The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Notes on 'The Commodore'

Sequel to this post about my favorite moments from The Wine-Dark Sea, with the rest to be found filed under "O'Brian":


22-3: Stephen is sailing in Ringle because Surprise must dock at Shelmerston and he has urgent business. "The sheet came right aft and she leant over to leeward, moving faster and faster. Stephen clung on, strangely exhilarated; he meant to pluck out his handkerchief and wave to his friends, but before he could get at it with any safety they were racing past the Berenice, which really seemed to be standing still, though she had a respectable bow-wave and a fine spread of canvas. Heneage Dundas took off his hat and called out something, kind and cheerful no doubt but the wind bore it away: Stephen raised a hand in salute - a rash move, for the next moment he was dashed from his hold...he watched them with a strange medley of feelings: the Berenice as a kindly ship and one in which he had spent many a pleasant evening with Jack, Dundas and Kearney, the first lieutenant, playing keen but perfectly civil whist, or merely in discursive uncontentious rambling talk about ports, local manners, and naval supplies, from China to Peru, all from personal experience; but the Surpnse had been his home for longer than he could easily recall. There had been intervals ashore and intervals in other ships; but he had probably lived in her longer than in any other dwelling he had known, his having been a wandering, unfixed life."

46-8: Stephen visits Jack, whose children are ill, but who is in high spirits and tells Stephen that he is to have Bellona with a broad pennant and Tom as captain under him. "'Ain't you amazed? I was, I promise you. I thought it was just one of those things people throw out, far too good to be true.' 'I give you all the joy in the world of your command, my dear: long, long may it prosper.' 'You will come with me, Stephen, will you not? It is mostly for putting down the slave-trade, you remember; and by the twenty-fifth of next month all should be assembled, manned and equipped.' 'I should be very happy. But now, my dear Commodore, I must go and look at your the meanwhile I shall desire Dr Gowers to prescribe a little hellebore to calm the turbulence of your spirits and procure a healing equanimity. God bless, now.' In the hall he found Tom Pullings, entirely alone, leaping and making antic gestures: on hearing Stephen he span round, showing a face of such laughing delight that the Devil himself could not have failed to smile. 'Can I see the Captain now, do you think?' ... Pullings took his elbow in an iron grip and whispered 'He is to hoist a broad pennant in Bellona, and he has named me to be captain under him - he has made me post! I am a post-captain! I never thought it could happen.' Stephen shook his hand and said 'I am so happy. At this rate, Tom, I shall live to congratulate you on your flag.'"

52-3: Stephen finally meets Brigid, his daughter whom Diana has abandoned, who is therefore being watched by Clarissa. "Their eyes were fixed on the slight, wholly self-possessed, self-absorbed figure by the ancient white-muzzled kitchen dog shuffled in after them and the first relief to Stephen's quite extraordinary pain - extraordinary in that he had never known any of the same nature or the same intensity - came when the old dog sniffed at the back of Brigid's leg and without stopping her left hand's delicate motion she reached down with the other to scratch his forehead, while something of pleasure showed through her gravity. Otherwise nothing disturbed her indifference. She saw her tall card-house fall, the tottering victim of a draught, with perfect composure; she ate her bread and milk together with Emily and Sarah, unmoved by their presence; and after a good-night ceremony in which Stephen blessed her she went off to bed with neither reluctance nor complaint. He observed with still another kind of pang that if ever their eyes met hers moved directly on, as they might have moved on from those of a marble bust, or of a creature devoid of interest, since it belonged to a different order." Clarissa explains that Diana missed Stephen cruelly, believed that Clarissa had been his mistress and drank too much after the baby was born.

64-6: "The little mare carried him with a long easy stride down the miles of bare upland road, along the turnpike for a while and so to the lane leading up through Jack Aubrey's plantations to the knoll on which he had built his observatory: for Captain Aubrey was not only an officer professionally concerned with celestial navigation but also a disinterested astronomer and, although one would never have suspected it from his honest, open face, a mathematician: a late-developing mathematician it is true, but one of sufficient eminence to have his papers on nutations and the Jovian satellites published in the Philosophical Transactions and translated in several learned journals on the Continent. Jack had just closed the door of this building and he was standing on its step contemplating the English Channel when Stephen came in sight, round the last upward curve. 'Ho, Stephen,' he hailed, though the distance was not great. 'Have you come back? What a splendid fellow you are, upon my sacred honour! True to your day and almost to your hour. I dare say you could not wait to see the squadron - a glorious sight! Although it is nothing like what I promised you in the first place - no squadron ever is. I have been gloating over them this last half hour, ever since Pyramus came in.' And indeed the slide of the revolving copper dome was pointing directly down at Portsmouth, Spithead and St Helens. 'Should you like to have a look? It would not be the least trouble...' He glanced at Stephen's mount, paused, and in quite another tone he went on 'But Lord, how I rattle on about my own affairs. Forgive me, Stephen. How do you do? I hope your journey was...?' 'I am well, I thank you, Jack: and I am happy to see that your head is mended, though you look sadly worn. But my journey did not answer as I could have wished. I had hoped to find Diana; and I did not. I came upon some of her horses, however: this is one.' 'I recognized her,' said Jack, caressing the mare. 'And I too had hoped...' 'No. She had sold two mares and a stallion to a man that breeds running horses near Doncaster. He very kindly let me have Lalla here, but he had little notion of Diana's movements apart from Ripon and Thirsk, where she had friends: she had spoken of Ulster, too, where Frances lives.' He swung out of the saddle and they walked slowly on towards the stables. 'But that is of no great account. Do you remember Pratt, the thief-taker?'" They talk about how Stephen has Pratt looking for Diana, based on misunderstandings Stephen wants to clear up. 'Of course. Certainly,' said Jack, to fill the silence; and the mare, turning her head, gazed at them with her lustrous Arabian eyes, blowing gently on them as she did so. 'You know about Brigid, of course. She is called an idiot, which is wholly incorrect: hers is a particular form of development, slower than most; but Diana does not know this. She believes there is idiocy, which she cannot bear...' Jack too had a horror of anything like insanity, and a word almost escaped him. '...and feeling no doubt that her reluctant presence was not only useless but positively harmful, she went away. She believes that I should blame her for doing so: that is the first misunderstanding. The second is, as I said, that she believes in this idiocy, and I wish to tell her that she is mistaken. Children of this kind are rarer than true idiots - who, I may say, can be told at a glance - but they are not very uncommon. There are two of them in Padeen's village in the County Kerry - they are called leanai sidhe in Ireland - and both were I will not say cured but brought into this world rather than another. They were taken at the critical moment. Padeen is the sort of person who can do this. He is strangely gifted.' 'I remember him taking a trapped cat in his hand and undoing the jaws with never a scratch: and there was the savage stone-horse we took out for the Sultan.'" Stephen explains that he must consult with experts, and that Jack's mother in law must be kept away. "She called and savaged Clarissa with impertinent questions and then insisted on seeing the child, her grand-niece: she frightened her, offering to give her a great shaking if she would not speak. I am happy to say that Clarissa put her out of the house directly.' 'I have a great esteem for Clarissa Oakes.'"

