The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Notes on '21'

Last one. Sequel to this post about my favorite moments from Blue at the Mizzen, with the rest to be found filed under "O'Brian". These quotes are from the unfinished and unnamed twenty-first book, which I read in the collected edition, so all page numbers are from Norton's The Complete Aubrey/Maturin Novels, Volume V.


6466: Stephen notes to Jack that since Surprise is to go home, the men from Shelmerston and others have been very unhappy, just as they were when paid off during the peace. "'Certainly I know it very well, and I am going to use all what influence I may have to ease her back into the service. The squadron is pitifully short of frigates...nothing could be more useful than a nimble weatherly ship like Surprise. And I beg you will do the same.'"

6468: Jack gets his water and sends Stephen to negotiate for food in a small Argentine port where there is a great deal of hostility toward the British from the Catholics, leaving Stephen distressed about the situation. "'Brother, you are playing at least half a tone too high,' said Jack that evening as they sawed away after an early supper. 'Am I?' cried Stephen, looking attentively at his fingers and twanging the string. 'So I am. I do beg your pardon. It is the shrill bitterness of my soul that makes its way out, I fear.' 'I am so sorry to impose these odious duties upon you, Stephen – pray take a sip of port – but you know only too well, that when you and all your people have been without long enough you will descend to the basest means to relieve your wants.'" Stephen says that even if things get worse, they will meet the South African ships on schedule even before Jack's "little squadron" arrives. "'What the devil do you mean by "my little squadron"? It is a perfectly normal squadron, rather large than otherwise. Two ships of the line apart from Suffolk: a fifty-gun ship, two considerable sloops of war...' 'Hush, hush, Jack. Never fly into a passion, soul,' cried Stephen, seeing that his friend was seriously annoyed. 'Sure you must know after all this time that we use "little" as an endearment - a meliorative term, as one says "my little Puss" to a handsome Amazon that weighs fifteen stone in her shift.'" Then they play a "particularly grave adagio."

6470: "Quietly indeed they sailed along, with gentle breezes that wafted them generally northwards at something in the nature of five miles an hour, northwards to even warmer seas...these long sunny days with a soldier's wind seemed to many the ideal of a seaman's life - regular, steady, traditional meals with the exact allowance of grog; hornpipes in the last dogwatch, the deep melody of the Doctor's 'cello from the cabin and the cheerful sound of the gunroom's dinner; the future lost in a haze somewhere north of the equator. So the golden days went by."

6473-4: Stephen explains to Jack that there has been rioting against Protestants which might get worse when the Legate arrives the next day as a number of ships will come by for his blessing. "'What's a Legate?' asked Jack when Stephen told him of this. 'In England they are usually called nuncios,' said Stephen: but in answer to a very severe look he added: 'An ambassador, as you might say - often plenipotentiary.'" Jack mutters about Papists, then, "'I beg pardon, dear Stephen,' he added, looking earnestly into Stephen's face. 'I really did not mean to be unkind or personal.' 'I am sure you did not, my dear,' said Stephen." Later Jack "directed an intelligent, almost a political look at Stephen, paused for a while, and then said, in substance, exactly what Stephen had expected him to say. 'There are, as you know better than I – far better, indeed, a good many of our people are...' Here he hesitated trying to find which was least offensive: Papists? Romans? Mumbo-Jumbo certainly would not do. "People of the old faith" sounded obsequious. 'Most of them are Irish, of course: though quite a few come from the English north country. And then there are the mere foreigners...that is to say, the foreigners.' 'There is something to be said for the word Catholics. It is in general use in Ireland.' 'Just so: thank you, Stephen.' Jack asks Stephen whether he might lead the ship's Catholics, neatly dressed and respectful of the Legate, "'and persuade his Holiness that we are not all a band of gin-sodden raparees, given over entirely to whoredom and things I do not like even to mention,'" things might go better for them. "'I hope you do not find my suggestion offensive, Stephen? For it is only a suggestion, to you see, not in any sense an order.' 'A very good suggestion too. And I shall pass the word about my fellow-papists, letting them know, among other things, that it is for the honour of the ship that we should not be all be blacked with a whole number of brushes - Lutherans, bigots, church-burners, destroyers of monasteries, sodomites and a number of other words that will instantly occur to your mind.'"

6477: The Legate, "a fine tall upright figure in a white gown," arrives to cheering throngs. "'By god, he's black,' said Jack Aubrey, and a moment later his face was contorted with emotion. 'He is very happy,' murmured Stephen. 'Presently he will come over.'" After a lengthy ceremony blessing boats by the score, by the hundred, with holy water, "the Legate's splended barge...pulled straight across to the Surprise. The Legate came up the side like a right seaman and hurried across the deck to his father. 'Dearest Sam, you have not changed,' said Jack as they clasped hands. Then Sam knelt and patted his father's feet, a gesture as natural as the sun." Jack invites Sam to supper "and he went below while he could still do so with a decent composure."

