May 8, 2005: On Trust, Part 2

Which are you more afraid of: Being too gullible and believing things that aren't true, or being too skeptical and missing out on something important?

When conducting intelligence work, this is always a very fine line. One often cannot truly trust whomever one is speaking to, but if I had believed nothing such people told me, I would have accomplished very little. However, skepticism can only lead to a missed opportunity. I remember an incident in Gibralter in which what I thought was an idiotically obvious trap was in fact Sir Joseph's genuine efforts to get into contact with me, which he urgently needed to do. However, in that case he sought me out himself. If something absolutely must be accomplished, a small bit of misplaced skepticism will not stop it. Misplaced trust, however, can have far more fatal results. It will result into the walking into traps, in assasinations, and it was not suspecting the wrong person which resulted in my being captured and tortured. Better to be afraid of being too gullible.

May 14: If you could only carry one memory with you into the afterlife, which would you choose?

Various memories come to mind, largely of Jack, Diana, and Brigid, of music and fauna. But one stands out surprisingly clear, thought from a number of years ago.
Following Jack's actions off the coast of South Africa, he lost the credit for them to the greedy, unethical Admiral Bertie, but after I put a few absurdly easy fears into his head of Jack being a more dangerous person to slight than he actually was, he allowed Jack to take the news of the victory home, a plum assignment, as Jack explained to me. But Jack at the time could not give a fig for Bertie's taking the credit, because he had received the news of his son's birth. Naturally he was very happy to be able to go home. It was not until years later, when I heard of Brigid's birth, that I understood even part of his joy, and preferring the birth of George to that of his daughters still strikes me as unjust, but that it made him as happy as it did pleased me enough.
I was not so happy. This was after I had spent two and a half years performing dirty work in Spain, and my state of mind grew worse still when immediately after the victory, my patient, Lord Clonfert, killed himself, a detail I kept from Jack, who believed he had merely died of his wounds. Yet some of Jack's unbreakable cheer caught onto me after we put some distance between ourselves and South Africa, and I remember in particular one morning when we climbed to the top of the mainmast, the first time I had done so on that ship. When we sat on top of it, Jack gripped me so tightly I could not fear falling, even when the wind grew strong. It was a blow Jack liked, and he told me so and laughed. To me, the way it whistled through the sails sounded almost musical, an accompaniment to Jack's laughter. The lightness in my heart, the inexplicable temptation to weep, and the intensity of the wind on my face made me feel as if I was somehow waking up. I would not feel joy that strong again for a very long time.

May 23: If you could meet any famous personality, living or dead, and smack them in the head with a large trout, who would it be and why?

Personality? Is this some sort of synomym for person?
If it is, then the first infamous creature I would think of would Napoleon Bonaparte. Mind, I would be happier still to strike him with something much harder, or rather, something which would be fatal. I cannot imagine how a trout would be fatal, unless it released a fatal poison into the epidermis, and I wore thick gloves.
There are a few admirals who would actually benefit from this operation being performed on them, but as it happens, they do not include the most famous of admirals. A few politicians of varying levels of fame are likewise in need of such treatment. Perhaps General Aubrey. He was a touch infamous by the time of his death. I wonder if Jack should like the wield a trout against his father. He holds no filial love, and nor should he, but perhaps he would prefer not to actually attack him. However, if he does, I would allow him to do the smacking in my place.

May 29: On Pride

At what moment in your life did you feel most proud?

I believe I stated the answer to this question earlier, but I will reiterate it.
One of my more joyful moments was when I learned of the birth of my daughter, a joy which would have surprised me in earlier years, but by that moment I had resigned myself to being vulnerable to. However, when I first met Brigid, the only thing I could feel was disappointment. She appeared to most eyes to be an idiot, and at the very least in some manner was detached from me and from all other living creatures, to the point that her mother had fled from her. But she was not an idiot, but a very special kind of child, to whom Padeen could and did break through and draw out into the world. When I spoke Irish in front of her, she acknowledged me for the first time, a moment to remember, to be sure, but not the one that answers this question.
That happened later, when we sailed together on the Ringle, and she had completely transformed. She fell in love with the sea the moment she saw it, and on the ship she wanted to explore, and did to the point that I found myself feeling far too many protective urges. However, watching her ascend towards the tops, perfectly at home in this new environment, I experienced a moment when my pride brought me joy, which it very rarely does, and indeed, has not otherwise done to that extent.

