Lord Jim HTML version

Chapter 27
'Already the legend had gifted him with supernatural powers. Yes, it was said,
there had been many ropes cunningly disposed, and a strange contrivance that
turned by the efforts of many men, and each gun went up tearing slowly through
the bushes, like a wild pig rooting its way in the undergrowth, but . . . and the
wisest shook their heads. There was something occult in all this, no doubt; for
what is the strength of ropes and of men's arms? There is a rebellious soul in
things which must be overcome by powerful charms and incantations. Thus old
Sura--a very respectable householder of Patusan--with whom I had a quiet chat
one evening. However, Sura was a professional sorcerer also, who attended all
the rice sowings and reapings for miles around for the purpose of subduing the
stubborn souls of things. This occupation he seemed to think a most arduous
one, and perhaps the souls of things are more stubborn than the souls of men.
As to the simple folk of outlying villages, they believed and said (as the most
natural thing in the world) that Jim had carried the guns up the hill on his back--
two at a time.
'This would make Jim stamp his foot in vexation and exclaim with an exasperated
little laugh, "What can you do with such silly beggars? They will sit up half the
night talking bally rot, and the greater the lie the more they seem to like it." You
could trace the subtle influence of his surroundings in this irritation. It was part of
his captivity. The earnestness of his denials was amusing, and at last I said, "My
dear fellow, you don't suppose I believe this." He looked at me quite startled.
"Well, no! I suppose not," he said, and burst into a Homeric peal of laughter.
"Well, anyhow the guns were there, and went off all together at sunrise. Jove!
You should have seen the splinters fly," he cried. By his side Dain Waris,
listening with a quiet smile, dropped his eyelids and shuffled his feet a little. It
appears that the success in mounting the guns had given Jim's people such a
feeling of confidence that he ventured to leave the battery under charge of two
elderly Bugis who had seen some fighting in their day, and went to join Dain
Waris and the storming party who were concealed in the ravine. In the small
hours they began creeping up, and when two-thirds of the way up, lay in the wet
grass waiting for the appearance of the sun, which was the agreed signal. He
told me with what impatient anguishing emotion he watched the swift coming of
the dawn; how, heated with the work and the climbing, he felt the cold dew
chilling his very bones; how afraid he was he would begin to shiver and shake
like a leaf before the time came for the advance. "It was the slowest half-hour in
my life," he declared. Gradually the silent stockade came out on the sky above
him. Men scattered all down the slope were crouching amongst the dark stones
and dripping bushes. Dain Waris was lying flattened by his side. "We looked at
each other," Jim said, resting a gentle hand on his friend's shoulder. "He smiled
at me as cheery as you please, and I dared not stir my lips for fear I would break
out into a shivering fit. 'Pon my word, it's true! I had been streaming with