May 11: On Love, Part 2
Who was the one that got away?
I understand this question to mean a woman whom I wish I had sucessfully wooed. By this definition there ended up being none. For many years there was Diana, who got away from me multiple times, twice even after we were married, but each time I found her again, or she even came back of her own volition. When she was finally lost to me permanently, it was by no cause short of death itself. The only other woman I have regrets over losing is Mona, and she never turned away from me from the day we first spoke of our love to the day she was shot down.
There is the matter of Christine Woods. At our first meeting, she was very fond of me. My memory of my own view of her at the time is likely unreliable, but while Diana had been off on one her flights again, my devotion to her, as well as Christine's own marriage, precluded anything happening between us. Yet it was only two years later when both our spouses were dead, and perhaps I moved a little too hastily to replace Diana. She happened to send me the bones of my old potto, and a very kind letter with it, at exactly the right time of my life where I wanted to find someone to love, and it ended up being her.
My initial proposal to her was turned down, as she had not had good matrimonial relations, and given up on having them with a second husband. On further consideration, she asked for time before a final answer, which I granted her.
In a disappointing, but hardly suprising, piece of mental behavior, the more she seemed to take in her letters to Brigid and to the idea of marrying me, the more I wondered if it was the best thing for either of us. Time made me aware that I had not been thinking my own feelings through when I had been so urgent to court her. I am not in fact sure why she refused after showing every inclination of accepting, but perhaps I misread her letters, and at any rate I am now glad she did.
So while one might call Christine Woods the one that "got away," her having done so was still a good thing.
June 2: On Comfort
What does comfort mean to you?
Jack would answer this question with two words: "the sea."
I admit the sea is a great comfort to me as well. The company of Jack and several other men I have befriended over the years is a vital part of it, as is the music the two of us make, which is solace anywhere. The isolation from land is often a strong reprieve. The never-changing routine aids in the numbing of mind if you want it to. And should we happen upon a cluster of exotic flora and fauna, well, then any worries I might still be harbouring are easily done away with for days. This last thing, obviously, is not as much comfort to Jack, yet I suspect we still find comfort in many of the same things at sea.
As for the land, we find comfort not so much in home itself than in the thought of home. The thought of Brigid is especially so for me, that even should our ship go down or I be killed in battle, she, my daughter, will remain. The main part of that comfort, of course, is the thought of returning home to them. Therein lies the reason the thought of our families is more comfort than being with them, for the reality never lives up to the image. More often than not, I came home to find Diana gone, though usually when she was there things were more or less well between us.
June 16: On Loyalty
There are times that I find myself marveling that Jack has kept me all these years, and there are other times that I catch him doing the same. The latter happens at very specific instances, for instance, when I chose to stay with him on the Leopard when much of the crew deserted, even though I was hardly the only one, and when he was framed for fraud on the Stock Exchange and dismissed the service, and I bought and presented to him the Surprise; otherwise he gives my loyalty no thought. If he knew me better, he wouldn't even think anything of it then. My loyalty to him is part of what I am, and has been since the time that we sailed together on the Sophie. It has served as my reason for living too many times to be otherwise.
Is the same true for him? I would like to think so. I do play a vital part in his life; I am not so convinced of my lack of self-worth to not know that. He has likely never thought about it at all, so I could not hope for an answer there even if this was the kind of question one could ask a person, and it is not.
I trust in his loyalty always, however, as he trusts in mine.
June 21: On a Retreat
One may argue the sea is a retreat for me, as it is for Jack, but that would be repetitious of my previous answers. I have also talked about my cello, and playing it is another retreat, from both the world and the worries that sailing on a ship itself brings. For this post, however, I will talk about one of my more locative retreats, which is my castle in Spain.
It is more a ruin than a castle, with only five habitable rooms, but those rooms have served me well when I have had cause to stay there. They have done the same for Jack, whom I brought there once when we were forced to flee from France and he grew fevered. He was quite enchanted with the place, at least after he was recovered, and I do not think he would at all mind returning there. He was especially taken with the marble bath, however long it took him to fill it. I believe we both also found it appealing because with our privacy only intruded on by the sheep(though they truly did intrude, having no qualms about wandering about indoors), we were able to say and do things that we might not have had the nerve for anywhere else.
