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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesVictory - PART THREE - Chapter FIVE
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Victory - PART THREE - Chapter FIVE Post by :Njokanma Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Conrad Date :June 2011 Read :1472

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Victory - PART THREE - Chapter FIVE


When she opened her eyes at last and sat up, Heyst scrambled quickly
to his feet and went to pick up her cork helmet, which had rolled a
little way off. Meanwhile she busied herself in doing up her hair,
plaited on the top of her head in two heavy, dark tresses, which had
come loose. He tendered her the helmet in silence, and waited as if
unwilling to hear the sound of his own voice.

"We had better go down now," he suggested in a low tone.

He extended his hand to help her up. He had the intention to smile,
but abandoned it at the nearer sight of her still face, in which was
depicted the infinite lassitude of her soul. On their way to regain
the forest path they had to pass through the spot from which the
view of the sea could be obtained. The flaming abyss of emptiness,
the liquid, undulating glare, the tragic brutality of the light,
made her long for the friendly night, with its stars stilled by an
austere spell; for the velvety dark sky and the mysterious great
shadow of the sea, conveying peace to the day-weary heart. She put
her hand to her eyes. Behind her back Heyst spoke gently.

"Let us get on, Lena."

She walked ahead in silence. Heyst remarked that they had never
been out before during the hottest hours. It would do her no good,
he feared. This solicitude pleased and soothed her. She felt more
and more like herself--a poor London girl playing in an orchestra,
and snatched out from the humiliations, the squalid dangers of a
miserable existence, by a man like whom there was not, there could
not be, another in this world. She felt this with elation, with
uneasiness, with an intimate pride--and with a peculiar sinking of
the heart.

"I am not easily knocked out by any such thing as heat," she said

"Yes, but I don't forget that you're not a tropical bird."

"You weren't born in these parts, either," she returned.

"No, and perhaps I haven't even your physique. I am a transplanted
being. Transplanted! I ought to call myself uprooted--an unnatural
state of existence; but a man is supposed to stand anything."

She looked back at him and received a smile. He told her to keep in
the shelter of the forest path, which was very still and close, full
of heat if free from glare. Now and then they had glimpses of the
company's old clearing blazing with light, in which the black stumps
of trees stood charred, without shadows, miserable and sinister.
They crossed the open in a direct line for the bungalow. On the
veranda they fancied they had a glimpse of the vanishing Wang,
though the girl was not at all sure that she had seen anything move.
Heyst had no doubts.

"Wang has been looking out for us. We are late."

"Was he? I thought I saw something white for a moment, and then I
did not see it any more."

"That's it--he vanishes. It's a very remarkable gift in that

"Are they all like that?" she asked with naive curiosity and

"Not in such perfection," said Heyst, amused.

He noticed with approval that she was not heated by the walk. The
drops of perspiration on her forehead were like dew on the cool,
white petal of a flower. He looked at her figure of grace and
strength, solid and supple, with an ever-growing appreciation.

"Go in and rest yourself for a quarter of an hour; and then Mr. Wang
will give us something to eat," he said.

They had found the table laid. When they came together again and
sat down to it, Wang materialized without a sound, unheard,
uncalled, and did his office. Which being accomplished, at a given
moment he was not.

A great silence brooded over Samburan--the silence of the great heat
that seems pregnant with fatal issues, like the silence of ardent
thought. Heyst remained alone in the big room. The girl seeing him
take up a book, had retreated to her chamber. Heyst sat down under
his father's portrait; and the abominable calumny crept back into
his recollection. The taste of it came on his lips, nauseating and
corrosive like some kinds of poison. He was tempted to spit on the
floor, naively, in sheer unsophisticated disgust of the physical
sensation. He shook his head, surprised at himself. He was not
used to receive his intellectual impressions in that way--reflected
in movements of carnal emotion. He stirred impatiently in his
chair, and raised the book to his eyes with both hands. It was one
of his father's. He opened it haphazard, and his eyes fell on the
middle of the page. The elder Heyst had written of everything in
many books--of space and of time, of animals and of stars; analysing
ideas and actions, the laughter and the frowns of men, and the
grimaces of their agony. The son read, shrinking into himself,
composing his face as if under the author's eye, with a vivid
consciousness of the portrait on his right hand, a little above his
head; a wonderful presence in its heavy frame on the flimsy wall of
mats, looking exiled and at home, out of place and masterful, in the
painted immobility of profile.