72-73: "Stephen had been put to sleep in his usual room, far from children and noise, away in that corner of the house which looked down to the orchard and the bowling-green, and in spite of his long absence it was so familiar to him that when he woke at about three he made his way to the window almost as quickly as if dawn had already broken, opened it and walked out onto the balcony. The moon had set: there was barely a star to be seen. The still air was delightfully fresh with falling dew, and a late nightingale, in an indifferent voice, was uttering a routine jug-jug far down in Jack's plantations; closer at hand and more agreeable by far, nightjars churred in the orchard, two of them, or perhaps three, the sound rising and falling, intertwining so that the source could not be made out for sure. There were few birds that he preferred to nightjars, but it was not they that had brought him out of bed: he stood leaning on the balcony rail and presently Jack Aubrey, in a summer-house by the bowling-green, began again, playing very gently in the darkness, improvising wholly for himself, dreaming away on his violin with a mastery that Stephen had never heard equalled, though they had played together for years and years.
      Like many other sailors Jack Aubrey had long dreamed of lying in his warm bed all night long; yet although he could now do so with a clear conscience he often rose at unChristian hours, particularly if he were moved by strong emotion, and crept from his bedroom in a watch-coat, to walk about the house or into the stables or to pace the bowling-green. Sometimes he took his fiddle with him. He was in fact a better player than Stephen, and now that he was using his precious Guarnieri rather than a robust sea-going fiddle the difference was still more evident: but the Guarnieri did not account for the whole of it, nor anything like. Jack certainly concealed his excellence when they were playing together, keeping to Stephen's mediocre level: this had become perfectly clear when Stephen's hands were at last recovered from the thumb-screws and other implements applied by French counter-intelligence officers in Minorca; but on reflexion Stephen thought it had been the case much earlier, since quite apart from his delicacy at that period, Jack hated showing away.
      Now, in the warm night, there was no one to be comforted, kept in countenance, no one could scorn him for virtuosity, and he could let himself go entirely; and as the grave and subtle music wound on and on, Stephen once more contemplated on the apparent contradiction between the big, cheerful, florid sea-officer whom most people liked on sight but who would have never been described as subtle or capable of subtlety by any one of them (except perhaps his surviving opponents in battle) and the intricate, reflective music he was now creating. So utterly unlike his limited vocabulary in words, at times verging upon the inarticulate.
      'My hands have now regained the moderate ability they possessed before I was captured,' observed Maturin, 'but his have gone on to a point I never thought he could reach: his hands and his mind. I am amazed. In his own way he is the secret man of the world.'"

89-90: Sophie has run to the sound of shouting and seen this: "Killick, his disagreeable yellow face now almost white with fury, had [Woolcombe's butler] Mnason in a corner, threatening him with a fish-slice and telling him in a high shrewish screech that he was not all a good man should be- telling him in such a wealth of detail and such vehement obscenity that she clapped the door behind her in case the children should hear. 'For shame Killick, for shame!' she cried. 'Which he touched my silver,' replied Killick, his quivering fish-slice to pointing to the noble, gleaming spread on the dining-table. 'He shifted three spoons with his great greasy thumbs and I seen him hurr on this here slice.' 'I was only giving it the butler's rub.' 'Butler's...' began Killick with renewed fury. 'Hush, Killick,' said Sophie. 'The Commodore says you are to stand behind his chair in your best blue jacket and Manson behind him in his plum-coloured coat; and Bonden is to see to the proper gloves. Now hurry along, do. There is not a moment to lose.'"

90-2: "Jack led in the first of his captains, William Duff of the Stately, a tall, athletic, exceptionally good-looking man of perhaps thirty-five. He was followed by Tom Pullings and Howard of the Aurora; Thomas of the unwelcome Thames; Fitton of the Nimble; and presently the tale was complete - almost complete. 'Where is the Doctor?' [Sophie] whispered to Killick as he came by with a tray of glasses. He looked quickly about: his face changed from its unnatural expression of amiability, with a fixed smirk, to its more usual pinched severity, and with a secret nod he hurried out. It was a long-established rule in the Navy that the higher a sailor rose in rank the later he was fed. As a midshipman Jack Aubrey, like the ratings, had eaten at noon. When he was made a lieutenant, he and his fellow-members of the wardroom mess dined at one; when he commanded his own ship he ate half an hour or even a full hour later; and now that he was, for the time being, a commodore with a squadron, it was thought proper that he should move on towards the admirals' still later hours. But his stomach, like those of his guests, was still a captain's. It had been sharp-set before three; it was ravenous at half-past; yawning and gaping with hunger. Conversation, though stimulated by Sophie's increasingly anxious efforts, by olives and little biscuits handed on trays by whitegloved bluejackets, by Plymouth gin, madeira and sherry, was tending to flag or grow somewhat forced when the door opened and Stephen made a curiously abrupt entrance, as though propelled from behind. He was in a decent black suit of clothes, his wig was powdered and set square on his head, his white neckcloth was tied with perfect accuracy, so tight that he could scarcely breathe. He still looked somewhat amazed, but recovering in a moment he bowed to the company, and hurried over to make his apologies to Sophie: 'he had been contemplating on wariangles, and had overlooked the time.' ... Stephen gazed about. He was not a particularly social animal - a watcher rather than a partaker - but he did like to see his fellows and quite often he liked to listen to them. On his left there was Captain Duff, talking eagerly to Jack about Bentinck shrouds: Stephen could detect no sign whatsoever of the tastes attributed to him. Indeed he could have sworn that Duff would have been most attractive to women. Yet the same, he reflected, might have been said of Achilles. His mind wandered over the varieties of this aspect of sexuality - the comparatively straightforward Mediterranean approach; the very curious molly-shops around the Inns of Court; the sense of furtive guilt and obsession that seemed to increase with every five or ten degrees of northern latitude.