June 6: On a Unfulfilled Desire

Heart's Desire: Think about something you once wanted so badly but never acquired. Write about how you think your life would’ve been different if you had received what your heart desired.

Most of my unfulfilled desires are from a certain period of my life, and for things much greater than myself. I have discussed on more than one occasion my romantic youthful ideals, and my support for the Revolution in France, and for Irish independence, and even later for Catalan independence.
The last would not have made much difference in my life proper besides giving me a stronger sense of accomplishment, as by the time I was fighting for it in earnest I had made a life for myself which existed completely apart from it. Nor do I think I would have stayed in France even if things had gone better there than they did, though I would have much more optimism about the world than I do. But had we suceeded in Ireland, and I had a very strong and more personal desire been fulfilled, that being my wish to marry Mona, the girl I loved, my life would be very different indeed. She would have tied me to Ireland, defined it as my home at the very time when instead I abandoned hope of calling it home. I might never have gone back to England, and from there I find it unlikely I would ever have found my way to Minorca, or to Jack Aubrey and the Royal Navy. Even if somehow these events did happen, I would never have stayed on the Sophie past Gibralter. Jack would not be to me what he is, certainly Diana could not have been. Instead of a wandering life, I would live a largely sedentary one, but perhaps knowing nothing more thrilling, I would have been content nonetheless.

June 12: On Being Alone

When in your life did you feel the most alone?

I have been alone in my life, more often than not. However, the time when I was most alone is fairly obvious: the three years between the Irish uprising and when I met Jack. That was the last time in my life when I literally had no one, as everyone in my life I had called a friend was either deceased, and most of those very recently, or completely out of contact with me. I am uncertain why I did not make a stronger attempt to write to my old Catalan friends, but I suspect the distrust of people I held from my being vulnerable to informers as a member of the United Irishmen extended a bit too much even to those who could know nothing about my activities. Or perhaps I was simply too proud. Once I met Jack, I was never alone quite so thoroughly again. Even during my longest seperation from Jack roughly a decade later, I made it a point to see him and Sophie once or twice per year.

June 21: On a contrast of colours

The ocean is never blue. It is green, or brown, or grey. The Mediterranean is blue. Stephen loves that sea the best, and not just because his homeland touches on it, but because it is closer to land, and contains more life.
The sky can be blue, though just as often it is grey, or a shade of yellow, or orange, or even red, or of course black at night. Shades of purple, on occasion. Stephen likes the sky during the day, more than Jack does, he thinks. Jack likes the wind; that is what the ship's fate depends on. Whenever he looks at the day sky, it is bound to be because he sees in it something that is a bad sign. It is not until the stars come out that Jack can see something that far above the tops that he likes.
Jack himself may wear a blue coat, but he is as far from blue as he can be. His colour is red, on both his face and speaking more symbolically. Bright red, sometimes deep red, occasionally angry red. The calmer blue-green-grey of the ocean is a good influence on him, makes his red tend more towards a purple.
Within himself Stephen sees perhaps more blue than red, but often he thinks he does not have much of colour at all, besides black.

Sophia Williams: I see you as a brilliant green color. It makes me think of nature, and when I think of nature, I think of you
Stephen: I admit, I never expected to be thought of as that! But I thank you.
Sophie:(smiles) You are welcome, dear! (blushes a pink color)

June 26: What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome in your existence?

