The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
littlereview

Notes on 'The Wine-Dark Sea'

Sequel to this post about my favorite moments from The Nutmeg of Consolation and The Truelove (Clarissa Oakes), with the rest to be found filed under "O'Brian":


THE WINE-DARK SEA

17-18: The sea is extremely turbulent, the sky orange, yet the glass is steady. Stephen suggests, "Before you lie in, do you not think it might calm our spirits if we were to contemplate let us say Corelli rather than this apocalyptic sea? We have scarcely played a note since before Moahu. I never thought to dislike the setting sun, but this one adds an even more sinister tinge to everything in sight, unpleasant though it was before. Besides, those tawny clouds flying in every direction and these irregular waves, these boils of water fill me with melancholy thoughts.' 'I should like it of all things,' said Jack. 'I do not intend to beat to quarters this evening - the people have had quite enough for one day - so we can make an early start.' A fairly early start: for the irregular waves that had disturbed Stephen Maturin's sense of order in nature now pitched him headlong down the companion-ladder...his chair had to be made fast to two ring-bolts to allow him to hold his 'cello with anything like ease or even safety. He had a Geronimo Amati at home, just as Aubrey had a treasured Guarnieri, but they travelled with rough old things that could put up with extremes of temperature and humidity. The rough old things always started the evening horribly flat, but in time the players tuned them to their own satisfaction, and exchanging a nod they dashed away into a duet which they knew very well indeed, having played it together these ten years and more, but in which they always found something fresh, some half-forgotten turn of phrase or of particular felicity. They also added new pieces of their own, small improvisations or repetitions, each player in turn. They might have pleased Corelli's ghost, as showing what power his music still possessed for a later generation: they certainly did not please Preserved Killick, the Captain's steward. 'Yowl, yowl, yowl,' he said to his mate on hearing the familiar sounds. 'They are at it again. I have a mind to put ratsbane in their toasted cheese.' 'It cannot go on much longer,' said Grimble. 'The cross-sea is getting up something cruel.' It was true. The ship was cutting such extraordinary capers that even Jack, a merman if ever there was one, had to sit down, wedging himself firmly on a broad locker; and at the setting of the watch, after their traditional toasted cheese had been eaten, he went on deck to take in the courses and lie to under a close-reefed main topsail.

24-5: Description of the underwater volcano that has devastated the sea and ships, the emergence of a new island, and all the dead marine life that surrounds the ship.

50-1: "'It is remarkable,' observed Stephen after a pause, 'that the Surprise, with her many sects, should be such a peaceful ship...generally speaking there is no discord at all; whereas very often the least difference of opinion leads to downright hatred.' 'That may be because they tend to leave their particular observances on shore,' said Martin. 'The Thraskites are a Judaizing body and they would recoil from a ham at Shelmerston, but here they eat up their salt pork, aye, and fresh too when they can get it. And then when we rig church on Sundays they and all the others sing the Anglican psalms and hymns with great good will.' 'For my own part,' said Captain Aubrey, 'I have no notion of disliking a man for his beliefs, above all if he was born with them. I find I can get along very well with Jews or even...' The P of Papists was already formed, and the word was obliged to come out as Pindoos. ... 'I have rarely known such delightful weather in what we must, I suppose, call the torrid zone,' said Stephen, dining as usual in the cabin. 'Balmy zephyrs, a placid ocean, two certain Hahnemann's petrels, and perhaps a third.' 'It would be all very capital for a picnic with ladies on a lake, particularly if they shared your passion for singular birds; but I tell you, Stephen, that these balmy zephyrs of yours have not propelled the ship seventy sea-miles between noon and noon these last four days.'"