96-7: "'Pass the word for Dr. Maturin,' said the Commodore, and the word passed down through the echoing decks. 'Him and the Commodore have been tie-mates this many a year,' observed a seaman as it made its way along the orlop. 'What's a tie-mate, guv?' asked the landsman, newly pressed. 'Don’t you know what a tie-mate is, cully?' asked the seaman with tolerant scorn. The landsman shook his heavy head: there were already seventeen thousand things he did not know, and their number increased, daily. 'Well, you know what a pigtail is?' asked the seaman, showing his own, a massive queue that reached his buttocks, and speaking loud, as to a fool or a foreigner. The landsman nodded, looking a little more intelligent. 'Which it has to be unplaited, washed on account of the lice, combed, and plaited again for muster. And can you do it yourself, behind your back? Not in time for muster, mate. Not in time for Kingdom Come, neither. So you get a friend, like me and Billy Pitt, to do yours, you sitting on a cheese of wads at your ease, or maybe a bucket turned arsy-versy; and then you do his: for fair's fair, I say. And that is what we call tie-mates.' 'I heard of that Billy Pitt of yours,' said the landsman, narrowing his eyes."

113-4: "[Jack] swung round, took a case-bottle from the locker and poured them each a tot of rum, a glorious rum he had drawn from the wood in Trafalgar year. 'Lord, I needed that,' he said, putting down his glass. 'How I do loathe a steady indiscriminate flogger.' He glanced down at his papers, and the stony look returned. 'Jack', said Stephen, 'I have not chosen my moment well. I have a request. I have a favour to ask, and I could have wished to find you with a mind reposed. But you have clearly had a trying day.' 'Ask away, Stephen. I shall be no better-tempered tomorrow: ill-humour seems to have settled in my bosom' - striking it - 'much as the wind used to settle in the south-east and stay there when we were trying to claw out of Port Mahon, week after week.' A silence: and in a harsh voice Stephen said 'I should Like to borrow the Ringle, if you please, with a proper crew, for a private voyage to London, as early as can be.' Jack fixed him with a piercing stare that Stephen had never seen before. 'You know we sail on Wednesday's ebb?' he asked, having looked at Stephen's face in an objective manner. 'I do. But may I say that if the wind does not serve, I should certainly join you at the Groyne or off Finisterre.' Jack nodded. Stephen went on, 'I must add that this is an entirely personal need - a private emergency.' 'So I had gathered,' said Jack. 'Very well: you shall have her. But with the weather that promises, I doubt you can come down in time. Do you mean to spend long in town?' 'Only long enough to load some chests near the Tower.' 'How many tides do you reckon?' 'Tides? To tell you the truth, Jack, I had not thought of tides...and then,' he said in a low, diffident voice, 'I had hoped to put in to Shelmerston for perhaps a night.' 'I see.'"

114-18: Jack rings a bell, calls Tom Pullings, says, "'the Doctor has occasion for the tender, to run up the London river directly. Let him have Bonden and Reade and as discreet a set of old shipmates as you can think of, enough for watch and watch with two to spare. He may not be able to rejoin before the Groyne or Finisterre. Let her be victualled for the Berlings with the utmost dispatch.' 'The utmost dispatch,it is, sir,' said Tom, smiling. 'I am very deeply obliged to you, Jack, my dear,' said Stephen. 'There is no such thing as obligation between you and me, brother,' said Jack. And in another tone, 'It will take some little time - she is over by Gilkicker - but you should clear at the height of flood. I am sorry I was a trifle chuff to begin with. I have had an uncommon wearing day. So have you, by your look, if I may be so God-damned personal. What do you say to a pot of coffee?' Without waiting for an answer he rang the bell and said 'Killick, large pot: and the Doctor will need half a dozen shirts put up, as well as a dry coat and stockings this minute.' They drank their coffee and Jack said 'Let me tell you about my rough day, apart from my battle with the Victualling Yard..." He discusses Thomas, the flogging captain in his squadron, then a story about a friend who found his wife pregnant by another man. "'I tried to say he could not decently blame anyone for doing what he so notoriously did himself. Of course he came out with the parrot-cry "Oh it is different for women." 'What did you say to that?' 'I did not say I thought it was a mere scrub's reply, which I do, because he was in a very sad way, so I just suggested that it was the general cant - great nonsense - the act was the same for both - the only difference that a woman could bring a cuckoo into the nest and cheat the rightful chicks: but that could be dealt with by leaving the cuckoo out of your will.' 'Is that your considered view, brother?' 'Yes, it is,' said Jack, with a look of anguish, 'my deepest considered view. I have thought it over again and again. Fair is fair, you know,' he said with an attempt at a smile. 'I have always felt that very strongly.' 'I honour you for it.' 'I am glad of that: some would say it was sad stuff. Yet I do not think you will be so pleased when I tell you I said that if he wished I should go and ask the man in question to give him satisfaction.' 'But surely, Jack, there is a contradiction here? Decency - I will not say Christian charity - but at least decency on the one hand, and barbarous heathen revenge on the other?' 'Stephen, you have nothing whatsoever to say about barbarous heathen revenge: we both have bloody hands. We have both been out. And if there is an apparent contradiction, I can account for it like this: I feel - I deeply know - I am right in the first case; and I am almost as certain of it in the second. Did your mathematical studies ever reach to the quadratic equation, Stephen?' 'They did not reach to the far end of the multiplication table.' 'The quadratic equation involves the second power of the unknown quantity, but nothing greater. The square.' 'Oh, indeed?' 'And my point is this: a quadratic equation has two solutions, and each is right, demonstrably and provably right. There is an apparent but no real contradiction between the answers.' Stephen felt that he was on dangerous ground; even if he had not been afraid of giving pain, his mind was so weary that although it teemed with objections it could barely formulate them." He changes the subject to the Berlings, Jack recalls some birds and bats. "They talked on until well after the evening gun, supping together and going back over that voyage to Portugal in the Surprise during which Stephen would dimly have perceived the Berlings had he been on deck, and in which, after their going ashore at Lisbon, they heard of Sam's being ordained - Sam Panda, Jack's black love-child, begotten at the Cape - and they were still discussing his chances of a prelacy when the tender came alongside. Jack Aubrey was as solid a Protestant as ever abjured the Pope and the Pretender, but he was deeply attached to Sam, as well he might be, and he was now as expert in the intricacies of the Catholic hierarchy as he was in the succession of admirals. He was speaking eagerly of the Prothonotaries Apostolic and their varying rows of little violet buttons when Reade came in, took off his hat, and said, 'Tender hooked on, sir, if you please, and all is laid along,' this last, with a significant look at Stephen, meant that Killick had carried over a small valise holding all that he thought proper for Dr Maturin to wear during this absence, and a supply of shirts. 'Thank you, Mr Reade,' said Stephen: he hurried into the sleeping-cabin that he shared with Jack, put a considerable sum of money into his pocket, and a llama-skin pouch holding his coca-leaves and their necessary phial of vegetable ash into his bosom, together with the revolving pistol. 'Farewell, Jack,' he said, coming out, fastening his coat. 'Pray watch your bowels. There is something a trifle more liverish in your visage than I could wish for: should nothing occur this evening, desire Mr Smith to give you rhubarb tomorrow. My dear love to Sophie, of course. I shall be as quick as ever I can, so I shall. God bless, now.'"

