Lord Jim HTML version

Chapter 10
'He locked his fingers together and tore them apart. Nothing could be more true:
he had indeed jumped into an everlasting deep hole. He had tumbled from a
height he could never scale again. By that time the boat had gone driving forward
past the bows. It was too dark just then for them to see each other, and,
moreover, they were blinded and half drowned with rain. He told me it was like
being swept by a flood through a cavern. They turned their backs to the squall;
the skipper, it seems, got an oar over the stern to keep the boat before it, and for
two or three minutes the end of the world had come through a deluge in a pitchy
blackness. The sea hissed "like twenty thousand kettles." That's his simile, not
mine. I fancy there was not much wind after the first gust; and he himself had
admitted at the inquiry that the sea never got up that night to any extent. He
crouched down in the bows and stole a furtive glance back. He saw just one
yellow gleam of the mast-head light high up and blurred like a last star ready to
dissolve. "It terrified me to see it still there," he said. That's what he said. What
terrified him was the thought that the drowning was not over yet. No doubt he
wanted to be done with that abomination as quickly as possible. Nobody in the
boat made a sound. In the dark she seemed to fly, but of course she could not
have had much way. Then the shower swept ahead, and the great, distracting,
hissing noise followed the rain into distance and died out. There was nothing to
be heard then but the slight wash about the boat's sides. Somebody's teeth were
chattering violently. A hand touched his back. A faint voice said, "You there?"
Another cried out shakily, "She's gone!" and they all stood up together to look
astern. They saw no lights. All was black. A thin cold drizzle was driving into their
faces. The boat lurched slightly. The teeth chattered faster, stopped, and began
again twice before the man could master his shiver sufficiently to say, "Ju-ju-st in
ti-ti-me. . . . Brrrr." He recognised the voice of the chief engineer saying surlily, "I
saw her go down. I happened to turn my head." The wind had dropped almost
'They watched in the dark with their heads half turned to windward as if expecting
to hear cries. At first he was thankful the night had covered up the scene before
his eyes, and then to know of it and yet to have seen and heard nothing
appeared somehow the culminating point of an awful misfortune. "Strange, isn't
it?" he murmured, interrupting himself in his disjointed narrative.
'It did not seem so strange to me. He must have had an unconscious conviction
that the reality could not be half as bad, not half as anguishing, appalling, and
vengeful as the created terror of his imagination. I believe that, in this first
moment, his heart was wrung with all the suffering, that his soul knew the
accumulated savour of all the fear, all the horror, all the despair of eight hundred
human beings pounced upon in the night by a sudden and violent death, else
why should he have said, "It seemed to me that I must jump out of that accursed