god rest ye merry

Stephen Maturin was woken by a distant, discordant chorus of ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’, which after a moment’s disorientation he decided was somewhat ironic.

He lay in his cot with eyes squeezed closed, trying to blot out the day. He had not the smallest doubt that it would pass in much the same way for him as had the celebrations for some years now, in misanthropic solitude, while the frayed vestiges of his Catholic guilt niggled at him to recite rosaries.  Then his first Christmas aboard ship should add to that the drunken carolling of the men and Jack’s familiar jocularity.

For a moment he contemplated burying his head under the pillow and forcing himself asleep again.

Then a new strain of music cut through the choir up on deck, a sound within the captain’s cabin with him. An easy, dancing melody that tripped in silver-rippling scales from the violin, a song that his cello could never sing with such grace, that his reedy voice could never summon enough joy to enliven. It was a song that had wound about his childhood Christmases, in times distant and chill and snow-wreathed.

Maturin sat up, pulling the rough blanket up around his shoulders against the cold air as he blinked the sleep from his eyes. Jack broke off in mid-phrase, smiling warmly as he slipped the fiddle from beneath his chin.

“I would not have woken you, but that I thought the men had already done the worst of it,” he said wryly, stowing the instrument neatly under one arm.

“Where did you learn that air?” Stephan asked.

Aubrey laughed. “Why, you were whistling it yourself not two days past. I thought it sounded well enough for a Christmas morning.”

Almost against his will, and certainly to his surprise, Stephan found a smile tugging at his usually tightly-pursed lips. “Aye,” he agreed. “It sounds very well indeed.”