58-62: "He was woken, as long use had told him he would be woken, by a trampling as of wild beasts as the Surprise's boats were hoisted in: hoarse cries - 'Oh you impotent booby' - the shrilling of the bosun's call...he became aware of a presence in the cabin, a suppressed giggle. It was Emily and Sarah, standing neatly side by side in white pinafores. 'We have been standing here a great while, sir,' said Sarah, 'whilst you was acontemplating. The Captain says, should you like to see a marble?' 'Wonder,' said Emily. 'Marble,' said Sarah, adding, 'You impotent booby' in a whisper. 'There you are, Doctor,' cried the Captain as Stephen came on deck, still looking rather stupid. 'Have you been asleep?' 'Not at all,' said Stephen, 'I very rarely sleep.' 'Well, if you had been asleep, here is a sight that would wake you even if you were a Letter to the Ephesians. Look over the leeward quarter. The leeward quarter.' 'Jesus, Mary and Joseph,' cried Stephen, recognizing the Franklin at last. 'What a transformation! She has three tall Christian masts and a vast great number of sails-what splendour in the sun! Sails of every kind, I make no doubt, including topgallant-royals.' 'Exactly so, ha, ha, ha! I never thought it could have been done in the time...we shall have to set our own.'" They do, the Surprises cheer, "and Jack turned a beaming face to Stephen, his eyes more startlingly blue than ever. 'Ain't that capital?' he cried. 'Now we can have our concert at last.'" Jack is thrilled to be going two knots and a trifle better than one fathom, "and to Stephen, 'There, Doctor: ain't you amazed? Two knots and a little more than a fathom!' 'Profoundly amazed; yet I seem to remember having gone even faster.' 'Why God love you, of course you have,' cried Jack. 'It is not the absolute speed that I am talking about but the relative speed, the speed in this miserable zephyr of yours. Good Lord, if we can both make better than two knots in an air that would scarcely bend a candle-flame, there is precious little can escape us, without it has wings or carries seventy-four guns.'" Stephen feels that he has disappointed Jack, asks about the concert. 'It was a very old favourite they began with that evening, Benda's violin and 'cello duet in C minor, and they played it unusually well. There is a great deal to be said for a steady deck under a 'cello: a great deal to be said for a cheerful heart behind a fiddle: and they would have brought it to an unusually handsome close if Killick had not blundered in, tripping over a little stool, unseen because of his tray, and saving their supper only by a miracle of juggling...Jack Aubrey weighed sixteen or seventeen stone, Stephen barely nine, and to avoid the tedium of self-sacrifice, protests against the sacrifice, and privy maundering afterwards it had long been agreed that they should share accordingly: finishing his fourth dish, therefore, Jack also finished his explanation of the remarkable sailing qualities of both the Franklin and the Surprise... 'So much the better,' said Stephen. 'Now what do you say to our Boccherini in D major? The minuet has been running in my head these last two or three days; but we have still to work out the adagio.' 'I should like it of all things,' said Jack. 'Killick. Killick, there. Clear the decks and bring another decanter of port.'" Jack admits that he lusted after Clarissa, and Stephen changes the subject to wine.

63-4: Jack associates the year of the wine with the Spanish Disturbance, 1789. "'A precious date for me: a wonderful year and I had great hopes of it as soon as the news came home.' He paused for a while, sipping his port and smiling at his recollections; then he said 'Tell me, Stephen, what were you doing in eighty-nine?' 'Oh,' said Stephen vaguely, 'I was studying medicine.' With this he set down his glass and walked into the quarter-gallery. He had been studying medicine, it was true, walking the wards of the Hotel-Dieu, but he had also spent a great deal of the time running about the streets of Paris in the headiest state of happy excitement that could be imagined, or rather exaltation, in the dawn of the Revolution, when every disinterested, generous idea of freedom seemed on the point of realization, the dawn of an infinitely finer age. When he came back he found Jack arranging the score of their next duet on their music stands. Like many other heavy men Jack could be as sensitive as a cat on occasion: he knew that he had touched on some painful area - that in any case Stephen hated questions - and he was particularly attentive in laying out the sheets, pouring Stephen another glass of wine, and, when they began, in so playing that his violin helped the 'cello, yielding to it in those minute ways perceptible to those who are deep in their music if to few others. They played on, and only once did Jack raise his head from the score: the ship was leaning half a strake, and beneath their strings the sound of the rigging could just be heard. At the end of the allegro he said, turning the page with his bow, 'She is making four knots.' 'I believe we may attack the adagio directly,' said Stephen. 'The wind is in our poop, and we have never played better.' They swept into the next movement, the 'cello booming nobly, and carried straight on without a pause, separating, joining, answering one another, with never a hesitation nor a false note until the full satisfaction of the end." Dutourd, the despised Democrat aboard, says, "'I had no idea they could play so well - no contention, no striving for pre-eminence - pray which is the 'cello?' 'Dr Maturin.' 'And Captain Aubrey the violin, of course: admirable tone, admirable bowing.'" He wants to play second fiddle to Jack, and when he learns from Martin that they have played quartets is even more eager.

