Quote of the Day

‘Verse,’ said Stephen. It was an inexpressible satisfaction to Bonden to write in metre: with a huge childish grin he opened his inkhorn and poised his attentive pen – a booby’s quill.

‘Verse,’ said Stephen again, gazing at the illimitable blue-grey sea and the lop-sided moon above it. ‘Verse:

‘Then we upon our globe’s last verge shall go.

And view the ocean leaning on the sky;

From thence our rolling neighbours we shall know,

And on the lunar world securely pry by God I believe I see the albatross.’

‘ . . . believe I see the albatross,’ said Bonden’s lips silently. ‘It don’t rhyme. Another line, sir, maybe?’ But receiving no answer from his rigid teacher he looked up, followed his gaze, and said, ‘Why so you do, sir. I dare say he will fetch our wake directly, and overhaul us. Wonderful great birds they are, though something fishy, without you skin ‘em. There are some old-fashioned coves that has a spite against them, which they say they bring ill winds.’

The albatross came nearer and nearer, following the ship’s wake in a sinuous path, never moving its wings but coming up at such a pace that what was a remote fleck when Stephen first saw it was an enormous presence by the time Bonden had finished his receipt for albatross pie. An enormous white presence with black wing-tips, thirteen feet across, poised just astern: then it banked, shot along the side, vanished behind the cloud of sails, and reappeared fifty yards behind the ship.

Messenger after messenger ran into the mizentop. ‘Sir, there’s your albatross, two points on the larboard quarter.’ Achmet reported it in Urdu, and immediately afterwards his dull blue face was thrust aside by a ship’s boy from the quarterdeck with ‘Captain’s compliments, sir, and he believes he has seen the bird you was asking after.’ ‘Maturin, I say, Maturin, here’s your albatross!’ This was Bowes, the purser, clambering up by the power of his hands, trailing his game leg.

At last Bonden said, ‘My watch is called, sir. I must be going, asking your pardon, or Mr Rattray will give me the rub. May I send up a pea-jacket, sir? ‘Tis mortal cold.’

‘Ay, ay. Do, do,’ murmured Stephen, unhearing, rapt in admiration.

The bell struck, the watch changed. One bell, two bells, three; the drum for quarters, the beating of retreat – no guns for once, thank God; and still he gazed and still in the fading light the albatross wheeled, dropped astern, occasionally alighting for some object thrown overboard, ran up in a long series of curves, the perfection of gliding ease.

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

‘In the name of the law!’ cried the tipstaff again, making a most desperate attempt to break through.

‘Fuck the law,’ cried the seamen, and Bonden, grappling with the bailiff, wrenched the staff from him. He flung it right down the lane, fairly into the water, and said, ‘You’ve lost your commission now, mate. I can hit you now, mate, so you watch out, I say. You watch out, cully, or you’ll come home by Weeping Cross.’

The bailiff uttered a low growl, pulled out his hanger, and hurled himself at Jack. ‘Artful, eh?’ said Bonden, and brought his stretcher down on his head. He fell in the mud, to be trampled upon by Pullings and his friends, pouring out of the inn. At this the gang broke and fled, calling out that they should fetch their friends, the watch, the military, and leaving two of their number stretched upon the ground.

‘Mr Pullings, press those men, if you please,’ cried Jack from the boat. ‘And that fellow in the mud. Two more? Capital. All aboard? Where’s the Doctor? Pass the word for the Doctor. Ah, there you are. Shove off. Altogether, now, give way. Give way cheerly. What a prime hand he will make, to be sure,’ he added in an aside, ‘once he’s used to our ways — a proper bulldog of a man.’

Post Captain – Patrick O’Brian


Quote of the Day

He filled his lungs and hailed ‘Polychrest’ in a tone that echoed back from Portsmouth and stopped the mild gossip in the launch stone dead. ‘Polychrest!’

‘Sir?’ came back Bonden’s voice out of the dripping gloom.

‘Double up to the inn, d’ye hear me? Up the lane. Bring your stretchers.’

‘Aye-aye, sir.’

In a moment the launch was empty. Stretchers, the boat’s long wooden footrests, meant a row. The captain was no doubt pressing some hands, and they, pressed men themselves, did not mean to miss a second of the fun.

Post Captain – Patrick O’Brian

Quote of the Day

Barret Bonden, coxswain and captain of the maintop, was unusually young for his post; a fine open-looking creature, tough without brutality, cheerful, perfectly in his place and, of course, a prime seaman — bred to the sea from childhood. ‘Sit down, Bonden,’ said Jack, a little consciously, for what he was about to offer was the quarter-deck, no less, and the possibility of advancement to the very pinnacle o the sailor’s heirarchy. ‘I have been thinking . . . should you like to be rated midshipman?’

‘Why, no sir, not at all,’ answered Bonden at once, his teeth flashing in the gloom. ‘But I think you very kindly for your good opinion, sir.’

Master and Commander – Patrick O’Brian