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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesVictory - PART FOUR - Chapter THREE
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Victory - PART FOUR - Chapter THREE Post by :hykit Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Conrad Date :June 2011 Read :755

Click below to download : Victory - PART FOUR - Chapter THREE (Format : PDF)

Victory - PART FOUR - Chapter THREE

PART FOUR: CHAPTER THREE


To Ricardo the girl had been so unforeseen that he was unable to
bring upon her the light of his critical faculties. Her smile
appeared to him full of promise. He had not expected her to be what
she was. Who, from the talk he had heard, could expect to meet a
girl like this? She was a blooming miracle, he said to himself,
familiarly, yet with a tinge of respect. She was no meat for the
likes of that tame, respectable gin-slinger. Ricardo grew hot with
indignation. Her courage, her physical strength, demonstrated at
the cost of his discomfiture, commanded his sympathy. He felt
himself drawn to her by the proofs of her amazing spirit. Such a
girl! She had a strong soul; and her reflective disposition to
throw over her connection proved that she was no hypocrite.

"Is your gentleman a good shot?" he said, looking down on the floor
again, as if indifferent.

She hardly understood the phrase; but in its form it suggested some
accomplishment. It was safe to whisper an affirmative.

"Yes."

"Mine, too--and better than good," Ricardo murmured, and then, in a
confidential burst: "I am not so good at it, but I carry a pretty
deadly thing about me, all the same!"

He tapped his leg. She was past the stage of shudders now. Stiff
all over, unable even to move her eyes, she felt an awful mental
tension which was like blank forgetfulness. Ricardo tried to
influence her in his own way.

"And my gentleman is not the sort that would drop me. He ain't no
foreigner; whereas you, with your baron, you don't know what's
before you--or, rather, being a woman, you know only too well. Much
better not to wait for the chuck. Pile in with us and get your
share--of the plunder, I mean. You have some notion about it
already."

She felt that if she as much as hinted by word or sign that there
was no such thing on the island, Heyst's life wouldn't be worth half
an hour's purchase; but all power of combining words had vanished in
the tension of her mind. Words themselves were too difficult to
think of--all except the word "yes," the saving word! She whispered
it with not a feature of her face moving. To Ricardo the faint and
concise sound proved a cool, reserved assent, more worth having from
that amazing mistress of herself than a thousand words from any
other woman. He thought with exultation that he had come upon one
in a million--in ten millions! His whisper became frankly
entreating.

"That's good! Now all you've got to do is to make sure where he
keeps his swag. Only do be quick about it! I can't stand much
longer this crawling-on-the-stomach business so as not to scare your
gentleman. What do you think a fellow is--a reptile?"

She stared without seeing anyone, as a person in the night sits
staring and listening to deadly sounds, to evil incantations. And
always in her head there was that tension of the mind trying to get
hold of something, of a saving idea which seemed to be so near and
could not be captured. Suddenly she seized it. Yes--she had to get
that man out of the house. At that very moment, raised outside, not
very near, but heard distinctly, Heyst's voice uttered the words:

"Have you been looking out for me, Wang?"

It was for her like a flash of lightning framed in the darkness
which had beset her on all sides, showing a deadly precipice right
under her feet. With a convulsive movement she sat up straight, but
had no power to rise. Ricardo, on the contrary, was on his feet on
the instant, as noiseless as a cat. His yellow eyes gleamed,
gliding here and there; but he too seemed unable to make another
movement. Only his moustaches stirred visibly, like the feelers of
some animal.

Wang's answer, "Ya tuan," was heard by the two in the room, but more
faintly. Then Heyst again:

"All right! You may bring the coffee in. Mem Putih out in the room
yet?"

To this question Wang made no answer.

Ricardo's and the girl's eyes met, utterly without expression, all
their faculties being absorbed in listening for the first sound of
Heyst's footsteps, for any sound outside which would mean that
Ricardo's retreat was cut off. Both understood perfectly well that
Wang must have gone round the house, and that he was now at the
back, making it impossible for Ricardo to slip out unseen that way
before Heyst came in at the front.

A darkling shade settled on the face of the devoted secretary. Here
was the business utterly spoiled! It was the gloom of anger, and
even of apprehension. He would perhaps have made a dash for it
through the back door, if Heyst had not been heard ascending the
front steps. He climbed them slowly, very slowly, like a man who is
discouraged or weary--or simply thoughtful; and Ricardo had a mental
vision of his face, with its martial moustache, the lofty forehead,
the impassive features, and the quiet, meditative eyes. Trapped!
Confound it! After all, perhaps the governor was right. Women had
to be shunned. Fooling with this one had apparently ruined the
whole business. For, trapped as he was he might just as well kill,
since, anyhow, to be seen was to be unmasked. But he was too fair-
minded to be angry with the girl.

Heyst had paused on the veranda, or in the very doorway.

"I shall be shot down like a dog if I ain't quick," Ricardo
muttered excitedly to the girl.

He stooped to get hold of his knife; and the next moment would have
hurled himself out through the curtain, nearly, as prompt and fully
as deadly to Heyst as an unexpected thunderbolt. The feel more than
the strength of the girl's hand, clutching at his shoulder, checked
him. He swung round, crouching with a yellow upward glare. Ah!
Was she turning against him?

