The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

'The Surgeon's Mate' Notes

Sequel to this post about my favorite moments from The Fortune of War:


15: Diana, on the action that allowed her to escape from Boston with Jack and Stephen: "'Oh, sir, I was kept below stairs all the time. But how I wish,' she said with a fine flash of her eye, 'how I wish I had been a man, to board with the rest of them.'"

26-27: Stephen discovers Jack very unhappy after not being able to get his mail, and threatening the clerk: "'I am happy to find you, Captain Aubrey. The name of our inn, or hotel, has escaped my mind, and I am mortally fatigued. I would give all I possess to go to bed.' 'You certainly look uncommonly fagged,' said Jack. 'Quite done up. We are at the Goat, and I will take you there directly.'" He warns the clerk that he will be back first thing in the morning and walks with Stephen: "'A miserable goddam afternoon,' said Jack. 'Disappointments at every turn -- a heroes' welcome, truly. The town is crammed with soldiers, and I could only get one room between us at the Goat.' 'That is bad,' said Stephen, who had often shared a cabin with Captain Aubrey, perhaps the most resounding snorer in the service.'"

57-58: Drunk Jack sings 'None but the brave deserve the fair' and flirts with Miss Smith, which worries his friends. 'Surely, Maturin,' said Diana, as the night wore on, 'Jack and Miss Smith are making themselves very conspicuous? Except when they vanish into corners, they are dancing together all the time.' 'Let us hope they enjoy it,' said Stephen. 'No, but really, Stephen, as a friend, should you not tell him what he is at?' 'I should not.' 'No: I suppose not. But upon my word, that woman makes me feel quite indignant: seducing poor Aubrey is like taking pennies from a blind man's hat -- see him beaming all over his face and figuring away like a young buck! If it had been that jolly girl with the green back I should not say anything; but with a wrong 'un like Amanda Smith...' 'A wrong 'un, Villiers?' "Yes. I knew her in India when I was a girl...she tried too hard there and she has tried to hard here...and now her reputation is -- well, not much better than mine. Jack really should take care.'" She mentions that Jack is still known as Lucky Jack Aubrey and understood to be well off. "'I tell you what, Stephen, unless the roof falls in, he will end the night in that woman's arms; and then he may find himself in a pretty pickle. Could you not give him a hint?' 'No, ma'am.' 'No. Perhaps not. You are not your brother's keeper, after all; and I dare say it will be no more than a passade.'"

59-62: Stephen dances with Diana, who is very happy: "Diana amused -- and it was not a usual expression with her -- was entrancing. Perhaps his insensibility was no more than a now habitual protection, a way of making the inner void more nearly tolerable: he certainly felt his heart move, as it were involuntarily. Then again, he too was enjoying himself very much more than he ever had expected: the void was still there, certainly, a blank like the white pages of a book after the word Finis, but it was far down, far beneath his consciousness of the moment. The band was deep in a minuet, a Clementi minuet in C major that Jack and he had arranged for violin and 'cello, one that they had often played together; and now that he was in it, in it for the first time as a dancer, the familiar music took on a new dimension; he was part of the music, right in its heart as one of the formally moving figures whose pattern it created -- he lived in a new world, entirely in the present." Diana says she wants the night to last forever but it lasts only a few hours more, "only just long enough for Captain Aubrey to fall deeply asleep in Miss Smith's predictable bed." Jack tries to sneak back to his room without waking Stephen, and fails, and Stephen warns him to wash Miss Smith's makeup off his face before he goes out again.

156: Stephen is speaking at the Institut in Paris, very badly, though proving his scientific knowledge beyond question. He has placed Diana at the home of La Mothe, a known sodomite and therefore perfect for her to visit, as he likes to talk about fashion and has no wife for her to clash with. Various people are attempting to figure out whether Stephen is a spy as he goes on about the intromittent organ of the raven. "The minister's assistants, who had remained behind, leant over their chief's empty chair in quiet conversation. 'If that man has anything to do with intelligence, near or far,' said one, 'I am the Pope.' 'It was only a vague rumour,' said the other. 'The army sees spies everywhere. I checked, of course, but neither Fauvet nor Madame Dangeau could move him an inch: he was a mere natural philosopher, he said, knew nothing of politics, cared less, and must obey the rules. Madame Dangeau is sure he is a paederast, and I think she is right. He is a friend of La Mothe's.' 'What is his relationship with that woman sitting next to La Mothe, the woman with the amazing diamonds? They crossed together, but surely there could be no question of any liason between such an individual and that magnificent creature?' 'He is her doctor. Her maid reports that he examines her - perfectly decent - quite unmoved. He must certainly be a paederast. Such a woman, and to be unmoved!' 'Poor brute: he is coming to an end at last.' 'A pitiful exhibition.'"

