Ramage (novel) - Plot

Plot

Nicholas Lord Ramage is the third lieutenant on His Majesty's ship Sibella, but assumes command when the Captain, and the First and Second Lieutenants are killed by fire from a French ship. The French ship had fatally crippled the Sibella and had killed over half of her crew, including the surgeon and surgeon's mate. As the new Captain, Ramage decides to abandon the sinking ship. He leaves the injured on the deck to be taken prisoner by the French and hopefully treated by their surgeon. Before he abandons the ship, Ramage retrieves some documents and the late Captain's last orders. The remaining crew then loads into the four lifeboats and rows away. As they are rowing away, the crew of the French ship set the Sibella on fire after taking the injured off.

Ramage opens Sir John Jervis's orders to the late Captain and finds that the Sibella was on a rescue mission to extricate the Marchesa di Volterri along with five other nobles including the Marchesa's two cousins. Ramage decides to go through with the rescue. He takes the captain's gig with several topmen and the former Captain's coxswain, Jackson, with him and sends the other surviving sailors to Bastia. Ramage and his men then land upon Monte Argentario and find the Marchesa with the help of a local charcoal maker.

Half of the nobles decide not to risk trying to escape in a small boat, but Ramage rescues the Marchesa and one of her cousins, Count Pisano, although the other cousin, Count Pitti, is apparently killed by Napoleon's cavalry during the escape. The refugees are eventually picked up by the Lively frigate under the command of Captain Probus. That night Pisano accuses Ramage of cowardice in connection with the death of Count Pitti, submitting a formal accusation to Probus. During their time together, the Marchesa and Ramage develop a Romeo-and-Juliet-esque relationship, with the conniving of her family and the demands of discretion upon them.

After the Marchesa is safe, Ramage is sent to trial according to the Articles of War for his loss of the Sibella. Captain Croucher, a political enemy of Ramage's father, brings the accusation of cowardice into the trial. Ramage's trial is interrupted by Lord Nelson's arrival, effectively ending the trial. Nelson gives him the command of the cutter Kathleen sending him to rescue the crew of the frigate HMS Belette which had run aground and was under fire from Napoleon's troops. Ramage saves the stranded crew and returns to Nelson. Upon his return, he learns that Count Pitti, who he had been unable to rescue had not been killed, but instead had hidden and later escaped. The book ends as Ramage considers his orders to carry the Marchesa and Count Pitti to Gibraltar.

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