Lord Jim HTML version

Chapter 9
' "I was saying to myself, 'Sink--curse you! Sink!' " These were the words with
which he began again. He wanted it over. He was severely left alone, and he
formulated in his head this address to the ship in a tone of imprecation, while at
the same time he enjoyed the privilege of witnessing scenes--as far as I can
judge--of low comedy. They were still at that bolt. The skipper was ordering, "Get
under and try to lift"; and the others naturally shirked. You understand that to be
squeezed flat under the keel of a boat wasn't a desirable position to be caught in
if the ship went down suddenly. "Why don't you--you the strongest?" whined the
little engineer. "Gott-for-dam! I am too thick," spluttered the skipper in despair. It
was funny enough to make angels weep. They stood idle for a moment, and
suddenly the chief engineer rushed again at Jim.
' "Come and help, man! Are you mad to throw your only chance away? Come
and help, man! Man! Look there--look!"
'And at last Jim looked astern where the other pointed with maniacal insistence.
He saw a silent black squall which had eaten up already one-third of the sky. You
know how these squalls come up there about that time of the year. First you see
a darkening of the horizon--no more; then a cloud rises opaque like a wall. A
straight edge of vapour lined with sickly whitish gleams flies up from the
southwest, swallowing the stars in whole constellations; its shadow flies over the
waters, and confounds sea and sky into one abyss of obscurity. And all is still. No
thunder, no wind, no sound; not a flicker of lightning. Then in the tenebrous
immensity a livid arch appears; a swell or two like undulations of the very
darkness run past, and suddenly, wind and rain strike together with a peculiar
impetuosity as if they had burst through something solid. Such a cloud had come
up while they weren't looking. They had just noticed it, and were perfectly justified
in surmising that if in absolute stillness there was some chance for the ship to
keep afloat a few minutes longer, the least disturbance of the sea would make an
end of her instantly. Her first nod to the swell that precedes the burst of such a
squall would be also her last, would become a plunge, would, so to speak, be
prolonged into a long dive, down, down to the bottom. Hence these new capers
of their fright, these new antics in which they displayed their extreme aversion to
' "It was black, black," pursued Jim with moody steadiness. "It had sneaked upon
us from behind. The infernal thing! I suppose there had been at the back of my
head some hope yet. I don't know. But that was all over anyhow. It maddened me
to see myself caught like this. I was angry, as though I had been trapped. I was
trapped! The night was hot, too, I remember. Not a breath of air."