow: I say...I don't like this..These natives are in the bush...

Russian: It's alright...They are simple people..Well, I am glad you came..It took me all my time to keep them off.

Marlow: But you said it was all right.

Russian: Oh they meant no harm...well not exactly..My faith, your pilot-house wants a clean-up! If I were you I'd keep enough steam in the boiler to blow the whistle..just in case..One good screech will do more for you than all your rifles..They are simple minded...Oh God.. it's so good to see you..It can be so quiet here..You've had an eventful journey then..It can't have been easy..Look I'm sorry..I'm jabbering at all a pace..making up for the silence..

Marlow: Don't you talk with Mr Kurtz?

Russian: You don't talk with that man- you listen to him..But now....My brother sailor! It is an honour..a pleasure and a delight..Allow me to introduce myself..I am Russian..the son of an arch-priest...What? My god! Tobacco! English tobacco..

Marlow: Would you like some?

Russian: Excellent English tobacco..Now that's brotherly of you..

Marlow: Here, would you like a smoke?

Russian: Smoke? Where's a sailor that does not smoke? (Puffs heavily on the pipe) Ahhhhh! Nectar...Sweet Nectar....You are probably wondering what I am doing here, eh? To think I would end up here...after running away from school, going to sea in a Russian ship, running away again..to sea again on English ships..and becoming reconciled with my father...the arch priest.. (Heavy sucking on the pipe) Ahhhhhh! When you are young..you must see things..gather experience, ideas, enlarge the mind..Here!..You can never tell! Here I met Mr Kurtz...I persuaded the Dutch trading house..Van Shuytens.. on the coast to fit me out with stores..goods..and I made for here..Here..about this river for two years..all alone.. cut off from everybody and everything..I am not so young as I look..I am twenty five..Funny thing is at first old Van Shuyten told me to go to the devil..But I stuck at him..talked and talked..Ha..like I'm doing now eh.. (Another heavy suck on the pipe) I talked so much he got afraid I would take the hind-leg off his favourite dog...so he gave me some cheap things, a few guns and told me he hoped he would never see my face again..Good old Dutchman..Van Shuyten..I sent him one small lot of ivory last year..He can't call me a little thief when I get back...I hope he got it..And for the rest I don't care....I had some wood stacked for you..That was at my old house..Did you see?

Marlow: Look..I've got something for you...Towson's book!..You left it behind..

Russian: My beauty!..God!..the only book I had left..Thank you..Thank you..I thought I had lost it..So many accidents happen to a man going about alone, you know. Canoes get upset sometimes....sometimes you've got to clear out so quickly when the people get angry...(Flicking pages of book)

Marlow: You made notes in Russian?

Russian: Umm.

Marlow: I thought they were written in cipher.

Russian: Ha!..I had lots of trouble keeping these people off..

Marlow: Did they want to kill you?

Russian: Oh, no!

Marlow: Why did they attack us?

Russian: They don't want him to go...

Marlow: Don't they?

Russian: I tell you...this man has enlarged my mind...

Voice of Conrad: Motley absconder from a troupe of mimes, enthusiastic, fabulous, existence improbable, inexplicable, bewildering. An insoluble problem. Existence inconceivable, Why does he not disappear altogether?

Russian: I went a little farther...then still a little farther..till I had gone so far that I don't know how I'll ever get back. Never mind. Plenty time. I can manage. You take Kurtz away quick...quick..I tell you.

Voice of Conrad: Modest, clear flame of youth, gallantly, thoughtlessly alive. Indestructible glamour. Destitute glamour, lonely, futile glamour, uncalculating, impractical spirit breathing in and pushing on through the wilderness.

Russian: We talked of everything. I forgot there was such a thing as sleep. The night did not seem to last an hour. Everything! Everything!..Of love too.

Marlow: Ah, he talked to you of love!

Russian: It isn't what you think. It was in general. He made me see things..things...

Voice of Conrad: This river, jungle, this land, this arch of blazing sky so hopeless, so dark, impenetrable to thought, pitiless to weakness...

Marlow: And ever since, you have been with him, of course?

Russian: On the contrary..As a rule Mr Kurtz wanders alone, far into the forest..but I have succeeded in nursing him through two illnesses...Very often coming to this station, I had to wait days and days before he would turn up...Ah, it was worth waiting for!- sometimes.

Marlow: What was he doing? Exploring or what?

Russian: Oh yes, of course...He has discovered lots of villages, a lake too...I do not exactly know in what direction from here..It was a little dangerous to inquire too much..but mostly..his expeditions have been for ivory..

Marlow: But he has had no goods to trade with..

Russian: There's a good lot of cartridges left even now....

Marlow: To speak plainly, he raided the country..Not alone surely!

Russian: Well you see there are lots of villages around the lake..Hunting comes naturally to these people..

Marlow: Kurtz got the tribe to follow him, did he?

Russian: They adored him. What can you expect? He came to them with thunder and lightning, you know- and they had never seen anything like it..and very terrible..He could be very terrible...You can't judge Mr Kurtz as you would an ordinary man. No, no, No! Now- just to give you an idea- I don't mind telling you, he wanted to shoot me, too, one day- but don't judge him.

Marlow: Shoot you! What for?