198: Stephen asks Jagiello what a ship would be like with women aboard. Jagiello blushes. "'I know very little of women, sir,' he said. 'You cannot make friends with them: they are the Yews of the world.' 'Yews, Mr Jagiello?' cried Jack. And to himself, 'It would be a damned odd thing if they proved rams, you know.' 'Jews, I mean,' said Jagiello. 'You cannot make friends with Jews. They have been beaten and spitted on so long they are the enemy, like the Laconical helots; and women have been domestical helots for oh so much longer. There is no friendship between enemies, even in a truce; they are always watching. And if you are not friends, where is the real knowledge?' 'Some speak of love,' suggested Stephen. 'Love?' cried the young man. 'But love is a creature of time, whereas friendship is not.'"

205-9: On the Ariel, Jack shows Stephen Elsinore, and Stephen shows Jack the eider-ducks. Jack notes Hamlet's grave, and says he never laughed so much in his life as during the play. "'A capital piece indeed,' said Stephen, 'and I doubt I could have done much better myself. But, do you know, I have never in my own mind classed it among the comedies. Pray did you read it recently?' 'I never read it at all,' said Jack. 'That is to say, not right through. No: I did something better than that -- I acted in it.'" Stephen asks what role he played, and after stalling while doing ship stuff, Jack admits, "'I was Ophelia...that is to say, one of the Ophelias...but in this case the part was greater than the whole: I was called back three times, and the others fellows were not called back at all, even the one that was drowned in a green dress with sprigs. Three times, upon my honour!' 'How did the poor young lady come to be divided up?' 'Why, there was only one midshipman in the flagship pretty enough for a girl, but his voice was broke and he could not keep in tune neither; so for the part where she has to sing, I put on the dress and piped up with my back to the audience.' ...Jack smiled, his mind going back to the West Indies, where the performance had taken place; and after awhile he sang, 'Young men will do't/An they come to't/By Cock they are to blame.'"

210-11: "Stephen's stomach had withstood the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Indian oceans, but the Baltic very nearly overcame him. He was not actually sick, but he exhibited a cold, copious salivation, a dislike for jovial company, facetiousness or merriment, and an intolerance of the notion of food. It was probably that nasty fish of yesterday, he thought; bursten-bellied fish might very well convey all manner of noxious principles; only a fool would eat them. And only a fool would go to sea, exposing his frame to the falling damps." He goes to see the surgeon for medicine and finds him passed out having taken all the medicine for seasickness, and having spilt the suphuric acid, and Stephen wishes that it will quickly eat through the bottom of the ship.

222: Jack says he is glad Stephen is recovered, and Stephen says, "'It was only a passing indisposition, caused perhaps by over-indulgence in fish; in any event, the emotion of setting all in train has quite done away with it.' Jack had a notion that the easier motion of the ship might also have helped...but he kept it to himself.'"

230: Jack has been awake for hours chasing a sail on the horizon. Stephen wakes grumpy because he hasn't been offered coffee, greets Jack and says, "'My eyes are keen, my appetite and all my senses remarkably acute. Indeed, I perceive a sail a great way off -- there, directly beyond the prow. But perhaps you have noticed it.' 'Mr. Grimmond was good enough to point it out in the morning watch.'" They discuss the great quantity of sails and their speed, and Stephen says he could watch forever, "'although breakfast is going cold in the cabin. I say, although my coffee grows chill, Captain Aubrey.' 'I am with you this minute,' cried Jack: and so he was, for the space of a dish of burgoo and half a dozen fried eggs with a due proportion of bacon, toast and marmalade, Gothenburg and Carlscrona having done them so proud. But he carried his last cup of coffee on deck."

