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[At the Central Station]: "One of them, a stout, excitable chap […] informed me […] that my steamer was at the bottom of the river. I was thunderstruck. What, how, why? Oh, it was "all right." The "manager himself" was there. All quite correct […]
I did not see the real significance of that wreck at once. I fancy I see it now, but I am not sure – not at all. Certainly the affair was too stupid – when I think of it – to be altogether natural. Still…but at the moment it presented itself simply as a confounded nuisance. The steamer was sunk. They had started two days before in a sudden hurry up the river with the manager on board, in charge of some volunteer skipper, and before they had been out three hours they tore the bottom out of her on stones, and she sank near the south bank….the repairs when I brought the pieces to the station, took some months." (1.50-51)
What seems at first an accident, Marlow later suspects to have been a planned attempt at sabotage.
"I heard the name of Kurtz pronounced, then the words, 'take advantage of this unfortunate accident.'" (1.56)
The fact that the manager wants to take advantage of this so-called "unfortunate accident" brings into question whether it was a bad turn of luck or someone’s willful attempt to sabotage (indirectly) Kurtz.
The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest. The flood had made, the wind was nearly calm, and being bound down the river, the only thing for it was to come to and wait for the turn of the tide. (1.1)
The story begins with an interruption. The Nellie, stranded by a flood, can do nothing but wait for the tide to turn to continue her journey. It is during this delay that Marlow tells his story.