‘Surprise!‘ cried Jack again. ‘I have not set foot in her since I was a midshipman.’ He saw her plain, lying there a cable’s length from him in the brilliant sunshine of English Harbour, a trim, beautiful, little eight-and-twenty, French-built witha bluff bow and lovely lines, weatherly, stiff, a fine sea-boat, fast when she was well-handled, roomy, dry . . . He had sailed in her under a taut captain and an even tauter first lieutenant — had spent hours and hours banished to the masthead — had done most of his reading there — had carved his initials in the cap: were they still to be seen? She was old, to be sure, and called for nursing; but what a ship to command . . . He dismissed the ungrateful thought that there was never a prize to be looked for in the Indian Ocean — swept clear long ago — and said, ‘We could give Agamemnon mainsail and topgallants, sailing on a bowline . . . I shall have the choice of one or two officers, for sure. Shall you come, Pullings?’
‘Why, in course, sir,’ — surprised.
‘Mrs Pullings no objection? No — eh?’
‘Mrs Pullings will pipe her eye, I dare say; but then presently she will brighten up. And I dare say she will be main pleased to see me back again at the end of the commission; more pleased than now is, maybe. I get sadly underfoot, among the brooms and pans. It ain’t like aboard ship, sir, the marriage-state.’
‘Ain’t it, Pullings?’ said Jack looking at him wistfully.
HMS Surprise — Patrick O’Brian