Lord Jim HTML version

Chapter 25
' "This is where I was prisoner for three days," he murmured to me (it was on the
occasion of our visit to the Rajah), while we were making our way slowly through
a kind of awestruck riot of dependants across Tunku Allang's courtyard. "Filthy
place, isn't it? And I couldn't get anything to eat either, unless I made a row about
it, and then it was only a small plate of rice and a fried fish not much bigger than
a stickleback--confound them! Jove! I've been hungry prowling inside this stinking
enclosure with some of these vagabonds shoving their mugs right under my
nose. I had given up that famous revolver of yours at the first demand. Glad to
get rid of the bally thing. Look like a fool walking about with an empty shooting-
iron in my hand." At that moment we came into the presence, and he became
unflinchingly grave and complimentary with his late captor. Oh! magnificent! I
want to laugh when I think of it. But I was impressed, too. The old disreputable
Tunku Allang could not help showing his fear (he was no hero, for all the tales of
his hot youth he was fond of telling); and at the same time there was a wistful
confidence in his manner towards his late prisoner. Note! Even where he would
be most hated he was still trusted. Jim--as far as I could follow the conversation--
was improving the occasion by the delivery of a lecture. Some poor villagers had
been waylaid and robbed while on their way to Doramin's house with a few
pieces of gum or beeswax which they wished to exchange for rice. "It was
Doramin who was a thief," burst out the Rajah. A shaking fury seemed to enter
that old frail body. He writhed weirdly on his mat, gesticulating with his hands and
feet, tossing the tangled strings of his mop--an impotent incarnation of rage.
There were staring eyes and dropping jaws all around us. Jim began to speak.
Resolutely, coolly, and for some time he enlarged upon the text that no man
should be prevented from getting his food and his children's food honestly. The
other sat like a tailor at his board, one palm on each knee, his head low, and
fixing Jim through the grey hair that fell over his very eyes. When Jim had done
there was a great stillness. Nobody seemed to breathe even; no one made a
sound till the old Rajah sighed faintly, and looking up, with a toss of his head,
said quickly, "You hear, my people! No more of these little games." This decree
was received in profound silence. A rather heavy man, evidently in a position of
confidence, with intelligent eyes, a bony, broad, very dark face, and a cheerily of
officious manner (I learned later on he was the executioner), presented to us two
cups of coffee on a brass tray, which he took from the hands of an inferior
attendant. "You needn't drink," muttered Jim very rapidly. I didn't perceive the
meaning at first, and only looked at him. He took a good sip and sat composedly,
holding the saucer in his left hand. In a moment I felt excessively annoyed. "Why
the devil," I whispered, smiling at him amiably, "do you expose me to such a
stupid risk?" I drank, of course, there was nothing for it, while he gave no sign,
and almost immediately afterwards we took our leave. While we were going
down the courtyard to our boat, escorted by the intelligent and cheery
executioner, Jim said he was very sorry. It was the barest chance, of course.