Russian: Well, I had a small lot of ivory the chief of that village near my house gave me..You see I used to shoot game for them. Well, he wanted it, and wouldn't hear reason. He declared he would shoot me unless I gave him the ivory and then cleared out of the country, because he would do so, and had a fancy for it, and there was nothing on earth to prevent him killing whom he jolly well pleased. And it was true, too. I gave him the ivory. What did I care! But I didn't clear out. No, no. I couldn't leave him. I had to be careful, of course, till we got friendly again for a time. He had his second illness then. Afterwards I had to keep out of the way; but I didn't mind. He was living for the most part in those villages on the lake. When he came down to the river, sometimes he would take to me, and sometimes it was better for me to be careful. This man suffered too much. He hated all this, and somehow he couldn't get away. When I had a chance I begged him to try and leave while there was time; I offered to go back with him. And he would say yes, and then he would remain; go off on another ivory hunt; disappear for weeks; forget himself amongst these people- forget himself- you know.

Marlow: Why! He's mad.

Russian: Mad? It is impossible. Mr Kurtz mad? If you had heard him talk, only two days ago...you wouldn't dare hint at such a thing..

Marlow in narration: I had taken up my binoculars while we talked and was looking at the shore, sweeping the limit of the forest at each side and at the back of the house...

Voice of Conrad: Bush so silent, so quiet, as quiet and silent as the ruined house on the hill. Desolate exclamations, shrugs, phrases, hints ending in deep sighs. The woods are like a mask, heavy, unmoving prison door.

Russian: Lately you see..Mr Kurtz had come down to the river, bringing with him all the fighting men from the lake tribe. He had been gone for several months...They adored him, they were adoring him..He came here quite unexpectedly..I suppose he was going to make a raid across the river, or down stream, but he was taken ill again and much worse than before..I heard he was lying helpless, and so I came up and took my chance..Oh he is bad..very bad..

Marlow: Where is he lying now?

Russian: In the house..

Marlow: Ah yes..I see it now in the telescope..I see..

Voice of Conrad: Life gone. Ruined roof, long mud wall peeping through the long grass. Three little square windows..No, two...Post leaping up...Focus..focus..Post with round ornamentation...Another..another..focus..focus..

Marlow: Good god!

Voice of Conrad: Heads, human heads, symbolic, expressive, puzzling, striking, disturbing, food for vultures, food for ants, ascending the poles. Knob of human wood, black, dried, sunken, eyelids closed, shrunken dry lips, white line of teeth smiling too, smiling continuously at some endless, jocose dream of eternal sleep.

Marlow: Good god! Jesus!

Russian: Ah..you've seen them..I..I didn't dare take them down....He is not afraid of the natives..They will not stir until Mr Kurtz gives the word...His..his ascendancy is extraordinary..Their camps surround this place and the chiefs..they come to see him every day..They crawl on their..

Marlow: (Shouting) I don't want to know anything of the ceremonies used when approaching Mr Kurtz!

Russian: You haven't heard his speeches..on love, on justice, on the conduct of life..You would understand..You would understand the conditions..You have no idea..These heads..They are the heads of rebels..

Marlow: (Laughs hysterically) Rebels! Rebels!..I am not impressed with your definition....Well I am becoming most enlightened..While in this lightless region of subtle horrors I have come across enemies yes..criminals even and workers..they must all die, of course..they have no right to life..they are savages.. and now..these rebels..Their rebellious heads look very subdued to me on their sticks?

Russian: You don't know how such a life tries a man like Kurtz!

Marlow: Well, and you..how does it try you?

Russian: I! I!..I am a simple man. I have no great thoughts. I want nothing from anybody. How can you compare me to? (Breaks down in tears) I don't understand. I've been doing my best to keep him alive, and that's enough. I had no hand in all this. I have no abilities. There hasn't been a drop of medicine or a mouthful of invalid food for months here. He was shamefully abandoned. A man like this, with such ideas. Shamefully! Shamefully!..I..I haven't slept for the last ten nights...(Weeping)

Voice of Conrad: Long shadows of the forest, slipping down far beyond the ruined hovel, beyond the symbolic row of stakes. All this in gloom. River glittering in its still and dazzling splendour.

Marlow: What's that..Ah..The pilgrims..they're coming back..they've got a stretcher..I can see a body held up over the long grass..

Loud piercing cry. Loud response from enormous mass of tribesmen. Then silence.

Russian: Now, if he does not say the right thing to them we are all done for...

Marlow: Let us hope that the man who can talk so well of love in general will find some particular reason to spare us this time..

Voice of Conrad: Focus..focus.. Thin arm extended commandingly. Lower jaw moving. Eyes shining darkly far into the bony, lofty, frontal ivory bald ball. The wilderness has polished his head, has caressed him, loved him, embraced him, has shot his veins, eaten his flesh and sealed his soul, Ivory head nodding with grotesque jerks. Body seven feet long, cage of ribs all astir, pitiful and appalling. Image of death carved out of old ivory, shaking his bony hand with menaces at the motionless crowd of dark and glittering bronze. Wide open voracious mouth. Sucking in all the air, all the earth, all the men before him.

Voice of Kurtz: (Sound of Kurtz murmuring, can't be heard distinctly, but loudly echoed)

Russian: What does he say?

Marlow: I don't know..I can only see his lips move..But they've gone..Vanished!..Extraordinary...

Pilgrim1: Come on Marlow, give us a hand!

Pilgrim2: It's a wonder our heads don't end up on those sticks!

Sound of clambering onto steamboat. Groaning and physical movement of carrying body on stretcher.