141-2: Stephen finds Padeen on deck. "'At the end of the watch I began thinking about the man that betrayed us, the informer, the Judas; and what with the fury and the dread of being sent back to Botany Bay there was no sleep in me at all' 'The back of my hand to the informer,' said Stephen. 'Hell is filled with them seventeen deep. They are...' He was cut short by a triple flash of lightning and an almost simultaneous thunderclap over the cliff to leeward. 'There,' he went on, 'there is the coast of Spain itself.' Still more lightning showed it clear. 'And once you have set foot in that country, no man can take you up and send you back to that infamous place. In any event I am confident that within the year I shall get you your pardon, and then you can go wherever you please. But, Padeen, for the present I wish you to go with Brigid and Mrs Oakes to Avila, in Spain, to look after them. They are to live there in a convent where many other ladies stay with the nuns. And listen, now, Padeen, if you look after them faithfully for a year and a day, you shall have a small farm I own in Munster, near Sidhein na Gháire in the County Clare, with seventeen acres - seventeen Irish acres - of moderate land: it has a house with a slate roof, and at present there are three cows and an ass, pigs of course, and two hives of bees; and it has the right to cut seventeen loads of turf on the bog. Are you content, Padeen?' 'I am content, your honour, your discretion,' said Padeen in a trembling voice. 'I should look after the Brideen for a thousand years and a day for nothing at all; but oh how I should love some land itself. My grandfather once owned nearly three acres, and rented two more...' They talked about the land, the pleasures of farming, the delight of seeing things grow, of reaping and threshing; or rather Padeen talked, such a clear torrent of words as Stephen had not heard from him before; and the day broke, broke quite suddenly, the clouds tearing away in the first gleam of dawn.

144: "As Stephen stood in the bows, smiling at the busy harbour and the town, Mould sidled casually up to him and out of the corner of his mouth be said 'Me and my mates know the Groyne as well as we know Shelmerston: this is where we used to come for our brandy. And if so be you should like to have the goods landed discreet, as I might say, we know a party, dead honest, or he would have been scragged long since, that might answer.' 'Thank you, Mould, thank you very much for your kind suggestion but this time - this time, eh? - I mean to land them in all legality. And that is what I am going to tell the captain of the port and his people. But I am very much obliged to you and your friends for
your good will.'

150-51: Stephen walked through the coach into the great cabin, smiling: but Jack sat right aft, staring out over the stern, both arms on his paper-covered desk; he sat motionless, and with such a look of stern unhappiness that Stephen's smile faded at once. He coughed. Jack whipped round, strong displeasure masking the unhappiness for an instant before he sprang up, as lithe as a much younger man: he seized Stephen with even more than his usual force, crying 'God's my life, Stephen, how glad I am to see you! How is everything at home?' 'All well, as far as I am aware: but I came post-haste, you know.' 'Aye. Aye. Tell me about your run. You must have had leading winds all the way...Lord, I am so happy to see you. Should you like some madeira and a biscuit? Sherry? Or perhaps a pot of coffee? What if we both had a pot of coffee?' 'By all means. That villain in the Ringle, though no doubt a capital seaman, has no notion of coffee. None at all, at all, the animal.' 'Killick. Killick, there,' called Jack. 'What now?' asked Killick, opening the door of the sleeping cabin. He added 'Sir,' after a distinct pause; and directing a wintry smile at Stephen he said 'I hope I see your honour well?' 'Very well, I thank you, Killick: and how are you?' 'Bearing up, sir, bearing up. But we have great responsibilities, wearing a broad pennant.' 'Light along a pot of coffee,' said Jack. 'And you must ship a cot for the Doctor.' 'Which I just been doing it, ain't I?' replied Killick, but in a more subdued tone of grievance than usual, and not without an apprehensive look." Stephen talks about the birds and things he saw "until he noticed a slackening in Jack's attention" and asks about the great gun exercise. "'I trust you found it satisfactory, my dear?' 'Stephen, it was a bloody shambles.'" Jack asks for news from home but Stephen says he did not call at Ashgrove: "'Clarissa and Sophie are not friends.' 'No. I know they ain't.'" Sophie thinks Clarissa had an affair with Jack, who paid for Clarissa's wedding dress, and now Jack is afraid Sophie is straying. "'I am sorry to be disappointing,' said Stephen again, into the silence. 'Oh, never fret about that, Stephen,' cried Jack. 'You could not be disappointing. In any case I had one but the other day by the Lisbon packet, and a damned unpleasant letter it was. I will not say it made me uneasy, but...' Stephen said inwardly 'Brother, I have never seen you so destroyed but once, and that was when you were struck off the Navy List.'" He even agrees to watch a great gun exercise, saying he should like it of all things.

