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Intriguing parallels

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March 16, 2002

Second time around (2) Jack and Stephen are ashore in Minorca, attending a splashy party full of British naval officers, ecclesiastics, civilians, merchants and local notables. In fact, everyone who matters is there.
They greeted him kindly, urged him to drink a glass of punch—another glass of punch—they had all taken a great deal; it was quite wholesome—excellent punch, the very thing for so hot a day. The talk flowed on, with only Stephen and a Captain Nevin remaining a little silent. Stephen noticed a pondering, absorbed look in Captain Nevin’s eye—a look very familiar to him—and he was not surprised to be led away behind the orange-tree to be told in a low confidential fluent earnest voice of Captain Nevin’s difficulty in digesting even the simplest dishes. Captain Nevin’s dyspepsy had puzzled the faculty for years, for years, sir; but he was sure it would yield to Stephen’s superior powers; he had better give Dr Maturin all the details he could remember, for it was a very singular, interesting case, as Sir John Abel had told him—Stephen knew Sir John?—but to be quite frank (lowering his voice and glancing furtively round) he had to admit that there were certain difficulties in—in evacuation, too … His voice ran on, low and urgent, and Stephen stood with his hands behind his back, his head bowed, his face gravely inclined in a listening attitude. He was not, indeed, inattentive; but his attention was not so wholly taken up that he did not hear Jack cry “Oh, yes, yes! The rest of them are certainly coming ashore—they are lining the rail in their shore-going rig, with money in their pockets, their eyes staring out of their heads and their pricks a yard long.” He could scarcely have avoided hearing it, for Jack had a fine carrying voice, and his remark happened to drop into one of those curious silences that occur even in very numerous assemblies.

Stephen regretted the remark; he regretted its effect upon the ladies on the other side of the orange-tree, who were standing up and mincing away with many an indignant glance; but how much more did he regret Jack’s crimson face, the look of manic glee in his blazing eyes and his triumphant, 93You needn’t hurry, ladies—they won’t be allowed off the sloop until the evening gun.94

A determined upsurge of talk drowned any possibility of further observations of this kind, and Captain Nevin was settling down to his colon again when Stephen felt a hand on his arm, and there was Miss Harte, smiling at Captain Nevin in such a manner that he backed and lost himself among the punch-bowls.

“Dr Maturin, please take your friend away,” said Molly Harte in a low, urgent tone. “Tell him his ship is on fire—tell him anything. Only get him away—he will do himself such damage.”

Stephen nodded. He lowered his head and walked directly into the group, took Jack by the elbow and said, “Come, come, come,” in an odd, imperative half-whisper, bowing to those whose conversation he had interrupted. “There is not a moment to be lost.”

More from Master and Commander. [11:24 AM]
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Comments on Second time around (2):

Tim Kyger ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2002, 04:37 PM:

I'm getting ahead of yawl, but are you going to post the original and oft-repeated in the series explanation of the term "dog watch"? It first pops up in (I think) _Post Captain_.aaMe? I'm still becalmed in "Treason's Harbor." Haven't made it past that particular book yet. Just haven't had the time...

lakefxdan ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2002, 05:37 PM:

From the quoted passages these seem at least as entertaining as the Hornblower stories (I've only read one of the books, actually). Thoughts, esp. regarding the TNT series?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2002, 08:34 PM:

The Aubrey/Maturin books are the anti-Hornblower series.

Sherwood ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2002, 11:25 AM:

Oh, I hope that means this time you'll make it up to HMS Surprise, and chapter seven, which launches you, without oxygen mask or parachute, from great entertainment to the empyrean realm of fuckin-A brilliance--and you don't begin to spiral down until, oh, book sixteen or so, so don't forget to pack a lunch...

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2002, 12:21 PM:

Sherwood, I've read H. M. S. Surprise; what makes you think I haven't?

Sherwood ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2002, 12:41 PM:

Gleep. The Smith brain (computer-sharp, as always) recalled you'd stopped somewhere in book two, and I've been watching from this distance hoping to find out what you thought of the rest.

Beth Bernobich ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2002, 01:18 PM:

There are times when I read the Aubrey/Maturin series to dissect the prose, or how he uses omniscient, or the way he writes battle scenes -- any number of technical points -- but within a page, I'm invariably sucked into story. Hours later, I reemerge without any idea how he's done it (whatever "it" was), but enjoying it all the same.