Summary and Analysis
Part 4: Chapter 13
Mr. Jones has fired his pistol over Heyst's shoulder. Now he dodges away and vanishes without a sound. Heyst stumbles into the room. All the objects about him seem unreal. He gazes at Lena with dread. She hides her face in her hands. All at once Wang's queer motions and suggestive hints make sense. How clear it all is, "how amusing!"
Now Lena takes her hands from her face and clasps them to her breast "as though moved to the heart by seeing him there looking at her with black, horror-struck curiosity." Her face is radiant with triumph and she speaks with an accent of wild joy: "You are safe now, I have done it. . . . Oh my beloved!" Her voice fades, but her eyes still shine like sun breaking through mist.
Heyst bows his head gravely and says with his polite playfulness: "No doubt you acted from instinct. Women have been provided with their own weapon. I have been a disarmed man all my life. You may glory in your resourcefulness and your profound knowledge of yourself; but I may say that the other attitude, suggestive of shame, had its charm. For you are full of charm."
Lena does not understand his speech. She thinks he is making fun of her. She tells him she is thanking God for giving him to her at last. Heyst stares as though mad. He hears her explain why she disobeyed him about going into the forest to hide. The sweetness of her voice cuts into his emotions. He can hardly bear it. He turns away. Then her voice falters and he turns to see her head fall on her breast. He seems to read "some awful intelligence in her eyes." He snatches her up, disregarding a metallic clatter at his feet, and carries her into the bedroom, then stands there, not knowing what to do.
At this moment, Captain Davidson enters with Ricardo's dagger in his hand. "Has she been stabbed with this thing?" he asks. Heyst tears Lena's clothes open and they discover the tiny black wound of the revolver shot over her heart. She sees Ricardo's dagger in Davidson's hands and asks for it. Davidson puts it in her hands — her symbol of Victory. "What's the matter with me?" she asks. Heyst tells her she has been shot. Over Samburan, the thunder had ceased to growl at last, and "the world of material forms shuddered no more under the emerging stars. The spirit of the girl which was passing away from under them clung to her victory over death."
"Oh, my beloved," she cries in a weak voice. "I've saved you! Why don't you take me into your arms and carry me out of this lonely place?" Cursing his fastidious soul, Heyst bends over her. Not even in this moment can he give the true cry of love, so strong is his "infernal mistrust of all life."
Lena tries to lift her head, and with a terrified, but gentle movement, Heyst slips his arm under her neck. With a flush of rapture flooding her whole being and with a "divine radiance" on her lips, she breathes her last, triumphant.
Progressively, through the last section of this book, Conrad has drawn the likeness between Lena and Christ, who loved so much that He gave His life. The reference to crushing the viper beneath her heel is significant. Now, in this chapter, he speaks of her breast as being of "a sacred whiteness," also her "transfigured beauty," and the "divine radiance" on her lips as she expires. Lena has now become the symbol of perfect love. She dies in triumph, mistaking Heyst's last gesture of tenderness for the fulfillment of her hopes.
Heyst's reaction at seeing what he interprets as Lena's falseness is typical of his character. At first he feels a "great shame . . . the shame of guilt, absurd and maddening." Later, left alone with Lena (Chapter 13), when Wang's suggestions become clear, he regards the matter as "extremely amusing! Very."
A normal person's emotions would have been far different; but Heyst is not a normal person. He has withdrawn himself from life and love until he is incapable of giving himself. His guilt is similar to that which he manifested over Morrison — the guilt of not having loved. His fastidious soul has held him back. It still holds him in this moment of Lena's death — the final negation of all his man-soul needs and cries out for. He cannot summon the "true cry of love" to his lips, not even to comfort the girl who has given her life for him. It is the ultimate irony that he makes the physical gesture that convinces Lena of her Victory.