The Wine-Dark Sea

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After a long chase, the Surprise is on the verge of capturing the thirsty Spartan in a brilliant night maneuver Jack has devised when both ships are caught in an undersea volcano, killing Lieutenant West, but maiming the Spartan to helplessness.

As a prisoner, Jean Dutourd is a bother to Jack—his ignorance of naval custom has led him to neglect to obtain necessary letters of marque making him technically a pirate, and his utopian ideas appeal to those member of the crew belonging to the Kipperstonian religion. But it is potentially much more dangerous for Stephen, for Dutourd finally comes to remember Stephen from their acquaintance in Paris in the early days of the revolution, when Stephen went by the name Domanova, and Stephen’s attempts to throw him off the track convince Dutourd that he has something to hide.

Jack refits the Spartan as a consort and together they capture an American whaler containing a former crew member of the Sophie who informs them of the Alastor, an American sailing under a black flag, signifying “no quarter.” Cruising in search of her, the Surprise and Spartan are separated, allowing the Alastor to nearly overcome Pullings before Jack comes up. Jack is badly wounded by a pistol wad to eye and the crew, thinking him dead, slaughter the pirates.

Martin meanwhile has convinced himself that what are really salt sores is venereal disease, punishment from the Lord for feeling lust towards Clarissa—he makes himself very sick by taking large doses of dangerous medication, and must be sent back to England in a merchantman under the care of one of Stephen’s medical classmates.

Stephen must leave Jack during his convalescence to go ashore in Lima, Peru, where he finally begins his long-planned South American mission. The Viceroy is away, so Stephen, his contact Gayongos and Jack’s illegitimate son Sam Panda waste no time, enlisting the aide of the sympathetic General Hurtado, gaining the support of abolitionists, and bribing the other necessary officers. However they leave out Castro, one of the Viceroy’s cabinet judged too unreliable.

Meanwhile acting-lieutenant Vidal, a Kipperstonian, fearing that Jack’s refusal to set Dutourd ashore in Lima (at Stephen’s request) means Jack intends to carry him back to England to be hanged as a pirate, helps him escape. He goes straight to the French spies in Lima, loudly proclaiming that Stephen is a British agent to anyone who will listen. Although this lack of discretion forces the Frenchman to flee and Stephen quickly has Dutourd arrested by the country’s Inquisition for his humanist sermons, Castro takes up the cause, Hurtado is unwilling to move with the foreign connection so widely known, and Stephen must escape through the Andes and rejoin the ship at Valparaiso, Chile. Guided by Eduardo, an Inca, he collects some wonderful specimens, but when they are trapped in a blizzard he is badly frostbitten and must amputate three toes.

In Valparaiso, he learns of three American China ships that will soon be rounding the Horn. The Surprise lies in wait for half a month in icy antarctic waters only to be thwarted on the verge of success by an American heavy frigate and its consort. A skillful maneuver around an ice island allows Jack to escape with only the loss of his mizzen mast, but in the Atlantic a lightning bolt destroys the main mast and rudder. With a steering oar and jury-masts, the Surprise tries to reach the Cape on short rations. But they are fortunately intercepted by Henerage Dundas in the Berenice, a ship-of-the-line, with its consort Ringle, a schooner. Jack confidentially tells his old friend his mission has been a failure on the whole, but he is grateful to be going home, and to be alive. (7/6/06)