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Lord Jim

Chapter 26
'Doramin was one of the most remarkable men of his race I had ever seen. His
bulk for a Malay was immense, but he did not look merely fat; he looked
imposing, monumental. This motionless body, clad in rich stuffs, coloured silks,
gold embroideries; this huge head, enfolded in a red-and-gold headkerchief; the
flat, big, round face, wrinkled, furrowed, with two semicircular heavy folds starting
on each side of wide, fierce nostrils, and enclosing a thick-lipped mouth; the
throat like a bull; the vast corrugated brow overhanging the staring proud eyes--
made a whole that, once seen, can never be forgotten. His impassive repose (he
seldom stirred a limb when once he sat down) was like a display of dignity. He
was never known to raise his voice. It was a hoarse and powerful murmur,
slightly veiled as if heard from a distance. When he walked, two short, sturdy
young fellows, naked to the waist, in white sarongs and with black skull-caps on
the backs of their heads, sustained his elbows; they would ease him down and
stand behind his chair till he wanted to rise, when he would turn his head slowly,
as if with difficulty, to the right and to the left, and then they would catch him
under his armpits and help him up. For all that, there was nothing of a cripple
about him: on the contrary, all his ponderous movements were like
manifestations of a mighty deliberate force. It was generally believed he
consulted his wife as to public affairs; but nobody, as far as I know, had ever
heard them exchange a single word. When they sat in state by the wide opening
it was in silence. They could see below them in the declining light the vast
expanse of the forest country, a dark sleeping sea of sombre green undulating as
far as the violet and purple range of mountains; the shining sinuosity of the river
like an immense letter S of beaten silver; the brown ribbon of houses following
the sweep of both banks, overtopped by the twin hills uprising above the nearer
tree-tops. They were wonderfully contrasted: she, light, delicate, spare, quick, a
little witch-like, with a touch of motherly fussiness in her repose; he, facing her,
immense and heavy, like a figure of a man roughly fashioned of stone, with
something magnanimous and ruthless in his immobility. The son of these old
people was a most distinguished youth.
'They had him late in life. Perhaps he was not really so young as he looked.
Four- or five-and-twenty is not so young when a man is already father of a family
at eighteen. When he entered the large room, lined and carpeted with fine mats,
and with a high ceiling of white sheeting, where the couple sat in state
surrounded by a most deferential retinue, he would make his way straight to
Doramin, to kiss his hand--which the other abandoned to him, majestically--and
then would step across to stand by his mother's chair. I suppose I may say they
idolised him, but I never caught them giving him an overt glance. Those, it is true,
were public functions. The room was generally thronged. The solemn formality of
greetings and leave-takings, the profound respect expressed in gestures, on the
faces, in the low whispers, is simply indescribable. "It's well worth seeing," Jim
had assured me while we were crossing the river, on our way back. "They are