فصل 01

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کتاب های ساده

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فصل 01

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chapter one

Jim’s early life

In the Eastern ports where he worked for most of his life, Jim was very popular. He was an excellent seaman, who was liked and trusted by everyone. He was tall and strongly built, with a deep voice and a confident way of talking. To his employers and the ship captains, he was just Jim, nothing more. He had a special reason for not wanting people to know his other name. But nothing remains secret for long in sea ports, and soon someone who knew about his past was certain to arrive. When this happened, Jim always left his well-paid job immediately, and moved on to another port. Over several years he was known first in Bombay, then Calcutta, then Rangoon, Penang and Jakarta, as he moved towards the rising sun. Finally, when he could no longer bear this kind of life, he ran away from sea ports and white men forever, hiding himself in the jungle, in a distant Malaysian village, far away from anyone who knew him. The natives of the village gave him an extra name. They called him Tuan Jim, or, as we would say, Lord Jim.

Jim had spent his childhood in a comfortable, peaceful home in the southwest of England. His father was a vicar, a kind man who always did his duty, and who had no doubts about what was right or wrong. The family house was warm and welcoming, with plenty of room for Jim and his four older brothers to play in. Close to it, on a hill, was the small grey church, standing, like a rock, where it had stood for centuries. There had been vicars in Jim’s family for a hundred years, but one of his brothers had already shown an interest in the Church, so his father had to find some other work for his youngest son. When Jim spent a whole summer reading sea stories, his father was delighted, and decided that Jim would join the merchant navy at once.

He was sent to a training ship on a busy, wide river near London; there two hundred boys slept, ate and worked together, learning everything a sailor needs to know. Because he was strong, and quick, and intelligent, he learnt fast, and was generally liked. The work seemed easy to him, and he was confident of his bravery in any danger. Sometimes at night he used to forget the crowd of noisy boys around him, and escape into his own dream world of sea stories. He saw himself swimming bravely through the waves to save passengers from sinking ships, fighting natives on lonely islands, and giving orders to frightened sailors to save their lives. He was always the brave man who did his duty, just like the heroes in the stories that he had read at home.

One evening he heard a sudden shout, ‘Something’s happened! On deck, all of you! Hurry!’ He jumped to his feet, and joined the other boys as they ran up on to the deck.

It was a dark and stormy night. The wind was blowing strongly and heavy rain was falling. Jim stood without moving, staring at the cruel black waves. Was it him that the storm wanted? What would it be like, to fall into that cold water and drown?

‘Send the lifeboat out!’ came the order. In the darkness two small ships had crashed into each other, and there were distant voices crying for help. Boys ran past Jim, who still did not move. They jumped into the lifeboat and began to row as fast as they could towards the two damaged ships.

‘Row together, you young dogs!’ shouted a voice from the boat, ‘if you want to save any lives!’

Jim had now run to the side of the ship and was looking down. He felt a hand on his shoulder. ‘Too late, young man,’ said the captain. Jim looked up, disappointed. The captain smiled. ‘Better luck next time,’ he said. ‘This will teach you to move quickly in an emergency.’

The lifeboat came dancing back through the waves, half full of water. The boys had saved two men, who now lay exhausted in the bottom of the boat. Jim no longer felt afraid of the sea. It seemed to him that he cared nothing for the storm. He would live through greater dangers than that, and would show the world how brave he was. That night he sat alone, while the boys who had saved the two men’s lives told their excited friends the whole story. When they described the waves, and the cold, and the sinking ships, Jim felt angry. They were so proud of what they had done! He, too, had wanted to show his bravery. But perhaps it was better this way. He had learnt more from this experience than any of them. The next time a brave man was needed, he alone, he felt sure, would know how to fight the wind and the seas. And as the other boys talked and laughed together, Jim dreamed happily of the next adventure and his chance to prove himself.

After two years of training, he went to sea. He made many voyages on many different ships, but surprisingly there were no adventures. The sea had not yet tested him, or shown him the secret truth of his pretences. However, although he was still very young, he soon became chief mate of a fine ship. Unfortunately, he was badly hurt during a storm at sea, and when the ship reached an Eastern port, he was taken to hospital. His broken leg needed time to mend, and so he was left behind when his ship sailed away.

