Lord Jim HTML version

Chapter 18
'Six months afterwards my friend (he was a cynical, more than middle-aged
bachelor, with a reputation for eccentricity, and owned a rice-mill) wrote to me,
and judging, from the warmth of my recommendation, that I would like to hear,
enlarged a little upon Jim's perfections. These were apparently of a quiet and
effective sort. "Not having been able so far to find more in my heart than a
resigned toleration for any individual of my kind, I have lived till now alone in a
house that even in this steaming climate could be considered as too big for one
man. I have had him to live with me for some time past. It seems I haven't made
a mistake." It seemed to me on reading this letter that my friend had found in his
heart more than tolerance for Jim--that there were the beginnings of active liking.
Of course he stated his grounds in a characteristic way. For one thing, Jim kept
his freshness in the climate. Had he been a girl--my friend wrote--one could have
said he was blooming-- blooming modestly--like a violet, not like some of these
blatant tropical flowers. He had been in the house for six weeks, and had not as
yet attempted to slap him on the back, or address him as "old boy," or try to
make him feel a superannuated fossil. He had nothing of the exasperating young
man's chatter. He was good-tempered, had not much to say for himself, was not
clever by any means, thank goodness--wrote my friend. It appeared, however,
that Jim was clever enough to be quietly appreciative of his wit, while, on the
other hand, he amused him by his naiveness. "The dew is yet on him, and since I
had the bright idea of giving him a room in the house and having him at meals I
feel less withered myself. The other day he took it into his head to cross the room
with no other purpose but to open a door for me; and I felt more in touch with
mankind than I had been for years. Ridiculous, isn't it? Of course I guess there is
something--some awful little scrape-- which you know all about--but if I am sure
that it is terribly heinous, I fancy one could manage to forgive it. For my part, I
declare I am unable to imagine him guilty of anything much worse than robbing
an orchard. Is it much worse? Perhaps you ought to have told me; but it is such a
long time since we both turned saints that you may have forgotten we, too, had
sinned in our time? It may be that some day I shall have to ask you, and then I
shall expect to be told. I don't care to question him myself till I have some idea
what it is. Moreover, it's too soon as yet. Let him open the door a few times more
for me. . . ." Thus my friend. I was trebly pleased-- at Jim's shaping so well, at the
tone of the letter, at my own cleverness. Evidently I had known what I was doing.
I had read characters aright, and so on. And what if something unexpected and
wonderful were to come of it? That evening, reposing in a deck-chair under the
shade of my own poop awning (it was in Hong-Kong harbour), I laid on Jim's
behalf the first stone of a castle in Spain.
'I made a trip to the northward, and when I returned I found another letter from
my friend waiting for me. It was the first envelope I tore open. "There are no
spoons missing, as far as I know," ran the first line; "I haven't been interested