66: Jack watches "the usual daily procession of Jemmy Ducks, Sarah and Emily, carrying hen-coops and leading the goat Amalthea, had come and gone; and as usual Jack, reflecting upon the rapid growth of the little girls, thought of his own daughters, their present height, weight and happiness, their possible but unlikely progress in deportment, French and the pianoforte under Miss O'Mara. But neither Stephen nor Martin had appeared, nor any of the ransomers...four turns later he heard Reade's shrill cry of 'Oh no, sir, no. You cannot talk to the Captain,' and he saw Dutourd headed off, admonished, led firmly back to the group to leeward. 'But what did I do?' he cried, addressing Stephen, who had just come up the companion-ladder. 'I only wished to congratulate him on his playing.' 'My dear sir, you must not address the Captain,' said Stephen. 'You cannot possibly go over to the windward side, without you are invited,' said Wilkins. 'Even I may not speak to him, except on duty,' said Reade. 'Well,' said Dutourd, recovering from his surprise and concealing a certain vexation moderately well, 'you are a markedly formal, hierarchical society, I see. But I hope, sir' - to Maturin - 'that I may without sin tell you how very much I enjoyed your music? I thought the Boccherini adagio masterly, masterly...' They walked off, still speaking of the Boccherini, with real knowledge and appreciation on Dutourd's part. Stephen, who in any case was not of an expansive nature, tended to avoid the Frenchman on general principles; but now he would voluntarily have remained in his company had not six bells struck."

74: Stephen goes to sleep happily: "To sleep, but not for long. Presently the idlers were called, and they joined the watch in the daily ritual of cleaning the decks, pumping floods of sea-water over them, sanding, holystoning and swabbing them, flogging them dry by the rising of the sun. There were hardened sailors who could sleep through all this - Jack Aubrey was one, and he could be heard snoring yet - but Stephen was not. On this occasion it did not make him unhappy or fretful, however, and he lay there placidly thinking of a number of pleasant things. Clarissa came into his mind: she too had something of that simplicity, in spite of a life as hard as could well be imagined. 'Are you awake?' asked Jack Aubrey in a hoarse whisper through a crack in the door. 'I am not,' said Stephen. 'Nor do I choose to swim; but I will take coffee with you when you return to the ship. The animal,' he added to himself. 'I never heard him get up.' It was true. Jack weighed far too much, but he was still remarkably light on his feet."

80-83: Stephen is afraid that Dutourd has recognized him from his activities in France many years earlier. "'How these halcyon days go on and on, the one following the other with only a perfect night between,' he said, walking into the cabin. 'We might almost be on dry land. But tell me, Jack, will it never rain at all - hush. I interrupt your calculations, I find.' 'What is twelve sixes?' asked Jack. 'Ninety-two,' said Stephen. 'My shirt is like a cilice with the salt. I should wear it dirty and reasonably soft, but that Killick takes it away - he finds it out with a devilish ingenuity and flings it into the sea-water tub and I am convinced that he adds more salt from the brinetubs.' 'What is a cilice?' 'It is a penitential garment made of the harshest cloth known to man and worn next the skin by saints, hermits, and the more anxious sinners.' Jack returned to his figures and Stephen to his disagreeable reflexions. 'What goeth before destruction?' he asked. 'Pride goeth before destruction, that is what. I was so proud of knowing those spars in English, let alone in French, that I could not contain, but must be blabbing like a fool. Hair-shirt, indeed: the Dear knows I deserve one.' In time Jack put down his pen and said, 'As for rain, there is no hope of it, according to the glass. But I have been casting the prize accounts, as far as I can without figures for the Franklin's specie: a roundish figure, which is some sort of consolation.' 'Very good. To predatory creatures like myself there is something wonderfully fetching about a prize. The very word evokes a smile of concupiscent greed. Speaking of the Franklin reminds me that Dutourd wishes you to know that he would be glad of an invitation to play music with us.' 'So I gather from Martin,' said Jack, 'and I thought it a most uncommon stroke of effrontery. A fellow with wild, bloody, regicide revolutionary ideas, like Tom Paine and Charles Fox and all those wicked fellows at Brooks's and that adulterous cove - I forget his name, but you know who I mean - ' 'I do not believe I am acquainted with any adulterers, Jack.' 'Well, never mind. A fellow who roams about the sea attacking our merchantmen with no commission or letter of marque from anyone, next door to a pirate if not actually bound for Execution Dock - be damned if I should invite him if he were a second Tartini, which he ain't." Jack rants about his democracy, and Stephen admits, "'In 1789 I too had great hopes of my fellows, but now I believe the only point on which Dutourd and I are in agreement is slavery.' 'Well, as for slavery...it is true that I should not like to be one myself, yet Nelson was in favour of it and he said that the country's shipping would be ruined if the trade were put down. Perhaps it comes more natural if you are black...but come, I remember how you tore that unfortunate scrub Bosville to pieces years ago in Barbados for saying that the slaves liked it - that it was in their masters' interest to treat them kindly - that doing away with slavery would be shutting the gates of mercy on the negroes. Hey, hey! The strongest language I have ever heard you use. I wonder he did not ask for satisfaction.' 'I think I feel more strongly about slavery than anything else, even that vile Buonaparte who is in any case one aspect of it. Bosville...the sanctimonious hypocrite...the silly blackguard with his 'gates of mercy', his soul to the Devil - a mercy that includes chains and whips and branding with a hot iron. Satisfaction. I should have given it him with the utmost good will: two ounces of lead or a span of sharp steel; though common ratsbane would have been more appropriate.' 'Why, Stephen, you are in quite a passion.' 'So I am. It is a retrospective passion, sure, but I feel it still. Thinking of that ill-looking flabby ornamented conceited self-complacent ignorant shallow mean-spirited cowardly young shite with absolute power over fifteen hundred blacks makes me fairly tremble even now - it moves me to grossness. I should have kicked him if ladies had not been present.'"