And Heyst, the son, read:

Of the stratagems of life the most cruel is the consolation of love-
-the most subtle, too; for the desire is the bed of dreams.

He turned the pages of the little volume, "Storm and Dust," glancing
here and there at the broken text of reflections, maxims, short
phrases, enigmatical sometimes and sometimes eloquent. It seemed to
him that he was hearing his father's voice, speaking and ceasing to
speak again. Startled at first, he ended by finding a charm in the
illusion. He abandoned himself to the half-belief that something of
his father dwelt yet on earth--a ghostly voice, audible to the ear
of his own flesh and blood. With what strange serenity, mingled
with terrors, had that man considered the universal nothingness! He
had plunged into it headlong, perhaps to render death, the answer
that faced one at every inquiry, more supportable.

Heyst stirred, and the ghostly voice ceased; but his eyes followed
the words on the last page of the book:

Men of tormented conscience, or of a criminal imagination, are aware
of much that minds of a peaceful, resigned cast do not even suspect.
It is not poets alone who dare descend into the abyss of infernal
regions, or even who dream of such a descent. The most inexpressive
of human beings must have said to himself, at one time or another:
"Anything but this!" . . .

We all have our instants of clairvoyance. They are not very
helpful. The character of the scheme does not permit that or
anything else to be helpful. Properly speaking its character,
judged by the standards established by its victims, is infamous. It
excuses every violence of protest and at the same time never fails
to crush it, just as it crushes the blindest assent. The so-called
wickedness must be, like the so-called virtue, its own reward--to be
anything at all . . .

Clairvoyance or no clairvoyance, men love their captivity. To the
unknown force of negation they prefer the miserably tumbled bed of
their servitude. Man alone can give one the disgust of pity; yet I
find it easier to believe in the misfortune of mankind than in its

These were the last words. Heyst lowered the book to his knees.
Lena's voice spoke above his drooping head:

"You sit there as if you were unhappy."

"I thought you were asleep," he said.

"I was lying down right enough, but I never closed my eyes."

"The rest would have done you good after our walk. Didn't you try?"

"I was lying down, I tell you, but sleep I couldn't."

"And you made no sound! What want of sincerity. Or did you want to
be alone for a time?"

"I--alone?" she murmured.

He noticed her eyeing the book, and got up to put it back in the
bookcase. When he turned round, he saw that she had dropped into
the chair--it was the one she always used--and looked as if her
strength had suddenly gone from her, leaving her only her youth,
which seemed very pathetic, very much at his mercy. He moved
quickly towards the chair.

"Tired, are you? It's my fault, taking you up so high and keeping
you out so long. Such a windless day, too!"

She watched his concern, her pose languid, her eyes raised to him,
but as unreadable as ever. He avoided looking into them for that
very reason. He forgot himself in the contemplation of those
passive arms, of these defenceless lips, and--yes, one had to go
back to them--of these wide-open eyes. Something wild in their grey
stare made him think of sea-birds in the cold murkiness of high
latitudes. He started when she spoke, all the charm of physical
intimacy revealed suddenly in that voice.

"You should try to love me!" she said.

He made a movement of astonishment.

"Try," he muttered. "But it seems to me--" He broke off, saying to
himself that if he loved her, he had never told her so in so many
words. Simple words! They died on his lips. "What makes you say
that?" he asked.

She lowered her eyelids and turned her head a little.

"I have done nothing," she said in a low voice. "It's you who have
been good, helpful, and tender to me. Perhaps you love me for that-
-just for that; or perhaps you love me for company, and because--
well! But sometimes it seems to me that you can never love me for
myself, only for myself, as people do love each other when it is to
be for ever." Her head drooped. "Forever," she breathed out again;
then, still more faintly, she added an entreating: "Do try!"

These last words went straight to his heart--the sound of them more
than the sense. He did not know what to say, either from want of
practice in dealing with women or simply from his innate honesty of
thought. All his defences were broken now. Life had him fairly by
the throat. But he managed a smile, though she was not looking at
him; yes, he did manage it--the well-known Heyst smile of playful
courtesy, so familiar to all sorts and conditions of men in the

"My dear Lena," he said, "it looks as if you were trying to pick a
very unnecessary quarrel with me--of all people!"

