"My dear," said Jack in a rather strained voice, "I think we had better return to the Lively."
"You go, if you must," said Stephen. His tone was distracted; his attention was on the small sea-creature that was currently crawling up the oar of their jolly-boat. "I have not yet finished my sketch. I shall follow anon."
"Well, that would be a pretty feat, considering we have but the one boat."
Stephen did not reply, and after a moment Jack went on, anxiously: "Only let me row, and you may continue at your labours."
"Can you do it with one oar, then? For I would not disturb this creature for the world. I believe it is a type of nudibranch, one not yet found in the literature. I shall name it after you, Jack, if you like. Doris aubreyensis – or no, perhaps it should really be Peltodoris –"
"Stephen, you are not listening – there's not a moment to –"
He did not get a chance to finish his sentence, for it was then that the disturbance that was the focus of Jack's concern – that had been approaching their jolly-boat at speed – revealed itself to be an enormous cephalopod, as one giant tentacle wrapped around them, boat and men both, and pulled them into the briny depths.
In his many years with the Royal Navy, in his time at sea and his time yearning to be at sea, this was not a situation Jack had expected he'd ever face. But with the calm assessment he applied to enemy ships, he'd noted the ripple approaching, and his hand was already on his belt-knife as the kraken breached the surface and came at them.
Immediately he waded into the fray, if it could be called wading when the water was not up to one's thighs but instead swirling all around as the creature thrashed with its many tentacles. "Stephen," he gasped, "does the octopus have a soft spot, you know, an Arachne's heel?"
"I am not sure I would label this an octopus, precisely," said Stephen thoughtfully, or as thoughtfully as he could while being squeezed by a colossal tentacle.
"You may label it later, but now tell me where to strike!"
"The head, then – there!"
With all the force he could muster, Jack struck. The creature shuddered and went limp.
"Oh, well done!" cried Stephen, as the jolly-boat, somewhat mangled, popped back up to the surface. "It was fortunate you had that knife at the ready."
"I saw its wake as it came to us," said Jack. "And as they say, forewarned is better than eight-armed."
"I don't believe that is quite what they say. Though I grant you, it is true in this case."
"But now we really must head back," said Jack, as he stowed his bloodied knife with a keen sense of satisfaction. "Our poor boat is missing a few strakes, but I reckon she's seaworthy enough to get us back to the Lively. If, that is," he said, scanning the waters around them with increasing urgency, "we can find at least one of the oars."
Stephen turned to look into the bow of the jolly-boat. "Oh, no," he said, in a voice filled with dismay. "Oh, no."
"Is she holed? Tell me she's not holed!"
"It is far worse than that," said Stephen mournfully. "I am afraid you will not be immortalised in the name of a new sea-slug, for as you see, brother, it is gone, and my sketch waterlogged beyond recovery."
"That is a sorry circumstance, indeed, but I believe I shall weather the blow," said Jack. Then he plucked the oar, bereft of its nudibranch, from Stephen's hands, and began to paddle them back to their ship.