Manager: We will want an explanation Mr Kurtz, but we can wait for it... until your condition improves maybe....if it improves..

Pilgrim1: Where are we going to put him?

Marlow: One of the little cabins..it's all right..in here..

Kurtz: You will find... Monsieur Le directeur, that the only explanation you will need lies in piles of ivory.. (Kurtz is all the while tearing open letters and scanning his correspondence.)

Manager: We are not interested in commercial motives..The company has always been pledged to a higher purpose..

Marlow: Forgive me Mr Kurtz..my name is Marlow..

Kurtz: Yes..Marlow..I am glad..I have been reading all about you..A special recommendation from Europe! (Waving paper)

Pilgrim1: Will you be happy here Mr Kurtz?

Kurtz: Hardly, but it will do..

Sound of placing stretcher onto a cabin bed.

Manager: Marlow..if you don't mind..

Marlow: Of course..

Sweeping sound of curtain being drawn across.

Manager: (Distant and muffled) You will have to answer for this..Your methods have ruined the district!

Kurtz: You've got your precious ivory haven't you? You've got your profits..and I won't last much longer..What more do you want?

Fading out. Increase background sound of jungle.

Manager: There is nothing profitable in these heads being there!

Pilgrim1: Marlow!..Look at this..

Marlow: What..

Pilgrim2: In the distance..on the edge of that forest..Coming into the light!

Use special percussive movement in Heart of Darkness music.

Voice of Conrad: Between the bronze warriors, Leaning on tall spears, beneath their spotted skins, along the lighted shore, A wild woman walking. Proud measured walking. Flashly jingling ornaments and striped and vibrant skins. Head high, hair like a helmet. Knees with brass leggings. Elbows with wire gauntlets. Tawny cheek with Crimson spot. Neck with garlands of glass beads. Charms and gifts of witchmen glittering and trembling with every step and tread upon the earth.

Voice of Kurtz: She is savage. She is superb.

Voice of Conrad: Wild-eyed and stately.

Voice of Kurtz: She is magnificent.

Voice of Conrad: Wild gorgeous woman standing still, her long shadow falling to the water's edge. Her face tragic and fierce in sorrow, in pain like the wilderness. Low jingle, glint of yellow metal, sway of fringed draperies, she halts, her heart is failing, her soul is brooding, opening through her bared arms thrown up rigid above her head to touch the sky in grief. Her shadows dart out of the earth swiftly, sweep around the river, gathering the steamer into shadowy embrace and then silence, formidable silence. She turns, walking on, her eyes gleaming back in the dusk of thickets. She disappears.

Russian: If she had offered to come aboard I really think I would have tried to shoot her. I had been risking my life every day for the last fortnight to keep her out of the house. She got in one day and kicked up a row about those miserable rags I picked up in the storeroom to mend my clothes with. I wasn't decent. At least it must have been that, for she talked like a fury to Kurtz for an hour, pointing at me now and then..I don't understand the dialect of this tribe. Luckily for me, I fancy Kurtz felt too ill that day to care, or there would have been mischief. I don't understand..No..It's too much for me..Ah, well, it's all over now...

Kurtz: (Loudly from behind the curtain) Save me! Save the ivory, you mean. Don't tell me. Save me! Why, I've had to save you. You are interrupting my plans now. Sick! Sick! Not so sick as you would like to believe. Never mind. I'll carry my ideas out yet...I will return. I'll show you what can be done. You with your little peddling notions- you are interfering with me. I will return..I..(Breaks down in a coughing fit)

Manager: Marlow..Please follow me..

Marlow: Yes?...

Manager: He is..very low. Very low.

Marlow: (Sighs.)

Manager: We have done all we could for him- haven't we? But there is no disguising the fact, Mr Kurtz has done more harm than good to the Company. He did not see the time was not ripe for vigorous action. Cautiously, cautiously- that's my principle. We must be cautious yet. The district is closed to us for a time. Deplorable! Upon the whole, the trade will suffer. I don't deny there is a remarkable quantity of ivory- mostly fossil. We must save it, at all events...but look how precarious the position is..and why? Because the method is unsound..

Marlow: Do you..do you call it unsound method?

Manager: Without doubt. Don't you?

Marlow: No method at all.

Manager: Exactly. I anticipated this. Shows a complete want of judgement. It is my duty to point it out in the proper quarter.

Marlow: Oh..that fellow..what's his name? The brickmaker, Labouche..he will make a readable report for you...

Manager: Brickmaker?..oh..yes..

Marlow: Nevertheless..I think Mr Kurtz is a remarkable man.

Manager: He was...That is all..Marlow! (Turns abruptly and walks away)

Marlow in narration: My hour of favour was over. I found myself lumped along with Kurtz as a partisan of methods for which the time was not ripe. I was unsound! Ah! But it was something to have at least a choice of nightmares.

Russian: My dear chap..you are a brother seaman after all..I was wondering if I could beg one thing of you..You have a knowledge of matters which could affect Mr Kurtz's reputation..

Marlow: Well...speak out..As it happens, I am Mr Kurtz's friend..in a way..

Russian: If we had not shared the bond of the sea..I would have kept this matter to myself regardless of the consequences..You see I suspect there is an active..ah..active ill will towards me on the part of these white men..

Marlow: You are right. The manager thinks you ought to be hanged.

