'As for the blue devils of which you complain, my dear, do not expect too much from my remedies: youth and unthinking happiness are not to be had in a bottle, alas. You are to consider that a certain melancholy and often a certain irascibility accompany advancing age: indeed, it might be said that advancing age equals ill-temper. On reaching the middle years a man perceives that he is no longer able to do certain things, that what looks he may have had are deserting him, that he has a ponderous great belly, and that however he may yet burn he is no longer attractive to women; and he rebels. Fortitude, resignation and philosophy are of more value than any pills, red, white or blue.'
'Stephen, surely you would never consider me middle-aged, would you?'
'Navigators are notoriously short-lived, and for them middle-age comes sooner than for quiet abstemious country gentlemen. Jack, you have led as unhealthy a life as can well be imagined, perpetually exposed to the falling damps, often wet to the skin, called up at all hours of the night by that infernal bell. You have been wounded the Dear knows how many times, and you have been cruelly overworked. No wonder your hair is grey.'
'My hair is not grey. It is a very becoming buttercup-yellow.'
Jack wore his hair long, clubbed and tied with a broad black bow. Stephen plucked the bow loose and brought the far end of plait round before his eyes.
'Well I'm damned,' said Jack, looking at it in the sunlight.
'Well I'm damned; you are quite right. There are several grey hairs . . . scores of grey hairs. It is positively grizzled, like a badger-pie. I had never noticed.'
'Will I tell you something more cheerful?" asked Stephen.
'Please do,' said Jack, looking up from his queue with that singularly sweet smile Stephen had known from their earliest acquaintance.
*always melts at the mention of that singularly sweet smile*