came on wonderfully, came on straight as a die and
in excellent form, which showed that he could stay
as well as spurt. I ought to be delighted, for
it is a victory in which I had taken my part; but
I am not so pleased as I would have expected to be.
I ask myself whether his rush had really carried him
out of that mist in which he loomed interesting if
not very big, with floating outlines—a
straggler yearning inconsolably for his humble place
in the ranks. And besides, the last word is not
said,—probably shall never be said.
Are not our lives too short for that full utterance
which through all our stammerings is of course our
only and abiding intention? I have given up expecting
those last words, whose ring, if they could only be
pronounced, would shake both heaven and earth.
There is never time to say our last word—the
last word of our love, of our desire, faith, remorse,
submissions, revolt. The heaven and the earth
must not be shaken, I suppose—at least,
not by us who know so many truths about either.
My last words about Jim shall be few. I affirm
he had achieved greatness; but the thing would be
dwarfed in the telling, or rather in the hearing.
Frankly, it is not my words that I mistrust but your
minds. I could be eloquent were I not afraid
you fellows had starved your imaginations to feed
your bodies. I do not mean to be offensive; it
is respectable to have no illusions—and
safe—and profitable—and dull.
Yet you, too, in your time must have known the intensity
of life, that light of glamour created in the shock
of trifles, as amazing as the glow of sparks struck
from a cold stone—and as short-lived, alas!’
’The conquest of love, honour, men’s confidence—the
pride of it, the power of it, are fit materials for
a heroic tale; only our minds are struck by the externals
of such a success, and to Jim’s successes there
were no externals. Thirty miles of forest shut
it off from the sight of an indifferent world, and
the noise of the white surf along the coast overpowered
the voice of fame. The stream of civilisation,
as if divided on a headland a hundred miles north
of Patusan, branches east and south-east, leaving
its plains and valleys, its old trees and its old
mankind, neglected and isolated, such as an insignificant
and crumbling islet between the two branches of a
mighty, devouring stream. You find the name of
the country pretty often in collections of old voyages.
The seventeenth-century traders went there for pepper,
because the passion for pepper seemed to burn like
a flame of love in the breast of Dutch and English
adventurers about the time of James the First.
Where wouldn’t they go for pepper! For
a bag of pepper they would cut each other’s
throats without hesitation, and would forswear their
souls, of which they were so careful otherwise:
the bizarre obstinacy of that desire made them defy
death in a thousand shapes—the unknown seas,