Lord Jim By Joseph Conrad Chapters 15-17

'It struck me that it is from such as he that the great army of waifs and strays is recruited, the army that marches down, down into all the gutters of the earth. As soon as he left my room, that "bit of shelter," he would take his place in the ranks, and begin the journey towards the bottomless pit. I at least had no illusions; but it was I, too, who a moment ago had been so sure of the power of words, and now was afraid to speak, in the same way one dares not move for fear of losing a slippery hold. It is when we try to grapple with another man's intimate need that we perceive how incomprehensible, wavering, and misty are the beings that share with us the sight of the stars and the warmth of the sun. It is as if loneliness were a hard and absolute condition of existence; the envelope of flesh and blood on which our eyes are fixed melts before the outstretched hand, and there remains only the capricious, unconsolable, and elusive spirit that no eye can follow, no hand can grasp. It was the fear of losing him that kept me silent, for it was borne upon me suddenly and with unaccountable force that should I let him slip away into the darkness I would never forgive myself.

'"Well. Thanks — once more. You've been — er — uncommonly — really there's no word to . . . Uncommonly! I don't know why, I am sure. I am afraid I don't feel as grateful as I would if the whole thing hadn't been so brutally sprung on me. Because at bottom . . . you, yourself . . ." He stuttered.

'"Possibly," I struck in. He frowned.

'"All the same, one is responsible." He watched me like a hawk.

'"And that's true, too," I said.

'"Well. I've gone with it to the end, and I don't intend to let any man cast it in my teeth without — without — resenting it." He clenched his fist.

'"There's yourself," I said with a smile — mirthless enough, God knows — but he looked at me menacingly. "That's my business," he said. An air of indomitable resolution came and went upon his face like a vain and passing shadow. Next moment he looked a dear good boy in trouble, as before. He flung away the cigarette. "Good-bye," he said, with the sudden haste of a man who had lingered too long in view of a pressing bit of work waiting for him; and then for a second or so he made not the slightest movement. The downpour fell with the heavy uninterrupted rush of a sweeping flood, with a sound of unchecked overwhelming fury that called to one's mind the images of collapsing bridges, of uprooted trees, of undermined mountains. No man could breast the colossal and headlong stream that seemed to break and swirl against the dim stillness in which we were precariously sheltered as if on an island. The perforated pipe gurgled, choked, spat, and splashed in odious ridicule of a swimmer fighting for his life. "It is raining," I remonstrated, "and I . . ." "Rain or shine," he began brusquely, checked himself, and walked to the window. "Perfect deluge," he muttered after a while: he leaned his forehead on the glass. "It's dark, too."

'"Yes, it is very dark," I said.

'He pivoted on his heels, crossed the room, and had actually opened the door leading into the corridor before I leaped up from my chair. "Wait," I cried, "I want you to . . ." "I can't dine with you again to-night," he flung at me, with one leg out of the room already. "I haven't the slightest intention to ask you," I shouted. At this he drew back his foot, but remained mistrustfully in the very doorway. I lost no time in entreating him earnestly not to be absurd; to come in and shut the door.'

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At Jim's trial, someone said, "Look at that wretched cur." Who did Jim think said it?




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