Lord Jim HTML version

Chapter 21
'I don't suppose any of you have ever heard of Patusan?' Marlow resumed, after
a silence occupied in the careful lighting of a cigar. 'It does not matter; there's
many a heavenly body in the lot crowding upon us of a night that mankind had
never heard of, it being outside the sphere of its activities and of no earthly
importance to anybody but to the astronomers who are paid to talk learnedly
about its composition, weight, path--the irregularities of its conduct, the
aberrations of its light--a sort of scientific scandal-mongering. Thus with Patusan.
It was referred to knowingly in the inner government circles in Batavia, especially
as to its irregularities and aberrations, and it was known by name to some few,
very few, in the mercantile world. Nobody, however, had been there, and I
suspect no one desired to go there in person, just as an astronomer, I should
fancy, would strongly object to being transported into a distant heavenly body,
where, parted from his earthly emoluments, he would be bewildered by the view
of an unfamiliar heavens. However, neither heavenly bodies nor astronomers
have anything to do with Patusan. It was Jim who went there. I only meant you to
understand that had Stein arranged to send him into a star of the fifth magnitude
the change could not have been greater. He left his earthly failings behind him
and what sort of reputation he had, and there was a totally new set of conditions
for his imaginative faculty to work upon. Entirely new, entirely remarkable. And
he got hold of them in a remarkable way.
'Stein was the man who knew more about Patusan than anybody else. More than
was known in the government circles I suspect. I have no doubt he had been
there, either in his butterfly-hunting days or later on, when he tried in his
incorrigible way to season with a pinch of romance the fattening dishes of his
commercial kitchen. There were very few places in the Archipelago he had not
seen in the original dusk of their being, before light (and even electric light) had
been carried into them for the sake of better morality and-- and--well--the greater
profit, too. It was at breakfast of the morning following our talk about Jim that he
mentioned the place, after I had quoted poor Brierly's remark: "Let him creep
twenty feet underground and stay there." He looked up at me with interested
attention, as though I had been a rare insect. "This could be done, too," he
remarked, sipping his coffee. "Bury him in some sort," I explained. "One doesn't
like to do it of course, but it would be the best thing, seeing what he is." "Yes; he
is young," Stein mused. "The youngest human being now in existence," I
affirmed. "Schon. There's Patusan," he went on in the same tone. . . . "And the
woman is dead now," he added incomprehensibly.
'Of course I don't know that story; I can only guess that once before Patusan had
been used as a grave for some sin, transgression, or misfortune. It is impossible
to suspect Stein. The only woman that had ever existed for him was the Malay
girl he called "My wife the princess," or, more rarely, in moments of expansion,