Summary and Analysis
Part 4: Chapter 14
This final chapter contains Captain Davidson's report of the Samburan affair to an "Excellency" who has called him in for an explanation. Davidson said that although he could not claim to know Heyst well (no one did), he did keep an eye on him, and when Schomberg's wife told him, in Sourabaya, how her husband had sent the three ruffians off to Samburan on an errand of revenge, he hurried back to the island but arrived too late.
The thunderstorm delayed him, and when he did enter Black Diamond Bay, everything seemed quiet. Then he discovered a white boat adrift with a dead man in it — a big hairy fellow.
He lost no time going ashore and arrived in Heyst's bungalow just in time to see the girl die. "I won't tell you what a time I had with him afterwards."
Davidson repeated Heyst's last significant comment: "Ah, Davidson, woe to the man whose heart has not learned while young, to hope, to love — and to put its trust in life." Davidson said that before he parted from Heyst, the baron asked to be left alone with his dead for a while. They both heard Jones shoot Ricardo.
About five in the morning, word reached the ship that there was a fire on shore. The principal bungalow was blazing and the heat drove Davidson and his men back. The other two houses caught and burned like kindling wood.
"I suppose you are certain that Baron Heyst is dead?" the Excellency inquired.
"He is ashes, your Excellency . . . he and the girl together."
Davidson told how the following day, Wang had helped him to investigate, and they found enough evidence to be sure. Wang told how he had shot Pedro.
Davidson told the Excellency that Ricardo had been shot neatly through the heart, and he had left the body where it fell. Later he found Jones' body down in the deep water near the wharf, "huddled" up on the bottom between two piles, like a heap of bones in a blue silk bag.
"Then," Davidson told the Excellency, "I went away. There was nothing to be done there. NOTHING."
The reader recalls Davidson's attitude toward Heyst. He likes Heyst and regards him as a gentleman, but Heyst's polite manner and habitual detachment make Davidson reluctant to rush in on him as he would do with a close friend. So for this cause, Davidson delays coming ashore until it is too late.
Throughout Conrad's work, he makes frequent reference to passages from the Scriptures. There is no reason to believe that Conrad was essentially a religious man, but he makes use of scriptural symbolism and much suggestive reference to the Bible.
No one can doubt that Conrad was thinking of the Thirteenth Chapter of First Corinthians when he wrote Victory:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not love, I am become as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. . . . And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.
Conrad, in most of his later works, chose his last word with great care. The word nothing at the end of Victory signifies exactly what it does in the Scripture verses above.
The final end of all life without love is NOTHING.