Lord Jim HTML version

Chapter 33
'I was immensely touched: her youth, her ignorance, her pretty beauty, which had
the simple charm and the delicate vigour of a wild-flower, her pathetic pleading,
her helplessness, appealed to me with almost the strength of her own
unreasonable and natural fear. She feared the unknown as we all do, and her
ignorance made the unknown infinitely vast. I stood for it, for myself, for you
fellows, for all the world that neither cared for Jim nor needed him in the least. I
would have been ready enough to answer for the indifference of the teeming
earth but for the reflection that he too belonged to this mysterious unknown of her
fears, and that, however much I stood for, I did not stand for him. This made me
hesitate. A murmur of hopeless pain unsealed my lips. I began by protesting that
I at least had come with no intention to take Jim away.
'Why did I come, then? After a slight movement she was as still as a marble
statue in the night. I tried to explain briefly: friendship, business; if I had any wish
in the matter it was rather to see him stay. . . . "They always leave us," she
murmured. The breath of sad wisdom from the grave which her piety wreathed
with flowers seemed to pass in a faint sigh. . . . Nothing, I said, could separate
Jim from her.
'It is my firm conviction now; it was my conviction at the time; it was the only
possible conclusion from the facts of the case. It was not made more certain by
her whispering in a tone in which one speaks to oneself, "He swore this to me."
"Did you ask him?" I said.
'She made a step nearer. "No. Never!" She had asked him only to go away. It
was that night on the river-bank, after he had killed the man--after she had flung
the torch in the water because he was looking at her so. There was too much
light, and the danger was over then--for a little time--for a little time. He said then
he would not abandon her to Cornelius. She had insisted. She wanted him to
leave her. He said that he could not--that it was impossible. He trembled while he
said this. She had felt him tremble. . . . One does not require much imagination to
see the scene, almost to hear their whispers. She was afraid for him too. I
believe that then she saw in him only a predestined victim of dangers which she
understood better than himself. Though by nothing but his mere presence he had
mastered her heart, had filled all her thoughts, and had possessed himself of all
her affections, she underestimated his chances of success. It is obvious that at
about that time everybody was inclined to underestimate his chances. Strictly
speaking he didn't seem to have any. I know this was Cornelius's view. He
confessed that much to me in extenuation of the shady part he had played in
Sherif Ali's plot to do away with the infidel. Even Sherif Ali himself, as it seems
certain now, had nothing but contempt for the white man. Jim was to be
murdered mainly on religious grounds, I believe. A simple act of piety (and so far