Russian: I had better get out of the way quietly. I can do no more for Kurtz now, and they would soon find some excuse. What's to stop them? There's a military post three hundred miles from here.

Marlow: Well, upon my word, perhaps you had better go if you have any friends amongst the savages near by..

Russian: Plenty. They are simple people- and I want nothing, you know. I don't want any harm to happen to these whites here, but of course I was thinking of Mr Kurtz's reputation- but you are a brother seaman and..

Marlow: Alright. Mr Kurtz's reputation is safe with me.

Russian: You see..it was Mr Kurtz who ordered the attack on the steamer..He hated sometimes the idea of being taken away- and then again..but I don't understand these matters...I am a simple man..He thought it would scare you away..that you would give it up, thinking him dead. I could not stop him. Oh, I had an awful time of it this last month.

Marlow: Very well..He is all right now.

Russian: Yee-es.

Marlow: Thanks..I shall keep my eyes open.

Russian: But quiet- eh? It would be awful for his reputation if anybody here..

Marlow: I shall do everything in my power to urge discretion...

Russian: I have a canoe and three black fellows waiting not very far. I am off. Could you give me a few Martini-Henry cartridges?

Marlow: My pleasure.

Russian: I say..between sailors..you know..good English tobacco..

Marlow: Take as much of it as you want..

Russian: You haven't by any chance a pair of shoes you could spare? Look!...My soles are tied with knotted strings..

Marlow: Wait..I think I may have an old pair..here!

Russian: You are most kind..a brother seaman!..I shall never forget..Ah! I'll never, never meet such a man again. You ought to have heard him recite poetry..his own, too, it was, he told me. Poetry!..Oh, he enlarged my mind!

Marlow: Goodbye..

Russian: Goodbye!

Marlow in narration: When I woke up after midnight the Russian's warning came to my mind and its hint of danger was real enough to make me get up to have a look around..

Voice of Conrad: Midnight and starred darkness. On the hill a big fire burns, illuminating crooked corners of the station-house, fitfully. Pilgrim with cannibals and guns guarding the ivory. Red gleams wavering deep in the forest, Confused columns of smoke of intense blackness, sinking and rising. Uneasy vigil from the lake tribe camp, beating lingering shocks from a big drum. Humming beat of incantation, muffled, narcotic.

Distant chanting bursts into abrupt yells and outbreak of pent-up, mysterious frenzy. Then low droning.

Marlow in narration: I must have dozed off while leaning over the rail... For some reason this bewildering frenzy seemed to be reaching out from the black, flat wall of wilderness..sending vibrations deep into the heart of the steamboat..I glanced casually into the little cabin..A light was burning within..but Mr Kurtz was not there!

Marlow: (Present / interior) Trail..broad trail through the grass..He can't walk..he's crawling on all-fours..I've got him...grass wet..dew..I will give him a drubbing..Clenched fists! God! Such imbecile thoughts..

Voice of Conrad: Old woman knitting (Echoing) black wool, warm pall, She knows all about you.. She is guarding the door of darkness. Morituri te Salutant.

Marlow: I will never get back..I will be here all alone into old age..unarmed..the beat...ah the beat..calm...Movement..motion..I shall cut him off...in front of him..

Voice of Conrad: Unsteady, long, pale, indistinct Kurtz. A vapour exhaled by the earth, swaying, misty and silent.

Marlow: Their fires..just behind the trees..I can hear them breathing..the lake tribe..What if he shouts?

Kurtz: Go away- hide yourself..

Marlow: (Interior) God..one of them..he's coming for me..horns..antelope horns I think on his head..some sorcerer..some witch-man..

Marlow: Do you know what you are doing?

Kurtz: Perfectly.

Marlow: You will be lost...utterly lost.

Kurtz: I had immense plans..

Marlow: Yes. But if you try to shout I'll smash your head with..I will throttle you for good.

Kurtz: I was on the threshold of great things..and now for this stupid scoundrel..the manager..

Marlow: Your success in Europe is assured in any case...

Voice of Marlow: Breaking the spell..must break the spell..heavy, mute spell of wilderness...it draws you..draws you..to your pitiless breast..it awakens your..

Voice of Kurtz: Forgotten, brutal instincts. yes...

Voice of Marlow: This has driven you..driven you to the edge of the forest..to the bush..to the gleam of fires, the throb of drums..the drone of weird incantations..this has beguiled you..beguiled your..

Voice of Kurtz: ...unlawful soul. yes..

Voice of Marlow: Don't you see it..don't you see..

Voice of Kurtz: ...the terror..yes..

Voice of Marlow: A being..appealing to a being...not in the name of anything..high or low..I have to call you..invoke you.. in the name of

Voice of Kurtz: ..exalted, incredible degradation..yes..

Voice of Conrad: There is nothing above or below you.

Voice of Conrad: Kicked yourself loose of earth..Kicked the earth to pieces.

Voice of Kurtz: Alone. yes...

Voice of Marlow: struggle..struggle with your soul..no.. not a lunatic..intelligence..your intelligence perfectly clear..concentrated..true intensity..

Voice of Kurtz: Horrible. yes...

Voice of Marlow: Your soul..mad!

Voice of Kurtz: Alone in the wilderness. yes..

Voice of Marlow: ..it has gone mad..struggling..yes struggling..inconceivable mystery of a soul knowing..knowing..

Voice of Kurtz: No restraint, No faith, No fear. yes...

