Monday, May 30, 2011
Treason's Harbour by Patrick O'Brian
If anyone is reading this, and has read this book, perhaps they can help me - does Stephen know Wray is working for the French? Or am I entirely off on that? The last lines of the book lead me to believe Stephen still hasn't smoked it out that Wray is the bad apple feeding info to the French.
So I've gotten into the habit of dog-earing pages of passages that I particularly liked. Here are the passages I enjoyed from this book.
First dog-ear: this one wasn't a passage I enjoyed, rather it was just neat to see my manager's last-name appear in the book - Meares. I had seen my last name in one of the previous books, I've also seen my wife's maiden name in a previous book and now my manager's last name.
Second dog-ear: Stephen had lost his shoes or something, so he had to borrow some before he walked over to Mrs. Fielding's place. The borrowed shoes hurt so badly, he had to take them off when he arrived. The music was of no great importance but once he had slipped off his shoes it was pleasant sitting there with the sound weaving decorative patterns in the warm, gently stirring air: the lemon-tree was giving out its well-remembered scent - strong, but not excessive - and on the side farthest from the lanterns, the darkest corner of the court, there was a troop of fireflies. ... Ponto (Laura's dog) came pacing across, smelt Stephen in an offensively censorious way, avoided his caress, and walked off again, flinging himself down among the fireflies with a disgusted sigh. Presently he began to lick his private parts with so strong a lushing sound that it quite overlaid a pianissimo passage for the flute and Stephen lost the thread of the argument, such as it was. This passage made me giggle!
Third dog-ear: This one is a whole page, so I won't type it all out, but the gist of it is that Jack is keenly aware of his luck early in his career. Now he is thirsting badly for a new run of luck which seems to have eluded him so well lately. It was as though he were running a race: a race in which he had done fairly well for a while, after a slow start, but one in which he could not hold his lead and was being overtaken, perhaps from lack of bottom, perhaps from lack of judgement, perhaps from lack of that particularly nameless quality that brought some men success when it just eluded others, though they might take equal pains. He could not put his finger on the fault with any certainty, and there were days when he could say with real conviction that the whole thing was mere fatality, the other side of the good luck that had attended him in his twenties and early thirties, the restoration of the average. But there were other days when he felt that his profound uneasiness was an undeniable proof of the fault's existence, and that although he himself might not be able to name it, it was clear enough to others, particularly those in power: at all events they had given many of the good appointments to other men, not to him.
Fourth dog-ear: this one deals with Stephen and how he plays cards. Speaking of how he learned to play cards, he found from his teacher that the pupil of the eye expands and contracts involutarily and that it could be read as if you were looking at your opponents cards. The more emotional the player and the higher the stakes the greater the effect; but it worked in any circumstances, so long as there was something to win or lose. The only trouble was that you had to have excellent eyes to see the change; you had to have a good deal of practice to interpret it; and your opponent had to be well lit. Stephen had excellent eyes, and he had had a great deal of practice, having used the method with remarkable effect in his interrogations.
Fifth dog-ear: Jack was eating his dinner not in the dining-cabin but right aft, sitting with his face to the great stern-window, so that on the far side of the glass and a biscuit-toss below the frigate's wake streamed away and away from him, dead white in the troubled green, so white that the gulls, poising and swooping over it, looked quite dingy. This was a sight that never failed to move him: the noble curve of shining panes, wholly unlike any landborn window, and then the sea in some one of its infinity of aspects; and the whole in silence, entirely to himself. If he spent the rest of his life on half-pay in a debtors' prison he would still have had this, he reflected, eating the last of the Cephalonian cheese; and it was something over and above any reward he could possible have contracted for.
The last dog-ear: Stephen slept the longer of the two, but when at last he came on deck he found that he was in time for an evening so perfect that it made all foul weather seem worth while: with a flowing sheet and under an easy sail the Surprise was slipping through the sea: and such a sea, smooth, dreamlike, limitless, with an infinity of subtle nacreaous colours merging into one another and a vast pure sky overhead. It was one of those days when there was no horizon; it was impossible to tell at what point in the pearly haze the sea met the sky, and this increased the sense of immensity.
Those last two passages are quite remarkable and I read them over and over again - the love of the sea.