90-2: "In time Jack finished his dinner, and when they were drinking their coffee Stephen said, 'I made a remarkable discovery this morning. I believe it will make a great stir in the Royal Society when I read my paper; and Cuvier will be amazed.' He described the extraordinarily unyielding nature of the frigate-bird's bosom, contrasting it with that of other fowl, no more rigid than an indifferent wicker basket, and spoke of its probable connexion with the creature's soaring flight. As it was usual with them when they spoke of the lie of the land, naval manoeuvres or the like he traced lines on the table with wine, and Jack, following with keen attention, said, 'I take your point, and I believe you are right. For this, do you see' - drawing a ship seen from above - 'is the mainyard when we are close-hauled on the starboard tack...surely there is a parallel here?' 'Certainly. If you will come next door I will show you the bones in question and their coalescence, and you will judge the degree of rigidity yourself, comparing it with that of your sheets and chess-trees. I was called away before the dissecting was quite complete - before everything was as white and distinct as a specimen or example mounted for an anatomy lesson - but you will never dislike a little blood and slime.' Stephen was not a heavy, impercipient man in most respects, yet he had known Jack Aubrey all these years without discovering that he disliked even a very little blood and slime extremely: that is to say, cold blood and slime. In battle he was accustomed to wading ankle-deep in both without the least repulsion, laying about him in a very dreadful manner. But he could scarcely be brought to wring a chicken's neck, still less watch a surgical operation. 'You will take the exposed furcula between your finger and thumb,' Stephen went on, 'and all proportions guarded you will gauge its immobility.' Jack gave a thin smile: seven excuses came to his mind. But he was much attached to his friend; and the excuses were improbable at the best. He walked slowly forward into what had once been his dining-cabin and was now, to judge from the reek, a charnel-house. He did indeed take the exposed furcula as he was desired to do, and he listened to Stephen's explanations with his head gravely inclined: he looked not unlike a very large dog that was conscientiously carrying out an unpleasant duty: but how happy he was when the duty was done, when the explanations came to an end, and when he could walk out into the fresh air with a clear conscience!"

