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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesVictory - PART ONE - Chapter THREE
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Victory - PART ONE - Chapter THREE Post by :lutherct Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Conrad Date :June 2011 Read :1670

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Victory - PART ONE - Chapter THREE

PART ONE CHAPTER THREE


Human nature being what it is, having a silly side to it as well as
a mean side, there were not a few who pretended to be indignant on
no better authority than a general propensity to believe every evil
report; and a good many others who found it simply funny to call
Heyst the Spider--behind his back, of course. He was as serenely
unconscious of this as of his several other nicknames. But soon
people found other things to say of Heyst; not long afterwards he
came very much to the fore in larger affairs. He blossomed out into
something definite. He filled the public eye as the manager on the
spot of the Tropical Belt Coal Company with offices in London and
Amsterdam, and other things about it that sounded and looked
grandiose. The offices in the two capitals may have consisted--and
probably did--of one room in each; but at that distance, out East
there, all this had an air. We were more puzzled than dazzled, it
is true; but even the most sober-minded among us began to think that
there was something in it. The Tesmans appointed agents, a contract
for government mail-boats secured, the era of steam beginning for
the islands--a great stride forward--Heyst's stride!

And all this sprang from the meeting of the cornered Morrison and of
the wandering Heyst, which may or may not have been the direct
outcome of a prayer. Morrison was not an imbecile, but he seemed to
have got himself into a state of remarkable haziness as to his exact
position towards Heyst. For, if Heyst had been sent with money in
his pocket by a direct decree of the Almighty in answer to
Morrison's prayer then there was no reason for special gratitude,
since obviously he could not help himself. But Morrison believed
both, in the efficacy of prayer and in the infinite goodness of
Heyst. He thanked God with awed sincerity for his mercy, and could
not thank Heyst enough for the service rendered as between man and
man. In this (highly creditable) tangle of strong feelings
Morrison's gratitude insisted on Heyst's partnership in the great
discovery. Ultimately we heard that Morrison had gone home through
the Suez Canal in order to push the magnificent coal idea personally
in London. He parted from his brig and disappeared from our ken;
but we heard that he had written a letter or letters to Heyst,
saying that London was cold and gloomy; that he did not like either
the men or things, that he was "as lonely as a crow in a strange
country." In truth, he pined after the Capricorn--I don't mean only
the tropic; I mean the ship too. Finally he went into Dorsetshire
to see his people, caught a bad cold, and died with extraordinary
precipitation in the bosom of his appalled family. Whether his
exertions in the City of London had enfeebled his vitality I don't
know; but I believe it was this visit which put life into the coal
idea. Be it as it may, the Tropical Belt Coal Company was born very
shortly after Morrison, the victim of gratitude and his native
climate, had gone to join his forefathers in a Dorsetshire
churchyard.

Heyst was immensely shocked. He got the news in the Moluccas
through the Tesmans, and then disappeared for a time. It appears
that he stayed with a Dutch government doctor in Amboyna, a friend
of his who looked after him for a bit in his bungalow. He became
visible again rather suddenly, his eyes sunk in his head, and with a
sort of guarded attitude, as if afraid someone would reproach him
with the death of Morrison.

Naive Heyst! As if anybody would . . . Nobody amongst us had any
interest in men who went home. They were all right; they did not
count any more. Going to Europe was nearly as final as going to
Heaven. It removed a man from the world of hazard and adventure.

As a matter of fact, many of us did not hear of this death till
months afterwards--from Schomberg, who disliked Heyst gratuitously
and made up a piece of sinister whispered gossip:

"That's what comes of having anything to do with that fellow. He
squeezes you dry like a lemon, then chucks you out--sends you home
to die. Take warning by Morrison!"

Of course, we laughed at the innkeeper's suggestions of black
mystery. Several of us heard that Heyst was prepared to go to
Europe himself, to push on his coal enterprise personally; but he
never went. It wasn't necessary. The company was formed without
him, and his nomination of manager in the tropics came out to him by
post.

From the first he had selected Samburan, or Round Island, for the
central station. Some copies of the prospectus issued in Europe,
having found their way out East, were passed from hand to hand. We
greatly admired the map which accompanied them for the edification
of the shareholders. On it Samburan was represented as the central
spot of the Eastern Hemisphere with its name engraved in enormous
capitals. Heavy lines radiated from it in all directions through
the tropics, figuring a mysterious and effective star--lines of
influence or lines of distance, or something of that sort. Company
promoters have an imagination of their own. There's no more
romantic temperament on earth than the temperament of a company
promoter. Engineers came out, coolies were imported, bungalows were
put up on Samburan, a gallery driven into the hillside, and actually
some coal got out.

These manifestations shook the soberest minds. For a time everybody
in the islands was talking of the Tropical Belt Coal, and even those
who smiled quietly to themselves were only hiding their uneasiness.
Oh, yes; it had come, and anybody could see what would be the
consequences--the end of the individual trader, smothered under a
great invasion of steamers. We could not afford to buy steamers.
Not we. And Heyst was the manager.

"You know, Heyst, enchanted Heyst."

"Oh, come! He has been no better than a loafer around here as far
back as any of us can remember."

"Yes, he said he was looking for facts. Well, he's got hold of one
that will do for all of us," commented a bitter voice.

"That's what they call development--and be hanged to it!" muttered
another.

Never was Heyst talked about so much in the tropical belt before.

"Isn't he a Swedish baron or something?"

"He, a baron? Get along with you!"

