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Genetics, a Flaming Tragedy
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*sailors go to sea for

* why? I'll tell you for why mate

*. But Stephen wasn't listening; his mind was on the Grunidae in all their variations.

*Pressed by Pullings from a lousy smuggling cutter, the three brothers ranged in hue from a lightly spotted pink to a blue-black polished to a high degree of perfection. Could Mrs Grunida have been too generous with her favours?

*Stephen removed his handkerchief from his pocket and unwrapped the sausage within, removing unctous slices with his reasonably clean catlin as he turned the matter over in his mind. It would not do, it would not do at all. Another hypothesis must be found. Such a wealth of diversity, such variegated Albanians. And yet. And yet each of the brothers was, in one way or another, regardless of their hue, the image, the spitting image of his old friend Jack Aubrey. He tossed the heel of his sausage to the sharks and pocketed the knife.

*The sharks gazed wistfully up at Stephen

* and he hungrily back at them, at least hungrily in his character as a natural philosopher, for, like the Grunidae, these Chondrichthyes

*still had all their teeth, were used to the sea and could probably

*look with relish upon a good feed of snooks, or a plump Albanian

* .Stephen returned thougthfully to his duty and looked again into the three disturbingly familiar faces. ' Snooks' he unconsciously muttered and 'Yix!' responded the blackest of them beaming delightedly

*drawing from deep within his bosom

* a large oil painting of a roving eyed wench in Illyrian peasant costume with an engraved midshipman's dirk clenched between a powerful full set of teeth. Stephen whipped out one of Jack's triple ground lenses to pore more closely over the engraved lettering. It was as damming an inscription as even Sophie could wish for - "Jack loves Snuyx. 1795, 1797 and 1799".

Stephen followed the brothers to a warm, airy corner of the forecastle. Here they sat late into the watch. After exchanges of hugs, brotherly kisses, tiny glasses of infinitely powerful goat hoof liqeur, and a slow but sure nurturing of mutual esteem, culminated by the removal of a large uncomfortable teratoma from the cerebellum of the youngest Grunida, Stephen received the loan of the portrait, and, with his mind taken up with recalling what he could of Jack's half-brothers, Jock and Jacques, walked unsteadily aft to

*a quarterdeck that was surely pitching and tossing more than was quite right. Clinging with one hand to the mizzen ratlines and gesturing grandly with the other Stephen said 'Will you listen now Jack, I have been musing on the Aubreys of Scotch James's day, those avid Merchant Adventurers with their foreign wives and' said with peculiar emphasis 'the power of the flea'.

What a learned old cove he is, thought Jack , even in his cups. Stephen continued 'The variegated power of the flea I say. Have you, Jack, with all your mathematics and your extensive vetegable, begetable, vegetable gardens never considered the power of the flea?'

'Why no, I can't say that I have, old Stephen, though now that you have brought it to my notice I shall certainly do so. Perhaps Napier's Bones could make something of it or ' with growing enthusiasm 'the differential calculus'. Jack began to scrawl symbols on the pipeclayed trousers of a convenient marine. "Oh that we had an engine for differential calculation!' he cried when he had exhausted all blank surfaces of the four Marines and was beginning on the linen of the officers of the watch. 'We shall live to amaze the Society, yes, and the Institut too! Why, we may have discovered the essential element of perpetual motion. Oh how the Admiralty will love me! Don't mutter so Stephen, there's a good chap, of course, of course, we will first inform Sir Joseph Banks that eminent botanist but really, you know, his particular genius does not lie in this direction.'

Stephen could bear it no longer, his mounting despair must take the form of words that could never be withdrawn 'Why do you imagine, Jack, that I am at all interested in your chimaerical, Paracelsian, ideas of perpetual motion? I am not one of your mere mechanics. I had requested you to consider your vegetable garden; the abundance and variety of its blossoms. I said nothing of your foolish, exhibiting flea. I asked you distinctly to consider the flower of the pea'.

'Oh, indeed? The pea is it?' the initial hurt and bewilderment in Jack's face dissolved suddently into honest merriment, open mouthed, undisguised, irresistibly infectious laughter that reached as far as the forepeak and set the Grunidae to hugging one another again while the tears of mirth coursed down their cheeks, till Stephen himself could raise a rueful smile and shake his head at his own folly.

'Oh, the flower of the pea! Oh ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!"

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