162-4: Jack asks Stephen about Hinksey, to whom he suspects Sophie of being attached. "'Oh, Stephen,' said Jack, 'I have no more heart for music than I have for food. I have not touched my fiddle since we put to sea. But to go back to Hinksey, what do you think of him?' 'I find him very good company: he is a scholar and a gentleman, and he was very kind to Sophie while we were away.' 'Oh, I am much obliged to him, I know,' said Jack, and in a growling undertone he added 'I only wish I may not be too deeply obliged to him - I wish I may not have to thank him for a set of horns.' Stephen took no notice of this deep muttering: his mind was elsewhere...'he is generally thought good looking.' 'Handsome is as handsome does,' said Jack. 'I cannot imagine what they see in him.' 'Oh, with his athletic form - which you cannot deny - and his amiable qualities - he seems to me admirably adapted to please a young woman. Or a woman of a certain age, for that matter.' 'I cannot imagine what they see in him,' repeated Jack. 'Perhaps your imagination runs on different wheels, my dear: but, however that may be, it appears that Miss Smith, Miss Lucy Smith, sees so muchthat she has accepted his offer of marriage. This he told me, not without a certain modest triumph...Jack, we are still in the region of beer, are we not?' 'Beer? Oh yes, I dare say so...Stephen, I cannot tell you how glad I am you told me all this...So he is to be married?...I had been so afraid...Stephen, the port stands by you I had been on the point of unbosoming myself...foolish, discreditable thoughts.' 'I rejoice you did not, brother. The closest friendship cannot stand such a strain: the results are invariably disastrous.' 'I am so happy,' observed Jack, after a moment; and indeed he could be seen swelling with it. ... 'I believe we are still on beer. We do not usually run out before we raise the Peak of Tenerife. Should you like some?' 'If you please. I particularly need a light, gentle sleep tonight; and beer, a respectable ship's beer, is the most virtuous hypnotic known to man.' In time Jack returned with a quart can, from which they took alternate draughts as they sat gazing astern at the long-running wake in the moonlight. 'But you know,' said Jack, 'I made no direct accusations.' 'Brother,' said Stephen, 'you can give a woman a great wounding kick on the bottom and then assert you never slapped her face.' Half a pint later Jack went on, 'Still, she really should not have said "your trull" when as you know very well I was perfectly innocent in that case.' 'In that case...on how many others were you not as guilty as ever your feeble powers would allow? For shame to quibble so. It was unfortunate; but it gives you no moral height at all...both you and Sophie are afflicted, deeply afflicted, with that accursed blemish jealously, that most pernicious flaw, which sours all life both within and without; and if you do not heave your wind you may be hopelessly undone.' 'I have always prided myself on a perfect freedom from jealousy,' said Jack. 'For a great while I prided myself on my transcendent beauty, on much the same grounds; or even better,' said Stephen."

169-71: "Hardly had the Doctor turned before the radiance in Jack's face, smile, eyes dropped by two or three powers: the French clearly intended another invasion of Ireland, or liberation as they put it, and he felt a little shy of broaching the matter. Stephen had never made his views vehemently, injuriously clear, but Jack knew very well that he preferred the English to stay in England and to leave the government of Ireland to the Irish. Stephen saw the change in his face - a large essentially red face in spite of the tan in which his blue eyes shone with an uncommon brilliance, a face made for good humour - and the papers in his hand. 'You know all about this, I am sure, Stephen?' Stephen nodded. 'Anyhow, there is a paper for you' - holding it out - 'Shall we take a turn on the poop?' Privacy, even for a commodore of the first class with a post-captain under him and a rear-admiral's hat, was a rare bird in the man-of-war, that intensely curious and gossiping community, above all in a man-of-war with such more than usually inquisitive hands as Killick and his mate Grimble, whose duties took them into holy places and who were extraordinarily knowing about which grating on which deck and with which wind was likely to carry voices best. The poop, a fine lordly sweep of about fifty feet by twentyeight, was soon cleared of the signal yeoman and his friends and Jack and Stephen paced the deck athwartships for a while. 'You are puzzled to know how to begin, my dear,' said Stephen after half a dozen turns, 'so I will tell you how it is.'" He then opines that having the French arming the Irish malcontents there will be endless violence and might give "that infernal Buonaparte the victory. And where would Ireland be then?'" He says he should with all his heart prevent a French landing. "'I have served long enough in the Navy to prefer the lesser of two weevils.' 'So you have, brother,' said Jack, looking at him affectionately.