Voice of Marlow: struggling blindly..This way..round my neck..clasp your bony arm around my neck..to the steamboat..half a ton yet not much heavier than a child..

Voice of Kurtz: The struggle. yes..

Change of jungle actuality from night to dawn.

Voice of Conrad: The wilderness, flowing through the curtain of trees, bronze, naked, breathing, quivering mass of bodies..

Steamboat moving off.

Marlow: Steam her up! Swing her downstream!

Voice of Conrad: Two thousand eyes fixed on the river demon, splashing, thumping, fierce river demon, beating the water with its terrible tail, breathing black smoke...Three tall men, clothed in bright red earth from head to foot, strutting on the river bank, stamping their feet, nodding their horned heads, swaying their scarlet bodies shaking towards the fierce, river-demon. Shaking their dried gourd and black feathers, Shouting their dark satanic litany.

Marlow in narration: We had carried Kurtz into the pilot-house. There was more air there. Lying on the couch, he stared through the open shutter.

Voice of Conrad: Tall wild woman with the helmeted head, struts out to the very brink...

Woman screams loud incantation and then roaring chorus from the crowd of men.

Marlow: Do you understand this?

Voice of Conrad and Marlow : (Interior)Looking past me with fiery, longing eyes..wistfulness and hate..smile..smile of indefinable meaning...

Kurtz: Do I not?

Marlow: Oh Christ..the bloody pilgrims have got their guns out..

Loud screeching whistle of steamboat. Loud frightened reaction from the crowd as they break and run.

Pilgrim1: Don't! Don't you frighten them away!

Another long screeching whistle repeated over and over again.

Voice of Conrad: Leaping, crouching, swerving, dodging the flying terror of the sound. Red earthed warriors fall flat face down on the shore as though shot dead. Barbarous, superb, wild woman, stretching tragically, stretching her bare arms over the sombre, glittering river.

Burst of gun fusillade.

Marlow: Imbeciles! They've got to have their fun..Can't see her now for all their idiotic smoke..

Screeching whistle again.

Voice of Conrad: Brown current runs swiftly out of the heart of darkness. Life for Kurtz runs swiftly, ebbing, ebbing out of his heart into the sea of inexorable time.

Manager: Well, Marlow..this affair has come off as well as can be expected..

Marlow: You have worries now..

Manager: The faster we run from this unsound method, Marlow, the better for all of us..Soon the only exponent will be dead..I trust nobody else wishes to sympathise, or follow his method?

Voice of Conrad: The voice of Kurtz, the voice, running deep to the very last, hiding in the magnificent folds of eloquence, the barren darkness of his heart. He struggles, he struggles, the voice surviving his strength ebbing, ebbing, the wastes of his weary brain haunted by the shadowy images, images now of wealth and fame, revolving obsequiously round and round his gift of noble, lofty inextinguishable expression...

Kurtz: (In a fever) My ivory, my ivory, my station, my river..my..

Flashback to river bank.

Marlow: The old mud shanty's bursting with it..You would think, Monsieur le Directeur, there is not a single tusk left either above or below the ground in the whole country!

Manager: Mostly fossil...

Marlow: That's no more fossil than I am..

Manager: When I ask your opinion on water currents and navigating a river Marlow, it is welcome...but when you..

Marlow: It appears the natives do bury the tusks sometimes..but evidently they could not bury this parcel deep enough to save Mr Kurtz from his fate...

Manager: We're going to have to throw out the crates of brass wire..Is there room enough on your deck for piling this load?

Marlow: So..Mr Kurtz will be able to see and enjoy it for as long as he can see...

Back to the pilot cabin.

Kurtz: (Feverish) My intended..my station, my career..my ideas..my ivory..

Marlow: (To himself) Carry on like that and the wilderness will burst into laughter and shake the stars in their places....

Marlow: You speak English well, Mr Kurtz..

Kurtz: (Coming out of fever) I went to school in England..my mother half-English..my father half-French..There is something I would like you to read..

Marlow: Oh?

Kurtz: The International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs has entrusted to me..the making of a report for their future guidance.

Marlow: Really? What is it called?

Kurtz: I don't know..I've written seventeen pages..Call it what you like.

Marlow: What is it about?

Kurtz: Well I start with the argument that we whites, from the point of development that we have arrived at..must necessarily appear to them in the nature of supernatural beings..We approach them with the might as of a deity..and so on..Do you not agree?

Marlow: Yes.. it is most interesting..

Kurtz: By the simple exercise of our will we can exert a power for good- practically unbounded..It's the core of our superior civilisation that we can influence and generate an all pervading sense of benevolence. (At this point fade Kurtz's speech beneath Marlow's interior thought) In this way we make progress in the dark reaches of the wilderness..where no civilised man has gone before..It's not just a simple matter of killing elephants, or exchanging tusks for worthless bric-a-brac..it's a question of education and converting savagery into something good and positive...I have had time and experience to develop these thoughts in situ and I have had a unique opportunity to apply the principles in my own station and with my own trading..

Marlow: (Interior) Seventeen pages of close writing, eloquent, vibrating eloquence like his voice..but too high-strung..time for only 17 pages before his nerves went wrong and he began to lord over midnight dances ending with unspeakable rites..sacrifices....offered to him..what's this scrawled on page 15..'Exterminate all the brutes!'..

Kurtz: (Separate and terrifying cry) 'Exterminate all the brutes!'

