Lord Jim HTML version

Chapter 15
'I did not start in search of Jim at once, only because I had really an appointment
which I could not neglect. Then, as ill-luck would have it, in my agent's office I
was fastened upon by a fellow fresh from Madagascar with a little scheme for a
wonderful piece of business. It had something to do with cattle and cartridges
and a Prince Ravonalo something; but the pivot of the whole affair was the
stupidity of some admiral--Admiral Pierre, I think. Everything turned on that, and
the chap couldn't find words strong enough to express his confidence. He had
globular eyes starting out of his head with a fishy glitter, bumps on his forehead,
and wore his long hair brushed back without a parting. He had a favourite phrase
which he kept on repeating triumphantly, "The minimum of risk with the maximum
of profit is my motto. What?" He made my head ache, spoiled my tiffin, but got
his own out of me all right; and as soon as I had shaken him off, I made straight
for the water-side. I caught sight of Jim leaning over the parapet of the quay.
Three native boatmen quarrelling over five annas were making an awful row at
his elbow. He didn't hear me come up, but spun round as if the slight contact of
my finger had released a catch. "I was looking," he stammered. I don't remember
what I said, not much anyhow, but he made no difficulty in following me to the
'He followed me as manageable as a little child, with an obedient air, with no sort
of manifestation, rather as though he had been waiting for me there to come
along and carry him off. I need not have been so surprised as I was at his
tractability. On all the round earth, which to some seems so big and that others
affect to consider as rather smaller than a mustard-seed, he had no place where
he could--what shall I say?--where he could withdraw. That's it! Withdraw--be
alone with his loneliness. He walked by my side very calm, glancing here and
there, and once turned his head to look after a Sidiboy fireman in a cutaway coat
and yellowish trousers, whose black face had silky gleams like a lump of
anthracite coal. I doubt, however, whether he saw anything, or even remained all
the time aware of my companionship, because if I had not edged him to the left
here, or pulled him to the right there, I believe he would have gone straight
before him in any direction till stopped by a wall or some other obstacle. I steered
him into my bedroom, and sat down at once to write letters. This was the only
place in the world (unless, perhaps, the Walpole Reef--but that was not so
handy) where he could have it out with himself without being bothered by the rest
of the universe. The damned thing--as he had expressed it--had not made him
invisible, but I behaved exactly as though he were. No sooner in my chair I bent
over my writing-desk like a medieval scribe, and, but for the movement of the
hand holding the pen, remained anxiously quiet. I can't say I was frightened; but I
certainly kept as still as if there had been something dangerous in the room, that
at the first hint of a movement on my part would be provoked to pounce upon me.