Lord Jim HTML version

Chapter 29
'This was the theory of Jim's marital evening walks. I made a third on more than
one occasion, unpleasantly aware every time of Cornelius, who nursed the
aggrieved sense of his legal paternity, slinking in the neighbourhood with that
peculiar twist of his mouth as if he were perpetually on the point of gnashing his
teeth. But do you notice how, three hundred miles beyond the end of telegraph
cables and mail-boat lines, the haggard utilitarian lies of our civilisation wither
and die, to be replaced by pure exercises of imagination, that have the futility,
often the charm, and sometimes the deep hidden truthfulness, of works of art?
Romance had singled Jim for its own--and that was the true part of the story,
which otherwise was all wrong. He did not hide his jewel. In fact, he was
extremely proud of it.
'It comes to me now that I had, on the whole, seen very little of her. What I
remember best is the even, olive pallor of her complexion, and the intense blue-
black gleams of her hair, flowing abundantly from under a small crimson cap she
wore far back on her shapely head. Her movements were free, assured, and she
blushed a dusky red. While Jim and I were talking, she would come and go with
rapid glances at us, leaving on her passage an impression of grace and charm
and a distinct suggestion of watchfulness. Her manner presented a curious
combination of shyness and audacity. Every pretty smile was succeeded swiftly
by a look of silent, repressed anxiety, as if put to flight by the recollection of some
abiding danger. At times she would sit down with us and, with her soft cheek
dimpled by the knuckles of her little hand, she would listen to our talk; her big
clear eyes would remain fastened on our lips, as though each pronounced word
had a visible shape. Her mother had taught her to read and write; she had
learned a good bit of English from Jim, and she spoke it most amusingly, with his
own clipping, boyish intonation. Her tenderness hovered over him like a flutter of
wings. She lived so completely in his contemplation that she had acquired
something of his outward aspect, something that recalled him in her movements,
in the way she stretched her arm, turned her head, directed her glances. Her
vigilant affection had an intensity that made it almost perceptible to the senses; it
seemed actually to exist in the ambient matter of space, to envelop him like a
peculiar fragrance, to dwell in the sunshine like a tremulous, subdued, and
impassioned note. I suppose you think that I too am romantic, but it is a mistake.
I am relating to you the sober impressions of a bit of youth, of a strange uneasy
romance that had come in my way. I observed with interest the work of his--well--
good fortune. He was jealously loved, but why she should be jealous, and of
what, I could not tell. The land, the people, the forests were her accomplices,
guarding him with vigilant accord, with an air of seclusion, of mystery, of
invincible possession. There was no appeal, as it were; he was imprisoned within
the very freedom of his power, and she, though ready to make a footstool of her
head for his feet, guarded her conquest inflexibly--as though he were hard to