179-80: Giffard on Duff's ship asks whether he and Stephen can talk privately. "'This may be considered a proper subject for two medical men, I trust: I think I betray no confidences or offend against professional discretion when I say that our captain is a paederast, that he calls young foremast hands into his cabin by night, and that the officers are much concerned, since these youths are much favoured, which in time will destroy discipline altogether. It is already much loosened, but they hesitate to take any official action, which must necessarily result in ignominious hanging and throw great discredit on the ship; and they hope that a private word to the Commodore would have the desired effect. A medical man, a friend, and an old shipmate...' His voice died away. 'I will not pretend to misunderstand you,' said Stephen, 'but I must tell you that I abhor an informer very much more than I abhor a sodomite: if indeed I can be said to abhor a sodomite qua sodomite at all: one has but to think of Achilles and hundreds more. It is true that in our society such connexions are out of place in a man-of-war...yet you adduce nothing but probabilities. Is a man's reputation to be blasted on a mere statement of probabilities, and they at secondhand?'" They are interrupted, and Stephen is overdressed by Killick when Duff comes aboard. "It was in this elegant shirt, therefore, that Stephen stood on the Bellona's quarterdeck to await the arrival of the guests, Thames, Aurora, Camilla, Laurel, as the captains were called,arrived in close order, to be piped aboard and welcomed; and they were all there when the Stately's barge appeared, steered by Duff's proud coxswain with a midshipman in a gold-laced hat beside him and pulled by ten young bargemen tricked out to the height. of nautical elegance and splendour - tight white trousers with ribbons down the seams, embroidered shirts, crimson neckerchiefs, broad-brimmed sennit hats, gleaming pigtails. With Giffard's words in his mind, Stephen looked at them attentively: individually each sailor would have been very well, but since they were all uniformly decorated, he thought it overdone. He was not alone. Jack Aubrey glanced down into the barge after he had received Captain Duff, laughed very heartily and said 'Upon my word, Mr Duff, you will have to take care of those young ladies' rig, or coarseminded people will be getting very comical ideas into their heads. They will say 'Sod 'em tomorrow' and quote Article XXIX, oh ha, ha, ha, ha!'"

185-7: 'Why, Stephen, there you are,' cried Jack. 'I have not seen you this age. How do you do?' 'Admirably well, I thank you. My sick-berth gives me great satisfaction. But,' he went on, turning Jack to the light and peering up into his face, 'I cannot congratulate you on your looks.' 'You have never yet congratulated me on my looks at any time: it would make me uneasy if you were to begin now.' 'No. But now the sickly pallor of thought, to which I am not accustomed, is superadded: of thought, study, and watching. Let me see your tongue. Very indifferent. Oh very indifferent; and an ill breath too - fetid. Have you omitted your morning swim, your forenoon climb to the various eminences, your three mile pacing before quarters?' 'Yes, I have. The first because of the unreasonable number of sharks - Whewell says they always swarm in slaving waters - and the rest because I have scarcely stirred from the cabin. I have been working out a plan of campaign with great attention and urgency, because, do you see, although I mean to do all that can be reasonably expected in the slavery line, I want to do it quick, leaving all possible time for the rest - you understand me. A pretty set of Jack Puddings we should look, arriving after the fair.' 'I do most earnestly hope that you are satisfied with your progress?' ... 'There are no doubt some uncommon deep old files in Whitehall, and I had better keep to navigation and the fiddle. Lord,' - laughing heartily - 'there I was, setting up for a political cove.' They paced for a while, and then he said 'I tell you what it is, Stephen: ever since you told me about that good-natured, honest fellow Hinksey, music has been fairly bubbling up in me. Shall we play this evening?'"

207: Stephen has insisted that the soldiers not go ashore after sunset so they don't pick up diseases, all the while planning to go do naturalist work. "'My dear Stephen, what are you thinking of? Have you forgot your orders that no one was to go ashore after sunset? Though by the way you never told us why. It could not be the falling damps, since there are no falling damps in taverns or bawdy-houses, which is where sailors go by instinct, like the hart to the water-brook.' 'It is because of the miasmata.' 'Are they like miasmas?' 'Much the same, I do assure you, Jack; and they are at their worst after sunset.' 'Look at him now,' said Jack, nodding westwards through the stern-window, where the sun glowed red, his brilliance dimmed by the thick and heavy air. 'He will be down before you have contemplated your swamp for five minutes. No, Stephen. Fair's fair, you know. You cannot deny all hands liberty and then go rioting among the owls and nightbirds yourself.' Jack's total sincerity and conviction overcame Stephen's protests - his cries of special cases - inherent exceptions to be understood - certain qualifications to be taken for granted - and eventually he said, 'Well, I should not have seen much, anyhow; and there is always tomorrow.' 'Stephen,' said Jack, 'I grieve to say it, but as far as your great dismal swamp is concerned, there is no tomorrow. We weigh at the turn of the tide.' ... 'Oh, indeed,' said Stephen, taken aback. 'We must take every possible advantage before the whole coast is warned. There is not a moment to lose; and as soon as the tide turns we can stem the current and stand out of the bay.' Stephen could not but agree, and after a moment's cursing of his own tongue for its absolute, domineering, prating folly, its lack of ponderation and decent restraint, which would have led to provisoes, to certain exemptions for the common good, he took a turn on deck, where he was comforted first by an uncommonly numerous school of flying fishes that skimmed well above the surface...coming into the cabin he found Jack sitting placidly on a locker, treating his fiddle to a fresh set of strings. 'Why, Stephen,' he said, looking up, 'I was so sorry to dash your spirits about the fetid swamp; but I dare say the miasma would have done you as much harm as an ordinary unlearned cove.' 'Not at all, my dear,' said Stephen." He then explains what a potto is to Jack.

211-13: "Just as he was well into his cot and swinging easy, some dreadful voice from the depths said 'Maturin, Maturin, you had already bored poor Jack Aubrey cruelly with your tedious account of Michel Adanson years ago, prating away in the same earnest even enthusiastic moral improving fashion for half an hour on end and he sitting there smiling and nodding politely saying "Oh, indeed?" and "Heavens above" oh for shame. You may well blush, but blushing does no good. It is mere remorse of conscience.' He could not recall the longitude or latitude in which he had done this, nor even in what ocean; but he could hear the sound of his own zealous voice going on and on and on, and Jack's civil replies. 'Do I often do this?' he asked in the darkness. 'Is it habitual, God forbid, or only advancing age? He is a dear, well-bred man, the creature; but will my heart ever forgive him this moral advantage?' He slept at last, but the recollection was with him, strong and fresh, when he woke. To dispel it he washed and shaved with particular care - it was, after all, Sunday - and went on deck to take the air. ... He hurried aft. He had meant to give himself a certain countenance by repeating the pace of the ship and the current, but greed and affection overcame him and he cried 'Good morning, Jack, God and Mary be with you, and would that be flying fish, freshly fried, at all?' 'A very good morning to you, Stephen. Yes, it is. Pray let me help you to a pair.' 'Which I already got it in my hand, ain't I' said Killick, outside the door. 'Another cup, Stephen?'" Jack explains that the breeze shifted as Stephen and he slept. "Stephen digested this for a while, and then he said, 'Jack, last night it suddenly came to me that I had told you all about Adanson before, and at great length - his assiduity, his countless books, his misfortune. I beg your pardon. There is nothing more profoundly boring, more deeply saddening, than a repeated tale.' 'I am sure you are right in general. But I do assure you, Stephen, that in this case I never noticed it. To tell the truth, I was so much taken up with my D string, which kept slipping, that I was afraid you might think my inattention uncivil.'"

