|<- The Mauritius Command||The Fortune of War ->|
Breadfruit Bligh, former captain of the Bounty, is a governor in Australia in 1811, and has gotten himself overthrown again. Jack is assigned to go there in the Leopard, 52 guns, and set him up again, much to Sophie’s relief, because her husband is frittering away his Mauritius fortune on shore.
Stephen, meanwhile, has hopes of reuniting with Diana in London, but is disappointed when she is forced to flee England after her friend Mrs. Wogan is apprehended as an American spy. Mrs. Wogan will be exiled to Australia and transported aboard the Leopard. Sir Joseph Blaine, whose retirement from naval intelligence has proven “hypothetical,” sends Stephen with Jack, both to get him out of the way before his laudanum addiction compromises operations and to see if he can discover the secrets of American intelligence from Mrs. Wogan. Britain and America may soon be at war over the pressing of seamen from American ships.
Under way at last, the Leopard's crew discovers a stowaway, Herapath, whom Stephen quickly deduces is a hopeless lover of Mrs. Wogan, and makes his assistant.
En route, the Leopard is struck by an outbreak of gaol-fever (typhus) which kills a hundred men. Tom Pullings is put ashore in Brazil with other convalescent cases, making Mr. Grant (a former captain who second-guesses Jack’s every move) first lieutenant.
By allowing Mrs. Wogan and Herapath to conspire, then intercepting their correspondence, Stephen cracks the American codes, and sends their keys to Sir Joseph about the Nymph, which Jack learns has been mauled by a Dutch man-of-war, the Waakzaamheid, 74 guns.
They encounter the Waakzaamheid on the crossing to the Cape, and Jack closes the distance for reconnaissance (he cannot hope to fight, so undermanned), planning to escape at night. The Dutch commander proves eerily able to predict Jack’s moves and he escapes only after an extended chase in which they decimate a nocturnal boarding party by hitting Waakzaamheid’s boats with grapeshot.
Stephen concocts a story that his colleague Dr. Martin, who died from the gaol-fever, was a French agent and allows a falsified document to fall into Mrs. Wogan’s hands through Herapath, hoping she will mail it from the Cape, hopelessly misleading the States and France.
However, the Waazaamheid cuts them off (its captain’s now wearing a black jacket, leading Jack to suspect he mourns someone killed in the boats), and chases them in extremely high seas. Jack is wounded by splinters and a recoiling cannon, but a lucky shot severs the Waazaamheid’s foremast, causing it to turn its side to the waves and break apart—Jack is shocked to witness all 600 souls aboard swallowed up in an instant.
Jack plans to forgo the Cape and make for Australia after they replace their water from icebergs, but they hit an ice mountain in a fog, and begin taking on water. Lieutenant Grant comes very near to mutiny by insisting he be allowed to attempt to reach the Cape, 1000 miles away, in the ship’s boats, and takes most of the crew with him. Jack, in the end, gives him leave to go.
Jack, meanwhile, believes the Leopard will swim. After a failed landing in the Cozett Islands (their jury-rigged steering oar breaks at the last moment) and exhausted from pumping, they make landfall on Desolation, an uncharted island Jack heard about from an American whaler. Stephen has all the time he wants to study the nesting of the albatrosses there, for they will not be able to ship a new rudder without a forge and anvil, and must send their last boat for help.
The La Fayette, another American whaler, arrives but Captain Putnam seems disinclined to lend his forge to the Leopard, which killed his cousin in 1807 when it attacked the USS Chesapeake by surprise. Stephen and Herapath change his mind with medical aid.
Stephen allows Herapath the opportunity to escape with Mrs. Wogan aboard the La Fayette. Wogan, who knows of Stephen’s Irish and American sympathies, suggests he look up her friend Charles Pole, a low-level British bureaucrat—which Stephen recognizes as an attempt to recruit him, deducing Pole is her superior—before overcoming Herapath’s sense of honor and making good her escape with the forged documents.