It was even more of a refuge for me in the years immediately following his marriage to Sophie, where there I could temporarily abandoned the company of individuals, many of whom I loathed, and none of whom I desired to see after the partaking with them in the business that I did, and there was little I wanted more than to be alone. The sheep are never offensive companions; they are as innocent as all creatures on this Earth that are not men.
One of these days I will take Brigid there. It would be just the thing to delight her, perhaps more even than the sea. Besides, she is to inherit it, and the rest of my Spanish property, so she ought to see it at least once.
July 4: If...
"If I could ever sucessfully win a country's independence, would I consider my life's work to be done?" Stephen Maturin wrote this sentence in a letter to his wife, one of those he did not intend to send, which was just as well, since not only was he writing about sensitive matters which he could not share with her, or anyone, but the question was completely unrelated to the sentences immediately preceding it, which had been written weeks and weeks ago, before his ill-fated landfall on Peru, and he had not the will to explain his recent failure when noone besides himself would read the words, and in fact the letter would probably be burnt within days, so there would not even be the slightest risk of his reading the words years later and failing to recall just what he was writing about, though, with the letter dated, that his memory would fail him so would have been unlikely. Indeed, he had been negligent in not burning the letter before Peru, although it had been locked away, and he was reasonably confident that there was not a man on board besides himself who would not blanch at the idea of reading another man's letter, and while there had been emotional matters which it would have been embarrassing for him to have anyone else read, there was no outright dangerous content. Had there been, it would have been burnt already; of that he was sure.
By the time he won Chile's independence, Diana was dead, and he instead wrote to Christine Woods, and sent more letters than he burnt, if only because he had already married Diana, and Christine had not even yet consented. But still he marked some letters for burning, including one in which he wrote: "Many years ago I asked myself if at this point my life's work would be done. But now I have reached it, and find there is still work to be done in Chile, and furthermore I cannot consider anything done until Jack has his flag. That fact itself leads me to believe that even after he has raised it I will find something else to worry about. Life's work is never done."
July 21: On an Inheritance
There have been few inheritances in existance with more practical value than the great amount of money left to me by my godfather upon his death. He was one of the richest men in the world at the time according to Sir Joseph, who keeps better track of such things than I.
Great amounts of money will be a mixed blessing at best, and there were downsides. I turned avaristic and stingy on obtaining it, and often suffered from fits of anxiety when it was threatened, which was unfairly often. I began to understand some of Jack's monetary anxieties; his fortunes had risen and fallen drastically in the years I had known him before I could be brought to pay as much attention to my own financies as to his.
Yet as it happens, I must forgive my inheritance all the troubles it has caused me, and have had to do so from the beginning, due to its timing. For shortly after inheriting it, Jack was framed for Stock Exchange Fraud, and it fell to me to do whatever for him that I could. In the end that amounted to buying the Surprise for him, an action that stunned him. Eventually during one of his financially strong stages he purchased it back, but it was my money that saved him then, and saved me as well, as I have always found my fate is bound to his.
August 2: Have you ever woken up in the morning and not remembered what you did the night before?
Yes, multiple times, but I can no longer remember much about those mornings either.
Most of them occurred after '98. I took to both alcohol and laudanum between the fall of the United Irishmen and my meeting with Jack, and on occasion to extremes that I would rarely reach again. The reasons I spared myself later were practical in nature; after taking up a career as a naval surgeon and as an intelligence agent, I could no longer afford to disable my mind, even temporarily. After '98 I was out of work more often than not, so this was not an impediment to getting so thoroughly into a drink or drug-induced stupor that I would have to spend hours and hours abed, of which I have few memories of anything other than my tremendous headaches and occasional fits of crying. Or the barging in of Mrs. Broad whenever I was staying at the Grapes, one of the few individuals who any kind of concern for me. Alas that women with hearts like hers are so rare.
The closest I ever came to again reducing myself to such a sorry state was after my voyage to Mauritius with Jack. I had been slowly descending into it ever since Diana's abandoning me three years previous. This time I was brought to a full stop before my memories began to give, by the death of John Deering under my knife. The events surrounding that I only wish I could forget, and then only sometimes; it is better, I know, if I remember them as a warning.