104-6: Stephen complains, while Jack eats sea-pie, "'Nobody, nobody has told me why we are rushing in this impetuous manner through the turgid sea, with sailors whose names I do not even know, rushing almost directly away, to judge by the sun, away from the Peru I had so longed to see and which you had led me confidently to expect before Bridie's birthday.' 'I never said which birthday, this or the next.' 'I wonder you can speak with such levity about my daughter. I have always treated yours with proper respect.' 'You called them a pair of turnip-headed swabs once, when they were still in long clothes.' 'For shame, Jack: a hissing shame upon you. Those were your very own words when you showed them to me at Ashgrove before our voyage to the Mauritius. Your soul to the Devil.' 'Well, perhaps they were. Yes: you are quite right - I remember now - you warned me not to toss them into the air, as being bad for the intellects. I beg pardon. But tell me, brother, has nobody told you what is afoot?' 'They have not.' 'Where have you been?' 'I have been in my cabin downstairs, contemplating on mercury.' 'A delightful occupation. But he is not to be seen now, you know: he is too near the sun. And to tell you the truth he is neither much of a spectacle nor a great help in navigation, though charming from the purely astronomical point of view.' 'I meant the metallic element. ... Brother, how tedious you can be, on occasion. I did hear some cries of "Jolly rogers - jolly rogers - we shall roger them." But in parenthesis, Jack, tell me about this word roger. I have often heard it aboard, but can make out no clear nautical signification.' 'Oh, it is no sea-term. They use it ashore much more than we do - a low cant expression meaning to swive or couple with.' Stephen considered for a moment and then said, 'So roger joins bugger and that even coarser word; and they are all used in defiance and contempt, as though to an enemy; which seems to show a curious light on the lover's subjacent emotions. Conquest, rape, subjugation: have women a private language of the same nature, I wonder?" Jack said, 'In some parts of the West Country rams are called Roger, as cats are called Puss; and of course that is their duty; though which came first, the deed or the doer, the goose or the egg, I am not learned enough to tell.'" Jack explains that they are chasing a genuine pirate, "wearing the black flag, the Jolly Roger."

110: "Dr Maturin, as the frigate's surgeon, belonged officially to the gunroom mess: in fact he nearly always lived in the great cabin with his particular friend Jack Aubrey, sleeping in one of the smaller cabins immediately forward of it, but he remained a member of the mess; and he was the only member of whom poor long-horned Oakes was not jealous. Yet he was the only member who was deeply attached to Clarissa as a person rather than as a means to an end, and the only one who could have taken her affection away from Oakes, if it was affection that the young man valued. To be sure, Stephen was perfectly conscious of her desirability; he was an ordinary sensual man in that respect and although in his long period of opium-eating his ardour had so declined that continence was no virtue, it had since revived with more than common force; yet in his view amorous conversation was significant only if the desire and the liking were shared, and early in their acquaintance it had become clear to him that physical love-making was meaningless to Clarissa, an act of not the slightest consequence. She took not the least pleasure in it and although out of good nature or a wish to be liked she might gratify a 'lover' it might be said that she was chastely unchaste. At that time no moral question was involved. The experience of her childhood - loneliness in a remote country house, early abuse, and a profound ignorance of the ordinary world - accounted for her attitude of mind: there was no bodily imperfection. None of this was written on her forehead, however, nor was she apt to confide in anyone but her physician [who] thought about her most affectionately: it was her courage that he most admired - she had had a very hard life in London and an appalling one in the convict settlement of New South Wales, but she had borne up admirably, retaining her own particular integrity: no self-pity, no complaint. And although he was aware that this courage might be accompanied by a certain ferocity (she had been transported for blowing a man's head off) he did not find it affected his esteem.

120-1: 'It would be only with the greatest reluctance that I should consent to leave you,' said Stephen, sitting there in the Franklin's cabin. 'It is most obliging of you to say so, replied Jack with a hint of testiness, 'and I take it very kindly; but we have been through this many times and once again I am obliged to point out that you have no choice in the matter. You must go into Callao with the others as soon as everything is ready.' 'I do not like your eye, and I do not like your leg,' said Stephen. 'As for the scalp-wound, though spectacular it is of no great consequence. I dare say it will hurt for some weeks and your hair will go white for an inch or two on either side; but I do not think you need fear any complications.' 'It still makes me stupid and fretful at times,' said Jack, and then with the slightly false air of one who is deliberately changing the subject, 'Stephen, should Sam come aboard - of course it is very unlikely - why should he indeed, or even still be in Peru? But should he come aboard, pray give him my love, tell him that I hope to bring the Franklin in, and that we should be very happy if he would dine with us. And for the moment, I mean if he should come, which I doubt, please ask him what we can do with the blacks we took in Alastor. They are not seamen in any sense of the term and they are really no use to us at all. But they were slaves, and Peru is a slave country; so I do not like to put them ashore, where they may be seized and sold. I particularly dislike it since having been aboard an English ship they are now, as I understand it, free men. Quite how this squares with the slave-trade I cannot tell, but that is how I understand the law.'" Stephen asks Jack not to send Dutourd, who knows that he is an agent. "Jack looked at him, saw that the matter had to do with intelligence and nodded." Reade knocks: 'The Doctor will be with you directly,' said Captain Aubrey. 'In five minutes,' said Dr Maturin. He lifted the bandage over Jack's eye: he looked at the pike-wound. 'You must swear by Sophie's head to suffer Killick to dress both these places with their respective lotions and pommades before breakfast, before dinner, and before retiring: I have given him precise instructions. Swear.' 'I swear,' said Jack, holding up his right hand. 'He will grow absolutely insupportable, as usual...now, brother, your boat has been hooked on this age. You will be much better by yourself for a while. I am afraid I have been like a bear in a whore's bed these last few days.'"

