Pochi uccelli Stephen preferiva ai succiacapre, ma non era stato il loro canto a farlo scendere dal letto. Rimase fermo, appoggiato alla ringhiera, e poco dopo Jack Aubrey, in un padiglione presso il campo di bocce, ricomincie² a suonare con grande dolcezza nel buio, improvvisando solo per se, fantasticando sul suo violino con una maestria che Stephen non aveva mai conosciuto in lui, sebbene avessero suonato insieme per tanti anni.[... ] In effetti suonava meglio di Stephen, e ora che stava usando il suo prezioso Guarnieri invece del robusto strumento adatto al mare, la differenza era ancora pie¹ marcata: ma il Guarnieri non bastava a spiegarla del tutto, assolutamente no. Quando suonavano insieme, Jack nascondeva la propria eccellenza, mantenendosi al mediocre livello di Stephen [... ]; mentre rifletteva su questo, Maturin si rese conto a un tratto che era sempre stato cose¬: Jack, indipendentemente dalle condizioni di Stephen, detestava mettersi in mostra. Ma in quel momento, in quella notte tiepida, ora che non vi era nessuno da sostenere moralmente, cui dare il proprio appoggio, nessuno che potesse criticare il suo virtuosismo, Jack poteva lasciarsi andare completamente; e mentre la musica grave e delicata continuava a diffondersi, Stephen si stupe¬ una volta di pie¹ dell'apparente contraddizione tra il grande e grosso ufficiale di marina, florido e allegro [... ] e la musica pensosa, complessa che quello stesso uomo stava ora creando. Una musica che contrastava immensamente con il suo limitato vocabolario, un vocabolario che lo rendeva talvolta quasi incapace di esprimersi.
Stephen had been put to sleep in his usual room, far from children and noise, away in that corner of the house which looked down to the orchard and the bowling-green, and in spite of his long absence it was so familiar to him that when he woke at about three he made his way to the window almost as quickly as if dawn had already broken, opened it and walked out onto the balcony. The moon had set: there was barely a star to be seen. The still air was delightfully fresh with falling dew, and a late nightingale, in an indifferent voice, was uttering a routine jug-jug far down in Jack's plantations; closer at hand and more agreeable by far, nightjars churred in the orchard, two of them, or perhaps three, the sound rising and falling, intertwining so that the source could not be made out for sure. There were few birds that he preferred to nightjars, but it was not they that had brought him out of bed: he stood leaning on the balcony rail and presently Jack Aubrey, in a summer-house by the bowling-green, began again, playing very gently in the darkness, improvising wholly for himself, dreaming away on his violin with a mastery that Stephen had never heard equalled, though they had played together for years and years. Like many other sailors Jack Aubrey had long dreamed of lying in his warm bed all night long; yet although he could now do so with a clear conscience he often rose at unChristian hours, particularly if he were moved by strong emotion, and crept from his bedroom in a watch-coat, to walk about the house or into the stables or to pace the bowling-green. Sometimes he took his fiddle with him. He was in fact a better player than Stephen, and now that he was using his precious Guarnieri rather than a robust sea-going fiddle the difference was still more evident: but the Guarnieri did not account for the whole of it, nor anything like. Jack certainly concealed his excellence when they were playing together, keeping to Stephen's mediocre level: this had become perfectly clear when Stephen's hands were at last recovered from the thumb-screws and other implements applied by French counter-intelligence officers in Minorca; but on reflexion Stephen thought it had been the case much earlier, since quite apart from his delicacy at that period, Jack hated showing away. Now, in the warm night, there was no one to be comforted, kept in countenance, no one could scorn him for virtuosity, and he could let himself go entirely; and as the grave and subtle music wound on and on, Stephen once more contemplated on the apparent contradiction between the big, cheerful, florid sea-officer whom most people liked on sight but who would have never been described as subtle or capable of subtlety by any one of them (except perhaps his surviving opponents in battle) and the intricate, reflective music he was now creating. So utterly unlike his limited vocabulary in words, at times verging upon the inarticulate. 'My hands have now regained the moderate ability they possessed before I was captured, ' observed Maturin, 'but his have gone on to a point I never thought he could reach: his hands and his mind. I am amazed. In his own way he is the secret man of the world.