The Surgeon's Mate

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At the celebration of the defeat of the Cheasapeake in Halifax, Jack allows himself to get swept up in the moment and spends the night with Miss Smith. She is a predatory woman, and there follows a rather amusingly public affair which embarrasses Jack greatly.

Diana, meanwhile, is pregnant with Johnson’s child and is unwilling to use Stephen by marrying him.

Jack, Stephen and Diana set out for home aboard the packet Diligence. They are chased by two American privateers which pass up a stupid merchantman to continue the pursuit, leading Stephen to believe Johnson hired them, revenge for his destroyed Canadian intelligence network, and Diana’s theft of the Blue Peter, Johnson’s heirloom diamond necklace, in her flight from Boston. The privateers are on the verge of catching them in the fogs of the Grand Banks when one wrecks on submerged ice, forcing the other to beat up back to Boston with both crews and low rations.

Jack’s homecoming is joyous—but he is dogged by Miss Smith’s letters claiming she is pregnant (which later proves to be a lie or histrionics, as Stephen suspected) and with the state of his fortune, which he unwisely left in the hands of a con man, Kimbler (Sir Joseph Blaine recommends a good lawyer to Stephen).

Diana’s American citizenship makes it difficult for her to live in England, so Stephen arranges with Sir Joseph to take her to Paris on a strictly scientific trip he’s making to address the Institut (the war makes an exception for science). Stephen’s bumbling performance and refusal to carry messages home removes suspicion that he has anything to do with intelligence.

He hurries back to London when he hears of the death of a Catalan poet whom Stephen knows to be on an intelligence mission, and soon sets out for Denmark aboard the sloop Ariel, commanded by Jack, who is grateful to be leaving the mess at home. They are accompanied a Danish officer Jagiello, an emotionally frigid young man who steals the heart of every lady who sees him.

Their objective is a battery of Catalan soldiers assigned to the Danish coast by Napoleon, kept loyal through false promises and commanded by Stephen’s godfather, Colonel Ramón d’Ullastret. It cannot be taken by force, but if surrender can be negotiated, it would open the way for the King of Prussia to go on the offensive against Bonaparte.

In a happy coincidence, the privateer they chase, looking for a ship to approach the battery, is carrying a French general who plans to take command, and he is killed attempting to escape. Ariel pretends to chase the privateer under the battery’s guns, and there Stephen convinces d’Ullastret to transfer control to the English in exchange for safe transport home to Spain.

The Ariel leads the group of transports to Catalonia, but leaves to help the HMS Jason pursue the Méduse. Ariel gets in a few lucky shots, but weeks of bad weather and a broken chronometer causes Jack to lose track of their position, and they run aground in France.

Suspected of intelligence work at the battery, Jack, Stephen and Jagiello are held in the Temple in Paris by Duhamel, whom Stephen guesses is working for the supposedly retired Talleyrand. However, army intelligence is competing for custody. Diana’s attempt to ransom Stephen with the Blue Peter (which she values above her own life) makes them more conspicuous, and it looks as though Stephen’s goose is cooked when Johnson arrives and identifies him.

Thanks to a widow across from their cell who has fallen in love with Jagiello from afar, Jack is within minutes of bringing off their escape when Duhamel arrives and walks them out the back, hoping to communicate a message of reconciliation from Talleyrand. They leave Paris with Diana, whom Stephen loves again thanks to her selflessness. She has lost the baby (an abortion?), and agrees to marry Stephen—the ceremony performed by Babbington, now a commander, on the journey home. (7/22/05)