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Friendship is a Lifelong Sentence

(which it's the opening of Chapter 1 of The Jet Black Shore, the 21st novel, as channeled to a Gentleman of Distinction in the Gunroom of HMS

The late afternoon sun reflected off the gentle swell of the bright blue tropical water of the South Atlantic, spraying splashes of light across the beautifully curved beams of the great cabin of HMS Surprise as Admiral Jack Aubrey, who had not yet taken command of his new squadron off the coast of Africa, idly played a violin air from Locatelli's string quartet in C-Major on his sea-going fiddle aboard his personal ship, Surprise, a former man of war, sold out of the service and purchased by his particular friend, Stephen Maturin and resold to Jack when his fortunes had revived and, after the long war against France had ended, hired by the Admiralty for a surveying expedition to the South Americas, an expedition which had been a cover for an armed mission in support of the Chilean rebels; with the trade winds being so slack this year, the journey was lasting longer than expected but was smooth which permitted much time for thought; he was pondering part of the conversation he had had over dinner; Stephen had said in passing: Friendship is a lifelong sentence; which had shed an unexpected light on his own longstanding friendship with Stephen Maturin, who was more than just the ship's surgeon; he was an intelligence agent who had fought against Bonaparte for many years by employing his contacts with the Catalan independence movements to intelligence of the activities of the French all around the western Mediterranean, this despite his history as a nationalist who had supported Irish independence from England before the bloody failed rebellion of 1798, which he had opposed and when it ultimately came to pass, had caused the death of his beloved Mona and led him to take the job of personal physician to a gentleman whose untimely death had left him stranded and destitute in Port Mahon where he had met Jack Aubrey at a concert, where this very Locatelli piece had been played by the skilled Italian quartet, on the very evening that Jack had learned of his promotion to Master and Commander of the sloop Sophie and where their friendship had begun the next morning when they had met to discuss the affront which Stephen in his desperation at Jack's inability to keep time with the music, had offered to Jack by nudging him strongly with his elbow; Jack's joy at hearing of his promotion allowed him to dismiss any thoughts of revenge or a duel and led him to offer Stephen a position as his ship's surgeon once he had found out that Stephen was more than a mere surgeon but a veritable doctor, which had endeared him to the ship's company who then were able to boast to the Fleet of not one, but two glories for their tiny vessel, not only an elm-tree pump but a real physician who could treat their ills as though they were gentlemen; Jack's friendship with Stephen had lasted for a long, long time and they had on occasions discussed and contemplated the nature of friendship and Stephen's remark still puzzled him, Jack wondered what had he meant by it; Stephen had said that friendship was a lifelong sentence; Jack thought long and hard about that remark, it sounded as though Stephen thought friendship was like a gaol or prison rather than a desirable state but as the tropical sunset brought swift darkness, Jack decided. It was a long sentence.

© 2003 Adam Quinan