Lord Jim HTML version

Chapter 39
'All the events of that night have a great importance, since they brought about a
situation which remained unchanged till Jim's return. Jim had been away in the
interior for more than a week, and it was Dain Waris who had directed the first
repulse. That brave and intelligent youth ("who knew how to fight after the
manner of white men") wished to settle the business off-hand, but his people
were too much for him. He had not Jim's racial prestige and the reputation of
invincible, supernatural power. He was not the visible, tangible incarnation of
unfailing truth and of unfailing victory. Beloved, trusted, and admired as he was,
he was still one of them, while Jim was one of us. Moreover, the white man, a
tower of strength in himself, was invulnerable, while Dain Waris could be killed.
Those unexpressed thoughts guided the opinions of the chief men of the town,
who elected to assemble in Jim's fort for deliberation upon the emergency, as if
expecting to find wisdom and courage in the dwelling of the absent white man.
The shooting of Brown's ruffians was so far good, or lucky, that there had been
half-a-dozen casualties amongst the defenders. The wounded were lying on the
verandah tended by their women-folk. The women and children from the lower
part of the town had been sent into the fort at the first alarm. There Jewel was in
command, very efficient and high-spirited, obeyed by Jim's "own people," who,
quitting in a body their little settlement under the stockade, had gone in to form
the garrison. The refugees crowded round her; and through the whole affair, to
the very disastrous last, she showed an extraordinary martial ardour. It was to
her that Dain Waris had gone at once at the first intelligence of danger, for you
must know that Jim was the only one in Patusan who possessed a store of
gunpowder. Stein, with whom he had kept up intimate relations by letters, had
obtained from the Dutch Government a special authorisation to export five
hundred kegs of it to Patusan. The powder-magazine was a small hut of rough
logs covered entirely with earth, and in Jim's absence the girl had the key. In the
council, held at eleven o'clock in the evening in Jim's dining-room, she backed up
Waris's advice for immediate and vigorous action. I am told that she stood up by
the side of Jim's empty chair at the head of the long table and made a warlike
impassioned speech, which for the moment extorted murmurs of approbation
from the assembled headmen. Old Doramin, who had not showed himself
outside his own gate for more than a year, had been brought across with great
difficulty. He was, of course, the chief man there. The temper of the council was
very unforgiving, and the old man's word would have been decisive; but it is my
opinion that, well aware of his son's fiery courage, he dared not pronounce the
word. More dilatory counsels prevailed. A certain Haji Saman pointed out at great
length that "these tyrannical and ferocious men had delivered themselves to a
certain death in any case. They would stand fast on their hill and starve, or they
would try to regain their boat and be shot from ambushes across the creek, or
they would break and fly into the forest and perish singly there." He argued that
by the use of proper stratagems these evil-minded strangers could be destroyed