From C. S. Forester's Mr. Midshipman Hornblower. On board the “Noah’s Ark” in the Gulf of Oran, 1797.
“That’s the plague, said Tapling. “The Black Death! I saw it in Smyrna in ’96.”
“Well, sir?” said Hornblower to Tapling. “What do we do?”
“Do?” replied Tapling with a bitter smile. “We stay here and rot.”
“The fleet will never have us back. Not until we have served three weeks of quarantine. Three weeks after the last case has occurred. Here in Oran.”
“Nonsense!” said Hornblower, with all the respect due to his senior startled out of him. No one would order that.”
“Would they not? Have you ever seen an epidemic in a fleet?”
Hornblower had not, but he had heard enough about them—fleets where nine out of ten had died of putrid fevers. Crowded ships with twenty two inches of hammock space per man were ideal breeding places for epidemics. He realized that no captain, no admiral, would run that risk for the sake of a longboat’s crew of 20 men.