214: "'Beware and take care of the Bight of Benin;/There's one comes out for forty goes in,' Stephen chanted. 'What a fellow you are, Stephen,' cried Jack, in a tone of real displeasure. 'How can you think of singing, or groaning, a foolish unlucky old song like that, aboard a ship that is going to the Bight? I wonder at it, after so many years at sea.' 'Why, Jack, I am sorry to have offended you - the Dear knows where I heard it - the words rose of themselves, by mere association. But I shall not sing it again, I promise you.' 'It is not that I am in the least degree superstitious,' said Jack, far from mollified, 'but everyone who knows anything about the sea knows it is a song sung in ships that have come out of the Bight, by way of making game of those that are going in. Do not sing it again until we are homeward bound, I beg. It might bring bad luck and it is certain to upset the hands.' 'I am very sorry for it, so I am too, and shall never do so again. But tell me about this Bight, Jack: are there sirens along its shores, or terrible reefs? And where is it, at all?'"

215-16: "'Then as I understand it,' said Stephen ... 'this vessel, this Bellona, is not even to see the coast throughout the entire expedition.' 'Only in the very unlikely case of a row that the brigs and Camila and Laurel, mounting sixty guns and more between them, cannot deal with. Though of course one might catch the odd glimpse of mountains from the topgallant crosstrees from time to time.' Stephen turned away, his arm over the back of his chair. 'You are grieving about your potto I am afraid,' said Jack after an awkward silence. 'But you will have a fine run ashore tomorrow, when we have dealt with whatever is lying in the harbour of Philip's Island. And I dare say you could go in occasionally when the Ringle comes out to report or carry orders back. Though if it comes to that, you could always exchange with the surgeon of Camila, Laurel, or one of the inshore brigs.' 'No. They have tied me to a stake: I cannot fly, but bear-like I must fight the course,' said Stephen with a creditable smile. 'Not a very dreadful course, for all love: it is only that I was so extravagantly indulged in the East Indies and New Holland and Peru. No, not at all. Now one more cup of coffee and I must attend to my calculus, nearly always a difficult subject.' 'So you have suddenly taken to the calculus?' cried Jack. 'How very glad I am - amazed - quite stunned. By just calculus I take it you mean the differential rather than the infinitesimal? If I can be of any help...' 'You are very good, my dear,' said Stephen, putting down his cup and rising, 'but I mean the vesical calculus, no more: what is commonly known as a stone in the bladder, the utmost reach of my mathematics. I must be away.' 'Oh,' said Jack, feeling oddly dashed. 'You will not forget it is Sunday?' he called after Stephen's back. There was little likelihood of Stephen's being able to forget that it was Sunday, for not only did Killick take away and hide his newly-curled and powdered best wig, his newly-brushed second-best coat and breeches, but the loblolly-boy said 'Asking your pardon, sir, but you ain't forgot it is Sunday?' while both his assistants, separately and tactfully, asked him whether he had remembered it. 'As though I were a brute-beast, unable to tell good from evil, Sunday from common days of the week,' he exclaimed; but his indignation was tempered by a consciousness that he had in fact risen from his cot unaware of this interesting distinction, and that he had shaved close by mere chance.

229-31: Stephen gets yellow fever. "It was through this prostration and this delirium - a moderate delirium, apparently checked by the coca-leaves and nearer to a waking dream than to the raving of high fever - that Stephen was continuously aware of Jack, a comforting presence, moving quietly about the room, talking now and then in a low voice, giving him a drink, holding him up to be sick, and that in one of his many lucid intervals he heard a hand on the poop say 'Don't you breathe anywhere near the skylight, mate: surgeon lies just below, and the air that comes off of him is mortal.'" He recovers, however. "'Sickness has innumerable squalors, many of which you know far too well, my dear,' he said when Jack and he were sitting together in the great cabin, 'and among them, in some ways the nastiest, is the sufferer's total selfishness. Admittedly, a body doing all it can to survive will naturally turn in upon itself; but the mind inhabiting that body is so inclined to feast on the indulgence, carrying on and on long after the necessity is gone. To my bitter shame I am almost entirely ignorant of our expedition's success, and even of its so good as to pass another slice of pineapple.'"

234: "Whewell, listening attentively, heard the deep melodious, though somewhat unsteady voice of the 'cello. 'It takes more than the yellow jack to come to the end of him,' said the Commodore."

243-4: 'Ah,' said Jack, nodding his head, 'that was a famous stroke, bringing your potto aboard.' 'Why, your soul to the Devil, Jack Aubrey, for a vile wicked pagan and an infamously superstitious dog, to be so weak,' cried Stephen, nettled for once. 'Oh, I beg pardon,' said Jack, blushing. 'I did not mean that at all. Not at all. I only meant it comforted the hands. I am sure your physic did them a power of good, too. I make no sort of doubt of it.'" Then he argues when Stephen insists upon going ashore to get Jesuit's bark to treat fever among the hands. "In circumstances that he could no longer exactly recall, probably during a feast at the Keppel's Head in Portsmouth, Jack had once said that 'a Jesuit's bark was worse than his bite,' a remark received with infinite mirth, cordial admiration. He smiled at the recollection, and looking at his friend's earnest, guileless face - no parthenogenetic lizards there - he said 'Very well. But it must be touch and go - just the time to hurry ashore, buy a dozen bottles of bark and away.' 'And don't I wish that may be the case,' he added to himself."