124: Stephen watches himself sail away from Jack until Sarah comes and interrupts him with patients, then returns to watch the vessels go their different ways. "The ships separated with the smooth inevitability of a sea-parting, slow at first, still within calling-distance, and then, if one's attention were distracted for a few moments by a bird, a floating patch of seaweed, the gap had grown to a mile and one's friends' faces were no longer to be made out, for with the warm steady southerly breeze ships sailing in opposite directions drew apart at fifteen or sixteen knots, even with no topgallants abroad. The Franklin, Captain Aubrey, headed west to cruise upon the enemy until he should hear that the Surprise had been docked and was now fit for a passage of the Horn, that the prizes had been disposed of, and above all that Stephen, having accomplished what he had set out to do, was ready to go home. The Franklin would, he hoped with reasonable confidence, send in prizes from time to time; but in any event he had a fine half-decked schooner-rigged launch belonging to the Alastor that could be dispatched from well out in the offing to fetch stores and news from Callao. The Surprise, Captain Pullings, on the other hand, stood a little south of east for Peru, whose prodigious mountains were already said to be visible from the masthead and whose strange cold north-flowing current was undoubtedly present; and in duty bound her two prizes sailed after her, each at two cable's lengths. The sun set, with the Franklin clear on the horizon, and it left a golden sky of such beauty that Stephen felt a constriction in his throat. Sarah too was moved but she said nothing until they were below again, when she observed, 'I shall say seven Hail Marys every day until we see them again.'"

159-61: Dutourd has escaped the ship and Jack heads for shore to deal with the situation. "Stephen's point of view had of course to do with intelligence, as Jack knew very well: during an earlier voyage he had seen him drop a box which, bursting, revealed a sum so vast that it could only have been intended for the subversion of a government; and he strongly suspected him of having dished two English traitors, Ledward and Wray, attached to a French mission to the Sultan of Prabang. In a parenthesis he heard Stephen's voice: 'Tell me, Jack, my dear, is dish a nautical term?' 'We often use it in the Navy,' Jack replied. 'It means to ruin or frustrate or even destroy. Sometimes we say scupper; and there are coarser words, but I shall not embarrass you by repeating them.'" He stays up all night as the launch goes about, dismissing the watch. "Jack returned to his reflexions: Stephen's point of view had of course to do with intelligence. This had almost certainly been the case for many, many years, and on occasion Jack had been officially required to seek his advice on political matters. But he had no notion of Stephen's present task: he did not wish to know, either, ignorance being the surest guarantee of discretion. Nor could he imagine how such a man as Dutourd could be any hindrance to whatever task it was. Surely no government, however besotted, could ever think of using such a prating, silly fellow as an intelligence agent or any sort of envoy. He turned the matter over this way and that. It was an exercise as useful as trying to solve an equation with innumerable terms of which only two could be read. To windward there was a vast expiring sigh as a sperm whale surfaced, black in a corruscation of green light, an enormous solitary bull. His spout drifted across the launch itself, and he could be heard drawing in the air, breathing for quite some time; then easily, smoothly, he shouldered over and dived, showing his flukes in a final blaze. Jack continued with his pointless exercise, with one pause when Johnson spelled him, until the end of the watch, ending with no more valuable observation than that with which he had begun: if Dutourd was in any way a threat to Stephen on shore it was his clear self-evident duty to get the man aboard again if it could be done, and if it could not, then at least to take Stephen off.

222-5: Jack welcomes Stephen back aboard, Killick gets him out of his wet clothes, Stephen frets about Jack's eye, Jack asks Stephen if he could possibly manage dinner. "'Any dinner at all,' said Stephen with great conviction: he was fresh from a monastery unusually ascetic at all times and now deep in a penitential fast; and in an undertone he added, 'Even one of those infernal cavies.' Dinner wound on from fresh anchovies, still present in their countless millions, to steak of tunny, to a tolerable sea-pie, and so to an expected but still heartily welcome spotted dog. Stephen ate in wolfish silence until the very end of the sea-pie; then, being among old friends eager to hear, he leant back, loosened his waist-band, and told them something of his botanizing and naturalizing journey south from Lima to Arica, where he took ship for Valparaiso." He describes being frostbitten and amputating his own toes.

