Quote of the Day

‘Yes. I may preach a sermon to the ship’s company next Sunday.’

‘You? Preach a sermon?’

‘Certainly. Captains often do, when no chaplain is carried. I always made do with the Articles of War in the Sophie, but now I think I shall give them a clear, well-reasoned — come, what’s the matter? What is so very entertaining about my preaching a sermon? Damn your eyes, Stephen.’ Stephen was doubled in his chair, rocking to and fro, uttering harsh spasmodic squeaks: tears ran down his face. ‘What a spectacle you are, to be sure. Now I come to think of it, I do not believe I have ever heard you laugh before. It is a damned illiberal row, I can tell you — it don’t suit you at all. Squeak, squeak. Very well: you shall laugh your bellyful.’ He turned away with something about ‘pragmatical apes — simpering, tittering’ and affected to look into the Bible without the least concern; but there are not many who can find themselves the object of open, whole-hearted, sincere, prostrating laughter without being put out of countenance, and Jack was not one of these few. However, Stephen’s mirth died away in time — a few last crowing whoops and it was over. He got to his feet, and dabbing his face with a handkerchief he took Jack by the hand. ‘I am so sorry,’ he said. ‘I beg your pardon. I would not have vexed you for the world. But there is something so essentially ludicrous, so fundamentally comic . . . that is to say, I had so droll an association of ideas — pray do not take it personally at all. Of course you shall preach to the men; I am persuaded it will have a most striking effect.’

‘Well,’ said Jack, with a suspicious glance, ‘I am glad it afforded you so much innocent merriment at all events. Though what you find . . .’

‘What is your text, pray?’

‘Are you making game of me, Stephen?’

‘Never, upon my word: would scorn it.’

Post Captain – Patrick O’Brian

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