February 1: When in your life did you know you were not alone?
It was Jack who taught me that I was not alone, but he had to repeat the lesson for than once, for I often forgot it. I am not even certain when the first time he taught it to me was. There are three distinct possibilities.
The first was the first time we played together. I had been playing alone for so long that he seemed an intrusion at first, even more so as his skill at the violin threatened to overwhelm me, though by the time that first session was over, I had evaluated his skill as in fact equal to mine, and thought I had only imagined in the beginning that it was better. It was only years later, when I chanced to hear him play alone, that I knew he had in fact held back as soon as I realized I was not as good as him. I was amazed that he should do this, but it a good thing he did; I would have grown envious had he not, had I known before I loved him enough for it to mean nothing. We would have been isolated; instead we were joined.
The second was after we lost the Sophie, and we sat on a hill one night, watching a naval battle from afar. We pressed together for warmth in the night, and I eventually put my head down to sleep. I had slept in the same room as him, certainly, but that closeness required a trust I had once thought I could never again place in another man. I woke the next morning to see him still peering out our telescope, having slept little, if at all. His face lit up when he looked down and saw me awake, and I knew my company was a much a boon to him as his was to me.
The third was when the aftermath of a battle ended a quarrel which had very nearly ended in a duel. When he was almost fatally wounded, I forgave him before he apologized, then he apologized anyway. We were both in a low spot, his career troubled, my new intelligence responsibilities first making known their effects on my soul, Sophie and Diana lost to us both. On the latter, we had been a cause of trouble to each other, yet that was put aside so firmly I knew then, if I had not already, that nothing would part us, and that I would never again be completely alone.
February 8: On My Worst Failure
I have suffered some spectacular failures in my time, such as when I attempted to acheive independence for Peru, though I did not feel that failure as harshly after I suceeded with instead winning independence for Chile. The failure that has hit me the hardest was also one eventually reversed.
I have spoken on more than one occasion of Jack's once being dismissed the service, and of my procuring the Surprise for him, and attempting to get him pardoned. I failed in the latter, but I was in fact hit harder by an earlier failure, one encompassing not only this events, but several others, in which I failed to identify Andrew Wray, whom I have also spoken about, as a traitor. I had identified him as a less than pleasant man, and had even suspecting him of damaging Jack's career, but only for reasons of personal spite, rather than treasonous ones. I even trusted him as messenger with regards a delicate matter between myself and Diana; naturally I nearly lost her completely. And so first two of Jack's missions went dreadfully amiss, and when there was an obvious double-agent in our midst, I contacted Wray and left it to him to find the traitor.
He and Ledward than rigged the stock exchange and framed Jack, profiting off it themselves considerably while they were at it. And even while he easily paid off his debts to me at times which I should have noticed the coordination of with the behavior of the stock exchange, and other signs came up that should have at least made me suspect something, I thought nothing of Wray until a defecting French spy finally informed me of his true colours. I have rarely felt so foolish as I did then. Meanwhile all my efforts to get Jack acquitted had resulted in another spectacular failure, and our attempt to capture Wray was botched in a rather absurd manner. Failure upon failure. Thankfully he was at least identified, as was Ledward, and I eventually killed them both, as I have related previously, but even then we left a very high-placed traitor still at large, and it took us years more to bring him down.
February 15: It was one of those days...
Days in the doldrums were always detrimental to a ship's mood. Somehow Stephen always found more patients in his sickbay during those days. But on that particular day, he found many symptoms of scurvy, and learned that night from Jack that they could expect a number of days more in the doldrums, the way the wind was behaving.
"There's nothing I can do about it," he said, and Stephen wondered which was them was feeling more frustrated at that moment.
"Why does man go to see like this?" he wondered aloud.
Jack stared at him as if he'd lost his head. "What?"
"Why did he first sail out and make himself vulnerable to the forces of the sea? And, having sailed out, why did he not sensibly sail back, once he realized how helpless the sea made him, to where he had a modicum of control over his fate?"
"Well, where would the joy be in turning back and running like a rabbit?" Jack rejoined. "He sailed out because he wanted to live." And rejuvenated by this reminder, he scooped up his violin, and Stephen thought continuing the coversation was not wise.
