Lord Jim HTML version

Chapter 12
'All around everything was still as far as the ear could reach. The mist of his
feelings shifted between us, as if disturbed by his struggles, and in the rifts of the
immaterial veil he would appear to my staring eyes distinct of form and pregnant
with vague appeal like a symbolic figure in a picture. The chill air of the night
seemed to lie on my limbs as heavy as a slab of marble.
' "I see," I murmured, more to prove to myself that I could break my state of
numbness than for any other reason.
' "The Avondale picked us up just before sunset," he remarked moodily.
"Steamed right straight for us. We had only to sit and wait."
'After a long interval, he said, "They told their story." And again there was that
oppressive silence. "Then only I knew what it was I had made up my mind to," he
' "You said nothing," I whispered.
' "What could I say?" he asked, in the same low tone. . . . "Shock slight. Stopped
the ship. Ascertained the damage. Took measures to get the boats out without
creating a panic. As the first boat was lowered ship went down in a squall. Sank
like lead. . . . What could be more clear" . . . he hung his head . . . "and more
awful?" His lips quivered while he looked straight into my eyes. "I had jumped--
hadn't I?" he asked, dismayed. "That's what I had to live down. The story didn't
matter." . . . He clasped his hands for an instant, glanced right and left into the
gloom: "It was like cheating the dead," he stammered.
' "And there were no dead," I said.
'He went away from me at this. That is the only way I can describe it. In a
moment I saw his back close to the balustrade. He stood there for some time, as
if admiring the purity and the peace of the night. Some flowering-shrub in the
garden below spread its powerful scent through the damp air. He returned to me
with hasty steps.
' "And that did not matter," he said, as stubbornly as you please.
' "Perhaps not," I admitted. I began to have a notion he was too much for me.
After all, what did I know?
' "Dead or not dead, I could not get clear," he said. "I had to live; hadn't I?"