Lord Jim HTML version

Chapter 11
'He heard me out with his head on one side, and I had another glimpse through a
rent in the mist in which he moved and had his being. The dim candle spluttered
within the ball of glass, and that was all I had to see him by; at his back was the
dark night with the clear stars, whose distant glitter disposed in retreating planes
lured the eye into the depths of a greater darkness; and yet a mysterious light
seemed to show me his boyish head, as if in that moment the youth within him
had, for a moment, glowed and expired. "You are an awful good sort to listen like
this," he said. "It does me good. You don't know what it is to me. You don't" . . .
words seemed to fail him. It was a distinct glimpse. He was a youngster of the
sort you like to see about you; of the sort you like to imagine yourself to have
been; of the sort whose appearance claims the fellowship of these illusions you
had thought gone out, extinct, cold, and which, as if rekindled at the approach of
another flame, give a flutter deep, deep down somewhere, give a flutter of light . .
. of heat! . . . Yes; I had a glimpse of him then . . . and it was not the last of that
kind. . . . "You don't know what it is for a fellow in my position to be believed--
make a clean breast of it to an elder man. It is so difficult--so awfully unfair--so
hard to understand."
'The mists were closing again. I don't know how old I appeared to him--and how
much wise. Not half as old as I felt just then; not half as uselessly wise as I knew
myself to be. Surely in no other craft as in that of the sea do the hearts of those
already launched to sink or swim go out so much to the youth on the brink,
looking with shining eyes upon that glitter of the vast surface which is only a
reflection of his own glances full of fire. There is such magnificent vagueness in
the expectations that had driven each of us to sea, such a glorious
indefiniteness, such a beautiful greed of adventures that are their own and only
reward. What we get--well, we won't talk of that; but can one of us restrain a
smile? In no other kind of life is the illusion more wide of reality--in no other is the
beginning all illusion--the disenchantment more swift--the subjugation more
complete. Hadn't we all commenced with the same desire, ended with the same
knowledge, carried the memory of the same cherished glamour through the
sordid days of imprecation? What wonder that when some heavy prod gets home
the bond is found to be close; that besides the fellowship of the craft there is felt
the strength of a wider feeling--the feeling that binds a man to a child. He was
there before me, believing that age and wisdom can find a remedy against the
pain of truth, giving me a glimpse of himself as a young fellow in a scrape that is
the very devil of a scrape, the sort of scrape greybeards wag at solemnly while
they hide a smile. And he had been deliberating upon death--confound him! He
had found that to meditate about because he thought he had saved his life, while
all its glamour had gone with the ship in the night. What more natural! It was
tragic enough and funny enough in all conscience to call aloud for compassion,