He would have stuck his knife into the hollow of her bare throat if
he had not seen her other hand pointing to the window. It was a
long opening, high up, close under the ceiling almost, with a single
pivoting shutter.

While he was still looking at it she moved noiselessly away, picking
up the overturned chair, and placed it under the wall. Then she
looked round; but he didn't need to be beckoned to. In two long,
tiptoeing strides he was at her side.

"Be quick!" she gasped.

He seized her hand and wrung it with all the force of his dumb
gratitude, as a man does to a chum when there is no time for words.
Then he mounted the chair. Ricardo was short--too short to get over
without a noisy scramble. He hesitated an instant; she, watchful,
bore rigidly on the seat with her beautiful bare arms, while, light
and sure, he used the back of the chair as a ladder. The masses of
her brown hair fell all about her face.

Footsteps resounded in the next room, and Heyst's voice, not very
loud, called her by name.

"Lena!"

"Yes! In a minute," she answered with a particular intonation which
she knew would prevent Heyst from coming in at once.

When she looked up, Ricardo had vanished, letting himself down
outside so lightly that she had not heard the slightest noise. She
stood up then, bewildered, frightened, as if awakened from a drugged
sleep, with heavy, downcast, unseeing eyes, her fortitude tired out,
her imagination as if dead within her and unable to keep her fear
alive.

Heyst moved about aimlessly in the other room. This sound roused
her exhausted wits. At once she began to think, hear, see; and what
she saw--or rather recognized, for her eyes had been resting on it
all the time--was Ricardo's straw slipper, lost in the scuffle,
lying near the bath. She had just time to step forward and plant
her foot on it when the curtains shook, and, pushed aside, disclosed
Heyst in the doorway.

Out of the appeased enchantment of the senses she had found with
him, like a sort of bewitched state, his danger brought a sensation
of warmth to her breast. She felt something stir in there,
something profound, like a new sort of life.

The room was in partial darkness, Ricardo having accidentally swung
the pivoted shutter as he went out of the window. Heyst peered from
the doorway.

"Why, you haven't done your hair yet," he said.

"I won't stop to do it now. I shan't be long," she replied
steadily, and remained still, feeling Ricardo's slipper under the
sole of her foot.

Heyst, with a movement of retreat, let the curtain drop slowly. On
the instant she stooped for the slipper, and, with it in her hand,
spun round wildly, looking for some hiding-place; but there was no
such spot in the bare room. The chest, the leather bunk, a dress or
two of hers hanging on pegs--there was no place where the merest
hazard might not guide Heyst's hand at any moment. Her wildly
roaming eyes were caught by the half-closed window. She ran to it,
and by raising herself on her toes was able to reach the shutter
with her fingertips. She pushed it square, stole back to the middle
of the room, and, turning about, swung her arm, regulating the force
of the throw so as not to let the slipper fly too far out and hit
the edge of the overhanging eaves. It was a task of the nicest
judgement for the muscles of those round arms, still quivering from
the deadly wrestle with a man, for that brain, tense with the
excitement of the situation and for the unstrung nerves flickering
darkness before her eyes. At last the slipper left her hand. As
soon as it passed the opening, it was out of her sight. She
listened. She did not hear it strike anything; it just vanished, as
if it had wings to fly on through the air. Not a sound! It had
gone clear.

Her valiant arms hanging close against her side, she stood as if
turned into stone. A faint whistle reached her ears. The forgetful
Ricardo, becoming very much aware of his loss, had been hanging
about in great anxiety, which was relieved by the appearance of the
slipper flying from under the eaves; and now, thoughtfully, he had
ventured a whistle to put her mind at ease.

Suddenly the girl reeled forward. She saved herself from a fall
only by embracing with both arms one of the tall, roughly carved
posts holding the mosquito net above the bed. For a long time she
dung to it, with her forehead leaning against the wood. One side of
her loosened sarong had slipped down as low as her hip. The long
brown tresses of her hair fell in lank wisps, as if wet, almost
black against her white body. Her uncovered flank, damp with the
sweat of anguish and fatigue, gleamed coldly with the immobility of
polished marble in the hot, diffused light falling through the
window above her head--a dim reflection of the consuming, passionate
blaze of sunshine outside, all aquiver with the effort to set the
earth on fire, to burn it to ashes.

Content of PART FOUR CHAPTER THREE (Joseph Conrad's novel: Victory)

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PART FOUR: CHAPTER FOURHeyst, seated at the table with his chin on his breast, raised hishead at the faint rustle of Lena's dress. He was startled by thedead pallor of her cheeks, by something lifeless in her eyes, whichlooked at him strangely, without recognition. But to his anxiousinquiries she answered reassuringly that there was nothing thematter with her, really. She had felt giddy on rising. She hadeven had a moment of faintness, after her bath. She had to sit downto wait for it to pass. This had made her late dressing."I didn't try to do
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PART FOUR: CHAPTER TWOThe clock--which once upon a time had measured the hours ofphilosophic meditation--could not have ticked away more than fiveseconds when Wang materialized within the living-room. His concernprimarily was with the delayed breakfast, but at once his slantingeyes became immovably fixed upon the unstirring curtain. For it wasbehind it that he had located the strange, deadened scuffling soundswhich filled the empty room. The slanting eyes of his race couldnot achieve a round, amazed stare, but they remained still, deadstill, and his impassive yellow face grew all at once careworn andlean with the sudden strain of intense,
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