58 pages • 1 hour readPatrick O'Brian
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The Sophie returns to Port Mahon and Aubrey writes an official letter concerning their victory over the Cacafuego and the loss of James Dillon and Henry Ellis. Aubrey is still recovering from his wounds and grieving the lost shipmates, but he arrives in Minorca hopeful that he will be promoted to post-captain and given command of a frigate. However, Admiral Lord Keith is not there, so Aubrey must report to Commandant Harte, who claims that he will need to go to Malta to make repairs to his ship. Aubrey meets with Mrs. Harte for another tryst, although he knows she is taking other lovers. Maturin learns from his landlord that Mrs. Harte‘s reputation has declined, everyone considering her promiscuous and unfaithful. The Sophie receives a new and less competent lieutenant, Mr. Dalziel.
After traveling to Malta for repairs, Captain Harte comes and informs Aubrey that he will not be promoted or given command of a frigate because the Cacafuego was not a genuinely commissioned Spanish warship. It will be sold cheaply to Algerians so that the crew receives neither much money or recognition. The crew knows this is a lie, but Captain Harte means to provoke Aubrey into reckless action that would ruin him in revenge for his infidelity with Mrs.