Kurtz: I would like you to take care of my pamphlet..I am sure it will have some useful influence on my future career..You know this is just the end of the first chapter in my plans..There will come a time when Kings shall meet me at railway stations after another return from some ghastly nowhere..I intend to accomplish great things.

Marlow: I don't doubt it..

Kurtz: It's really a matter of showing them that you have in you something that is really profitable, and then there will be no limits to the recognition of your ability..Of course you must take care of the motives- right motives- always...Close the shutter!

Marlow: Why?

Kurtz: I can't bear to look at this..Oh, but I will wring your heart yet....Marlow?

Marlow: Yes.

Kurtz: This noxious fool of a manager is capable of prying into my boxes when I am not looking..I have something here...Keep this for me...(Scribbling on paper) Live..live rightly, die, die..

Marlow: Is there something the matter?

Kurtz: No, no.. this is for the furthering of my ideas..it's a duty. (Carries on feverishly muttering and scribbling) This lot of ivory now is really mine..The company did not pay for it. I collected it myself at a very great personal risk. I am afraid they will try to claim it as theirs though..H'm..It is a difficult case. What do you think I ought to do- Resist?

Marlow: If you like..

Kurtz: I want no more than justice..justice..

Heavy clanking of metal rods and parts. Steamboat broken down. Quiet river and wilderness.

Voice of Conrad and Marlow: He is an impenetrable darkness..Looking at him is like peering down at a man lying at the bottom of a precipice where the sun never shines..

Marlow in narration: I had not much time to give him. I had to help the engine-driver to dismantle the leaky cylinders, to straighten the bend connecting-rod, filings, nuts, bolts, spanners, hammers, ratchet-drills..things I abominate..

Kurtz: (Shaking and trembling - near death) I am lying here in the dark waiting for death..

Marlow: Oh nonsense!....Shall I leave the candle?

Voice of Conrad: The veil is rent, the ivory head sets in sombre pride, ruthless pride, craven terror, intense, hopeless..

Voice of Kurtz: despair..The horror!.....The horror!

Marlow: (Interior) The end...(Blows out the candle)

Sounds of pilgrims and manager having dinner.

Manager: Ah....Marlow..what a pleasure..How is your friend Mr Kurtz?

Marlow: I don't know ...I have been toiling rather wearily in a wretched scrap-heap of engine parts..

Manager: Better get us out of here as quickly as you can..dear boy..You wouldn't want to end up like your friend in there..(Sarcastic laugh)

Tapping on cabin door.

Manager: Yes..what is it?

Manager's boy: Mistah Kurtz...he dead.

Gasps.

Pilgrim1: How extraordinary!

Pilgrim2: Is it possible?

Manager: Come on..let's see..

Pilgrim2: You coming Marlow?

Marlow: I will go on with my dinner.

Sound of people leaving table in a rush.

Pilgrim1: (Trailing off) Callous bastard..

Pilgrim2: He doesn't care..no feelings..

Voice Conrad: Outside darkness. Beastly, beastly darkness. The voice has gone.

Voice of Kurtz: (Loud and echoed) the Horror! the Horror!

Voice of Conrad: The voice of Kurtz buried deep in a muddy hole.

Marlow: What a droll thing life is. They very nearly buried me... I remained on that river journey to dream the nightmare out to the end... in the same fever that had extinguished the voice of Kurtz.

Voice of Conrad: Life, some mysterious arrangement of logic merciless, for some futile purpose. The most you can hope for..

Voice of Marlow: is some knowledge of yourself..

Voice of Conrad: It comes too late, some crop of regrets inextinguishable.

Voice of Marlow: I have wrestled with death. It is the most unexciting contest. Taking place in some greyness impalpable.

Voice of Conrad: Nothing underfoot, nothing around, no spectators, no clamour, nor glory. Neither desire for victory nor fear of defeat. Sickly atmosphere of scepticism, tepid.

Voice of Marlow: Such is the form of ultimate wisdom. Such humiliation in having nothing to say. Kurtz at least had something to say.

Voice of Kurtz: The horror, the horror...

Voice of Conrad: The stare wide enough to embrace the universe, piercing all the hearts that beat in the darkness.

Voice of Marlow: Kurtz had summed up. Kurtz had judged.

Voice of Kurtz: The horror, the horror!

Voice of Conrad: Belief, candour, conviction. Vibrating note of revolt in its whisper. Truth glimpsed. Desire and hate. Greyness filled with pain.

Voice of Marlow: He has made the last stride. He has stepped over the edge. Over the threshold of the invisible.

Voice of Kurtz: The horror, the horror.

Voice of Conrad: Affirmation.

Voice of Marlow: Moral victory.

Voice of Conrad: Victory over defeat, terror, satisfaction, innumerable and abominable. Eloquence, magnificent. Soul pure as cliff of crystal, translucent.

Major change of ambience and supporting sound symbols.

Voice of Marlow: Back in the sepulchral city. People filching little money. Gulping their beer unwholesome, Dreaming their silly dreams insignificant.

Voice of Marlow: I desire to laugh in their faces so full of stupid importance.

Interior ambience.

Company official: Good afternoon Mr Marlow..I trust you are feeling better..

Marlow: I feel much better thank you..physically speaking..

Company official: You will recall that in the throes of your illness..when you were, of course, not feeling your best you had occasion to dispute with the Congo regional manager the company's rights concerning access to the papers of the late Mr Kurtz..

