Lord Jim HTML version

Chapter 24
'The coast of Patusan (I saw it nearly two years afterwards) is straight and
sombre, and faces a misty ocean. Red trails are seen like cataracts of rust
streaming under the dark-green foliage of bushes and creepers clothing the low
cliffs. Swampy plains open out at the mouth of rivers, with a view of jagged blue
peaks beyond the vast forests. In the offing a chain of islands, dark, crumbling
shapes, stand out in the everlasting sunlit haze like the remnants of a wall
breached by the sea.
'There is a village of fisher-folk at the mouth of the Batu Kring branch of the
estuary. The river, which had been closed so long, was open then, and Stein's
little schooner, in which I had my passage, worked her way up in three tides
without being exposed to a fusillade from "irresponsive parties." Such a state of
affairs belonged already to ancient history, if I could believe the elderly headman
of the fishing village, who came on board to act as a sort of pilot. He talked to me
(the second white man he had ever seen) with confidence, and most of his talk
was about the first white man he had ever seen. He called him Tuan Jim, and the
tone of his references was made remarkable by a strange mixture of familiarity
and awe. They, in the village, were under that lord's special protection, which
showed that Jim bore no grudge. If he had warned me that I would hear of him it
was perfectly true. I was hearing of him. There was already a story that the tide
had turned two hours before its time to help him on his journey up the river. The
talkative old man himself had steered the canoe and had marvelled at the
phenomenon. Moreover, all the glory was in his family. His son and his son-in-
law had paddled; but they were only youths without experience, who did not
notice the speed of the canoe till he pointed out to them the amazing fact.
'Jim's coming to that fishing village was a blessing; but to them, as to many of us,
the blessing came heralded by terrors. So many generations had been released
since the last white man had visited the river that the very tradition had been lost.
The appearance of the being that descended upon them and demanded inflexibly
to be taken up to Patusan was discomposing; his insistence was alarming; his
generosity more than suspicious. It was an unheard-of request. There was no
precedent. What would the Rajah say to this? What would he do to them? The
best part of the night was spent in consultation; but the immediate risk from the
anger of that strange man seemed so great that at last a cranky dug-out was got
ready. The women shrieked with grief as it put off. A fearless old hag cursed the
'He sat in it, as I've told you, on his tin box, nursing the unloaded revolver on his
lap. He sat with precaution--than which there is nothing more fatiguing--and thus
entered the land he was destined to fill with the fame of his virtues, from the blue
peaks inland to the white ribbon of surf on the coast. At the first bend he lost
sight of the sea with its labouring waves for ever rising, sinking, and vanishing to