Quote of the Day

He had an unlimited faith in Stephen’s powers; and although he had seen a ship’s company badly hit by the disease, with hardly enough hands to win the anchor or make sail, let alone fight the shop, he thought of the forties, of the great western gales far south of the line, with an easier mind. ‘It is a great comfort to me to have you aboard: it is like sailing with a piece of the True Cross.’

‘Stuff, stuff,’ said Stephen peevishly. ‘I do wish you would get that weak notion out of your mind. Medicine can do very little; surgery less. I can purge you, bleed you, worn you at a pinch, set your leg or take it off, and that is very nearly all. What could Hippocrates,  Galen, Rhazes, what can Blane, what can Trotter do for a carcinoma, a lupus, a sarcoma?’ He had often tried to eradicate Jack’s simple faith; but Jack had seen him trepan the gunner of the Sophie, saw a hole in his skull and expose the brain; and Stephen, looking at Jack’s knowing smile, his air of civil reserve, knew that he had not succeeded this time, either. The Sophies, to a man, had known that if he chose Dr Maturin could save anyone, so long as the tide had not turned; and Jack was so thoroughly a seaman that he shared nearly all their beliefs, though in a somewhat more polished form. 

HMS Surprise — Patrick O’Brian

Quote of the Day

‘Was you a midshipman in the Surprise, sir?’ cried young Callow, amazed, amazed. If he had thought about it at all, he would have supposed that post-captains sprung fully armed from the forehead of the Admiralty.

‘Indeed I was,’ said Jack.

‘Good heavens, sir, she must be very, very old. The oldest ship in the fleet, I dare say.’

‘Well,’ said Jack, ‘she is pretty old, too. We took her early in the last war – she was the French Unité – and she was no chicken then. Could you manage another egg?’

Callow leapt, jerked almost out of his chair by Pullings’s under-table hint, changed his Yes, sir, if you please to No, sir, thank you very much, and stood up.

HMS Surprise – Patrick O’Brian

Quote of the Day

‘There’s two more of un behind us, terrible great murdering devils. Do ee bide still, Amos, and be meek. Mind master’s horses, and tip ‘em the civil.’

The quick determined clip of hooves, and Sophia whispered, ‘Don’t shoot, Stephen.’

Glancing back from the open window, Stephen said, ‘My dear, I have no intention of shooting. I have –’ But now here was the horse pulled up at the window, its hot breath steaming in, and a great dark form leaning low over its withers, shutting out the moonlight and filling the chaise with the civilest murmur in the world, ‘I beg your pardon, sir, for troubling you –’

‘Spare me,’ cried Stephen. Take all I have – take this young woman – but spare me, spare me!’

‘I knew it was you, Jack,’ said Sophia, clasping his hand. ‘I knew directly. Oh, I am so glad to see you, my dear!’

‘I will give you half an hour,’ said Stephen. ‘Not a moment more: this young woman must be back in her warm bed before cock-crow.’

HMS Surprise – Patrick O’Brian

Quote of the Day

Surprise!‘ cried Jack again. ‘I have not set foot in her since I was a midshipman.’ He saw her plain, lying there a cable’s length from him in the brilliant sunshine of English Harbour, a trim, beautiful, little eight-and-twenty, French-built witha  bluff bow and lovely lines, weatherly, stiff, a fine sea-boat, fast when she was well-handled, roomy, dry . . . He had sailed in her under a taut captain and an even tauter first lieutenant — had spent hours and hours banished to the masthead — had done most of his reading there — had carved his initials in the cap: were they still to be seen? She was old, to be sure, and called for nursing; but what a ship to command . . . He dismissed the ungrateful thought that there was never a prize to be looked for in the Indian Ocean — swept clear long ago — and said, ‘We could give Agamemnon mainsail and topgallants, sailing on a bowline . . . I shall have the choice of one or two officers, for sure. Shall you come, Pullings?’

‘Why, in course, sir,’ — surprised.

‘Mrs Pullings no objection? No — eh?’

‘Mrs Pullings will pipe her eye, I dare say; but then presently she will brighten up. And I dare say she will be main pleased to see me back again at the end of the commission; more pleased than now is, maybe. I get sadly underfoot, among the brooms and pans. It ain’t like aboard ship, sir, the marriage-state.’

‘Ain’t it, Pullings?’ said Jack looking at him wistfully.

HMS Surprise — Patrick O’Brian

Quote of the Day

‘Bonden,’ cried Stephen, ‘take pen and ink, and write –’

‘Write, sir?’ cried Bonden.

‘Yes. Sit square to your paper, and write: Landsdowne Crescent – Barret Bonden, are you brought by the lee?’

‘Why, yes, sir; that I am – fair broached-to. Though I can read pretty quick, if in broad print; I can make out a watch-bill.’