228-9: "There is something profoundly discreditable about this delight in taking other men's property away from them by force,' observed Stephen, tuning his long neglected 'cello, 'taking it away openly, legally, and being praised, caressed and even decorated for doing so. I quell, or attempt to quell, the feeling every time it rises in my bosom; which it does quite often.' 'Pray pass the rosin," said Jack; and before dashing away into the allegro vivace of their Boccherini he added, 'I may see little of you in the morning: we shall spend much of our time exercising the great guns. But you will never forget that I am to be your guest for dinner in the gunroom, I am sure.' Nothing could have been less certain. Dr Maturin had been so engrossed in the preliminary unpacking, sorting, registering, cleaning and roughly preserving the collections that had come aboard from the balsa that he was perfectly capable of forgetting all ordinary duties other than those of the sick-berth, and all social decencies. 'He is also capable of supposing that the ship's company is still much as he left it,' reflected Jack, and at the end of the movement he said, 'I believe you have not dined in the gunroom yet?' 'I have not,' said Stephen. 'With the sick-berth and my collections to sort, I have scarcely been on deck, either, or asked half my shipmates how they do. You cannot readily conceive the fragility of an undressed bird's skin, my dear.'" Jack explains the changes to the crew, telling Stephen that poor John Proby, has lost the number of his mess. "'That I knew. He was in a sad decline, in spite of what little we could do for him in the way of bark and steel and linctus. But Fabien very kindly kept me one of his hands, recollecting my interest in the singular calcification of its sinews. Fabien is a most valuable assistant.' Jack could still be made uneasy by remarks of this kind, and it was a little while before he went on, 'And you will not see Bulkeley any more, either.' 'The facetious bosun?" 'Just so. He had also been a bosun in the Navy, you know; and with the Surprise being run man-of-war fashion he slipped back more and more into his old service ways. You know the expression capabarre, I dare say?' 'Certainly. I am no new-fledged canvas-climber, I believe. It is the topmost summit, the ultimate pinnacle of some towering mast." 'No doubt. But we commonly use it for that tendency in the bosuns of King's ships to steal all marine stores not immovably screwed down. I checked him once for a missing kedge in Annamooka and again for a coil of three-inch manilla at Moahu, with God knows how many things in between.'"

229: "Discussing the perils of the sea in general and of lightning in particular came very near to talking shop, an act less criminal than sodomy (which carried the death sentence) but not very much so, and the gunroom cast some nervous looks at their guest the Captain, a stickler for naval etiquette; but since it was clear both from his thoroughly amiable expression and his own anecdotes that lightning was this side of the barrier between right and wrong, the subject occupied the company for the not inconsiderable time they took to eat a noble turtle and empty the dish."

234: "'We shall have to stand off and on until well past the full,' said Jack at supper - fish soup, a dish of sweetbreads, Peruvian cheese, two bottles of Coquimbo claret - 'The full of the moon, of course.' 'An uninviting prospect,' said Stephen. 'Last night I was unable to control my 'cello because of the erratic jerking of the floor, and this evening most of my soup is spread on my lap; while day after day men are brought below with cruel bruises, even broken bones, and are falling from the frozen ropes above or slipping on the icy deck below. Do you not think it would be better to go home?' 'Yes. It often occurs to me, but then my innate nobility of character cries out, "Hey, Jack Aubrey: you mind your duty, d'ye hear me there?" Do you know about duty, Stephen?' 'I believe I have heard it well spoken of.' 'Well, it exists. And apart from the obvious duty of distressing the King's enemies - not that I have anything against Americans: they are capital seamen and they treated us most handsomely in Boston. But it is my duty. Apart from that, I say, we also have a duty to the officers and the foremast jacks. They have brought the barky here in the hope of three China ships, and if I call out, "Oh be damned to your three China ships" what will they say? They are not man-of-war's men; and even if they were...'" Stephen agrees, but he wonders whether attacking the China ships "does not smack of that pride which goeth before destruction" though Jack says no, they are not like Company's ships. "'Well,' said Stephen. And then, 'If we must wait for your more or less mythical Chinamen, if we must wait until your sense of duty is satisfied, may we not go just a little way south, just to the edge of the ice? How charming that would be.' 'With all due respect, Stephen, I must tell you that I utterly decline to go anywhere near any ice whatsoever, however thin, however deeply laden with seals, great auks, or other wonders of the deep. I hate and despise ice. Ever since our mortal time with the ice-island in the horrible old Leopard, I have always sworn never to give it any countenance.' 'My dear,' said Stephen, pouring him another glass of wine, 'how well a graceful timidity does become you.'"

