58 pages • 1 hour readPatrick O'Brian
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The Sophie sails to Cape Nao, and Aubrey praises Mr. Marshall’s navigation, not aware that Marshall is attracted to him. The crew practices firing the guns again, competing to see which group can fire the fastest and hit a cask dropped over the side most accurately. Maturin does not enjoy the noise and danger, and typically avoids the deck when the guns are firing.
Unknowingly, the delay caused by the practice causes the Sophie to miss encountering the dangerous Spanish battleship Cacafuego that night. In the early morning, the Sophie spots a merchant convoy being protected by the French ship Gloire. The Sophie manages to capture one of the merchant vessels and Dillon takes control of it while Aubrey engages with the Gloire. In the end, the Gloire is damaged and flees, and Aubrey is disappointed that they could not damage it severely enough to stop its ability to run.
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Aubrey goes down to see Maturin in the surgeon’s quarters to learn how many sailors are injured. There are only a few minor injuries, but Maturin is agitated because someone has drunk the alcohol he was using to preserve his asp specimen. Aubrey rests in the heat of the afternoon, but wakes when Dillon arrives to inform him that he was able to capture an additional ship from the merchant convoy.