‘Never mind. I shall show you the way of it when we are at sea, however: it is no great matter – look at the fools who write all day long – but it is useful, by land. You can ride a horse, sure?’

‘Which I have rid a horse, sir; and three or four times, too, when ashore.’

‘Well. Be so good as to step – to jump – round to the Paragon and let Miss Williams know that if her afternoon walk should chance to lead her by Landsdowne Crescent, she would oblige me infinitely; then to the Saracen’s Head – my compliments to Mr Pullings, and I should be very glad to see him as soon as he has a moment.’

‘Paragon it is, sir, and Saracen’s Head: to proceed to Landsdowne Crescent at once.’

‘You may run, Bonden, if you choose. There is not a moment to be lost.’

The front door banged; feet tearing away left-handed down the crescent, and a long, long pause.

HMS Surprise – Patrick O’Brian

Quote of the Day

‘As soon as I can, I mean to go down to Bath, to wallow in the warm and sulphurous –’

‘Just what I was about to observe!’ cried Sir Joseph. ‘I am delighted to hear it. It was the very thing I should have recommended if’ – if you had not looked so savage, explosive, obstinate and cantankerous, he thought; but said ‘if it had been my place to advise you.’

HMS Surprise – Patrick O’Brian

Quote of the Day

‘Yes, I thank you. They are used to my ways here. Perfect, if only the woman of the house did not take it upon herself to play the physician, merely because I keep my bed some hours every day. “No, ma’am,” I say to her, “I will not drink Godfrey’s Cordial, nor try Ward’s drop. I do not tell you how to dress this salmagundi, for you are a cook; pray do not tell me how to order my regimen, for as you know, I am a medical man.” “No sir,” says she, “but our Sarah, which she was in just the same case as you, having been overset at the bear-baiting when six months gone, took great adwantage from Godfrey; so pray, sir, do try this spoonful.” Jack Aubrey was just the same. “I do not pretend to teach you to sail your sloop or poop or whatever you call the damn machine; do not therefore pretend –”  But it is all one. Nostrums from the fairground quack, old wives’ remedies – bah! If rage could reunite my sinews, I should be as compact as a lithosperm.’

Sir Joseph had intended to suggest the waters of Bath, but now he said, ‘I hope your friend is well?’

HMS Surprise – Patrick O’Brian

Quote of the Day

‘Stephen,’ he cried, with a meretricious affectation of gaiety, ‘just toss this off, will you, and we will get under way. Is your great-coat warming?’

‘I will not,’ said Stephen. ‘It is another of your damned possets. Am I in childbed, for all love, that I should be plagued, smothered, destroyed with caudle?’

‘Just a sip,’ said Jack. ‘It will set you up for the journey. Mrs Moss does not quite like your travelling; and I must say I agree with her. However, I have brought you a bottle of Dr Mead’s Instant Invigorator; it contains iron. Now just a drop, mixed with the posset.’

‘Mrs Moss – Mrs Moss – Dr Mead – iron, forsooth,’ cried Stephen. ‘There is a very vicious inclination in the present age, to –’

‘Great-coat, sir,’ said Killick. ‘Warm as toast. Now step into it before it gets cold.’

They buttoned him up, tweaked him into shape, and carried him downstairs, one at each elbow, so that his feet skimmed the steps, to where Bonden was waiting by the chaise. They packed him into the stifling warmth with understanding smiles over his head as he cried out that they were stifling him with their God-damned rugs and sheepskins – did they mean to bury him alive? Enough damned straw underfoot for a regiment of horse.

HMS Surprise – Patrick O’Brian

Quote of the Day

There were times when there was something very young and slightly ridiculous about Jack; it was a side of him that Sophie loved beyond measure; but no one looking at him now, or in action, would have believed in its existence. 

HMS Surprise – Patrick O’Brian

Quote of the Day

Jack, wrapped in a boat-cloak, with a dark-lantern between his knees, sat in the stern-sheets, filled with pleasurable anticipation. He had not seen Stephen Maturin for a vast stretch of time, made even longer by the grinding monotony of the blockade: how lonely he had been for the want of that harsh, unpleasant voice! Two hundred and fifty-nine men living in promiscuity, extreme promiscuity for the lower-deck, and the two hundred and sixtieth a hermit: of course it was the common lot of captains, it was the naval condition, and like all other lieutenants he had strained every nerve to reach this stark isolation; but admitting the fact made precious little odds to what it felt like. No consolation in philosophy. Stephen would have seen Sophie only a few weeks ago, perhaps even less; he would certainly have messages from her, possibly a letter. He put his hand secretly to the crinkle in his bosom, and lapsed into a reverie. A moderate following sea heaved the launch in towards the land; with the rhythm of the waves and the long even pull and creak of the oars he dozed, smiling in his almost sleep.

HMS Surprise – Patrick O’Brian