Lord Jim HTML version

Chapter 31
'You may imagine with what interest I listened. All these details were perceived to
have some significance twenty-four hours later. In the morning Cornelius made
no allusion to the events of the night. "I suppose you will come back to my poor
house," he muttered, surlily, slinking up just as Jim was entering the canoe to go
over to Doramin's campong. Jim only nodded, without looking at him. "You find it
good fun, no doubt," muttered the other in a sour tone. Jim spent the day with the
old nakhoda, preaching the necessity of vigorous action to the principal men of
the Bugis community, who had been summoned for a big talk. He remembered
with pleasure how very eloquent and persuasive he had been. "I managed to put
some backbone into them that time, and no mistake," he said. Sherif Ali's last
raid had swept the outskirts of the settlement, and some women belonging to the
town had been carried off to the stockade. Sherif Ali's emissaries had been seen
in the market-place the day before, strutting about haughtily in white cloaks, and
boasting of the Rajah's friendship for their master. One of them stood forward in
the shade of a tree, and, leaning on the long barrel of a rifle, exhorted the people
to prayer and repentance, advising them to kill all the strangers in their midst,
some of whom, he said, were infidels and others even worse--children of Satan
in the guise of Moslems. It was reported that several of the Rajah's people
amongst the listeners had loudly expressed their approbation. The terror
amongst the common people was intense. Jim, immensely pleased with his day's
work, crossed the river again before sunset.
'As he had got the Bugis irretrievably committed to action and had made himself
responsible for success on his own head, he was so elated that in the lightness
of his heart he absolutely tried to be civil with Cornelius. But Cornelius became
wildly jovial in response, and it was almost more than he could stand, he says, to
hear his little squeaks of false laughter, to see him wriggle and blink, and
suddenly catch hold of his chin and crouch low over the table with a distracted
stare. The girl did not show herself, and Jim retired early. When he rose to say
good-night, Cornelius jumped up, knocking his chair over, and ducked out of
sight as if to pick up something he had dropped. His good-night came huskily
from under the table. Jim was amazed to see him emerge with a dropping jaw,
and staring, stupidly frightened eyes. He clutched the edge of the table. "What's
the matter? Are you unwell?" asked Jim. "Yes, yes, yes. A great colic in my
stomach," says the other; and it is Jim's opinion that it was perfectly true. If so, it
was, in view of his contemplated action, an abject sign of a still imperfect
callousness for which he must be given all due credit.
'Be it as it may, Jim's slumbers were disturbed by a dream of heavens like brass
resounding with a great voice, which called upon him to Awake! Awake! so loud
that, notwithstanding his desperate determination to sleep on, he did wake up in
reality. The glare of a red spluttering conflagration going on in mid-air fell on his