Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Surgeon's Mate

'Is it possible that the lady, such a lady, could be enamoured of Dr Maturin's person?' cried an officer--the first honest, sincere amazement that had been heard in that room.

'It is improbable, I must confess,' said Stephen. 'But you are to consider, that both Europa and Pasiphae loved a bull; and that history teems with even less eligible companions.'


Of course, my favorite scene was much earlier, when Jack is up at daybreak, watching the coastline as the ship goes through the strait: "Narrow it was: on the shore to larboard walked Swedes, clearly to be seen in the bright sunlight, and on that to starboard Danes: three miles of sea between them, and the Ariel in about the middle, rather nearer the Swedish side, creeping south with little more than steerage-way upon her."

Stephen appears with a telescope, up uncommonly early to look for eider-ducks. Jack points out Elsinore moments before a flight of ducks appear between the ship and the shore; moments later mortars are fired upon the ship.

Stephen releases invective upon those who would dare to fire into a flock of ducks, which ends with a potshot against Hamlet's mother. Jack directs the first lieutenant to drop nets in the water to catch the belly-up fish killed by the shelling, and after gorgeous newcomer Mr Jagiello points out the rocks behind which lie Hamlet's grave, Jack reveals his acquaintance with Hamlet: "I never laughed so much in my life."

Stephen kindly points out that Hamlet is not generally regarded as a comedy and then Jack recounts his acting experience as a midshipman: he once played a part of Ophelia and he still can recite the bawdy bits.

And later they see more ducks and eat the fish and between the fish and the Baltic Sea they all get sick.

I just love Patrick O'Brian.

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