Amy Foster
by Joseph Conrad

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AMY FOSTER





Kennedy is a country doctor, and lives in Cole-
brook, on the shores of Eastbay. The high
ground rising abruptly behind the red roofs of the
little town crowds the quaint High Street against
the wall which defends it from the sea. Beyond
the sea-wall there curves for miles in a vast and
regular sweep the barren beach of shingle, with the
village of Brenzett standing out darkly across the
water, a spire in a clump of trees; and still further
out the perpendicular column of a lighthouse, look-
ing in the distance no bigger than a lead pencil,
marks the vanishing-point of the land. The coun-
try at the back of Brenzett is low and flat, but the
bay is fairly well sheltered from the seas, and occa-
sionally a big ship, windbound or through stress
of weather, makes use of the anchoring ground a
mile and a half due north from you as you stand
at the back door of the "Ship Inn" in Brenzett.
A dilapidated windmill near by lifting its shattered
arms from a mound no loftier than a rubbish heap,
and a Martello tower squatting at the water's edge
half a mile to the south of the Coastguard cottages,
are familiar to the skippers of small craft. These
are the official seamarks for the patch of trust-
worthy bottom represented on the Admiralty charts
by an irregular oval of dots enclosing several fig-
ures six, with a tiny anchor engraved among them,
and the legend "mud and shells" over all.

The brow of the upland overtops the square
tower of the Colebrook Church. The slope is
green and looped by a white road. Ascending
along this road, you open a valley broad and shal-
low, a wide green trough of pastures and hedges
merging inland into a vista of purple tints and
flowing lines closing the view.

In this valley down to Brenzett and Colebrook
and up to Darnford, the market town fourteen
miles away, lies the practice of my friend Kennedy.
He had begun life as surgeon in the Navy, and
afterwards had been the companion of a famous
traveller, in the days when there were continents
with unexplored interiors. His papers on the
fauna and flora made him known to scientific socie-
ties. And now he had come to a country practice
--from choice. The penetrating power of his
mind, acting like a corrosive fluid, had destroyed
his ambition, I fancy. His intelligence is of a
scientific order, of an investigating habit, and of
that unappeasable curiosity which believes that
there is a particle of a general truth in every mys-
tery.

A good many years ago now, on my return from
abroad, he invited me to stay with him. I came
readily enough, and as he could not neglect his
patients to keep me company, he took me on his
rounds--thirty miles or so of an afternoon, some-
times. I waited for him on the roads; the horse
reached after the leafy twigs, and, sitting in
the dogcart, I could hear Kennedy's laugh through
the half-open door left open of some cottage. He
had a big, hearty laugh that would have fitted a
man twice his size, a brisk manner, a bronzed face,
and a pair of grey, profoundly attentive eyes. He
had the talent of making people talk to him freely,
and an inexhaustible patience in listening to their
tales.