Marlow: If you mean we had rows about the matter you are correct.

Company official: We are confident now that you have returned to civilisation that you have had time to reflect on the importance of certain of these documents to the operations of the company in this area..

Marlow: My answer is the same as the one I gave the manager. You shall not have the smallest scrap from the package Mr Kurtz entrusted to me personally.

Company Official: You must, of course, realise Mr Marlow, that the company has every right to every scrap of information about its territories. Mr Kurtz's knowledge of unexplored regions must have been necessarily extensive and..and peculiar- owing to his great abilities and to the deplorable circumstances in which he had been placed..therefore-..

Marlow: I couldn't agree with you more and since that is all you are seeking I can assure you that Mr Kurtz's knowledge, however extensive, did not bear upon the problems of commerce or administration...

Company Official: We are anxious that any discoveries or research that he had undertaken in the interests of science should be made available to the company since it was undertaken while he was in the company's employment..It would be an incalculable loss to sciences if..

Marlow: Look at this..(Flapping of paper)

Company official: Yes?

Marlow: It's a report he was writing..Something about the suppression of savage customs.

Company official: Ah yes..Very interesting..May I..

Marlow: My pleasure..You may take it away with you..

Company Official:.(Mumbling as though reading quickly) Well..yes..Mr Marlow..this is not what we had a right to expect.

Marlow: Expect nothing else. There are only private letters.

Company Official: I hope, Marlow, that you do not imagine that your attitude will extricate you from the risk of long and very costly legal proceedings..

Marlow: There are things enough to work on my imagination at the moment..Good day sir...

Musical bridge to indicate time and scene change.

Cousin: My cousin was a great musician, Mr Marlow....There was the making of immense success..

Marlow: How extraordinary...Please don't misunderstand me..I have no reason to doubt you..It is strange that while I knew him I was unable to guess at his profession...which was the greatest of his talents..

Cousin: He was a remarkable man.

Marlow: I had taken him for a painter who wrote for the papers, or else a journalist who could paint..

Cousin: Yes..my cousin Kurtz, in my opinion, was a universal genius....His death has left a great void in our hearts..a dark space at the very heart of our souls..(Blows his nose very loudly) His loss is at the very heart of our darkness....What are we left with but his memory?

Marlow: Before he died he asked me to look after his chest and belongings..why don't you take these memoranda..a few letters and objets d'art..to help remind you of him..

Cousin: I am very grateful..It is a pleasure to know that my cousin was in the company of a man of integrity in his final hours....My, cousin Kurtz could not abide liars...He needed to breathe honesty...I shall always be in your debt, Mr Marlow....

Musical bridge to indicate time and scene change.

Journalist: I am sorry to disturb you, Mr Marlow, but I have been very anxious to know about the fate of my dear friend and colleague. Our work in journalism had forged a special bond between us.

Marlow: The range of his talents and occupations never ceases to amaze me.

Journalist: Yes. But I have always believed that his proper sphere ought to have been politics. On the popular side I should think. You see, I liked him very much. Oh I admired dear old Kurtz, but I have to confess he couldn't write poor chap. Couldn't write a bit...But Heavens! How that man could talk. He electrified large meetings. He had faith, don't you see. He had the faith. He could get himself to believe anything...anything..I think he would have been a splendid leader of an extreme party..

Marlow: What party?

Journalist: Any party. He was an extremist. Do you not think so?

Marlow: Yes. I agree.

Journalist: I was wondering if you knew what it was that had induced him to go out there..

Marlow: Yes...You'll find the answer in here I should think.

Journalist: Why, thank you..

Marlow: It's a report on the suppression of savage customs..No-one except myself has had an opportunity to read it. You may have it for publication if you think it is suitable.

Journalist: (Hurriedly reading it and mumbling out loud) Yes. I suppose it would do..

Marlow: I must thank you again for your time and cooperation.

Marlow in narration: Thus I was left at last with a slim packet of letters and the girl's portrait. His intended. She struck me as beautiful. She seemed ready to listen without mental reservation, without suspicion, without a thought for herself. I concluded I would go and give her back her portrait and those letters myself.

Voice of Conrad/Marlow: All this is Kurtz, passes through my hands. Soul, body, station, plans, ivory and career. Only his memory remains, and his intended. I must surrender, surrender his memory and intended to the oblivion to the last word of our common fate.

Voice of Conrad: The memory of Kurtz.

Voice of Conrad and Marlow: Kurtz on the stretcher, opening his mouth, voraciously, devouring all the earth, all of mankind. Kurtz lives as he had ever lived. Shadow insatiable of splendid appearances. Shadow of frightful realities. Shadow- darker than the shadow of night. Draped nobly in the folds of gorgeous eloquence.

Voice of Conrad: The vision of Kurtz, stretcher, phantom-bearers, crowd of wild, obedient worshippers, gloom of forest, the glittering reach between the murky bends, the beating of a drum, regular and muffled like the beating of a heart, the heart of a conquering darkness. The wilderness of triumphs.

Voice of Marlow: The vision of Kurtz, his abject pleading, his abject threats, the colossal scale of his vile desires, the meanness, the torment, the tempestuous anguish of his soul. Immense and wide stare, embracing, condemning, loathing all the universe.

Voice of Kurtz: The horror..the horror!...

