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After two years of training, Jim goes to sea as the chief mate of a fine ship; but he does not find the romantic adventure he has expected. On every voyage, he has to work very hard and endure the monotony, but he does his best and loves being at sea. He still dreams of becoming a hero, being triumphant over the power of the ocean. On one of his voyages, a falling spar during a storm disables him for some time. He is delighted that he does not have to stay on deck during the violent weather; later, he feels guilty for such thoughts. When the pain subsides and good weather returns, he puts the accident out of his mind. His lameness, however, persists, and when the ship arrives in port (probably Singapore), he is taken to the hospital. Since his recovery is slow, he cannot sail with his ship.
There are only two other patients in the hospital ward with Jim. One is the purser of a gunboat, and the other is a railway contractor from a neighboring province. They keep each other company, telling the stories of their lives, playing cards, or lounging together in easy chairs during the day. The hospital is located on top of a hill, and every day Jim looks longingly out over the thick gardens towards the sea and thinks about his return to ship life; he does not want to get too comfortable with his life on land.
When Jim is able to walk without a stick, he goes into town seeking an opportunity to sail home, but has no luck. As he stays in Singapore, he becomes more fascinated with the life that surrounds him and finally decides not to go home. He accepts a position as the chief mate of the Patna, a rusty old steamer. It is owned by a Chinese man, chartered to go to holy places by an Arab, and commanded by a tough German captain. Eight hundred Moslem pilgrims, from north, south, east and west, are crowded aboard, like cattle. When the Patna finally leaves port, the Arab pilgrims are praying aloud. The steamer soon crosses the Strait and sails towards the Red Sea.
The omniscient third-person narrator continues the tale of Jim's life in the second chapter. As a young man, he is given a position of chief mate on a good ship. On board, Jim's positive qualities are again emphasized. He is a steady and obedient worker who has a thorough knowledge of his duties. He also continues to be a romantic, dreaming of the day he will be challenged by the sea and win. Ironically, when Jim is faced with his first challenge from the sea, a rough storm, he is injured by a falling spar and feels thankful that he does not have to stay on deck during the violent weather. He later feels guilty about his lack of courage, just as he did in the first chapter.
On land Jim also worries. He does not want to get too comfortable with his life in the easy chair. He seeks a job on a ship and finally signs on as first mate on the Patna. It is important to notice how Conrad describes the ship. It is on old steamer "eaten with rust worse than a condemned water-tank" and captained by an "iron" German. There is clear foreshadowing that all will not be smooth sailing on this vessel.
Although the setting changes several times in this chapter, from Jim's first ship to the hospital to the Patna, the Mood remains the same; it is serious, sometimes almost glum, reflecting the feelings and surroundings of Jim. The sea is also a constant throughout the chapter. Even when the injured Jim is in the hospital, he thinks about his return to the sea. The sea itself is not so constant. Sometimes it is gentle and smiling; at other times, it is an angry sea, which smashes and destroys with fury.