252-3: Jack has a big meal set out for Stephen right before his mission to Grimsholm, with Stephen enjoying the caviare. Jack says, "'I dare say it was caviare to the Admiral too.' This was his only small attempt at wit throughout the meal: and a little caviare was almost all he ate. His stomach was closed, and he could not even drink with relish. Stephen on the other hand downed his omelette and a pound of steak, finished the cold goose-pie and cut a slice of ham in what would ordinarily have been a very festive way for him. But the feast was no feast. The atmosphere was entirely wrong. They were polite to one another, and there was almost no real contact; it was as though Stephen were already gone, removed to another plane. It was only when they were drinking their port and Stephen said how he wished they might have some music -- in former voyages together they had played innumerable 'cello and violin duets, often in trying circumstances -- that their old relationship came back to life." They are interrupted, and as Jack is toasting, "'Here's my dear love to you, Stephen, and --' the glass dropped from his hand and broke. 'Jesus,' he said in a low voice, appalled. 'Never mind it, never mind it,' said Stephen, mopping his breeches.'"

257-9: Jack watches Stephen from the ship through his glass, "in a state of the utmost doubt" as to whether the mission will succeed or fail. Meanwhile Stephen is "weak enough to let himself be influenced by Jack's dismay at the childish omen...he wondered at it, and at his own attachment to life. There were so many exquisite things in it -- the smell of the clean sea, the golden light of the westering sun, to say nothing of an eagle soaring on the wind. His strength was not as great as he had supposed." Stephen successfully arrives and flings his arms around his godfather, and Jack can see from the ship but can't tell if it's a greeting or an arrest or what. He stays up all night in the maintop, until Stephen raises the correct signal flag and Jack sees it. "Joy filled his thumping heart and he fixed it while he might have counted to ten, to make certainty doubly sure; and as he looked he saw the little group of men throw up their hats, join hands, and dance in a ring: he thought he made out cheering from the shore...he was so stiff that he went down through the lubber's hole, chuckling to himself as he did so -- 'Lord, what a fat-arse I have become.'" And then he consoles his "famished stomach."

268-9: Jack discovers that Stephen has climbed to the crosstrees and is furious with the men on deck for letting him, given that Stephen risks his life every time he climbs above the deck. Stephen is thrilled at the masts sticking up above the low clouds, saying, "'Are you not amazed?'" Jack "was ordinarily a good-natured man, but today he had not breakfasted and in any case the sight of his friend trusting his life to an unstoppered signal-halliard was more than he could bear. He roared, 'On deck. Belay the signal-halliard... Amazed and gratified. Stephen, leave go that rope, clap on to the yard and come in towards the tye. I will guide your feet.'" Stephen says he is not nervous, he is too thrilled, "'Have you ever beheld such a sight?' 'Not above a few hundred times,' said Jack. 'We call it the day-blink: it often happens when the breeze lies just so, or dies away...but I am very grateful for having been called aloft before breakfast to see it again.'" Then Stephen falls while Jack is trying to guide him down, and "Jack's powerful arm swung him inwards to the cap."

313-14: The French admiral says that Jack may be sent to Bitche and incarcerated. "Jack felt that he was on the verge of a flashing piece of repartee, of one of the best things he had ever said in his life: 'then indeed I should be bitched', or 'that would bitch my chances, I am sure', or something more brilliant still; but the want of a true colloquial link between the English bitch and the French chienne baffled him; the anticipatory smile faded."

328: Jack, Stephen and Jagiello are searched when they are put in the Courcy tower. "The search had removed such dangerous things as their razors and Stephen's surprising store of money; the searchers had not found his sudden release, nor could they have done so unless they had searched his vitals."

335-6: Jack makes Stephen and Jagiello keep their rooms in prison shipshape. "His pupils were sluggish, inept, reluctant, even sullen at times," but "the rooms grew inoffensive at least, so much so that the former prisoner's tame mouse became uneasy and disappeared for three days...though hesitant and confused at finding its friend gone and strangers sitting at the familiar table, it had accepted a piece of croissant and a little coffee held out at arm's length in a spoon..." It becomes their pet, and Stephen feeds it cream when he realizes that it is pregnant. That makes him think of Diana, and her life in Paris and possible lovers, "yet he found himself curiously unwilling to dwell on the subject; he preferred to think of the solitary huntress he had once known."

358-60: Stephen and Duhamel have a purely theoretical discussion of the guarantees that he would need to accept his freedom in exchange for helping supposed enemies of the Emperor, and Stephen asks, "'Do you think it really useful to discuss these remote hypotheses? If you were to ask me about the tertian ague or the osteology of the cassowary I could give you a reasonable answer, but the mental processes of this merely conjectural being...I am afraid you must have embraced the soldiers' wild notion. In spite of my denials they all seem convinced that I am -- how shall I put it? -- a secret agent.'" In the course of the discussion Duhamel gives Stephen his pistol, still as if it were all theoretical.

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