6479: Jack, Stephen, Sam and others have been invited to dine with the governor. "'My God, that was a damned good dinner,' said Captain Aubrey, rather loud, as though he were addressing the did lack something of the family atmosphere that had hovered in the frigate's great cabin, with every guest and servant aware of the relationship and wholly in favour of the young parson's seamanlike ways, to say nothing of his willingness to drink his wine." At the Governor's house Jack is seated near the salt while Sam is at the Governor's right hand. Jack "uttered these fine ringing words addressed to the Nuncio, a little way below him, as he made his way cautiously down the palace steps, Killick, and absurdly, Awkward Davies hovering at no great distance...there were only six steps to go under the high-held torches when a small fat boy thrust his way through the crowd and called out, 'Sir, oh, sir, if you please! The squadron is in the gut, just stemming the tide.' 'Thank you, Mr. Wells,” said Captain Aubrey, and craning his neck to peer in the direction of the gut he missed his step and fell into His Excellency's waiting arms. Davis' prodigious strength supported the double burden: they recovered their balance, and Jack, walking along quite steadily, said, 'Sam, I am so very will see me go aboard, ha, ha, ha!'"

6482-3: "The red ribbon of his order shone in the light as he came aboard the Suffolk, but his face was as grave as ever: this was a profoundly serious occasion and he scarcely smiled as Simmons presented his officers. This ceremony over, he nodded to his coxswain, standing there by the mizzen, and said. 'Heave out the flag.' The folded bundle soared aloft, followed with the utmost concentration by all hands: at exactly the right moment, the exact height to an inch, the coxswain snapped the tie and the rear-admiral’s blue flag streamed out bravely in the wind, instantly greeted by the first of thirteen solemn guns, enormously loud, salutes from all the members of the blue squadron, distant cheering from Surprise and clouds of wheeling, discontented gulls." Then Jack tours his flagship and meets Lord Leyton.

6489-94: Jack and Stephen read their letters from home and conclude that Charlotte and Fanny are jealous of Brigid and not terribly nice to her, though Brigid and George are great friends. They write home, with Stephen ordering custody of Brigid to her father and with Jack requiring Sophie and the girls to come aboard with utmost dispatch. Jack sends Ringle to retrieve them along with Christine and her brother.

6497: Stephen warns that while Brigid was "baptized in sea-water...dipped before she could walk," Jack's daughters may not take so quickly to sailing which will make Brigid more their equal aboard. "'Oh come, Stephen, Charlotte and what's her name are not exactly crones. As I remember they only date from the Mauritius campaign.' 'They might have been born with Helen of Troy as far as that is concerned...Brigid must bear them down: and a just equilibrium will be reached, with mutual respect and no bullying.'"

6499-6501: Jack gets nostalgic for home while on land. "'Dear I long for Woolcombe and the green Woolhampton downs, speckled with sheep. Woolcombe and the soft dew falling: the cawing of of course I must stand my trick as a flag-officer: and most uncommonly lucky I am to have it to do. But I do so long to be back, sometimes, under Hamble Down, showing George how to work out a line. Stephen, you can have no idea how beautiful it is.' 'Can I not?' 'Oh of course you can, of course you can. I am sure the Glens of Avoca are even finer. I do beg your pardon. But do you see, it was my childhood.'" Then Ringle arrives, Jack goes racing down to greet it, and Stephen reflects, 'I should never have believed that a man so tall and stout could have moved so fast.'" There is a great deal of greeting and Stephen is delighted to see that Brigid can, in fact, lecture the Aubrey girls on the workings of ships, and Sophie says that she is happy the girls are friends again and she would have whipped her own daughters if she thought it would have done any good, but whipping only made her dogged in her own youth.

6504-6: Jack tells Stephen that he has accepted an invitation for both of them to dine with the admiral the next day and hopes Stephen does not mind. 'I do not mind it, my dear: and it would not make odds if I did. We are all worms under the harrow, in the service: even you, Jack, scintillating in gold lace, are but one of us...I have met few admirals: some high, mighty and almost certainly constipated; others small, jolly, good company: reading men, even. Besides, I long for men's company: the prattle of the little girls - much though I love them - drives me to an earlier and earlier breakfast, to a later and even later dinner, so that presently the two will meet...Oh how I long for dear Jacob's return.'" Jack cries, "'I tell you what, is long since we had a real great gun-exercise. The last powder-hoy, for a trifle of whiskey – you know the Irish drink, Stephen, I am sure?' 'I have never heard of it,' said Stephen." The guns do lots of blasting away, which exhausts Charlotte and Fanny, upsets Sophie and leaves Christine mutely holding the hand of Brigid, but Lord Leyton is impressed.


"Quietly indeed they sailed along, with gentle breezes that wafted them generally northwards at something in the nature of five miles an hour, northwards to even warmer seas...these long sunny days with a soldier's wind seemed to many the ideal of a seaman's life - regular, steady, traditional meals with the exact allowance of grog; hornpipes in the last dogwatch, the deep melody of the Doctor's 'cello from the cabin and the cheerful sound of the gunroom's dinner; the future lost in a haze somewhere north of the equator. So the golden days went by."

I am so terribly sad to be at an end with O'Brian (again) that I may just have to start reading Master and Commander over from the beginning. Should I at least finish the Hornblower books first?

In other news, it's snowing quite hard at the moment and the wind is blowing, so there are these great swirls of white outside my window and I can't see more than a few feet. It's glorious but I am glad to be indoors!

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