For my part I haven't the slightest doubt that he was. While he was
still drifting amongst the islands, enigmatical and disregarded like
an insignificant ghost, he told me so himself on a certain occasion.
It was a long time before he materialized in this alarming way into
the destroyer of our little industry--Heyst the Enemy.

It became the fashion with a good many to speak of Heyst as the
Enemy. He was very concrete, very visible now. He was rushing all
over the Archipelago, jumping in and out of local mail-packets as if
they had been tram-cars, here, there, and everywhere--organizing
with all his might. This was no mooning about. This was business.
And this sudden display of purposeful energy shook the incredulity
of the most sceptical more than any scientific demonstration of the
value of these coal-outcrops could have done. It was impressive.
Schomberg was the only one who resisted the infection. Big, manly
in a portly style, and profusely bearded, with a glass of beer in
his thick paw, he would approach some table where the topic of the
hour was being discussed, would listen for a moment, and then come
out with his invariable declaration:

"All this is very well, gentlemen; but he can't throw any of his
coal-dust in my eyes. There's nothing in it. Why, there can't be
anything in it. A fellow like that for manager? Phoo!"

Was it the clairvoyance of imbecile hatred, or mere stupid tenacity
of opinion, which ends sometimes by scoring against the world in a
most astonishing manner? Most of us can remember instances of
triumphant folly; and that ass Schomberg triumphed. The T.B.C.
Company went into liquidation, as I began by telling you. The
Tesmans washed their hands of it. The Government cancelled those
famous contracts, the talk died out, and presently it was remarked
here and there that Heyst had faded completely away. He had become
invisible, as in those early days when he used to make a bolt clear
out of sight in his attempts to break away from the enchantment of
"these isles," either in the direction of New Guinea or in the
direction of Saigon--to cannibals or to cafes. The enchanted Heyst!
Had he at last broken the spell? Had he died? We were too
indifferent to wonder overmuch. You see we had on the whole liked
him well enough. And liking is not sufficient to keep going the
interest one takes in a human being. With hatred, apparently, it is
otherwise. Schomberg couldn't forget Heyst. The keen, manly
Teutonic creature was a good hater. A fool often is.

"Good evening, gentlemen. Have you got everything you want? So!
Good! You see? What was I always telling you? Aha! There was
nothing in it. I knew it. But what I would like to know is what
became of that--Swede."

He put a stress on the word Swede as if it meant scoundrel. He
detested Scandinavians generally. Why? Goodness only knows. A
fool like that is unfathomable. He continued:

"It's five months or more since I have spoken to anybody who has
seen him."

As I have said, we were not much interested; but Schomberg, of
course, could not understand that. He was grotesquely dense.
Whenever three people came together in his hotel, he took good care
that Heyst should be with them.

"I hope the fellow did not go and drown himself," he would add with
a comical earnestness that ought to have made us shudder; only our
crowd was superficial, and did not apprehend the psychology of this
pious hope.

"Why? Heyst isn't in debt to you for drinks is he?" somebody asked
him once with shallow scorn.

"Drinks! Oh, dear no!"

The innkeeper was not mercenary. Teutonic temperament seldom is.
But he put on a sinister expression to tell us that Heyst had not
paid perhaps three visits altogether to his "establishment." This
was Heyst's crime, for which Schomberg wished him nothing less than
a long and tormented existence. Observe the Teutonic sense of
proportion and nice forgiving temper.

At last, one afternoon, Schomberg was seen approaching a group of
his customers. He was obviously in high glee. He squared his manly
chest with great importance.

"Gentlemen, I have news of him. Who? why, that Swede. He is still
on Samburan. He's never been away from it. The company is gone,
the engineers are gone, the clerks are gone, the coolies are gone,
everything's gone; but there he sticks. Captain Davidson, coming by
from the westward, saw him with his own eyes. Something white on
the wharf, so he steamed in and went ashore in a small boat. Heyst,
right enough. Put a book into his pocket, always very polite. Been
strolling on the wharf and reading. 'I remain in possession here,'
he told Captain Davidson. What I want to know is what he gets to
eat there. A piece of dried fish now and then--what? That's coming
down pretty low for a man who turned up his nose at my table
d'hote!"

He winked with immense malice. A bell started ringing, and he led
the way to the dining-room as if into a temple, very grave, with the
air of a benefactor of mankind. His ambition was to feed it at a
profitable price, and his delight was to talk of it behind its back.
It was very characteristic of him to gloat over the idea of Heyst
having nothing decent to eat.

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

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PART ONE - CHAPTER FOURA few of us who were sufficiently interested went to Davidson fordetails. These were not many. He told us that he passed to thenorth of Samburan on purpose to see what was going on. At first, itlooked as if that side of the island had been altogether abandoned.This was what he expected. Presently, above the dense mass ofvegetation that Samburan presents to view, he saw the head of theflagstaff without a flag. Then, while steaming across the slightindentation which for a time was known officially as Black DiamondBay, he made out with
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PART ONE - CHAPTER TWOIt was about this time that Heyst became associated with Morrison onterms about which people were in doubt. Some said he was a partner,others said he was a sort of paying guest, but the real truth of thematter was more complex. One day Heyst turned up in Timor. Why inTimor, of all places in the world, no one knows. Well, he wasmooning about Delli, that highly pestilential place, possibly insearch of some undiscovered facts, when he came in the street uponMorrison, who, in his way, was also an "enchanted" man. When youspoke
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