Time passed slowly in the hospital, where the patients played cards, and slept, and told each other stories. There were brightly coloured flowers in the gardens, and warm, soft air blew in through the open windows. The hospital was on a hill, and had an excellent view of the port, which was always busy, as it was on one of the main sea routes to the East. Jim felt wonderfully calm as he looked out every day at the ships like toys in the sea, with the endless blue of the Eastern sky above, and the smiling peace of the Eastern seas all around.

As soon as he could walk, he left the hospital and started looking for a ship to take him back to England. While waiting, he naturally spent time with other European seamen in the port. Many of them had become lazy. They were used to the easy life of a white sailor in the East, and did not want to return to the bad weather, harder conditions and more dangerous duties of the West. They talked, not of work, but of luck, and chance, and money. At first, Jim refused to listen to them. But soon he began to find these men strangely interesting. How did they make a success of their lives, with so little work and so little danger? And suddenly, he decided not to go home to England, and took a job as chief mate of the Patna.

The Patna was a local ship, as old as the hills, and in very bad condition. Her captain was a German whose home was in Australia, a very large, fat, cruel man, who felt that he owed no duty to anybody. He had arranged to take eight hundred pilgrims to the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Jim watched as the native people hurried on to the ship, filling every corner like water in a container. Eight hundred men and women had come from north and south, from islands and villages, over mountains and down rivers. At the call of an idea they had left their forests, their farms, their homes - strong men, young boys, little girls, women with heads covered, and sleeping babies. ‘Look at these animals,’ said the German captain to his new chief mate.

The Patna left the port, and started across the Indian Ocean towards the Red Sea. The five white seamen lived separately from the pilgrims, who were packed close together on every deck and in every corner. The days were hot and heavy, and the ship moved slowly across a flat, lifeless sea. There were no clouds in the burning sky, and it was too hot to think or feel.

The nights were beautiful. A wonderful calm seemed to cover the world, and the young moon shone down on the smooth, cool sea. Jim thought that there was nothing but peace and happiness in nature, as he breathed in the soft air, while in all the dark corners around him the pilgrims slept, trusting the white men to keep them safe.

Two Malays stood silently at the wheel. Jim walked along the deck, and looked at the dark water. He did not see the shadow of what was to come. In fact, he felt that nothing could hurt him on a night like this. He had been responsible for the ship for several hours now, and he was feeling sleepy.

‘Anything to report?’ The captain had come up noiselessly behind him. His face was red, with one eye half closed, the other staring and glassy. His fat body shook when he walked, and his clothes were dirty and unbuttoned. Jim answered his captain politely, but moved a little away from the ugly figure who had destroyed the night’s peace.

The ship continued to move smoothly over the flat sea. ‘You can’t imagine how hot it is down below,’ said a voice. It was the young second engineer, who had come up on deck for some fresh air. He did not seem able to speak clearly. ‘Why I work on this old ship, I don’t know,’ he went on. ‘We engineers work twice as hard as you sailors, and-‘

‘Don’t speak to me like that, you dog!’ shouted the captain. ‘Where did you get your drink?’

‘Not from you, captain!’ laughed the engineer. ‘You’re too mean for that! No, the good old chief gave me some.’

The chief engineer was a well-known drinker, who normally kept his drink to himself. Tonight, however, he had given some to the second engineer, who was not used to it. The chief and the captain had worked together on many ships, and people in the Patna’s home port said that they had been guilty of every crime you could think of, at one time or another.

Jim watched the captain getting angrier and angrier, and the young man shouting louder and louder. He smiled to himself. These men did not belong to the world of adventure. They had nothing to do with him. He was almost asleep on his feet.

Suddenly the engineer was thrown forward on to his face, and lay silent on the deck. Jim and the captain stared at the calm sea, and looked up at the stars. What had happened? They could still hear the engines turning. Had the earth stopped? Now the cloudless sky and the quiet sea looked less safe than before. ‘What was that?’ cried the engineer, holding his arm in pain. There was a noise like distant thunder, and the ship trembled. The two Malays at the wheel looked at the white men, but received no orders, so did not move. The Patna lifted a little in the water, and then continued smoothly on her way.

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