The Lagoon and Other Stories

By Joseph Conrad; William Atkinson | Go to book overview

THE INN OF THE TWO WITCHES
A Find

THIS tale, episode, experience--call it how you will--was related in the fifties of the last century by a man who, by his own confession, was sixty years old at the time. Sixty is not such a bad age--unless in perspective, when no doubt it is contemplated by the majority of us with mixed feelings. It is a calm age; the game is practically over by then; and standing aside one begins to remember with a certain vividness what a fine fellow one used to be. I have observed that, by an amiable attention of Providence, most people begin at sixty to take a romantic view of themselves.

I suppose it was the romanticism of growing age which set our man to relate his experience for his own satisfaction or for the wonder of his posterity. It could not have been for his glory, because the experience was simply that of an abominable fright--terror he calls it. You will have guessed that the relation alluded to in the very first lines was in writing.

This writing constitutes the Find declared in the sub-title. It was made in a box of books bought in London, in a street which no longer exists, from a second-hand bookseller in the last stage of decay. As to the books themselves, they were at least twentieth-hand, and on inspection turned out not worth the very small sum of money disbursed. It might have been some premonition of that fact which made me say: 'But I must have the box too.' The decayed bookseller assented with the careless, tragic gesture of a man already doomed to extinction.

A litter of loose pages at the bottom of the box excited my curiosity but faintly. The close, neat, regular handwriting was not attractive at first sight. But the statement that in AD 1813 the writer was twenty-two years old caught my eye. Two-and-twenty is an interesting age, in which one is easily reckless and easily frightened, the faculty of reflection being weak and the power of imagination strong.

-176-

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The Lagoon and Other Stories
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS vi
  • Introduction vii
  • NOTE ON THE TEXTS xxiv
  • SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY xxix
  • A CHRONOLOGY OF JOSEPH CONRAD xxxii
  • The Idiots 3
  • The Lagoon 27
  • To-Morrow 41
  • An Anarchist 69
  • The Informer 91
  • Il Conde 137
  • Prince Roman 154
  • The Inn of the Two Witches A Find 176
  • Laughing Anne 203
  • The Warrior's Soul 231
  • The Tale 252
  • EXPLANATORY NOTES 270
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