Lord Jim eBook

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

CHAPTER 14

’I slept little, hurried over my breakfast, and after a slight hesitation gave up my early morning visit to my ship.  It was really very wrong of me, because, though my chief mate was an excellent man all round, he was the victim of such black imaginings that if he did not get a letter from his wife at the expected time he would go quite distracted with rage and jealousy, lose all grip on the work, quarrel with all hands, and either weep in his cabin or develop such a ferocity of temper as all but drove the crew to the verge of mutiny.  The thing had always seemed inexplicable to me:  they had been married thirteen years; I had a glimpse of her once, and, honestly, I couldn’t conceive a man abandoned enough to plunge into sin for the sake of such an unattractive person.  I don’t know whether I have not done wrong by refraining from putting that view before poor Selvin:  the man made a little hell on earth for himself, and I also suffered indirectly, but some sort of, no doubt, false delicacy prevented me.  The marital relations of seamen would make an interesting subject, and I could tell you instances. . . .  However, this is not the place, nor the time, and we are concerned with Jim—­who was unmarried.  If his imaginative conscience or his pride; if all the extravagant ghosts and austere shades that were the disastrous familiars of his youth would not let him run away from the block, I, who of course can’t be suspected of such familiars, was irresistibly impelled to go and see his head roll off.  I wended my way towards the court.  I didn’t hope to be very much impressed or edified, or interested or even frightened—­though, as long as there is any life before one, a jolly good fright now and then is a salutary discipline.  But neither did I expect to be so awfully depressed.  The bitterness of his punishment was in its chill and mean atmosphere.  The real significance of crime is in its being a breach of faith with the community of mankind, and from that point of view he was no mean traitor, but his execution was a hole-and-corner affair.  There was no high scaffolding, no scarlet cloth (did they have scarlet cloth on Tower Hill?  They should have had), no awe-stricken multitude to be horrified at his guilt and be moved to tears at his fate—­no air of sombre retribution.  There was, as I walked along, the clear sunshine, a brilliance too passionate to be consoling, the streets full of jumbled bits of colour like a damaged kaleidoscope:  yellow, green, blue, dazzling white, the brown nudity of an undraped shoulder, a bullock-cart with a red canopy, a company of native infantry in a drab body with dark heads marching in dusty laced boots, a native policeman in a sombre uniform of scanty cut and belted in patent leather, who looked up at me with orientally pitiful eyes as though his migrating spirit were suffering exceedingly from that unforeseen—­what d’ye call ’em?—­avatar—­incarnation. 

Copyrights
Project Gutenberg
Lord Jim from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook