This fragment is based upon several incidents from The Ionian Mission, beginning with the sighting of the rebel Mustapha's ship Torgud on page 352 (Norton paperback), whence it appears as though battle is imminent. The reader enters the scene where Jack, Pullings, and several midshipmen are breakfasting and the Torgud is sighted. Italicized text is from the novel.
"May I go, sir?" asked Pullings, half out of his chair, his face alive with eagerness.
"Aye, do," said Jack, "We will eat up your bacon for you."
Tom Pullings, eager as a boy, thrust his napkin onto the table and left the cabin with an enthusiasm that made Jack smile at the closing door, musing, "How I hope we go into action this time. Tom is fairly burning for his own command, and if he don't get too knocked about in the action, he may finally have his chance." Jack scarcely let himself admit it, but he too burned for retribution for the sorry state of affairs at Medina.
From the cabin, Pullings fairly skipped his way up to the masthead in tearing high spirits, where he trained his glass on the sails coming ever closer, hull up now, from the distant horizon. Fine seamanship indeed. Though he did not allow himself to formally consider his chances for fear of banishing them, he could not but let his mind wander to the oft contemplated blissful vision of a captain's commission. There was not a moment to be lost.
The second fragment continues from the end of the novel, after the battle with the Torgud, from which the Surprise has emerged victorious. Tom Pullings has emerged, however, in a less enviable state at the hands of a Turkish sword...
Have you seen Pullings?" he asked.
"Why, yes, sir," said Mowett, looking surprised, "They have fairly ruined his waistcoat and knocked his wits astray; but that don't depress his spirits, I find."
"You had better get back to the barky, sir," said Bonden in a low voice, tucking the ensign and the other officers' swords under his arm, "This here is going to Kingdom Come."
A change in motion woke Tom Pullings as he was tenderly carried ashore, a change from the gentle rocking motion of the cot on which he had lain since the action, languishing from a terrible gash to his face. Truly shocking pain it had afforded him, indeed, lessened only slightly by Dr Maturin's physic and vigilant care, or by Captain Aubrey and his mess-mate's kindly intended visits. But he had survived thus far, and was determined to see the whole thing through to the end.
He drifted off again shortly thereafter, to wake in an unfamiliar, sparsely decorated room. He was faintly aware of someone walking about, and focusing his eyes he saw the dim figure of Dr Maturin . The doctor soon noticed he was awake, gave him his physic, and quietly asked him how he did. Stephen was about to return to his previous occupation when he heard someone thundering up the stairs and stepped out of the room to meet the visitor. A few moments later, Captain Aubrey strode into the room, a brilliant flash of blue and gold in his full dress uniform, bearing an envelope.
"Tom," He said quietly, "The Admiral desires me to deliver this to you," he paused, "To a Captain Thomas Pullings. Give you joy, Tom, give you joy with all my heart." Upon hearing this, Pullings' pale face lit up, his red, livid wound showed redder still, and he said after a little while, "May I request that you read it to me, sir?" Jack smiled and complied, noting with particular emphasis each reference to Captain Pullings, to the evident delight of the latter. When the reading was concluded, Pullings leant across the pillows, nearer to Jack, and whispered, "I am a captain, sir! I am a captain at last!" And with a bright smile on his face, he drifted off to sleep.
© 2004 Madeleine Peckham