Clarissa Oakes (aka The Truelove) by Patrick O'Brian

By Patrick O'Brian

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So it did,' said Jack, and he looked about him. The Surprise, still on the same tack, but under topsails alone, had drawn in with Norfolk Island, so that the nearer shore could be seen on the rise, and along the heights the outlines of monstrous trees stood sharp against the sky - a sky that was as pure as ever, apart from a low cloud-bank right astern: the lightest night-blue overhead changing imperceptibly to aquamarine in the east, with a very few high clouds moving south-east on the anti-trade, much stronger up there than its counterpart below.

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.

I was sorry to miss them last week. They have a good effect in pulling the crew together after a long run ashore, and they allow one to take the ship's pulse, as it were. The people have surely been behaving rather strangely, simpering, making antic gestures . ' Oakes turned to Pratt, a musically gifted seaman, and said, 'Beat to divisions,' whereupon Pratt brought his poised drumsticks down with a fine determination and the generale boomed and roared throughout the ship. This surprised no one: shirts and duck trousers had been washed on Friday, dried and prettied on Saturday; during the long breakfast of Sunday morning the word 'Clean to muster" had been passed, and in case anyone had not seized the message Mr Bulkeley the bosun had bawled down the hatches 'Do you hear there, fore and aft?

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