Yet he privately wondered how Jack reconciled that idea with days like this, when everyone on board the ship felt dead.
February 22: On Overheard Remarks
I once gave a lecture on the extinct avifauna of Rodriguez at the Institut in Paris, shortly after an incident in which I was oblidged to kill two French spies, and all in all had reason to worry, at least a little, for my safety, though in a way I felt going to Paris without showing any signs of worry would help lessen suspicions. It worked even better than I hoped. Several men connected with French Intelligence attended my lecture, and while I was not actively listening for what they said about me, being too preoccupied in the business of actually giving the lecture, I still could not help overhearing them declare that I could never be a spy, and also their suspicions that I was a paederast, largely because they had been good enough with intelligence to know the intimate details of my professional relationship with Diana, and thought my decorum with her indicated a clear lack of desire for women.
Obviously I was relieved that they did not think me a spy, but the second part of their conversation gave me mixed feelings. That they believed that about me I did not mind; it made me even less likely to be a spy in their mind, because of the risk of blackmail. Had they further conjectured about my relationship with Jack, I would have been worried for his sake, but they did not. But I did find it a embarrassing blow to my pride that I hadn't realized that Diana's maid was an informant of theirs, and I was even more unhappy about leaving said maid in Diana's employment; I considered telling Diana to dismiss her, but the circumstances of my departure immediately after the lecture left me not wishing to raise their suspicions again, and Diana, for all her cunning, can only sucessfully engage in very certain kinds of deceit, and may very well have given everything away. At the very least, they would have wondered at the sudden dismissal. And to hear my always complex relationship with Diana talked about in such a narrow-minded manner angered me considerably. I could not but wonder what right they had, to pass such judgement on something they could not possibly understand.
March 1: On Mockery
When I first went to sea, I found myself often "practiced on," that is to say, told outrageous lies by those who knew more about sailing and the ways of a ship in His Majesty's Navy than I did, whom I trusted. It is a form of mockery I have since seen performed on others in my position later, and, I must admit, I have performed myself. I had many years of experience of the sea to my name, and newly befriended Nathaniel Martin, when we found ourselves in company with a certain Professor Graham, who was completely inexperienced in all things nautical, which we took rather shameful advantage of, telling him things that confused him silly, and frightened him as well. He ended up learning in short order that we had "practiced" on him, but due to his inexperience in certain other areas, he soon found himself in my debt for his life, as well as needing my forgiveness for very nearly getting me killed along with himself, so I never did have to make amends for my behavior.
It is strange that this seems a fond memory for me. By all rights I should be ashamed. But as indecent as it may sound, my being in the role I played acted as an odd rite of passage for me, officially labelling me as the nautical expert, the salted old sea dog, which I most certainly still am not entirely, even after all my years with Jack. I suspect it was the same for Nathaniel, who normally would know better. I have observed similar behavior in all peoples who belong to any one group, who find ways to put down and mock those who lack their priviledged status. Perhaps I am not as different as I would to think I am from those I disapprove of for being too ensonced in the rules of the navy.
March 8: On My Father
My father died when I was very young. He was an Irish officer, in service to His Catholic Majesty, when he met my Catalan mother. When she became pregnant with me, she followed him to Ireland, but he did not marry her. From what I understand, she died in childbirth.
I spent my earliest years in Ireland, but even so my memories of my father are vague. I remember a face as pale as my own, and even paler hair. I also remember rough hands stroking my face. I disliked those hands. They were too dirty. I cried until the hands and face were gone.
As an adult, I try to keep a more positive view of my father than that, but it is not easy. I don't understand why he would not marry my mother, even though he kept her, and me. Had she lived, she, as an unwed mother, would have suffered even more from his refusal than I have as a bastard. If she came with him, she must have been willing, and she had rank and wealth enough. Why did he reject her? I will never know.
March 15: Who is the one person that you would really like to know what they are thinking?
My answer would have been Diana, were she still alive. I never was quite certain what she was thinking while she lived, and it would have been much easier if I had been. But she is dead, and the past is the past. As for Jack, well, I usually know sooner or later, and occasionally before he does himself.
