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CONRAD, Joseph

Lord Jim


He shivered a little, and I beheld him rise slowly as if a steady hand from above had been pulling him out of the chair by his hair. Up, slowly- to his full height, and when his knees had locked stiff the hand let him go, and he swayed a little on his feet. There was a suggestion of awful stillness in his face, in his movements, in his very voice when he said ‘They shouted’- and involuntarily I pricked up my ears for the ghost of that shout that would be heard directly through the false effect of silence. ‘There were eight hundred people in that ship,’ he said, impaling me to the back of my seat with an awful blank stare. ‘Eight hundred living people, and they were yelling after the one dead man to come down and be saved. “Jump, George! Jump! Oh, jump!” I stood by with my hand on the davit. I was very quiet. It had come over pitch dark. You could see neither sky nor sea. I heard the boat alongside go bump, bump, and not another sound down there for a while, but the ship under me was full of talking noises. Suddenly the skipper howled, “Mein Gott! The squall! The squall! Shove off!” With the first hiss of rain, and the first gust of wind, they screamed, “Jump, George! We’ll catch you! Jump!” The ship began a slow plunge; the rain swept over her like a broken sea; my cap flew off my head; my breath was driven back into my throat. I heard as if I had been on the top of a tower another wild screech, “Geo-o-o-orge! Oh, jump!” She was going down, down, head first under me….

“He raised his hand deliberately to his face, and made picking motions with his fingers as though he had been bothered with cobwebs, and afterwards he looked into the open palm for quite half a second before he blurted out-

“‘I had jumped…’ He checked himself, averted his gaze…. ‘It seems,’ he added.