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The Daily Aubrey-Maturin: The Mauritius Command (Book 4), Chapters 1-3 (pg. 1249-1353)

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Horatio Nelson as a young boy, 1771
Horatio Nelson began his “career” on the HMS Raisonnable as a 12-year-old boy in 1771

CHAPTER 1

The last book culminated in a Hollywood ending for Captain Jack Aubrey and his Sweet Sophie, and they lived happily ever after in a nice little cottage, with a nice little garden, with a couple of rugrats running about, etc etc etc.

“Reality” hasn’t quite measured up to that fantasy for Jack, not in the least bit. He’s unhappy, she’s unhappy, his garden’s being eaten by parasites, his cow refuses to give milk, his horrible mother-in-law’s living with them. He has twins, both girls. They’re more than a handful. Their young niece is also living with them for reasons unexplained. She’s a menace. His pay is late and inadequate. His only escape is a telescope, with which he spies the stars at night and the harbor by day.

He’s saved from this middle age malaise by Stephen, who comes for a visit and with news of a special mission: the French are continuing to harass shipping in the Indian Ocean form their base in Mauritius and Réunion. Aubrey’s supposed to lead a squadron of ships to not only stop them but ideally destroy them as well. Spoiler alert: Mauritius switched hands in 1810 from France to Britain. Based on a true story, says the author’s note in the foreword, though not in so many words.

He’s assigned command of the HMS Boadicea (cue the Enya!), whose usual captain has been taken ill. Aubrey briefly wonders if Maturin had some a hand in that fortunate development somehow. He is a sly superagent after all, knowing how much his friend is suffering on dry land.

CHAPTER 2

They make their way south to Cape Town — South Africa returning to British control in 1806 — where this special squadron’s supposed to assemble. It’s a long voyage, full of familiar beats: another ship’s crew to whip into shape, teach them how to fire guns, how to row properly, how to live at sea, how to handle routine and boredom and alcohol and authority.

Along the way, they chase off a French frigate and capture its prize, a blessing both in terms of money back home and in terms of good food and wine for the journey ahead.

Aubrey’s back in his element, literally and figuratively.

CHAPTER 3

At the Cape, Aubrey reports to the port Admiral, who gives him the post of commodore for the mission ahead. It’s not really a “promotion” but it does give him command of all the ships (and other captains) in the squadron. Movin’ on up!

Alas, it’s a ragtag bunch, this squad. Aubrey transfers to the flagship, the Raisonnable, an ancient ship of the line that’s barely holding together (it can’t sail during monsoon season, for example). Captain Pym’s a solid sailor, as his ship, the frigate Sirius. Aubrey would like nothing more than 3 more Pyms, because just like with 11 Azpilicuetas, with 3 Pyms he could win everything. The other frigate, the Nereide is captained by the harsh Corbet, who likes to flog everyone and can’t keep a crew (and he wonders why). The other ship is the Otter, a small sloop, captained by a Lord Clonfert, whom Jack knows to be a bit of an all-talk-no-action coward.

Off we go!

‘Nelson’s First Footing in the Navy, Chatham’, 1771.
‘Nelson’s First Footing in the Navy, Chatham’, 1771
Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

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