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

Jack was about to utter some softening remark when Killick appeared again.

‘Coffee’s up, sir,’ he said crossly; and as Jack hurried into his cabin he heard the words ‘stone cold now — on the table since six bells — told ‘im again and again — enough trouble to get it, and now it’s left to go cold.’ They seemed to be addressed to the Marine sentry, whose look of shocked horror, of refusal to hear or participate in any way, was in exact proportion to the respect, even the awe, in which Jack was held in the ship.

In point of fact the coffee was still so hot that it almost burnt his mouth. ‘Prime coffee, Killick, he said, after the first pot. A surly grunt, and without turning round Killick said, ‘I suppose you’ll be wanting another ‘ole pot, sir.’

Hot and strong, how well it went down! A pleasurable activity began to creep into his dull, torpid mind. He hummed a piece of Figaro, breaking off to butter a fresh piece of toast. Killick was a cross-grained bastard, who supposed that if he sprinkled his discourse with a good many sirs, the words in between did not signify: but still he had procured this coffee, these eggs, this butter, this soft tack, on shore and had put them on the table the morning after a hot engagement — ship still cleared for action and the galley knocked sideways by the fire from Cape Béar. Jack had known Killick ever since his first command, and as he had risen in rank so Killick’s sullen independence had increased; he was angrier than usual now because Jack had wrecked his number three uniform and lost one of his gloves: ‘Coat torn in five places — cutlass slash in the forearm which how can I ever darn that? Bullet ‘ole all singed, never get the powder-marks out. Breeches all a-hoo, and all this nasty blood everywhere, like you’d been a-wallowing in a lay-stall, sir. What MIss would say, I don’t know, sir. God strike me blind. Epaulette ‘acked, fair ‘acked to pieces. (Jesus, what a life.)’

HMS Surprise – Patrick O’Brian

Quote of the Day

He went below, noticed the smell of midshipment in the fore-cabin, walked through into the after-cabin, and found himself in total darkness.

‘Close the door,’ cried Stephen, swarming past him and clapping it to.

‘What’s amiss?’ asked Jack, whose mind had moved so deep into naval life that he had forgotten the bees, as he might have forgotten even a vivid nightmare.

‘They are remarkably adaptable — perhaps the most adaptable of all social insects,’ said Stephen, from another part of the cabin. ‘We find them from Norway to the burning wastes of the Sahara; but they have not grown quite used to their surroundings yet.’

‘Oh God,’ said Jack, scrabbling for the handle. ‘Are they all out?’

‘Not at all,’ said Stephen. ‘And learning from Killick that you expected guests, I conceived you might prefer them away. There is so much ignorant prejudice against bees in a dining-room.’ Something was crawling on Jack’s neck; the door had completely vanished; he began to sweat heavily. ‘So I though to create an artificial night, when, in the course of nature, they return to their hive. I also made three fires for the sake of the smoke: these did not have the desired effect, however. It may be that the darkness is too complete. Let us compromise with a twilight — dark, but not too dark.’ He raised a corner of sailcloth, and a beam of sun showed an incalculable number of bees on every vertical surface and on most of those that were flat; bees flying in a jerky, meaningless fashion from point to point; fifty or so sitting on his coat and breeches. ‘There,’ said Stephen, ‘that is far, far better is it not? Urge them to mount on your finger, Jack, and carry them back to their hive. Gently, gently, and on no account exhibit, or even feel, the least uneasiness: fear is wholly fatal, as I dare say you know.’

Jack had the door-handle; he opened it a crack and glided swiftly through. ‘Killick!’ he shouted, beating at his clothes.


‘Go and help the Doctor. Bear a hand, now.’

‘I dursn’t,’ said Killick.

‘You don’t mean to tell me you are afraid, a man-of-war’s man?’

‘Yes I am, sir,’ said Killick.

‘Well, clear the fore-cabin and lay the cloth there. And uncork a dozen of claret.’ He plunged into his sleeping-cabin and tore off his stock — there was something creeping beneath it.

Post Captain – Patrick O’Brian

Quote of the Day

Leaning over the side he called, ‘Dr Maturin, will you not come aboard?” Stephen was no more of a mariner now than he had been at the outset of his naval career, and it took him a long moment to clamber snorting up the frigate’s side, propped by the agonized Killick, a moment that increased the attentive quarterdeck’s sense of expectation. ‘Mr Simmons,’ said Jack, fixing him with a hard, savage eye, ‘this is my friend Dr Maturin, who will be accompanying me. Dr Maturin, Mr Simmons, the first lieutenant of the Lively.’

‘Your servant, sir,’ said Stephen, making a leg: and this, thought Jack, was perhaps the most hideous action that a person in so subhuman a garment could perform. Hitherto the Lively’s quarterdeck had taken the apparition nobly, with a vexing, remote perfection; but now, as Mr Simmons bowed stiffly, saying, ‘Servant, sir,’ and as Stephen, by way of being amiable, said, ‘What a splendid vessel, to be sure – vast spacious decks: one might almost imagine oneself aboard an Indiaman,’ there was a wild shriek of childish laughter – a quickly smothered shriek, followed by a howl that vanished sobbing down the companion-ladder.

‘Perhaps you would like to come into the cabin,’ said Jack, taking Stephen’s elbow in an iron grip.

Post Captain – Patrick O’Brian

Quote of the Day

If the Doctor chooses to join the Lively, take his sea-chest and anything else he wants, no matter what — a stuffed whale or a double-headed ape got with child by the bosun. 

Post Captain – Patrick O’Brian

Quote of the Day

Killick was moving about the room, making an unnecessary noise, kicking things not altogether by accident, cursing steadily. He was in a vile temper: he could be smelt from the pillow. Jack had given him a guinea to drink his swab, and he had done so conscientiously, down to the last penny, being brought home on a shutter. ‘Now sir,’ he said, coughing artificially. ‘Time for this here bolus.’ Jack slept on. ‘It’s no good coming it the Abraham, sir. I seen you twitch. Down it must go. Post-captain or no post-captain,’ he added, possibly to himself, ‘you’ll post it down, my lord, or I’ll know the reason why. And your nice porter, too.’

Post Captain – Patrick O’Brian

Quote of the Day

‘Killick,’ he cried, folding and sealing it. ‘That’s for the post. Is the Doctor ready?’

‘Ready and waiting these fourteen minutes,’ said Stephen in a loud, sour voice. ‘What a wretched tedious slow hand you are with a pen, upon my soul. Scratch-scratch, gasp-gasp. You might have written the Iliad in half the time, and a commentary upon it, too.’

Post Captain – Patrick O’Brian