At this point in Master and Commander (the first novel of the series), the Sophie, commanded by Captain Jack Aubrey, is pursuing a French ship through one night and intends to take her as a "prize." Upon morning, the pursued ship behaves erratically giving the appearance, among other things, that no one was on lookout. It finally signals its surrender to the crew of the Sophie. James Dillon is Captain Aubrey's lieutenant.
The following ensues:
The reasons for her behaviour were clear enough to James Dillon once he was aboard her, taking possession: the Citoyen Durand was laden with gunpowder—was so crammed with gunpowder that it overflowed her hold and stood in tarpaulined barrels on her deck; and her young master had taken his wife to sea. She was with child—her first—and the rough night, the chase and the dread of an explosion had brought on her labour. James was as stout-hearted as the next man, but the continuous groaning just behind the cabin-bulkhead and the awful hoarse, harsh, animal quality of the cries that broke out through the groaning, and their huge volume, terrified him; he gazed at the white-faced, distracted, tear-stained husband with a face as appalled as his.
Leaving Babbington in sole command he hurried back to the Sophie and explained the situation. At the word powder Jack's face lit up; but at the word baby he looked very blank.To be continued....