But Brigid is alive, and more often than not she is as inscrutable as her mother. Not always; I can sometimes tell what she is thinking on my own, and other times she tells me, and I cannot at all believe her to be lying. But I have no overall perception of her mind, what permanent views she holds of the world, of me, of Jack, or what she thought of Diana or Christine. That I would like to know, to understand. There are some parts of her that I will never understand, and I accept that, but I feel I could know so much more about her than I do.
March 29: On Knowingly Making a Fool of One's Self
I have often made a complete fool of myself in my role as ship's surgeon, or, more precisely, as the man aboard the ship who is marvelously ignorant in all things nautical(I can assure you that in matters medical I have always been perfectly competent), but there it was done unknowingly. In my role as intelligence agent, however, I have often been required to put on acts, and that has, on occasion, required me to appear the fool.
One such incident that stands all too strongly out in my memory was when I was arrested in Spain in 1804 during a mission there. I was masquerading as as a Catalan-American gentleman who did not remember Castilian Spanish very well, and did not know French at all. I deliberately misunderstood several words, giving one gentleman the impression that I feared I had been arrested for gathering birds, which I had been doing when not engaged in intelligence work, but in a perfectly lawful manner. And then I got indignant, insisting that the other men had all told me it was a perfectly lawful manner. I made quite the fuss and probably gave the poor man a terrible headache, but he, at least, was convinced I was no spy, even if his opinion of me was extremely low. That I did not care about; I was far too concerned for my safety. If the likeliest way for me to get out of my situation was to knowingly make a complete fool of myself, that was what I was willing to do.
It very nearly worked. Unfortunately officers from French Intelligence appeared just as I was being released, and they were not fooled; they had already been informed about me. They removed me for interrogating, and what happened after that I have already talked about more than I would care to in other entries.
April 12: Danger and Fortune
Stephen's life had been filled with numerous dangers, to the point where he often wondered if anything he did was not dangerous. Even being on deck was a dangerous prospect, at least if one believed certain individuals who fussed ridiculously over him whenever he was. Seated in a cave somewhere in the mountains in South America with all his companions asleep, still accustoming himself to the absence of his recently amputated toes, Stephen wondered what those individuals would think, how many unnecessary and unhealthy hysterics they would involve themselves in, should they see him now.
And they would, no doubt, think him the most unfortunate man in the world, when in fact he thought the opposite.
This had perhaps been one of the more dangerous affairs he had been involved in, with the potential for much to go wrong, and it had. But which one was the most dangerous of his life he refused to identify. Best not to tempt fate into topping it. The incident with the most drastic consequences was the one which had landed him in the torture chamber in Minorca, but whether that had started as the most dangerous was, while more than easily arguable, ultimately up to interpretation, and Stephen Maturin refused to interpret. And this time he had escaped, leaving behind all dangers, expect perhaps that of freezing to death. But his heart had been warmed by most of the journey which may have started as a flight, but ended up feeling more to him like a scientific expedition, and a more fruitful one he had not been on since his days on Desolation Island, and hopefully this time he would not lose all his specimens to a ship catching on fire. Misfortune in Peru leading to fortune in the mountains. And perhaps, at some future date, in Chile.
April 28: On Perception
I am generally perceived of being one or more of four different things: utterly insignificant, a fool, a skilled physician or surgeon, or a very dangerous man. For obvious reasons, I attempt to avoid being perceived as the last, but it happens on occasion in the course of my intelligence work. And then I often am in fact a less dangerous man than I otherwise would be. In situations where such a perception usually exists, I do best by being perceived as the first: utterly insignificent, and occasional when perceived as the second, though even this does not work as well.
Most of my times of being perceived as the fool, however, are linked to my being perceived as the surgeon. On board a ship and at sea, these are my only two identities. Well, those and Jack Aubrey's particular friend. The idea of my being an intelligence agent would likely stun most of the foremost jacks. His men seem to belief I am capable of curing any injury or disease, while believing me incapable of anything else whatever, except possibly playing the cello. It is an odd and sometime unsettling way to be viewed. Yet when I consider my other identities, the ones that appear when I on shore, I find comfort in the simple view of the sailors, even find it altering my own perceptions, though unlike them I keep things in perspective.