Victory By Joseph Conrad Summary and Analysis Part 4: Chapter 12

Summary

This chapter flashes back to the moment when Ricardo returns to the Heyst bungalow to find Lena waiting for him. She has no intention of trying to save herself. Her whole focus is on Ricardo's knife. She must, at any cost, disarm Ricardo and save Heyst.

She holds Ricardo at a distance by her flinging hands. He confesses his love for her in savage torrents of "terrible eulogy" and "ferocious phrases." He looks on her with the imbecile worship of a man who can at any moment seize and overpower her.

Ricardo questions her about the "plunder," and she tells him she thinks there is some treasure but doesn't know for sure, yet. The catlike "secretary" is now more interested in the girl than in any treasure of gold. While he babbles on in an ecstasy of rapture, she concentrates on how to get that knife. As he draws closer, she nods to him, and "Her soul has no movement of recoil." Anything has to be which will bring that knife within her grasp.

Ricardo tells her he will do for both the "gentleman" before midnight. Lena advises him to go slow with Heyst, hinting that she needs to find out more about the treasure, but Ricardo rejects her idea. In a burst of jealousy he declares that Heyst shall never go into her bedroom again. As Lena droops over him, closer and closer, he asks her if she would be up to sticking a man with a knife. "How can I tell?" she whispers. "Will you let me have a look at it?"

He pulls the knife out and gives it to her, calling it "a good friend." Now the sting of death is in her hands. She allows the dagger to slip through the folds of her dress out of sight. She assures Ricardo that she will do anything he likes. He asks for her foot and she gives it. Ricardo falls to kissing her ankle.

Then, suddenly, Ricardo feels himself spurned by the foot. He looks up to see Heyst standing in the door. The brief report of a shot stuns him for an instant. He searches frantically for his weapon. "Stick him, you!" he calls to the girl as he crashes open the door and rushes out into the night. He thinks Heyst has shot him. What is the governor about, to let him break loose like this? Or perhaps the governor is dead. He starts out to find what has become of Jones and to provide himself with a new weapon. His wound is superficial and he disregards it.

Analysis

Lena presses on toward Victory. Secure in her purpose, activated by a great love, she is invincible. Contrast her with Heyst, who, because he cannot love, is incapable of aggressive action. Now she conquers Ricardo. Conrad represents him as a devenomed viper prone at her feet. In her bedroom, this morning, Ricardo referred to his knife as a "deadly thing." Now he speaks of it as "a good friend." Both Heyst and Ricardo are disarmed men.

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