She made no movement. With his elbows spread out he was twisting
the ends of his long moustaches, very masculine and perplexed,
enveloped in the atmosphere of femininity as in a cloud, suspecting
pitfalls, and as if afraid to move.

"I must admit, though," he added, "that there is no one else; and I
suppose a certain amount of quarrelling is necessary for existence
in this world."

That girl, seated in her chair in graceful quietude, was to him like
a script in an unknown language, or even more simply mysterious,
like any writing to the illiterate. As far as women went he was
altogether uninstructed and he had not the gift of intuition which
is fostered in the days of youth by dreams and visions, exercises of
the heart fitting it for the encounters of a world, in which love
itself rests as much on antagonism as on attraction. His mental
attitude was that of a man looking this way and that on a piece of
writing which he is unable to decipher, but which may be big with
some revelation. He didn't know what to say. All he found to add

"I don't even understand what I have done or left undone to distress
you like this."

He stopped, struck afresh by the physical and moral sense of the
imperfections of their relations--a sense which made him desire her
constant nearness, before his eyes, under his hand, and which, when
she was out of his sight, made her so vague, so elusive and
illusory, a promise that could not be embraced and held.

"No! I don't see clearly what you mean. Is your mind turned
towards the future?" he interpellated her with marked playfulness,
because he was ashamed to let such a word pass his lips. But all
his cherished negations were falling off him one by one.

"Because if it is so there is nothing easier than to dismiss it. In
our future, as in what people call the other life, there is nothing
to be frightened of."

She raised her eyes to him; and if nature had formed them to express
anything else but blank candour he would have learned how terrified
she was by his talk and the fact that her sinking heart loved him
more desperately than ever. He smiled at her.

"Dismiss all thought of it," he insisted. "Surely you don't suspect
after what I have heard from you, that I am anxious to return to
mankind. I! I! murder my poor Morrison! It's possible that I may
be really capable of that which they say I have done. The point is
that I haven't done it. But it is an unpleasant subject to me. I
ought to be ashamed to confess it--but it is! Let us forget it.
There's that in you, Lena, which can console me for worse things,
for uglier passages. And if we forget, there are no voices here to
remind us."

She had raised her head before he paused.

"Nothing can break in on us here," he went on and, as if there had
been an appeal or a provocation in her upward glance, he bent down
and took her under the arms, raising her straight out of the chair
into a sudden and close embrace. Her alacrity to respond, which
made her seem as light as a feather, warmed his heart at that moment
more than closer caresses had done before. He had not expected that
ready impulse towards himself which had been dormant in her passive
attitude. He had just felt the clasp of her arms round his neck,
when, with a slight exclamation--"He's here!"--she disengaged
herself and bolted, away into her room.

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

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Victory - PART THREE - Chapter SIX Victory - PART THREE - Chapter SIX

Victory - PART THREE - Chapter SIX
PART THREE: CHAPTER SIXHeyst was astounded. Looking all round, as if to take the wholeroom to witness of this outrage, he became aware of Wangmaterialized in the doorway. The intrusion was as surprising asanything could be, in view of the strict regularity with which Wangmade himself visible. Heyst was tempted to laugh at first. Thispractical comment on his affirmation that nothing could break in onthem relieved the strain of his feelings. He was a little vexed,too. The Chinaman preserved a profound silence."What do you want?" asked Heyst sternly."Boat out there," said the Chinaman."Where? What

Victory - PART THREE - Chapter FOUR Victory - PART THREE - Chapter FOUR

Victory - PART THREE - Chapter FOUR
PART THREE: CHAPTER FOURWith her knees drawn up, Lena rested her elbows on them and held herhead in both her hands."Are you tired of sitting here?" Heyst asked.An almost imperceptible negative movement of the head was all theanswer she made."Why are you looking so serious?" he pursued, and immediatelythought that habitual seriousness, in the long run, was much morebearable than constant gaiety. "However, this expression suits youexceedingly," he added, not diplomatically, but because, by thetendency of his taste, it was a true statement. "And as long as Ican be certain that it is not boredom which gives you this