Lord Jim eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 490 pages of information about Lord Jim.
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!’

CHAPTER 22

’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,

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Lord Jim from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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