Lord Jim HTML version

Chapter 5
'Oh yes. I attended the inquiry,' he would say, 'and to this day I haven't left off
wondering why I went. I am willing to believe each of us has a guardian angel, if
you fellows will concede to me that each of us has a familiar devil as well. I want
you to own up, because I don't like to feel exceptional in any way, and I know I
have him-- the devil, I mean. I haven't seen him, of course, but I go upon
circumstantial evidence. He is there right enough, and, being malicious, he lets
me in for that kind of thing. What kind of thing, you ask? Why, the inquiry thing,
the yellow-dog thing--you wouldn't think a mangy, native tyke would be allowed to
trip up people in the verandah of a magistrate's court, would you?--the kind of
thing that by devious, unexpected, truly diabolical ways causes me to run up
against men with soft spots, with hard spots, with hidden plague spots, by Jove!
and loosens their tongues at the sight of me for their infernal confidences; as
though, forsooth, I had no confidences to make to myself, as though--God help
me!--I didn't have enough confidential information about myself to harrow my own
soul till the end of my appointed time. And what I have done to be thus favoured I
want to know. I declare I am as full of my own concerns as the next man, and I
have as much memory as the average pilgrim in this valley, so you see I am not
particularly fit to be a receptacle of confessions. Then why? Can't tell--unless it
be to make time pass away after dinner. Charley, my dear chap, your dinner was
extremely good, and in consequence these men here look upon a quiet rubber as
a tumultuous occupation. They wallow in your good chairs and think to
themselves, "Hang exertion. Let that Marlow talk."
'Talk? So be it. And it's easy enough to talk of Master Jim, after a good spread,
two hundred feet above the sea-level, with a box of decent cigars handy, on a
blessed evening of freshness and starlight that would make the best of us forget
we are only on sufferance here and got to pick our way in cross lights, watching
every precious minute and every irremediable step, trusting we shall manage yet
to go out decently in the end--but not so sure of it after all--and with dashed little
help to expect from those we touch elbows with right and left. Of course there are
men here and there to whom the whole of life is like an after-dinner hour with a
cigar; easy, pleasant, empty, perhaps enlivened by some fable of strife to be
forgotten before the end is told--before the end is told--even if there happens to
be any end to it.
'My eyes met his for the first time at that inquiry. You must know that everybody
connected in any way with the sea was there, because the affair had been
notorious for days, ever since that mysterious cable message came from Aden to
start us all cackling. I say mysterious, because it was so in a sense though it
contained a naked fact, about as naked and ugly as a fact can well be. The
whole waterside talked of nothing else. First thing in the morning as I was
dressing in my state-room, I would hear through the bulkhead my Parsee Dubash