August 22, 2005: If you could take back one thing you said in anger, what would it be and why?
That would be the one time I disparaged Diana for her sexual behavior. After the final time she ran from me, and we were reconciled in Ireland, and had travelled through Spain, we came to England, in financial straits, and the two of us were unfortunate enough to share a travelling coach with a man who leered at Diana immediately, and I suspected had been her lover at some time. By the time the ride was over, I was not only certain of that, but that he had been her lover after her marriage to me; I know she was not faithful. I am extremely thankfully Brigid travelled in another carriage with Padeen and Clarissa, and was spared so much as having to meet him.
I questioned her about the man when we were alone. Had she come out and admitted it, I would not have even been angry, as in all likelihood at the time she would have suspected me of adultery, and I could hardly have expected her to remain faithful then. But she got angry, insisted I had no right to ask her such a thing, and I responded badly to this. Our words got louder and angrier, until finally I shouted at her, "Surely a man should know when he has married a woman with no regard for her vows whatsoever!"
I still remember her look of shock, anger, and severe disappointment, as in that moment I became like every other man she had known, who condemned her, often for acts they themselves freely engaged in. She would not even talk to me for several days, and for that I could hardly blame her. Clarissa went between us, and somehow managed to get her to listen to me long enough for me to apologize, but it took some more time before things were perfectly well between us again. Thankfully by the time I went back to sea they were, and in fact, we were on perhaps the best terms we had ever been on, but the matter was still badly done.
August 30: What's the best present you've given someone?
Gifts are best when there is real need for them, and the person I have helped who was in most need of it would be Jack, when he was dismissed the service. I attempted to procure two things for him, and was sucessful only in one of them.
I very nearly managed to get him pardoned, though both arranging for him to performing some truly grand naval exploits, and then having someone show up at his doorstep with a pardon. But then said someone botched it, Jack's pride asserted itself at the worst time possible, and all my efforts came to nothing. When he was finally reinstated, the credit went to his cousin and the tendency of Parliament to grant often unfair but undeniably useful favours to their own, not to me.
But in the process I had purchased for him the Surprise, to be sailed as a privateer, which perhaps is the only thing that kept him going during the dark days when he was struck from the lists. And even after his reinstatement, he has sailed her more than any other ship, on both official and unofficial business, and having her as exclusively his ship has meant more to him than he will admit. It has ensured he need never be away from the sea, and the emotional attachment he has to her cannot be measured. I can think of no better gift anyone has ever recieved from me.
September 3: On the Unexplainable
Have you ever experienced something you couldn’t explain? Write down your brushes with the mysterious.
I think the most unexplainable phenomena I have met is Padeen. And perhaps my daughter, by extension. To most people he seems an idiot, and I admit I too first thought of him as little more than a simple-minded man with very little vocabulary. I took him as my first permanent servant for this very reason, because I believed a simple mind would ultimately serve as discreet enough a one to allow that risk. I learned first, however, that he knew more words than I had assumed; they were merely all in Irish, which noone had spoken to him before. And eventually I learned that while his mind often does not work much better than that of a true simpleton's, he was no ordinary village idiot, but instead a very special kind of person. His gifts are not for other men to understand or explain, but I have seen him calm savage beasts, and I saw him reach out and find my daughter when noone else could.
Leanai sidhe are well-known in Ireland, yet they cannot be explained either. Again, even as the father of one, it is not for me to understand why Brigid was the way she was, but merely to be grateful that she is as she is now.
September 11: Talk about a time you realized that someone close to you was not the person you thought you knew.
In retrospect, I realized that Diana was one of the people I had the most trouble studying and understanding. For one thing, she preferred to be a bit of mystery whenever she could, because she knew it could work to her advantage. Normally such behavior from a woman only confuses me for a short time, but more vitally, I was blinded with regards to her by my heart. My heart, which wanted something it thought it saw in her, and in short order had me convinced that she was, to sum it up in one word, a unicorn. In other words, she charmed without thinking about it.
It was after I saw her in the company of men whom she was keeping under those charms of hers, besides myself and Jack, that observations were forced on me, that led me reluctantly to the conclusion that in fact she knew exactly what she was doing, as much as she would were she a common whore. Being with those men I could not blame her for, as they served as her escape from absolutely miserable circumstances, but being with them in the manner which she did I thought might be enough to destroy my feelings for her.
She surprised me again many years later, when I was suffering from an overdose of laudanum and a broken leg. She nursed me carefully and tender, as if I were a babe. I did not think she would ever be inclined to do such a thing, no matter how wretched a man was put into her care, but she was. In this case, however, it was because I had dared not before hope for it.
September 18: If you could find out one single fact about every person you met, what fact would you want to know, and why?
How much loyalty they are capable of.
Without loyalty, having any kind of relationship with a person is difficult. Trusting them is more difficult still. It is possible for a short time, if you know enough about them to be certain they will for their own reasons behave in a certain way or perform a certain action. One can still find an ally who feels no loyalty, but will act in his own self-interest. But this is always temporary. As soon as circumstances change, only loyalty will keep a friend by your side.
If I had known how much loyalty Jack was capable of, my first impression of him would have been far more favourable.
September 25: Most People Wish I...
Most people wish I were friendlier, or generally behaved more like most people. Unfortunately for them, I find myself indifferent to their wishes, for the most part.