The prejudices against me, my birth, my nationality, or my religion. A Catholic Irish bastard is not the most favourable thing to be in England, and her navy is only slightly better in that regard. I still often find myself subject to insults from strangers, and when I first knew Jack, he displayed his own prejudices, often not realizing they were against me, as it was some time before he learned some of the less preferable distinctions of my character. Granted, when he found them out, it did almost nothing to alter our friendship, but Jack loves his fellow man very easily. Others have been more discriminating. Nathaniel Martin, a Protestant clergyman and fellow naturalist, I think did not fully comprehend that I was the wrong variety of Christian for a long period of time at the beginning of our association, and if he had, I do not know that we would ever have been friends.
The boys I knew in my youth often shunned me for being a bastard, and I got my education only through the influence of both my father and mother's families. Even with their aid, I was forced to conceal my being Catholic while at Trinity.

FannyFae: I cannot know entirely what you must have gone through, but I do understand some of it. I too am a bastard, and I am a Scot - which to some is worse than being Irish, and a Wytch. None of which are good things to find oneself being in most parts of the British Empire.
Do you think that we bastard children on the wrong side of the philosphical debate can also band together and value each other as friends? I do not suggest that because either of us would wish to commiserate or complain, but simply, that there is little those outside of our own experiences can understand.
Stephen: I would believe bastards would not be prejudiced against each other, making it easier for them to associate with each other.
FannyFae: I am uncertain that you are correct on that, Stephen. I have met plenty of bastards who were more than a little prejudiced those of their own kind. I also have met more than a few that were even crueller than those who were 'higher born' than ourselves might have been.
Sophie: Poor Doctor, you have been through so much, it hurts me to hear it!

July 3: What do you look for in a romantic partner?

This question I accidently answered, when I was asked about the contents of a personal ad. In fact, I did eventually asked Mrs. Woods, and she must have come very close to saying yes, but in the end said no. Therefore, I will instead answer that question, as by the end of that week I was much more familiar with the format of such an ad as I was when when I last attempted to answer it:

Single white male, middle-aged, seeks woman of any age or race for purposes of marriage. Must be able to accept that I will be away for extended lengths of time, and presence of relatively-young but unusually elegant and well-behaved daughter, and also of our both being Catholics. Prefer a woman of independent spirit; I am not interested in ownership of my wife. Interest in natural philosophy would be very far from going amiss.

Caroline Elizabeth de Rochefort:(Caroline looks at the ad and looks up at him.) Why would anyone such as you need to place an ad for a suitable romantic partner, Doctor? I have always found you to be the kind of man most worthy of admiration.
Stephen: Assuming I am a man worthy of admiration for the moment, which I would debate, I must point out that being worthy of admiration does not always neccessarily mean being suitable as a romantic partner.
Caroline: Pray what qualities would you deem to be suitable in a romantic partner; for yourself, I mean?
I too, am a Catholic, so I do not understand why that is an issue.
You are a strange man for not wanting to own your wife - so many men do think of their wife as chattel; although my Papa does not with regard to my Mother.
Perhaps that is what I found most worthy of admiration.
Isabella la Belle: I am curious, monsieur, as to why you list your being Catholic as a potentially detrimental factor.
Stephen: I see two people have been confused by my worrying about objections to my religion. The reason is that I currently spend my time in company where Catholicism is often considered objectionable. You are fortunate, I assume, to be in society where that is not the case.
Caroline: Yes, I live in the Arizona Territory, which is very close to the border with Mexico. There are both Catholic and Protestant churches here, and for the most part, there are few objections.
I cannot imagine how you could live in a place where holding the faith that you do would be objectionable. Of course, when I visit my sister in England soon, perhaps that will be something I will have to become accustomed to.

July 10: The first time I saw...

The first time I saw Jack Aubrey, I admit I was far from impressed. Contemplating the man next to me before the concert began, he struck me as too fat, and too cheerful. I am afraid I was none too fond of cheerful people at that time of my life. And then the concert began, and he displayed the unpleasant habit of beating the time loudly on his knee. Half a beat behind. I was obliged to drive my elbow into his ribs, for which of course he all but called me out. Not exactly the most conductive way to begin a relationship.
One can imagine how grateful I am that the next day his promotion put him in good enough a mood for him to greet me in a friendlier manner, and for us to begin a more proper acquiantence. Though he still has the habit of beating the time bred into him, and I typically have to stop him whenever we go to concerts together.

August-October 2005