August 14: On the Making of Friends
Do you tend to make friends easily? Why or why not?
Whether or not I make friends easily depends on how one defines "easily." If the ability befriend just anyone I meet is required to meet this definition, then the answer is no. On the contrary, the majority of people, while I do not dislike them too strongly, I will be reserved around. I am not offended by any given person, but I can perhaps see humanity's flaws too easily, and have been damaged by them, and so I am wary.
However, with certain individuals, I find friendship to be little or no difficulty at all. Granted, it is no remarkable feat to become friends with Jack; to do the work for two is nothing for him. He is such a noble innocent that to trust him is no trouble either, so long as you are not an enemy ship. But he is not the only person with which this has happened. I also found myself getting along with Nathaniel Martin extremely well from the time that we met, and for many years whnever the two of us were on board a ship together we were very close. The reasons for this are likely practical; with each other we could find an interested and sympathetic idea on subjects such as natural philosophy, which it seemed that noone else in His Majesty's Navy had any interest in, or politics, which most sailors considered to be uninteresting at best, and a taboo subject at worst. Yet I lost him in the end to his human flaws, and the chain reaction they caused which split his path from mine. I cannot deny my ability to lose friends, and perhaps much more easily than I make them.
September 1: On Human Nature
Name one thing about human nature that puzzles you.
I am more a natural philosopher than a human philosopher, but even so I have had cause to observe and analyze human nature, and there is more than one aspect of it that I at one time believed I would never understand, but I have since deduced the causes of. If one thing still puzzles me, it would be how others remain ignorant of themselves.
It is not that I wonder why they want to remain ignorant of themselves. That I understand all too well. I would be a happier person myself if I did not understand my nature and motives. Yet I cannot tell just how other people manage it.
Take Jack, for instance. He is almost completely free of self-awareness, though not entirely. I remember once when he had cause to be jealous of a certain Mr. Hinksey, and on some level he was aware that he was, and yet on the surface he still somehow refused to acknowledge it. That I find even more incredible than his usual talent for overlooking things at the subconscious as well as the conscious level.
September 5: On Monogamy
My viewpoint here may be biased, because I have spent my life at sea. I have no doubt that monogamy is far easier for those who are constantly living with their spouses. There is even a saying to sum it up, coined, I believe, by Lord Nelson, "No man is married south of Gibralter." Jack is not even married in Gibralter. Celibacy is simply not in his nature. And this is a problem, because while Jack sees himself as being faithful to Sophie emotionally, which he is, to Sophie, for whom sexual fidelity is no trouble when she takes little pleasure in the act in the first place, adultery is betrayal. A minimum amount of discretion allowed them to avoid the issue for many years, but first Sophie gained the mistaken impression that he had slept with Clarissa Oakes, and he worried about her relationship with Mr. Hinksey, and neither of them behaved at all rationally, which was no doubt influenced by the years of their differing viewpoints taking their toll. Then, when at last Sophie held proof of an adultery in her hands, with her mean-spirited mother keeping her company, it very nearly destroyed everything between them. If Diana and Clarissa had not talked Sophie into forgiving Jack, I believe it would have. After that I would like to think they came to something of an understanding, but I cannot help but wonder what should happen should Sophie learn anymore of her husband's activities during their marriage, or even from after they met, though at least she is not so judgemental as to hold anything before that against him.
Diana and I at least tried to manage things better. We married with a few things understood, and her demand of discretion for any deed I might commit was certainly reasonable. Yet we had our own troubles communicating, Diana and I, and on further contemplation, I have come to believe that she was all too ready to be betrayed, and thus was very swift to conclude without proof that I had broken our agreement, and take actions she believed were justified in response. In any case, I cannot claim moral high ground, when I never attempted to work out any understandings with Christine Woods, which was perhaps the reason that in the end she turned me down, though I will never know for sure.
Monogamy is all very well, and might a relationship less confusing between two people participating in it, but I have no choice but to find fault with society's habit of imposing it, when there are people, like Jack, who through either nature, circumstances, or a combination thereof, are not capable of it.
Special: A Night at the Tammies