Voice of Conrad: The dusk is falling. Tall marble fireplace cold and monumental in its whiteness. The grand piano gleams darkly, like a sombre, polished sarcophagus.

Voice of Conrad: His intended all in black. Her pale head floating in the dusk. For her he had died only yesterday. Such desolation, such sorrow.

Intended woman: I had heard you were coming. Well, it has been a year..I have survived.

Marlow: Here..He asked me to give you this..

Intended woman: You knew him well?

Marlow: Intimacy grows quickly out there. I knew him as well as it is possible for one man to know another.

Intended woman: And you admired him. It was impossible to know him and not to admire him. Was it?

Marlow: He was a remarkable man. It was impossible not to..

Intended woman: ...love him..How true! How true!...But when you think that no-one knew him so well as I! But when you think that no-one knew him so well as I! I had all his noble confidence. I knew him best.

Marlow: You knew him best.

Intended woman: You were his friend. His friend. You must have been, if he had given you this, and sent you to me. I feel I can speak to you- and oh! I must speak. I want you- you who have heard his last words- to know I have been worthy of him..It is not pride...Yes! I am proud to know I understood him better than anyone on earth- he told me so himself. And since his mother died I have had no one....no-one to..to..

Marlow in Narration: I listened. The darkness deepened. I was not even sure whether he had given me the right bundle. (Start next line of Intended Woman here and fade and keep low under Marlow increasing the level at the end of his narration.) I rather suspect he wanted me to take care of another batch of his papers which, after his death, I saw the manager examining under the lamp.

Intended Woman: You see, I loved that man. My family disapproved of our engagement. He was not rich enough. He did not have the means, so he was continually struggling, and it will be my eternal tragedy that he went out there to make such fortune that would drive the poverty from his life and impress my family....Who was not his friend who had heard him speak once? He drew men towards him by what was best in them. It is the gift of the great...But you have heard him! You know!

Voice of Kurtz: The horror, the horror!

Marlow: Yes, I know.

Intended Woman: What a loss to me- to us! To the world....I have been very happy- very fortunate- very proud. Too fortunate. Too happy for a little while. And now I am unhappy for...for life...And of all this...of all his promise..and of all his greatness, of his generous mind, of his noble heart, nothing remains- nothing but a memory..You and I..

Marlow: We shall always remember him.

Intended Woman: No. It is impossible that all this should be lost- that such a life should be sacrificed to leave nothing - but sorrow. You know what vast plans he had. I knew of them, too - I could not perhaps understand - but others knew of them. Something must remain. His words, at least, have not died.

Marlow: His words will remain.

Intended Woman: And his example. Men looked up to him. His example shone in every act. His example.

Marlow: True..his example too. Yes, his example. I forgot that.

Intended Woman: But I do not. I cannot. I cannot believe - not yet. I cannot believe that I shall never see him again, that nobody will see him again, never, never, never...

Voice of Marlow: Never see him! I see him clearly enough now. I shall see his eloquent phantom as long as I live. I shall see her too, tragic and familiar. Shade, stretching out her black arms, with clasped pale hands across the fading light. She resembles that other tragic woman, bedecked with powerless charms, stretching bare brown arms over the glitter of the infernal stream, the stream of darkness.

Intended Woman: He died as he lived.

Marlow: His end was in every way worthy of his life.

Intended Woman: And I was not with him.

Marlow: Everything that could be done..

Intended Woman: Ah, but I believed in him more than anyone on earth - more than his own mother, more than - himself. He needed me! Me! I would have treasured every sigh, every word, every sign, every glance.

Marlow: Don't, please..

Intended Woman: Forgive me..I - I have mourned so long in silence - in silence..You were with him - to the last? I think of his loneliness. Nobody near to understand him as I would have understood. Perhaps no-one to hear...

Marlow: To the very end...I heard his very last words..

Intended Woman: Repeat them..I want..I want..something..something to...to live with..

Voice of Kurtz: (Heavily echoed) The horror, the horror, the horror, the horror!

Intended Woman: His last word..to live with..Don't you understand, I love him- I loved him..I loved him!

Marlow: The last word he pronounced was...your name.

Intended Woman: I knew it. I was sure! (She begins to weep with grief)

Voice of Kurtz: I wanted justice...only justice...

Voice of Marlow: I couldn't, I could not tell her.

Voice of Kurtz: The horror, the horror!

Voice of Marlow: It would have been too dark, too dark altogether..

Thames river actuality.

Voice of Conrad: Marlow ceases talking, sitting apart, indistinct and silent, In the pose of a meditating Buddha. The offing is barred by a black bank of clouds, Tranquil waters of the Thames flow sombre... flowing under overcast skies to the uttermost ends of the earth..

Voices of Conrad, Marlow and Kurtz: ...leading to the heart of an immense darkness.


THE END


Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad was born Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in 1857 in a part of Poland which is now in the Ukraine. He was orphaned at the age of 12 and was then brought up by his maternal uncle. At the age of 16 he went to Marseille in France to learn seamanship and spent many years travelling and working on ships. Although Conrad wrote in English, it was actually his fourth language (after Polish, Russian and French).

There are many websites about Joseph Conrad which you can visit, including:

 

Joseph Conrad at Wikipedia

Joseph Conrad Society (UK)

Cliff’s Notes on Conrad’s Heart of Darkness & The Secret Sharer

Heart of Darkness at Wikipedia

Article in The Telegraph about Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

 

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