Lord Jim HTML version

Chapter 2
After two years of training he went to sea, and entering the regions so well known
to his imagination, found them strangely barren of adventure. He made many
voyages. He knew the magic monotony of existence between sky and water: he
had to bear the criticism of men, the exactions of the sea, and the prosaic
severity of the daily task that gives bread--but whose only reward is in the perfect
love of the work. This reward eluded him. Yet he could not go back, because
there is nothing more enticing, disenchanting, and enslaving than the life at sea.
Besides, his prospects were good. He was gentlemanly, steady, tractable, with a
thorough knowledge of his duties; and in time, when yet very young, he became
chief mate of a fine ship, without ever having been tested by those events of the
sea that show in the light of day the inner worth of a man, the edge of his temper,
and the fibre of his stuff; that reveal the quality of his resistance and the secret
truth of his pretences, not only to others but also to himself.
Only once in all that time he had again a glimpse of the earnestness in the anger
of the sea. That truth is not so often made apparent as people might think. There
are many shades in the danger of adventures and gales, and it is only now and
then that there appears on the face of facts a sinister violence of intention--that
indefinable something which forces it upon the mind and the heart of a man, that
this complication of accidents or these elemental furies are coming at him with a
purpose of malice, with a strength beyond control, with an unbridled cruelty that
means to tear out of him his hope and his fear, the pain of his fatigue and his
longing for rest: which means to smash, to destroy, to annihilate all he has seen,
known, loved, enjoyed, or hated; all that is priceless and necessary-- the
sunshine, the memories, the future; which means to sweep the whole precious
world utterly away from his sight by the simple and appalling act of taking his life.
Jim, disabled by a falling spar at the beginning of a week of which his Scottish
captain used to say afterwards, 'Man! it's a pairfect meeracle to me how she lived
through it!' spent many days stretched on his back, dazed, battered, hopeless,
and tormented as if at the bottom of an abyss of unrest. He did not care what the
end would be, and in his lucid moments overvalued his indifference. The danger,
when not seen, has the imperfect vagueness of human thought. The fear grows
shadowy; and Imagination, the enemy of men, the father of all terrors,
unstimulated, sinks to rest in the dullness of exhausted emotion. Jim saw nothing
but the disorder of his tossed cabin. He lay there battened down in the midst of a
small devastation, and felt secretly glad he had not to go on deck. But now and
again an uncontrollable rush of anguish would grip him bodily, make him gasp
and writhe under the blankets, and then the unintelligent brutality of an existence
liable to the agony of such sensations filled him with a despairing desire to
escape at any cost. Then fine weather returned, and he thought no more about It.