Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Living Ship

A last glance to windward: the forces were exactly balanced: the moment had come. He drew a deep breath, tossed the hairy mango stone over the side, and shouted, 'Let go there.' An instant splash. 'Hard a-port.' The Surprise turned on her heel, her yards coming round to admiration, sails flashing out as others vanished, and there close on her starboard quarter was her foaming wake, showing a sweet tight curve. She leapt forward with a tremendous new impulse, her masts groaning, and settled on her new course, not deviating by a quarter of a point. She was heading exactly where he had wanted her to head, straight for the potential gap, and she was moving even faster than he had hoped. The higher spars were bending like coach-whips, just this side of carrying away.

'Mr Stourton, that was prettily executed I am very pleased.'

The Surprise was tearing through the water, moving faster and faster until she reached a steady eleven knots and the masts ceased their complaint. The backstays grew a shade less rigid, and leaning on one, gauging its tension as he stared at the Marengo, he said, 'Main and fore royal stuns'ls.'

(Patrick O'Brian, H.M.S. Surprise)

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