Jane Austen, Persuasion: Ch. 8

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The girls looked all amazement.

"The Admiralty," he continued, "entertain themselves now and then, with sending a few hundred men to sea, in a ship not fit to be employed. But they have a great many to provide for; and among the thousands that may just as well go to the bottom as not, it is impossible for them to distinguish the very set who may be least missed."

"Phoo! phoo!" cried the Admiral, "what stuff these young fellows talk! Never was a better sloopw than the Asp in her day. For an old built sloop, you would not see her equal. Lucky fellow to get her! He knows there must have been twenty better men than himself applying for her at the same time. Lucky fellow to get anything so soon, with no more interestw than his."

"I felt my luck, Admiral, I assure you;" replied Captain Wentworth, seriously. "I was as well satisfied with my appointment as you can desire. It was a great object with me at that time to be at sea; a very great object, I wanted to be doing something."

"To be sure you did. What should a young fellow like you do ashore for half a year together? If a man had not a wife, he soon wants to be afloat again."

"But, Captain Wentworth," cried Louisa, "how vexed you must have been when you came to the Asp, to see what an old thing they had given you."

"I knew pretty well what she was before that day;" said he, smiling. "I had no more discoveries to make than you would have as to the fashion and strength of any old pelisse,w which you had seen lent about among half your acquaintance ever since you could remember, and which at last, on some very wet day, is lent to yourself. Ah! she was a dear old Asp to me. She did all that I wanted. I knew she would. I knew that we should either go to the bottom together, or that she would be the making of me; and I never had two days of foul weather all the time I was at sea in her; and after taking privateersw enough to be very entertaining, I had the good luck in my passage home the next autumn, to fall in with the very French frigate I wanted. I brought her into Plymouth; and here another instance of luck. We had not been six hours in the Sound, when a gale came on, which lasted four days and nights, and which would have done for poor old Asp in half the time; our touch with the Great Nationh not having much improved our condition. Four-and-twenty hours later, and I should only have been a gallant Captain Wentworth, in a small paragraph at one corner of the newspapers; and being lost in only a sloop, nobody would have thought about me." Anne's shudderings were to herself alone; but the Miss Musgroves could be as open as they were sincere, in their exclamations of pity and horror.

"And so then, I suppose," said Mrs Musgrove, in a low voice, as if thinking aloud, "so then he went away to the Laconia, and there he met with our poor boy. Charles, my dear," (beckoning him to her), "do ask Captain Wentworth where it was he first met with your poor brother. I always forgot."

"It was at Gibraltar, mother, I know. Dick had been left ill at Gibraltar, with a recommendation from his former captain to Captain Wentworth."

"Oh! but, Charles, tell Captain Wentworth, he need not be afraid of mentioning poor Dick before me, for it would be rather a pleasure to hear him talked of by such a good friend."

Charles, being somewhat more mindful of the probabilities of the case,d only nodded in reply, and walked away.

The girls were now hunting for the Laconia; and Captain Wentworth could not deny himself the pleasure of taking the precious volume into his own hands to save them the trouble, and once more read aloud the little statement of her name and rate,w and present non-commissioned class, observing over it that she too had been one of the best friends man ever had.

X [w] sloop

Military

"A relatively small ship-of-war, carrying guns on the upper deck only" (OED).

X [w] interest

Influential people or "connexions."

X [w] pelisse,

Daily Life

"A woman's long cloak, with armhole slits and a shoulder cape or hood, often made of a rich fabric; (later also) a long fitted coat of similar style" (OED). 

Also for men: "A fur-lined mantle or cloak, esp. a waist-length one forming part of a hussar's uniform" (OED).

 

X [w] privateers

"An armed vessel owned and crewed by private individuals, and holding a government commission known as a letter of marque authorizing the capture of merchant shipping belonging to an enemy nation" (OED). If the government commission were not British, the Royal Navy viewed these ships as potential booty.

X [h] our touch with the Great Nation

France referred to itself as the Great Nation. There had been a skirmish or fight with the frigate. 

X [d] probabilities of the case,

Knowing his brother's character, he seems to doubt that Dicke could have earned Captain Wentworth's friendship.

X [w] rate,

Military

"Any of various classes into which vessels are divided, according (variously, at different times) to the seniority of the captain, the number of guns carried" (OED).