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Authors: Patrick O'Brian

Clarissa Oakes

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CLARISSA OAKES

Patrick O'Brian is the author of the acclaimed Aubrey-Maturin tales and the biographer of Joseph Banks and Picasso. His first novel,
Testimonies
, and his
Collected Short Stories
have recently been reprinted by HarperCollins. He translated many works from French into English, among the novels and memoirs of Simone de Beauvoir and the first volume of Jean Lacouture's biography of Charles de Gaulle. In 1995 he was the first recipient of the Heywood Hill Prize for a lifetime's contribution to literature. In the same year he was awarded the CBE. In 1997 he was awarded an honurary doctorate of letters by Trinity College, Dublin. He died in January 2000 at the age of 85.

The Works of Patrick O'Brian

The Aubrey/Maturin Novels

in order of publication

MASTER AND COMMANDER

POST CAPTAIN

HMS SURPRISE

THE MAURITIUS COMMAND

DESOLATION ISLAND

THE FORTUNE OF WAR

THE SURGEON'S MATE

THE IONIAN MISSION

TREASON'S HARBOUR

THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD

THE REVERSE OF THE MEDAL

THE LETTER OF MARQUE

THE THIRTEEN-GUN SALUTE

THE NUTMEG OF CONSOLATION

CLARISSA OAKES

THE WINE-DARK SEA

THE COMMODORE

THE YELLOW ADMIRAL

THE HUNDRED DAYS

BLUE AT THE MIZZEN

Novels

TESTIMONIES

THE CATALANS

THE GOLDEN OCEAN

THE UNKNOWN SHORE

RICHARD TEMPLE

CAESAR

HUSSEIN

Tales

THE LAST POOL

THE WALKER

LYING IN THE SUN

THE CHIAN WINE

COLLECTED SHORT STORIES

Biography

PICASSO

JOSEPH BANKS

Anthology

A BOOK OF VOYAGES

HarperCollins
Publishers

77-85 Fulham Palace Road,

Hammersmith, London W6 8JB

www.HarperCollins.co.uk

This paperback edition 2003

Previously published in B-format paperback

by HarperCollins 1994

Reprinted six times

Also published in paperback by Fontana 1993

First published in Great Britain by

HarperCollins
Publishers
 1992

Copyright © The estate of the late Patrick O'Brian CBE 1992

Patrick O'Brian asserts the moral right to

be identified as the author of this work

ISBN 978-0-00-649930-5

Set in Imprint by

Rowland Phototypesetting Ltd.

Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk

Printed and bound in Great Britain by

Clays Ltd, St. Ives plc

All rights reserved. no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers.

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form or binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

for Mary, with love and

most particular gratitude

Chapter One

Standing at the frigate's taffrail, and indeed leaning upon it, Jack Aubrey considered her wake, stretching away neither very far nor emphatically over the smooth pure green-blue sea: a creditable furrow, however, in these light airs. She had just come about, with her larboard tacks aboard, and as he expected her wake showed that curious nick where, when the sheets were hauled aft, tallied and belayed, she made a little wanton gripe whatever the helmsman might do.

