69.0000° N 101.0000° W
West of King William Land
23 March 1847
I have noted here before that it has become custom, these some sevenmonth, to find myself called by Command. Initially this would take place once a fortnight (or thereabouts), and I attempted to discern a pattern to my being thus summoned. The days of the week; phases of the moon; what; ?? Months went on in this manner. Days that were measured only by the clock, the watch, the bell — being without the passage of the sun overhead, it grew difficult to keep such times separate in our heads. Yet for whatever reason they have lately tapered off. I pray that the conditions which brought the need about have likewise lessened accordingly. I have found my own brown melancholy lifting as of late, though this is owing in some small measure to the incident which I recount below.
I did welcome the the extra rest, when it was given to me, and when the invitation was extended anew I looked through these pages and found it had been some five weeks prior since the last occasion. And this being a Sunday, too!
When the bells struck one I made my way to the cabin, with its door left off the latch, and lacking any greeting save the tea service, I was permitted to amuse myself with such entertainments as could be conjured therein, alone. The timbers creaked under pressure. Their duress was great, of this I was utterly convinced, and in that room the sounds were much magnified than when I heard the same ones, or those which resembled them in timbre, alone in my cabin. The library served as suitable companion. Indeed, had the room been well-lit and the atmosphere more convivial, I might have there whiled away a happy, unperturbed hour.
I drank the tea which had been left for me and made my way to the far window, endeavouring to find my own proximate solitude and sat, Barrow’s normally thrilling rendering of Drake’s exploits dissolved into blots on the page. Transfixed. Relief came when the inner door opened. The book was cast aside, careless. In the interval since I have come to regret my haste, for I did not replace it when I departed, and hope it will not be mistaken for thoughtlessness by some.
The low mercury has us all in woolens at all times. It had been days since I had divested myself of my outer coat, even for sleep. Yet now it was quick to locate its brethren on the floor ‘ere I passed the threshold. Jopson provided quick reassurance — as easy to press three as two, no, no matter at all, Sir — and but for those words set upon me without further warning while the Captain partook from the far side of the room. His energies were thus directed in their own way, if I would speak it plain. Why, were it not for Jopson’s knees we might still be found there come the time I once thought to call daybreak, but here...
Our garments were positioned atop one another to spare his, though not mine own, and I now seem to recall that being thus deprived of that minor comfort afforded a certain lightness to the spirit in which my subsequent actions transpired.
Jopson was all poise, then, despite his position. His attitude becomes freer as the Captain's own mood loosens. How this might relate to the days of the week, the phases of the moon, the time they spend together before my presence is required — on this I cannot form a hypothesis. For being thus hindered by the limits of mine own imagination, I must be content with recalling those indignities of whose existence I have but gleaned secondhand accounts. Had I courage then to stir my tongue I might have been granted leave to continue the work the Captain had begun. Past reason and most reckoning, though, in this he did not grant me an interval without order long enough to consider seriously the notion. Perhaps we will find ourselves in a situation which will require it somewhere down the line; though I suppose that will depend on how deep his stores might be, and how long the nights which lie ahead.
Direction hereby dispatched he pressed his bare forehead to Jopson’s own, and from that juncture onwards a warmth suffused me all the way down to my toes. Jopson was called to account for the state of my endeavour, whether firm or heavy enough to grant that pleasure which my presence made possible, and each time he (when thus pressed) answered in the affirmative, until such juncture as the Captain seemed satisfied with the outcome of his enquiries.
That being accomplished in all due haste I was eager to reach my own end with my hand as receptacle, but on this momentous occasion the Captain encouraged me to do otherwise, his voice barely audible over the sound of the ice closing in, the frantic blood coursing in my own head. He looked me straight on and asked it of me, for Jopson’s sake, and it was for his sake that I do in retrospect reassure myself that I comported myself as decency thus demanded. I wished to ease my way but lacking anything close to hand, I count myself fortunate to have summoned forth enough spit to finish the job forthwith. From there it was a quiet departure to my own quarters, and in due time, the anxious passage from wakefulness to sleep.
Yet all the same, despite the aforementioned lapse in our intimate affections, my interest has been thus renewed with great vigour. Indeed I find myself full of hope, against all my better judgments and Christian virtues besides, that the circumstances will tip the balance in my favour at least once more before we see the first sunrise. That would be a fine, fine thing.
Lt Edward Little