247: For Jack and Stephen too the evening resumed their old familiar pattern of supper and music - occasionally chess or cards if the seas were heavy enough to shake Stephen's control of his 'cello - or rambling talk of common friends, former voyages: rarely about the future, an anxious prospect for both and one they tended to shy away from. 'Jack,' said Stephen, when the ship's pitching had obliged him to lay down his bow: he spoke rather diffidently, knowing bow Jack disliked any topic that might reflect discredit on the service, 'would it grieve you to tell me a little more about sodomy in the Navy? One often hears about it; and the perpetual reiteration of the Articles of War with their 'unnatural and detestable sin of buggery' makes it seem part of the nautical landscape. Yet apart from your very first command, the brig Sophie...' 'She was a sloop,' said Jack, quite sharply. 'But she had two masts. I remember them perfectly: one in the front, and the other, if you follow me, behind: whereas a sloop, as you never cease pointing out, has but one, more or less in the middle.' 'If she has no masts at all, or fifty, she would still have been a sloop from the moment my commission had been read aboard her: for I was a commander, a master and commander; and anything a commander commands instantly becomes a sloop.' 'Well, in that vessel there was a sailor who could not command his passion - for a goat, as I remember. But apart from that I scarcely remember any instance, and by now I am a very old and experienced salt dog.' 'I do not suppose you do. But when you consider what the lower deck is like - three or four hundred men packed tight - the cloud of witnesses when hammocks are piped down - and the very public nature of the heads - it is difficult to imagine a more unsuitable place for such capers. Yet it does occasionally happen in what few holes and corners a man-of- war possesses, and in cabins. I remember a horrid case of Corsica in '96. Blanche, Captain Sawyer, and Meleager, Captain Cockburn - George Cockburn - both twelve-pounder thirty-two-gun frigates, had been there in company the year before and something ugly of that kind, involving Sawyer, had taken place. You remember George Cockburn, Stephen?' 'Certainly: a very fine man indeed, the best kind of a sailor.' 'Summoned those men of both ships who knew about it and made them swear to keep the whole damn thing quiet. Yes. But the next year Sawyer began again, calling foremast jacks to his cabin and putting out the light. And of course he favoured these fellows and would not allow his officers to compel them to do their duty - and of course discipline began to go to the dogs. After a good deal of this his first lieutenant called for a court-martial, which was granted, and Sawyer fought back by bringing charges against almost the whole gunroom. Poor George Cockburn was in a horrible position. He had certain evidence of the man's guilt in private letters he had written to him - that Sawyer had written to Cockburn. But they were private - as confidential as letters could be. Yet on the other hand, if Sawyer were acquitted, all his officers were ruined, and a man who should not be in command would remain in command. So for the good of the service he showed them, looking like death as he did so and for long after. The judges twisted the evidence round and round, like a kekkle on a cable, and found Sawyer not guilty of the act itself but only of gross indecency, so he was not hanged, but dismissed the service.'" Jack then tells what happened to the ship afterward. "'As for our case, or what looks something like our case, I shall advise with James Wood when we reach Freetown, and see what can be done by a thorough shake-up and perhaps some more transfers. But for now let us have another glass of wine - the port stands up wonderfully well in this heat, don't you find? - and go back to our Boccherini.' They did so; but Jack played indifferently - his heart was no longer in the music, and Stephen wondered how he could have been so heavy, knowing his friend's devotion to the service, as to raise the subject in spite of his own misgivings. He consoled himself with the reflexion that salt water washes all away, that another hundred miles of this perfect sailing would raise Jack's spirits, and that Freetown would see his difficulties resolved."

261: "When Jack came in he found him sitting before a tray of bird's skins and labels. Stephen looked up, and after a moment said 'To a tormented mind there is nothing, I believe, more irritating than comfort. Apart form anything else it often implies superior wisdom in the comforter. But I am very sorry for your trouble, my dear.' '"Thank you, Stephen. Had you told me there was always a tomorrow, I think I should have thrust your calendar down your throat.'"

281-2: Stephen is told that all King's officers must put on half-mourning. "I was in Bantry this morning, as I told you, looking at the Bellona and the Stately - they had put some sort of a mast into her, the Stately, I mean - and to my concern I saw a flag flying at half-mast on it. I sent over to ask whether it meant the gallant Captain Duff had been killed. No, said they; he had only lost a leg. The flag - which indeed was general, as I saw when I looked at the other men-of-war - was because of the death of a royal, or near enough, the Duke of Habachtsthal.' ... This added an amazement, not indeed of the same stunning importance, but not inconsiderable by any other standard on earth: with that man dead, there would be no difficulty about pardons for Padeen and Clarissa: and Stephen's own fortune would be safe anywhere. He could give Diana a golden crown, if she should like one...the door itself opened and Diana's voice called 'Are you the bread?' 'I am not,' said Stephen. She emerged from the darkness, shading her eyes, cried 'Stephen, my love, is it you?' flew down the steps, missed the last and plunged into his arms, tears running fast. They sat there, pressed close, and she said 'You have the wildest way of suddenly appearing when my mind is filled with your name and even your image. But Stephen my dear you are so yellow and thin. Do they feed you at all? Have you been ill? You are on leave, I am sure. You must stay here a great while and the Colonel will fill you out with salmon, smoked eels and trout - he will be in before dinner. Lord, I am so happy to see you, my dear. Come now and rest; it is destroyed you are looking. Come up to my bed.' 'Must I come to your bed?' 'Of course you must come to my bed: and you are never to leave it again. Stephen, you must never go to sea any more.'"


I would be hard-pressed to choose a favorite book from among the 21 volumes of Aubrey/Maturin adventures, let alone favorite passage, but the bit on pages 72-73, in which Stephen wakes in "his usual room" at Jack's house and listens to Jack "dreaming away on his violin," is one of my most beloved moments from anything I have ever read.

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