The French and British parties eyed each other under a flapping
flag of truce. Jack much regretted that in Stephen's absence he had
no trustworthy, discreet French speaker on hand to assist with
translation, except... 'Mister Babbington! You have acquired some
of the French, have you not?' Babbington demurred.
'I remember distinctly that during our last time on blockade duty
you asked to be put ashore for some sessions of French instruction
with a young person. I advanced the money from your pay. Do you say
that you remember nothing from these visits?' Babbington reddened.
'Perhaps some odd snatches, sir...' He took his place at Jack's
side as the negotiations began.
The French commander was named Truffaut, which seemed vaguely familiar to Jack. ('Which it's a dirty mushroom they put in their cooking, ain't it?' said Killick.) Truffaut spoke briefly and then Dali, a Spanish supernumerary and inventor of timepieces which turned out to be sadly unreliable in warm weather, who was acting as translator for the French side, prepared to speak
Meanwhile, the starboard watch was contemplating the waste of sand "A life on the ocean wave, my arse", said Faster Doudle "What we need mates is a bloody great wave". One of the newer recruits perked up. "Waves are my speciality" thought Hokusai.
As the discussion ran its ill-tempered course, the chill
wind found its way under Jack's uniform, waking the ghosts of
ancient scars. Jack tried to imagine how his hero would have found
a way around this impasse. Nelson would not be troubled by old
wounds, would never feel the cold. 'His zeal for his country kept
him warm,' said Jack wonderingly, half to himself.
Truffaut glanced at his interpreter. 'The Englishman keeps a
seal in the country. He says it makes him hot.'
The Admiral mused briefly on the peculiar tropisms of the
Royal Navy, condemned among all nations afloat as a depraved and
corrupt institution. They had court-martialed one of their own
commanders, Admiral Byng, and had him shot on the quarterdeck.
Truffaut rubbed his heart absently and imagined Byng's final
thoughts as the muskets of his own nation were trained on that
patriotic organ, 'pour encourager les autres,' in the acid words of
'Why does he mutter and rub his God-damned breast in that
lewd way, William?' said Jack irritably.
'He says it encourages the otters, sir,' replied Babbington.
Jack pondered the filthy practices of La Royale, infamous in all the oceans of the globe as a corrupt and depraved institution. He realized that there was nothing further to be gained from negotiation with such a foe. It would be battle, and the outcome far from certain.
Capitaine de frégate Truffaut felt bilious. The curious contrasts of tonality, the kaleidoscopic colour changes and the unpredictable lurches of the British vessel were unsettling to the stomach of even an old sea wolf like himself
It would tire readers of this yarn to have to follow the
steps by which intellects already sent tottering by Babbington's
attempts at a French unseen finally grasped the notion that some
weather might be in the offing
The foretop lookout might at that moment have shot out a
hand to steady himself as the ship lurched; might have glanced
suddenly at the horizon and called, ‘Ahoy there on deck!' But what
actually happened is that Jack ran to the quarterdeck, sensing that
the people had to be brought to their duty with not a moment to be
lost. ‘A double ration of grog and two episodes of "Portsmouth's
Next Top Model" for the first watch ready at their post!' he
The Surprise shuddered as a sudden gust swept over
The brochure of The Royal Academy expressed similiar
disappointment in "Waves off The Coast" a series of
nautical woodcuts in the Japanese style by Ordinary Seaman
Katsushika Hokusai. "Though technically competent and giving some
insight into the recent weather conditions in that part of the
watery globe,they do not impress the viewer with any notion of the
scale of the hurricano." "Oh," said Sophie "I find them more than
elegant. Indeed, they are beautiful. May we not buy them for the
small parlour? And surely this next is the dear Surprise herself,
though not looking herself at all? Why has Mr J. M. W. Turner
painted her flags and pennants drooping so?" "This is 'The Surprise
in Mourning'. We lost two prime hands in the big blow" said Jack.
'Sometimes, my dear, when we're at sea, we're a little ashore.'
|about us | current game | archive | home|