He had an unlimited faith in Stephen’s powers; and although he had seen a ship’s company badly hit by the disease, with hardly enough hands to win the anchor or make sail, let alone fight the shop, he thought of the forties, of the great western gales far south of the line, with an easier mind. ‘It is a great comfort to me to have you aboard: it is like sailing with a piece of the True Cross.’
‘Stuff, stuff,’ said Stephen peevishly. ‘I do wish you would get that weak notion out of your mind. Medicine can do very little; surgery less. I can purge you, bleed you, worn you at a pinch, set your leg or take it off, and that is very nearly all. What could Hippocrates, Galen, Rhazes, what can Blane, what can Trotter do for a carcinoma, a lupus, a sarcoma?’ He had often tried to eradicate Jack’s simple faith; but Jack had seen him trepan the gunner of the Sophie, saw a hole in his skull and expose the brain; and Stephen, looking at Jack’s knowing smile, his air of civil reserve, knew that he had not succeeded this time, either. The Sophies, to a man, had known that if he chose Dr Maturin could save anyone, so long as the tide had not turned; and Jack was so thoroughly a seaman that he shared nearly all their beliefs, though in a somewhat more polished form.
HMS Surprise — Patrick O’Brian