Harder to ignore is what Jack wishes. He has long given up on my being more seaworthy, or giving up my habits with regards to my natural philosophizing, but I do know he wishes I would be a bit more respectful of the service, though I will claim that my opinion of it has improved from when I first signed on out of necessity. But I will never love it, and I admit for Jack's sake I feel a slight regret about that, but only slight. I should betray myself loving an organization such as the navy, which is perhaps a necessary evil.
Perhaps what Jack truly wishes is that I did not hold views liberal in their origins, even if time has blunted my old radicalism. They are views he cannot understand; his mindset is so different from mine and always has been.
He also wishes, and he has said this all but openly, that I did not conduct the work in intelligence that I do. This is a wish I can sympathize with, however, as long as there is work to be done for the greater good, I will likely find myself doing it.
October 2: On Overcoming Self-Doubt
I prefer to keep myself from doubting instead of then having to deal with self-doubt amoung whatever other problems I happen to be facing. Yet no man can always stave off doubt. Indeed, there have been times in my life when I have lacked the will to do so. One such time was when Jack first met me and invited me to come to sea with him. I was inexperienced in naval surgery, and had no confidence in my abilities to learn anything new, due to my ill state of mind. Jack for some reason had more confidence in me, but his faith in me has always been naively strong. Yet in the end I determined to do my new job, for I do not let down people I like if I can at all help it, and I did so. And I am aware that I have done it unusually well; being offered a position as surgeon of the fleet tends to make one aware of that.
October 10: On Forgiveness
Actually, I see no reason why I need to forgive anyone I have not already. The people I loved most, Jack and Diana, I never need to forgive, because I almost always have from the moment they sinned against me, even when it might have been better for me if I had not. Granted, there was one time relatively early in our relationship when I failed to forgive Jack and we very nearly met for a duel, but in the end I did indeed forgive him, and before he had even given any indication he was in fact going to apologize for words I would not have forgiven in another man, and now I do not need to forgive him anymore.
Though turning this question inward, I admit I may need to forgive myself, for the countless things I have done which have caused myself and others pain throughout my life. For all the mistakes I have made. But if my darkest deeds are unforgivable, then instead of forgiving myself, I instead merely need to live with myself.
October 17: On Relaxation
My favourite thing to do to relax is to play the cello, especially when Jack and I are playing duets, him on the violin. We find ourselves doing this most often on board one of his ships, but one must admit that to be a less than suitable environment for it. The floor is never entirely still, and one never knows when we will be interrupted. Thus I savour the times when we may play together onshore. Alone; pleasant as company is, as good as the variety it provides likewise is, and as further welcome as it proves when one wishes to play certain pieces for which a violin and a cello alone will not suffice, there is a certain intimacy lost when we have such company, another voice intruding into our two, which is perhaps the primary reason for my enjoyment of our duets over any other kind of relaxing activity. I believe the same to be true for him, though perhaps I am mistaken.
October 23: On Shame
Talk about something you did that made you feel ashamed of yourself afterwards.
During Jack's engagement to Sophie, he and I voyaged on the Surprise to India, where Diana was living with Mr. Canning. He did not know this; the rest of us did. Which was unfortunate, because it allowed Sophie's mother to use it as a weapon, to help convince her that Jack did not want her anymore, because his affair with Diana was still not too far in the past. It was hardly her only weapon either, and she put such pressure on the poor girl that she finally wrote to Jack and told him that if he wished to consider himself free, nothing would make her happier. The minute Jack quoted these words to me, I understood that she was offering to release him from the engagement, but he could not comprehend such a thing without aid. And it was aid I failed to give when he asked me what I thought she meant, instead phrasing an answer which I knew would keep Jack away from Diana. I did this for a very selfish reason: I wanted to keep her for myself.
The lie pained me, the manipulation even more so. I had already engaged in enough of both when there was true reason to, now to do so on such petty motivation, such vague fears, indicated something very shameful about my character. It was later that I would often think Diana's running from me again on the voyage home was no more than I deserved, for both the lie and for killing Canning, another thing that brought me shame, though at least there I had not intended for it.
October 29: On Looking in the Mirror
What do you think when you look in the mirror?
That is something I avoid doing, except when I am shaving. It isn't very difficult, especially when I am at sea; there are never very many of them around on board a ship. Yet there was one confrontation with a mirror which I will never forget.
It happened during one of the lower points in my life, when my laudanum addiction reached the point that it interfered, and badly, with my surgical skills, with fatal results for one of my patients, who was also an old friend and colleague of mine. After the operation I retreated to my room at the Grapes, where I ended up staring at myself in a tiny mirror that happened to be on my desk. I have received less-than-complimentary remarks of my face resembling a cadavar's, which I always dismissed, as I have handled more cavadars than the majority of the individuals making the remarks, and knew very well a living face cannot look like a dead face. But one look at my own eyes, and I was no longer certain the living cannot look like the dead, or even be numbered amoung them.
Most of the reason I avoid mirrors is because looking at myself tends to bring out thoughts of everything that is wrong with me. But beyound that is a fear I can never quite shake, no matter how alive I have felt in recent hours, days, or even months, that I will again see in the mirror the face of the corpse.
November 2005-January 2006