256-7: Stephen mentions the ship's meagre look and how small is his piece of plum-duff. "'I wish it may not be an ignoble stroke of revenge for my innocent words this morning about our harmless, meek, and bargelike appearance -innocent upon my word, and even, I thought, amusing - a mild pleasantry. But not at all: prim faces, wry looks, and now this meagre, despicable pudding. I had thought better of my shipmates.' 'You mistake, brother,' said Jack. 'Mr Adams and I, in our joint character as purser, cast our accounts yesterday, reckoning every last firkin of oatmeal, every bin and locker in the bread-room, and dividing the whole, private stores not excepted, by the number of mouths aboard. That piece of pudding is your full ration, my poor Stephen.' 'Oh, indeed,' said Stephen, looking rather blank." He warns Jack against spending time in the frigid water, but Jack says they must ship a new rudder, "and that succulent, luxurious pudding now in front of you is the seventieth part of all the duff that you will eat before we raise the Table Mountain.' 'God love you, Jack, what things you tell me.' 'Never despond, dear Stephen: remember that Bligh sailed four thousand miles in an open boat, with not a thousandth part of our stores. You will never despond, Stephen,' said Jack with a very slight emphasis. 'And I am sure you will never find any of the seamen do so, either.' 'No,' said Stephen, stifling his recollections of the terrible following seas during the frequent storms in these latitudes, the perpetual danger of being pooped, of broaching-to, and of being lost with all hands in a turmoil of foam. 'No. I shall not despond.' 'And Stephen, may I beg you not to be facetious when speaking of the barky? The people are surprisingly susceptible, if you know what I mean, about her appearance. And if ever you intend to be complimentary, you might well be advised just to throw up your hands and cry "Oh", or "Superb", or "I have never seen anything better", without being particular.' 'The Doctor has been choked off for being a satyr,' said Killick to Grimble. 'What's a satyr?' 'What an ignorant cove you are to be sure, Art Grimble: just ignorant, is all. A satyr is a party that talks sarcastic. Choked off something cruel, he was; and his duff taken away and eaten before his eyes.'" The seamen hear that Stephen is in trouble with Jack, and are kind to him, and bring him something to sit on as he bird-watches.

259-61: They come upon the Berenice, Dundas' ship. "'I know perfectly well what he is going to say,' murmured Jack to Stephen as they stood there in their boat-cloaks by the gangway stanchions. 'He is going to call out, "Well, Jack, whom the Lord loveth He chastizeth", and all his people will set up a silly cackle. There's Philip! Lord, how he has shot up.' Philip was Jack Aubrey's half-brother, last seen as a youngster aboard Dundas's previous command. The Surprise, with her frail spars, could not easily get her launch over the side, and Dundas was sending his barge for them. It was lowered down in a seamanlike manner, and as it shoved off Captain Dundas, waving his hat from the Berenice's quarterdeck, called, 'Well, Jack, whom the Lord loveth He chastizeth, ha, ha, ha! You must be a prime favourite up above.'" Jack says that the voyage was a failure on the whole, and Stephen was betrayed "'and that it went right to his heart'" but "'I am so happy to be homeward-bound, and I am so happy, so very happy, to be alive.'"

--------

Stephen getting choked up as he sails away from Jack gives me chills -- and this from a man who thinks Jack cries too easily. *g*
Subscribe

  • Greetings from Lake Needwood

    Saturday was a gorgeous fall day, so after doing some housework in the morning, we had soup and grilled cheese for lunch, then went to Lake Needwood…

  • Greetings from the Canal

    Friday was another gorgeous day, and it was the first day of the second part of Pokemon Go's Halloween event, so when I wasn't sorting books in the…

  • Poem for Friday and Emmitsburg Grotto Water

    Photographs By Barbara Guest In the past we listened to photographs. They heard our voice speak. Alive, active. What had been distance was…

  • Post a new comment

    Error

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded 

  • 0 comments