   He knew the
Surprise
better than any other ship he had served in: he had been laid across a gun in the cabin just below him and beaten for misconduct when he was a midshipman, and as her captain he too had used brute force to teach reefers the difference between naval right and naval wrong. He had served in her for many years, and he loved her even more than his first command: it was not so much as a man-of-war, a fighting-machine, that he loved her, for even when he first set foot aboard so long ago neither her size nor her force had been in any way remarkable, and now that the war had been going on for twenty years and more, now that the usual frigate carried thirty-eight or thirty-six eighteen-pounders and gauged a thousand tons the
Surprise
, with her twenty-eight nine-pounders and her less than six hundred tons, had been left far behind; in fact she and the rest of her class had been sold out of the service or broken up and not one remained in commission, although both French and American yards were building fast, shockingly fast: no, it was primarily as a ship that he loved her, a fast, eminently responsive ship that, well handled, could outsail any square-rigged vessel he had ever seen, above all on a bowline. She had also repaired his shattered fortunes when they were both out of the Navy—himself struck off the list and she sold at the block—and he sailed her as a letter of marque; but although that may have added a certain immediate fervour to his love, its true basis was a disinterested delight in her sailing and all those innumerable traits that make up the character of a ship. Furthermore, he was now her owner as well as her captain, for Stephen Maturin, the frigate's surgeon, who bought her when she was put up for sale, had recently agreed to let him have her. And what was of even greater importance, both man and ship were back in the Navy, Jack Aubrey reinstated after an exceptionally brilliant cutting-out expedition (and after his election to Parliament), and the frigate as His Majesty's hired vessel
Surprise
—not quite a full reinstatement for her, but near enough for present happiness.

   Her first task in this particular voyage had been to carry Aubrey and Maturin, who was an intelligence-agent as well as a medical man, to the west coast of South America, there to frustrate French attempts at forming an alliance with the Peruvians and Chileans who led the movement for independence from Spain and to transfer their affections to England. Yet since Spain was then at least nominally allied to Great Britain the enterprise had to be carried out under the cover of privateering, of attacking United States South-Sea whalers and merchantmen and any French vessels she might chance to meet in the east Pacific. This plan had been betrayed by a highly-placed, a very highly-placed but as yet unidentified traitor in Whitehall and it had had to be postponed, Aubrey and Maturin going off on quite a different mission in the South China Sea, eventually keeping a discreet rendezvous with the
Surprise
on the other side of the world, in about 4°N and 127°E, at the mouth of the Salibabu Passage, the frigate in the meantime having been commanded by Tom Pullings, Jack's first lieutenant, and manned, of course, by her old privateering crew. Here they sent her more recent prizes away for Canton under the escort of the
Nutmeg of Consolation
, a charming little post-ship lent to Captain Aubrey by the Lieutenant-Governor of Java, and so proceeded to New South Wales, to Sydney Cove itself, where Jack hoped to have his stores renewed and several important repairs carried out against their eastward voyage to South America and beyond, and where Stephen Maturin hoped to see the natural wonders of the Antipodes, particularly
Ornithorhynchus paradoxus
, the duck-billed platypus.

   Unfortunately the Governor was away and Jack's hopes were disappointed because of the ill-will of the colonial officials; and the fulfillment of Stephen's very nearly killed him, for the outraged platypus, seized in the midst of his courting-display, plunged both poison-spurs deep into the incautious arm. It was an unhappy visit to an unhappy, desolate land.

   But now the odious penal shores had sunk in the west; now the horizon ran clean round the sky and Jack was in his old world again, aboard his own beloved ship. Stephen had recovered from his distressing state (immensely swollen, dumb, blind and rigid) with extraordinary speed; the bluish leaden colour of his face had returned to its usual pale yellow; and he could now be heard playing his 'cello in the cabin, a remarkably happy piece he had composed for the birth of his daughter. Jack smiled—he was very deeply attached to his friend—but after a couple of bars he said 'Why Stephen should be so pleased with a baby I cannot tell. He was born to be a bachelor—no notion of domestic comforts, family life—quite unsuited for marriage, above all for marriage with Diana, a dashing brilliant creature to be sure, a fine horsewoman and a capital hand at billiards and whist, but given to high play and something of a rake—quite often shows her wine—in any case quite improper for Stephen—has nothing to say to books—much more concerned with breeding horses. Yet between them they have produced this baby; and a girl at that.' The wake stretched away, as true as a taut line now, and after a while he said 'He longed for a daughter, I know, and it is very well that he should have one; but I wish she may not prove a platypus to him,' and he might have added some considerations on marriage and the relations, so often unsatisfactory, between men and women, parents and children, had not Davidge's voice called out 'Every rope an-end' cutting the thread of his thought.

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