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Excerpt from The Hundred Days by Patrick O'Brian, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Hundred Days

by Patrick O'Brian

The Hundred Days by Patrick O'Brian X
The Hundred Days by Patrick O'Brian
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    Oct 1998, 280 pages

    Oct 1999, 280 pages


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A cloud passed over her face, and putting her hand on Jack's knee she said, 'I was so happy to see you -- to have recovered you from Cape Horn at the very last moment -- that I overlooked more important things. Tell me, how is poor dear Maturin?'

'He looks older, and bent; but he bears up wonderfully, and it has not done away with his love of music. He eats nothing, though, and when he came back to Funchal, having attended to everything at Woolcombe, I lifted him out of the boat with one hand.'

'She was an extraordinarily handsome woman and she had prodigious style: I admired her exceedingly. But she was not a wife for him; nor a mother for that dear little girl. How is she? She was not in the coach, I collect?'

'No. The only other one on the box was Cholmondeley; my mother-in-law and her companion inside, and Harry Willet, the groom, up behind -- happily Padeen did not go that day. And Brigid does not seem very gravely upset, from what I understand. She is very deeply attached to Sophie, you know, and to Mrs Oakes.'

'I do not believe I know Mrs Oakes.'

'A sea-officer's widow who lives with us, a learned lady -- not as learned as you, Queenie, I am sure -- but she teaches the children Latin and French. They are none of them clever enough for Greek.'

A pause. 'If he does not eat, he will certainly grow weak and pine away,' said Lady Keith. 'We have a famous cook aboard Royal Sovereign -- he came back to England with the Bourbons. Would an invitation be acceptable, do you think? Just us and the Physician of the Fleet and a few very old friends. I have a crux in this passage of Ennius I should like to show him. And of course he must have a conference with Keith's secretary and the political adviser very soon... Oh, and Jack, there is something I must tell you, just between ourselves. Another Mediterranean command would be too much for him, so we are only here until Pellew comes out; though we shall stay in the Governor's cottage a little while to enjoy the spring. Do you get along well with Pellew, Jackie?'

'I have a great admiration for him,' said Jack -- and indeed Admiral Sir Edward Pellew had been a remarkably dashing and successful frigate-captain -- 'but not quite the veneration I have for Lord Keith.'

'My dear Aubrey,' cried the Admiral, walking in from the coach, 'there you are! How glad I am to see you.'

'And I to see you, my Lord Viscount, if I may so express myself. My heartiest congratulations.'

'Thankee, thankee, Aubrey,' said the Admiral, more pleasant than quite suited his wife. 'But I must say that I deserve to be degraded for having put in that foolish proviso in your orders about waiting for Briseis. I should have said ... but never mind what I should have said. The fact is that at that time I merely wanted your squadron to guard the passage of the Straits: now, at the present moment, the situation is much more complex. Six hundred thousand people cheered Napoleon when he entered Paris -- Ney has joined him -- a hundred and fifty thousand King's troops, well-equipped, drilled and officered, have done the same -- he has countless seasoned men who were prisoners of war in England and Russia and all over Europe at his devotion, flooding to the colours -- the Emperor's colours. There is the Devil to pay and no tar hot. Is Dr Maturin with you?'

'Yes, sir.'

'Is he up to talking about all this with my secretary and the politicos?'

'I believe so, my Lord. Although he shuns ordinary company he is dead set on the war and seizes upon any means whatsoever of informing himself -- newspapers, correspondence and so on -- and I have known him talk for three hours on end with a French officer -- royalist of course -- whose brig was in company with us during a flat calm off Bugio.'

Reprinted by permission of Georges Borchardt, Inc. Copyright © 1998 by Patrick O'Brian. Published by WW Norton and Co. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from Georges Borchardt, Inc at 136 East 57th Street, New York, NY 10022. All rights reserved.

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