‘Was you a midshipman in the Surprise, sir?’ cried young Callow, amazed, amazed. If he had thought about it at all, he would have supposed that post-captains sprung fully armed from the forehead of the Admiralty.
‘Indeed I was,’ said Jack.
‘Good heavens, sir, she must be very, very old. The oldest ship in the fleet, I dare say.’
‘Well,’ said Jack, ‘she is pretty old, too. We took her early in the last war – she was the French Unité – and she was no chicken then. Could you manage another egg?’
Callow leapt, jerked almost out of his chair by Pullings’s under-table hint, changed his Yes, sir, if you please to No, sir, thank you very much, and stood up.
HMS Surprise – Patrick O’Brian