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It is a clear and still night as the Patna travels through the Arabian Sea. Jim is on night watch; as usual, he is dreaming of romantic adventures in which he will be the hero. As he walks, he observes the different people on board the ship. There are pilgrims with their children and rich families who have made special shelters for themselves. He observes his shipmates and sees the skipper of the ship, half-dressed in pajamas, looking at the charts. He watches the second engineer, who has traveled with the skipper for many years. He looks at the two Malays who steer the ship. Jim is again filled with confidence, for he is sure that no other officer has his abilities. These thoughts are interrupted by the sudden quivering of the ship. Jim and the others are thrown forward, but manage to control themselves. The ship then settles down and moves steadily forward through the calm water.
This chapter opens with a description of the peaceful darkness and Jim responsibly performing his duties as night watch; but it also says that he is again romantically dreaming about his own heroism. In contrast to Jim's prim performance on deck and the calm beauty of the night sky, the captain is obscenely described as half-dressed with a disgusting and sweaty belly, "the incarnation of everything vile and base." He argues loudly with his second engineer, who seems to be drunk. It does not appear to be a very reliable or moral crew, a fact that once again foreshadows trouble on the Patna.
As the engineer turns to go back below deck, the ship seems to struggle, quiver, and pitch forward, foreshadowing its future troubles. As the ship groans, all of the officers, including Jim, lurch forward, almost in a jumping motion, again foreshadowing later actions. Almost simultaneously, there is an appropriate roll of distant thunder, changing the Mood from serious to somber.